Monday, August 08, 2005

A rejoinder to "Enough dead"

Mike Linksvayer takes me to task for what he seems to regard as a somewhat single-minded focus on US casualties in Iraq (versus other good and sound reasons to not want US forces there, including but not limited to the Iraqi dead).

There's a degree to which I'm inclined to say "fair cop," admit that I find the US casualties to be the logical focal point of opposition to the war, and move on, but I'm also a contrarian and this is an interesting issue, so let's take it on.

- Is an American life "worth more" than an Iraqi life? No, it isn't, at least per se. As a matter of fact, the life of any innocent caught in the crossfire between two opposing forces, neither of which holds that innocent's life or liberty as a priority, is worth more than the life of one who has knowingly agreed to help create that crossfire. I'm thinking of innocents like little Ali Abbas, who lost his family, and his arms, in a US bombing raid on Baghdad. His case got particular attention and he received top-notch treatment, but the fact remains that he neither sought this war nor sought to participate in it, and the fact remains that he is an orphan due to it. We're fooling ourselves if we think that his case is unique. As a Marine, I was taught that people like Ali were the ones we were fighting for, and that military expediency was not an excuse for doing them harm.

- Is an American life more important than an Iraqi life within the context of seeking to rouse Americans to opposition and activism against the continuation of the war? You're damn right it is. Most Americans don't know any Iraqis. Most American parents aren't sending Iraqi children off to boot camp and hoping that they come out the other end of the process that begins with boot camp alive and one piece. Those American parents -- and brothers and sisters and friends -- are sending American children to the sound of the guns, and it is the cost in American lives, versus any perceived benefit to their loss, which will primarily shape their opinions of war. Don't have to like it, but that's the way it is: The life of Bob down the street who used to deliver the newspaper is simply going to be more important to the lady in his neighborhood than the life of Abdullah, who lives in a place she's never seen, speaks a language she doesn't speak and lives a life she'll never understand.

So, yeah, I pay more attention to American deaths, because my goal is to influence the opinions of Americans. Americans are the ones who can bring this debacle to an end. In case you haven't noticed, neither the US government nor the American people particularly give a rat's ass what Iraqis, alive or dead, think or want. Once again, don't have to like it, but that's the way it is. If the war is going to be ended, it's going to be ended by getting Americans to demand an end to it.

When putting together the daily edition of Rational Review News Digest, my editorial policy is to make the latest report of casualties in Iraq -- US or non-US casualties -- the top story. The good days come when I can't find any to report (although there probably were some which simply went unreported). Our editorial policy isn't a simple "if it bleeds it leads" policy. Our goal is to keep the human cost of the war at the front of our (primarily American and European) readers' minds.

Now, to the comment which was probably intended to chap my ass. Quoth Mike:

Those who joined the military volunteered to be slaves and volunteered to be murderers. Sure, many of them just wanted to pay for college, but most gangsters are primarily in it for the money too. Fuck the U.S. troops.

I know of no one who volunteers to be a "slave" when joining the US military. Doing so entails a time-delimited contractual obligation, not involuntary servitude (the contract even includes the specific provisions under which one's enlistment may be "involuntarily" extended).

Furthermore, not only do enlistees not volunteer to be murderers, but their oath of enlistment is very specific in that it binds them to "defend and protect the Constitution of the United States," not to randomly or non-randomly kill individuals without legitimate cause to do so.

Are those troops often misused contrary to the provisions of their oaths? Sure they are, and this war is a case in point.; but it's a far cry from that argument to the argument that they intended to be so mis-used, or even that they understand that they're being misused. And, if they realize they are being misused, it takes some big-time guts to stand up and say "no, this isn't in my contract, no that order is not lawful, and no, I'm not going to obey it." I do acknowledge that there's a point there where a transition into a state of slavery might be reasonably hypothesized ... but it certainly was not sought by the kid when he put his feet on the yellow footprints, raised his right hand and took the oath.

There is a difference between error and evil, there is a difference between naive acceptance and knowing, whole-hearted adoption, and there is a difference between what people think they're signing on for and what they're actually sent off to do. We are talking, for the most part, about enlistees who just got out of high school. When real crimes are committed, of course, the penalties for those crimes must be paid ... but let's not go assuming that every US soldier, sailor, airman and Marine is just Charles Manson drawing a government paycheck. They're kids, for the love of God -- and if you think having the courage of your convictions to "just say no" to the IRS is something, try "just saying no" when you're surrounded by people with guns on both sides of the issue, and when those guns may potentially all be pointed at you. Hell, it's a miracle that any of these kids are able to form the proper convictions, let alone muster the courage to stand tall, raise the bullshit flag and refuse to be part of the slaughter. That's why wars happen and why they go on ... because the gutsiness it takes to opt out at Forward Edge of the Battle Area is exceedingly rare.

So no, Mike, not "fuck the US troops." Fuck the system that abuses their loyalty. Fuck the cowards who are always all too willing to send someone else to do the killing they're too good to do for themselves. But don't fuck the kids who are dribbling their blood into the sand because they were naive enough to believe that their country would not ask them to do evil things. They're victims in this thing as much anyone else. You can't put someone in an insane situation and then expect sane conduct. It doesn't work that way.

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