Do You Have a Question for Aidan Delgado, Joshua Casteel, or Lt. Col. Pete Kilner?

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Three of the people who were featured in Soldiers of ConscienceLt. Col. Pete Kilner and conscientious objectors Aidan Delgado and Joshua Casteel — will answer questions from viewers during the week following Thursday, October 16, 2008.

Soldiers of Conscience airs on most PBS stations on Thursday, October 16, 2008 at 9 PM. (Schedules vary, so check your local listings.)

Pete KilnerLt. Col. Pete Kilner is a professor at the United States Military Academy at West Point and a former infantry commander. He has written on the subject of unit cohesion and spoken out on the necessity for enhanced preparation for soldiers in the moral justifications for war and killing in combat.

Joshua CasteelFormer West Point cadet Joshua Casteel served in the Army Reserves and was later called up to active duty. He trained as an interrogator and an Arabic language specialist before being sent to the Joint Interrogation and Debriefing Center at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. He applied for and was granted conscientious objector status in 2005, receiving an honorable discharge. Now a Catholic, Joshua traveled with a delegation of Catholic leaders to meet with the Pope in March 2007.

AidanAfter joining the Army Reserve in 2001, Aidan Delgado developed an interest in Buddhism and began to reconsider the morality of military service. After being called to active duty, Delgado served at the Abu Ghraib prison compound before seeking and receiving conscientious objector status in 2004. In 2008, Aidan moved to Washington D.C. to attend Georgetown Law where he is studying Constitutional and Public Interest law. He is currently working on a second book, a work of fiction. After law school, Aidan plans to return to Florida where he has been involved in Democratic
politics and pursue elected office.

We kicked things off by asking a few questions to Lt. Col. Pete Kilner about his research.

POV: What inspired your research into the morality of killing?

Lt. Col. Pete Kilner: In September 1994, I found myself preparing to invade Haiti. I was a captain in the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne Division, sitting on an airfield in North Carolina, waiting to load an airplane from which I would parachute into Port-au-Prince later that night.
Amid the nervous chatter, one young soldier’s sincere question to an Army chaplain caught my attention.
“Chaplain,” he asked. “We’re gonna kill a lot of people tonight.  Is that alright?”
“Of course it’s the right thing to do,” responded the chaplain with confidence.  “We’re soldiers.  The President told us to do it.  That makes it right.”
I remember feeling terribly disappointed in that response, thinking to myself there’s got to be a better answer than that.
As it turned out, the parachute assault was canceled at the last moment when diplomacy prevailed.   Two years later, I had the opportunity to revisit the question when the Army sent me to study philosophy at Virginia Tech. Away from the hectic pace of a combat unit, I relished the opportunity to look up the answer to this most basic moral question for a soldier — what makes killing in the context of war morally right?  To my surprise and dismay, I could not find the answer.  No one — not the chaplaincy, the Army, the Department of Defense, academia, not even the Catholic Church (which over the past 2000 years has arrived at an answer for almost everything) — provided a rigorous moral justification for killing enemy combatants in war!  Having joined the MD National Guard as an infantryman soon after high school, and subsequently having become an infantry officer, I had always assumed that what I trained myself and others to do was a morally justified action. I knew that I needed either to discover the answer or to become an anti-war activist.
What I discovered in my research was that the Just War tradition justifies the moral permissibility of war at the international level and includes principles for individual soldiers’ conduct in war, but it does not provide a moral justification for the combatant-on-combatant killing that characterizes war. In contrast, the War Pacifist tradition focuses its lens at the level of the individual soldier, claiming that killing another human being in the context of war is morally unjustified, and thus wars among states are unjustified. In my masters’ thesis, I combined a war-pacifist framework for justifiable killing with my own understanding of the nature of war to produce a moral justification for killing in war.
Two other influences deseve mention. First, LTC (RET) Dave Grossman’s book On Killing, which I read while writing my thesis on the morality of killing in war. On Killing broke the taboo on talking about killing, and it provides great insight on the personal experience of killing. Of course, Grossman examines the issue from a psychological perspective; he taught psychology at West Point. When I read the stories and examples in On Killing, I read them from an ethicist’s perspective. The book opened my eyes to the huge need to address the morality of killing with those who kill rightfully.
Second, I have been motivated to continue my work by the encouraging responses of soldiers, especially those who have killed in war.

