Thursday, June 08, 2006

Conscience Calling

My head says he's wrong. My heart says otherwise. And I suspect the passage of time will cast his decision in a more favorable light. While Muhammad Ali was not a member of the military much less an officer, he too refused to serve in a preemptive war rooted in a false pretense. How many fault him for that now?

By the way, here's what the newspaper's readers thought about Lt. Watada's decision.


Blogger Old Lady said...

I agree with you. He has recourse within the military structure to object. If he uses those recources he will probably escape combat. He did of his own volition sign an oath, so he should expect the consequences of not upholding that oath. Were he drafted (which of course there is none) I believe stateside duty would be appropriate for a conscientious objector.

6/09/2006 12:34 PM  
Blogger chris bray said...

Isn't it a little curious, though, that he signed up for service in the U.S. military in late 2003 -- during the war -- then announced that he wouldn't serve in the war? And I would distinguish this case from that of the British commando who refused to return to Iraq because of what he saw of the conduct of the war there. This one is just odd. He walked into the bar, sat down, ordered a beer, raised it to his lips, and launched into a fiercely pre-temperance lecture. I don't get it.

6/09/2006 1:12 PM  
Blogger copy editor said...

I think he's right on the war, but he's in the uniform. Your convictions become secondary. However, conducting oneself in the uniform remains a moral question. He simply can't determine the theatre of operation for his moral action.

6/09/2006 1:43 PM  
Anonymous Jonathan Dresner said...

Our local paper -- via AP, I think -- said that he was encouraged by one of his superiors (who regrets it now, to be sure) to "know all he could about the war" which led him to study some of the opinions of constitutional and international law scholars. He became convinced that the war was Constitutionally and internationally illegitimate.

He's not arguing based on the conduct of the war, or fear: he's refusing an illegal order. I don't imagine that he'll get a lot of traction in courts martial, but it's not a flaky thing.

6/09/2006 2:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Echoing Jonathan Dresner. I heard him interviewed, and he described at some length how reading that he did after he got his commission, while trying to improve his skills as an officer, led him to his decision. And it doesn't sound like he's trying to evade any consequences of his decision, unless you call retaining a lawyer a kind of shirking. But that's not what America is about, correct?

I think it's worth noting that his superiors seem to be handling this in a pretty evenhanded manner. Of course, they can't exactly give him an "atta-boy", but he did mention that his brigade commander heard him out in a forthright, professional conversation.
-- sglover

6/09/2006 2:58 PM  
Blogger Roy said...

First, the comparison to Ali is horrible at best. There are so many differences (such as the draft vs volunteer, not to mention the lack of civil rights for blacks)that you should not attempt to equate the two.

I have not read much on Watada, so I can't say much. I just know that he enlisted after the war began so it seems disingenous to me.

6/09/2006 3:23 PM  
Blogger Almighty Blog said...

My head says he's right.

6/09/2006 4:02 PM  
Blogger Spider said...

Quoting the article:

"Robert Arakaki, the 83-year-old president of the 100th Infantry Battalion Veterans group, who saw combat in Italy in 1945, yesterday said Watada "owes the country a lot."

There "should be some kind of good explanation" for why Watada wants out, he said, and Arakaki takes issue with claims of an immoral and illegal war.

"Who determines what is legal or illegal? Him or our government? Not him," Arakaki said."

Uh, Mr. Arakiki, he (Lt. Watada) IS OUR GOVERNMENT! And I am and You are as well!! What part of We The People, in order to form a more perfect union. . ." do you not understand?

When the government does anything, you can't just blame them, it also falls on the people. (This is why I am against the death penalty. Not because I don't think murderers don't deserve death, but because I refuse to have their blood on my hands.) So yes, he can make the determination this war is illegal and immoral.

When the people lead, the goverment will follow.

Furthermore, this isn't just about following orders. There is in the articles of military rules that a soldier can refuse to follow orders that he knows are fundamentally wrong, such as an order to torch a village of civillians in Vietnam.

How or why every General didn't refuse the President's order to invade a country that didn't attack us, nor would have the capacity to attack for 10 years is beyond me!

6/09/2006 4:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

He is wrong. If he was a family man being drafted I would sympathize. He volunteered and got trained and fitted for uniforms and his housing paid for on the premise he would follow orders.

6/09/2006 5:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

He was given a lawful order to deploy. His orders came down through the legal chain of command and do not contradict any portion of the Constitution he is sworn to protect. Nor do his orders contradict any standing orders. Nor do his orders contravene any international treaties regarding the laws of war of which the United States is a signator.

As an officer, his personal and inexpert opinion about the legality of the conflict is irrelevant to the question of whether his orders are lawful or not. By all standards of the Uniform Code of Military Justice that he has willingly agreed to abide by, he is disobeying lawful orders and must therefore be court martialed. In all likelihood he will be dishonorably discharged and serve some time in military prison. If he has encouraged others to also disobey orders, then that would carry the additional charge of mutiny, punishable by death even in peacetime.

Now, many will make an appeal to conscience here. And I am very sympathetic to freedom of conscience, as it is really the highest freedom we enjoy. However, he has already stated that he does not oppose all wars on principle, only this war. Therefore his application for conscientous objector status was rejected, and rightfully so.

Overall, I find neither my head nor my heart in much sympathy with him.

6/09/2006 7:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

But it's the duty of an officer (different in was from that of an enilsted man) to give thought to the order and refuse any that is illegal. Who in the military is responsible for identifying and resisting illegal orders handed down? Only the Joint Chiefs? Or is it the shared responsibility of all officers and this just happens to be the first one to stand up that the public is aware of?

There is a distinction that is lost on many Americans between a moral obligation and a responsibility and there are times these are at odds with each other. The great social leaders always were clear on that point - they were willing to stand up for what was right, even if it was illegal - and they took full responsiblity for their actions. What was 'right' was to break the law for what was right *and* to accept jail because they broke the law.

Sympathy isn't what these individual want. They want you to think and consider that they may in fact be right by their actions, and the government wrong. You often need individuals to refuse to move to the back of the bus to set an institution on the right track. Respect that commitment for what it is and give the act some serious thought.

6/09/2006 7:59 PM  
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10/24/2006 10:47 AM  

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