The case of Ehren Watada

Lt. Ehren Watada, U.S. Military photoThe case of Army 1st Lt. Ehren Watada, who has refused deployment to Iraq in principled protest against what he believes is an illegal war of occupation, has led many to compare his stand to that of the WW2 Nisei draft resisters.

Watada himself made the link in his comments to Ben Hamamoto of the Nichi Bei Times:

As a Japanese American, Watada sees historical parallels between himself and those who resisted the World War II incarceration. “(The resisters) said ‘we’re Japanese American’ and we are part of this country no matter what the president says. They faced ostracization and imprisonment, but it was shown many years later that they were correct… What I’m doing is no different.”

The parallel is not precise. The Heart Mountain resisters did not object to fighting in WW2, only to the unconstitutionality of the forced incarceration of themselves and their families. But as I talked this week with John Iwasaki when he called from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, it hit me that the resisters and Lt. Watada do share this one similarity: both put themselves on the line to object to actions by their government. Iwasaki was localizing a wire story, “Japanese Americans criticize Watada,” reporting a joint statement from 9 Japanese American veterans groups to publicly denounce Watada for disrespecting “a legacy of military service by Japanese American soldiers dating back to World War II.”

“No Japanese Americans did anything like that, and that is why Japanese Americans are so upset,” (Robert) Wada said, (a charter president of the Japanese American Korean War Veterans). “He is doing something that has never been done by Japanese Americans.”

That’s not exactly the case, said Seattle resident Frank Abe. He produced “Conscience and the Constitution,” a documentary about Japanese Americans who resisted the World War II draft because they and their families were held in internment camps for years after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.

Wada is “overlooking the fact that 315 Japanese Americans in World War II resisted the draft as a means of protesting the forced incarceration of their families,” Abe said Wednesday.

Read the full article in the Seattle P-I.

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