He's not a pacifist, he's ready to serve, he doesn't even blame the Army for going after him, but as a matter of conscience he would rather do the four years in jail than go to Iraq.
Every news story you read about Watada will have the charge that he is "emboldening the enemy". Maybe, but I doubt it. The enemy seems pretty "emboldened" already. What I do know for sure is that he's inspiring people who still believe in our country. His actions support the idea that people in the US can ultimately be counted on to do what's right rather than what's easy.
Before you judge him one way or another, I strongly suggest reading today's LA Times article, particularly the second part, to learn about how and why he made his decision:
WATADA, kneeling on the carpet with an arm buried deep in an olive-green duffel, explains his epiphany about the war in Iraq. It was the slo-mo kind, not the brilliant flash of lightning in the night.
The way he tells it, the arc of his realization somewhat followed that of many Americans. That is, he believed at the beginning but grew disillusioned as the justifications for the war proved false and the strategy flawed.
In 2003, after graduating near the top of his class at Hawaii Pacific University, he walked into a recruiting station in Honolulu and hopscotched from Officer Candidate School to his first tour of duty in Korea, where his superiors rated him exemplary.
His battalion commander, whom Watada won't name so as not to drag him into his predicament, spoke long and often of the paramount importance of preparation.
"He told us, 'If you don't know all there is to know about your mission, you're failing yourself and you're failing your soldiers,' " Watada says, still kneeling. He folds his hands in front of him now and looks vaguely like someone pleading or about to propose. "I took the lesson to heart."
So when he was reassigned to Ft. Lewis in early 2005 in anticipation of deploying to Iraq, he did his job: He got to know everything there was to know about Iraq. He spent nights online, read books, talked to combat veterans, devoured media reports.
At the end of 2005, he was convinced that the Bush administration had purposefully manipulated intelligence to justify the invasion and that the congressional approval of the war therefore was based on lies.
He said he was so anguished by his conclusion and the knowledge that he would soon be "participating in the madness" that he grew deeply depressed. In December 2005, he sought guidance from a chaplain and a mental-health counselor. Neither helped. He considered filing for conscientious objector status but couldn't in good conscience, he says, because he does not oppose bearing arms.
"I was in this situation where I knew something was wrong," he says, still on his knees, "but I was being forced to do it anyway. It felt like I was in an invisible prison of my own making. It's a terrible place to be."
Then it occurred to him: He'd rather risk the other kind of prison. It would be difficult but ultimately easier to live with. In January 2006, he submitted a letter of resignation, he was refused, and the process rolled inexorably to where it is today.
For more see:
Thankyoult.org and Couragetoresist.org.