Let me say it right up front: yes, soldiers are culpable.
I have maintained for years now the following propositions:
- Governments don’t kill, people do.
- You can’t have a war without soldiers.
- The state needs willing servants to do its dirty work.
- Only the troops can stop the drive to war.
- Killing in an unjust war is murder.
- Soldiers should be blamed for the death and destruction they mete out.
- Soldiers are responsible for the death and destruction they bring.
- The real heroes are those who refuse to fight.
King James, His Bible,... Best Price: $14.36 Buy New $19.95 (as of 07:50 EDT - Details) Yet, many Americans go to great lengths to excuse and defend the actions of soldiers. Not all soldiers, of course. Just U.S. soldiers. I am continually told that the bombing, maiming, and killing that U.S. soldiers perpetrate around the world is all the fault of the politicians, the government, the state, the military, defense contractors, the military-industrial complex, Zionists, the commander in chief, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Secretary of Defense, the generals, the policy makers, the Pentagon, and/or the State Department—anyone and anything and everyone and everything but the soldiers who actually do the fighting. Oh sure, some Americans say, soldiers share some responsibility for the actions of the U.S. military. They are not robots. But they are just following orders.
I recently rediscovered an unusual attempt to justify U.S. soldiers that I received a few years ago. A inquisitor set me up by asking me a question about abortion:
In your mind, who is more culpable in an abortion, the woman or the abortionist? Who is the murderer?
I would say in most cases equally. In the case of a father making a young daughter have an abortion, the father and the doctor mostly.
I said “in most cases equally” because no doubt in some cases a young woman has been deceived by Planned Parenthood (an organization that Republicans continue to send tax dollars to) into thinking that her baby is just a fetus, can’t feel pain, is just a blob of tissue, etc. I said “the father and the doctor mostly” in the case of a father making a young daughter have an abortion because the girl obviously (unless she was raped) didn’t get pregnant without having consensual sex with someone.
My inquisitor then shifted the subject to soldiers:
The abortionist is the hired hand. No doubt he’s a killer. But it is the individual who is pushing the abortion who has the greater culpability. So if the mother is wanting the unborn child killed, she’s a murderer and has greater culpability. Same goes for the father of the woman that pushes his daughter into an abortion against her wishes. I think in like manner, the politicians that drive the military into war have far greater culpability than do the soldiers. War, Christianity, and... Best Price: $4.98 Buy New $9.95 (as of 06:00 EDT - Details)
My inquisitor let slip his bias toward soldiers. Even though he says “in like manner,” note that the woman who wants an abortion has “greater culpability” than the doctor who performs it, but the politicians who want war have “far greater culpability” than the soldiers who wage it.
Not at all. I have written about the responsibilities of soldiers many times and will many times in the future. The analogy won’t work. The mother is doing more than just paying the doctor to kill for her, she is actively participating by opening her legs. It is the soldiers who do the killing in Afghanistan and have done the killing everywhere else, without any help from politicians. But as you say, the abortionist (and therefore the soldier) is a killer. So the fact that someone might have greater culpability is irrelevant.
But why does the woman who wants an abortion have “greater culpability” than the abortionist? Because the inquisitor says so? And why do the politicians who want war have “far greater culpability” soldiers? Because the inquisitor says so?
I have already explained how my inquisitor’s analogy won’t work. Now let me add to it. Since the woman who wants an abortion had sex, got pregnant, made a decision to abort her baby, found an abortion provider, traveled to an abortion clinic, filled out the necessary paperwork, took her clothes off, and opened her legs she actively participates in the abortion. Politicians do not actively participate in war. They try to stay as far as possible from it. They prefer to send young men to do their dirty work.
But just forget about the government, politicians, the military, and soldiers for just a moment. Does someone who tells, asks, or supports someone else who commits an evil deed have “far greater culpability” or “greater culpability” than the one who commits an evil deed? Does he have any culpability?
War, Empire, and the M... Best Price: $5.94 Buy New $9.79 (as of 06:20 EDT - Details) If I tell you to go and kill someone and you do it, do I have far greater culpability than you?
If I ask you to go and kill someone and you do it, do I have greater culpability than you?
If I support you going and killing someone and you do it, do I have any culpability?
Logic and common sense seem to go out the window when soldiers are involved. Do “the politicians that drive the military into war have far greater culpability than do the soldiers”? Of course they don’t. Are they without fault or blame? Of course not. Are they evil? Certainly. Are they cowards? Without doubt. But do they actually bomb, maim, and kill anyone? No, but soldiers do. Do they make widows and orphans? No, but soldiers do. Do they invade and occupy countries? No, but soldiers do.
Soldiers are culpable. Wearing a uniform doesn’t change anything. Even a uniform of the U.S. armed forces.