Thursday, November 13, 2008

Soldiers of Conscience

I just read about Soldiers of Conscience, a new film from PBS’s “P.O.V.” series, which investigates the issue of war through the voices of soldiers on both sides of the issue, those who believe in war as just and moral, and those who don't.

I'm interested in this movie, and this topic, because I think it's easy to stand on one side of the issue and point judgemental fingers at the other side. This is where the name of my blog came from, the idea that some issues aren't as black and white as we like to think.

The following is taken from an article about the movie. The second paragraph especially stood out to me:

The film features eight U.S. soldiers and the common ground of their conscience. Each faces the same question: to kill or not to kill. Four of the eight believe deeply in the necessity and morality of war, that the strong must protect the weak, and that war and lethal force are morally justified at appropriate times. The others believe equally deeply that killing is never justified, and that peace can only be obtained by individual stances of courage and conscientious objection.

Basic training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, introduces the film’s topic. “Kill, kill, kill without mercy” is chanted across a field as fresh recruits begin training. Major Peter Kilner, a West Point professor of ethics, shares the surprising fact that 75 percent of soldiers in World War II never fired their weapons at the enemy. S.L.A. Marshall, a World War II historian, found that one in four soldiers of that war became conscientious objectors. The army decided they needed to fix that, Kilner says, so soldiers are now put through “reflexive firing training,” which is designed to bypass natural moral reaction and decision-making.

But such a bypass will eventually require a reckoning, and Kilner has noticed the emotional and spiritual struggle many soldiers meet once they arrive in Iraq and are confronted with the momentous choice to kill or not to. Soldiers can only kill because they’re taught to, Kilner says, but “we never explain to them why it’s okay.” Nor is there much mention of killing when soldiers come home. “We don’t talk about it,” Kilner observes. “It’s a taboo to talk about.”

And the discussion continues.

1 comment:

Jim said...

What an interesting choice on PBS's part to really voice the position of nonviolence from the military perspective. In "Jesus For President," Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw tell stories of multiple soldiers who have confessed to them that they were losing or already lost their soul to the military. I've always had a sense that, as I saw friends of mine leave for boot camp and return completely different people, that something had died inside of them, something holy. To think that we're desensitizing our fellow humans to the Jesus inside that person they're pointing that rifle at, it's not difficult to see how we ended up with Abu Ghraib, My Lai, Kent State.