The Parents of Ehren Watada
By Gwen Muranaka of the Rafu Shimpo
Bob Watada visited Little Tokyo on Saturday, October 7th, to raise support and funds for his son, 1st Lt. Ehren Watada, who is facing a court martial for refusing to deploy with his unit to Iraq.
The event at the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center was a welcome reception for Watada and his wife, Rosa Sakanishi sponsored by Asian American Vietnam Veterans Organization and Nikkei for Civil Rights & Redress.
Speaking to the Rafu Shimpo, Bob Watada said they anticipate that a decision will be made within two weeks whether his son will face a court martial. Among the charges against Watada are missing troop movement, conduct unbecoming an officer and contempt toward officials, including using “contemptuous words” against President George W. Bush in media interviews.
“Our attorney says it’s about 100-percent certain that there will be a court martial,” Watada remarked. “It remains to be seen whether he will go to prison. There are still some steps after the court martial, there’s a sentencing phase and there’s still another phase where the commander can step in.”
1st Lt. Watada’s parents hope to appeal to Lt. Gen. James Dubik, commander at Ft. Lewis, who will make the final decision on the court martial. According to his father, Watada is working in an administrative unit at Ft. Lewis and living in an apartment off the military base.
“He’s in good spirits. When you do something right you feel good about it. As he told me, the moment he made his decision the whole weight of the world came off his back. All the blinders came off and he saw the Iraq War for what it was and he felt he made the right decision.” Watada said.
Sakanishi, a Peruvian Japanese retired schoolteacher, said she supports her stepson.
“All of you know he’s doing this not for himself but to defend the Constitution of the United States. He doesn’t have the intention to change the way of thinking of everyone.”
About 160 people, including peace activists, Vietnam veterans and former wartime draft resisters attended the reception. Among those in attendance included, Mike Nakayama, AAVVO; Aiko Herzig, Bill Nishimura, A Tule Lake renunciant, Cedric Shimo, Military Intelligence Service; playwright Frank Chin, and Rev. Dickson Yagi. There were no protests against Watada, whose case has generated considerable debate in the Japanese American community.
Bob Wada, a Korean War veteran said on Monday that none of the veterans he knew who opposed Watada had planned to attend.
“Their arguments in totally opposite of the veterans’ point of view. Theirs is a civil rights attitude and the veterans are from a military standpoint and new the twain shall meet,” he said. We veterans feel our silence will speak louder than any kind of appearance or vocal outburst.”
Many of the speakers at Saturday’s event made reference to the veterans opposing Watada and to the war in Iraq.
“It ain’t always easy to fight for principles. It’s much easier to go with the crowd. It takes guts, integrity and conviction to stand up for your beliefs and principles and Lt. Watada has then all.” Said Frank Emi, a wartime draft resister. “All these Japanese American vets who are opposing Lt. Watada saying derogatory things about him should be standing and congratulating him.”
“It only takes a few good men to determine the course of history,” said draft resister Yosh Kuromiya. “Sadly there have been too few in recent history. The goose-stepping continues even in the editorial pages of our ethnic vernaculars. So 1st Lt. Ehren Watada will not win any military medals for his extraordinary act of conscience and moral integrity but sometimes it takes greater courage to live for one’s country than to die for it.”
Rev. George Aki, chaplain of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, said after his son told him about 1s6t Lt. Watada he compelled to become involved.
“I myself live for America, for the future of America. I don’t want s to become a third world nation, “ Rev. Aki declared. “We must end this war.”