In what to our knowledge was his first public address since his first court-martial ended in a mistrial Feb. 7, Lt. Ehren Watada spoke on Saturday in downtown Eugene, OR, at a large 4th-anniversary antiwar rally. -- The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR) reported that Watada gave a 23-minute speech in which he "avoided describing his legal battles with the Army. Instead, he spoke generally about the thinking that led to his unsuccessful attempt to resign from the Army in January 2006." -- In a column posted Tuesday on the web site 411mania.com that prominently mentions Watada, Ray Church complained that he's read a lof of articles in the mainstream press of late, but "I still haven't [seen] the most vital question asked anywhere. Is the war illegal? Better yet, is the war immoral?" -- "The answer," he concluded after a long analysis, "is that both statements are true." ...
WATADA DEFENDS REFUSAL BEFORE ANTI-WAR CROWD
By Edward Russo
Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
March 18, 2007
In a slow, measured voice, Army 1st Lt. Ehren Watada urged people at an anti-war rally in downtown Eugene on Saturday to choose what is right, even when faced with negative consequences.
Watada, stationed at Fort Lewis, Wash., faces a court-martial and up to six years in prison for refusing to fight in Iraq. He was the main speaker at Eugene's annual protest against the war, held each year at the Federal Building to mark the March 20, 2003, anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.
"They may imprison or torture or take away our lives, but they can never take away our freedom to choose what is right and just," Watada said, to loud cheers from the crowd that packed the Federal Building plaza.
Watada, 28, was the first commissioned military officer to refuse to fight in Iraq, claiming that the war is illegal.
During his 23-minute speech, Watada avoided describing his legal battles with the Army. Instead, he spoke generally about the thinking that led to his unsuccessful attempt to resign from the Army in January 2006.
Watada, who had previously concluded that the war violates the Constitution and the War Powers Act, told his army superiors that he was willing to fight in Afghanistan, but not in Iraq. He was charged last year with one count of missing movement because he did not join his brigade as it deployed to the Middle East. He also was charged with conduct unbecoming an officer for subsequent statements he made.
"Am I a pacifist? Apologetically, no," he told the crowd. But like most people, Watada said he values "peace, justice, and happiness," and opposes "suffering, war, and death." The only inherent right that people have is the right to choose, he said, and when people surrender that right, they surrender their own freedom.
Watada said that while he debated whether to follow orders, he realized that, "I am free because I can choose."
"I was afraid of what (the Army) would do to me, but I was more afraid if I did nothing," he said.
Eugene Mayor Kitty Piercy spoke before Watada, explaining last Monday's approval by the City Council of a resolution calling for a rapid and orderly withdrawal of U.S. troops.
Some may question the effectiveness of a city council statement on a national matter, Piercy said, "but the voices of the cities are the voices of America, and our influence is strong."
After Watada's speech, some in the crowd called him courageous.
"I think he said so eloquently all of the things that all of us wish we could say," said Allen Johnson, a retired pediatrician. "He's a brave man because it's not easy to do what he did."
Michael Carrigan, a rally organizer, said Watada inspired the audience because he risked his personal freedom to stand up for his beliefs.
"It was one of the most brilliant and moving talks that I have ever heard," Carrigan said. "He captured the hearts and mind of every single person in that audience."
A Saturday evening benefit was planned at Cozmic Pizza in downtown Eugene to raise money for Watada and Suzanne Swift, the Eugene soldier who was court-martialed in January for refusing to go to Iraq.
Saturday's rally and a morning march to the Federal Building from the Lane Events Center were among many events held in cities across the nation to coincide with Tuesday's anniversary of the invasion.
The marchers, many carrying anti-war signs, pushing children in strollers or walking dogs, walked six or more abreast during their 16-block trek.
Carrigan estimated that 2,500 people attended the rally. Several people who attended previous marches and rallies said they were more optimistic than in past years about U.S. troops coming home from Iraq because of last fall's elections.
"I'm much more hopeful than I was four years ago," said Ellen Arietta of Eugene. "I would like to see an immediate and orderly withdrawal" of U.S. troops.
