Thursday, March 29, 2007

Dolce et Decorum Est.

Pat Tillman's 'friendly-fire' death was tragic.

The Army's lying about the circumstances is both tragical and farcical.

However, the Army's deception is understandable. They knew they had to spin Tillman's death into one of heroism. How else could they keep alive the old lie: Dolce et Decorum est Pro patria mori?


At 29 March, 2007 18:59, Anonymous Kiersten said...


I agree that the army releasing facts before they knew what had happened was wrong. If they lied about it they should certainly be held accountable. I also agree that if it is against Tillman's families' wishes he should not be used as a recruiting tool by the army. I guess... that he shouldn't receive a metal, because he was really fighting his own side when he died, and metals are given out for fighting the enemy. That doesn't make him any less of a hero in my book though, it just makes his death and all of those who have died from friendly fire seem more tragic. I think that all of you who have served or are serving in the military are heroes. Although my mother grew up in a military home, and my Uncle and my Father were in the military for a few years, I was not alive at that time, and have never understood the sacrifice that not only the men themselves make, but also their families. I wouldn't even want to face boot camp let alone the enemy.

I still think that it is honorable to serve and even die for your country. While I can't imagine what war is like, my Granddad still doesn't talk about what he went through in WWII, I think that we have to stand up to people who want to do away with everything that we stand for. I think that the Military is necessary so that the world can know that we have strength to back up our words. For example in WWII, maybe I am being a little naive here, and I hope you will let me know if I am :-), but I can't help wondering what would have happened if the world would have united against Hitler when he first broke the peace agreement from the WWI. If they stepped in with force when he first started building weapons, might we have been able to avoid another world war?

I do not think that war is good, nor do I want it, but I do think that it is necessary, and that there can be honor in it, especially when you are fighting to protect those weaker than yourself. Which is how I hope people in the military see it also.

At 01 April, 2007 12:25, Blogger Torsten Pedersen said...

Hi Kiersten, as always I appreciate your remarks, which I will try to answer by making three points.

First, I don't think Tillman is less deserving of military medals simply because he was not killed by the enemy. Friendly fire is part of combat and should be recognised as such. The Army, however, knows that the public will not treat a friendly fire killing as a heroic death and that's why they, in my opinion, were... 'less than truthful'.

Secondly, I believe warfare is constructed as much on lies and propaganda as on truth. The British Ministry of Information, which was established during the First World War, laid the foundations for what is now called Public Relations. It convinced the British population, that was skeptical about the war, that Germans were evil and that war was not just necessary but glorious. The Germans, on the other hand, were also told of the gloriousness of war. They truly believed they were fighting to defend their country from the aggression of Britain and France. So convinced were they of their country's virtue, that even the German Adventist endorsed the war and encouraged fighting for the fatherland.

In the Second World War, the Germans again believed in their own righteousness, as have the North Koreans, Vietcong and many others.

Today the Iraqi insurgents are also convinced that their cause is right and that its glorious to die for their country. The insurgents bravery in the face of the overwhelming strength of their American enemies is remarkable, though not praiseworthy.

Building up soldiers as heroes and celebrating dying for your country is a distortion of truth, without which war is impossible.

Thirdly, I have come to believe in pacifism. I am convinced that non-violent resistance is a much more effective way of standing up for what is right. It requires, however, a willingness to sacrifice everything if necessary.

I must admit that if the Western Powers had attacked Germany when Hitler first violated the Versailles treaty, and if they had actually had large standing armies to attack Germany with, then Hitler could have been stopped with less loss of life and devastation.

But let me suggest another possibility. What if the majority of Germans, who did not vote for Hitler, had stood up in non-violent resistance? I am convinced that the Nazi regime would have crumbled and disappeared much faster. The majority, however, were silent and ended up believing in the Nazi propaganda.

At 01 April, 2007 20:10, Anonymous Kiersten said...

