FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

A Soldier or a “Killing Machine”?

“We train our boys to be killing machines, then prosecute them when they kill!” Donald J. Trump tweeted October 12, 2019 regarding the case of Maj. Mathew Golsteyn a former Green Beret who is on trial for killing an unarmed Afghan man in 2010, a killing Golsteyn twice admitted. This statement was made by the Chief Law enforcement officer of the U.S. whose job it is to enforce the Constitution and laws (including the laws of war) “faithfully” under Article II of the Constitution, a Constitution which supposedly sought to limit war by giving only Congress the power to declare war, to avoid standing armies in times of peace, and to, in America, “make law king.”

Jesus of Nazareth stopped the hand of Peter when he drew his knife and attacked one of the soldiers sent to arrest Jesus. He proclaimed Peter had learned nothing from Him if Peter did not understand Jesus had taught everyone to avoid violence, “for he who lives by the sword will die by the sword.” Jesus made it clear in this teaching that violence, even when used to save the life of god, was repudiated by god. Jesus’ example seems to undermine any justification for violence: if saving the life of god does not justify it, what lesser value can?

For many of us, living in a “real world,” defense of self or others against aggressive violence, we say, justifies resort to violence. Arguably, this is the story of human civilization. As humanity emerged from the jungle and the law of the jungle (“might makes right”), it gave way to an idea of a law that sought to make violence the exception, not the rule. World War II ended its spasm of grotesque celebration of militarism and violence in “war crimes trials” of “Major War Criminals” many of whom were executed for engaging in organized, military violence on a scale never before seen. This continued an evolution from before World War I where law slowly moved to reject military solutions to human issues. The Tokyo and Nuremberg War Crimes Trials were a landmark rejection of what was once taken for granted: warlords and kings, who gained their power and thrones through violence, were no longer glorified heroes but shameful criminals.

In place of might, law was asserted. A new realization emerged from the dark slaughter of World War II—Jesus had something in his rejection of violence—in fact the specter of nuclear annihilation that arose at about the same time as War Crimes Trials, seemed to confirm his point: failure to reject violence by nuclear armed humanity would result in annihilation of humanity. A new consciousness of the role of armies arose. They would not be mere killers, like those wielded for power by warlords and kings throughout history, but would be officers of the law. War itself was required to be conducted in accord with the law and only when authorized by law. Soldiers who followed the law were not murderers, though they engaged in homicide, civilized nations would forgive so long as the law was followed, limiting violence to that legally prescribed and justified.

The flip side of this development was the recognition that those in civilized militaries were required to comply with the law to claim the benefit of “justified homicide” conducted in a lawful war, lawfully declared and lawfully conducted. Those who did not, who violated the law of war, were deemed rightfully subject to legal punishment, just as had the Major War Criminals after WWII. In order for this to be rational, soldiers (as opposed to killers) were trained in the law of war, how to conduct military operations lawfully, and to understand that the justification for their honor as soldiers was the lawful conduct in which they engage. Most follow this code, not only because it is the law, but also because they know it is just, that war is at best a necessary evil, they are so trained, and many believe that someday they may have to explain their actions to Jesus himself. In fact, all taxpayers who pay for the soldiers, too, may be called upon to justify paying for violence, and need to show it was done to advance the cause of law and justice, not as a spasm of barbarism.

If Mr. Trump is correct, and America “train[s] our boys to be killing machines,” with no obligation to the law, then the idea that in America “law is king” has suffered its most odious defeat and is on the verge of extirpation. If Mr. Trump is correct, our military is no longer an extension of the law, but has devolved back to the lumpen gangs of thuggish killing machines used by warlords and kings in pursuit of “right” by might. Maj. Golsteyn deserves a fair trial, this the law requires and even if guilty, punishment will consider the totality of the facts in an effort to be just. This is the law honorable soldiers fight to uphold. In fact, honorable soldiers exist today to ensure violence is not used, but peace maintained—at least that is the theory. And none would entrust mere “killing machines” with nuclear weapons. But, if Mr. Trump is correct and America has a military of “killing machines,” then not even Jesus will forgive what we do.

