News & Announcements
Local Events
National Events
Soldiers of Courage
Care For Returning Vets
Military Recruiting
MFSO Washington Members Speak Out
Legislators & Action
Public Discourse
MFSO Washington State Chapter Speakers Available
More MFSO Chapters
Links & Allies
Site Map

Lieutenant Ehren Watada:
 A Soldier's Courage

Lt. Watada's Website

Courage in Uniform
Fort Lewis officer refuses to go to Iraq

Published: June 7th, 2006 01:00 AM

A Fort Lewis lieutenant who joined the Army after the start of the war in Iraq now says he won’t go there to fight because he believes it is illegal and immoral.

Lt. Ehren Watada, 27, has called a news conference for today in Tacoma, where he will appear with representatives from an array of local and national organizations opposed to the war.

Watada is a fire support officer in a Stryker infantry battalion headed to Iraq this month with the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division.

Read complete article at Tacoma News Tribune

A matter of duty, says Iraq objector

Fort Lewis officer who refuses to deploy says he’s ready to face prison, suffer Stryker soldiers’ scorn

Published: June 8th, 2006 01:00 AM

 Army Lt. Ehren Watada says he’s prepared to go to prison if that’s the consequence of his refusal to deploy to Iraq.

The Fort Lewis soldier answered reporters’ questions for 25 minutes Wednesday night in Tacoma, accompanied by his lawyers and surrounded by supporters from peace groups and the local clergy.

He said again and again that he believes the Iraq war is illegal and that it is therefore his duty to refuse to obey unlawful orders to take part in it.

“I am prepared to face the punishment,” said the artillery officer, who turns 28 today. “It is a sacrifice … but to me it’s no more and no less than the soldiers who are sacrificing their lives in Iraq.”

Watada’s appearance at Associated Ministries capped three days of buildup by local and national anti-war groups that say they’ll carry out a media and fundraising campaign around the lieutenant, who they say is the first officer to refuse to go to Iraq.

Read follow-up article from the next day also at the Tacoma News Tribune

Military Families Speak Out membership supporting this courageous soldier.
MFSO Washington State Chapter members, Jenny Keesey, Judy Linehan and Lietta Ruger and a VFP representative at Associated Ministries in Tacoma where Lt. Watada's message was broadcast since he was not allowed to attend the press conference in person.
This link to video coverage Video: Judy speaking at noon - a snippet of her spectacular statement; pans to Stacy, pans to three of us standing in front in our MFSO t-shirts - Jenny, Lietta, Judy.

Video: Lt Ehren Watada's prepared video-taped statement shown at noon press conference in case he could not be there - and he was prohibited from being there at the noon time.

Video: 6 PM and Lt Watada is there; Media Q & A in entirety. Lt Watada fields and answers the questions from media. VFP and Lietta in MFSO T-shirt standing in support.

More: MFSO member thoughts and comments on this event at Lieutenant Ehren Watada: A Soldier's Courage

In a second Lt Watada press conference; supporter Col Ann Wright says illegal war and war crimes
by Lietta Ruger on DailyKos
[Article excerpts]

Lt Watda's parents, Robert Watada and Carolyn Ho, came from Hawaii to be with their son in Seattle and spoke at his press conference.  I had the opportunity to have a personal phone call exchange with his mother, Carolyn Ho, as she was on her way from Seatac airport to the University Lutheran Church in Seattle, for the 6:15 PM press conference.

  Mother to mother, military family to military family we talked, me with two returning Iraq veterans in our family who will be redeployed; she with a son who is an Officer in U.S. Army making the monumental decision as an Officer to refuse orders to deploy to Iraq.  I valued our exchange and she said she valued what I had to share with her. She seemed very moved when I said to her that her son, as an Officer, was doing what I would expect an Officer to do and if he were an Officer for the two Sgts in our family, I would want him to deliberate on the orders being given for our two to carry out.

