Wednesday, September 29, 2004

COURAGE?

Thomas McCullock sent me an interesting link today. A web site that lists information regarding a number of American service personnel who are or have resisted service in Bush's insane crusade. The site is worth checking out.

The page is titled U.S. War Heroes of the Iraq War. This is a page on a very interesting site, Tom Joad. Toms’ idea of how the concept of courage relates to this war, are very clear.

Every War has its heroes, those who take risks to protect the values we cherish; this war is no different.

We honor those soldiers who risked loss of liberty, economic deprivation, and social ostracism. Each of these men and women of the military have at some point refused to participate in (or at least aspects of) the immoral, illegal, unjustified war the United States is currently waging in Iraq. They obeyed their conscience over illegal orders.”

We agree that courage is not defined as the willingness to do violence whenever called upon to do so. It is often easier to obey an unlawful or immoral order than to refuse.

I spent some time reading the stories on the page and I am moved by what I saw. I compare these people, their words, their actions to the people who are creating this war. I compare their witness, those who have been on the ground and in the place, to the mouthings of our present leaders and their media outlets. It is obvious to me that these young Americans represent what was best in what once was called the American ideal.

These people joined up to serve and protect America, their homes, their families, their citizens. They did not sign up to kill civilians as imperial storm troopers. These are, in my book, real Americans: the kind that formed that ragged force that stood down the Imperial British Army, in their quest for independence.

And herein lies the greatest chink in this new Corporate Americas’ armor. Americans. Americans, in general, are not as war hungry as their current President. I will go so far as to say that a large percent of his military is not nearly as hungry for war as Mister Bush and his administration.

It has become clear to all, that there must be a return to the draft if the US continues to pursue its present course. There is no way around that. The administration is preparing to reintroduce the draft. Yet there has been no mention of it during the campaign. Once again Bush campaigns with his real intentions well concealed.

When the draft is reintroduced and the war is truly 'brought home' the current hegemony of the populist right will inevitably begin to fray. Presently, many see supporting the war as support for the Troops. That perception is already beginning to waver. The ripples are small but so the tide is raised.

The good news is that this awakening, this refusal to blindly serve authority, has already progressed further, in the Iraq war, than it had at this 18-month mark, in Vietnam. Take that, you who would dare compare Iraq to WWII.

Bush and his war cabinet are counting on the moral submissiveness of Americans. They do not believe that American youth, their families, and communities will have the moral courage to resist their power.

These young men and women will be called cowards by men who, themselves, never served and never would have served in such a venture. I think there is a lesson in that.

So what do we mean by courage? And who dares be so quick with this word coward?

3 Comments:

At 4:11 PM, Blogger Randall S. Andrews said...

Thomas,

I have been formulating this post for several days, while following your posts, and since this post to your blog addresses some of these issues directly, I will comment.

First of all, my Weltanschauung. When I was younger, I was an adventurist. Where others had strong opinions about the Vietnam conflict, one way or the other, I held no such convictions. I submitted to the draft, did my training, and was ready to go to Vietnam. A week before I was to ship out, my orders were cancelled. I spent the rest of my time in Colorado. I later served briefly in the US Air Force, but that is another story.

Then, and all these long years since, I have never felt animosity towards others of my generation, whether they decided to go or to stay and oppose the war. I knew other young men whose choices in life were far from the war, but they, too, had to decide and take responsibility for their choices. At the same time young women were being faced with new possibilities, and had to choose between those new possibilities or a more traditional role. My only standard for judging anyone has been if they were willing to actually make a choice as to how they were going to live their respective lives, and then were will to take responsibility for that choice.

The only people for whom I don't hold respect are those who were unwilling to take responsibility for their choices. Two cases in point.

George W. Bush claims to have been for the war, but was unwilling to fight it. Instead, he used family connections to get a cushy job, and then he couldn't even stand up and actually do that job, but went skittering off to Alabama to party, and then to Harvard Business School, where, again, he was admitted due to family connections, even though he was still under obligation to the government, and should have been sent to Vietnam for failing to meet his contractual obligations.

