Anti-War Dad Comes to Austin

Bob Watada, father of Lt. Ehren Watada – who refused to go to Iraq and who has publicly denounced the war repeatedly – comes to Austin as part of national speaking tour

"My son, Lieutenant Ehren Watada, is the first commissioned officer to refuse to be deployed to Iraq, because the war is illegal and immoral," Bob Watada says proudly of his son, who is a well-known figure in anti-war circles – there are bumper stickers, T-shirts, postcards, and pins bearing his face and the words "Refuse Illegal War" available on a Web site dedicated to him, – but unknown outside that relatively small community.

The 28-year-old first became a public figure on June 7, when he announced his plans to refuse deployment with his Stryker Brigade to Iraq – not because he's a conscientious objector, but because he feels the war "violates our democratic system of checks and balances. It usurps international treaties and conventions that by virtue of the Constitution become American law." Therefore, he explained, his participation would make him "party to war crimes."

Lt. Watada did not desert – he remains to this day stationed at Fort Lewis, but he refused to be silent about his firm opposition to the war. In a speech given at the Veterans for Peace conference in Seattle on Aug. 12, he said, "Today, I speak with you about a radical idea. It is one born from the very concept of the American soldier [or service member]. It became instrumental in ending the Vietnam War – but it has been long since forgotten. The idea is this: that to stop an illegal and unjust war, the soldiers can choose to stop fighting it." After making his initial statement and following through 15 days later when his unit was called up for deployment, Lt. Watada was charged with violating the Uniform Code of Military Justice Article 87, missing movement by design, which usually brings about two years of prison time. The charges didn't stop there, however. For speaking publicly against the Iraq war, at the veterans conference and elsewhere, Lt. Watada faces four violations of Article 133 (conduct unbecoming of an officer and a gentleman) and two of Article 88 (speaking contemptuously against officials), for which he could serve up to 8½ years.

"We want to try to raise public awareness about the stand that he is taking and also to try and gain positive public opinion for him," explains Bob Watada, who will be in Austin Sunday as part of a national speaking tour in support of his son. "He's taking this action to try and get the United States out of Iraq. He feels it's wrong that the soldiers' lives are being wasted, and he really feels for the families – how it tears apart the wife, the children, the father. He's got a good heart, and he just feels he has to stand up for these guys."

To learn more about Lt. Ehren Watada's case, see Bob Watada will make two appearances in Austin on Sunday, Oct. 29: 1-3pm, at 4107 Wildwood Rd., and 5pm at Cafe Caffeine, 909 W. Mary.

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Ehren Watada, Bob Watada, Iraq War, Uniform Code of Military Justice

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