Sunday, July 09, 2006

Ehren Watada

The first time Jess and C.I. heard news of Ehren Watada broadcast, they both exclaimed "Lady Madonna" and have had various songs of Ehren Watada set to the tune of the Beatles' "Lady Madonna." If you missed the news last week, and you may have because it didn't take place in Mexico, Ehren Watada, the first commissioned officer to refuse to deploy to the illegal war in Iraq, was charged by the government "with three articles of the Uniform Code of Military Justice: missing movement (Article 87), two counts of contempt towards officials (Article 88) -- specifically President G. W. Bush, and three counts of conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman (Article 133). If convicted of all six charges by a general court-martial, Lt. Watada could be sentenced to over seven years in a military prison" (quoting from the e-mail that was sent out by Courage to Resist).

Pretty big news. But, as we've noticed lately, big news doesn't get a great deal of coverage. (We're still waiting for the coverage of the fact that the US government does keep an Iraqi civilian body count.) We noticed that a large number of news outlets took a pass on this story or crammed it while covering 'more important' topics.

Apparently, we're supposed to be up in arms over the fact that Mexico had a crooked election. If we take up arms over that, is the understanding that France or Germany will do the same after the results of our 2008 elections? Remember, too, how we were all supposed to be outraged over the election in the Ukraine -- only later did we learn that the candidate we were supposed to be outraged on behalf of was actually married to a US citizen from Chicago who was a Republican operative. Maybe countries should address their own elections? Mexico has rigged elections, a long history of them, and it's also an open-society (it's not East Timor) so if the people are outraged, they'll address it. All the coverage seemed manipulative and insulting.

Especially since it pushed Iraq out of the loop. Especially since, when independent media drops the ball, you can't exactly scream at corporate media for failing to cover a story. They haven't. The New York Times has never published a piece by one of their reporters on Ehren Watada -- or even mentioning him. Now maybe if our independent media had expanded half the energy they wasted last week on Mexico's elections by instead covering Ehren Watada we could storm the corporate media with letters, phone calls and e-mails asking, "Why aren't you covering this story?" But when even independent media has 'better things to do,' it's hard to make that case.

We've all read Mike's "War As An After Thought" (we're referring to the speech he gave that runs in Polly's Brew today and not the prelude he offered at his site). War has been an after thought. What is all this coverage, hours and hours, of the Mexico election about?

It feels manipulative. If it's about stolen elections, why did we hear about Macedonia only from C.I.'s column in Friday's gina & krista round-robin? If it's about stolen elections, you might think that another stolen election might also be covered?

As Diana pointed out to Ruth, some of the same people that aired the opinion that those young people participating in the immigration rallies this spring who carried Mexican flags were 'hurting' their cause? They're loyalties were in question, according to that nonsense. (Carrying the flag to immigration rally was no more 'hurtful' than an Irish pride march.) But now, is that's what's going on, this is supposed to be a story that Mexican-Americans can't get enough of? Since the core is all out in California, we were able to speak to many activists and what we heard repeatedly is that there were serious issues in Mexico and the election was about as important as any 'official statement' big media parrots.

One youth activist on the immigration rights issue told us that the coverage implied the most pressing concern to immigrants and descendents of immigrants from Mexico was "a really bad election." He spoke of the serious issues that the two candidates currently squabbling over 'victory' failed to address and how this "manufactured outrage seems to be an Anglo concern." He regretted that so little of the same time could be used to address the Bully Boy's new push for passage of "laws that will only hurt immigrants now and in the future."

Another, a young woman, wondered when "Pacifica became Telemundo? Seriously, I turn that off now. They start talking, I turn it off. I'm a first genereation immigrant with deep ties to Mexico and thatcoverage doesn't reflect any of the feelings I'm hearing in phone calls. My grandfather said he doesn't care and that it's, bascially, I'm putting it not just into English but into something people my age can relate to, a turf war between two spoiled pampered brats. I do sometimes worry if the more right of the two, because they are both of the right, will turn out to be just not right-wing but also an aspiring Bush. That would frighten me but the political process is such that when you add in the region's power or lack of it, he'd have a hard time doing the sort of global damage George W. Bush can do in just one day."

We asked her what she felt the most important story of the week was?

"Ehren Watada without a doubt. I say that with no hesitation because if he does not, if his case does not get massive awareness, he's out of luck. With Camilo [Mejia], we saw how attention did effect the way the judge responded. That should have led to a massive pouring on of support for Watada. It's not just his victory, but a victory for all of us opposed to the war that's at stake. I doubt he'll walk. But I know what happened to Kevin Benderman who got a lot less attention than Camilo did. The attention matters. What we focus on matters. I am alarmed, bothered and troubled by what's going on in Gaza. I do pay attention to that coverage. After that the issues that are most important to me is that we stop Congress from acting, in any way before the 2006 elections, with any legislation on immigration, and the war."

Our opinion is that Kevin Benderman got railroaded. He was denied justice. Our fear is that the same thing could happen to Ehren Watada. More information can be found at Courage to Resist
and at

With so little coverage of Ehren Watada last week, we've rewritten a lyric to the tune of the Beatles' "Lady Madonna." Will you run from the topic of Watada as well?

CODEPINK gets it:

Support War Resisters! For the first time in the Iraq war, an officer in the U.S. Military, Lt. Ehren Watada, has publicly refused orders and will be brought to court-martial this summer. Click here for ways to show your solidarity and here to read a letter from Carolyn, Ehren's mom, and find out more about his case. You can also support Army Specialist Suzanne Swift, who suffered sexual harassment at the hands of her commanding officers and refused to return to Iraq. Click here for more info.

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