POV: In the film, you talk about how your work has been received with some controversy within the military community. Has that changed since filming ended?

Lt. Col. Kilner: Yes. At the time of filming, I had never been invited to address soldiers on the issue. In the past two years, I have had the privilege to lead seminars on the morality of killing in war with soldiers in the 82nd Airborne Division, the 101st Airborne Division, and the 25th Infantry Division; with many cadets here at West Point; and with all the staff and faculty at the Marine Corps’ Command and General Staff College, which I have been invited to do again this May.
Last week, I was told that the Army course that trains Infantry officers is interested in adding the subject to their curriculum. The Army’s Command and General Staff College has included “Military Leaders’ Obligation to Justify Killing in War” in its curriculum for several years.
In sum, my fellow soldiers and military leaders are near-universally supportive of my work.

POV: Has your work influenced the way that the military trains new soldiers?

Lt. Col. Kilner: Not that I’m aware of. I have addressed plebes at West Point. But, to be honest, I think that new recruits need to spend their precious time learning how to kill; they need to be socialized into being able to do something they haven’t done before. Once the soldiers report to their units, their leaders there can take care of the rest. When all company-grade officers and senior NCOs are empowered to talk with their soldiers about the morality of war and killing, my mission will have been accomplished.

POV: Are there any books that you’d consider as recommended or required reading for people interested in enlisting in the military?
For books to provide insight into killing, I am a fan of Dave Grossman’s books On Killing and On Combat.  As for books on the morality of war, I recommend Michael Walzer’s Just and Unjust Wars, Brian Orend’s The Morality of War, and Richard Norman’s Ethics, Killing, and War.  As for the psychology of war, I recommend Chris Hedge’s War is a Force that Gives Us Meaning.
Added November 10, 2008: Aidan Delgado and Lt. Col. Pete Kilner answered viewer questions in the comments of this post. Unfortunately, Joshua Casteel did not have time to participate. Read on for responses to questions about Ghandian non-violence, the difficulties of being a conscientious objector and more.

Catherine Jhee
Catherine Jhee
Catherine Jhee was formerly a producer with POV Interactive.
  • Greg Andrews

    FOREIGNID: 17683
    I will address this question to any or all of you. First, I admire you emotional and physical courage in doing all that you have done and have yet to do. I thank you all for serving our country and thus all of us. As a Literature teacher here at Windsor High School in Windsor CT, I teach “All Quiet on the Western Front” and “The Things They Carried” the first being a WWI novel and the second a Vietnam era novel. Both texts speak to the idea that the enemy is really very much the same as us when we can see them face to face. —– Do you as soldiers guard against intentionally or unintentionally humanizing the enemy? Are you taught to keep them dehumanized as a way to preserve your ability to be able to kill? What is it that has changed your mind about remaining a soldier, whose duties are among so many other things–to kill?

  • Dustin Mack

    FOREIGNID: 17684
    I want to thank the soldiers who have declared themselves conscientious objectors. The strength and courage you have displayed in standing up for your beliefs is truly inspirational. I personally consider you all not only American heroes but world heroes, heroes for humanity and peace. Thank you.

  • Scott Sturm

    FOREIGNID: 17685
    Having served in the Army and the reserves myself for 10 years during pre and post 9/11 times, I fully understand the courage it takes to be true to one’s personal convictions and know how your position will be negatively construed amongst fellow soldiers and leadership. Your experiences are uniquely your own and they shape the decisions that you ultimately can choose to make. If there is any one soldier that goes through their entire military career and doesn’t have the capacity to understand beyond what he or she is told, we’ll reside our nation’s fate in the hands of those who have proven they will needlessly place us in an unjust conflict. We all know too well that patriotism isn’t defined alone by subscribing to the agenda of others regardless of the capacity in which you may serve them. My question to each of you would be when you came to this decisive point in your life and military service, were you able to find others in your unit who shared the same viewpoint but were unwilling to act on it? If so, were they more fearful of the UCMJ implications or the backlash of those they were serving with? A thank you is not near enough for your service, story and perspective.

