Courage To Resist: A US Lieutenant Refuses Deployment to Iraq
by Sarah Olson
Ehren Watada is a 27-year-old First Lieutenant in the United States Army. He joined the Army in 2003 during the run-up to the Iraq war. He turned in his resignation to protest the war in Iraq in January 2006. He expects to receive orders to deploy in late June and will become the first Lieutenant to refuse orders to deploy to Iraq, setting the stage for what could be the biggest movement of GI resistance since the Vietnam War. He faces a court-martial, up to two years in prison for missing movement by design, a dishonorable discharge, and other possible charges. He says speaking against an illegal and immoral war is worth all of this and more. Journalist SARAH OLSON spoke with Watada in May.
SARAH OLSON: When you joined the Army in 2003, what were your goals?
LT. EHREN WATADA: 2003 was a couple of years after the terrorist attacks of 9/11. I had the idea that my country needed me and that I needed to serve my country. I still strongly believe that. I strongly believe in service and duty. That’s one of the reasons I joined: because of patriotism.
I took an oath to the US Constitution, and to the values and the principles it represents. It makes us strongly unique. We don’t allow tyranny; we believe in accountability and checks and balances and a government that’s by and for the people. The military must safeguard those freedoms and those principles and the democracy that makes us unique. A lot of people, like myself, join the military because they love their country, and they love what it stands for.
OLSON: You joined the Army during the run-up to the Iraq war, but you had misgivings about the war. How did that happen?
WATADA: Like everybody in America and around the world, I heard what they were saying on television about the stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction, and the ties to al-Qaeda and 9/11. I also saw the millions of people around the world protesting and listened to the people resigning from the government in protest. I realized that the war probably wasn’t justified until we found proof of these accusations the President and his deputies were making against Iraq.
But I also believed we should give the President the benefit of the doubt. At that time, I never believed—I could never conceive of—our leader betraying the trust we had in him.
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