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Russell Shaw Headshot

Free Lt. Ehren Watada

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Lt. Ehren Watada, as you likely know, is the Army officer who has refused orders to go to Iraq, because he because he believes the conflict is an "illegal war" founded on "lies," and that war crimes have been commited in the prosecution of the conflict.

Tomorrow, Lt. Watada will be court martialed at Fort Lewis in Washington State. He may be sentenced to as many as four years in prison.

I'll tell you who deserves some court martials. The senior military officials who have either initiated specific wartime atrocities, covered up those atrocities by foisting blame on lower-rank commanders or enlistees, or set the climate for these atrocities by issuing orders with enough non-specificity that they could be taken by field personnel as an open license to commit prosecutable war crimes.

As for Lt. Watada, I would think that a general discharge should be the right action. It's not Lt. Watada's fault that the Army he signed up for has been deployed in a war based on lies and deception.

Plainly the Army views him as an organizational irritant. They do have the right to purge him, but since he is speaking from conscience rather than cowardice, only to the status of a civilian who is free to speak out.

"Free," get that? Like the "freedom" we are supposedly imposing on Iraq, and the "freedom" we supposedly still have stateside.

I yearn for the day that a freed, and free, Lt. Watada joins the protesters. Lt. Ehren Watada, meet Cindy Sheehan.

As for the bigger picture, well, put it this way. Many other wars come to mind where, from the vantage point of history, more servicemen and women would have done well to have shown Lt. Watada's courage..

And you know what? Lives would have been saved.

I live about a mile from a wall listing Oregon's Vietnam War dead. So many names of so many who died bravely, but for what? Decades hence, many of the same corporations who backed the Vietnam War are now trading with a Vietnam whose capital is named for the very Ho Chi Minh whose forces the names on that wall lost their lives to.

If there had been more Lt. Watadas, there would be fewer names on that wall, as well as the wall in D.C.