Last week, about 40 miles north of where Army 1st Lt. Ehren Watada had just told a Fort Lewis hearing panel why the war in

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Death No. 146

Does Tracy Melvin make Ehren Watada's case?

Last week, about 40 miles north of where Army 1st Lt. Ehren Watada had just told a Fort Lewis hearing panel why the war in Iraq is illegal, Army Staff Sgt. Tracy Melvin was being buried for having fought in it. Melvin, 31, whose funeral was held Saturday in White Center, was the 146th member of the military with Washington state connections to die in Iraq. Depending on your point of view, the battle death of Tracy Melvin either underscores or undermines Watada's anti-war argument. To his supporters, Watada is a brave dissenter who seeks to end the unjust dying of fighters such as Melvin. Watada is risking almost certain imprisonment to protest a war the majority of America finally sees as catastrophic blunder by the dishonest Bush administration. To the military, however, Watada is a soldier run afoul of military law and the code of brotherhood. At his Article 32 hearing that ended last Friday, Watada failed, in the Army's view, to justify his refusal to join fellow troopers in Iraq. According to a Fort Lewis report released today, Watada could face a full court martial for failing to ship out. (The charges are missing movement, contempt toward officials, and conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman, but the hearing officer notes that "Watada is sincere in his beliefs...[which] should mitigate any future punishment"). His likely fate is silence - and up to seven years in the stockade. Still, he is one more among a growing list of soldiers who chose dissent over service in the belief it will bring a swifter end to pointless killing. Not incidentally, Tracy Melvin, who once helped carry the coffin of former Seattle School superintendent and Army general John Stanford and helped guard the Tomb of the Unknown, was the 2,590th member of the U.S. military lost if not wasted in Iraq. He was followed this week by Sgt. Gabe DeRoo, 25, of Tacoma, a Fort Lewis Stryker soldier. His was death number 2,609. At this rate, Christmas may ring in 3,000.       

 
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