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Sat Jan 26, 2013, 09:19 AM

I killed people in Afghanistan. Was I right or wrong?

Marine Capt. Timothy Kudo, a graduate student at New York University, deployed to Iraq in 2009 and to Afghanistan from 2010 to 2011.

By Timothy Kudo,
Jan 25, 2013 04:49 PM EST
The Washington Post

When I joined the Marine Corps, I knew I would kill people. I was trained to do it in a number of ways, from pulling a trigger to ordering a bomb strike to beating someone to death with a rock. As I got closer to deploying to war in 2009, my lethal abilities were refined, but my ethical understanding of killing was not.

I held two seemingly contradictory beliefs: Killing is always wrong, but in war, it is necessary. How could something be both immoral and necessary?

I didn’t have time to resolve this question before deploying. And in the first few months, I fell right into killing without thinking twice. We were simply too busy to worry about the morality of what we were doing.

But one day in Afghanistan in 2010, my patrol got into a firefight and ended up killing two people on a motorcycle who we thought were about to attack us. They ignored or didn’t understand our warnings to stop, and according to the military’s “escalation of force” guidelines, we were authorized to shoot them in self-defense. Although we thought they were armed, they turned out to be civilians. One looked no older than 16.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/i-killed-people-in-afghanistan-was-i-right-or-wrong/2013/01/25/c0b0d5a6-60ff-11e2-b05a-605528f6b712_story.html

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Arrow 51 replies Author Time Post
Reply I killed people in Afghanistan. Was I right or wrong? (Original post)
rug Jan 2013 OP
MannyGoldstein Jan 2013 #1
rug Jan 2013 #2
enough Jan 2013 #3
Buzz Clik Jan 2013 #6
coalition_unwilling Jan 2013 #8
whatchamacallit Jan 2013 #25
coalition_unwilling Jan 2013 #4
MannyGoldstein Jan 2013 #5
coalition_unwilling Jan 2013 #7
11 Bravo Jan 2013 #9
MannyGoldstein Jan 2013 #14
11 Bravo Jan 2013 #20
malthaussen Jan 2013 #43
11 Bravo Jan 2013 #45
pinboy3niner Jan 2013 #46
Demo_Chris Jan 2013 #10
tabasco Jan 2013 #13
Demo_Chris Jan 2013 #15
OldDem2012 Jan 2013 #18
Demo_Chris Jan 2013 #21
tabasco Jan 2013 #22
OldDem2012 Jan 2013 #24
tabasco Jan 2013 #23
pinboy3niner Jan 2013 #27
pangaia Jan 2013 #33
pinboy3niner Jan 2013 #38
pangaia Jan 2013 #29
Dash87 Jan 2013 #42
Bonobo Jan 2013 #11
tabasco Jan 2013 #12
Wounded Bear Jan 2013 #16
Catherina Jan 2013 #17
pangaia Jan 2013 #30
Wounded Bear Jan 2013 #35
pangaia Jan 2013 #51
woo me with science Jan 2013 #49
OldDem2012 Jan 2013 #19
Ptah Jan 2013 #26
Ptah Jan 2013 #28
pangaia Jan 2013 #32
stultusporcos Jan 2013 #31
randr Jan 2013 #34
Egalitarian Thug Jan 2013 #36
cbrer Jan 2013 #37
Bigmack Jan 2013 #39
Th1onein Jan 2013 #40
rug Jan 2013 #41
klyon Jan 2013 #44
TwilightGardener Jan 2013 #47
Bigmack Jan 2013 #48
marions ghost Jan 2013 #50

Response to rug (Original post)

Sat Jan 26, 2013, 09:30 AM

1. I remember having this realization when I first watched "Full Metal Jacket"

We grow up learning that killing is the worst thing to do. Then groups of young adults are taught that they *must* kill, that it is glorious.

It speaks to the malleability of human behavior that this works so well and happens so often, although I'm sure it causes inner pain proportionate to a soldier's capacity for introspection.