With regards to Tillman, I know that you didn’t think that he was any less heroic or less deserving of metals because of how he died. I stated my thoughts on his heroism only because, if the Pentagon did lie because they were worried that the public would think less of him or them, I think that they misread us. It certainly seems that they are at fault for releasing the false facts about his death. They made it much worse by going ahead with the story that he was killed by enemy fire, when their own investigators were cautioning them to wait and see. It makes them look guilty of trying to cover up something, and has been much harder on his family.
I know that there is a lot of propaganda that goes on during war time. With regards to WWI, I can certainly see how both sides could of have gotten caught up in the "gloriousness" of war. While I know that there were atrocities committed, it doesn’t seem as much of a clear cut fight against evil, as does WWII, in fact it seems more like a big family squabble, since most of the royalty were all related to each other.
As for the Iraqi insurgents, I know that they believe they are fighting for their way of life. The way they do it, by purposely attacking civilians, hiding behind women and children - in that I don’t find honor. I don’t keep track of this, but it seems like I hear of many more attacks on civilian targets than military ones. For me this is the difference. I know that we are not without our scandals or our mistakes in killing civilians, but I think the majority of the time we do everything in our power to keep innocent people safe. For me that is what distinguishes the two.

As for pacifism, I think that it can take more courage even, than standing up and defending yourself. You do have to be willing to sacrifice everything, your life, your families life, everything. It has obviously worked in the past, Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr. etc…. But would these tactics work in regimes that don’t’ care about human life? Would, for instance, nonviolence have worked in Iraq when Saddam Hussein was still in control? Or would he have just killed everyone and moved on? Would it actually work with a country that has no conscience? Even with a majority disagreeing with Hitler, how would they have defeated him if he was in control of all the weapons, unless someone stepped in with bigger guns? I struggle with these questions partly because of what Jesus says about turning the other cheek. What happens though, when it isn't our cheek? On a personal level I think that we should all be willing to entertain and care for our enemy. But how does that apply to a countries defense? Or does it at all? Should we as a country, stand up with force and defend those weaker than ourselves? Also I struggle with when we should step into any conflict. Should we step in whenever we see injustice? Or only when it is in our self interest as a country? These are also very hard questions for me since there is a lot of injustice in the world.

At 02 April, 2007 11:53, Blogger Torsten Pedersen said...

Kiersten, I also struggle with these questions, and they are not easy ones.

However, I do believe non-violence would work in regimes that don't care about human life. Until, what I believe will then be a very short period of time, God withdraws the his spirit holding back the evil forces in the world, every country has a conscience. The anger and hate that drives oppression cannot be maintained if sufficient number of people resist without violence.

The Communist regimes, for example, crumbled when the people took to the streets much faster than the British rule in India. Nazi Germany could not have been sustained if millions of Germans had risen up in defiance.

Even if non-violence doesn't work, I believe its the only right way to resisting oppression and abuse of human rights. But as you said, it requires conviction, courage and a willingness to sacrifice everything.

At 05 April, 2007 14:46, Anonymous Kiersten said...

I have been ruminating on what you said, since last you wrote, and I can see how non-violence could work, even with a dictator that doesn't care about human life. (Don't fall over or anything!!!) With enough people standing up against the government the military itself might refuse to harm their friends and neighbors. They could choose not to obey the orders of their government.

My only question is what happens when nobody or even, not enough people stand up.... Is war ever necessary?

I hope that you will excuse my delinquency in getting back with you. I just had to reason it through in my mind, how would it work. Then find time to write out my thoughts in a some what sensible manner.

At 06 April, 2007 09:48, Blogger Torsten Pedersen said...

Non-violence will not work when too few people participate. How many are necessary to succeed depends on the situation and the conflict. Sometimes only a handful will be enough to turn majority opinion, other times even mass movements will be ineffective.

Pacifism/non-violence is ultimately about standing up for what is right and not participating in violence. Immanual Kant considered it a categoric imperative to tell the truth, even when the truth can lead to a less desirable outcome than a lie. I believe that not participating in violence is a categoric imperative.

I cannot say that war never has been justified. God sanctioned warfare in the Bible. Many of the great heroes of faith in the old testament, e.g. Abraham, Joshua, David, where men of war. However, after Jesus, when 'Israel' is not a nation, but a people scattered in all nations, I cannot see a situation that calls me into active warfare.

Its a personal choice, and I don't want to condemn those who make a different choice. I also admire those who have had the courage to face combat, even thought I believe there's a better way.


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