  • Terry

    FOREIGNID: 17686
    Just watched the film on (Soldiers of Conscience), garbage. If the soldiers didn’t want to be a soldier and defend “our” country like the swore to do, why did heck did they join the military in the first place. Probably for a bonus and for the Montgmery GI Bill so “our ” country will pay for their education. I proudly served for 31 years in the Army, no regrets at all. Didn’t agree with everything but I saluted the flag and did what I was told.
    Nothing in the documentry said anything about the radical Moslums that hate America and will do anything to destroy the United States.

  • Richard

    FOREIGNID: 17687
    I think that we are missing the point here. I keep hearing people ask if it is ok to kill bad guys to defend the good guys. What we need to ask ourselves is “who are the bad guys and who are the good guys” One thing we know for sure is that the American government lied so that they could attack another country. They have turned an entire country into a war zone. They have sacrificed thousands of their own soldiers and killed many more thousands of innocent people including women and children. I work as a full time fire fighter for the city of Toronto and this year at a call I held a bloody dying seven year old girl in my arms who had been run over by a van. I want you to know that it was the most horrible thing that I have ever experienced. No matter how you try to justify killing children it is wrong, wrong, wrong. The only reason it is excepted is because the people back home don’t have to see and feel it. They only know it as collateral damage and that it is acceptable and necessary in order to preserve our peaceful way of life.
    This war on Iraq is not a just war and is not in self defense. Every single person that is killed in this war is a victim of murder. The United States of America has turned into what it is fighting against. The whole world hates the USA. The people of the United states have to wake up and realize that their government and the big greedy corporations are driving the country into the ground.
    These soldiers who have become conscience objectors are more brave and more intelligent then any soldier. They and others like them including civilians are leading the way to a peaceful tomorrow. I have two very young sons and I promise you that they will never kill or be killed to protect the rich mans money.
    The USA with all of their riches should be home to the most intelligent and highly educated people in the world. The reason it isn’t is because educated people don’t believe everything they are fed and they aren’t fooled into fighting for a bunch of lying greedy politicians.
    As far as my first question? I think it is plain to see who the bad guys are.

  • Kannan Krishnan

    FOREIGNID: 17688
    The documentary apparently focused on the soldiers of conscience, not quite the solution for the radical Moslems, devoid of conscience, preaching terror and vain death !
    If the soldiers of conscience cannot provide a solution to the harbingers of violence the world over then it is left to those who dared to pull the trigger and answer the call of duty?

  • Richard

    FOREIGNID: 17689
    My comment is for Lt. Col. Pete Kilner. An innocent Iraqis family is having dinner and suddenly an American bomb lands next door and wipes out this mans family. His five year old daughter is in two pieces screaming in a pool of blood while she dies his wife has been blown to bits. Then the father runs out with a knife and attacks the first American soldier he sees. Another American soldier shoots the father in defense of the soldier being attacked. Please explain to me where the justice is and who the bad guy is. AND WHERE DOES IT END !!! Oh and buy the way. If you would like some extra education watch the documentary “ LOOSE CHANGE 2nd EDITION ”

