Tuesday, February 24, 2009

A Tale of Two Army Lieutenants

by Pa Rock
Former Army Lieutenant

Lt. Ehren Watada and Lt. Scott Easterling, while having very divergent views on the war in Iraq, have both elected to take controversial stands on matters of conscience, views that are likely to end the military career of each man.

Lt. Watada has been in the news since June of 2006 when he declined to deploy to Iraq with his unit. Watada, who was stationed at Ft. Lewis, WA, said that he is not a conscientious objector, but has a personal objection to the war in Iraq that is a result of research he conducted in preparation for deployment. He said that after reading several books and articles on the history of Iraq, perusing international law, reviewing the evidence used to justify the war, and speaking to returning veterans, he came to the independent conclusion the war in Iraq was wrong and that he could not in good conscience support it.

Watada volunteered to go to Afghanistan, because he could rationalize a justification for that conflict based on its direct relationship to Septbember 11th. The Army declined to let the young lieutenant choose his own assignment. Then, in an effort to avoid a buttload of controversy while still maintaining a semblance of authority over the rebellious officer, the Army offered to send Watada to Iraq and give him a desk job. The lieutenant, whose objections to the war were not based on personal cowardice, refused to take part in the Iraq War in any capacity.

Ehren Watada was court-marshaled on five counts in 2007, but that ended in a mistrial. When a new court-marshal was attempted, an appeal was made on grounds of double-jeopardy. Three of the five original charges were then thrown out, and the other two charges, relating to conduct unbecoming of an officer and a gentleman, are still pending - nearly three years after the lieutenant declined to deploy with his unit.

Lt. Easterling just surfaced in the news this week when he announced via a "to whom it may concern" letter, that he was joining in a court action challenging Barack Obama's claim to the presidency. Easterling, a former civilian contractor in Iraq, said that as an officer he has to uphold the Constitution, and that the Constitution specifically states "No Person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President."

This angry lieutenant stated (quite erroneously) that "Barack Hussein Obama....has absolutely refused to provide the American public his original birth certificate, as well as other documents which may prove or disprove his eligibility. In fact, he has fought every attempt made by concerned citizens in their effort to force him to do so." (You know it's a deep bias when they include the "Hussein!")

Just so you know: The Associated Press has reported that Obama's birth certificate was presented last year during the presidential campaign. Factcheck.org examined the original document, raised seal and all, and reproduced an announcement of Obama's birth from a 1961 newspaper that included his parents' address in Honolulu. Just for the record, Hawaii was a state by 1961.

(That "controversy" appears to be settled far more definitively than the one about where George Bush was during 1972, or why he never used his combat pilot's skills in Vietnam!)

The "Obama is not a natural-born citizen" movement is somewhat like those crazies who run around claiming that, for reasons unknown, it was the United States government that actually knocked down the twin towers. Pure nonsense, but an opiate for the asses!

Yesterday U.S. Senator Richard Shelby from Alabama, a state not noted for its intellectual breadth or depth, stirred up the same hornet's nest with remarks to a gathering of Republicans in Cullum, AL. When the local newspaper took him to task over it and his remarks got national play, he quickly began to back-peddle. What may seem to be well-reasoned political insight to the good old boys of Cullum, comes across as just plain goofy when the audience is expanded nationwide.

This much I know: It is the company grade officers (lieutenants and captains) that have the actual hands-on control of most army personnel. These young officers are the ones who make the monkey run. Their authority rests on their ability to present as good soldiers and to motivate others to participate in the cause, whether they have philosophical disagreements with that cause or not. You can't tell the army "no" and get away with it, because if "no" becomes a viable option, the monkey may soon quit running at all.

Lt. Watada will eventually be out of the military. He will be free of the United States Army, and, just as importantly, the Army will be free of him. Lt. Easterling is also destined to leave the Army earlier than he had planned. Just as Watada can't pick and choose which orders to follow, Easterling will learn the importance and immutability of the Chain-of-Command, a chain where every link must be honored and respected. He may not approve of his Commander-in-Chief, but if he is to remain in the service and defend the flag, he will have to respect his duly elected leader. Based on his rhetoric, I suspect that Lt. Easterling will be unable and unwilling to do that.

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