  While I wasn't able to make the 3 hour trip up to Seattle on Monday evening, I was able to listen to the video of the press conference that KING 5 has posted to their online website (you have to listen first to a 20 second commercial then the video coverage begins).  It helped me feel very much  like I was there.  Gratitude to KING 5 for posting the entirety of the press conference making it available for all to hear firsthand. There is strength in the words of Col Ann Wright, and rather than report on her words, I have transcribed her speech and am placing it here (below fold).  

  Colonel Ann Wright (Ret.) served 29 years in the Army/Army Reserve and 16 years in the U.S. Foreign Service.  She resigned from the U.S. Foreign Service on March 19, 2003 in protest over the Bush administration's decision to go to war in Iraq without UN Security Council authorization, and over the curtailment of civil liberties in the United States.

text of her speech June 19, 2006, Seattle at press conference in support of Lt. Ehren Watada.

Please click and read Thank You 1st Lt. Ehren Watada

Watada ArtIcle 32 Investigation Recommends Trial on All Charges

The full Article 32 report, recommendations, and transcript of hearing is available. The file is large - 4.7M download - so you need fast Internet

Attorney Eric Seitz, in response:

"We are not surprised by the hearing officer's report and recommendations because it was our assumption all along that once the Army rejected all of our overtures and proposals and convened an Article 32 hearing that was tantamount to a decision to put Lt. Watada on trial.

I am pleased that the hearing officer finds Lt. Watada to be sincere and recognizes the seriousness of the issues that Lt. Watada raises in this case.

I am dismayed, but not surprised, that the hearing officer dismisses the undisputed testimony of our experts as to the illegality of the war and ignores the well reasoned legal briefs that we submitted both on the war and the speech issues. Hopefully in its review of the record the command at Fort Lewis and ultimately the military judge will read and consider the arguments before they determine how and whether to proceed to trial.

In the meantime we are still open to a resolution of this case on mutually acceptable terms.

An  open letter from Lt. Watada's mother
Carolyn Ho, Lt. Watada's mom wrote this open letter last night and asks
for friends to pass it on:
June 22, 2006
Dear Fellow Americans,
I am the mother of Lt. Ehren Watada, an officer stationed at Ft. Lewis.
He is part of a Stryker brigade unit that deployed today to Iraq.  Despite an unflinching commitment to his men and to democratic ideals, he chose not to accompany his men. 
His decision came through much soul-searching and
through research and consultation with experts across disciplines, inside and outside of the military and the government.
After weighing the evidence, he came to the conclusion that he could no longer be silent while atrocities were committed in the name of democracy.
 He could no longer be a tool of an administration that used deception and lies to make the case for pre-emptive war. As a member of the armed forces, sworn to uphold the US Constitution, he refuses to blindly participate in a war of aggression, an illegal war that undermines who we are as a nation and violates international law.

Implicit in his oath as an officer is the duty to disobey all unlawful
orders for; to carry out these orders renders him an accomplice to a
criminal act. 
Furthermore, to order his men to participate in a war of
aggression multiplies his guilt a thousand fold. His conscience will not permit him to do so. He believes that he can best serve them by taking a stand against the war.
In so doing, he demonstrates that one does not
relinquish the freedom to choose what is right, even in the military, and that the freedom to choose what is right transcends the allegiance to man and institutions.
As a mother, I have evolved from fearing for his safety and for his future to the realization that there is a higher purpose to all that has
My son no longer stands at the crossroads.  He has chosen
“the road less travelled.” 
Come what may, he is committed to staying the
I invite you to affirm your support of Lt. Ehren Watada on June 27th,
National Day of Action.
  On this day, groups across the country will
participate in peaceful demonstrations, prayer services, candle light
vigils, parades, leafleting, visitations to recruitment stations to
provide counsel to prospective recruits, etc. 
Please contact your local
organization for details.
For updates on news and actions regarding Lt. Watada, please check out:
www.thankyoult.org or www.couragetoresist.org.
My deepest thanks,
Carolyn Ho
Ehren’s Mom

Editorial from Arthur Ruger

Originally published on my blog Willapa View Thursday, 8 June 2006

This Spartacus Moment is Important

Only the apologetic are willing to attempt one-line dismissals of a 28-year old military patriot demonstrating the highest valor a soldier can offer his country.