  • Chas Chiodo

    FOREIGNID: 17690
    My comment is in the form of a letter I recently sent to the local newspaper:
    HERO. Man, am I tired of hearing that word, but I shall use it here to get my point
    across. Over and over again, it has been said or inferred that one of the reasons
    McCain deserves to be president is because he is a war hero. Even Obama has called
    McCain “a genuine American hero.” The troops fighting our wars in Iraq
    and Afghanistan are called heroes. I say they are WAR CRIMINALS, along with Bush,
    Cheney, Rumsfeld, etc. This isn’t a political rant against McCain or for Obama,
    as I’ll likely vote for a third party.
    In 1967, McCain was shot down on his twenty-third bombing mission over North Vietnam,
    bringing terror and death to untold numbers of innocent villagers, before he was
    shot down and held as a prisoner of war for five years.
    All wars are not created equal. An unjust war is criminal, and soldiers who participate
    in it are murderers. No North Vietnamese “gook” (as McCain referred to them) ever
    posed a threat to the USA or harmed an American until the United States intervened
    with military advisors and aid, the CIA’s intelligence missions, an unpopular puppet
    government, and finally, hundreds of thousands of U.S. troops –me included.
    How could John McCain possibly be considered a war hero? He was not captured, imprisoned,
    and tortured for defending U.S. soil against an invading enemy. McCain is a war
    criminal because he rained down death and destruction on the people of Vietnam.
    It doesn’t matter if the Gulf of Tonkin “incident” really happened (although it
    didn’t), U.S. ships had no business being anywhere near North Vietnam.
    There can be no heroism in the performance of evil. If McCain had been executed
    by the Vietnamese, would he not have deserved it (especially if you believe in capital
    punishment which I do not)? What would you do to an enemy pilot who landed in your
    backyard after bombing your house and killing close family and friends? Why are
    only foreigners war criminals? If McCain is a war hero, then so are the 9/11th hijackers.
    The real American “heroes” are the men who refused to go to Vietnam and participate
    in an immoral, unconstitutional, and unjust war and today’s troops who refuse to
    deploy to Iraq or Afghanistan, yet another immoral, unconstitutional, and unjust
    war. Also, the Vietnam Vets Against the War and Iraq Vets Against the War.
    McCain’s North Vietnamese captors forced him to write a confession that stated,
    “I was guilty of war crimes against the Vietnamese people. I intentionally
    bombed women and children.” The truth, of course, is that what McCain wrote
    under duress is an accurate statement. He earned many ribbons in the Navy, including
    one he doesn’t wear on his chest: WAR CRIMINAL.
    True “heroes” of the Vietnam War are people like Dale Noyd, a decorated Air Force
    fighter pilot, who was court-martialed in 1968 for refusing to bomb innocent Vietnamese
    or train other pilots to do so. Another one was Warrant Officer Hugh Thompson,
    who while flying his helicopter happened upon the scene of the My Lai massacre.
    He landed immediately and, after learning that an American slaughter of innocent
    civilians was taking place, ordered his gunnery sergeant to shoot any U.S. soldiers
    who continued to fire at Vietnamese civilians. He then loaded a dozen or more intended
    victims onto his helicopter and flew them to safety. Were Thompson alive today and
    performed the same act of decency in Iraq, he would doubtless be prosecuted by the
    Bush administration as a “terrorist operative,” and vilified by the likes
    of O’Reilly, Limbaugh, Hannity, etc.
    Our “heroes” in Iraq and Afghanistan know our occupation is putting them at odds
    with the locals and I ask them why? Why do troops run down civilians with vehicles
    to avoid slowing down? Why do troops throw bottles and cans at pedestrians to entertain
    themselves? Why did the massacres like Haditha occur? Why did the utter destruction
    of Fallujah happen? Why are wedding parties bombed by US aircraft? Why did a whole
    squad participate in the premeditated half-hour-long rape and murder of a screaming
    14-year-old girl? Why is it that approaching an invader’s roadblock can carry
    a death sentence for a whole family? Why can children be awakened from their beds
    by soldiers kicking down the house doors? Why are thousands held imprisoned without
    cause? Why are Iraqi and Afghan elders obliged to obey 20-year-old invaders who
    can’t even speak their language? Why do your peers (or you) refer to all Iraqis
    or Afghans with epithets (rag heads, etc.)? Why do your peers laugh when they tell
    of the cruelty and humiliation they have visited upon the people whose nations they
    have invaded? Why are you there? What does it say of our government that spins out
    clever excuses for these evils?
    If you really want to be “heroes,” refuse to participate in the madness any more.
    Go AWOL, go to jail, go to Canada, but please stop being pawns in this game of death
    and destruction of innocents. It is one thing to defend your country but it’s
    another to murder in the name of Imperialism. We are told that our military is made
    up of our “best and brightest.” Best at what, killing? Brightest? Then
    what are they doing in the military? I was drafted in 1968, another young apolitical
    pawn to be used as cannon fodder and I have lived with the “biggest mistake
    of my life” for 40 years now and I don’t wish that on anyone. However,
    I saw first-hand that the military is made up of all kinds, running the gamut from
    good guys to brutal killers, but in aggressive wars like Vietnam, Iraq or Afghanistan,
    there are no American “heroes”.
    Chas Chiodo

  •,M1 Morrow

    FOREIGNID: 17691
    No Questions, only a comment:
    “The nine months I served in Korea,
    as a Combat Infantry Rifleman,
    will hunt me for the rest of my life…
    Especially when witnessing an unjust warNo Questions, only a comment:
    “The nine months I served in Korea,
    as a Combat Infantry Rifleman,
    will hunt me for the rest of my life…
    Especially when witnessing an unjust wars,
    as we are engaged in now”.
    as we are engaged in now”.

