Will the Watada Mistrial Spark an End to the War? | The Nation


Will the Watada Mistrial Spark an End to the War?

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Sparking Resistance

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Brendan Smith
Brendan Smith is an journalist, oysterman and labor activist. He is co-founder of Global Labor Strategies, a consulting...
Jeremy Brecher
Jeremy Brecher’s new book Save the Humans? Common Preservation in Action, just published by Paradigm...

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Indeed, Watada's stand is helping spark resistance in many walks of American life. More than 1,000 active-duty soldiers have now signed the Appeal for Redress, asking for an end to the Iraq War. Appeal founder Jonathan Hutto made the connection between Watada's case and the soldiers' action. "The Appeal for Redress stands in solidarity with all those who resist the current occupation of Iraq, the mass murder of the Iraqi people, the harm and destruction done to American service members and their families, and the ill use of American tax dollars.... We hope that Lt. Watada is successful in his defense of his actions. We further hope that his actions inspire other service members to look deeply into the cause of this conflict and to follow their moral conscience."

The Washington Post reported that at a student rally held during the January 27 antiwar demonstration in Washington, DC, "Many students mentioned the case of Ehren Watada...as an important step in building a cohesive antiwar movement. Watada's father spoke from the main stage at the protest as student speakers at a side rally organized by the Campus Antiwar Network hailed the young man as a hero and said the war will not end until other soldiers make the same decision."

Watada has also inspired a growing movement of civil disobedience against the war. Ying Lee, a former member of the Berkeley City Council, wrote in the Berkeley Daily, "Watada is a young man with extraordinary clarity about his moral responsibility and I am grateful for his principled and clearly articulated thoughts about his obligation to defend the Constitution, the UN charter, and the Nuremberg Principles.... My gratitude to him is expressed in committing civil disobedience by blocking the doors of the San Francisco Federal Building."

A majority of the American people now tell pollsters they believe the Iraq War is wrong. More than a dozen Congressional committees are now investigating aspects of the Iraq War and the "war on terror," including war crimes ranging from top officials' lies about weapons of mass destruction to illegal rendition and torture of captives. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said the Iraq War is the greatest moral issue facing the United States. And the midterm elections are almost universally interpreted as a call to end the war in Iraq. Yet the war only escalates. Could Lieutenant Watada's strategy of civil resistance provide the key to bringing it to an end?

America's Constitutional Crisis

Watada's stand is based on fundamental constitutional principles and responsibilities. It goes to the heart of America's current political, moral and constitutional crisis. As he told Democracy Now!, "In our democracy, according to our Constitution, one person, one man, cannot hold absolute power, hold himself above the law, including in actions in declaring war or waging war on another country. And it is my belief that in deceiving the American people, through what a majority of us now know to be true, the leaders of our country were violating their oath to this country and violating constitutional law."

Watada's reasoning provides a pivot for redirecting America's understanding of what has happened to us and what we must do about it. He challenges us to confront a chain of implications that starts with the truth about the criminality of the Iraq War, moves through the principles of the Constitution and US and international law, and ends with our personal responsibility.

Watada also provides a living example of what it means to step up to personal responsibilities. "There was a long time when I went through depression because I told myself I didn't have a choice," he said in Watada, Resister. "That I joined the military and I had only one duty and that was to obey what I was told, regardless of how I felt inside. It really hurt me for a long time because I imprisoned myself by telling myself I didn't have a choice. It didn't matter that I might be sent to prison. I was already in prison, my freedom was already gone."

"When I told myself that I do have a choice, I have a choice to do what is morally right, what is in my conscience, and what I can live with for the rest of my life--even though that comes with consequences, I do have that choice. When I realized that, and when I chose what was right for me, I became free again. And I think everybody has to remember that and to realize that is what is important in life."

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