People are up in arms about Dick Durbin’s “Godwin’s Law” moment. And of course he isn’t comparing our military with the Nazis, because if there is one thing we must do as a society it is support our troops. It is America’s last sacred cow. Anyone who does not support the troops is, by present standards, a traitor.
I do not support the troops. That doesn’t mean that I wish them harm, and it doesn’t mean that, on an individual level, I can’t have respect for many of them. It doesn’t mean I am un-American, or that I am a friend of terrorists. But at this point it is clear that there are more that just a few bad apples, and it is more than just “following orders.” Yes, the buck may ultimately stop at the door to the oval office, but there are soldiers torturing prisoners, and there is neither honor nor glory in that. While many soldiers are fighting honorably in Iraq, we have examples also of acts of cruelty and unecessary violence. I don’t believe that most, or even many, soldiers are behaving inappropriately, but the acts of a few do and should reflect on the whole.
I think that this war has brought shame upon the military, and while we should celebrate them when they do their job, and when they act to defend the United States, no government organization should escape the censure of the American people when they act injustly.
I recognize that the soldier does not choose the battles he or she is sent to, but by volunteering for the military a person does not abdicate responsibility for his or her actions, and indeed takes on collective responsibility for those actions. We need to make clear to American soldiers and sailors that their uniforms bear the stains of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo. Such scorn is appropriate if for no other reason than to make clear to those who enlist that becoming a soldier means that they may be put into the position of making excuses for torturers.
It is not for me to suspend judgment of those who kill and torture in my name. I recognize that the brunt of my criticism is correctly aimed at those in charge, and that the responsibility ultimately rests in the Commander in Cheif. Nonetheless, there is no honor in carrying out injustice.