Governments Don’t Kill, People Do

“When men hire themselves out to shoot other men to order, asking nothing about the justice of their cause, I don’t care if they are shot themselves.” ~ Herbert Spencer

Stalin and his government never starved a single Ukrainian. Hitler and his government never gassed a single Jew. Mao and his government never beat to death a single Chinese peasant. And even though the senseless, immoral, unnecessary, and unjust invasion and occupation of Iraq resulted in a pile of a million dead bodies, the U.S. president and his government never killed anyone.

The U.S. government didn’t kill any Iraqis during the War in Iraq.

The U.S. government didn’t kill any Afghans during the War in Afghanistan.

The U.S. government didn’t kill any Vietnamese during the Vietnam War.

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The U.S. government didn’t kill any Cambodians during the carpet bombing of Cambodia.

The U.S. government didn’t kill any Japanese during the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The U.S. government didn’t kill any Filipinos during the Philippine Insurrection.

The U.S. government didn’t kill any Haitians during the occupation of Haiti.

The U.S. government didn’t kill any Germans during the firebombing of Dresden.

The U.S. government didn’t kill any detainees at Guantanamo.

The U.S. government didn’t kill any Cubans during the occupation of Cuba.

The U.S. government didn’t kill any enemy combatants at black sites.

The U.S. government didn’t kill any Pakistanis or Yeminis with drone strikes.

The U.S. government didn’t kill any Spaniards during the Spanish-American War.

The U.S. government didn’t kill any Panamanians during the invasion of Panama.

The U.S. government didn’t kill any Laotians during the carpet bombing of Laos.

The U.S. government didn’t kill any Puerto Ricans during the occupation of Puerto Rico.

The U.S. government didn’t kill any Grenadians during the invasion of Grenada.

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The U.S. government didn’t kill anyone in any country, but Americans did. You see, governments don’t kill, people do. In this case, people as in U.S. soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines.

So, why do I mention this again, again, again, again, again, and again.

Because, according to some of the e-mail I still receive, some people still just don’t get it, and some of them identify as being libertarians.

My criticism of U.S. troops for serving as the president’s personal attack force and the government’s willing executioners strikes a nerve with some readers. My “venom” and “invective” and “hatred” toward U.S. soldiers is misdirected, they say. The troops shouldn’t be criticized for killing and maiming Iraqis and Afghans. Just like they shouldn’t be criticized for making widows and orphans. Just like they shouldn’t be criticized for invading and occupying Iraq and Afghanistan. Just like they shouldn’t be criticized for destroying infrastructure and unleashing social unrest. Just like they shouldn’t be criticized for making Iraqis and Afghans homeless and refugees.

Only a small number of “bad apples” should be criticized for “isolated incidents” like getting caught urinating on dead enemy soldiers, cutting off body parts of dead terrorists as trophies, raping young girls, or deliberately killing civilians.

The fault, you see, lies with Bush, Cheney, Obama, the president, the commander in chief, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of the Army, the Secretary of the Navy, the Commandant of the Marine Corps, the Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps, the Secretary of the Air Force, the Congress, the politicians, the political leaders, the Pentagon, the Generals, the Secretary of State, the State Department, the defense contractors, the Unified Combatant Commands, the NSC, the NSA, the DIA, and the CIA.

That is, it is the fault of anyone and everyone but the troops who did the actual killing, maiming, invading, occupying, and destroying. Don’t blame the troops, we are told, they were just following orders. They did their job valiantly and heroically. Laud them. Thank them for their service. Award them medals. Applaud them on airplanes. Cheer them at sporting events. Give them military discounts. War, Christianity, and... Laurence M. Vance Best Price: $4.52 Buy New $9.95 (as of 05:20 EST - Details)

But aren’t the above people and organizations culpable in some way? Certainly they are. No one is disputing that. But you can’t say that the fault is all theirs or mainly theirs or mostly theirs since they didn’t actually kill anyone.

Why doesn’t anyone accept this “following orders” excuse for Americans who join the Mafia or a street gang? Why doesn’t anyone say that the evil deeds done by members of the Mafia and street gangs are not their fault? Why doesn’t anyone say that it is all the fault of the leaders of the nefarious organizations that these Americans have sworn allegiance to?

Is it the nice clean and pressed uniforms that U.S. troops wear? Is it the shiny medals on their chest? Is it the colorful patches on their shoulders? Is it the pretty stripes, bars, and service ribbons on their uniforms? Is it the polished boots on their feet? It is the nifty hats they wear? Sounds ridiculous I know, but then again there is the powerful cult of the uniform.

But, Mr. Vance, you are the one being ridiculous. The U.S. military is not like the Mafia or a street gang. You are right. It is far worse. The U.S. military has killed, maimed, displaced, made widows of, and made orphans of many millions more people than the Mafia and every street gang in history ever dreamed of.

The U.S. military is neither a benign nor a benevolent institution. The U.S. military is a maiming and killing institution. The U.S. military is an invading and occupying institution. The U.S. military is a bombing and destroying institution. The U.S. military is a widow- and orphan- making institution. The U.S. military is a meddling and intervening institution. And the U.S. military is a life-destroying institution. Just ask thousands of veterans who are suicidal, addicted to drugs and/or alcohol, divorced, homeless, missing limbs, and/or suffer from PTSD, panic attacks, nightmares, flashbacks, or traumatic brain injuries.

Members of the U.S. military do the dirty work of the U.S. government. They should not be thanked. They should not be praised. They should not be honored. They might be pitied, sympathized with, forgiven, and helped, but they should, above all, be told the truth about the evils of the U.S. government, its military, and its foreign policy.

Any American with access to an Internet connection on his phone, tablet, laptop, or desktop and five minutes could quickly and easily find plenty of things to question about the U.S. military. Ignorance is no longer an excuse. And neither is patriotism. The only way that American soldiers can keep from being responsible for killing is to stay out of the military.