Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Born Free

A few nights ago, PBS was discussing Iraq (what else?)and whether the US military is going to "wind down" its occupation after the election. Speakers pointed out that most of the US military has already served two terms in Iraq, and most of the marines have served three terms. Their point was that this extreme abuse of soldiers can't continue.

On top of that, 2000 soldiers are dead and another 15 000 injured—anything from a broken leg to complete loss of physical function. To call these soldiers cannon-fodder is not an exaggeration.

Yet the soldiers can't say no. They're not allowed. Once they sign on, they are owned by the state, to be sent wherever the state wants to send them.

Consider these working conditions:
· Soldiers face courtmartial if they refuse to obey orders.
· Soldiers also face the courts if they do obey orders but with disastrous results.
· Soldiers are ordered not to think for themselves.
· Soldiers are punished when they don’t think for themselves, don’t apply ethics to a situation.
· When military wages are cut, there is no means of protest. Soldiers cannot bargain, negotiate, or strike.
· Soldiers who run away are criminals who are hunted down.
· There are no explanations and no apologies when soldiers are killed in action. A soldier’s death doesn’t require an explanation.

My conclusion - The military is the last permissible form of slavery in the West.

What if – and this is a big what if – armies unionized? Governments would then have to enter negotiations with the military before declaring war. They would have to ensure adequate training and preparation in consultation with troops. Moreover, the military would have a say in their wages and working conditions, as well as their equipment. That would allow them to better support their families and balance their lives.

I wonder how much of the evil of war stems from the slavery that is at its foundation. If we removed the slavery element and soldiers were expected to think for themselves, would the same types of atrocities be committed?


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