“Murder decorated with a ribbon is still murder.” ~ Emmanuel Charles McCarthy
In my previous article (“Hero or Murderer?“) I said that a soldier from a country thousands of miles away who travels to the United States and kills Americans is a murderer. But I also said that American soldiers who do the same thing are not heroes but murderers. I said that foreign soldiers should not be excused no matter who told them to go or why they went. But I also said that American soldiers should not be excused either.
Aside from a few comments that said I was “filled with hate” or “a totally f**ked up anti-American,” I received a few sincere inquiries about my statement that we shouldn’t excuse foreign soldiers because they were drafted.
So, what if a soldier is drafted? Should we hold draftees to the same standard as those who voluntarily enlist? Are conscripts not accountable or less accountable than those who sent them to war? Can we hold soldiers responsible for actions done under fear of punishment, imprisonment, or death? A few brief thoughts.
First of all, when people raise the issue of soldiers being drafted, it is usually in the context of excusing American soldiers from killing in unjust wars. Conscripted foreign fighters are rarely accorded the same consideration. And no wonder, for no one wants to be seen as excusing Nazi atrocities. But murder is still murder. If it is murder when foreign soldiers do it, then it is murder when American soldiers do it.
Second, the draft ended in the United States in 1973. Since murder is still murder, hypothetical questions about the draft are irrelevant when U.S. troops have been fighting in Afghanistan longer than they fought in World War II. The chances of the draft being reinstituted are next to nothing, despite the efforts of Rep. Charles Rangel, who wants to not only reinstate the draft, but include women in it as well. And besides, no draft is needed. All the branches of the armed forces have met their enlistment quotas for several years now. There is no shortage of Americans willing to invade, occupy, and kill for the state should they be told to do so once in the military.
Third, I certainly agree with those who say we should blame the president, the politicians, the ruling class, the neoconservatives, the Joint Chiefs, the military brass, the defense contractors, and the Congress for sending U.S. soldiers to fight unjust foreign wars, as if a foreign war could be just. But draft or no draft, I have nothing but contempt for the architects of U.S. foreign wars, the presidents who instigate or continue these wars, the neocons who welcome these wars, the liberals who defend these wars (when a Democratic president is conducting them), the conservatives who defend these wars (when a Republican president is conducting them), the military officers who use these wars to advance their careers while not actually doing any fighting themselves, the Congressmen who vote to fund these wars, the defense contractors who profit from these wars, and the Christians who pray for the troops in these wars. They are all moral monsters, and are accomplices to murder. But that doesn’t change that fact that since murder is still murder, soldiers who do the actual killing are still murderers.
Fourth, if your family were on the receiving end of foreign troops bombing, shooting, maiming, and killing, would it matter to you if they were drafted? Does it make the death of your family less horrible? Would it be comforting to know that the killers of your family were drafted? I don’t think so. Murder is still murder. The question, then, is why are Americans so quick to excuse U.S. soldiers should they be drafted? How do you think foreigners feel that lose family members because of U.S. bombs and bullets?
Fifth, if the U.S. government drafted someone into the military, told him to kill your father, and he did it, would you feel sorry for him because he was drafted? Would you try to find excuses for his actions? Again, I don’t think so. Murder is still murder. And again, why are Americans so quick to excuse U.S. soldiers should they travel overseas to kill someone else’s father just because they were drafted?
Sixth, consider the following scenarios? What would your response be if representatives of the U.S. government, members of the Bloods or the Crips, a policeman, or just some individual puts a gun in your hand and tells you to kill a member of your family? I can’t imagine anyone who would do it. But what if one of the same groups or individuals puts a gun in your hand and tells you to kill some other American that you didn’t know? I still have a hard time imagining anyone actually doing it. But what if in each instance you had a gun to your head and were told to kill or be killed? I would like to think that most everyone would take a bullet to the head rather than kill a member of his own family. I’m not so sure, however, what would happen in the latter case. But since murder is still murder, the proper moral response would be to do what was right and suffer the consequences; that is, to take the bullet. Now, I said all that to say this. What would the proper moral response be if someone were to be drafted, given a uniform, handed a gun, sent to fight in an unjust conflict, and put in a situation where he must kill or be killed? I say to take the bullet. But really, it doesn’t have to go this far. The draft can be opposed. The uniform can be torn up. The gun can be thrown away. The trip overseas can be refused. But if all of this resistance comes to naught, then the proper moral response is, again, to take the bullet. Does wearing a uniform, traveling to another country, killing someone you don’t know, or committing murder because you are threatened with death make murder not murder?
And seventh, if murder is still murder and fighting in an unjust war is criminal, then soldiers who participate in it are war criminals and murderers. The real military heroes are those who refuse to kill for the state in immoral, unjust wars, not those who become decorated war heroes. As Emmanuel Charles McCarthy has also said: “There is no such thing as heroism in the execution of evil.”
Murder is still murder.