Watada looking forward to trial's end
The Army officer's court-martial is set to begin on Jan. 4
1st Lt. Ehren Watada says he refused to be deployed to Iraq in June because he believed the war is illegal. Today, he is looking forward to the end of his court-martial, even though he expects to be punished with two to four years in prison.
"It'll all be over pretty soon. In one way or another, it'll all be over," he said yesterday in an interview with the Star-Bulletin. "Now at least I know I have a date and it's set. And I know after that point, one way or another, it's going to end."
Watada appears tonight at church
Army 1st Lt. Ehren Watada and supporter Ann Wright will discuss Watada's case today at Church of the Crossroads, 1212 University Ave., from 7 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.
He added, "I'll still get out. I'll still be young. I'll use the time as best I can. I'll try to educate myself more and more. It's just one chapter of my life."
The artillery officer faces six counts for refusing to deploy to Iraq and for conduct unbecoming of an officer, with a maximum sentence of six years in prison.
"In all likelihood, the odds are tremendously against me," he said.
Pretrial motions for Watada are scheduled to begin Jan. 4.
Supporters have sent e-mails and offered encouragement in person, he said, but many still remain critical of his actions.
"I don't want to hear the guy's name," said retired Marine Lt. Col. Gary Meyers of Honolulu. "I know of no officer in my group of contacts that supports, in any way, what he did. We all feel the same way."
Watada's parents, former Campaign Spending Commission Executive Director Bob Watada and Carolyn Ho, have been traveling across the mainland generating support.
Temporarily released from a traveling restriction imposed by the Army, Watada returned to Hawaii for a one-week visit to meet with his attorney and spend time with family and friends. He talked at the Zippy's restaurant in Koko Marina yesterday over a breakfast of saimin noodles with wonton and a plate of chili and rice, and coffee.
Wearing a yellow Hawaiian Style brand T-shirt, khaki cargo shorts and slippers, Watada defended his position on the grounds of the Nuremberg trials and the United Nations charter.
He admitted that before joining the Army in March 2003, he had doubts about President Bush's motives in Iraq but placed his faith in the leaders. Later, he said, he was shocked to learn there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and submitted his letter of resignation in January.
The younger of two boys, Watada attended Punahou School but transferred to Kalani High School his sophomore year, where he played cornerback on the varsity football team. He said he transferred to Kalani to escape the academic pressures at Punahou, hoping to enjoy the last of his high school years.
STAR-BULLETIN / JULY 2006
Rose and Bob Watada, left and middle, spoke in July in support of Watada's son, Army 1st Lt. Ehren Watada. At right is Karen Nakasone of the Japanese American Citizens League.
Watada attended Whitworth College in Washington for two years until moving to Colorado, where he worked in a restaurant until he gained residency. He attend the University of Colorado for one semester, then returned to Honolulu in 2000.
While working as a driver during the day, he attended night school at Hawaii Pacific University, graduating with a 3.8 grade point average in 2003. He sought a degree in business because he wanted to travel, he said.
Before enlisting in the Army in March 2003, Watada looked at different branches of the military, such as the Navy and the Air Force, but chose the Army because the recruiters were the most helpful, he said, adding that he favored the opportunities in the Army.
Since June he has been working at the base doing administrative work, which he feels is without purpose since his security clearance has been revoked and he has been relocated to headquarters, he said. His contact with others has been limited, which is quite a different experience from the 180 soldiers Watada supervised during a tour in Korea.
Meanwhile, he is trying to build awareness of his cause.
"My fate is determined in a large part by the American people," he said. "There may be people who disagree with me, but I think a lot of people still respect the decision I made to stand up for my principles and my beliefs."
He added, "I just know that in a smaller sense, I've given some sort of hope back and inspiration to a lot of people who have lost it over the recent years, and for me that's enough."