The soldiers may bear some guilt. But, truly, the real blame belongs squarely on the Big People that sent them in a killing capacity in the first place. But these folks have little capacity for introspection, and seemingly suffer zero consequences for their actions. They are re-elected to the Presidency and Congress, or promoted to Secretary of State.

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Response to MannyGoldstein (Reply #1)

Sat Jan 26, 2013, 09:33 AM

2. And it goes on and on.

I don't know why these realizations have to pop up brand new every decade or so. History is there for the looking.

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Response to rug (Reply #2)

Sat Jan 26, 2013, 09:37 AM

3. Because the people with greed for money, land and power keep popping

up, and so do the next generation of young who can be made into soldiers.

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Response to rug (Reply #2)

Sat Jan 26, 2013, 09:45 AM

6. It's not that difficult at all.

In many instances, joining a war is truly a glorious, justifiable thing to do. Defending the homeland against invaders. Protecting freedoms. Securing your family.

The war is won, and the soldiers are heroes.

But, the war machine is then used for less noble causes but with the same rhetoric. Some buy into it to capture the glory of those who went before. Eventually, we spiral into unjustifiable wars, killing innocent people who are fighting to protect their freedoms, defend their homeland, secure their families. And then we wonder what we've become.

The key is knowing when to quit.

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Response to Buzz Clik (Reply #6)

Sat Jan 26, 2013, 09:57 AM

8. "The key is knowing when to quit" - The U.S. misplaced that key starting in, oh, about

 

1901 in the Philippines when we did a number on the indigenous Moros. It's really been pretty much downhill ever since. And before we start patting ourselves on the backs for World War II, the USSR fought and defeated the Nazis along a 2,000-mile front while we were busy dinking around protecting our freedoms, defending the homeland and securing our families . . . in North Africa.

USSR - 20 million dead
USA - 250,000 dead

For the math challenged, that's a mortality ratio of approximately 100-1.

ETA: My apologies to any Native American DUer reading this post, as the American military distinguished itself against indigenous populations long before the campaign against the Moros was even a glint in Pershing's eye.

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Response to Buzz Clik (Reply #6)

Sat Jan 26, 2013, 07:14 PM

25. Considering that your criteria for a "just war" are missing from most US conflicts

I'd say it is that difficult.

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Response to MannyGoldstein (Reply #1)

Sat Jan 26, 2013, 09:38 AM

4. SPOILER ALERT (if it's still needed): "FMJ" has many watchable moments. For me, the most telling

 

is the penultimate scene, where the sniper who has wielded such devastation on the platoon is revealed to be a young . . . woman. That little vignette right there should be all it takes to explain to anyone wondering why the world's largest military got its ass whooped by a rag-tag agrarian society.

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Response to coalition_unwilling (Reply #4)

Sat Jan 26, 2013, 09:43 AM

5. I thought it was a fantastic movie

it was the first war movie that rang true for me. I've never served in the military, let alone in war, but I'm certain that war must be very surreal. FMJ captured that.

Perhaps every 16-year-old should be required to watch it to guard against grand adventures being foisted on them by sociopaths.

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Response to MannyGoldstein (Reply #5)

Sat Jan 26, 2013, 09:48 AM

7. Another little jewel in the rough: Brian de Palma's "Casualties of War." For about 15 seconds, you

 

get to experience what the war must have felt like to the Vietnamese through their eyes. One of the uncanniest cinematic moments I can recall, made all the more ironic given Michael J. Fox and other big-name American stars.

For surreal, though, my vote goes to 'Apocalypse Now,' where the nighttime river battle scene wins hands-down for visual surreal.

But, yeah, "FMJ" is one hell of a movie.

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Response to MannyGoldstein (Reply #5)

Sat Jan 26, 2013, 10:08 AM

9. Portions of "Hamburger Hill" and "We were Soldiers Once, and Young" can provide you ...

with a fairly accurate portrayal of what ground combat was like in the A Shau Valley. The mud! I still have nightmares about that fucking mud.

