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Put the war on trial, not the war resisters

By Darrin Hoop | January 19, 2007 | Page 15

SEATTLE--More than 100 people rallied January 4 outside the gates of Ft. Lewis near Seattle in support of Army First Lt. Ehren Watada.

As the first commissioned officer to publicly refuse to take part in the occupation of Iraq, Watada faces a court martial that begins on February 5. The rally took place at the time of his pre-trial hearing.

Watada faces two years in a military prison for "missing movement" for his refusal to deploy with the First Stryker Brigade last June. He faces four additional years, one year per count of "conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman," resulting from antiwar statements he made to the press.

DEMONSTRATE ON JANUARY 27

Protests are taking place around the country on January 27 where activists will call for an end to the U.S. war on Iraq. Check below for details on demonstrations in different cities.

Washington, D.C.
Assemble on the Mall, between 3rd and 7th Streets at 11 am. March begins at 1 pm.
Click for more information

San Francisco
Assemble at Market and Powell at Noon.
Click for more information

Los Angeles
Assemble at 9th and Figueroa at Noon. March to the Federal Building at Spring and Los Angeles.
Click for more information

Austin, Texas
Assemble at Austin City Hall at 3 pm. March to the Texas Capitol building begins at 3:30 pm.
Click for more information

Seattle
Assemble at the Center for Social Justice, 2111 E. Union, at 1 pm.
Click for more information

In a blatant attack on free speech, lead prosecutor Capt. Daniel Kuecker has subpoenaed reporters Sarah Olson, Dahr Jamail and Gregg Kakesako and antiwar activists Phan Nguyen and Gerri Haynes to testify against Watada. Outrageously, they face six months in prison and a $500 fine for contempt of a military court if they don't testify.

"Initially, Captain Kuecker attempted to ask me certain questions, which I didn't answer, about who was involved in the organizing of the initial press conference and how involved was Lt. Watada in it," said Nguyen in an interview. "It is alarming as an activist that I might be expected to have to testify to the military how activists might be organizing against the military."

Despite the military's attempt to intimidate supporters, the campaign to defend Watada is in full force.

Speakers at the January 4 rally included Sara Rich, the mother of Suzanne Swift, a soldier who refused to return to Iraq after enduring sexual assault by her commanders, and Darrell Anderson, the first Iraq veteran to publicly flee to Canada. A handful of Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) members who have been on a speaking tour of the U.S. set up "Camp Resistance" just outside the gates of Ft. Lewis.

On June 21 and 22, there will be a citizen's hearing in Tacoma, Wash., on the legality of U.S. actions in Iraq. Modeled after similar tribunals during the Vietnam War, its aim is to put the war, not Watada, on trial.

After the January 27 protest in Seattle, Watada will take part in a panel with Aaron Dixon, former Black Panther and Green Party U.S. Senate candidate, and Chanan Suarez-Diaz, president of the Seattle chapter of the IVAW. And the campaign has a full day of protest planned for the February 5 court martial.

Building mass support to defend war resisters like Watada will be key to reinvigorating the antiwar movement.

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