Misdirected Anger: Don’t Call Troops Baby Killers

baby killerI just got off the phone talking on Free Talk Live after one of the hosts started calling military folks “baby killers.” The argument he was making was that if you are dropping bombs out of planes onto villages, you are most certainly killing babies. This is not under debate here, as death (even children) is certainly an expected part of war. Nobody likes that.

But still, that’s harsh and not useful.

Now, I’m avidly against the late Vietnam war and the current Iraq war (yet, I fully agree with using military force to retaliate and hunt down Osama in Afghanistan and wherever he is), but I think once you start throwing around blanket statements about the morality of our military troops, you are treading into dangerous territory. Back during Vietnam, one of the greatest blunders of the anti-war movement was to greet returning troops with spit and name-calling. The hippie crowd turned their backs on the military and shunned them as pariahs. My father is a testament and I have heard many stories in that vein from him that I trust his account of.

Here’s where it gets complicated with Vietnam, because of the draft: All of those who joined (by draft or willingly) were essentially made suckers years later when Gerald Ford pardoned all the deserters who ran to Canada or refused to join. I’d feel like a sucker too, but in that context, I’d hate hippies who had mocked me, not the government that had gotten away with a lying pretext for war.

Now here’s where we as libertarians have a unique opportunity to garner military people into our fold:

Don’t call them suckers, don’t call them baby killers.

Make it clear that the real criminal here is the U.S. government for waging an illegal war with their lives.

I’m not going to lay out an argument against the Iraq war here, since being in an information age, it’s easy to find what you need to state your argument with the Downing Street Memo.

But what I will say is that this misdirected rage at our troops must not be tolerated. Point it up the chain, the general who gives unlawful orders at the POW prison and has no control over his battalion, the secretary of defense who mocks our troops when he says “you go to war with the military you have, not the military you want”, the president and vice president who cull intelligence for damning WMD evidence to support their invasion, and change the reason to “spreading freedom” after the fact.

Only then can we win the battle of opinion with the returning troops instead of alienating them.

UPDATE: You can listen to the archived audio from Free Talk Live, where this post is read verbatim at the end of the second hour of the show (I had called in at the end of the first hour): hour 1 (6.7MB mp3) hour 2 (6.8MB mp3)

Stephen VanDyke

I've published HoT along with about 300+ friends since 2002. We're all Americans who are snarky and love our country. I'm a libertarian that registered Republican because I like to win elections. That's pretty much it.

  1. Don’t forget the President who says “Bring it on!” If I was a troop in Iraq and heard my Commander in Chief say that I’d be fucking pissed off to all hell, especially knowing that he sent my ass there on false pretense.

  2. I guess you expected to hear from me on this issue. One can disagree with the decisions of the leaders whether they be elected or Generals when it comes to war. If one hates the decision makers, go after them, not the soldiers obeying orders.

    This is becoming the same old crap, different war. If society wants to pay a huge price for the next 30+ years, then repeat the same mistakes as was done against soldiers returning from Vietnam. Isolate them from society, make them angry and lash out, make them feel guilty and useless, don’t reach out to them.

    You cannot possibly know what it is like to be in combat if you have never been there and done that. No normal human being wants to kill babies, children and innocents and many have died by trying to avoid that thereby being sucker killed by the enemy who knows the American soldier better than the average American citizen.

    The prisons were filled with angry combat veterans after Vietnam. Big $ cost to the taxpayer. What about the ones that blew their brains out because they could not cope? Now we had to support their children. How about the ones that turned to alcohol and drugs ruining marriages, raging and hurting people, and living on the streets. They gave nothing back to society.

    Then there were what we vets call loose cannons about to explode for no apparent reason. They injured, maimed and even killed.

    Were they antisocial? You bet. Why? Because society rejected them is misfits. The cost to the taxpayer? Probably cannot even be calculated but it must be huge.

    Now it would be a lot more cost-effective to integrate these new veterans back into society than to isolate and ridicule them for them doing what they thought was the right thing at the time.

    We can all agree to disagree on the issues but we should try to avoid personal attacks on individuals for them following orders and doing what they may believe is the right thing to do at the time.

    Jane, Jane, Jane Fonda. Where are you and Tom Hayden now? The anti-war movement needs you. You are the experts in insulting and humiliating soldiers. Come on out and play again. This time Vietnam veterans are ready for you. No guts? That figures.

  3. Dad,

    You know, I’m actually trying to argue against the Jane Fonda types… right? You almost seem like you want a hateful and misguided anti-war crowd to emerge, perhaps so you could go after them and feel vindicated in your belief of “the other side”. Sure, they are out there, and when they speak up I’ll be here to blast them, but most of those types are found in the organized socialist and communist groups, much like they were in the 60s.

    But I’d like to make sure that hateful, bile-spewing crowd isn’t associated with libertarians in any way. Because I certainly believe we have the most rational and reasoned view on the War on Terror in general.

  4. Good call (I just listened to the podcast). Another thing to keep in mind is that many Vietnam veterans were drafted into the War. So they truly had no choice (well, no practical choice) about whether to follow orders that may have resulted in the deaths of babies.

    The Iraq War is a bit different, but nonetheless, I agree with you that calling troops “baby killers” is unproductive.

