IT SEEMED TO ME in the days of the Vietnam War, that those who served were being judged as guilty of fighting an unjust war as well as fighting it unjustly. After all, as Charlotte Keys opined in an article in McCall’s magazine in 1966, Suppose they gave a war and nobody came“There is no moral validity to any part of any law whose purpose is to train people to kill one another.” Therefore, the peace movement argued, the government had no right to indenture its citizens to fight in any war, just or unjust, and those of us who served were immoral. Is this argument valid? 
Consider the following example: You are threatened by a man with a knife and you have a loaded gun and the knowledge of how to use it. However, your stricture against killing prevents you from defending yourself, and the man takes your life. Have you acted morally? Or, have you abetted the crime of murder in failing to defend yourself when you had the opportunity and the means to do so? Those of us who believe that murder, not killing, is a crime, would defend ourselves with whatever means and opportunity available to us. Failure to do so is considered suicide.

States are nothing more than aggregations of individuals and, as such, have the same moral rights and obligations as individuals. International law agrees that the head of state – the President, in the case of the United States – has the right and obligation to protect the lives and property of his citizens wherever they may happen to be in the world. Indeed, heads of state may act to provide such protections without declaring war. In fact, such acts are not considered to be war.

Thus, if the state has the same right to self-protection as do individuals, do the individuals have the right to empower the state to indenture them in service to kill? Simply, yes. “We the people” surrendered a portion of our individual rights to form a government for the purpose of “providing for the common defense.” We gave them that right “to secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.” We surrendered our right to refuse such service so that we could survive both individually and as a nation.

Well, we were called and most of us went. Some went more readily than others. We went happily in the early days of the war, prepared to hold the line on Communism. Later, when American resolve began to flag, we went reluctantly. Still, most of us answered the call. Others, like Mrs. Keys' son either went to Canada or went to jail. Interestingly, these latter citizens had alternative forms of service available to them as conscientious objectors, but some refused to serve even in this limited capacity. They preferred to enjoy their liberty without making the sacrifice. Even worse, they damned those who made the sacrifice on their behalf. Theirs was hubris of epic proportions.


Maj. Watson
11/09/2011 05:17

Great reading so far Jack - I'm going to enjoy this. Coming of age in the 80's - prior to joining the military - I heard all the stories, and knew many vets. I always felt they got a raw deal.
Kudos. I'll be reading.

Wes Watson
(21 years USAF - ANG)

11/09/2011 06:57

thanks, Jack

I was working at the Naval Hospital in San Diego at that time. The patient count increased daily. I remember a very stupid girl who did not understand the reason why so many jobs were opening up. I explained it to her.
I will never forget the Naval Corpsmen who died tying to save lives on the places on which battles were taking place!
They were the finest of Young Americans!
I still can't figure out the reason for that useless war. LBJ was a terrible man! He probably had campaign donations from the companies who produced the companies who made the arms!


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