  • Abigail Rotholz

    FOREIGNID: 17692
    Richard and Chas, thank you. Aidan and Joshua, I really appreciated the honesty and truth you both spoke in the documentary.
    As a civilian whose interests are supposedly being protected by our armed forces I have to remind myself that unless I actively and loudly say NO to this war, it is as good as condoning it. Thank you for an inspiring reminder.

  • Susan B.

    FOREIGNID: 17693
    It was interesting to me that the CO application states that you must object to ALL wars. The implication… and it was used as an example in the film… is that a CO must thereby claim that they would not fight to defend country and family against an aggressor such as the Nazis in WWII. The problem is that there is no comparison between that and the current war in Iraq, where our leaders have sent our soldiers into harm’s way to occupy an country that did not threaten us, and does not want us.
    If faced with an encroaching aggressor, though, I recognize that although I dream, hope, and vote for the peaceful solution — I would support a war against another Hitler.
    I believe war is an antiquated response unequal to the complex problems of today’s world, and that all wars are basically doomed to fail. I say all wars, not soldiers. Our soldiers are not failures and, unless they are complicit in atrocities such as those at Abu Ghraib, they deserve our respect, and they return home with honor. The failures are in the leaders who send those pledged to protect us on missions that are exercises in greed. The deaths of every innocent man, woman and child are on their shoulders.
    I respect and honor you all. You have great heart and courage to declare CO status, and feel our only salvation ultimately rests in the hope that one day all people will, like you, aspire to choose peaceful means over war to resolve our conflicts.

  • Rose Lue

    FOREIGNID: 17694
    I only caught the last half hour as I turned the tv on to catch the news and was glued til the end. I can’t wait to catch a repeat. The film has made me think and I have lots of questions/reading/reflecting to do.
    But I was wondering why is it that some were honorably discharged while others were court martialed, imprisoned, and dishonorably discharged. Was it all a matter of whether their CO application was approved or not?

  • Jodi Dybala

    FOREIGNID: 17695
    “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” -Martin Luther King Jr.
    I honor you Aidan, Joshua, Lt. Col. Pete and Sgt.B for following your heart and doing the right thing. Thank you for sharing your story. You have inspired me and I hope your story will inspire other soldiers to think more about their role in this war. You’ve really touched me. You are the heroes -putting down your weapon and saying no to the endless, mindless fighting! Hooray for you! I will keep you in my prayers.
    I really do not understand why Sgt. B did not get his Conscientious Objector status. Is there something we can do to help him?
    Thank you and God bless you!

  • Judith in Tucson

    FOREIGNID: 17696
    God bless these young men for the courage of their convictions. I believe they are all sincere in their beliefs. I also believe that the war in Iraq is an illegal and totally unnecessary war based on lies and deceit. I wrote to Bush and begged him not to start this war and believe that he and his henchmen are war criminals and committed treason. My heart hurts when I think of all the killed and wounded on both sides of this atrocity. It had absolutely nothing to do with 9-11 and they knew it. They are no better than Hiltler and should be imprisoned by the
    World Court.

  • Michael Moran

    FOREIGNID: 17697
    Of the soldiers featured in your story. Which ones were drafted? NONE! Thus they deserved everything they got. They defrauded the American citizens. They signed a contract !

  • Ralph L. Branham

    FOREIGNID: 17698
    I beleive that all of you are Good Soldiers and do not agree with the way tha U.S.Army handeled them , But I also beleive that you should follow the rules and try to fullfill your Promise at Enlistment. I was once apon a time a Security Police Officer in the Air Force tasked with Nuclear Weapons Security , in SAC , the Strategic Air Command and USAFE. Are the Security Forces facing the same moral delema as the Army and Marines , and if they are do they handle it differently? I grew up with Vietnam , but also stories of WWI , WWII and Korea also, since I came from a Military Family. I feel also that I should if need be stand up to protect those that can not or will not protect themselves. People forget that besides a book of peace the Bible is also a book of war, and even thought I am now 48 years old instead of 17 and 18 and I would still do so today in the need ever arose. Ralph L. Branham Jr. Sgt. USAF-SAC-USAFE. Past Commander American Legion Riders Post 1340

  • Pete Kilner

    FOREIGNID: 17699
    Just for the record. The writer four posts above this one lists me among the conscientious objectors.
    I am, in fact, a conscientious defender of her life and rights. I will deploy again, with pride and determination to protect our nation. If I kill any Taliban or Al Qaeda insurgents, I will do so confident in the moral permissibility of my action.

