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Occasionally I wandered in where I was not wanted and gave truthful answers.
Sometimes I even did it deliberately. A little disruption now can prevent disaster later.

Memorial Day musings

This is a page from the third version of Technopagan Yearnings. There are some formatting differences. Originally published at www.neowayland.com/C65989237/E792826832

Some of my thoughts concerning the military and honor

I can't really do a Memorial Day tribute. I don't have the things to say. But back in April, I was a member of a list where the general view was that all soldiers were murderers and that war was unacceptable under any circumstances. And of course, all "real" pagans are supposed to be pacifistic. I do not have permission to quote the other people on the list, but I thought you might find some of my comments interesting.

By the standards of ANY war, the actions of the US military in the Iraq invasion have been remarkably civilized. The prison scandal was unusual, and had been reported to the Pentagon and was under investigation before anyone on the Congressional oversight committees saw fit to say "boo."

You really want to have an eye opener, you should read about some of the actions taken by US generals against Muslims during World War II. I want to say it was Patton, but offhand I am not sure. Crude, brutal, aimed specifically at Islamic beliefs. And remarkably effective.

For all the digging by the national and international press, the prisoner abuse scandal is the only example of "inhuman behavior" that anyone has been able to turn up. It was an isolated incident, brought on more from lack of training and manpower shortages than anything else.


Based on military people and the non-pacifistic pagans I have known, I can tell you that for most of them,, hate simply isn't part of their motivation. I myself am not on a warrior path, but I am considerably less pacifist than many pagans, and hate has very little to do with it.

It has more to do with honor, perhaps not a honor that you would find comfortable, but honor all the same.

It's a little more than I have time to go into now, but the answer shouldn't always be to relieve suffering. In my opinion, relieving suffering just to relieve suffering does no honor to the person who is suffering. Instead, it declares that they are not worthy of respect or trust. Call it the silver platter theory of charity.

I'd also point out that the gods have both light and dark sides. In terms of mythology, the Great Goddess may have birthed the world, but she is also the Gates of Death.


The "rules of civilization" do not apply during war. That is what war means. I can find examples of brutality no matter what army you pick. For example, you chose the "Native Americans." That is hundreds of tribes, many of which were at war with their neighbors and "guilty" of some pretty terrible things which would be atrocities under modern definitions. And those weren't exactly "professional" soldiers.

Much of the US military are not "professional" soldiers, they have other jobs and careers.

Now, with all that being said, the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have been the most "humane" in history,


I disagree with you there, as would quite a few others. Western civilizations have a proud tradition of warriors who step between danger and those unable or unwilling to face it. Our mythology explodes with it, everything from Hercules to Arthur to Matt Dillion to Luke Skywalker. In real life, we have our heros as well. George Washington. Eisenhower. Powell.

That doesn't mean that they seek death or revel in war. Nor do they glory in the cost.

There is honor though. You may not wish to acknowledge it, but it is there.


There are some who claim that WWII wasn't just either. I can introduce you to people who are convinced that the U.S. Civil War was (and is) an illegal occupation of a sovereign nation.

I'll point out that the "Pax Americana" that has prevailed mostly since WWII relieved much of Europe from providing for it's own defense, and put the US on the front lines in almost every major conflict (and many of the minor ones) ever since.

I do think the war in Iraq was a gamble, but as far as I could see, it was the only choice that had a chance of changing the whole Middle East equation once and for all. Everyone else has been tiptoeing around that since Lawrence of Arabia, and all that resulted from that is to encourage dictators and petty tyrants.


That is not exactly true. The "rich" may start out rich, but in a war zone your property is reduced to what you can protect. And in some cases carry.

There are no sure results in war, no one can "manipulate" the outcome. The best you can hope for is that your side wins with as few casualties as possible.

Civilians get killed, yes. But does a war prevent even more death? For example, Hussein ordered the gassing of the northern Kurds. Shredding machines were used to kill huge numbers of people. Mass graves are still being found. Aren't these examples of atrocities? Shouldn't they be stopped?


They aren't all desperate or poor, or even mostly. It's a volunteer military.

Nor is the honor false.

Their ethos (and mine) may not line up perfectly with yours, but that doesn't make it wrong.


That must be why Congress keeps authorizing billions of dollars, all that profit. Just like in Japan and Germany.

Odd how no one talks about the French, German, Russian, and Chinese companies that reaped billions by violating all those UNSC resolutions, isn't it?

Dick Cheney doesn't own any of Halliburton any more, he sold all his shares before becoming Vice President. He doesn't profit one way or another.


All along I have made a distinction between soldiers and warriors. One of my favorite quotes sums it up nicely. "Soldiers march, warriors dance."

Just because you choose to look down on warriors does not mean that warriors have no honor. Anymore than a fundamentalist Christian looking down on your faith makes you a demon worshiper.


I didn't say anything about being noble. I said honorable. Please do not put words in my mouth.

Your figures aren't accurate for the Afghanistan and Iraq invasions. And in those conflicts, it is important to remember that the so called "insurgents" hid in mosques and among the civilian population in direct violation of the "rules of war" and the Geneva convention.


I suggest you review your history. Non-combatants have NEVER been "off-limits."

The honor comes from one thing and one thing only, protecting your own, and when you can, other noncombatants. Sometimes you don't even get to do that.

Note that "insurgents" weren't playing by those rules, they kidnapped noncombatants whenever they could. And videotaped them. While executing them. And that doesn't count terrorizing the real civilian population.

One of the unfortunate realities in war is that you often have to accept a wrong now in order to serve a greater good, In the case of Iraq, people have died without due process of law. Hopefully the ones who are left won't have to face that.


No, war is the state sanction of absolute force. It should be a last resort in a just society.


No, it isn't. Soldiers follow orders. Warriors choose their orders. Not all soldiers can be warriors. With a lot of luck, the right ethos, and the right training, a few soldiers can become warriors. Some start out that way before ever entering the service.

Yes, soldiers and warriors both kill. But they do not have to be murderers.


Oddly enough, you left out the reserves, which skew your enlistment figures by quite a bit.

But what of it? Since at least the Greek democracies, military service has always been a path to a higher social rank. The Romans built the Republic and early Empire on exactly that premise.

Your figures ignore the advantages that veterans take into the civilian world after they leave service, especially for the higher ranked noncoms and officers.


If you will check for context, you will see that these two gentlemen were referring to a standing army being used against the civilian population of the United States. That is why the Bill of Rights forbids the quartering of troops in private homes, and why in the 19th Century Federal troops were specifically forbidden from providing help to law enforcement. The "War on Drugs" eroded a lot of that though.

I'd argue that the modern equivalent of the "standing army" that they were talking about are paramilitary forces of various law enforcement agencies, ranging from the SWAT teams of metropolitan police forces to the "fast response teams" of the DEA, ATF, FBI and other alphabet agencies.

Personally I would love to see the military scaled back considerably.However, given circumstances today, if that were to happen, I think it would invite attack. Sometimes you have to have a very large saber to rattle under people's noses or they don't take you seriously.

Posted: Mon - May 30, 2005 at 10:38 PM

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