Some of the marchers were veterans, including 85-year-old Edgar Peara, a retired Unitarian minister and a combat engineer in World War II, who wore his dress Army uniform and carried a U.S. flag.
World War II made "me a peace advocate," Peara said. "To me, no civilized nation should consider war as an instrument of foreign policy."
THE UGLY UN-AMERICAN: TAKING A STEP BACK
By Ray Church
** With all the information in the works at the moment, Ray Church looks at the real question we should be asking, plus "I wish I had said that" and this week's "Shut the Hell Up" Award. **
March 20, 2007
I have watched a lot of news reports about the Administration.
I've seen report after report on Alberto Gonzalez and his firing of prosecutors. I've seen reports on the outcome of the Libby trial. I've seen reports on Valerie Plame giving testimony before Congress. I've seen reports on Alberto Gonzalez's involvement in the roving wiretaps program. I've seen reports on Curveball, the informant who sold the administration on the mobile weapons program that didn't exist in Iraq.
I've seen report after report on the incompetence of the Administration, but there seems to be no actual debate on what I see as the real question.
I've seen debate after debate about whether the U.S. should surge or withdraw from Iraq.
I still haven't asked the most vital question asked anywhere.
Is the war illegal?
Better yet, is the war immoral?
All of these hearings point towards a war that was created through lies and falsehoods; that was used to impinge on American civil liberties; that has resulted in politically motivated firings and shenanigans; that has been mismanaged and botched.
But even if all these things had never happened, no one questions whether the war, in and of itself, was immoral and illegal.
If any other country had decided to invade another country without the go ahead of the United Nations, they would be slapped back to Sunday. The United States usurped the United Nations and lost all moral and legal recourse when it came to the war.
Think of it this way: the maximum sentence for any of the actions currently big in the press is a long prison term. If, however, the war is, in and of itself, illegal the maximum sentence is a series of well publicized executions for every member of the Administration who had a hand in the planning and execution of the war.
Ask yourself the question: if this had been any other country in the world that had launched this war, could you imagine the President of that country flying around the world after they retire and joining Jimmy Carter, George Bush Sr., and Bill Clinton on the ex-President's tour after he retired.
As deplorable as all the other issues in the news are, it is still missing the big picture.
THE UNITED NATIONS CHARTER: ARTICLE 39
"The Security Council shall determine the existence of any threat to the peace, breach of the peace, or act of aggression and shall make recommendations, or decide what measures shall be taken in accordance with Articles 41 and 42, to maintain or restore international peace and security."
The strangest thing of late has been the White House claiming that they had a United Nations mandate for the war.
Fratto said the United States went in as a multinational force under United Nations authorization to take military action against Iraq and was there as an occupying force. "And now we're there at the invitation of the sovereign elected government of Iraq," he said, adding that "U.N. Security Council resolutions that came subsequent to the war authorization, you know, envisioned those kinds of changes." --*Washington Post*, February 24.
The funniest part of this quote is the phrase "now we're there at the invitation of the sovereign elected government." In other words you invade a country, install a new government, and claim you had a mandate when they ask you to stick around and sort out the mess you've made.
Back to the point, the question that is not being asked: is the war illegal.
LT. EHREN WATADA
If you haven't heard of Lt. Watada, he is currently under court-martial charges for refusing to deploy in Iraq. His reason? The war is illegal. If he deployed, he argued, he would be a participant in an illegal war, and by not deploying he was committing a lesser crime to avoid committing a greater one.
He [was] originally scheduled to undergo his second trial this week, although chances are if a trial does go ahead it won't happen for months. His first trial was deemed a mistrial after the prosecution misunderstood an agreement Watada had made with them; Watada had admitted that he failed to deploy, not that he had a duty to deploy. [NOTE: This is mistaken. The judge in the court-martial claimed on Feb. 7 that *Watada* had mistunderstood the agreement, though this claim is dubious. --M.J.]
