The recently scheduled court-martial of 1st Lt. Ehren Watada, a 28-year-old conscientious objector, is creating uproar among anti-war organizations and peace activists against the War in Iraq.
There are currently numerous organizations, old and new, that have resolved to put a stop to the violence. Founded in 2004, Iraq Veterans Against the War aims to aid in the immediate withdrawal of troops in Iraq. Another anti-war organization, founded in 1967, is Vietnam Veterans Against the War, Inc.
VVAW was originally established to oppose the Vietnam War. This organization continues to oppose what it refers to as “senseless military adventures.”
In Watada’s case, he refused to ship out with his unit to Iraq, stating that the war was illegal and was initiated on the basis of false pretenses.
Leland Lubinsky, a spokesman for VVAW since its inception, said he commended Watada for his courage.
“I just want to say, ‘Thank you lieutenant,'” the 59-year-old said. “He made his decision to stand up against the war knowing that he would go to prison. That’s a tremendous sacrifice.”
Lubinsky served in the U.S. Army from 1966 to 1969, and spent a year in Vietnam. It was his personal experience that made him decide to resist the Vietnam War. Not having served in Iraq has not kept him from supporting the American troops there.
“When I made it back from Vietnam, I still had feelings of comradeship with people who were still there,” Lubinsky recalled. “The slogan ‘Bring back our brothers home’ resonated with me a lot.”
Juxtaposing the Vietnam and Iraq wars, Lubinsky, a resident of Loma Linda, said, “War is different, tactics are different but the death is same. Danger is (the) same and the lack of clarity on the part of the government is (the) same. These men (and) women have families. Government has a responsibility to look after them,” Lubinsky said.
“When you play video war games, you just rack up and score points,” he said. “It is another thing when you see death firsthand.”
Manuel Lopez, 29, served in the Iraq War in 2003 and 2004. As a sergeant, he was stationed in the war-torn cities of Baghdad and Najaf.
“I take pride in going to Iraq and I take pride in my country,” Lopez said.
Although he agrees with the idea that the U.S. troops should be called back, he criticizes those who refuse to serve their term in the military.
“Now it’s been so long,” he said. “It is time to pull back. I don’t see anything getting better anytime soon.”
Referring to the veterans resisting the war, Lopez said, “That’s where I get mad. They shouldn’t complain. They should back up their country.
Those people who join (the) military just for going to college are not right. Yes, you have rights to speak, but you signed a contract and now you belong to the government.”
While some people are confronting the dilemma of either wanting the troops to come home or supporting their country, there are few others who represent extreme views.
“Bush should be impeached,” said Ronnie Amador, a former corporal who served in Bosnia and Iraq.
“This war is not justified,” he said. “Premises are false for going to the war and accountability needs to be taken from our president’s side. He sent troops there saying he is saving them from a dictator’s rule. The conditions are worse now.”
Amador is currently not affiliated with any anti-war organizations, though he does consider himself a crucader against the war. Disgusted by the Bush administration, the 30-year-old emphasizes that the war is completely unwarranted.
“The government should stop trying to mislead the public and take accountability for their actions,” he said. “Democrats should get involved a little bit more. I know this is not going to happen. Bush made a really bad decision. There is no way that there could have been ties between Saddam and 9/11. Saddam was a dictator and he was not going to ally with anyone else.”
Amador said anti-war organizations that give a platform to veterans against war, and for peace, are important to the democracy of America.
The former combat engineer recounted some of his experiences with the military.
“Troops should retain their rights as Americans,” he said.
“When media came, we could not say anything bad about the situation. We could get in trouble. Every one of us was briefed on that.”
Soldiers are not the only ones to harbor feelings of resentment toward the War in Iraq. Rabeeah Patail, a junior at CSUN, does not see the logic behind the continual deployment of troops to Iraq.
“Bush keeps on sending troops all the time,” she said. “I think he is going the wrong way. He needs to stop sending the troops. Saddam is dead. I don’t know what he is fighting there now. Every day, innocent Iraqis and Americans are being killed. We should bring back our soldiers. But he is not going to because he has his word,” Patail said in reference to president’s passion for war.
Activists who speak out, not against the soldiers, but against the administration who sent them to war, are often branded as “unpatriotic cowards and traitors.”
Accused of betraying his soldiers, 1st Lt. Watada has been subjected to anger and resentment by many, not only the right-wing media, but by the military as well. “If Watada was a coward, all he had to do was go to Canada or some place else,” Lubinsky, the former Vietnam veteran, said. “He is a smart guy. He took a stand which he knew would cost him personally. I would not want to go to prison. If given a choice, to either go to Iraq or to prison, I would go to Iraq. I don’t think anybody could call him a coward,” he said.
Amador, the former Army combat engineer, used the word “hypocrite” to describe people who call others cowards.
“If you are not over there and you are saying all that, you need to look in the mirror,” he said. “I have met a lot of people who claim we need to be in Iraq, who support Bush and are really, really extreme Christians. ‘Why don’t you sign up and go?’ I ask them. They tie religion and government together. That’s dangerous,” he said.
Amid this blazing discussion, neither the government, nor average citizens have reached a common ground. The problem, Lubinsky said, is people’s indifference.