  • Carol

    FOREIGNID: 17700
    I would like to invite all the guys from the documentary to check out
    to find out how to access the true peace that lies inside every human being.
    There is no charge for any of this. It is simple, ancient, profound & the birthright of everyone.
    love Carol

  • Greta Schneider-Herr

    FOREIGNID: 17701
    I just wanted to say thank you to those conscientious objectors who have the courage to stand up for what they believe is right. There is no when in morality just as logic is unvarying and constant… if one says it is wrong to kill at one point it is always wrong to kill. If you say it’s me or the other guy, let the other guy have the guilt of murder not yourself. But that is just my opinion, I know many of you will say that I can’t know what it is like over there, but I derive this belief from my father who is a Vietnam veteran, my grandfather who was a POW in WWII, and my great-grandfather who was MIA in WWI, none of whom believed in their war. If enough people object to violence, then your “enemy” is not an enemy for his/her feelings derive from the wrongdoings Americans have committed to his/her people in wars of the past, and if there were no wars in the past we wouldn’t have one now.
    Actually, I was wondering if you met soldiers from other countries, do they have the same views on the “disloyalty” of conscientious objectors as we Americans do?
    Thank you so much for your time,

  • jyoti patel

    FOREIGNID: 17702
    This question is for Lt. Col. Pete Kilner, you stated that in re: to the good semaritan & C.O.’s that the only options they have were to let the person be attacked or call in someone else to do the dirty work. However, I feel you left out another choice, one exemplified by Gandhian Philosophy, which is protecting that weeker person, resisting the aggressor to the point of your own death, if needed and not aggressing back. One intereting point is that you stated it is harder & braver to step in fight back, wherease Gandhi stated that it is much harder & braver to act & resist wrong without lowering yourself to do wrong by acting aggressively. In fact, he stated that not everyone can do this, if you cannot then you must fight the other way. I guess my questions are: what do you think of this philosophy & do you feel this falls into the category of less brave./weekness Thank you for your candor during this program.

  • Joshua Brown

    FOREIGNID: 17703
    To all three of you, what is your message to those who are thinking of becoming conscientious objectors?

  • Pete Kilner

    FOREIGNID: 17704
    I think that if the Good Samaritan had merely hugged the traveler who was getting beaten-in an attempt to shame the attackers–then the attackers would have gotten a two-fer, garnering twice the loot. If a third “defender by nonviolence” had arrived, then the attackers would have ended up with triple the gain they initially anticipated.
    Good people are deterred from using violence against those who refuse to defend themselves. That’s why Gandi’s methods worked against the Brits, who thought of themselves as performing the “white man’s burden,” not attempting genocide.
    The problem is that evil people, and weak-minded people who are acting under evil leadership, are NOT deterred by nonviolence. Weakness in the face of evil only encourages and rewards more evil.
    Armed forces (soldiers and police) are not needed to deal with 98% of the people…but there’s the other 2% who will ruin it for the rest of us unless they are prevented from doing so, and the “last resort” of the “peaceful majority” is to use force to protect themselves.

  • Aidan Delgado

    FOREIGNID: 17705
    My message for those considering conscientious objection is to understand that the path they are about to take is not an easy one. Conscientious objection is probably the most difficult and one of the rarest forms of discharge from the military; neither the Army nor the CO’s themselves take the process lightly and any candidate should be prepared for at least a year of struggle before any determination. Beyond that, I would ask any potential CO to ask themselves if there is any other way they could make their military service work, transferring to a different MOS, becoming a chaplain, or maybe becoming an unarmed CO (1-A-0).
    Beyond that, I would tell any potential CO not to be afraid of their command or to shrink back from threats and intimidation. Most commands and many soldiers will be hostile to someone becoming a CO. You must expect that, but you must also realize that the process CAN work and you CAN succeed. You have to be steadfast and unafraid; the military bureaucracy can only intimidate you if you let it.
    Lastly, I would tell a person considering CO never to be ashamed. Becoming a CO is a long, honored tradition in the military. You’re not a traitor, you’re not a coward, you’re someone who can no longer perform deadly violence for the state. Two CO’s, Desmond Doss and Thomas W. Bennet, wear Medals of Honor around their necks for service, both won while they were CO’s. Don’t let anyone tell you that following your highest moral calling is something to be ashamed of. The only people who should feel shame and regret are those who go along with something they know to be wrong in their hearts but are too afraid to speak out.

