Bertrand Russell, the great philosopher and mathematician, got into terrible trouble by writing quite fearsome articles against the first World War when it began. He got all these letters from people who said, My child is prepared to lay down their life for their country. Dont you think that sacrifice demands some respect?
He wrote this extraordinary essay in which he said, Dont you understand? The sacrifice were asking of our young is not that they die for their country, but that they kill for their country. Thats the sacrifice. To ask a child to kill someone else, whom youve never met. Thats a moral choice, pulling a trigger. Having a bullet hit you is not a moral choice. You dont decide to be killed. Its a terrible thing that happens to you. But killing something is something you do and thats a desperate sacrifice. And were seeing that in the Iraq war. Thats what this poor Lynndie England did, this tragic soldier who was shot smugly smiling next to naked Arab prisoners. Thats the chickens coming home to roost. Its not Americans being asked to die by President Bush. Its Americans being asked to kill and to torture. Not necessarily by name. He doesnt say, I want you to kill this or that one. Of course, politics isnt that simple. Essentially that is what society does. It asks its young to kill, and thats what we all have to live with.