Lt. Ehren Watada is proving America is more than a symbol of immoral politics.

The media has already found veterans who will deliver their one-liners - people who think a short dismissal defines the issue sufficiently.

Some will say: "He signed the bottom line. He needs to go to Iraq or go to jail."

These are the macho military apologists refusing to think about the implication of blind obedience in the face of common sense and a powerful ethic.

These are the macho military apologists who aren't so brave that they are willing to discuss the ethics of America's aggression against a nation and people innocent of the 9/11 attacks.

What Lt. Watada is doing is an outward expression of what many others in the military would do but cannot or dare not.

He's a voice for many more people than himself. He is doing what many would of us would do if we were in that situation. His protest is not just individually his alone.

We don't need to be limited to applauding his courage about having the guts to speak his mind just for himself. Whether we like it or not the civic implication is that the American soldier who fights and kills in Iraq is fighting and killing on our behalf and in our name.

If Iraq had it coming, then we as American jingos can take pride in the moment.

"Good on that soldier for acting in my name" is what we can ideally declare during wartime because presumably the soldier does for us what we can't do for ourselves - defend the nation by physical presence and action.

However we as citizens and the electorate are making our feelings known. The Bush aggression is an act that now a majority of citizens polled in this country have repudiated. If one considers the Iraq aggression as immoral, untenable, unwinnable and a needless drain of America's most precious blood then we can be constant in our love and loyalty to our soldiers and still lament and object to what they are forced to do there.

If the courageous Lt. is doing what I would want to do if in a like circumstance, then he is acting for me and on my behalf. I support and appreciate him doing this for us.

That's what acting morally in our roles as citizens should reflect. These wonderful miltary men and women are instruments of our own patriotism. If we dare not own up to what is being done in our name, then simple dismissals of Lt. Watada are hypocrisy.

When actions like the Lt's are taken, those who do it initiate action that may or may not be agreed with by others. But if agreed with by others - a significantly large number of others - a shift begins. It's a shift sustained by a growing voice of dissent that can only be healthy for a democratic republic.

This Spartacus moment is important.

Sometimes it starts with just one person responding to another one person.
Today I started a vigil at Ft. Lewis in support of Lt. Ehren Watata which I hope will grow over time.
I drove down to Exit 119 at the Dupont-Steilacoom Road and parked my car. I then walked back along the railroad tracks to the main gate at Exit 120. There between the Highway overpass and the entrance to the fort (outside the fence) I stood along the road for about 45 minutes with my sign and flag in hand.
My sign said, "Lt. Watada: Upholding the Constitution and moral integrity in the U.S." on one side and "Refusing to fight in an illegal war takes courage" on the other side. The second side had a picture of Watata attached.
I received some long, long looks, a few middle fingers, a few thumbs up, a few honks, but mainly just the long, long looks. The traffic was non-stop there. After 45 minutes, the MPs came along and said I had to leave because I was on Ft. Lewis property.
My map indicated otherwise, and I said I was on Pierce County property. I moved over to an entry ramp to the highway.
That wasn't good enough for them. But I refused to leave.
I thought I was not on Ft. Lewis and they were interfering with my First Amendment Rights.
Eventually there were about 7 or 8 MPs and they confronted me. I started swearing at them. (Sometimes I can be a bit rebellious and anti-authoritarian.) They dragged me down, put a choke hold on me (funny how frantic one can get when the air supply is cut off for a while), and hand cuffed me. I was told by the staff sergeant in charge that they would drop me off by my car.
Instead another MP took me the opposite direction to the Madigan exit. So I walked back along the railroad track to my car.
On the way back I noticed they had kept my wallet. So when I got back to my car, I drove back to the visitors' center at the Exit 120 gate and told one of the cops there that the MPs still had my wallet.
They called the MPs, and they dropped it off after about 20 minutes.
At that point it was about 2:30 to 3:00 in the afternoon. I had been there about four hours, but all but 45 minutes was spent walking or in other fun activities, rather than standing with my flag and sign. Nevertheless, I think it was a fairly productive and enjoyable outing.
Tomorrow I will go to the Madigan exit, which I was told by the MPs is OK to stand at. I will try to get there at 10 AM tomorrow. It would be nice to have more people there with me.
But I won't hold my breath, unless, of course, they put me in another choke hold.
Tom Krebsbach
Returning to Ft. Lewis (the belly of the beast) where I had basic training and shipped out to Vietnam a mere 35 years ago
Tom is not a member of MFSO but the courage of his action on behalf of Lt. Watada and all of us is worth publishing here.

