Lieutenant Ehren Watada is enjoying a lot of media publicity these days. As I learn more about it, I'm beginning to wonder if he planned it that way. His implications of American slaughter of Iraqis are irresponsible. In an era where there is no military draft, for someone to join the military after America was at war with Iraq and then refuse to go to Iraq is silly.
Updated 12 Jan 2007
Ehren Watada says that he wouldn't balk at going to Afghanistan. It's just that the war in Iraq is immoral, unconstitutional, and breaks international treaties. So he refuses to go. In an Associated Press article he is quoted as saying:
The wholesale slaughter and mistreatment of the Iraqi people with only limited accountability is not only a terrible moral injustice but a contradiction to the Army's own Law of Land Warfare.
The Law of Land Warfare states, among other things:
Section II. FORBIDDEN CONDUCT WITH RESPECT TO PERSONS 29. Injury Forbidden After Surrender
It is especially forbidden * * * to kill or wound an enemy who, having laid down his arms, or having no longer means of defense, has surrendered at discretion. (HR, art. 23, par. (c).)
Section III. FORBIDDEN MEANS OF WAGING WARFARE
33. Means of Injuring the Enemy Limited
34. Employment of Arms Causing Unnecessary Injury
a. Treaty Provision.
It is especially forbidden * * * to employ arms, projectiles, or material calculated to cause unnecessary suffering. (HR, art. 23, par. (e).)
Lieutenant Watada is correct in suggesting that "wholesale slaughter and mistreatment of the Iraqi people" is occurring that in effect violates the Law of Land Warfare. The problem with Watada's blanket assertion, however, is who he makes the assertion against--United States military forces.
A very few American-initiated incidents which have violated the Law of Land Warfare, (Abu Ghraib, Haditha, etc.) have been prosecuted.
The terrorist insurgency in Iraq, contrarily, commits what amount to multiple violations of the Law of Land Warfare occur EVERY SINGLE DAY in Iraq. It is disingenuous at best to imply that "wholesale slaughter and mistreatment of the Iraqi people" is being conducted by American (or even coalition, for that matter) forces. It is extremely lacking in integrity for Ehren Watada or anyone else to make such an implication, no matter how much they want American forces to leave Iraq.
Ehren Watada joined the US Army in 2003 and went to Basic Training in June of that year. Two months thereafter, he went to officer candidate school 2 months later, 5 months after the invasion of Iraq occurred. There is currently no military draft in the United States. Watada was not compelled to join the military, and when he did, he knew the chances were great that he would be called to service in Iraq. If he really did not want to serve where the Commander in Chief would send him, he should have never enlisted, much less gone to OCS.
In late 2002, my National Guard battalion, the 2nd of the 222nd Field Artillery regiment, appeared very likely to be called to active duty. I wrestled with my feelings, considering that the Bush Administration was taking us in to a melee that was not in the best interests of America's security. I had recently voted for a different candidate for President of the United States, who I am sure would have done more to protect America's borders than President Bush has done. But it was likely that my enlistment period would overlap a call to active service--and it did. So I served.
As a member of the American public, it was my privilege to debate the politics of military engagements all I wanted. But when I was called to active duty, the debate was over. My job was to serve and to not violate the Law of Land Warfare. So, I think it goes, for Ehren Watada.
I joined the military nearly 20 years before George W. Bush became president. I joined before America and coalition forces invaded Iraq, even the first time. I did not personally feel in 2002 that there was reason enough to attack Iraq. I have much more reason to refuse to serve than did Ehren Watada--but I served on two separate activations.
I have no countenance for people such as Ehren Watada. He made his choice when he enlisted. I could be wrong, but it is difficult for me to conclude anything from the actions of Watada and the people who surround him other than that they are seeking to become celebrities.
'I would go to Afghanistan, but Iraq is immoral and unconstitutional', he says. Easy to say for someone whose unit was not called to go to Afghanistan.
Update: 12 Jan 2007
Here's a little more of a look into the issue from the Seattle Times:
His father — Robert Watada, a retired Hawaii state official — was opposed to the war in Vietnam, and was able to do alternative service in the Peace Corps in Peru.
And Robert Watada said he laid out the "pros and cons" of military service as his son considered joining the service in the spring of 2003 as the invasion of Iraq was launched.
"He knew very well of my decision not to go to Vietnam, and he had to make his own decision to join the Army," Robert Watada said. "It was very noble. He felt like he wanted to do his part for his country."
After the younger Watada enlisted, he was sent to officer-training school in Georgia. Watada said he supported the war at that time because he believed Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.
"I had my doubts," he said. "But I felt like the president is our leader, and he won't betray our trust, and he would know what he was talking about, and let's give him the benefit of the doubt." Over the past year, his feeling changed as he read up on the war and became convinced that there was "intentional manipulation of intelligence" by the Bush administration.
In January, Watada told his commanders that he believed that the war was unlawful, and therefore, so were his deployment orders. He did not, however, consider himself a conscientious objector, since he was willing to fight in wars that were justified, legal and in defense of the nation.
Watada was told that he could submit his resignation, but that the Army would recommend disapproval. That resignation was rejected in May, he said.