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Response to 11 Bravo (Reply #9)

Sat Jan 26, 2013, 01:47 PM

14. You served in Vietnam? Thank you.

I am blown away and so appreciative that you and others risked and sacrificed so much.

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Response to MannyGoldstein (Reply #14)

Sat Jan 26, 2013, 02:54 PM

20. Long, long ago. Part of what I love about DU is the number of vets who post here.

Republicans and wingnuts in general like to pretend that they enjoy monolithic support from the military, but that's as big a lie as their claim to "support the troops".

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Response to 11 Bravo (Reply #9)

Sun Jan 27, 2013, 10:44 AM

43. What did you think of The 13th Valley? n/t

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Response to malthaussen (Reply #43)

Sun Jan 27, 2013, 11:36 AM

45. I liked it a lot. I met John Del Vecchio years after the war.

It turns out we were in the same Area of Operations (A Shau Valley) at the same time (70-71).

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Response to 11 Bravo (Reply #45)

Sun Jan 27, 2013, 12:48 PM

46. Very cool, bro!

His book was pretty good and hit close to home for me as a 101st Airborne vet. But I still regard Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried as the best novel about our war.



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Response to rug (Original post)

Sat Jan 26, 2013, 11:25 AM

10. "We were Soldiers" was incredible.

 

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Response to Demo_Chris (Reply #10)

Sat Jan 26, 2013, 11:38 AM

13. Are you talking about that propaganda movie

based on the first day of the battle of Ia Drang?

Yes, it is incredible, as in unbelievable, as in fucking bullshit war-glorifying propaganda.

Hal Moore should be ashamed to have had any part in the making of the movie.

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Response to tabasco (Reply #13)

Sat Jan 26, 2013, 01:51 PM

15. I did not feel like it glorifed war

 

Just the opposite. I thought it showed just how horrifying it was, not only for the people at the battle, but for the families at home. Yes, there was heroism, patriotism, and even nobility, but those exists in war as well. There was also some of the most horrifc cringe inducing carnage ever put on screen.

I am sorry you did not like the movie. I did. It was one of bloody few war movies that I thought came close to getting it right. Most war movies can't even manage to get the Military right, let alone combat (Saving Private Ryan comes to mind).

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Response to tabasco (Reply #13)

Sat Jan 26, 2013, 02:23 PM

18. "We Were Soldiers" is an incredibly well-done anti-war film....

....that shows the true horrors of war, both on the battlefield and at home when the telegrams are delivered. The scene of Colonel Hal Moore crying over the loss of his men was exceptionally moving.

Sorry, but there was no glorification of war in that film. Hal Moore should be pleased by his portrayal in the movie.

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Response to OldDem2012 (Reply #18)

Sat Jan 26, 2013, 03:09 PM

21. I agree completely

 

I was horrified by it. And I thought the juxtaposition of "glory" in the face of that carnage was perfect.

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Response to OldDem2012 (Reply #18)

Sat Jan 26, 2013, 06:35 PM

22. You have got to be kidding me.

It completely left out the second day of the battle, during which an entire U.S. battalion was nearly annihilated. The roster of the names of soldiers killed on the second day was included in Hal Moore's book, but DID NOT appear in the movie when they scrolled through the names. I'm an infantry combat vet and the depictions of the combat, especially the depiction of the "million-dollar minute" with Mel Gibson hurdling through mortar blasts was laughable. The movie absolutely glorified combat and you are quite incorrect.

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Response to tabasco (Reply #22)

Sat Jan 26, 2013, 07:07 PM

24. That's your opinion. Additionally, there is only so much you can put into a movie....

....and expect people to continue to watch it. Yes, some of the combat scenes were laughable as you state, but such is the way of all Hollywood movies, wouldn't you agree?

If the movie had intended to glorify war, why show the US casualties in such graphic detail? Why not gloss over that part and show more NVA deaths in much the same way as the old cowboy and Indian movies? Why show the grief of the loved ones back home when they received those terrible telegrams....why didn't they eliminate those scenes entirely?

