Every normal man must be tempted, at times, to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin slitting throats. –H.L. Mencken
I’ve been accused of being too harsh in some of my posts, specifically related to criticism of the military. One instance cited was my treatment of Lu Lobello, regarding his killing of innocent people in Iraq. By the way, I have yet to receive an answer from Mr. Lobello in response to the questions I posed to him.
I’d like to address my critics with a few thoughts.
Let me start with this question.
Why is is that people always cite Hitler, Stalin, or Mao, when referring to the atrocities of the 20th century? Conveniently absent from the list are any American tyrants like Hoover, FDR, Truman, and virtually every other American president, but that’s a different post.
Why is Hitler solely to blame? Don’t get me wrong, Hitler was a maniac and a psychopath, but why do people place all the blame on his shoulders? Sure, we hear a bit about Goebbels, Goering, and Himmler, but few others.
I doubt many people could name even one of Stalin’s or Mao’s underlings.
Did Hitler execute the “Night of the Long Knives” with his own two hands? Did he build the death camps and round up the Jews, Gypsies, and “incurables” himself? Did Stalin cause the death of millions of Ukrainians in the “Terror Famine” by himself? Did Mao pull the trigger himself for each of the millions executed under his direction?
We know the answer to those questions is a resounding “No!”.
Did the men below him have to obey his orders? Of course not. They could have chosen to do the right thing instead of following him. I daresay you’ll have a hard time finding someone willing to defend any of the Nazis, and to this day they are still being hunted down and prosecuted, even to the lowliest private.
So why the focus on the one person at the top of the chain of command while ignoring the legions of those underneath actually carrying out the orders?
This is why I am so harsh on soldiers who participate in war, and specifically these preemptive wars of aggression: they are equally if not more culpable than those who gave the orders.
There are two more points to be made on this.
First, the wars are illegal.
The US Constitution holds no value for restraining the state, but it is a useful tool for pointing out that the government doesn’t follow its own rules, even the ones it specifically swears to uphold. Everyone who joins the military swears the following oath:
I, [name], do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.
That last sentence is optional by the way.
There are no wars currently being waged (and few in the history of the country) that were declared by Congress in accordance with the Constitution. Therefore, every soldier participating is violating their oath to “support and defend the Constitution” by participating in said wars. Notice the oath says foreign and domestic.
This needs to be pointed out constantly. The government and its pawns need to be beaten over the head by their failure to adhere to their own laws whenever and wherever it happens.
The second, and more important reason for denouncing soldiers is that the wars are immoral. Even a constitutionally declared war is not sufficient license to remove guilt from those who commit atrocities.
We’re always told to separate the military from the mission they’re given. We are told that we may disagree, but need to “support the troops” anyway. Why should we do that? Why should we disregard a person’s actions, especially when they involved maiming and killing other human beings, simply because they were given an order to do it?
There are not two moralities, one for the government and its employees, and one for everyone else. Murder is murder regardless of who does it.
Some may argue that in times when the federal government has kidnapped, i.e. drafted, people into the military to fight its wars, that those people had no choice but to go and kill others. This is false. They had a choice between obeying and disobeying.
Would it have been an easy choice? Of course not. It would most likely have meant prison or worse. But a difficult choice does not abrogate one’s obligation to make the right decision.
Those who entered today’s military voluntarily are faced with the same difficult choice, but have even less of an excuse for their actions. No soldier today just happens to find himself in a foreign country being told to shoot people on sight. Again, circumstances do not alter morality.
Men like Hitler are only made possible by the consent of those who obey him and execute his evil commands. They all deserve condemnation.
As Etienne De La Boetie said in The Politics of Obedience:
Resolve to serve no more, and you are at once freed. I do not ask that you place hands upon the tyrant to topple him over, but simply that you support him no longer; then you will behold him, like a great Colossus whose pedestal has been pulled away, fall of his own weight and break into pieces.
Soldiers, denounce your evil masters and walk away.