Absence of Moral Responsbility for what has been done in our Name

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The Watada court martial opens this week. Concerned citizen activists are gathering in and around Fort Lewis discussing and/or planning what they are going to do about this court martial.

The primary priority for some is an ultimate acquittal for the Lt. - meaning minimal or no time served in incarceration.

For others, the Watada case represents a potential talk-of-the-nation discussion of the war, the lies and the future.

Without worrying about whether or not the Lt. "loses" his case and has to serve time for it - and I sincerely hope that does not happen - I'm worried about much more. I both worry about and hope is that this nation with a majority of families who DON'T have skin in the game will address the absence of moral responsibility for what leaders have done in our name.

I've written previously about the antics of civilian leadership when it deliberately ignores or downplays the horrific consequences of war, bombing campaigns and torture, justifying an evil by something other than literal defense of the homeland. This is a reflection of legitimate moral blindness that puts military families at a disproportionate amount of risk in this country.

We have let them get away with it.

In the face of our obsession with Super Bowls, car races, idols, survivors and celebrity dancers we see revealed a tragic flaw in our civilian society.

This in a nation established and sustained by military will, strength and courage.

The history of our revolution, our Civil War and the World Wars does not reflect a nation primarily ignorant of this nation's foreign and domestic affairs. Back then the country was not dominated by consumers sitting around playing games, pursuing entertainment and dabbling in pursuits of fame and fortune all the while waiting for a president to tell them what to do and why.

They were not dependent solely on the president to tell them that it was time to start paying attention and what they should focus on.

They were more aware back then of the real global situation. They were willing to join up or send their sons and daughters, trusting that their President was both honest and wise in commanding as chief.

Not this time in this age of America.

The recent Citizen's Tribunal in Tacoma - among other things - was a public effort at showcasing many of the legitimate arguments supporting the illegality of the war.

The military, which of itself doesn't make the decision to invade and occupy, nor initiate shock and awe without being ordered to do so, must build a case against Watada that establishes or justifies the "harm" of his words and actions.

It's in the Army's best interest to portray Watada's actions not only as violations of the UCMJ, but patriotically unacceptable because of a possible "harm" to troop discipline and morale; supposedly impacting the effectiveness of troops already serving in harm's way.

When the Watada Court Martial commences, are we likely to see prosecution attempt to justify its position by calling on families, wives and children of active duty personnel in Iraq to testify about Ehren`s negative impact on troop morale as well as the morale of military families?

You bet we are and there`s nothing unfair about that as a legal tactic.

The recent Tribunal either attempted and failed or more likely chose not to bring in rebuttal testimony and I'm not faulting them for that. The Panel Chairperson announced early on that the Tribunal made no claims to impartiality, only to truth. The panel then proceeded toward truth with a view unrestricted by procedural concerns, equal time or rebuttals.

But at the Court Martial, if we see families testifying as to how harmful the Lt's actions are, what do we do with that point of view?

It's one thing to be part of an activist group, crowd or mob where the choir dominates, speeches run to redundancy and spontaneity of action usually results in mighty roars of approval.

It's another to speak amidst a crowd or to an audience wherein mixed perspectives and priorities are present. Roars of approval then compete with disapproving shouts. For activists seeking chain reactions and stampedes the thrill is not the same.

My point with this is to examine ultimately what Lt. Watada and those bearing the grandest scale perspectives think they are after with Ehren.

Based on his own statements, I'm assuming that Lt. Watada hopes to start a cascade of feelings that generate thoughts that lead to words and finally actions that stop the war, end the killing and bring the crimes to a halt.

That's a reasonable message to send to military families, not some sort of "free Watada from the brig" civil disobedience that elevates one individual beyond that which he himself desires or to an undue level of importance at the expense of something greater.

Lietta and I, as members of Military Families Speak Out, do not desire divisiveness with any other military families over a Watada-deserves-punishment versus Watada-deserves-freedom issue.

Watada himself is not the point.

Although I make no comparison between Watada and Jesus, I see in some activists an insistance that support for Watada is more important that what Watada is talking about.

And that attitude is not unlike contemporary Evangelical Christianity and its excessive focus on Jesus himself rather than the philosophy and God Jesus pointed to as a means of making humanity more humane, less cruel, less judgmental, less self-interested and less violent.

In my opinion, citizens in this country must take ownership and responsibility for the actions carried out in our names. We do not let anyone irresponsibly and without accountablility send our children out to fight. We do not expect our children to serve this country with no sense of ethics simply because the ethical and moral sense has been assigned to higher authorities.

What we want of all military families is a projection - into the lives of their loved ones who serve - the safety AND moral issues connected with the purpose of service right now in Iraq.

We don't want a military wife to tell us what's right or wrong about Watada.

We do ask that a military wife focus on her husband and the situational and moral quagmire he is in; that he's stuck in his current venue because no one to date has challenged the legality of the orders given him nor the ultimate unwise and unethical civilian source.

We don't excuse our soldiers for ethical and moral lapses because authorities placed in positions of appointed power have - with self-preserving hypocrisy - labeled offenders as some few "bad apples," who deserve no further close scrutiny and need to be locked up, the key thrown away.

We should not tolerate civilian administrators pleading innocence because of the vast gap between the highest echelons of authority and the lowest front line chain of command;

  • a front line where sergeants can be punished because a corporal suffered from the same moral blindness as those self-serving civilians on Mount The invasion that became a military occupation has deteriorated to an on-going action carried on in the name of staying on a course that has been revealed as illegal, immoral and destructive of the innocent.

    • staying a false course that deliberately destroys more innocent victims than it does terrorists

    • because we were lied to by a dishonest leadership that now declares that ending the illegal aggression would be "cutting and running."

    This lack of moral responsibility pervades the current administration which is now seated at the steering wheel;

    - villainous fools who are passing judgment on the moral fiber of anyone who disagrees, thereby labeling dissent as treason.

    Our soldiers absolutely must emerge from basic and combat training with moral competence intact.

    I hope that stories of institutionalized programming of racial hatred, bigotry, stereotyping and name-calling are not predominantly a part of teaching warriors a moral and ethical code. If the testimony and stories reflect what is happeneing across the board, I again declare here and now that the military training organizations are not doing it in my name nor on behalf of my family.

    I repudiate these training tactics based on moral recklessness.

    We hopefully raise our children with the expectation that they will become independent and self-reliant adults.

    If my son or daughter joins the military and enters into its initiations, I am not being unreasonable in expecting that this current military establishment reclaims its own sense of ethical and moral responsibility from the immorality of a corrupt president and his party.

    I expect that sense to coincide with that which we as parents have endeavored to plant in our children's hearts.

    I expect that all military families are not unreasonable in such an expectation before they decide to say who is patriotic and who isn't.

    Arthur Ruger 2007

Arthur & Lietta Ruger 2002-2008. The American Choice is a  political internet journal based in Bay Center, Washington. The views expressed not authored by Arthur or Lietta Ruger are the writers' own and do not necessarily reflect those of The American Choice or SwanDeer Productions. Permission of author required for reprinting original material, and only requests for reprinting a specific item are considered.