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Response to OldDem2012 (Reply #18)

Sat Jan 26, 2013, 06:38 PM

23. Then why did they leave out the second day of the battle, when a battalion was ambushed

and slaughtered by the NVA?

The movie absolutely glorified the first, relatively successful day of the battle and COMPLETELY LEFT OUT the disaster on the second day. I suppose they ran out of money or something, LOL.

The movie is a joke and the elderly Hal Moore apparently agreed to let them make him look like John Wayne.

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Response to tabasco (Reply #23)

Sat Jan 26, 2013, 07:17 PM

27. The battle at LZ X-Ray lasted 3 days; LZ Albany was on the 4th day

When the column began marching from X-Ray to Albany, it was nearly 72 hours after the initial X-Ray landings and contact.

The X-Ray story alone provided way more than enough material for a feature-length film, and while accounts of both battles were included in the book, it's hard to see how both could have been depicted in a single movie.

The story of Hal Moore's battalion and the X-Ray battle is a compelling one, and that was the focus of the movie. Albany involved a sister battalion, with a whole different cast of characters--another reason why it might have been problematic to combine the two in one film.

From those I've talked to who were there, the movie basically got it right.

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Response to pinboy3niner (Reply #27)

Sat Jan 26, 2013, 08:17 PM

33. Good post.

Was that last charge into the NVA in the book? I just forget. I didn't think so but...

Also I didn't think the NVA was using tunnels there.
Just asking because you certainly have more info than I do.

It was a fantastic book.

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Response to pangaia (Reply #33)

Sat Jan 26, 2013, 09:25 PM

38. Thanks. The book covered all aspects of the battle in detail.

I'm a little rusty on all of the details, but iirc, one reason they had to break out of the perimeter was to reach the 'lost platoon,' which had been cut off outside the perimeter.

There were caves and tunnels in Chu Pong Massif, the mountain that was the enemy basecamp (LZ X-Ray was right at the foot of it), as well as elsewhere in the area. The Ia Drang campaign began before X-ray--and I think it was about 2 weeks before X-Ray that Cav elements discovered an entire enemy field hospital underground. I remember that because a close friend was KIA on the operation there 10 days before X-Ray.

When I lived in the D.C. area, I talked to a lot of the Ia Drang vets over the years when they'd come to the Wall for Veterans' Day and hold their annual reunion nearby. In '92, when the book came out, it occurred to me to see if I could find Cav vets who knew my friend, so I dropped by their hotel--and I did find two guys who were with my friend when he died.

I spent the rest of a long evening drinking beer with two of Hal Moore's troops. It wasn't until the end of the night that I discovered who my drinking companions were: Sgt. Ernie Savage, who had ended up in command of the cut-off 'lost platoon,' and Doc Loos, the platoon's medic, who miraculously had kept a lot of their casualties alive through their long ordeal. Doc was put in for the Medal of Honor, and iirc he was awarded the Army's next highest valorous decoration, the Distinguished Service Cross.

The book was, for my money, the best non-fiction battle account from that war (alongside Tim O'Brien's The Things they Carried as the best novel). That owes a lot to the storytelling talent and eloquence of Joe Galloway, Hal Moore's co-author. (And Galloway is one of the few civilians awarded the Bronze Star for Valor.)

I bought the book and read it as soon as it came out. When I was at my older brother's and told him about it, he excused himself for a few minutes--and came back holding an old, yellowed newspaper clipping. It was one of Galloway's dispatches from the Ia Drang, about the batttle at X-Ray. My brother, a former Marine, had saved it for 27 years because because it impressed him as some of the best war reporting he had ever seen.

I gave away most of my VN War books to a Vet Center, but one of the ones I won't part with is my copy of We Were Soldiers Once...and Young... inscribed by Hal Moore, Joe Galloway, Ernie Savage, and Doc Loos.