  5. I am left unpersuaded by this post. This sounds like you think soldiers shouldn’t receive a delivery of anger from those who find their actions repugnant because “They were just following orders.” I have hope that every human soul can be redeemed but being a soldier doesn’t exempt them from the consequences of their actions. Find some reasoning in which the statement is untrue and I could agree with you, but just because it is “unuseful” leaves me cold.

  6. Well, if your goal is to judge the soldier’s action, then deeming them “unuseful” certainly isn’t a very strong judgement.

    But I don’t think that’s what’s being suggested here. We shouldn’t care about judging the soldiers. That type of stuff can be done by single-issue advocacy groups (like an anti-war group, for example).

    If we’re commenting about the war as libertarians wishing to inform the public about the broader ideals of libertarianism, it does no good to judge the soliders. That won’t win us any new supporters, even amongst the rabid anti-war crowd. Just passing judgements on soldiers (or anybody, for that matter) makes us seem petty and divisive…who wants that?

    But if we shift the focus of failed war policies onto the larger government, we can have our cake and eat it too. We can express opposition to the War while simultaneously showing how government has failed us once again. This allows us to extrapolate the context from a single issue (the War) to a broader set of issues (the role of government in our society), which is what we have to do if we’re looking to convince people of the benefits of greater liberty.

  7. Great call Steven. You should give them a ring more often, FTL doesn’t get enough callers disagreeing with them.

  8. Thane Eichenauer, I take full responsibility for my actions. It is those like you that try to put a guilt trip on others because they don’t agree with your politics. Who are you to sit in judgement of me or any other soldier? If you have been there and done that, then you might have the privelege of being the judge and jury and condemn me and my brothers in arms.

    By the way, there are lawful orders and unlawful orders in the military chain of command. When I was a soldier, we actually had classes that defined what was lawful and unlawful. Ordering a soldier to kill a baby or any civilian would be unlawful. We are not all cretians as some of you would believe. We can think and make rational decisions. I never would have obeyed an unlawful order. I did not know any soldier that would have. The difference in American soldiers and others is evident – we do not set out to intentionally commit atrocities. Those that do will be punished. Do you keep up with current events? Those that violate military law are punished.

  9. Do you truly believe that all involved have been arrested/prosecuted looking at those recent events?

    As to your earlier post… I would despise the justly decided war criminals, and ALWAYS support our troops.

    You are correct that the current administration and political system is something we question with veracity but we do not blame the common men and women on the front lines or even in listening posts here at home. The truly honorable are all there for us… no matter what our opinion.

    We merely want to make certain this place is still the land of the free when they return.

  10. To Stop Hurting America;

    I agree all criminals in the military probably have not been arrested and prosecuted yet. This is also true in the civilian population. When a crime has been committed, the criminal must be identified and the crime defined. After that, then the accused, even in the military under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), still has a right to due process. This is America. Soldiers have rights too.

  11. Julian Van Dyke, I must disagree on your viewpoint on judgement, I find the actions of soldiers in Iraq immoral, and to only permit judgement of soldiers by other soldiers is to exempt them from accountability to civil society (e.g. the rest of us).

    I see a greater problem in your statement on lawful orders. Even if I grant you the point that American soldiers don’t set out to commit atrocities, from the vantage point of those people injured, maimed or killed I doubt they are interested in whether the bullet or bomb that the atrocities committed against their bodies is the result of someone following a lawful order or not and neither do I. I believe there are far too many lawful orders followed that end up in immoral results. Just because an action is lawful, doesn’t make it moral.

  12. Thane,

    You are correct. All soldiers are baby killers. That is what they are trained to do. Their sole purpose in life is to create mayhem and destruction. They are indiscriminate in who they kill and main.

    I was one of them in Vietnam. I killed my share of babies and children and enjoyed every minute of it.

    Are you happy now? I told you what you wanted to hear. Yes, we are all monsters and it is up to you and your kind to put us in our rightful place. See you in hell.

  13. My purpose is not to force you or anyone to admit to anything. My goal is to persuade soldiers to not commit immoral acts. It is not my goal to demonize you or any human being. I am sorry if I caused you to think otherwise. Please accept my apology.

  14. thane… who the f*ck are you to decide what’s moral?

    having served my time during the first gulf war (and yes, I was a volunteer) I agree whole heartedly with Julian.

    from my point of view, you, Thane, failed america. what did you do to stop the march to war? no one hates war more than the warrior.

    we are a civilian controlled military. controlled by the elected officials who have to answer to you, the voting public. government “by the people”. what did you do to stop it?

    morality is an indefinite term, as soon as you bring morality into the argument, you always lose.

  15. Nameless,

    Thanks for the support. I let my anger get the best of me when responding to Thane. I guess I am just fed up with being accused of atrocities just because I was a soldier (also a volunteer in the infantry) and did what I believed was the right thing to do.

    These people do not get it. They see the world through rose colored glasses and expect Utopia. Instead of taking action to effect change either by volunteering or becoming active at the grass roots level, they criticize those that are proactive.

    Welcome to the real world. It is not always pleasant and we have to make the best of it. I will always befriend a veteran, no matter what war or age. I have never met one that did not get it.

    Some of these people need to visit other countries and see how good we have it. I wake up every morning thanking God for my good fortune of being American.

    I must remember that freedom of speech applies to all whether I agree or disagree with them.

  16. well put, julian.

    I don’t know the source, but the quote I like the best (and I’m sure it’s a paraphrase) is,

    “I may not agree with what he has to say, but I will defend to the death his right to say it.”