PARENTS OF LT. EHREN WATADA TO TOUR SOUTHLAND IN OCTOBER
Bob Watada and his wife Rosa will travel from Honolulu to Los Angeles to speak on behalf of their son/stepson, 28-year-old Army Lt. Ehren Watada, who awaits a decision on his court-martial and imprisonment at Ft. Lewis, Washington. The tour, organized by Nikkei for Civil Rights and Redress (NCRR) will run from Oct. 1-19 with speaking events in Los Angeles, Santa Barbara/Ventura and San Diego.
In June 2006, Lt. Watada refused to deploy to Iraq believing the Iraq War to be “illegal and immoral.” Watada was charged with missing a movement, contempt toward officials and conduct unbecoming an officer. The last 2 charges are based upon Watada’s public comments criticizing the war and stating, for example, that President Bush “betrayed our trust.” It is the first military prosecution of an objector for First Amendment speech since 1965.
Bob Watada is a well-known activist in his own right. As former Executive Director of the Hawaii Campaign Spending Commission, he exposed a vast system of corruption by both the Democratic and Republican parties. This resulted in some of the most powerful people in Hawaii going to jail for money laundering, illegal campaign contributions and tax evasion. Bob Watada refused to serve in Vietnam, believing that war to be illegal and instead, served in the Peace Corps in Peru. Six of his brothers served in the military, one of whom was killed in the Korean War.
Mr. Watada explains his goals for the tour :
“…there needs to be a court of public opinion that sends the … message of an illegal and immoral war. The purpose of my going out and speaking to as many people as possible is to get this message out. Some people do not understand that an officer swears allegiance to the Constitution, and has a duty to disobey an unlawful order.”
Kathy Masaoka, co-chair of NCRR states, “NCRR has already gone on record opposing the illegal and unjust war in Iraq. We now have the chance to support someone who has the courage and integrity to stand up for his convictions. We hope people in the Japanese American community will attend one of the events and open up their hearts and minds to this brave young man.
NCRR and Asian American Vietnam Veterans Organization will co-sponsor a reception with Bob and Rosa Watada at the JACCC Garden Room, 244 S. San Pedro St., Los Angeles on Sat., Oct. 7, from 2-4 p.m. A video of Lt. Watada explaining why and how he came to his decision will be shown. The Watadas will answer questions about their son’s decision, the current status of his case and how people can support him. A donation of $5 is requested.