Sunday, February 11, 2007

Why My Heroes Dissent


I've been paying attention to the trial of 1st LT Ehren Watada in Fort Lewis WA because I believe the outcome has huge relevance to the meaning of the war in Iraq. Here is a Bush supporter who joined the Army in response to the 9/11 attacks. He believed the President about Iraq having WMDs. However, as he learned more about the rationale for the war and all the lies that led up to the war, he had a crisis of conscience. That doesn't make him a peacenik dove, after all, he still requested to be assigned to Afghanistan, which he considers a just war. He only refused to go with his unit to Iraq because he considers it an illegal war. Now, the U.S. Army wants to make an example of him. Yet, the trial apparently didn't go well, as the judge declared a mistrial.

What's most interesting is that rightwingers always claim one can't "pick and choose"...yet in the military, there is an obligation to disobey an unjust command. It just so happens that when a person of conscience decides to use that right, they are told that they can't. But look what happened at Abu Ghraib in 2004. Did those enlisted men and women know to do those torture and humiliation techniques on the Iraqi prisoners? Or were they directed to do so from the top down? Who got punished and who got away without punishment? That's right...the enlisted men and women who were ORDERED to torture and humiliate the prisoners were punished while their superior officers were allowed to walk away without punishment. That's always the case in the military. It's a double-edged trap. If you refuse to obey an illegal order, you risk court martial for disobedience; but if you obey and the events turn out for the worse (say, photos making its way to the Internet to be broadcasted all over the world), then you have just set yourself up for a court martial. Either way, you're going to jail while someone higher up will be promoted and join the other brass in the Pentagon.

We should support dissenters, because they are the conscience of the country, of our world. Where would we be without the Mohandas Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr, Vaclav Havel, Lech Walesa, Aung San Suu Kyi, or Nelson Mandela of the world? And when all is said and done, who does history favor? The war mongering Hitlers or the peace loving Gandhis? You decide!

1 comment:

Christian said...

Your list of heroes at the end is fantastic! You're absolutely right that we need to encourage dissent - not just in light of the present (horrific) regime in power, but because as Christians (and other people of conscience) we have a duty to object to a status quo that oppresses and exploits, and enforces its will through violence and coercion. Good post!