L. Neil Smith's
THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 233, August 10, 2003
DAN WEINER MEDICAL FUND REPORT
IN RE: But..We're the Good Guys!, by Joel Simon
Mr. Simon wrote:
"I wish no harm to American troops, who go where they are ordered to go and bear no moral culpability for their government's policies."
I also wish no harm to American troops, either. But, citizens who become military personnel do not leave their consciences at the front gate when they report for boot camp.
Soldiers are brainwashed to obey orders without question. But is it right to subsume one's conscience and moral foundation to obey a direct order? How does the immorality of an individual act of force or fraud become moral when committed by a group?
Every soldier who takes the life of another human being is forever changed by the experience. What happens when the order to take a life or destroy property violates the conscience of that soldier? Could the outcome be the endemic Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.... the point at which true moral guilt overtakes the mind and heart of a soldier who obeyed orders which he knew to be immoral?
Charley Hardman wrote an editorial column about this very topic last week, and posted it at Lewrockwell.com. In that article, he compared the obedience of immoral orders to pig dancing. Envision an immense dance floor, on which are innumerable soldiers dancing with elegantly dressed pigs. The point was that no one who is dancing with a pig is going to criticize another person doing the same thing. The pig dancing culture is monolithic at that point, and individualism is scarcely tolerated. However, it still doesn't absolve the individual soldier from committing immoral acts, even in combat.
Every soldier that acts to enforce his government's policies bears direct moral culpability for those policies. Every soldier who acts in a manner that does not support, protect and defend the Constitution commits an act of treason. As this military action in Iraq and Afghanistan is unconstitutional, every soldier bears the same culpability as the civilian leadership in the White House and in the Pentagon.
What would happen if soldiers en masse refused to obey direct orders when those orders violated their conscience? There are not enough military courts to process the court martials. There are not enough military prisons to hold that amount of soldiers. The good order and discipline of the military would collapse. But, in its present state, would that necessarily be a bad thing?
The excuse "I was only following orders" was not good enough at the Nuremburg trials. Neither is it good enough today.
Russell D. Longcore
Mr Simon Replies:
[Mr. Longcore writes:]
This question has been debated since the concept of an 'immoral order' first arose. In the end, like everything else, it is an individual decision for which the individual must bear responsibility.
People who join the military presumably subscribe to the concept of the sovereign state, and are willing to subsume their own individuality to the extent that they will go where they are told, andup to a very important limitdo what they are told. Soldiers therefore are presumed to have signed over all responsibility for such questions as "is this a moral war," or "does our current deployment make any rational sense." However, by military law they are explicitly released from the obligation to obey an order that would force them to commit a specifically immoral act, such as executing prisoners or shooting down non-combatants. Those who do such things anyway bear the responsibility on their own heads.
Now, that's the way the state answers the question of moral culpability. Clearly you don't agree, and to be honest neither do I.
But I also remember the sixties. I remember the poor damaged wretchesmost of whom were virtually kidnapped into the militarywho came back from southeast Asia only to be spat upon and called baby killers by the people they thought they were serving. It's probable that many of those men did things in Viet Nam that haunted them afterward. But here's the sad truth: Whatever my moral pretensions, if I were dumped into the same situation as them, with bombs exploding around me and the only way out being to shoot that bunch of hostile strangers over there, I'd shoot.
Now, of course the fact that the current military is all-volunteer changes the equation. But when you consider the background and 'education' of those who join the military, is being mislead into joining really that much different from being forced to do so?
Now, I count myself a pretty smart guy. No doubt you see yourself the same way. At some point we either shook off the programming, or it never took in the first place. But most people buy the bullshit at a level so deep they don't even realize they've made a decision. It does no good to condemn them for it. Instead I choose to condemn their masters, who are clearly not deluded but who cynically use for their own purposes dedicated people who genuinely think they are the good guys.
Joel C Simon
Re: University students deserve human rights by Wendy McElroy
The Libertarian Sell-Out
For a long time now, Iíve said that Wendy McElroy is probably the best Libertarian writer extant (Big "L" not by mistakethere are no other good Big "L" writers and, admittedly, I donít recognize the distinction).
In her latest (TLE 232, August 3, 2003) Wendy got it all wrong. Horribly. Not even on the same page as liberty. A statist to the core.
I donít give a good goddamn what happens to children sent for free babysitting by lame parents who donít give a damn about their own kids.
Wendy sees importance here. My question is: Why?
Anyone who lines up for the freebie of public education is a dirtbag. It IS that simple.
No such dirtbag deserves further attention, except that which one gives to potential purse thieves.
And I wonít give any detail to the university scam, which Wendy addresses in her title.
Some Libertarians, Wendy, sadly and apparently among them, canít escape the books long enough to learn something about life.
The fact of having to attend a public school is sad testimony to the apathy of parents (not political apathy, but the kind where a kid learns that his/her life is worthless in the eyes of the two people who made it).
Wendy would do well to step outside and breathe real air and EXHULT in the fact that sheís not trapped in some public school shithole. Instead, she drops herself into that mess seeking common cause.
Common cause with whom? People who wonít take responsibility for themselves, for their kids?
Life aintí found on campus.
Oh yeah, Wendy, Iíll spend a lot of time thinking about the worries of the poor harried parents who dump their brats in my lap. Iíll try and make things right for the sorry bastards. Really, I will.
Believe that and youíll believe that life is found on campus.
As for the shitty title of this meritless piece, Libertarian Enterprise ought to know better. Really, really lame.
Show me the Libertarian (Big "L" or small) who sends his/her kid to a public campus and Iíll show you a phony. It is that simple. Some things are apparent Wendy. Donít try to hide the facts. That ainít educational.
John P. Slevin