February 9, 2007

'Against all enemies - the case of Lt Ehren Watada

This article appeared on the MSNBC Hardball Hardblogger

On February 5, the court martial of a U.S. Army officer began at Fort Lewis, Washington. Lt. Ehren Watada is charged with refusing to deploy to Iraq with his unit, a Stryker brigade combat team, and with two counts of conduct unbecoming an officer stemming from his public statements against the war in Iraq.

Several groups and activists have already rallied to Watada’s defense, including actors Sean Penn and Susan Sarandon. That is all well and good, but let’s take a closer look at the facts.

Lt. Watada volunteered to serve in the U.S. Army in 2003. Here is an excerpt from the oath he took as a commissioned officer in the armed forces of the United States: “…I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign or domestic, …I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same….”

I took that same oath years ago. These are not mere words – they define who we are, they define a social contract between the military and the people of the United States. In the ensuing three decades, I was sent to wars, conflicts and “police actions” in Vietnam, Lebanon, Iraq, the Persian Gulf and Bosnia. Did I agree with all these operations or commitments? Maybe, maybe not – it did not matter. When you take the oath, you commit to defend the Constitution and obey the orders of those above you. I bore true faith and allegiance.

Lt. Watada did not enter the all-volunteer Army until after U.S. forces had invaded Iraq; he knew what he was getting into. Many Americans consider the war on terrorism more closely associated with the invasion of Afghanistan than the invasion of Iraq. That’s fine for those in the military, as long as you honor your oath – “against all enemies.”

Lt. Watada is not entitled to choose the venue of his battles – he volunteered after the invasion of Iraq. Refuse to serve, pay the price.

Our soldiers deserve nothing less.