In his latest post in "UU A Way Of Life", David G. Markham asks, "Participation in war making seems antithetical to UU values. What is the role of a UU chaplain in supporting people engaged in immoral acitivity?" He is responding to an article by UU Navy Chaplain CYNTHIA KANE, in which she- in his words- "tries to explain and justify her chaplaincy in the military"
David seems unaware that his beliefs about war in general, and Iraq specifically, are not the legal, moral, or religious standards of everyone- not even all UUs. His views are not in doubt, referring to our armed forces as a "mercenary force", and equating the Iraq war with the Holocaust: "The "I was only following orders" excuse was rejected at the Nuremburg trials when German troops tried to use this as a defense of their actions in the Holocaust."
This is a complete misreading of both the Nuremburg trials and the Iraq war. In terms of the common service man or woman- the kind that Chaplain Kane ministers to- "I was following orders" was and is a defense for all actions conducted within the legal rules of engagement. The Nuremburg tribunal was prosecuting crimes completely outside the rules of war. The Holocaust was not part of the WWII the regular German soldier was fighting- it began before the war started, and was prosecuted by separate units, such as the SS, the Gestapo, the roving Mordgruppen. The crimes at Abu Ghraib can be compared to the Holocaust- and people were prosecuted for it, and I hope more will be in the future- but it is an insult to everyone in uniform to compare the whole of the war to that.
The vast majority of those in uniform do not believe that their purpose is "killing people and pre-emptively subjugating populations", nor do they believe that what they are doing is immoral. They are engaged in a legal war- whether or not you believe that the war should have ever been started does not change the fact that both the US Congress and the United Nations voted Bush the authority to start it, and neither body has ordered us to leave. They are conducting the war in a professional manner, risking their own lives to reduce civilian deaths, and conducting their own charities to improve the lives of the ordinary Iraqi- did you know that completely separate from official aid, the soldiers themselves have put together charities collecting things like shoes, clothing, toys, and glasses to distribute to the poor over there? They do not see themselves as murdering Storm troopers. Nor do I see them that way.
David calls their actions "immoral and even criminal", and asks, "What is the role of a UU chaplain in supporting people engaged in immoral activity?" This question presupposes that all war is immoral- something that has yet to have been voted on by the UUA. It presumes that all UUs must be pacifists- with the clear understanding that they are immoral if they are not. It assumes a creed that we have not adopted, and so is not the proper question.
The proper question is just seven words shorter than the one asked: "What is the role of a UU chaplain?" To minister to people who need human and spiritual comfort and are not being served by other faiths leaps to mind. The fact that this did not leap immediately to mind for David sounds a whole lot like the attitude Chaplain Kane refers to, quoting Rev. Dr. Lisa Presley: "although we say that we welcome all to our congregations, the perception is that there is a very solid wall keeping those with our values and who happen to choose to be in the military, out of our congregational life.” She continues, “No one will say it outright, but the sense that they have made a stupid choice, or that they are consorting with the enemy, comes through loud and clear in unconscious ways.”
We don't say those things outright... we simply say they need "solace and absolution for sinful activities". Good thing we're not judgmental, like those awful fundamentalists!