Carolyn Ho has gone to Washington to fight on behalf of her son, Army 1st Lt. Ehren Watada, the first commissioned officer to refuse to go to Iraq. Watada faces court-martial and six years in military prison for abstaining from a war he believes is illegal.
Like many Americans, she believed she could come to the capital city and change the world. Or at least her small part of it.
She was acting purely on instinct, wanting to do everything in a mother’s power to protect her son. “I’m here to get what I can,” said Ho, who is from Honolulu. Dark hair pulled back. Dark eyes that moisten when she speaks of her son. Soft voice. “I’m going to put it out there.”
Phoebe Jones of Global Women’s Strike, an international antiwar network that supports Ho and Watada, was at Ho’s side on Capitol Hill. “The work of mothers is protecting life, beginning with their children,” Jones explained. “And that is really the opposite of the obscenity of war.”
On the Hill, Ho handed out information packets. She passed around photos of Watada, who is taller, fuller of face than his mother, but shares her smile.
Her son “based his decision on facts,” she said. He studied the war in Iraq and decided it was illegal. He tried to resign and leave the service with dignity, but the Army wouldn’t let him. He asked to be shipped to Afghanistan; his request was denied. He was offered a noncombat position in Iraq; he said no thanks.