You've probably read about Lt. Ehren Watada here on dKos or elsewhere in the blogosphere. He's courageously facing court martial for refusing to serve in the patently illegal US invasion of Iraq. His trial begins on Feb. 5 at Fort Lewis. Today I had the opportunity to hear him speak in the Community Rec Hall of tiny Coupeville, Washington. If you're interested in an eyewitness account, please follow beyond the jump to hyperspace....
Coupeville, Washington, is a small, historic town on Whidbey Island, about 50 miles northwest of Seattle. It lives in the shadow of Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, but is nourished by its history, which far outdates the navy presence. Its population is only about 1700, and yet, today, amidst snowy, icy conditions not conducive to gatherings, about 170 people came to the Rec Hall to hear Lt. Watada.
The Lieutenant is a slight, soft-spoken man, but his remarks were a passionate indictment of the war and its creators, and an implicit indictment of a nation that would let such a thing happen. He did not come across as crazy or angry, but his was luminously the quiet voice of truth speaking to power. He does not have the eloquence of Dr. King, but, with that great American's birthday about to be celebrated by the nation Monday, I could not help but think of King.
On an April day in 1967, I, a college senior, joined about a million of my fellow New Yorkers in the UN Plaza for a "Mobilization Against the Vietnam War" gathering, where we heard Dr. King speak powerfully about why that war was wrong and what we Americans needed to do about it. Here in Coupeville, on this wintry Saturday, we had turned out in numbers roughly proportional to that historic throng in '67. Then, spookily, as Lt. Watada concluded his remarks with a long quote from Dr. King's address "Beyond Vietnam", my thoughts came full circle.
During the Lieutenant's remarks, and the lengthy Q&A that followed, a theme arose repeatedly: we, as a nation, had not held the leaders accountable who misled us into Vietnam, and that failure thirty years ago had undermined our national integrity, thus enabling this new generation of warmongers. This courageous young soldier from Hawaii is doing what he feels he can and must to try to rectify the failures of an earlier generation by making sure this time, we say a "NO" that cannot be negated, and take seriously the idea that crime does not pay.
It is the Bush cabal who belong before the bar of justice at the Hague; Lt. Watada deserves the Congressional Medal of Freedom or some such honor, unlike those unworthies on whom Bush is prone to bestow such medals. Inasmuch as you can, support the efforts of Lt. Watada and others like him to reveal the enormity of the criminality that is the Bush/Cheney war of choice. And, of course, we need a different kind of President in 2009, one whom we could envision granting a pardon to Watada (if needed) and decorating him for his truly loyal service to the Constitution.