Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Morality - Or To Have And Have Not

As a small child my Grandmother often said to me, "remember, for every good you do in this world you receive a good back and for every bad you do you receive a bad back". These certainly were not the words of a great philosopher or even of a country preacher but they were the words of a Grandmother explaining to a small child that you should do good in the world and not bad. The interesting thing is that even as a small child of 4, 5, or 6 I fully and completely understood what these words meant. It wasn't Christian, it wasn't Muslim, it wasn't Hindu or Jewish and it wasn't Agnostic. It was just Grandma guiding a small child down the right path. It was simple morality. It was simple right and wrong. Do good. Don't do bad.

Many years later when I joined the United States Army my Drill Sergeant (Not to be confused with my Grandmother.) gave me something called the "Code of the U.S. Fighting Force" as well as a "Geneva Conventions Card". The first was a guide to how a soldier should conduct himself or herself if a Prisoner of War. The second was a card outlining the Geneva Conventions on how a soldier should treat a Prisoner of War and how a soldier should expect to be treated as a Prisoner of War. To me, now a young man, these documents made perfect sense. They said do good don't do bad.

Today I am an old soldier having enjoyed a long military career. When I look back on that career and all of the wonderful, good, and great soldiers I served for and with I am a proud but not prideful man. We served in peace and we served in war. We served in the hell holes of the world and the paradises of the world but we, to a soldier, always struggled to do good and not do bad. I am proud to say that every one of those soldiers struggled to always do the right thing because that was who we were and what we had been taught. We knew what our Grandma and Drill Sergeant had said. It was what our parents and grandparents and teachers and ministers and yes even drill sergeants taught us. In other words, we, to a soldier, fulfilled our oath to the constitution of the United States of America.

Today as I listen to the rhetoric and reporting on "torture memo's" I find myself heart sick, embarrassed and ashamed beyond words. I am astounded that the products of the greatest generation have descended to these depths of depravity. That we have elected officials and officers sworn to uphold the constitution and laws of this nation who could instigate such atrocities on other human beings.

As a soldier this gives me great pause to think and to also question. For what did we serve and fight and die. Was it so that a group of people, though duly elected and appointed, could take the constitution for which they took and oath to support and defend and use it for toilet paper. Did we fight and die so that they could take the laws of this nation and twist and torture them into something that we the citizens can hardly recognize.

I hear it so often said that we are a "Christian" nation and that we are a nation of laws and of high morals and that we are the "leader of the free world". I must now ask myself how can any of that be? Where in any bible does it say that you should go forth and torture? Where in any law is it written that it is legal to commit "Outrages upon personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment"? Since when does this nation lower itself to the level of committing the self same acts as those committed on us by common terrorist? At what point do we move from "outrages upon personal dignity" to beheading on television.

As a soldier and a citizen I demand that those who instigated and perpetuated the torture of any person be held accountable and that they be held accountable regardless of what job or position they held or are holding. As a soldier and a citizen I demand that my elected representatives take the necessary steps to investigate and bring to justice those who are responsible for these acts. We are indeed a nation of laws and a nation which aspires to set the example and as such we must go to whatever lengths necessary to insure that justice is done. How far is the distance from detainee to citizen? It's not about politics. It's about the Constitution. It's about justice. It's about America. It's about Morality.

Those Are The Sergeant Major's Thoughts On That.


Anonymous said...

Beautifully stated! How terribly sad what has gone on.

Charles Aulds said...

I read this ten years ago ... and I still think it's one of the best statements of principle and morality of the past 15 years (which have been characterized by neither).