There’s an article in today’s New York Times about the court martial of an Army officer, 1st. Lt. Ehren Watada, for refusing to be deployed to Iraq. Watada is not a peacenik in general; he objects to the Iraq war in particular as dishonest and unlawful. The manner in which he came to this conclusion is like a geek fantasy: he originally supported the war, but before deployment conducted his own personal education campaign, reading books and talking with fellow soldiers returning from Iraq. As a result, he changed his mind! And he’s willing to risk dishonorable discharge and seven years of prison for acting in accordance with his convictions! (See this supportive web site for more info.)
All this time, I was thinking one of the big plausibility problems with the movie Serenity was that the Operative was converted so easily with facts to opposing the Alliance. Watada has made me revise my opinion. One of the most cynically revealing passages of the article follows:
“Lieutenant Watada’s about-face came as a shock to his parents, his fellow soldiers and his superiors. In retrospect, though, there may have been one ominous note in the praise heaped on him in his various military fitness reports: he was cited as having an ‘insatiable appetite for knowledge.’ “
Oops! He found out what’s really going on.
This all reminds me of the movie Control Room, a documentary about the Arabic news channel Al Jazeera and its difficult relationship with the United States in the early stages of the Iraq war. The movie consists mostly of crosscut interviews with Al Jazeera employees and an American press officer, Lt. Joshua Rushing. When I watched the film, I thought Rushing seemed like the usual blinkered military type, willing to defend the indefensible with slippery language and references to duty. Yeah, he made a couple of comments that acknowledged that, yes, war might actually be a terrible thing. Not much of a revelation. He’s just trying not to look like a total monster, I thought. He’s in public relations, after all.
Therefore, I was amazed to learn while randomly surfing the internet that he had been given an official gag order by his superiors. Apparently, in a climate where our Secretary of Defense practically accuses Al Jazeera of being the Great Satan, saying anything even slightly positive about them is a violation of protocol. Whatever. Rather than shaping up, Rushing decided to resign. Interesting.
Then came the real shocker: he’s gone to work with Al Jazeera! Apparently, they are in the process of starting up an English language version of their station, and upon learning of Rushing’s resignation from the Marine Corps they asked if he would be interested in joining them. He accepted, and the station is planning to launch in September 2006.
Stories like these give me hope. Of what, I’m not sure. It seems impossible that the Iraq situation can be resolved in a way that will please anyone at this point. Muslim = Terrorist in the minds of most Americans. Israel and Hezbollah are pounding each other as I type. Afghanistan is still a mess. And there continue to be U.S. administration rumblings about action against Iran. All of it seems depressingly unstoppable.
But the existence of these two men still makes me feel better. Thanks, guys.