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Response to tabasco (Reply #23)

Sat Jan 26, 2013, 07:34 PM

29. I had numerous criticisms of the movie

(having already read the book and done a little research) including that last "John Wayne" attack on the NVA. I have no military experience and am not a Vietnam War historian.
But--I do not agree that it was a propaganda film. My take away was the same as when I finished the book... that, whether or not it is an anti-war film, it certainly does not glorify the battle, but shows rather that the soldiers were fighting to protect each other. You would know about that first hand, as I would not.

I also suspect that the second day was left out partially as a matter of story line and running time. As I understand it, the second day was almost a separate battle, many different men involved which would have required introducing them all.

I had the same impression of the soldiers, although it was definitely an anti-war book, after reading CHICKENHAWK.

PS I can not stand Mel Gibson. :>

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Response to Demo_Chris (Reply #10)

Sun Jan 27, 2013, 09:27 AM

42. I hate the fact that they completely made the end up.

The movie was good, but the ending was total garbage and fiction. It was the typical Hollywood, "America must win!" handling of history. I find it funny that they could pull a supposed massacre out of their butts when talking about a real battle. I guess "based on a true story" allows you to do almost anything.

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Response to rug (Original post)

Sat Jan 26, 2013, 11:33 AM

11. I wonder if he really wants or is ready for the answer. nt

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Response to rug (Original post)

Sat Jan 26, 2013, 11:35 AM

12. What Kudo says is true

Many troops feel guilt after killing in combat.

Ultimately, you have to feel that you were justified in being in that country in the first place, justified in your mission, and justified in the actions you took in a particular situation.

That's how it was for me. I often feel that my deployment and mission in Somalia were unjustified, but that the actions I took in combat were within the rules of engagement and necessary. However, I am not proud of what I did.

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Response to rug (Original post)

Sat Jan 26, 2013, 02:00 PM

16. That's why the first thing they do is suppress the recruits' humanity...

and why they dehumanize the enemy.

Hell, back when I served in the 70's, we knew the Middle East was next. We were shifting to desert training, the uniforms were getting changed, emphasizing browns and tans over greens.

We even started calling them rag heads and mop heads and such. The last thing they want is for the troops to start thinking about that other guy's family, wives, children or whatever. He's just a target and you'd better get him before he gets you because he's thinking the same way.

Such are the ways that violence perpetuates.

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Response to Wounded Bear (Reply #16)

Sat Jan 26, 2013, 02:04 PM

17. +1000 n/t

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Response to Wounded Bear (Reply #16)

Sat Jan 26, 2013, 07:37 PM

30. + 1000 more and..

I like your tag line..
And never turn over the leadership of a country to people who can't laugh at themselves..

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Response to pangaia (Reply #30)

Sat Jan 26, 2013, 08:30 PM

35. My tag line is something I heard many years ago...

from working in Men's groups in the 90's IIRC.

It was explained to me as an old Irish proverb, but I can't swear to that. I always thought of it as being oddly profound.

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Response to Wounded Bear (Reply #35)

Sun Jan 27, 2013, 06:39 PM

51. Oh I agree, it is deeply profound..

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Response to Wounded Bear (Reply #16)

Sun Jan 27, 2013, 03:16 PM

49. +10000

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Response to rug (Original post)

Sat Jan 26, 2013, 02:39 PM

19. All veterans of ground combat of all wars wrestle with what they've seen and done....

...and for some it ultimately becomes a losing battle. Learning to deal with the memories without letting the memories gain control of what you do on a daily basis is a difficult challenge. I served with a lot of Korean and Vietnam combat vets and I understand to a certain extent what they're going through, but I will never fully understand what they're dealing with.

The only people who don't have to deal with it are the nations' leaders who put them in that position. If leaders were forced to lead the first attacks on the ground from the front perhaps we would have less wars.

Good luck, Captain. Semper Fi.

