Drink the Hemlock
While I certainly support the right of Lt. Watada to make disparaging comments about the Iraq War and other matters of public concern, I feel that he abrogated his duty to our country by deserting his 4,000 fellow troops in the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, and making comments that undermine their daily efforts to bring stablity and hopefully democracy to Iraq and the Middle East. Lt. Watada made a commitment to serve in 2003 as the US was already deployed in Afghanistan and contemplating an invasion of Iraq. He supported and served in the first conflict, but refused to deploy to the second, contending that "the wholesale slaughter and mistreatment of Iraqis is not only a terrible and moral injustice, but it's a contradiction to the Army's own law of land warfare."
Watada does not shy away from his spoken and published remarks, and shouldn't balk at serving time in jail or a dishonorable discharge either. He knowingly accepted the responsibilities of a soldier when he enlisted, leaving the terms of foreign engagements and deployments to elected officials and his superiors. When he violated this commitment he must have known that consequences would follow.
I find the story of Socrates as told by Plato a sound parallel. Socrates was a teacher of historic import and an advocate for democracy in his native Athens. When accused by the local government of teaching false gods to local youth, he accepted the punishment of his peers and drank the fatal dose of hemlock. Although his students crafted a plan for his escape, he reduced their argument in famed Socratic fashion, believing his decision rested in the best interests of democracy.
Watada should also stand on principle and accept his prison sentence and discharge. The merits of the Iraq War certainly warrant intense debate, but members of our military cannot pick and choose which battles to fight just as citizens cannot decide which, if any, laws they choose to obey. I saltute Watada's service in Afghanistan, and admire his outspoken opposition to the Iraq War. Socrates drank his hemlock, and Watada should enter his cell, both with their personal principles in tact.
Update: A mistrial was declared in the Watada case as he apparently signed a statement admitting to the actions described above, including his duty to deploy to Iraq. Watada contends that he did not want to go, never accepting it as his duty. The jury was dismissed and a new trial will begin on March 19th.