Military Families support Lt Watada at Tacoma press conference

Lietta Ruger's report published on Daily Kos and Washblog.

Reporting on press conference of Lt Ehren Watada, Tacoma, WA, June 7, 2006.

Yes, that is me in the photo, to the right of Lt Watada when he was first introduced at the 6 PM media conference. I'm in the white Military Families Speak Out - (WA state chapter) T-shirt.

Supporters give him welcome applause.

I was there at the noon press conference, but Lt Watada was prohibited by his Fort Lewis chain of command from attending the scheduled noon press conference. In his absence his statement was given in the prepared video taped DVD. Announcement made that Lt Watada would be available at 6 PM to answer questions if media/press wanted to return at that time.

 Media/press did return, and I was there for both the noon and the 6PM press conferences. 

Noon press conference, June 7, 2006.

When I arrived there was already considerable media with the satellite vans parked around the building, along with cameras, camera people and microphones. I was pleased as it signalled to me that media viewed this as an important story. Inside the lights, cameras and mics were set up and the plasma tv was in place.

Supporters were outside and inside, and there were four of us from Military Families Speak Out in our T-shirts to show visible support of military families for Lt Watada decision to make public his intention to refuse deployment orders to Iraq. We took our place alongside the veterans of Veterans for Peace who were there to show support.


left to right; Military Families Speak Out Jenny Keesey - Elma; Judy Linehan - Olympia; Lietta Ruger - Bay Center. Member Stacy Bannerman was also at the press conference. 

It was announced Lt Watada would not be able to attend so we knew the prepared DVD statement would be used. There were to be 4 presenters prior to introducing Lt Watada. We went ahead with the presenters anyway followed by the DVD of Lt Watada's prepared statement.


-- The Rev. Jim Davis, a United Methodist minister and chaplain of the University of Puget Sound.

-- Majorie Cohn, a professor at the Thomas Jefferson School of Law and president of the Natioinal Lawyers Guild

-- Joe Colgan, WA veteran and father of Lt Benjamin Colgan, killed in Iraq in 2003. See dvd Gunner Palace in which Lt Benjamin's unit was being filmed when Lt Benjamin Colgan was killed

-- Judy Linehan, Military Families Speak Out, mother of son, returning Iraq veteran who had deployed to Iraq with Stryker Brigade. (We elected Judy to speak for all four of us and it was emotional for her since her own son has connection to Fort Lewis and Stryker brigade)

-- Lt Ehren Watada's prepared DVD statement. links; video of noon press conference Northwest Cable News video of Lt Ehren Watada's prepared DVD statement.

 KIRO 7 TV Announcement was then made that Lt Watada would be available at 6PM to take questions from the media if media wanted to return. I decided to return for the 6 PM conference. Interestingly, Jenny and I had arranged to meet and drive one car (save gas $$) and she had previous committments so could not stay in Tacoma till 6PM. Same for Judy and Stacy.

Jenny drove us back to our neck of the woods out here in Grays Harbor and Pacific County, and I got back into my own vehicle and immediately drove back to Tacoma. These are about 2 hour drives from where we live in these outlying counties so not a few hours spent in driving on Wednesday.

