Mistrial Declared in Ehren Watada Case

By Malena Amusa Feb 09, 2007

A military judge called a mistrial in the case against 1st Lt. Ehren Watada, the first commissioned officer court-martialed after refusing to go to Iraq and publicly criticizing the war. Apparently Watada signed documents he didn’t understand fully which caused the judge to make this ruling. Watada’s defense attorney Eric Seitz threatened to evoke double jeopardy if the army re-charges Watada with "conduct unbecoming an officer" and "missing movement" for failing to deploy. "Our hope is, at this point, that the Army will realize that this case is a hopeless mess," Watada’s lawyer told the Washington Post newspaper. Today, Racewire talked with Watada’s outspoken mother Carolyn Ho about supporting her son, the state of censorship, and the race factor. Here’s what she had to say: What’s your advice for mothers and fathers with children in Iraq? I would say that these youngsters need a lot of support. [Deployment/war] is a very painful process to go through. It can be very lonely. It can’t be ignored or dismissed, especially if they’re [soldiers are] being asked to do things that go contrary to their conscious. Were you initially supportive of Ehren joining the army? I was not supportive. Not at all. I wasn’t the first person he talked to. I was the last. By the time I heard about him signing up, it was after him signing up. How does Ehren fit into larger Asian-American movements for civil rights? Ehren has reawakened resentment [over Japanese internment] that has been lying under the surface all these years. [Learning about the No-No Boys, Japanese Americans who refused to fight in WWII] has brought a different experience to my perspective and knowledge. Those individuals took a stance with a conscious. And some of them were beaten and thrown into prisons over several years. Do you plan to continue speaking up about civil rights after all this is over? People are asking me to project into the future. I don’t know what my next step is. I move more intuitively. I can’t really tell you what I will be doing. A year ago, I didn’t know what I’d be doing today. What does this case say about our political climate these days? A lot of times people are more interested in their daily lives— they go home and watch their football games. As long as life is predictable and comfortable to people, then they don’t really concern themselves beyond that. And that’s what’s happened with this war… …I remember talking to a group of women’s activists, and a blond, German lady, said: ‘the America you live in right now is very similar to the Germany I grew up in prior to the rise of Hitler.’ People can say we are bordering fascism the way our freedoms have been eroded with big brother monitoring of phone and emails. People don’t care as long as they feel protected. But people aren’t really fully aware that there are gross violations of the rule of law. I’ve been told many times over when I try to get congressional support, they are saying they can’t interfere with the military. They say we’d be in a constitutional crisis. Who’s going to hold the executive responsible? You can’t conduct a war unless there are appropriations to fund it. What then is your message to the people? In order to perpetuate and maintain our freedom we need be vigilant and have courage to take a stand when things are not right and to be committed enough to do something about it to make it right.