The real issue that arose from the trial, however, was the judge's refusal to let Watada submit evidence that the war was illegal, effectively forbidding him from making a case.
So step back for a minute. Here, a good soldier (and yes, he is a good soldier) is being court-martialed, and if convicted (which is likely if he is not allowed to submit the evidence he needs to make his point), will serve jail time for a crime that the U.S. Government committed.
He will join Camilo Mejia, Katherine Jashinski, Kevin Benderman, Pablo Paredes, Stephen Funk, Abdullah Webster, and in the United Kingdom, Malcolm Kendall-Smith, soldiers who have been court-martialed over their refusal to serve in the army because of their thoughts about the war. Most, however, have sought conscientious objecter status, and only Watada and Kendall-Smith have tried to use argue that the war was illegal in their defense.
SO . . . IS IT? Well, like it or not, at least you have to admit that there is valid reason to question the legality of the war. At the very least, there is a case that can be made.
I'll try to keep this as simple as possible so you don't have to get bogged down with legal jargon. I'll try to give you the sources so you can verify it yourself.
Let's start with the Nuremberg Principles, (http://www.rise4news.net/Nuremberg_Principles.html) which you can find here. If you don't know anything about them, these are basically the principles used to decide what constitutes a war crime after World War II. The one thing we need to look at here is Principle VI.
"Crimes against peace: i. Planning, preparation, initiation or waging of a war of aggression or a war in violation of international treaties, agreements, or assurances."
The two things that people point to are the words "war of aggression" and "war in violation of international treaties."
Prosecuting under the term War of Aggression is a dead end, not because it wasn't a war of aggression, but because the term "War of Aggression" has not been defined, and the people that get to define whether any given war is a War of Aggression? The United Nations Security Council, which is where we meet our dead end.
You see, the United States has veto power in the Security Council, so that if the Security Council decided they wanted to define the War in Iraq as a War of Aggression, the United States would just veto the vote.
Now, imagine if China invaded Taiwan or is Russia invaded Poland. Once again, that would not be a War of Aggression because Russia and China also have veto power (as do France and the United Kingdom). Unlike in the States where the President's veto can be overruled, the Security Council Veto is absolute.
So, that leaves us with the "War in Violation of International Treaties", at which point you ask "which treaty?" and I reply . . . "which one do you want?"
The two I would point to are the two the Administration uses to justify the war: Security Council Resolution 687 and Security Council Resolution 1441.
The first was the resolution dealing with Iraq's surrender after the previous Iraq War in 1991. The second is the resolution forcing Iraq to disclose any current weapons programs that it was using. While both make it clear that Iraq is a threat to International Security, they both also make it clear that the body in charge of any further course of action is the United Nations Security Council. Bush's boycott of the Security Council before invading Iraq is clearly a violation of these treaties, especially since Saddam had actually submitted to all the demands of Resolution 1441.AND IS IT IMMORAL?
Even if Bush did have the signed authority to go to war, was it the morally correct thing to do? Even if Saddam Hussein had nuclear weapons, did that make it right?
Don't get me wrong: there are any number of countries in the world that I don't trust to have Weapons of Mass Destruction, in fact that's exactly my point. Why is it perfectly moral for the United States to have the world's largest stockpile of Weapons of Mass Destruction, but enforce the nuclear free status of other countries? Why is it acceptable that France, the United Kingdom, the People's Republic of China, the Soviet Union, and India to have nuclear weapons? If we're worried about giving nuclear weapons to terrorists, why is it acceptable for Pakistan to have nuclear weapons? If we're worried about the secretive nature of Hussein's weapons programs, why aren't we're talking about the worst kept nuclear secret in the world: Israel.
The reality is that while any one nation possesses nuclear weapons, there is reason for every other nation to pursue nuclear weaponry. There is a "chicken or the egg" argument to be made here; did Iran pursue the bomb because America threatened to invade, or did America threaten to invade because Iran pursued the bomb?
The answer is that both statements are true, which is all the more reason we need a United Nations and all the more reason that the Bush Administration's actions are morally reprehensible.