One of my first thoughts after the events of 9/11 was that I should buy a gun and go after whoever killed my countrymen and countrywomen. It didn't take me long to quash that idea...first of all, I'm too old and out of shape, and second of all, I had no clue who I would go after. Third...well, there were lots of reasons not to go that route once the first wave of trauma and grief had passed.
The Iraq thing was a very different situation for me...I have opposed that invasion and occupation from the beginning. I believe that the orders that sent our military forces out to shock and awe Saddam Hussein were illegal and immoral. Thus the deaths of Iraqi civilians--men, women and children--amount to nothing more than homicide, and the death of each military men and women is nothing but filicide in disguise (or unsymbolized in the unconscious) by those at the top of the food chain who gave the orders.
That's why I joined thousands of others on June 27th who support Lt. Ehren Watada, the first commissioned officer to refuse to return to Iraq because he feels it would make him a party to war crimes. "It is my conclusion as an officer of the armed forces that the war in Iraq is not only morally wrong but a horrible breach of American law....As the order to take part in an illegal act is ultimately unlawful as well," he said, "I must as an officer of honor and integrity refuse that order."
One of Watada's supporters is Col. Ann Wright (US Army Ret), a 29-year veteran with the Army and Army Reserves, and a 16-year member of the US diplomatic corps. Wright resigned her position with the State Department in 2003 in protest of the Iraq war. Writing for TomPaine.com, Wright describes the situation facing Watada and 10 others who have gone public with their refusal to go to Iraq because they believe that war to be illegal. She says that refusal to obey an illegal order is a long-standing tradition in American armed services, but that to do so also exposes the soldier to great risks if a military court finds that the order was lawful.
I agree with Col. Wright that civilians also have a duty to speak out when we see our leaders committing illegal acts.Watada's action raises important moral and ethical issues that deserve wide and open discussion by you and me, by military and political leaders, by anyone committed to our ongoing exploration of democracy.
For some great quotes on the senselessness of war, check out these words of wisdom from some old West Point grads. I'll close with this one: "The powers in charge kept us in a perpetual state of fear--kept us in a continuous stampede of patriotic fervor--with the cry of grave national emergency. Always there has been some terrible evil to gobble us up if we did not blindly rally behind it by furnishing the exorbitant sums demanded. Yet, in retrospect, these disasters seem never to have happened, seem never to have been quite real." Douglas MacArthur, Class of 1903