Wars and conflicts regardless of its reasons, when it endangers citizens of nations to injuries and deaths, are categorically evil and something to be undesired. But, when acts of crime and illegality are committed during wars and conflicts, it is a repeat of history – e.g., the My Lai Massacre. My Lai Massacre is a historical reminder, as BBC news article dated 20th July 1998 entitled: “Murder in the name of war – My Lai.” I do not wish to go into the details of that shameful and tragic event. But rather, I like to highlight two heroes of that tragedy, namely, Hugh Thompson and Lawrence Colburn. These two soldiers did what was right in the face of acts of crime and illegality. They tried to stop their comrades from killing unarmed civilians and tried to save those whom they could in the face of a massacre. They are an epitome of the real heroes in wars or conflicts. It took 30 years before they were honored by their nation for their honorable acts as solders. And history honors them too. What makes soldiers like Hugh Thompson and Lawrence Colburn different from those who justify war crimes and illegalities under the pretext of “obeying orders?”
An Honorable Military Is Created By Honorable Soldiers
A military is one of the resources available to a nation-state, the core role and function of the military is to defend its nation-state against all actual or perceived threats.
Take note, the military is not there to defend a political party in its country. It is not there to serve as a private army for one of its elected leaders or its appointed generals. It is not there as a tool for suppressing the citizens whose tax money pays for and maintains them. It is not there to murder unarmed civilians whether at home or in foreign lands. It is not there to serve itself.
Among the many things a military is not, is, it is not there for murdering unarmed civilians, whether at home or in foreign lands. An act of crime by even one soldier brings dishonour to the whole military. In the same manner, an act of heroism by even one soldier brings honour to the whole military. It must always be remembered, that, it is the honorable soldiers who create an honorable military. If honorable soldiers create an honorable military, what is the honorable thing to do?
Doing What Is Right In The Face Of Acts of Crime and Illegality
If history bears witness to the honourable and heroic acts of Hugh Thompson and Lawrence Colburn, it is because, they chose to do what was right in the face of acts of crime and illegality, regardless of the personal harassments and hardships they faced for their stand. Only cowards and criminals hide under various pretexts. It takes the caliber of an honourable soldier and a gentleman to do that which is right, to defend and protect unarmed (all) civilians against any threat even when it comes from one’s own comrades. Why is doing the right thing in the face of acts of crime and illegality a vital national act?
Military and Political Stewardships Are Intertwined
As the military is one of the resources of a nation-state, its acts in times of wars and conflicts, reflects upon the political governing powers of the nation-state, namely, the elected leaders. And the way the elected leaders respond or react to the actions of the military, reflect upon all the citizens who constitute the nation. And the whole world is always watching the actions of a nation more than its sermons. If elected governing leaders expect and enforce right actions in the military, it brings honour to the nation as a whole. When elected governing leaders condone, cover-up or ignore criminal or illegal actions in the military, it brings dishonour to the entire nation. Honour for a nation is not only in what it says but more in what it does among its global friends and foes.
The Soldier, the Military, the Elected Leaders and the Nation – All Can Be Heroes
Thus, soldiers who do what is right in the face of acts of crime and illegality promote their nation. When a nation supports and stands by these kinds of soldiers, they too become heroes in the eyes of humanity that is looking for justice, protection and security. It all begins with the soldier on the field doing what is right in the face of acts of crime and illegality in times of wars and conflicts. It takes only a second to create the label of a crime state, but it takes centuries to build an honorable nation.