One of our friends enlisted in the U.S. Army at 17, soon was fighting against the Viet Cong in a lost spot around the globe most Americans knew nothing about.
When this big teen became a battling soldier, not only didn't he know anything about Vietnam nor about Vietnam's history, nor that the U.S. had supported the re-invasion of the French after WWII, none of this was why he was fighting!
This serious soldier was thinking about his own life, and those of his fellow soldiers. Like so millions of other soldiers throughout history, he was in a war NOT
or historical reasons BUT because he was a young guy who thought that the military might be good for him.
Or consider another friend of mine. When he came back from a year in Vietnam, did he mention politics or justice or even patriotism? NO.
He told me about how his platoon guarded a bridge in the Mekong Delta and smoked weed most of the time.
For millions of other soldiers, they were drafted. Unless they became conscientious objectors (only a very few), these young men (and a few older ones) served out of duty, honor, or because they didn't want to go to prison or leave their country.
Ask most veterans, and they will speak especially of caring about their "band of brothers," NOT about global politics or religious commitment: "God and Country," though all of the German soldiers in the Great War did have that on their belt buckles.
Of course, in the 1800's, the 1600's, and so forth, millions of draft-age men did leave their nations in order not to kill, in order not to be a soldier, not to battle in countless killings. The clearest example are the many thousands of Germans such as the Mennonites and Brethren who immigrated to the United States in the 19th century and before to escape the endless political and religious wars which devastated Europe year after year, century after century.
A perceptive secular thinker on the Internet, Keith Parsons, has spoken to this several days ago on the blog, Secular Outpost, in relation to those who are vandalizing or taking down statues to Confederate soldiers:
"I was born in Macon, Georgia in 1952, the fourth generation of the Parsons family to be born in Georgia. My great-great grandfather Parsons was born in London, England, and in 1844 he settled in Georgia on land only recently stolen from the Creek Indians. On the other side of the family, my roots in Georgia go back at least five generations. Several of my ancestors owned slaves. Several fought in the Civil War; no need to guess which side.
"Am I sorry that my ancestors owned human beings? Yes, of course I am.
"Am I ashamed that my ancestors fought for the Confederacy? Not really.
"Let’s consider just one of my ancestors, the Rev. Enoch Hooten...Seriously wounded...How seriously did my progenitor take that? Was he fighting for slavery?
"I don’t think so. Consider a parallel case: Did the average Russian of the Great Patriotic War fight for Stalin? Did he fight for Communism and for the ultimate victory of Marxism/Leninism?
"No, he fought because the Germans had invaded his country. He fought because he hated the invading enemy, whatever he thought of Marxist theory, if he thought about it at all.
"Except for Gettysburg, practically all of the major Civil War battles were fought in the southern or border states. For the southern soldier, it truly was The War of Yankee Aggression.
"So, my bet is that my ancestors fought because they felt a threat to their homeland.
" The despised Yankees had marched onto sacred southern soil and had to be sent home...
Southerners perceived the North as another country,
and northerners as a foreign people who had no right to rule them...southerners thought they were fighting for Christian values over the godless, soulless mercantilism of the north.
They sang, “Down with the eagle and up with the cross!”
"One can see a cause as very bad while respecting the motivations of the individuals who fought and died for it. Just because you oppose, say, gun control, or abortion, or the death penalty, you don’t have to question the integrity of those who disagree with you on those issues.
"So, I’m not ashamed of my Confederate ancestors. I think that, though grievously wrongheaded, they were doing what they thought that honor and duty required which, really, is all that we can ask of anyone.
"...I might be willing to countenance a statue of Robert E. Lee if a statue of Frederick Douglass or Harriet Tubman, just as big and just as prominent, were erected next to it.
"In the end, the ones most deserving of honor are those who were the victims of slavery and of the hundred years of Jim Crow repression that followed slavery.
from "Confederates in the Closet" by Keith Parsons
And, let us think back to the millions of 20th and 21st century American soldiers such as our friend who at 17 went off to fight in a place he knew nothing about...
HOWEVER, consider this:
He's five feet two and he's six feet four
He fights with missiles and with spears
He's all of 31 and he's only 17
He's been a soldier for a thousand years
He's a Catholic, a Hindu, an atheist, a Jain,
a Buddhist and a Baptist and a Jew
and he knows he shouldn't kill
and he knows he always will
kill you for me my friend and me for you
And he's fighting for Canada,
he's fighting for France,
he's fighting for the USA,
and he's fighting for the Russians
and he's fighting for Japan,
and he thinks we'll put an end to war this way
And he's fighting for Democracy
and fighting for the Reds
He says it's for the peace of all
He's the one who must decide
who's to live and who's to die
and he never sees the writing on the walls
But without him how would Hitler have
condemned him at Dachau
Without him Caesar would have stood alone
He's the one who gives his body
as a weapon to a war
and without him all this killing can't go on
He's the universal soldier and he
really is to blame
His orders come from far away no more
They come from him, and you, and me
and brothers can't you see
this is not the way we put an end to war.
by Buffy Sainte-Marie
As a peacemaking poster states, THERE ARE NO JUST WARS, just wars...and wars and wars and wars...and every nation thinks its particular war is just, and that all their enemies are "unjust."
Let us seek the Light,