The second case is Dick Cheney. He claims that he had "other priorities". During the sixties, most people had priorities other than to fight a war or to fight against it. The young Wyoming man who was called to serve in Cheney's stead probably had other priorities. During the Republican Convention Lynne Cheney regaled the coventioneers with how unconventional her husband was (not doing the dance the others were doing, no cruising the strip like the others), the point being that this man was a "rugged individualist" who followed his own star. While the crowd ate this up, my reaction was revulsion. My mind kept adding, "He didn't fulfill his responsibility to community and country like the others did." He went off and grabbed what he could while the grabbing was good.

Now, hypocritically, Bush and Cheney expect today's young people to fulfill their obligations to community and country by going off to fight in an adventurist oil war. But, being oilmen, neither Bush nor Cheney will admit that, instead claiming that the war is about bringing democracy to the Middle East, WMD, ridding the world of a terrible dictator, or stabilizing the region (In fact, just the opposite has occured. In Pakistan, there is a growing Islamic Fundamentalist rebellion against the military dictatorship with car bombs and assassination attempts daily. If the government of Pakistan, a nuclear power should fall to the fundamentalists, we are all in big trouble.) It would seem that the world is not a safer place without Saddam.

This all seems to fit into a greater Republican attitude toward traditional values. I was raised in a conservative Republican household in Kansas, and I still believe in many of those values--honor, duty, responsibility, honesty, integrity, etc. But in fact Republican leadership only believes in these values for others. For the suckers. Those who can be exploited for their votes and their loyalty. Clearly they are not the personal values of Bush, Cheney, et al.

While I did not have a strong opinion about the Vietnam conflict, I have very definite opinions about this conflict. It is illegal, immoral and impractical.

Having said all that I would like to address a couple points in your last few posts.

I strongly believe in the draft and citizen soldiers. During Vietnam, it was citizen soldier draftees who brought incidents like My Lai to light. While the atrocity had been covered up for over a year by professional soldiers (including a lieutenant named Colin Powell), it was continuing scuttlebutt among draftees that led reporters to the cover-up and the eventual scandal. I have faith in the people to retain their decency even in the most stressful of times, something that professional soldiers are not wont to do.

I also believe that in the long run, a citizen army is stronger than a professional army. If the people actually believe in the goals of a war there is nothing that can stop them. They are fighting with the strength of their hearts, with the build in safeguard of not wanting to fight when their hearts are not into it. While we need to keep a framework of a military staffed by professionals, professionals do not have these valuable qualities.

The draft also causes dissension. It makes the people active in the political discussion. Had it not been for dissenters, Vietnam might still be going on today. It was only massive resistance which caused Nixon to abandon the war (even though while campaigning he claimed to have a "secret plan" to end the war, it was only when daily life in this country was disrupted that he extricated us from Vietnam.)

I would make two changes to the traditional draft. It would be universal and it would be for national service, not just military service.

Universal: Although there would still be some conscientious objectors, people who believe that nations and governments are artificial and have no authority to demand service, everyone else would be mainstreamed. There would be no exclusions for women, gays or differently-abled people.

Not just military service: Everyone could perform some type of service--military, conservation, health care, beautification, etc. They would be trained and learn good work habits, benefiting both themselves and the national economy.

The other point I would like to address is the courage of the present war resisters. These are people who have the guts to stand up to the military. While the military itself acknowledges that it is illegal to follow an illegal order, it has no trouble persecuting those who so refuse. In military thinking there is no such thing as an illegal order for "our side." It is only the enemy who issues illegal orders.

And the military is brutal against these people. The military does not have a lot of the restraints of the Constitution that the civil court have (or used to have before John Ashcroft got involved.) For the military, (while they claim otherwise) right or wrong is not the issue, just obedience.

But it is not just up to these resisters to stop the war. Whether Bush is reelected or Kerry is elected, it is up to the people of the United States (as well as our friends around the world) to bring this war to a hasty conclusion.

Thanks for a turn at the soap box.

 
At 11:18 PM, Blogger Bob said...

wwheew...Randal

positively brilliant and "
heartfelt"

what a combination....

 
At 11:41 PM, Blogger ThomasMcCay said...

Mr. Andrews, Bob said it very well. Excellent, thoughtfull comments. Welcome to a corner of my soap box.

Weltanschauung. Indeed!

I have hope because I know we are not nearly alone. The times will bring many to the same questions and similar conclusions and actions.

I believe there is a part of humanity and indeed, in the American personality, that the Imperial Americans can not understand and in the end, can not harness to the degree required for their long term victory.

Thanks again my brother,
Thomas

 

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home