Not their place to think.

I had formerly supported Lt. Watada and his refusal to serve in an illegal war.

But I’ve had to rethink that.

The first duty of soldiers is to obey orders.  As they are told in basic training by every sergeant, “It’s not your place to think!”

Regardless of illegal wars, the rights of fellow humans or even basic citizenship, soldiers only have one duty or right — to shut up, suck it up and do as they’re told.

After the war, if their side loses, they should quietly continue to follow that duty.  If their leaders have led them into war-crimes, they should simply square their shoulders and go with their heads up — to be hanged. 

Every soldier should be aware of this contingency, and accept it as part of a possible part of his or her duty.  No trying to claim “I was just following orders.”  Every soldier should simply say, as a plain truth, “I followed my orders.”

If that means a soldier can be hanged after a war for criminal acts, then so be it.  Any honest, decent soldier should simply accept it and face it directly as part of the territory.

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5 thoughts on “Not their place to think.

  1. Actually it isn’t true that service members must obey every order. It is permissible to disobey if you feel it violates the law, Constitution or whatever. Of course this might get you court marshaled but that is the opportunity to say why you didn’t follow orders. If my CO told me to enter a village and shoot everyone I see– that is not a legitimate order and is a criminal act. It also isn’t true that the military is trained to not think. It is imperative that every member of a unit can think and make decisions. There have been numerous armies where the soldiers weren’t required to think and when a CO was killed, there is chaos and even abandonment of duty. Every member must be able to step up and lead.

    You statement of “After the war, if their side loses, they should quietly continue to follow that duty. If their leaders have led them into war-crimes, they should simply square their shoulders and go with their heads up — to be hanged.

    Every soldier should be aware of this contingency, and accept it as part of a possible part of his or her duty. No trying to claim “I was just following orders.” Every soldier should simply say, as a plain truth, “I followed my orders.”

    If that means a soldier can be hanged after a war for criminal acts, then so be it. Any honest, decent soldier should simply accept it and face it directly as part of the territory” is, to be quite frank, ridiculous. Since the Nuremberg trials, “I was just following orders” has not been an accepted defense. No member of the US military is obligated to violate the Geneva Conventions or participate in what would be considered a war crime.

    I was an NCO in the US Air Force 1982-1987 so I hope you take my comments as just a little information from the inside and not condemning your opinions.

    Lt. Watada is correct to refuse. The Iraq war violates international law and was not sanctioned by the UN. Unfortunately, the world is powerless to stop the imperialist nature of the Bush regime.

  2. You need to talk to the people who are accusing Watada of being a traitor or unpatriotic. They don’t realize the other side of obeying every order, no matter how illegal. Most Americans don’t even know what is considered a war crime — or they excuse it because it’s being done to the enemy. The “war crime” definition changes, depending upon whether it’s been committed by our side, or if we can think of enough excuses for it.

    The excuse, “I was just following orders,” is never going to go away. There will be plenty of soldiers willing to try to use it. I just wish they’d have the guts to accept that if they’re going to follow illegal orders, then to step up to the plate, admit it, report it, and take their medicine.

    They can’t have it both ways.

    (They never told you, “You’re not paid to think!” in the Air Force? Or they don’t use it any more? Hm. One of their best lines, all gone.

    And are they still teaching troops that old wheeze about other armies not being able to step up if the commander or officers or NCO’s getting killed? I thought that one would have died out by now.)

    Donna Barr
    E5, US Army, 1970-1973

    Donna
    E-5, U.S. Army, 1970-1973

  3. Maybe I’m missing the point of what you’re saying here, but if the people on the ground aren’t going to do anything to stop whatever shit happens to be going on at any given time, who else is going to? We know the incumbants never do until the bitter end.

    Nobody joins the military to be responsible for ‘illegal’ deaths. Even the weapon nuts who sign up for the opportunity to make some other shmuck die for *his* country do so on the basis of being legally absolved from any and all culpability. Which is equally fucked-up, but you know what I mean.

    How can you not be ‘paid to think’ in the Air Force when the only thing standing between you and a red smear on the ground is your combat plane? Or somebody else’s ‘friendly fire’ red smear, where the reason is ALWAYS that they weren’t thinking.

  4. The duty of a soldier, sailor, airman, and marine is to follow all lawful orders of superior officers and NCOs, with the emphasis placed on lawful. All wars are crimes against humanity, but if a military member is going to disobey an order, especially in the heat of battle, he or she had better make real sure that the order given is unlawful. Civilian courts are hesitant to wade into these matters, and military courts and jury panels are highly skeptical of people who disobey orders on the battlefield.

    As for being involved in a war undeclared by Congress, or sanctioned by the U.N…..well, the Constitution gives broad leeway to the Executive Branch to conduct foreign policy, to protect the national interests of the United States, and to protect citizens and servicemembers under her protection. Congress and the Senate did approve action, in Korea, Viet Nam, Grenada, Panama, Kuwait, Afghanistan and Iraq. Congress and the Senate approved the funding. Repeatedly. It need not be a declaration of war. It need only be legislative approval. That makes the use of U.S. troops in combat legal, and that makes the President’s deployment orders legal.

  5. German soldiers in World War Two were constantly sending in reports of protest against their orders. This did not get them any keel-way after about the 15th attempt to assassinate Hitler. The Geneva convention demands that soldiers will not obey illegal orders; if they have to say “I was just following orders” afterwards — that defense has been out the window since 1945. Troops are between a rock and a hard place; something citizens might want to consider before putting on the monkey suits and becoming a public servant.

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