Monday, January 2, 2012

War Crimes and the American Conscience Part II

During downtimes for my training with Farmers, I was able to read an interesting book from 1970 entitled “War Crimes and the American Conscience.” The book was an analysis of US war crimes committed in Vietnam in the light of the principles of the Nuremburg conference; the recorded notes of the 1970 Congressional Conference on War and National Responsibility. Below are some excerpts.

“The American tradition is to locate the source of evil deeds in evil men. We have yet to learn that the greatest evils occur when social systems give average men the task of routinizing evil. - Edward M. Opton Jr. Pg. 113

“As the satirist Art Hoppe put it, ‘The best way [to kill civilians], it’s generally agreed, is to kill them with bombs, rockets, artillery shells, and napalm. Those who kill women and children in these ways are called heroes...’ How is it, the foot soldier must wonder, that ‘to kill women and children at less than 500 paces is an atrocity; at more than 500 paces, it’s an act of heroism.’ – Edward M. Opton Jr. Pg. 115

“We should pay tribute to that small but courageous number of the American armed forces who have refused over the years to follow orders when it came to the indiscriminate killing of civilians… These are heroes whom we ought to remember and honor – not only for their own sake, but because they provide us with an example of what individual conscience can do against the immortality of an act of Government.” Pg 148, Hans Morgenthau

“The free and responsible man will support and refine man-made laws wherever possible, but he will not permit his conscience to be limited by statute or its application. If he is a religious man, he will appeal to transcendent authority and join St. Peter in saying, ‘We must obey God rather than man.’ He will ‘seek first’ God’s kingdom, insisting that every other loyalty is a lesser loyalty. Or, lacking the authority of revelation, he may join Thoreau in refusing to pay taxes, in denouncing legalized racism and an unjust war, appealing to the ‘general right and obligation of men to disobey commands of a government’ which they consider morally wrong.
Flag-waving chauvinism must be recognized for exactly what it is. If Auschwitz was inhumane, so was Hiroshima. – James Armstrong Pg. 152

“The ultimate crime is war itself, and trying to assign degrees of criminality to certain of its forms is like trying to disguise the stench of rotting carcass by pouring perfume on it. – Jerome Frank Pg. 162

“Public officials should, therefore, be made to answer such legitimate questions as whether we have a real interest in the outcome of a conflict and, more importantly, whether we have a RIGHT to interfere. A refusal to answer on the basis of such considerations as ‘You’d support me if you knew what I know,’ is an abuse of power that a democratic society can never tolerate. – Senator George C. McGoveren
Pg. 166

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