WATADA’S FATHER SPEAKS AT RALLY; STEPMOTHER COLLAPSES
Gannett News Service
January 28, 2007
WASHINGTON -- Among those addressing the crowd at yesterday's protest was Hawai'i resident Bob Watada, father of Lt. Ehren Watada, the Army officer who is facing a court-martial next month for refusing to deploy to Iraq.
"The president has been deceptive," Bob Watada told the crowd.
Lt. Watada, 28, who is charged with conduct unbecoming an officer, missing troop movement and contempt toward officials, could be sentenced to six years in military prison.
"My son seeks to give a voice to the thousands who do not have a voice," Bob Watada said to enthusiastic applause.
After the speech, Watada's wife, Rosa Sakanishi, Ehren Watada's stepmother, collapsed and was taken to George Washington University Hospital.
Retired Army Col. Mary Ann Wright, who resigned from the State Department in protest of the Iraq invasion, was with the Watadas and caught Sakanishi as she fell, Bob Watada said.
Reached at George Washington University Hospital, Watada said his wife may have suffered a mild stroke, but that she was feeling better. "I'm with her and talking with her now," said Watada. "We're just now leaving the emergency room. She's resting. She'll be all right."
Watada hadn't spoken with the doctors about how long she would remain at the hospital.
--Advertiser staff writer Will Hoover contributed to this report.
MOTHER ASKS S.F. GATHERING TO SUPPORT HER SOLDIER SON
By Carolyn Jones
** He faces court-martial for refusing to deploy to Iraq **
San Francisco Chronicle
January 28, 2007
SAN FRANCISCO -- The mother of Army Lt. Ehren Watada, who refused to deploy to Iraq as a protest of the war, told about 200 seniors in Chinatown at noon today that she needs their support to help her son, who faces a court martial next week.
"You celebrate the American dream. You live it," Carolyn Ho told the enthusiastic flag-waving crowd at Gordon Lau elementary school. "And that is what my son is fighting for now."
Watada's trial is scheduled Feb. 5.
He refused deployment orders because "we entered the war by deception," Ho said today. "He said, 'It's a matter of conscience. Even if I'm sitting in prison, I know I did not kill innocent men, women and children for a lie.' "
Watada faces up to six years in a military prison.
Ho is on a national speaking tour to garner support for her son, the first officer to refuse deployment to Iraq.
She urged the crowd in Chinatown to write letters, sign petitions, and post signs demanding the military drop charges and allow Watada to resign.
CITIZENS’ HEARING PUTS THE WAR ON TRIAL IN DEFENSE OF LT. WATADA
By Lori Hurlebaus
** Veterans, Military Families, Community Leaders Deliberate on Two Days of Testimony Charging that the Iraq War is Illegal: Citizens’ Panel to Announce Findings Before Watada Court Martial **
Courage to Resist
January 27, 2007
[17 photos of the hearing are posted at the above URL, as well as the text of a preliminary news release released by the hearing panel the day on Jan. 22.]
THOUSANDS MARCH IN S.F. TO DEMAND “OUT OF IRAQ NOW!”
By Jeff Paterson
Courage to Resist
January 27, 2007
** Approximately 15,000 people -- far exceeding organizers’ expectations -- took to the streets of San Francisco earlier today to demand "troops out now!" **
Approximately 15,000 people -- far exceeding organizers’ expectations -- took to the streets of San Francisco early today to reiterate our demand for an immediate withdrawal of troops from the ongoing occupation war in Iraq.
A number of speakers talked about the need to support Lt. Ehren Watada, the first officer to publicly refuse deployment to Iraq, during his upcoming Feb. 5 court martial at Fort Lewis, Washington. One of those speakers was Lt. Watada’s mother Carolyn Ho.
The crowd was also urged to remember Army Spc. Agustin Aguayo who is facing a March court martial, a seven years in prison, for refusing to return to Iraq. Spc. Aguayo filled for a conscientious objector discharge during his previous deployment to Iraq in February 2004. He served a full year there, all the while refusing to load his weapon. The military denied his discharge anyway.
