Date: January 31, 2007 Wednesday
Time: 7:00-9:00 C.S.T.
Venue: St Xavier University’s McGuire Hall, in Chicago, Illinois
Name of Programme:
“Putting the Iraq War on Trial: The Lt Watada Case.”
Dion McGill SXU student and member Illinois National Guard
Samantha “Abbie” Hamlin, World Can’t Wait organizer and Columbia College student
Peter Neil Kirstein, professor of history
Ms Ho and Lt Watada
Army Lieutenant Ehren Watada refused deployment in June 2006 to Iraq and has had an Article 32–basically a Grand Jury pretrial hearing– and is scheduled for a court-martial trial that could lead to imprisonment. His mother Ms Carolyn Ho initially was dismayed and opposed her son’s decision not to deploy with his Fort Lewis, Washington-based Third Stryker Brigade, Second Infantry Division to Iraq. She is now his strongest supporter and is heroically defending her son’s right to refuse participation in an illegal and unjust military action.
The issue of whether military personnel have a right to refuse participation in war is significant. While generally not a systemic phenomenon in an all-volunteer force, it is important that we recognise that soldiers are required to disobey immoral orders, that they cannot merely follow orders if those orders are illegal and that the good order and discipline, required to run a military force, does not supersede rights of conscience and rights of protest when the act of killing is construed as immoral.
Lieutenant Watada, an officer and a gentleperson.
During the Vietnam War, there were numerous instances of soldiers that resisted participation in the genocide. Some refused to board aircraft; some marched in anti-war demonstrations; some refused to train navy fighter pilots (I wish Senator John McCain, who glorifies war and state killing, had been one of them); some deserted or went A.W.O.L. Captain Howard Levy declined instructing Green Berets at Ft. Jackson in South Carolina. I will explore some of this in my remarks.
In my opinion both Iraq and Vietnam were illegal acts of state terrorism, which significantly reduces the legal or moral requirements for military personnel–conscripts, enlisted persons, or officers–to accept participation in these conflicts.
I think the term “War Hero” may be applied to soldiers who refuse to engage the “enemy,” and demonstrate courage in refusing to accept the role of killer in the name of the nation-state. I recognise the term may apply to acts of valour in a military operation. When we give medals to soldiers, dead or otherwise, as Mr Bush did recently in conferring the Congressional Medal of Honour, we honour acts of heroism sometimes to obscure and deflect criticism of why these brave women and men had to die in the first place. It glorifies an action during war in order to obfuscate and deter criticism and assessment of the criminal and barbaric decision to go to war.
This is the latest on the status of Lt Watada.