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By Jack Hirschman

The injunction against the court-martial retrial of Lt. Ehren Watada, which federal judge Benjamin Settle posted on October 8, turned a righteous support rally for Watada in San Francisco Chinatown’s Portsmouth Square park into a joyous celebration of the courageous soldier from Hawaii, the first high-ranking officer who refused deployment to Iraq on the grounds that the war is an illegal one.

Watada’s ordeal after his declaration led to a court-martial trial which was declared a mistrial earlier this year. Judge Settle’s injunction squelches the attempt on the part of the U.S. Army to circumvent the law of double-jeopardy which prohibits the trying of a citizen twice for the same “crime.”

After artist Betty Kano encircled the speakers’ podium with a traditional drum-call, Chinatown Community Rev. Norman Fong introduced Japanese American poet Peter Yamamoto; Grassroots environmentalist speaker David Chiu; the current poet laureate of the city, Jack Hirschman (see poem at right); past laureate Janice Mirikitani; and Jeff Paterson, who was the first GI to resist the Gulf War, and now works with Courage to Resist. Speakers were translated into Chinese by Angela Chu, who paraphrased the poems as well. The rally designed as a press conference was organized by Ying Lee, one of the fighting activists of the Asian community.

Conscientious objectors are known in wartime, but conscientious rejectors—especially among the officer class—is relatively new, and Ehren Watada’s example is being seen as an heroic breakthrough in anti-war activities.

Yong’il Bay

Thirty years ago
that spot was like a mother to me.
like my best friend’s mother.

Twenty years ago
it was my own mother.
Absurd, but
I used to shout to her
when I felt helpless:

factories have killed my mother.
there is no mother
to greet you, sun and moon.
And since I am motherless,
I am without dreams, no matter how long I sleep.
For millennia now, sand
has been announcing the end of the world.
Who has understood?
Those grains of sand
were once mother of every man and beast.

— By Ko Un
Korea’s literary spokesperson, Ko Un, was nominated for
a Nobel several times. The poem was translated from Korean by
Brother Anthony of Taizé, Young-moo Kim, and Gary Gach


This warring government
having lost its people
and having exposed
its lies and its twists
and turns of the knife
in the back of all decency,

has only the guns left
to keep the people in line
in Iraq and here as well,
the guns that make people
afraid because they can
make people dead,

and so when an officer
like Ehren Watada
from one of the two
newest states to be
legalized as part of
the United States

realizes that the war
declared by his country
is an illegal one, and he
refuses to be deployed
to Iraq, and is illegally

he has opened a crack
in the cage we all are
fearfully imprisoned in,
and the sun of truth
has streamed in radiantly,
and hopefully others

today or tomorrow will
be touched by the same
luminous courage as
Ehren Watada’s, and the
dominum effect lead to the
highest-ranking officer: Peace.

— Jack Hirschman    

   Make a donation, get a book!

book coverA powerfully written book on the women in the Chicano Movement and in theater is now available. Through a special offer, a copy of Teatro Chicana, signed by co-editor Laura Garcia, is available for only $30.

Teatro Chicana, a Collective Memoir and Selected Plays, was written by seventeen women who performed with Teatro de las Chicanas in the early 1970s. The group evolved to Teatro Raíces and then Teatro Laboral through 15 years of existence.

Laura Garcia, editor of the Tribuno del Pueblo, wrote a chapter in the book that describes her youth as an immigrant to the Imperial Valley. Her path to college and then political activism is described with passion and reveals to us all the pain and joy of being a women. Being a member of an all-woman, street-theater group was a transformative experience. She credits the teatro for helping her find her voice, political understanding of the working class and subsequent political activism.

Published by the University of Texas Press, the book provides seventeen stories that paint a picture of political issues that are still relevant 30 years later.

Order your own copy of Teatro Chicana, signed by Laura Garcia, for $30. Proceeds from your donation will benefit the Tribuno Del Pueblo. Make check payable to  Tribuno del Pueblo, PO Box 3524, Chicago, IL 60654-3524.

Expect two weeks for delivery upon receipt.

Laura Garcia is also available to speak through Speakers for a New America.
Call 800-691-6888 or email
This article originated in the People's Tribune
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