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By the way does this blog have any archives? I couldn't see a link.

I wanted to comment on your remark made in the thread about the young soldier who died in Iraq recently. However since I'm anti-soldier in the sense that I hold them criminally accountable for their particpation in a criminal war, I don't think it would be appropriate for me to reply there. Or possibly here either...

So do you mind if I reply to it here? Specifically it's this comment of yours I disagree with:

"it's possible to support the troops and be ashamed of our government at the same time"

Hi David. Thanks for not putting any anti-troop comment in the other thread. I'll defend the troop/government comment here. It boils down to one thing for me: the soldiers don't pick the wars they fight.

UPDATE: Of course, they do pick the wars they fight when they enlist during a conflict. I don't know. It's a hard issue. We need the military. We need soldiers who trust the government to fight "good" wars. I guess I'm willing to err on the side of the soldier here. I'm more comfortable absolving the ones who fight for reasons I would consider incorrect rather than saddling them all with the blame for this war, which I consider criminal.

Is it possible to oppose a criminal war while supporting the troops? In particular while characterising the troops as heroes and self-sacrificial, honourable, defending America, patriotic, brave and doing something to be proud of?

By describing the soldiers with words like these I think it's all but impossible to turn around and say that the war is bad. It's total disconnect.

Where does that leave someone who is anti-war but won't blame the troops? Since they can't say that the activities of the war itself are evil, they can only criticise the government for side issues such as the MEANS of fighting the war, or the TIMING of it or that the goverment LIED about the war. Lying is bad of course but it's not the ultimate crime. They cannot say, as the Nuremburg tribunal did, that aggresive war itself is the ultimate crime.

But that is 99.9% of the wrong that's being done here. Being a lousy planner of a war isn't a crime or even an ethical lapse. And besides it's actually quite hard for us to say Bush has planned the war poorly since we don't really know why he started it or what the objectives are. This sort of practical criticism as opposed to moral criticism is where we are at our least capable in terms of knowledge and the criticism itself is the least cutting.

I also think that the former kind of criticism is most likely to be perceived as and actually be, party politically based. After all Clinton started his own criminal wars and if the same standard doesn't apply to his then criticism of Bush comes across as nothing but point scoring.

If you are to be genuinely ashamed of the government then it seems that they have to have done something deeply wrong, and not just "goofed". But if the war is deeply wrong then those who voluntarily participate in it are not heroes but villains. The soldiers are at best dupes but more likely are people who lack strong morals, afraid to stand up for what's right even to the point of collaborating in the unlawful killing of a lot of innocent people.

And when you look at the terrible war crimes - none of which are as bad as the crime of war itself - they illustrate in tiny detail how utterly inhuman and how utterly corrupting the process of war can be. Not every soldier is raping little boys in front of their parent as a form of torture, but the ones who do so are not picked for the task. The implication is -- that could be most any soldier. They didn't enter the war as rapists and torturers but they became that way as part of the war. And that corruption of spirit is almost universal even if the worst of the torture is rare. The torture illustrates what has happened to the soldiers.

War is hell. The soldiers started off as dupes maybe, or just nor strong enough to stand up and say "no" to a criminal order. But they end up as something much worse. And you can add that corruption to Bush's list of moral crimes too, but every man is responsible for their own sin.

I don't see how to square the circle here. If war is evil then the soldiers are culpable, along with Bush. And if the soldiers are not evil, but heroes then Bush can't be that bad because what he ordered is being done by "heroes".

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