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Open letter to occupation soldiers
(Guy Grossman and James Skelly, Z Net, September 26, 2003)
We write this letter because we have both been military officers during conflicts that descended into a moral abyss and from which we struggled to emerge with our humanity intact. . . . It is clear that many of you have been propelled into situations that may haunt you for the rest of your lives. You undoubtedly did not expect to be killing Iraqi civilians as now happens on a regular basis because of the difficulties you face in an occupation that was so poorly planned by those in authority above you. . . . You have undoubtedly begun to feel rage at the seemingly senseless deaths of your comrades, and your inability to distinguish who is the enemy among the civilians you have come to 'liberate.' From time to time we're sure that some of you may want to take revenge for the deaths of your fellow soldiers. . . . We urge you to step back from such sentiments because the lives of innocent people will be placed at further risk, and your very humanity itself will be threatened. Political leaders who think a certain number of your deaths are 'acceptable,' as are a larger number of Iraqi civilian deaths, have placed you in these hellish conditions. Remember, they are ultimately responsible for putting you in the situations you face on a daily basis. As you know, despite what the Pentagon told everyone prior to deployment, armed conflict in Iraq is likely to continue for much longer despite the 'victory' George Bush seemed to declare when he landed on the USS Lincoln. . . . In these circumstances, there are a number of things that you should know. Most people in the world understood that Saddam Hussein was a tyrannical dictator who had killed and debased significant numbers of people who lived under his rule. However, most people throughout the world also understood that the method the US government chose to remove Saddam was without international sanction, was informed by other less lofty motivations, and has resulted in the killing of significant numbers of innocent people. There were more pacific alternatives. . . . We were opposed to the war, and the armed occupation that has followed, not only because so many innocents continue to be killed, but because it is creating greater insecurity throughout the world. The war has further undermined an international order based on the rule of law and has fostered a global regime of disorder in which the indiscriminate use of force is often the arbitrator. Just as the occupation of the Palestinian territories by the Israeli army has contributed to greater insecurity throughout Israel, so too is the occupation of Iraq creating greater threats to security through out the world, including the United States. . . . You should also be aware that people all over the world, and a significant number in the United States as well, will understand your actions as truly heroic should you say "No!" to further participation in both the murderous occupation that you and your comrades now face and the murky moral swamp that the war has wrought. It is now clear that the justifications for war that political leaders in the US and Britain used had little basis in reality and they had been advised that intelligence indicated that war was likely to create more terrorism in the world, not less. . . . In addition, you should know that a substantial body of legal opinion argues that the invasion of Iraq was illegal under international law, and at least theoretically, the leaders of the United States and Britain could face war crimes charges in the future. . . . Should your moral doubts become so strong that you know, as each of us did with regard to Vietnam on the one hand, and the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories on the other, that your very humanity is at risk, we urge you to consider refusing orders that you can no longer in conscience carry out. One of us refused to serve in the territories occupied by Israel because he knew he could no longer carry out military orders that had little to do with the safety of his country. He could no longer justify the use of indiscriminate military force in the name of unjust political policies, well disguised. He could not tolerate his country's use of himself as a means serving an unjust cause. He could no longer live with the outcome of his actions. . . . You probably know that as an American soldier, the Uniform Code of Military Justice requires that you obey only "lawful orders" of your military superiors. Consequently, it is within your legal rights to refuse "unlawful orders" - these provisions were put in the Uniform Code so that soldiers could not, as German soldiers did following World War II, try to absolve themselves of guilt for war crimes by saying that they were "just following orders." You can also apply for discharge by conscientiously objecting to war. Rather than serve in Vietnam, one of us refused orders by filing for discharge as a conscientious objector, and when the Pentagon refused the application, sued the Secretary of Defense in federal court for being illegally held by the US military. . . . Finally, we would urge you to recognize that you are not alone with regard to the moral dilemmas that you are facing. Each of us initially faced our moral questions as individuals. But we soon realized that many of our comrades had similar qualms about what we were being ordered to do. We both were instrumental in helping to form organizations of military personnel who were opposed to the policies of our respective governments. . . . Whatever you do, try to maintain a degree of civility with your buddies and superior officers. They are in this too. There are procedures to follow when you express moral concerns, which if they are professional soldiers, they will follow as well. If they act unprofessionally and verbally or physically harass you, recognize that it is probably a result of their own anxieties about the moral dilemmas that political leaders have forced them to confront as well. . . . It is our hope that you will be able to confront these dilemmas clearly and with the support of as many of your comrades as have courage similar to yours. . . . Regardless of what you decide, it is our fervent desire that your actions are chosen in the bright light of moral illumination and political understanding. We also hope that you ultimately return to your home with your humanity enriched, rather than diminished.
posted by Lorenzo 7:56 PM