Watada Stays Back While Unit Deploys to Iraq - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Watada Stays Back While Unit Deploys to Iraq

Lt. Ehren Watada at a press conference held earlier this month. Lt. Ehren Watada at a press conference held earlier this month.
Honolulu artist Pegge Hopper agrees with Lt. Watada's refusal to deploy to Iraq. Honolulu artist Pegge Hopper agrees with Lt. Watada's refusal to deploy to Iraq.

June 23, 2006 07:09 PM

by Diane Ako

(KHNL) - A Hawaii born Army officer is confined to his base in Washington State Thursday night, after his unit deployed to Iraq in the morning.

On June 7th at a news conference Lieutenant Ehren Watada announced from Ft. Lewis, Washington, his refusal to go to Iraq. His protest has garnered international attention.

The Army says the Hawaii born Watada refused to deploy with his unit when it departed for Iraq early Thursday morning. About 4,000 soldiers from a Stryker Brigade are heading to Iraq for the brigade's second deployment of the war. Hundreds of people here in Hawaii are showing their support in the newspaper.

The 29 year old Watada speaks out on a website dedicated to his cause.

"People have asked me, aren't you abandoning your troops in the decision you've made? No I'm not. The best way I can support my fellow soldiers and those under me is by helping to oppose an illegal war and helping to end it," says Watada in a streaming video clip.

Watada polarized the nation by his decision to disobey his orders and not go to Iraq.

"It is an issue that concerns all of us as Americans and the focus that we should be having is the illegalness of the war and should we be forcing members of the military to participate in these crimes."

The army says Watada is restricted at Fort Lewis pending possible charges.

This week's issue of the Honolulu Weekly magazine has an ad signed by 300 people, all supporting Watada.

Honolulu artist Pegge Hopper signed the ad. "Perhaps when he signed up he wasn't fully aware," said Hopper.

Hopper added that Lt. Watada has a right to change his mind. "That's what America is all about. Free speech, the freedom to think outside the box, to be true to yourself, and this is why I support him."

Some World War II veterans disagree. Stanley Akita says, "I can see a person objecting if he was drafted but he volunteered after the war started in Iraq."

Akita says Watada brings shame to A.J.A's, or Americans of Japanese Ancestry. Those in his generation fought to prove their loyalty to the country. "He makes us look bad, the AJA's. What we did was completely opposite of how he thinks."

Deserter or dissenter, Lt. Ehren Watada is certainly a lightning rod for an increasingly controversial conflict.

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