Question: What is the status of the court-martial of 1st Lt. Ehren Watada, who faced an Army court-martial for refusing to deploy to Iraq in 2006?
Answer: "No real news," reports his civilian attorney Ken Keagan, since the federal judge issued a preliminary injunction in November prohibiting the Army from bringing Watada to a second court-martial. Watada's first court-martial, a year ago, ended in a mistrial. Watada and his attorney claim that a second trial would violate his constitutional rights. U.S. District Judge Benjamin Settle ruled on Nov. 8 that no court-martial will be held for Watada pending the outcome of his claim that it would violate his Fifth Amendment rights by trying him twice for the same charges...
~ Read on... ~
Asian American soldiers of conscience
..."Torture is un-lawful", are the first words of his keynote address, part of the "War on Terror" lecture series presented by the Human Rights Center at Berkeley. In 2004 Taguba was lead investigator into conditions at the US military's Abu Ghraib facility in Iraq. His highly critical report was publicized throughout the world. The 6,000-page report gave evidence of torture, prisoner abuse, and a failure of leadership and responsibility at the highest levels of authority. The report was hailed as a thorough investigation completed in only 30 days. But in January 2006, Taguba received a phone call from the Army's Vice-Chief of Staff who offered no reason but said, "I need you to retire by January of 2007." This Taguba did after 34 years of active duty.
The war in Iraq has thrust American soldiers of Asian ancestry into the limelight as no other US conflict has ever done before. Aside from their Asian heritage there is yet another tie that these men have. It reflects another on-going battle - one that is being fought in the halls of Congress and in countless debates throughout the world. Asian American soldiers have found themselves front and center in these fights over the use of torture, questions of wartime ethics and conduct and even over the legality of the Iraq war itself.
In my interviews with war resistor First Lieutenant Ehren Watada; James Yee, the former captain and Muslim chaplin at Guantanamo Bay Prison; and Taguba, they all remain strong believers in the US constitution, its principals and the ability of the US military to protect them. Despite the different ways they acted on their beliefs and despite differing opinions, what remains is their commitment to a firm set of ideals and their willingness to pay a price for it.
[ ... ]
Watada's refusal to deploy to Iraq underscored the Bush administration's determination to go to war, with Truth being its first casualty. Watada argues that the President misled the public and that the reasons for going to war were based on false premises. Watada states that he will not fight an illegal war. He now faces a possible court martial.
The stand Watada took remains a source of controversy. Yet support for him is strong, with a group of Asian Americans supporters driving several hundred miles to his trials in Washington State. Support for Yee first came from Muslim Americans. But as events surrounding his case were revealed, Chinese and Asian Americans rallied to his cause.
I compare this situation to that of the war in Southeast Asia. When I documented stories of Asian American Vietnam Veterans, I was told of an Asian American soldier being signaled out by a squad leader. He then told the squad, "This is what the enemy looks like." The contributions of these Asian Americans in the armed forces were no less than those of Asian American soldiers today. But too often racial stereotyping and derogatory attitudes reserved for the Vietnamese were also pointed at Asian Americans. The sense of isolation, the mental and emotional scars inflicted upon these men and women remained apparent years after returning to civilian life...
~ Read more... ~