For information about Lt. Watada actions, to donate to Spc. Aguayo's defense fund, and to learn more about many more military resisters and how to support them, check out CourageToResist.org.
WATADA POINTS OUT OUR RESPONSIBILITIES
By Joe Copeland
January 26, 2007
If Army 1st Lt. Ehren Watada has some extra hope this morning about ending the Iraq war, Americans can take a little credit. Toward the end of last week, the 28-year-old officer who courageously refused orders to go to Iraq was hoping for good turnouts in anti-war events planned for Saturday in Washington, D.C., and elsewhere.
After four years of quiescence in the face of a wrongly launched war that has gone from "Mission Accomplished" to what a top commander finally confessed is a "dire" situation, Americans ought to demand a change of course. Change requires more public involvement than voting out a few congressional incumbents. National protest organizers hoped for up to 300,000 people to march Saturday.
Watada has had the courage to point out citizens' responsibilities. As he awaits a court-martial beginning Feb. 5 for acting responsibly and refusing to serve in what he regards as an illegal war (he volunteered to go to Afghanistan instead), Watada is allowed to travel up to 250 miles from Fort Lewis. He has been telling groups in Seattle, Tacoma, and elsewhere that citizens have the power to end the war.
His honesty isn't surprising, and asking people to take responsibility doesn't at all go beyond what Watada expects of himself. When most of the country was still following President Bush's post-Sept. 11 admonitions to go shopping, Watada decided to enlist in a delayed-entry program while he wrapped up studies at Hawaii Pacific University.
As we went to war, Watada believed the false talk about imminent danger to the United States and weapons of mass destruction. His views changed as he read up on Iraq in preparation, as he put it, to be a better leader of troops under his command. Instead, the growing knowledge led him to become the only commissioned officer known to refuse Iraq duty, acknowledging from the start that he might have to carry the imprisonment that the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and other practitioners of civil disobedience felt was their responsibility to accept in calling attention to wrongful government policy. In Watada's case, the prison time could be as much as six years.
Watada talks about a small group that regularly protests in Seattle. But, he asks, "Where are the other 600,000 people in Seattle?"
More than anything, I wanted to know from Watada what he thought others of us should be doing. He starts with where his journey began: learning about our country's actions. Then there is the matter of doing something. Action certainly started with the November elections (although, as Watada points out, the turnout means only a limited number of people sent any message).
Without more pressure on national leaders, it's not safe to assume they will change the country's course. The Iraq Study Group's bipartisan recommendations to start withdrawal planning got tossed. Generals seem willing to complain publicly about missteps, but only after they have their pensions. Unless better in the way of preventing needless deaths of U.S. troops and Iraqis is demanded by the public, members of Congress likely will settle for -- at best -- resolutions of disapproval for the war's escalation. Non-binding resolutions will just draw snarling dismissals from Vice President Dick Cheney. But maybe members of Congress think they can satisfy voters by saying, see, we told the president what a mistake he was making.
Watada said, "No longer can we say, 'Oh, the Democrats will take care of it. Or, the peace activists will take care of it' " and simply go about our lives.
Staffers to politicians have told him that their bosses listen to the public. "But you know what, if it is the same person calling over and over," the call is very easy to dismiss, he said.
He thinks more individuals need to speak up, and organizations -- churches, labor unions, student groups, and faculties -- need to lend their voices. And he thinks the public should tell big donors to speak on their behalf and demand the media go beyond their "lazy and inadequate attempt to cover the news."
As someone occasionally shocked by the behavior of fellow Vietnam war protesters, I wondered how a conscientious young soldier of this generation looked at street demonstrations: Will protest lead to the kind of divisions and lack of regard for U.S. troops seen during Vietnam? "That is why knowledge is first and foremost," Watada said. "We need to come together as Americans." We need to understand, he said, that simply being there is inflaming rather than improving Iraq.
Watada is idealistic enough to expect a lot of people to act. He has been disappointed in the amount of attention his case has received in most of the media. But, he said, "I think my stand and my case have raised the level of awareness and thinking about what we are doing in Iraq and what our soldiers are being forced to do."
Beyond knowledge, though, is action, whether it is writing a letter, making a call or getting out of our chairs to make our views known.