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Response to rug (Original post)


Response to rug (Original post)

Sat Jan 26, 2013, 07:25 PM

28. I fixed and maintained B-52s. Was I right or wrong?

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Response to Ptah (Reply #28)

Sat Jan 26, 2013, 07:39 PM

32. The fact that you can ask the question is what counts.

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Response to rug (Original post)

Sat Jan 26, 2013, 07:37 PM

31. The one thing I always ask some one getting ready to join the military is

 

are you willing to die for your country?

If the answer is no, I tell them do not join.

The reality is in the military few are actually trained for the reality of combat and war, the average grunt is just another FNG.

Your value in the military is directly proportional to the amount of money they invest in you, in other words the shorter your training the less you are worth.


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Response to rug (Original post)

Sat Jan 26, 2013, 08:17 PM

34. There will come a day when humanity realizes

that war is the greatest sin.

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Response to rug (Original post)

Sat Jan 26, 2013, 08:36 PM

36. Much more than wrong. n/t

 

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Response to rug (Original post)

Sat Jan 26, 2013, 08:43 PM

37. Proceeding from a false premise

 

Can lead to confusion and at least one moral dilemna. It's not always wrong to kill. Thank God it didn't happen, but if a marine under your command was killed by the motorcyclists, your post, and your mind, would likely be taking a very different turn.

The solutions I reached, after having served in three wars, was that as much as it was wrong to be there, I was there. It would be unwise to ignore reality. The phrase "war is hell" can only be viscerally understood by those who have had strangers trying actively to kill them. Atrocities pile up, a measure of ones humanity is put on hold, (possibly for a lifetime), and you keep your team alive while accomplishing your "mission".

I can't rationalize "war" in this note. Keep on keeping on. Thank you for your service. Maybe one day humanity will wake up to the fact that this planet, and everything on it, are a single organism.

Peace out.

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Response to rug (Original post)

Sat Jan 26, 2013, 10:13 PM

39. All of us with any kind of upbringing faced this question..

You think my mother or the nuns wanted me to be the first kid on the block with a confirmed kill?

Old civilian rabbited from a clump of grass. I got him. Saw his shirt puff red. No weapon.

I've seen him many times since then.

All those war movies..? They're not realistic without the smell of month-old clothes, shit and rotten blood.

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Response to rug (Original post)

Sun Jan 27, 2013, 12:35 AM

40. Watching TeeVee, they always put it as defending us here at home...

And it's pure bullshit. Defending WHO? Not me. Not my family. They're defending the monied interests. I wish they would stop kidding themselves.

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Response to Th1onein (Reply #40)

Sun Jan 27, 2013, 09:13 AM

41. There are many who agree.

"Every government that intends war is as much our enemy as ever the Germans were...the safeguard of peace is not a vast army,but an unreliable public, a public that will fill the streets and empty the factories at the word War, that will learn and accept the lesson of resistance. The only way to stop atrocities is to refuse to participate in them."

Alex Comfort, Peace and Disobedience, in Peace News (1946), pp. 6-7

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Response to rug (Original post)

Sun Jan 27, 2013, 10:59 AM

44. our country was wrong to put you in that position

we need to end this war mentality that says it can be a real solution... it never is

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Response to rug (Original post)

Sun Jan 27, 2013, 12:52 PM

47. As long as he followed legal orders, he only did what we asked him to do.

I hope he feels no guilt.

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Response to TwilightGardener (Reply #47)

Sun Jan 27, 2013, 03:12 PM

48. Lots of different kinds of guilt....

There's survivor's guilt.... "They... my buddies... my enemies...are dead and I'm alive... why?".

Collective guilt.... We all have it, since we sent them there under our flag... even if we didn't support the war personally.

Personal guilt. Policy is one thing. Actually pulling the trigger/cutting the throat is downright personal. Waaaay beyond mere policy.

He feels guilt. Trust me. He feels guilt.

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Response to rug (Original post)

Sun Jan 27, 2013, 05:14 PM

50. Killing

we have to keep questioning what it really accomplishes.

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