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The Courage of Lieutenant Watada

Bob Geiger

June 7, 2006

"Courage is the first of human qualities because it is the quality which guarantees the others" ~ Aristotle

When Lieutenant Ehren Watada's Army unit from Fort Lewis, WA leaves for Mosul in northern Iraq this month, he will not be among them. The 28-year-old Army officer will formally refuse today to ship out when his unit deploys to Iraq.

"I refuse to be silent any longer. I refuse to watch families torn apart, while the President tells us to 'stay the course,'" said Watada, on a web site supporting his cause. "I refuse to be party to an illegal and immoral war against people who did nothing to deserve our aggression."

Watada faces being court martialed for refusing to serve as ordered, unless the Army allows him to resign his commission or assigns him elsewhere, in a capacity unrelated to the war in Iraq. The young officer, who attempted to resign his commission in January -- his request was denied -- is not eligible for conscientious-objector status as he does not object to all wars, just the one the Bush administration is conducting in Iraq.

"My son has a great deal of courage, and clearly understands what is right, and what is wrong," said his father, Bob Watada. "He's choosing to do the right thing, which is a hard course."

As a Veteran, I agree and, with most polls showing up to 70 percent of Americans believing the Iraq war is a mistake, it will be interesting to see where public sentiment goes on cases like Watada's. But just wait for the right-wing types -- especially the old Republican Chickenhawks who have never served in uniform or the young ones who never will -- to pillory this courageous young man and cast him as a coward.

But Watada is no coward. Deploying with his unit to a war he knows is wrong and that is harming our country in so many ways would be the easy thing to do. There's a vast difference between being afraid to fight and knowing not only that a cause is unjust, but that both Americans and Iraqis are dying based on a long list of lies used to justify this war.

Rather than simply going and accepting what is, statistically speaking, a rather small chance of being killed or wounded, Lt. Watada is choosing a far more difficult course, that may lead him to prison and vilification by a sickeningly misguided percentage of our population.

"I think they will do their best to make an example of me," Watada said.

As an officer, it is Watada's job to lead men and women into battle and he is entirely right in refusing to do that if he cannot do it with a clear and righteous conscience.

"I feel that we have been lied to and betrayed by this administration," Watada said Tuesday. "It is the duty, the obligation of every soldier, and specifically the officers, to evaluate the legality, the truth behind every order Ś including the order to go to war."

And so a gutsy young man does the right thing and not necessarily the easy thing in a country that too often absorbs itself in ill-advised, rote patriotism.

Confucius said that "faced with what is right, to leave it undone shows a lack of courage" and Watada will most assuredly not leave opposing the needless deaths of more military personnel and civilians undone.

"I wanted to be there for my fellow troops," said Watada. "But the best way was not to help drop artillery and cause more death and destruction. It is to help oppose this war and end it so that all soldiers can come home."

You can show your support for Lt. Watada by going here and signing a petition applauding his actions.

You can reach Bob Geiger at geiger.bob@gmail.com


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