Friday, June 02, 2006

Courage and Cowardice


Reading this blog you would have to assume that I hate our troops in Iraq.

I don't.

I try, with everything that I am, to not hate groups of people. Institutions yes.

I hate the military. I hate religious fundamentalism of all flavors. I hate the practice of interpreting and manipulating the law. I hate politics.

I know that a great deal of the people in the military are honorable and courageous people. I know, personally, several men who volunteered to go back to Iraq for second and third tours rather than leave the friends in their units. They left behind family, friends. and safety because they loved their brothers in arms.

They might not come back.

That takes courage and honor.

Unfortunately, their mission is one of occupation and murder.

I also know there are large numbers of soldiers and Marines who like the rush. The violence, the power. The incredible drug of war. They believe they are doing the right thing when they kill people defending their home and their fundamental human right of self-determination.

So you have this mix. The psychopaths riding the high of bloodletting and the guys that just want to do what's right and come home.

To see it in just black and white, to curse all of the troops simply because of what they are, is lazy and stupid.

However, all of them, every last one, is a member of an occupying army in a land that did never and could never have attacked the United States. They are morally, if not legally, guilty of waging aggressive war.

Complex doesn't even begin to describe it.

So who is responsible? The monsters in men's skin in the White House bear a large responsibility. After all, they count on young men and women wanting to serve their country, to do what is right, to be able to fuel their mad conquests.

But, and here's the part that most people simply don't have the courage to acknowledge, the troops have the responsibility of their actions. Not as soldiers, sailors, airmen, or Marines. No, they have the responsibility as human beings to decide whether or not they will kill, or by their actions facilitate killing, for their government. There are no Japanese rampaging across the Pacific. The Reich is not carving up Europe. This is a war of choice.

The blood of Fallujah, the blood of Haditha, the blood of tens of thousands of dead Iraqi civilians is on the hands of the courageous and the cowardly in Iraq.

During a conversation I had about Iraq and Vietnam and war in general, the point was made "They have to go when they're ordered to. This is their job. The commanders say go, they go."

No. Hell no.

Oh, she was right. If they don't go , they would be court martialed and face jail. If they avoided jail, a dishonorable or bad conduct discharge is enough to put a crimp in the American dream of having it all. So you go.

And you, or the people you support, kill innocent civilians.

Which would you choose? The cell or watching the child you just accidentally shot down bleed to death in the street? The "shame" of a dishonorable discharge or being forced to lay waste to an entire city block from the air. A city block where you know, you fucking well know, there are innocent women and children among the enemy.

Don't get me wrong, this isn't an easy black and white issue either. You don't agree with the war and you don't want to go, if you are court martialed and get jail time, the military does not screw around. How does five years in Fort Leavenworth grab you? A year in Iraq trying to keep your head down and come out of it free and decorated doesn't sound so bad by comparison.

The stories of this war, like every war, will be decades in coming out. It will be revealed that many more than has been reported refused to go. Many, after a time in country, used enough drugs, acted insane enough, or just flat out wounded themselves to get out of the madness.

They too are honorable. They too have courage.

The words spoken for and against our troops reach me in a deep place that I thought I had come to terms with a long time ago. Some of the finest human beings you will ever find are serving in the U.S. military. Some of the sorriest, miserable, sociopaths are there too.

All of them, every one, is responsible for the carnage in Iraq by their participation or their silence.

I only hope that more have the courage and honor to be "cowardly" and "dishonorable".


Anonymous Nemo said...

Robert: Well said! And it now looks like those few *reported* incidents of late ARE just the tip of the iceberg, as B previously suggested. Seems the indiscriminate slaughter of civilians has become "just everyday life in Iraq" at this point: Iraqi Assails US for Strikes on Civilians ==== Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki lashed out at the American military on Thursday, denouncing what he characterized as habitual attacks by troops against Iraqi civilians. ==== As outrage over reports that American marines killed 24 Iraqis in the town of Haditha last year continued to shake the new government, the country's senior leaders said that they would demand that American officials turn over their investigative files on the killings and that the Iraqi government would conduct its own inquiry. ==== In his comments, Mr. Maliki said violence against civilians had become a "daily phenomenon" by many troops in the American-led coalition who "do not respect the Iraqi people." ==== "They crush them with their vehicles and kill them just on suspicion," he said. "This is completely unacceptable." ...

Sat Jun 03, 01:20:00 AM  
Anonymous Nemo said...

So exquisitely superb, I thought it *definitely* bore repeating: "... Some of the finest human beings you will ever find are serving in the U.S. military. Some of the sorriest, miserable, sociopaths are there too. All of them, every one, is responsible for the carnage in Iraq by their participation or their silence. I only hope that more have the courage and honor to be "cowardly" and "dishonorable". ==== And touching on something you'd written previously, I absolutely believe it requires courage to pick up a gun and fight (and perhaps die) for what one considers a truly just cause. But it takes even MORE courage to put it down when the "cause" is revealed as a lie and reject the relentless pressure of the "conventional wisdom" that often persists unabated in one's comrades. THAT is perhaps the *ultimate* test of one's mettle -- "IF you can keep your head when all about you Are losing theirs and blaming it on you ..." [Kipling]

Sat Jun 03, 02:04:00 AM  
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