Many people I know, especially veterans (even antiwar vets), have mixed feelings about Lieutenant Ehren Watada, whose trial was blocked today by a federal judge. Some vets saw it as a betrayal of those under his command, others that the war was best resisted from within, For other, including myself, the ambivalence stems from the way his original decision — as the first Army officer to refuse to deploy to Iraq — was first taken up by (admittedly hard-working and sincere) front groups for front groups for the ossified sectarian left (whose militant rhetoric makes most of us giggle these days). All of which made it harder for many to simply look at what the 27-year-old college and OCS graduate was actually saying, about what he still considers an illegal order. Thank god for non-front groups like CCW and Vets for Peace, from whom I got the news today.
Those of you who’ve checked this page out more than once (why? Please comment, and lemme know!) know I’ve mostly been mired in the previous century, and mostly enmeshed in the lives of the Civil War vets who years later spoke out — opposing the annexation of what would become Watada’s home state, and joining in a grand effort to stop the Philippine War. “It is nothing but a wanton stretch of power. It is
lust for power and greed for land veneered with the tawdriness of false humanity,” wrote one, by then a U.S. senator as well as a survivor of the Battles of Shiloh and Spotsylvania. His sentiment echoes Watada’s, but the quote that gave this post a title is from far earlier, because I think it’s more relevant to what Watada faces next.
The judge in the case, Benjamin Settle, only dismissed three of the five counts against Watada:
Settle barred the military from retrying Watada on charges of missing his redeployment to Iraq, taking part in a news conference and participating in a Veterans for Peace national convention.
But the court did not rule out the possibility that the Army, after considering legal issues, could retry Watada on two counts of conduct unbecoming an officer resulting from his media interviews.
Watada’s attorney sensibly told the press that he hopes to get those charges dropped. That could be done without explicit vindication of Watada’s position. But part of me wants to see that second trial, if only to prove Sylvanus Thayer wrong.
Thayer, the “Father of West Point,” in 1819 blamed a early mutiny at the academy on “the erroneous and unmilitary impressions of the Cadets that they have rights to defend.”
Someone should write a book about soldiers and vets who hold on to that “erroneous” impression. Oh right, I forgot.
Congratulations, Lt. Watada. When can I give you a call?