I arrived back in Tacoma at 6PM straight up, and bustled through the cameras and mics to get up front with the supporters. Veterans for Peace was already there, and made room for me with them and that is how I wound up right next to the podium.

When Lt Watada was introduced, the warm and welcome applause was heart-warming and that is the only photo I've seen that has me smiling. There are several other photos of Lt Watada and I show up in the photos since I was standing right next to him, but I'm not smiling in any of the other photos. Well, it was a somber occasion.

As I listened to the young Lt Watada field the hardball and softball questions from the media, I was much impressed with his poise. He behaved with the kind of humility, dignity and respect I would expect from an Officer.

Obviously he has had time to reflect, prepare for this moment since he has been contemplating his decision since Jan 06, and it is evident a lot of thought went into his decision, his prepared statement and he answered the media questions put to him from his own convictions. Rather than report and repeat the media accounts you likely have already read, refer to the video link for the 6 PM media conference and hear him for yourself in entirety.

He answered questions for 1/2 hour or longer and it is all in the video link. He answered a question from a little boy, not more than say 7 yrs old who asked the Lt 'why do you think this war is bad'.

Lt Watada answered him patiently and did not talk down to him. I was impressed. It was Lt Watada's 28th birthday the same day of the press conference, June 7.  Some of you may know how I feel about the importance of young people participating actively in this process of democracy and our nation's future.

I was personally moved as I stood there thinking 'he's so young, and he's having the courage to do this' -- it was moving. Lt Watada had two lawyers standing behind him, and when they thought enough media questions had been asked and answered, they wrapped it up and announced enough questions.

They then started to escort Lt Watada out of the room, and I said to one of the lawyers 'wait, I very much want to shake his hand'. The attorney smiled and was willing, but by then Lt Watada was already out the door. The attorney shrugged, smiled and moved on.

I really wanted Lt Watada to know we are a military family with returning Iraq veterans and I was there to support him.

Ahh, but wait, there on the podium was Lt Watada's cell phone he had set down and I just knew he would need his cell phone. So I grabbed it, and made my way to the door and to the back room where they had taken him for debriefing. I explained to the people monitoring in the hallway that I needed to give him his phone.

They let me pass, and of course, my T-shirt rather is recognizeable, so I guess I was considered safe. I went into the room, where Lt Watada and the two attorneys were in conversation. I thanked Ehren, shook his hand, explained I was a military family.

He asked if we had -- well he didn't have to finish the question -- I knew. Yes, I told him - 2 returning Iraq veterans in our family. I gave him his phone and shook his hand agan and said 'thank you Sir, for what you are doing'. Then I left the room.

It was over, and many of us milled about for a short while outside. There were some either impromptu or planned private interviews by media with Lt Watada afterwards so we did not get to see him again that evening.

That wraps up my account. My understanding is that Lt Watada will be presenting over the weekend, and at this time the best information I have so far is; On Sunday, June 11 at 1 p.m. at the Traditions Fair Trade, corner of 5th and Water, Olympia, WA, Lieutenant Ehren Watada will speak on his reasons for Refusing to obey the order to deploy to Iraq

Amazing to see his story go so national/international in one day.  He is very impressive in his poise and dignity.  I was so truly honored to stand in support and quite frankly, tearfully humbled by the courage of this young Officer as I listened to him answer questions from the media.
 I felt a pride as this is what I would expect from an Officer.  He's only 28 yrs, it was his birthday the day of the press conference. 
I'm fairly impressed with the media coverage as once they had the actual Lt Ehren Watada and his own words, it seemed most all the coverage kept the focus on Lt. Watada and seemed like substanative coverage to me.   I'm hopeful....

We invite MFSO members to send us their thoughts and writings about Lt. Watada's refusal to deploy. All points of view are welcome.

Please send them to mfsowa@swandeer.com

"It's time to punch the clock ... the Battle for America has begun"

Click on link above for an excellent 4 minutes of getting your patriotic fire relit.