Sunday, November 12, 2006

Remember Ehren Watada?

Hey, remember Ehren Watada? In June, he was news. Carried on a little throughout the summer.
The Nation even did two pieces on him (online 'exclusives' -- translation, not a worthy topic to print). Truthout, BuzzFlash, Common Dreams, Democracy Now! and others were all over this.
Now in August, he had an Article 32 hearing. By that point, even The New York Times had written an article about him. He is the first commissioned officer to publicly refuse to deploy to Iraq. Watada, rightly, feels the war is illegal. To go to Iraq would be to participate in war crimes and risk that those serving under him participate in them as well.

How did he come to that conclusion? By following a superior's advice, after Watada learned that he was going to Iraq, and studying up on the war.
So he does so and discovers that the war is illegal. He repeatedly attempts to resign. The US military is having nothing to do with that. In June, he publicly announces he will not deploy. His unit deploys and Watada doesn't.

He's a US war resister and, in the beginning, it looked as though independent media might be interested in the story. Then came the August 17th Article 32 hearing. And where was independent media?
Early on, the US military was attempting to force reporters to offer testimony. Is that what spooked indymedia? We have no idea. (Our guess is that they just don't give a damn.) But the one-day hearing was worth covering. Both for the fact that he was facing the equivalent of a grand jury hearing to determine whether or not he would be 'indicted' as well as the three witnesses that provided testimony for the defense and what they had to say. [Swiping from C.I.: "For details on Ann Wright's testimony, click here, Dennis Halliday click here, and here for Francis A. Boyle.]

Independent media's lack of interest should have been obvious then. The hearing took place on a Thursday. Amy Goodman did include in headlines on Democracy Now! . . . on a Tuesday. Five days later. Sounded like it was trying to be sneaked in. Whatever the reason, the way it sounded made many think the presiding officer had reached a recommendation. (He hadn't. It would be two more days before his decision was announced. By which point, one indymedia journalist, writing at an indymedia site, would go on what he thought he heard on DN! and have published -- before the recommendation was announced, that Watada was going to be court-martialed.)

Some never even bothered to announce it that the one-day hearing took place. When the recommendation came back it was in favor of a court-martial. That was in August. Carolyn Ho, Watada's mother has spoken publicly repeatedly to raise awareness on her son. Ehren Watada's father, Bob Watada, and his step-mother, Rosa Sakanishi, have basically been living on the road with breaks between their tours to raise awareness on Watada.

The only independent media outlet that we're aware of interviewing Bob Watada in all this time (when he was more than willing to grant interviews as the mainstream press can tell you) was KPFA (Philip Maldari interviewed him for The Morning Show.)
Waiting for the world to change? We'd be happy if independent media would change. (Yes, that's at least the third John Mayer ref in this edition, we've listened to Continuum nonstop.)

Thursday evening, the US military announced they were moving forward with a court-martial. Some how The KPFA Evening News reported it and C.I. were able to note that on Thursday. Others weren't. Well, there was Friday, right?

Oh, cookie, you gotta' lose that cherry. Rebecca's "remember the ladies? forgotten at the democracy now round-table" surveyed independent media outlets Friday to find out who was noting it and, later that day, Mike's "Ehren Watada's going to be court-martialed and indymedia doesn't bother to tell you" provided an update. (No on Democracy Now!, Common Dreams, BuzzFlash, Truthout, The Nation, The Progressive, . . .) Somehow, mainstream press outlets in Hawaii and Seattle were able to report on it Friday. The Associated Press started noting it Thursday and that story was picked up pretty much everywhere in big media. CBS ran it here.

Well Saturday, surely, Saturday would be different, right?

Again, you're going to have to lose that cherry.

Trina's "Turkey in the Kitchen" looked into our indy outlets and found the same thing Rebecca and Mike had the day before: Nothing.
Does this cut it? We don't think so.

As C.I. noted Friday, it was part of a pattern:
War resister Ivan Brobeck returned to the US from Canada to turn himself in Tuesday and he didn't even make the indy headlines. (Nora Barrows Friedman did interview him on Monday's Flashpoints.) It's not cutting it. Not for Brobeck, not for Kyle Snyder who's also been ignored after returning to the US and, on October 31st, turning himself in at Fort Knox only to self-check out again after discovering the military had lied yet again. Not for Joshua Key who learned that the Canadian government was denying him refugee status.
So somehow, in June, when he took a stand, he was news. But when the stand results in a court-martial, there's no time to even note that?

It's a real shame that independent media lacks both Watada's strength and his committment.
We deal with the issue of coverage elsewhere in this edition ("The Full Brobeck"). For now, let's just note that it's becoming impossible to get current news on war resisters. Again from C.I.:

Information on war resistance within the military can be found at Center on Conscience & War, The Objector, The G.I. Rights Hotline, and the War Resisters Support Campaign. Courage to Resist offers information on all public war resisters. Appeal for Redress is collecting signatures of active duty service members calling on Congress to bring the troops home -- the petition will be delivered to Congress in January.
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