Lt. Ehren Watada: "I was still willing to go until I started reading"
When First Lt. Ehren K. Watada of the Army shipped out for a tour of duty in South Korea two years ago, he was a promising young officer rated among the best by his superiors. Like many young men after Sept. 11, he had volunteered "out of a desire to protect our country," he said, even paying $800 for a medical test to prove he qualified despite childhood asthma.
Now Lieutenant Watada, 28, is working behind a desk at Fort Lewis just south of Seattle, one of only a handful of Army officers who have refused to serve in Iraq, an Army spokesman said, and apparently the first facing the prospect of a court-martial for doing so.
"I was still willing to go until I started reading," Lieutenant Watada said in an interview one recent evening.
A long and deliberate buildup led to Lieutenant Watada's decision to refuse deployment to Iraq. He reached out to antiwar groups, and they, in turn, embraced his cause, raising money for his legal defense, selling posters and T-shirts, and circulating a petition on his behalf.
Critics say the lieutenant's move is an orchestrated act of defiance that will cause chaos in the military if repeated by others. But Lieutenant Watada said he arrived at his decision after much soul-searching and research.