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GI dissent ready to go public

Published Jan 9, 2007 11:59 PM

The first attempt at a mass expression of dissent by enlisted U.S. service people is scheduled for Jan. 15, the Martin Luther King Jr. Birthday holiday, at a large U.S. Naval base in Norfolk, Va.

Navy Seaman Jonathan Hutto, who grew up in Atlanta under the strong influence of that city’s movement for civil rights for the African-American population, is a key spokesperson for troops who, since late October, have been collecting hundreds of GI signatures to an anti-war “Appeal for Redress.”

Hutto told Workers World on Jan. 8 that “people from the Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW), Military Families Speak Out and other anti-war groups and long-term organizers of GI dissent will be coming to support the active-duty rank-and-file soldiers, sailors and marines who will be publicizing their appeal to the U.S. Congress—an appeal protected as a right of service people—to put an end to the war.”

The appeal, which can be found at www.appealforredress.org, reads:

“As a patriotic American proud to serve the nation in uniform, I respectfully urge my political leaders in Congress to support the prompt withdrawal of all American military forces and bases from Iraq. Staying in Iraq will not work and is not worth the price. It is time for U.S. troops to come home.”

The news conference will publicize the solidarity of active-duty troops with the sentiment now shared by 70 percent of the population that the war and occupation of Iraq should be ended, and will do it as part of the commemoration of the role played by Rev. King in the struggle against war and racism.

U.S. v. 1st Lt. Watada

The pre-trial hearing in the case of U.S. v. First Lt. Ehren Watada opened Jan. 4 in Ft. Lewis, Wash., as a demonstration of over 100 of Watada’s supporters gathered for a rally and vigil at a freeway overpass near the fort’s entrance.

Supporters of Ehren Watada.
WW photo: John Catalinotto

Watada is the first officer to refuse duty in Iraq, calling it his responsibility to refuse to participate in a war crime by taking part in an illegal war of aggression.

Members of IVAW, which supports Watada, had arrived from across the country to set up “Camp Resistance” across the road from a side gate to the fort, with plans to stay until the end of Lt. Watada’s court martial.

The government had subpoenaed a number of journalists, some of whom were known as opponents of U.S. policies in Iraq, who had reported on Watada’s statements. The idea was to get them to authenticate statements Watada made on video. The journalists included Sarah Olsen, Dahr Jamail, Gregg Kakesako and Marc Ash. Most, so far, have refused to testify against their source. The military refused to allow any of the subpoenaed reporters in to cover the hearing.

Watada is charged not only with “missing movement by design” to Iraq, but with making statements that amount to “conduct unbecoming an officer.” In the hearing, according to Watada’s defense committee, Judge Lt. Col. John Head ruled that by charging Watada with violations involving his speech, “the prosecutors were allowing a military jury to consider his motives for refusing the order to deploy.”

Watada’s supporters plan nationally coordinated demonstrations for Feb. 5, the day his court-martial is scheduled to open. For more information see www.thankyoult.org.