Why not speak up? Come on, if you believe in it, live by your beliefs, why wouldn’t you be honest about your concerns?
In January 2007 a bunch of uppity dissenters went after truth, justice and the American Way. My wife Lietta and I were there and participated. It was publicized as
Citizens’ Hearing on the Legality of US Actions in Iraq
The “Citizens’ Hearing on the Legality of US Actions in Iraq” will be held on January 20 — 21, 2007, in Tacoma, Washington, two weeks before the Feb. 5 court martial of 1st Lieutenant Ehren Watada at Fort Lewis. Organizing Committee members Rob Crawford, Associate Professor at the University of Washington, Tacoma says that the national event “will put the Iraq War on trial, in response to the Army’s trial of Lt. Watada, the first US military officer to refuse deployment to Iraq.”
Iraq War veterans, experts in international law and war crimes, and human rights advocates will offer testimony in a format that will resemble that of a congressional committee. According to Dr. Lawrence Mosqueda, member of the Organizing Committee and Professor at Evergreen State College: “We are inviting testimony by Iraq War veterans and experts to inform military personnel and other citizens to reflect deeply on their roles and responsibilities in an illegal war.”
Denis Halliday, Former UN Assistant Secretary General, coordinated Iraq humanitarian aid;
Daniel Ellsberg, military analyst who released the Pentagon Papers in the Vietnam War;
Richard Falk, Professor Emeritus of International Law at Princeton University;
Nadia McCaffrey, Gold Star Families Speak Out; Brussels Tribunal advisory board;
Harvey Tharp, former US Navy Lieutenant and JAG stationed in Iraq;
Antonia Juhasz, policy-analyst and author on US economic policies in Iraq;
John Burroughs, Lawyers’ Committee on Nuclear Policy Executive Director;
Eman Khammas, Iraqi human rights advocate (via video).
Benjamin G. Davis, Assoc. Prof. of Law, University of Toledo; expert on law of war.
Geoffrey Millard, 8 years in Army National Guard; now in Iraq Veterans Against the War.
The hearing will present the case that Lt. Watada would, if allowed, make at his court martial. His defense attorneys maintain that the war on Iraq is illegal under international treaties and under Article Six of the US Constitution. Further, Lt. Watada’s defense argues that the Nuremberg Principles and US military regulations require soldiers to follow only “lawful orders.” In Lt. Watada’s view, deployment to Iraq would have made him party to the crimes that permeate the structure and conduct of military operations there.
A panel comprised of military veterans, members of military families, students, and representatives of labor unions, local governments, academia, and religious organizations will hear the testimony, examine witnesses, and issue a fact-finding report. Panelists will focus on the legality of the war, whether the invasion of Iraq in 2003 constituted a “crime against the peace,” whether the military occupation and economic constriction of Iraq constitutes a “crime against humanity,” and whether individual soldiers have an obligation or duty to refuse unlawful orders.
David Krieger, who was a U.S. Army 2nd Lieutenant stationed in Hawaii during the Vietnam War, and is currently the President of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation will serve as panel chair.
Lietta Ruger of Military Families Speak Out (MSFO), Washington state chapter, says: “this hearing will focus attention on the role of the US government — rather than that of individual soldiers — in perpetrating the crimes of the Iraq War.”
The following was my report on what happened during the hearings: Arthur Ruger, Bay Center, Washington January 22, 2007
We Were There: Thoughts on getting away with talking mean about the government
Photo by Arthur Ruger
About half way through the Hearing, my brain suddenly connected the dots of concepts from the American Government class I took as a 12th grader at North Gem High School in Bancroft, Idaho in 1964.
Here we sat assembled talking about our government and what’s wrong with it,
– perhaps a majority of us taking for granted how a document (whose name gets tossed around like mustard and ketchup at a barbecue) protects us with more force and authority than had a brigade of troops standing guard outside the doors been present (unless necessary which then would make a military brigade a right of every citizen.)
What better demonstration that what all this is about is to live in one of the very few places on the globe where we can get away with it; that in a democracy some things lead to even greater manifestations of citizen power.
Here’s what we got away with this past weekend:
Amendment I – Freedom of Religion, Press, Expression. Ratified 12/15/1791.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Being married to an activist who can get things done has its positive perks which include sitting up front where I can hear and see stuff a lot more thoroughly. (And even for an old Veteran who thinks he’s seen it all and knows everything, sitting up that close is no place to be caught falling asleep!)
Lietta and Arthur : nervous dissenters
So I thought I’d get my notebook and write down what I expected would be a thought, concept or cool quote that might enter my ears once every … oh, say 45 minutes. I’d hear something I could use as a talking point or theme for long-winded articles or rants.
So ready to take notes, both feet on the floor and somewhat alert, I started listening and then began to write. When it was over the old callous on my writing finger was back, having regressed some 40 years ago.
I don’t have a laptop, just a calloused writing finger and 36 pages of talking points. So no, don’t panic! I’m not going to write up 36 pages of talking points. But I am going to start writing over the next few weeks about thoughts the came flying into my awake old military-Veteran mind as I sat protected by a document.
What would a “Constitutional” model of citizenship look like?
Does a good citizen live in indifference to freedoms possessed by few and coveted by most who live on an entire planet?
Does a good citizen justifiably think that the pursuit of happiness includes mere patriotism of consuming American-made products, enjoying corporate sponsored shallow entertainment, going to work, giving up withheld taxes and living only for today?
Does a good citizen leave most of the important stuff to bigmouth politicians who talk down to an entire electorate that is far wiser that it itself realizes?
Does good citizenship stop at the door to a military recruiter’s office?
Does a good citizen-soldier agree and commit to stop thinking and merely follow orders once a uniform is donned?
- Hell yes, I will go!
- But don’t tell me I can’t think
- Don’t tell me I can’t discern
- and don’t tell me I have to violate law and repudiate the Constitution to help some fool up my chain of command stay in the driver’s seat.
Our assembly did not ask that question, but instead refused to wait for some sort of wise permission from any “higher authority” – elected or wannabe – that pretends to know more and understand more Civics than what we know and understand.
Our assembly waited for no one’s endorsement.
- We gathered
- We deliberated
- We will be heard
- We will demand REAL American Constitutional justice for all!
We will ask, for example, of the Lieutenant’s presiding Court Martial Judge,
if the illegality of the order to march out and kill is a concern included in the Constitution, why is it not relative to a thinking soldier’s right?
By the way – to all fools who say “You signed on, you knew what you were doing, stop whining and get going!” – read an officer’s oath.
That oath includes the primary and overarching vow to protect and obey the Constitution. Nowhere does an officer’s oath -unlike an enlisted man’s oath – include a vow to obey without question or assessment of orders from all superior officers.
So I’m already worked up but have to get going to work so I can earn more tax money to pay – among other things – other citizen soldiers to protect the rights of every other American citizen and their court marital presiders.
I’ll close this morning with a quote from my distant relative, a much maligned (and deservedly so from my own reading of history) former president, but a highly admired, respected and effective military officer and commander of all American forces at the time. Ulysses S. Grant.
Grant’s words in and of themselves, authorize any and all – past or present – U.S. military officers to think for themselves, even if they never run for president.
“one of the most unjust ever waged on a weaker country by a stronger.” – On America’s war against Mexico-
I don’t think we changed many official Bush admin minds, but you know,
speaking up felt better than whining in private conversations with folks
who wouldn’t be caught speaking out in any format.