1.04.2007

First Lt. Ehren Watada: War Resister

According to a YahooNews story, First Lt. Ehren Watada, a 28-year-old Hawaii native, is the first commissioned officer in the U.S. to refuse to be sent to Iraq. He's reason? His belief that the war is illegal and immoral. Watada faces up to six years in prison, a dishonorable discharge and loss of wages if convicted of disobeying orders to deploy to theatre of war.

I'm wondering if this young man's decision will spur others to follow suit. With the administration in a tailspin, Iraq devolving into a nightmarish civil war, and the Democrats preparing for scores of hearings questioning the legality, morality and military value of the war, it's a wonder why there haven't been other officer objectors. My guess is that we'll see a decided up tick in their ranks.

The Iraq War itself is a disaster in lives lost, how it was justified, and in the way its been prosecuted. You knew we were in trouble when Rumsfeld's Plan A went right out the window on day one when the Iraqi soldiers allowed the U.S. to storm the country with just token resistance. That spurious victory and the unrelenting insurgency that's followed left the U.S. military in a loose-loose situation.

It's also now abundantly clear that there never was a Plan B.

The problem now in regards to Iraq, and for any young person waiting to be deployed, is that no one, including the president, seems able to explain the war’s military mission. As a result, the answers to questions of when, where and how are vague. Gulf War I's mission and strategy were crystal clear--a masterpiece in strategic clarity and operational efficiency. Conversely, the Iraq War is confusion.

But the conduct of wars, as in all other enterprises, is shaped by the strengths and weaknesses of their primary prosecutors. Gulf 1 was meticulously planned, organized and prosecuted. In that respect, the war mirrored the knowledge, sense of duty, and seriousness of GWHN and Colin Powell. Neither could be classified as “hotdogs” or as messy. The Iraqi campaign has few collaborators, lacks coherency and relies too much on jingoism. Some would say that these attributes describe GWB and his administration.

Another fellow whose unpopular war also spurred young Americans to refuse military duty was Lyndon Baines Johnson. Unlike GWB, LBJ inherited his war. But LBJ also had increasing problems selling that war with all of its huge military contracts and its attendant anti-communist. It both Vietnam and Iraq, LBJ and GWB too easily relied "expert" supplied intelligence; were too close to the military industry insiders; and hadn't a clue how to fight an indigenous insurgency.

The public’s lost of trust in the promoters of the Vietnam War gave a major lift to those opposed to the military draft. The thinking was that by eliminating an automatic flow of young soldiers, pro-war presidents would be denied the essential materiel for warring: young lives. The anti-draft activists of the ‘60s now know their assumptions were wrong.

Some are now saying that only by re-instituting the draft can Americans ensure that irresponsible wars will not be fought. A leading proponent of this theory is Harlem Congressman Charlie Rangel. A war opponent and a decorated veteran, Rangel argues that it's too easy now to do war--even when the public is opposed. A volunteer army removes any responsibility for politicians and citizens alike to look carefully at the justifications for putting soldiers in harm’s way. Rangel is adamant that a national army comprised largely of minorities and poor whites is unjust and unwise.

Ehren Watada endorses Rangel’s views on the draft and he, too, wants it reinstated as a check on reckless warmongering.

I agree with Rangel and Watada. It's disturbing that Americans are so removed from the consequences of our war policies. It should be difficult to take a country to war, and the burdens of doing so should be felt by every strata of society.

I am one of those who believe dictatorships everywhere must be confronted, brought down and the people liberated. Saddam was clearly a thug and more than earned his fate. But there’s a smart and effective way of solving international problems and there are bumbling, unwise and costly ways, too.

Incidently, for those predisposed to dismiss Watada as a slacker and someone unfit for military leadership, consider these reviews from his superiors:
“Exemplary. Tremendous potential for positions of increased responsibility. He has the potential to command with distinction. Promote ahead of his peers.” Executive Officer Fitness Report

“Exemplary” and has “unlimited potential.” Platoon Leader Evaluation

Soldiers today are too smart, too well-informed to be easily deceived.