Yesterday, at join press conferences in Tacoma, Washington and Honalulu, Hawaii, US Army First Lieutenant Ehren Watada announced he was refusing deployment to Iraq. His refusal comes in the face of possible court-marshall charges if he is not allowed to resign his commission. If not the first, this is one of the very first cases of a commissioned officer refusing deployment to Iraq. He’s making a really incredible statement. Lt Watada joined after September 11th, gave the President the benefit of the doubt, but then began to see the truth on the wmds, the non links to Al Qaeda, and the real reasons the US is in Iraq. Instead of accepting a non fighting deployment, Lt. Watada decided the best way he could help his fellow soldiers is to speak out. It’s going to take more brave women and men like Lt. Watada to help bring the message, and the troops, home.
From a statement prepared by his lawyer, Eric A. Seitz:

Lt. Watada was stationed at Ft. Lewis in January, 2006, when he first asked for permission to resign his commission because “I am whole-heartedly opposed to the continued war in Iraq, the deception used to wage this was, and the lawlessness that has pervaded every aspect of our civilian leadership.” After his initial request and a second formal application to resign were denied by the Army, Lt. Watada informed his superiors that he will refuse to deploy with his unit when it is scheduled to leave Ft. Lewis for Iraq later this month.

Sarah Olson of truthout interviewed Lt. Watada in late May. It’s a really fantastic interview from a guy who’s really thought it all through. They’re going to swiftboat him, no doubt, and call him a traitor. Go to Thank You, Lt Watada and see what people are saying. One key moment from the Olson interview is this one:

SO: You’ve mentioned your sense of betrayal. Can you explain this?
Watada: The president is the commander in chief, and although he is our leader, there must be a strong relationship of trust. Anybody who’s been in the military knows that in order to have a cohesive and effective fighting force, you need to have a certain level of trust between leaders and soldiers. And when you don’t, things start to break down.
I signed a contract saying I will follow orders, and do what I’m told to do. There are times when I won’t be able to question it and evaluate the legality of these orders, so I have to have the ultimate trust in my leader. I have to trust the president’s word, and trust him to do what’s right. I have to trust him to sacrifice our lives only for justified and moral reasons. Realizing the president is taking us into a war that he misled us about has broken that bond of trust that we had. If the president can betray my trust, it’s time for me to evaluate what he’s telling me to do. I’ve realized that going to this war is the wrong thing to do.

Thank you, Lt. Watada.