Praise for the Military
I seldom have anything nice to say about the military. As a pacifist, I reject the premise for the existence of the military. I more often feel pity for soldiers for the aweful price they pay in giving up part of their humanity to become killers for the State. Seldom is their reason for being to protect us. Most of the time it is to protect economic interests and meddle in the affairs of other States for some political agenda of those who will never be required to fight and die.
In spite of these views of mine I have found occasions to admire soldiering. Here are two examples.
I recently revisited the speech Lt, Col. Tim Collins, of the British Army, gave to the 800 soldiers under his command just before the invasion of Iraq. It was a truly remarkable extemporaneous speech by a hard nosed very professional soldier. He got it right. He understood the mission and how it should be fought: tough in battle, sensitive to the culture and compassionate for soldiers that surrendered. I urge you to read it in the 22 March item in this article Lt. Col. Tim Collins address to his troops Read the whole article. I was particularly impressed by his tellingf his men that they were entering the cradle of civilization and the historic "Garden of Eden".
This professional soldier of the first rank was later falsely accused by an American soldier of a war crime. He was exhonerated but left the military out of disappointment in the Army's lack of support in this matter. It is the British army's loss.
The second instance of a military action that I admire is in an account of the Battle of Tarin Kwot. This was a key battle between a small group of Americain Special Forces with loyal Afghan troups against a larger force of the Taliban in the overthow of the Afghanistan government. Hamid Karsai, who was the American hand picked person to become President in the new government was involved. I admire these soldiers for their professionalism and courage under fire. They were so honoured by the American military. Here is an account by Radio Netherlands Worldwide (always with very interesting programs) RNW: Five years after the battle of Tarin Kowt. This battle was pivotal in the quick overthrow of the Taliban regime. Unfortunately, five years later the Taliban are back and stronger than ever. Canadian forces are prominent in fighting and dying in this Pastun region as part of a NATO force there at the request of the Afghanistan government..
We read much of the less than professional behaviour of soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is a fine line professional soldiers must walk. I don't envy them for to be wrong can cost them their life or the needless killing of non-combatant. Which ever choice they make they pay a terrible price: loss or life or loss of their humanity.