9/11 was a terrible tragedy. For those
of us who were up early that
morning and were called to turn on the tv, we saw a horrible series of events,
not read, not imagined, in real time. A worse tragedy occurred when our
country, under false pretenses, attacked Iraq. Although the bombs, mortars,
other sophisticated, weapons were directed at Iraqis, the attack was also a less
obvious one against Americans.
Although 3,000 US military personnel are dead, over 22,000 maimed, and a
yet to be determined number suffer from post-traumatic-stress-disorder, the
human physical toll paid by Iraqis is off the scale compared to our numbers. We
have effectively destroyed the Cradle of Civilization.
In a different manner, the Bush administration has grievously harmed the
US. The National Priorities web page (<http://nationalpriorities.org>) has a
frightening microsecond report on the cost of the war: at 6:50 pm on 1/21/07, we
had spent $362,772,925 or $2 billion a week. National Priorities also reported
that the cost to California is $46 billion and to Berkeley, $130 million. Our
social, physical, ethical, moral condition is tattered. Our environmental
condition is fragile. We are much weaker in every way from each of our wars
since WWII, but the Iraqi was is perhaps the most evil. Individual profiteers
from Halliburton, the Carlyle Group, Bechtel, have become fabulously wealthy.
The rest of us are poorer in every way.
We have also become in the years after the attack on Iraq the moral pariahs
of the world. As a nation we shuddered to see (and also imagine) people
jumping, falling off the top floors of the Twin Towers, the employees, the fire
fighters and the police trapped in the buildings. And, I, as an individual
cannot forget the Iraqi men, women and children, innocent or not, who never
attacked the US, being shot, mortared, shrapnelled, beaten, humiliated,
tortured, raped, pushed out of their houses, out of their cities, out of their
living and pushed to the brink of and over to death. Their condition is never
far out of my mind. I cannot enjoy any event without feeling guilt that it is
my tax dollars, my complicity as an American that is doing such barbarous acts.
I go to demonstrations, write letters, engage in political activity, as
efforts to stop the war, to assuage the horror felt, the guilt over what we have
done and continue to do. Individuals like Cindy Sheehan can galvanize part of
the population with her just and emotionally effective call to end the war and
we are grateful for our leaders against the war.
Lt. Ehren Watada, is one of these leaders. Lt. Watada, is the first U.S.
Army officer to refuse to serve in Iraq. He enlisted in patriotic firmness
after 9/11. Over his mother's protests, he insisted that he did the right
thing. His military superiors consider him to be exemplary as an officer, "a
leader of men" and told him that he would have a bright future in the Army.
While stationed in Korea, his superior officer told him that he would
undoubtedly be posted in Iraq, and as a good officer, he should learn everything
about the country to which he was to be sent. And he studied. In the process,
he learned that the attack was based on lies told by the Bush administration:
that there were no weapons of mass destruction and that there was no connection
between the attacks on the Twin Towers, the Capitol, the Pentagon and wherever
the downed plane in Pennsylvania was approaching and Iraq.
Watada was also aware of the Nuremberg Principles that essentially places
responsibility on the individual, even if that person is the head of state, or a
member of the military, to not obey orders that violate international law.
He tried to resign three times (an officer submits his resignation to the
president) and was denied each time. He will be court-martialed on February 5,
2007 in Ft Lewis, Washington facing four counts: two for missing troop movement
and two for criticizing the president. Two other speech counts, which depended
on the testimony of free-lance journalists Sarah Olson and Star Bulletin's Gregg
Kakesako, were dropped when other journalists joined in defending freedom of the
Watada is a young man (27) 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, He said, in talking to a roomful of veterans:
"...that to stop an illegal war and unjust war, the soldiers can choose to stop
My gratitude to him is expressed in committing civil disobedience by blocking
the doors of the SF Federal Building (450 Golden Gate Ave) last month and again
this first Thursday of February (every first Thursday) as well as joining a
dozen or so Bay Area people, including Berkeley resident Betty Kano, who are
traveling to Ft Lewis to support Lt Watada and to stand in protest of the war.
Molly, you made many of my dark days brighter by your wit, your humor, your
clear disgust with what the Bushies were doing. I shall miss you terribly but
will struggle on against the dark forces in this country just as you did.