Wilson Withdraws, Endorses Cantwell

Also: free speech in the armed forces.

POLITICS

Antiwar candidate Mark Wilson, who waged a long uphill primary campaign against Democratic incumbent Sen. Maria Cantwell, announced Saturday, July 8, that he was withdrawing from the primary and urged his supporters to volunteer for Cantwell's campaign. Wilson will work full time for Cantwell's campaign through November.

In a letter to supporters Saturday and in a Sunday press conference with Cantwell, Wilson said, "I have had a deep and personal one-on-one conversation with Senator Cantwell. I came away convinced we are on the same path when it comes to solving the crisis in Iraq and the potential crisis with Iran." This raises several obvious questions. What is that "shared path"? Since Cantwell claims her position has been consistent, did Wilson share her path during the 16 months he blistered her over Iraq on the campaign trail? If not, when did Wilson change his mind, and why? Or did Wilson just need a job?

Wilson also claimed Saturday that part of his campaign's purpose was "keeping those Democrats opposed to the war engaged in the process." What process? Supporting a futile campaign the candidate himself wasn't committed to, as opposed to, say, organizing against the war? Or lobbying? Or any of a half dozen other more productive tasks? It's a bewildering statement.

Wilson's withdrawal leaves only one antiwar challenger to Cantwell in the September Democratic primary, former federal low-income-housing attorney Hong Tran. Tran, who says her office is being "bombarded" with calls from former Wilson supporters, says Wilson called her a week before his announcement, told her of his decision, and urged her to withdraw as well. Tran minces no words: "He's lying now[about his stance on the war] or he was lying all the way along. His supporters should be angry." And, after Wilson's previous campaigns as a Libertarian and a Green, she says she's not surprised by his jump to the Cantwell camp. "People shouldn't be surprised if tomorrow he registers as a Republican and goes for [Mike] McGavick's campaign." GEOV PARRISH

FREE SPEECH

The First Amendment issues in the case of Lt. Ehren Watada are even more complicated than were first apparent last week when the U.S. Army piled charges on the officer after he refused to deploy to Iraq. Watada stands charged not only with "missing movement" but with "contempt toward officials" and "conduct unbecoming an officer"—the last two charges related mostly to quotes attributed to the officer in interviews with two journalists: Sarah Olson, an Oakland-based freelancer who wrote about Watada for www.truthout.org, and Gregg Kakesako of the Honolulu Star Bulletin.

At stake is an officer's ability to criticize the president and his policies. Watada's supposed crime, aside from failing to deploy, was to accuse the president of misleading the country in taking us to war. (You can see all the offending passages on Watada's charge sheet at www.lewis.army.mil/pao1/media.htm.) Eric Seitz, Watada's Hawaii-based lawyer who was in town this week working on the case, said at a Tuesday, July 11, press conference that he will file a motion with a military judge to drop the charges related to the officer's speech. In the meantime, he said, the Army is trying to get the journalists who interviewed him to testify, presenting another First Amendment issue. The press holds dear its belief that it should not be compelled to testify about sources. NINA SHAPIRO

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