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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, June 11, 2006

Watada's stand means hard consequences

Army 1st Lt. Ehren K.Watada is no hero. But he's no coward either.

He's a man who has made a tough personal decision and now faces serious consequences. And that's no small thing.

It's just not the right thing when you're in the military.

Based in Ft. Lewis, Wash., Watada, a 28-year-old Kalani High grad, is duty-bound to follow orders. But when he was told to join his unit leaving for Iraq June 23, he refused to go.

Watada tried to resign twice. The Army, however, has the right to unilaterally lengthen tours of duty. Watada's commission was extended to 2007.

But Watada remained firm. He would not serve.

That's contrary to the responsibility of a soldier, who must follow orders.

Instead, Watada has insisted on following his conscience, though he makes it a point to say he is not a "conscientious objector."

Watada has simply become like a majority of Americans 59 percent say the U.S. made a mistake in going to war, according to the most recent Associated Press poll.

Watada, who enlisted in 2003, said he originally signed up for the Army in part due to the patriotism he felt after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. He also trusted the pre-emptive actions of President Bush, his commander-in-chief.

Over time and after some research, Watada changed his mind, and now calls the war illegal and immoral. He believes Bush betrayed the trust of the American people by leading the country into an unjustified war.

So strong are his opinions that when called to action, Watada feels compelled not to go.

It can be seen as a principled stance. However, defiance is not part of the agreement of an enlisted soldier. Even though at least six generals have expressed Watada's same criticism of the war, they've all done so in retirement, not active duty.

Given the circumstances, it's hard to argue for leniency for Watada. Inevitably, in the military, there's a price one pays for not following orders. In this case, that could mean a court-martial and prison.

It's not what Watada signed up for, but it has become the war of his choice.