More articles by:

Kary Love is a Michigan attorney.

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
Weekend Edition
March 27, 2020
Friday - Sunday
Rob Urie
Bailouts for the Rich, the Virus for the Rest of Us
Louis Proyect
Life and Death in the Epicenter
Paul Street
“I Will Not Kill My Mother for Your Stock Portfolio”
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: The Scum Also Rises
Pam Martens - Russ Martens
Stimulus Bill Allows Federal Reserve to Conduct Meetings in Secret; Gives Fed $454 Billion Slush Fund for Wall Street Bailouts
Jefferson Morley
Could the Death of the National Security State be a Silver Lining of COVID-19?
Ruth Hopkins
A Message For America from Brazil’s First Indigenous Congresswoman
Kathleen Wallace
The End of the Parasite Paradigm
Anthony DiMaggio
Misinformation and the Coronavirus: On the Dangers of Depoliticization and Social Media
Andrew Levine
Neither Biden Nor Trump: Imagine Cuomo
David Rosen
God’s Vengeance: the Christian Right and the Coronavirus
David Schultz
The Covid-19 Bailout: Another Failed Opportunity at Structural Change
Evaggelos Vallianatos
In the Grip of Disease
Edward Leer
Somebody Else’s World: An Interview with Kelly Reichardt
Robert Fisk
What Trump is Doing in the Middle East While You are Distracted by COVID-19
Daniel Warner
COVID-19: Health or Wealth?
Thomas Klikauer – Norman Simms
Corona in Germany: Hording and Authoritarianism
Ramzy Baroud
BJP and Israel: Hindu Nationalism is Ravaging India’s Democracy
Richard Moser
Russia-gate: the Dead But Undead
Ron Jacobs
Politics, Pandemics and Trumpism
Chris Gilbert
Letter From Catalonia: Alarming Measures
Richard Eskow
Seven Rules for the Boeing Bailout
Jonathan Carp
Coronavirus and the Collapse of Our Imaginations
Andrew Bacevich
The Coronavirus and the Real Threats to American Safety and Freedom
Peter Cohen
COVID-19, the Exponential Function and Human the Survival
César Chelala - Alberto Luis Zuppi
The Pope is Wrong on Argentina
James Preston Allen
Alexander Cockburn Meets Charles Bukowski at a Sushi Bar in San Pedro
Jérôme Duval
The Only Oxygen Cylinder Factory in Europe is Shut down and Macron Refuses to Nationalize It
Neve Gordon
Gaza Has Been Under Siege for Years. Covid-19 Could Be Catastrophic
Alvaro Huerta
To Survive the Coronavirus, Americans Should Learn From Mexicans
Prabir Purkayastha
Why the Coronavirus Pandemic Poses Fundamental Challenges to All Societies
Raouf Halaby
Fireside Chatterer Andrew Cuomo for President
Thomas Drake
The Sobering Realities of the American Dystopia
Negin Owliaei
Wash Your Hands…If You Have Water
Felice Pace
A New Threat to California’s Rivers:  Will the Rush to Develop Our Newest Water Source Destroy More Streams?
Ray Brescia
What 9/11 Can Teach Us About Responding to COVID-19
ADRIAN KUZMINSKI
The Covid-19 Opportunity
John Kendall Hawkins
An Age of Intoxication: Pick Your Poison
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
The Propaganda Virus: Is Anyone Immune?
Nicky Reid
Fear and Loathing in Coronaville Volume 1: Dispatches From a Terrified Heartland
Nolan Higdon – Mickey Huff
Don’t Just Blame Trump for the COVID-19 Crisis: the U.S. Has Been Becoming a Failed State for Some Time
Susan Block
Coronavirus Spring
David Yearsley
Lutz Alone
CounterPunch News Service
Letter from Truthdig’s Editor-in-Chief Robert Scheer to the Publisher Zuade Kaufman
CounterPunch News Service
Statement From Striking Truthdig Workers
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail