The people running the Iraq war are eager to make an example of Ehren Watada. They’ve convened a kangaroo court-martial. But the man on trial is setting a profound example of conscience — helping to undermine the war that the Pentagon’s top officials are so eager to protect.
“The judge in the case against the first U.S. officer court-martialed for refusing to ship out for Iraq barred several experts in international and constitutional law from testifying Monday about the legality of the war,” the Associated Press reported.
While the judge was hopping through the military’s hoops at Fort Lewis in Washington state, an outpouring of support for Watada at the gates reflected just how broad and deep the opposition to this war has become.
The AP dispatch merely stated that “outside the base, a small group that included actor Sean Penn demonstrated in support of Watada.” But several hundred people maintained an antiwar presence Monday at the gates, where a vigil and rally — led by Iraq war veterans and parents of those sent to kill and be killed in this horrific war — mirrored what is happening in communities across the United States.
Many of the most compelling voices against the Iraq war come from the men and women who were ordered into a conflagration that should never have begun. Opinions may be debatable, but experiences are irrefutable. And the devastating slaughter that the U.S. war effort continues to inflict on Iraqi people has a counterpoint in the suffering of Americans who are left with unspeakable grief.
In direct resistance to the depravity of the Bush administration as it escalates this war, Lieutenant Watada is taking a clear and uplifting position. Citing international law and the U.S. Constitution, he points out that the Iraq war is “manifestly illegal.” And he adds: “As the order to take part in an illegal act is ultimately unlawful as well, I must as an officer of honor and integrity refuse that order. It is my duty not to follow unlawful orders and not to participate in things I find morally reprehensible.”
Watada says: “My participation would make me party to war crimes.”