The Forgotten Man is a book by Amity Shlaes. It discusses the economics of the Great Depression and points out the consequences of government intervention and how it affected so many individual lives. The Forgotten Man is also an essay written by William Graham Sumner that describes the individual or individuals who are often forgotten about in government acts.
This article will discuss the forgotten man as it applies to foreigners that suffer from war and occupation by other countries, in this case, the United States.
In the United States, we are exposed to media coverage of war that will talk about who is winning, what the strategy should be, how many troops should be involved, and a whole host of other details. We may also hear about the number of U.S. soldiers that have died and also of the wounded.
But there is something we don’t often hear about and if we do, it is a brief mention of a number from one incident. That is the people who live in the countries that are being destroyed and occupied by the U.S. government. The government does not keep track of the number of foreigners that die in attacks in Iraq. There are some estimates that put the number of dead Iraqis at over one million.
It seems that every man, woman, and child living in war-torn countries are forgotten. And yet, this is the most outrageous thing about war and occupation.
There are a lot of reasons to be against war. It costs a lot of money that could be better spent. It infringes on our civil liberties here at home. It causes others to hate us and ultimately may cause blowback at home. We also hear of the dead and wounded U.S. soldiers, as well as soldiers from other countries. It also causes a great burden on many families that have to worry about their spouse, their parent, their child, their relative, or their friend while he or she is deployed. And that is hoping that they will also not be mentally disturbed if they return physically unharmed.
But the biggest reason to be against war and occupation is a moral one. It involves the forgotten man. While every death of a U.S. soldier is tragic, these soldiers had to voluntarily enlist at some point and they also could have defied orders and not participated in war. They would end their career in the military and they would probably end up in jail, but at least there is a choice there, even if it is a bad one.
The foreigner who has their country invaded and blown to pieces has fewer choices. They were sitting there innocently and had done absolutely no harm to anyone. If they are lucky enough to survive, they see their families get wrecked, their houses destroyed, their businesses destroyed, and their whole life turned upside down.
One might say, in the case of Afghanistan, that we were attacked. But the innocent people that are dying there had nothing to do with September 11, 2001. It is not their fault. And if they are to be held accountable for what others do in their country, then how can anyone criticize the terrorists that committed the horrific acts of September 11, 2001? Were they not holding innocent people responsible for the crimes of their government?
If there is a crime committed in a town and the criminal runs to the other side of town to escape, does anyone ever advocate dropping bombs on the other side of town? If the criminal runs into an apartment complex, should the police start firing their guns into the building, hoping to kill the criminal?
If Person A kills Person B, it does not give anyone the moral authority to kill Person C just because Person A happened to be in the area. What the government refers to as collateral damage is really murder.
Every single man, woman, and child that lives in these war-torn countries has a story. Just as every U.S. soldier has a story, so do the unseen faces on the other side of the world. Why do so many people in the U.S. ignore this? If they saw the horrors of war up close, they might think differently. If they saw a child who lost a parent, or a young baby that lost an arm, perhaps many would no longer ignore these unseen faces.
The reason that so many soldiers go through post-traumatic stress disorder is because they are genuinely good people who are asked to do bad things. They have been told by society and by their government to do something that conflicts with their own morality. If they don’t follow orders, they are seen as a traitor and a disgrace by their friends, their families, and by the media. If they do follow orders, they are forced to commit horrible acts that they never would have thought possible. Imagine if you felt responsible for purposely killing another innocent human being. Most people would be disturbed to say the least.
It is time for the American people and people all around the world to recognize that when the U.S. goes to war, it kills people and wrecks people’s lives. As a society, we need to stop looking down on people that are called "deserters." Instead, we need to treat them as courageous. These are people that choose not to hurt others and instead choose peace. Even though it ends their career in the military, sends them to jail, and subjects them to ridicule, they still have the courage to do what is right and moral in their heart.
If we start praising and respecting those that do not blindly follow orders, then we will see more soldiers resisting orders and wars will come to an end.
Remember, every individual has a story. Perhaps they don’t look like you. Perhaps their lifestyle is different than yours. Perhaps they wear different looking clothes. But these are innocent human beings that feel pain. We should not forget them.