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  • Saturday, December 11, 2004


    Support Our Troops?

    I feel torn about the individual soldier in the US military. On one hand, I believe the real problem is with the policies of the US government, a juggernaut of the world using military force with impugnity and disregarding its effects on other nations. In that regard, the ordinary soldier, often with limited options outside of military service, is not responsible for the larger orders that come down to him/her as part of the military.

    On the other hand, I feel that every person is personally responsible for their actions. A chain of command is not a substitute for personal ethics and morals. It's argued that a military cannot be composed of individuals acting independently, that it needs the cohesive structure and strict obedience to command to operate efficiently and decisively. In war, there is often no time for discussion at the lower levels.

    Yet I return to the my fundamental belief in personal responsibility. The basic nature of the military is to break down an individual's moral sense, the sense of right and wrong, and rebuild that sense oriented to the chain of command. No, I'm not saying that soldiers have no moral sense or that they are mindless automatons. But they are required to act in accord with their orders. Refusal of an order is not an option. The will at the top of the hierarchy becomes the will at the bottom.

    I find the phrase "Support Our Troops" both nauseating and an affirmation of the blamelessness of the individual soldier. They are not to blame for the broader orders from the top of the chain of command. Yet I hold every one of those soldiers responsible. In my reasoning, the actions of the soldier are the direct result of orders. These soldiers have put themselves, voluntarily, in the direct path of achieving results and goals based on those orders. They have become the hands of the machinery of war through their own choice. I don't hate them (generally) but I also don't want to "support" them in any sense of the word. Maybe I just think too much.

    Gee, I hope this isn't considered seditious or treasonous. And that's the irony in our great land of the individual. Advocating ultimate individual responsibility might be seen as being bad for morale or giving comfort to our enemies. Individualism is great. Except when it would be detrimental to our military goals. Or to corporations. Or to a representative form of government.

    Another perspective from Jim Hightower. For information on Pablo Paredes, a naval petty officer, third class, who has refused to be deployed to Iraq, go to Citizens for Pablo, and Democracy Now!. He has obviously done some thinking on these same lines.

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