Revisiting the Christian and State Relationship.

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Support Our Troops?

What happens when you begin to parse, from a biblical Christian context, the bumper-sticker thinking that pleads, “Support our troops”?

Troops

John the Baptist tells soldiers to do no violence to anyone. But that is what troops do. Their very job is to enforce by physical means the will of some person or group of persons that claims for itself the right to coerce others. This may be as a group of soldiers who are engaged in military assault, or, as in Palestine, merely an occupation force. Either way, troops are an agency for coercion. But if God makes compliance with His gospel voluntary during this period of the great conflict between selfishness and unselfishness, then there is no place for coercion of others; there is no place for troops.

There is a built-in feature some use when they argue that we should support our troops; they make a separation between the troops as individual soldiers, and the officers or the state. However, Every army consists of those who command and those who obey the commands. In terms of what the army does, there is no difference between grunts and the West-Pointers. Supporting our troops must mean not only supporting the private first class but also the general; not only those who kill on command but those who command to kill.

Those who support the troops also support the rifles, grenades, bunker-buster and hydrogen bombs of the military. The bullets and the guns and the bombs are the very tools used by the troops to murder and to coerce. Support of the troops must mean also supporting the use of these murderous weapons. The man who pulls the trigger or pushes the button is no less culpable than the one who commands, even from the oval office, that the button be pushed or the trigger pulled. To support our troops is to support the weapons used by the troops, is to support the nuclear bomb attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki that it was known by its planners would murder women, school-children, and aged men–civilians–and only a very few soldiers.

But then, some want to claim that the army is separate from the state, that the soldiers only do what the civilian leadership of the state tells it to do. And yet, what it all amounts to is a group that enjoys power on the basis of coercion; there is no difference between the political leaders and the military ones. Supporting our troops means supporting the dogface, the general, the representative, senator, and the president. The word “troop” traces back to Middle Latin and “troppus” meaning “flock.” Which reminds us to ask the question, What flock do I belong to as a Christian? Am I part of an earthly flock or a heavenly one? How could I identify with a group whose fundamental task is to murder or coerce–do violence–to others?

Our

The troops are said to be “our” troops. Which calls forth the question, what business does a Christian have murdering or coercing others? Or, what business does he who endorses God’s law–“Thou shalt not steal”–have in aggressing against the property rights of others? Even from the standpoint of the Constitutionalist–the one who believes that the United States Constitution is what amounts to a magic formula that if we all embraced it would prevent all these kinds of issues in terms of government–we have a problem here. For the Constitution does not give authority to raise perpetual standing armies. But this is what we have had since the beginning of World War II. Although the Constitution does not permit it, there has been one for a third of the time the USA has existed. Go checks and balances!

Some of those who serve may be our sons and daughters, but they are not “our” troops. They exist anti-constitutionally. And, blood descendancy does not indicate rational or moral agreement with behavior. If they are serving voluntarily as murderers and coercers, aggressors for pay, they are mercenaries, pure and simple. I do not pay mercenaries to aggress against others. And if they were not voluntary in the present sense, but the state commanded them to serve, still they would be–voluntarily–choosing to obey. We can never be forced, but all of our choices ultimately are voluntary. This is the only way that all of our choices, ultimately, can be moral.

Finally, we do not command them. We have no control over them. The United states public has been opposed to many of the wars that have been fought in its name. More recently, the public is overwhelmingly opposed to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. And yet, troops, bases, military actions continue. They are not ours. These are not our troops.

Support

Finally, we come to the question of support. What does it mean for us to “support” these troops which are not ours? Support boils down to our non-coerced approval of them. If we voluntarily choose to say, I will pay them to aggress against others and I agree with them when they pull the trigger and push the button that kills, we are disagreeing in the most fundamental way with God’s law which says “Thou shalt not kill.” And so, it is human law, ideas, attitude, versus God’s law, ideas, attitude. And I know where I stand.

Conclusion

I do not “support our troops.” They are not ours. I do not have aggressors and I do not support aggressors; it does not matter what emblem they wear or what flag they salute. I cannot serve two masters. The end result of the attempt to serve two masters is always the declaration “We have no King but Caesar.” I have no King but Christ.

Book review: Gar Alperovitz, The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb and the Architecture of an American Myth

Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., New York, 1995, 848 pp.

This lengthy volume will not be for every reader. However, if you want to understand how the decision to nuke Japan was made, who influenced whom, whether the Japanese were already trying to surrender, and whether the war was already won before the United State used two nuclear weapons against Japan in 1945, this is your book.

Alperovitz has exhaustively documented these questions, and—surprise—the answers are damning. Truman was influenced by Secretary of State James F. Byrnes. Among factors in the bombing were that an enormous amount of money had been spent in secret to develop these weapons and it seemed important to some to “have something to show for it all” in the end. But the saddest point is that scores of thousands of Japanese civilians were incinerated by the United State in a special attempt to impress the Soviet Union. They were impressed—they accelerated their own program developing the same kind of weapon.

Most of the top military figures advising the president did not want to use the bomb, or at least wanted to arrange a demonstration of the weapon for the Japanese. Initiatives were coming from the Emperor himself for ending the war, but surrender terms were left unclarified, although virtually everyone advising Truman sought for such a clarification.

This matter as outlined in the book raises the question of granting one man or a small group of men power to kill civilians. The myth that dropping the bomb saved hundreds of thousands or even millions of lives is also addressed. This myth was developed after the war when the use of the bomb generated a considerable outcry of disagreement. This book is almost two books in one, and the material about the myth and its development as worthy as the first part. First estimates were that the casualties that might accrue in the first month of an invasion of the Japanese mainland could go as high as 7,000. This number kept ratcheting up as pressure against what had been done mounted.

This book is a worthy read, quite detailed. This brief review does little justice to it. Since I have chosen to personally pursue more detail about the WWII / Cold War period, this book was one of real interest. Read Stinnett Day of Deceit,) first. You will have to set aside some time for Decision, although when you get down to the main text, you will only be reading some 670 pp. Helps one understand that the state is immoral, is run by incompetents who murder, and that there is grave danger in merely following orders. Nuking Japan adds a permanent tarnish against the record of the United State. No doubt, many good men fought in the war and did bad things as ordered, not understanding the import of their actions. However, the information is ready for you to chase it and you will see that what was done was a crime. Truman, Byrnes, and others will face their actions under the searching scrutiny of the Judge of all the Earth.

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