NCRR 9/11 Committee: Update on Lt. Ehren Watada

Kathy Masaoka

Lt. Ehren Watada, who was court martialed for refusing to deploy to Iraq in 2006 and fight in a war that he believed was immoral and illegal, is still awaiting a decision by the military. In October 2008 U.S. District Judge Benjamin H. Settle of Tacoma said that, based on double jeopardy, the government could not retry 1st Lt. Ehren Watada on charges of missing his unit's deployment to Iraq in June 2006 and for denouncing President Bush and the war. The army had already tried him on these charges and had declared a mistrial.  NCRR’s delegation to that trial in February 2007 reported that, when it appeared that the trial was not going well,  Judge Head strongly advised the army attorneys to find a reason to request a mistrial. 

There are still two charges that remain which Judge Settle did not rule on since these charges, “conduct unbecoming an officer” for speaking to two reporters, were excluded from the court martial.  Ehren had admitted speaking to the reporters so that they would not be required to appear and testify at the trial. Ehren remains on desk duty at Fort Lewis and awaits some response and the base’s commanding general, Lt. Gen Charles H. Jacoby Jr.  Until the military either decides to try Ehren on the remaining two charges, appeal the decision of Judge Settle’s or dismiss the charges, he is in limbo and unable to leave the military. We hope that the military will drop the charges and allow Ehren to go on with his life. His father and stepmother, Bob Watada and Rosa Sakanishi, now living in Oregon and closer to him, are able to give Ehren greater support. 

Bridging Communities Project 
Kathy Masaoka

NCRR worked closely with the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) this past year.  At the Manzanar Pilgrimage in 2007, the idea of bringing more Muslims from Southern California to the next pilgrimage was suggested. In March and April 2008, CAIR organized educationals and asked NCRR members to show the film, “Pilgrimage” by Tad Nakamura and to give presentations on the incarceration of Japanese Americans to about five mosques (Corona, Anaheim, Orange County, Hawthorne and San Diego).  CAIR was able to bring almost 80 to 100 people to the pilgrimage and the experience was moving for both the Muslim and Japanese American communities.  CAIR also created a film which was shown at their annual dinner attended by over 2000 people.  The film includes many of the NCRR members who spoke at the mosques.

Because we wanted to continue to work together with CAIR and with the JACL Pacific Southwest District, we decided to apply for a grant from the California Civil Liberties Public Education Program (CCLPEP). Through the hard work of Craig Ishii, JACL Regional Director, NCRR and JACL was awarded the grant to work on a project bringing about 15 JA and 15 Muslim high school youth together for four Saturday sessions to increase and understanding of each other's community as well as build a relationship that can be long term.  It will start with the Day of Remembrance on 2/21 and will end with the Manzanar Pilgrimage in April and will include a session at a mosque led by CAIR and a creative workshop led by Nobuko Miyamoto of Great Leap.  The session in Little Tokyo will include a tour of Little Tokyo, skits on the history of both Muslims and Japanese Americans in the United States.  Mar Elepano who teaches film and animation at USC will help them create stories and a film.  There will be lots of interactive activities as well as blogging in between the sessions so that they can get to know each other better.  We hope they will learn about each other's culture, history and community and build a basis for mutual support in the future. Planning is ongoing with representatives of CAIR and the Shura Council and applications are being accepted until the slots are filled. (see below for more details)


Bridging Communities Program  Announcement

The Japanese American Citizens League Pacific Southwest District (JACL PSW) and Nikkei for Civil Rights & Redress (NCRR) in partnership with the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and the Islamic Shura Council announce the launch of the Bridging Communities program to connect the youth of the Japanese American community to the Muslim American community by celebrating the strengths and differences that bind us as a community.

WHAT:  Through a series of interactive sessions, 40 high school students will engage in workshops with discussions and group activities as well as visit sites that will allow the participants to fully engage and learn about the Muslim and Japanese cultures.  These sessions will focus on topics ranging from ethnic identity, culture/religion, civil rights, and activism.

WHY: Since 9/11 and the start of the Iraq War, Muslim communities throughout the nation have experienced heightened hostility, discrimination, and policies that work against them simply because of their ethnic identity.  JACL and NCRR recognize the hostilities and civil rights infringements on Muslim communities as those that were similarly forced upon Japanese Americans during WWII.  The joint effort of both communities will heighten awareness through education to the youth. 

WHERE: Tentative sites include the Japanese American Cultural & Community Center, Little Tokyo, and Manzanar.

WHEN: Four Saturday Sessions in Spring 2009: 2/21/09, 3/14/09, 4/4/09, 4/25/09

Applications for the program will be available in December and will be accepted until the slots are filled. Applications and more information can be found at  For questions or further information, contact the JACL Pacific Southwest District office at (213) 626-4471 or email