  • Aidan Delgado

    FOREIGNID: 17706
    In response to the earlier post about enemy soldiers’ humanity:
    I think that the military largely functions by forcing soldiers to forget their enemy’s humanity. I don’t think its malicious or sadistic on the part of the Army, i think its merely a practical fact that one human being cannot kill another unless he believes that the “other” is somehow gravely flawed or inhuman. Look at the number of comments on this blog that refer to evil “Moslums” [sic] or those “devoid of conscience.” Could our soldiers really kill people if we told them, “this group of people should be killed because their government opposes the strategic interests of the United States.” No, I don’t think so. It’s crucial for the military and government to ascribe some deep, moral failing to them, so that the act of killing them becomes not only strategic but moral, exalted even. So in the propaganda they become “evil terrorists” bent on destroying our American way of life, even though the vast majority of Iraqi soldiers and insurgents are really poor, uneducated men with no prospects, forced into a life of violence not by belief, but by economics. It’s so much easier to make our “enemies” into cackling villains in black, rather than face the complex and unglamorous truth.

  • Pete Kilner

    FOREIGNID: 17707
    A consistent–and, in fact, necessary–assumption of war pacifists is that the soldiers on both sides of a war are not fully autonomous human beings. Aiden reveals that assumption when he states, “the vast majority of Iraqi soldiers and insurgents are really poor, uneducated men with no prospects, forced into a life of violence not by belief, but by economics.” I’m sure he would say the same thing about American Soldiers–that we are “forced or fooled” into choosing to serve their country in uniform.
    I cannot tell you how many times, during my masters and doctoral work at civilian universities, and at professional conferences on both ethics and education (my fields of study), people have said to me, “Why would someone as intelligent as you ever join the military?” They are dumbfounded when an actual encounter with a Soldier reveals their assumptions to be false.
    I have been inside the pacifist, anti-military movement, and it is characterized by a paternalistic disdain for those who choose to serve in the military. This assumption is so foundational, so shared, that anti-military pacifists take it for granted. They simply go about their work of “saving” those “poor, no-other-options-in-life” patriotic Americans from defending the freedoms we all enjoy.
    The other point I would like to make concerns the (mis)use of the word “courage.” The film and its media outreach present the CO’s as courageous. Let’s take a minute to examine the nature of the courage they demonstrated.
    If courage is defined as overcoming fear, what is the CO afraid of? People thinking of him as a coward? Fear of social rejection by the peer group? Although this is undeniably a form of courage, it’s the civilian equivalent to not drinking when your underage peers do, or of telling someone that you didn’t appreciate their racist joke. The primary risk is social rejection.
    So, a CO’s courage is a legitimate form of courage (a type of moral couragel), but it hardly compares with the the moral and physical courage exhibited by Soldiers who sign up to fight and then actually risk their lives in battle.
    What does a Soldier fear? Death. Dismemberment. Things that are a bit more serious and permanent than social rejection. The civilian equivalent of a Soldier’s courage is a fireman who rushes into a burning building to save someone trapped inside, or of a lifeguard who braves a rip tide to rescue swimmers.
    Who’s the hero–the kid who resists peer pressure or the one who risks his own life and limb to save someone else? Both are heroes, but the latter one deserves greater admiration.
    For every 1 conscientious objector who shows courage in the face of peer pressure, there are more than 1,000 Soldiers who show courage in the face of violent death. We should all be thankful for that unseen, courageous majority. No one gives them book deals.

  • Jack E. Jett

    FOREIGNID: 17708
    We are trying to reach Aidan Delgado for a radio interview and can not find any contact information for him.
    This may be off topic, so forgive me, but our level of interest is high as we found him to be an engaging speaker.