SEATTLE (KHNL)- Say the name Ehren Watada these days, and you're likely to get into a passionate debate about the war in Iraq. He's become a focal point for people's feelings about the war, often times very strong passionate feelings. The Hawaii native agreed to talk to KHNL News8 exclusively about the controversy he's generated.
In June he chose not to deploy to Iraq with the rest of his unit because he says the war is illegal. The military is pursuing three charges against him-- missing movement, contempt towards officials, and conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman. His lawyer says Watada's prison term could be up to seven and a half years.
Watada is unfazed. "There is a sacrifice to be made. Again that's why I joined the military: to sacrifice my life and liberty to ensure the laws and values of our country are upheld."
Watada doesn't feel he should be court martialed but says he's willing to serve prison time as the price to pay for his actions. KHNL reporter Diane Ako asks, "A lot of people feel you're a coward for doing this, and that you're not fulfilling your duty. And that you also should pay back any money you might have received to go to college."
Watada says he is no coward. "I began reading what got us into the war in the first place and the conduct of the occupation at the time, and the overall feeling I got was that I felt betrayed by my leadership. I felt that going into a war waged out of deception, the administration had lied by manipulating intelligence and deceiving the people, I thought there could be no greater crime."
As for those college benefits- "I did not receive any money from the army to go to college."
He says he joined because of 9-11. Many accuse Watada of betraying his country- and not fighting the war on terror. "I took and oath when signing up and I took that oath very seriously. It says that I, Ehren Watada, will swear to protect and defend the constitution of the us."
He hopes to get Americans more politically involved - no matter how they feel about his own actions. "I think that's what I want- people to be aware. Whether they support what I'm doing or are against it they still need to be aware there is a war being fought in Iraq."