America Quietly Ducking Out of War It Claims to Love

More evidence that the support for the war, which has already dropped to a minority position in polls, is shallow. Historian Chris Bray:

I’ve been struck — struck forcefully, for the obvious reasons — by reports that the U.S. Army is currently flailing miserably behind a growing failure to recruit new soldiers. Most seriously, an army deeply entangled in a grinding and persistent conflict is having very little success at recruiting combat troops. “As of , 7,800 infantry soldiers had been trained at Fort Benning, compared with a target of 25,541 for .” (Fiscal 2005, if I’m not mistaken, ends [on September 30].) These are stunning numbers.…

I very much hesitate to use the phrase historically unprecedented, and I look forward to hearing arguments against, but it seems like this might be a good time to think about using it. The U.S. military projects force around a world in which its power is unmatched; a parallel army of chest-thumping, war-hungry bloggers and columnists celebrate American power; and Fort Benning can’t keep its drill sergeants busy.

…When historians look back at , I suspect that some will make a great deal out of a war that was widely supported and widely avoided. We can draw the picture of an entire culture, living soft and talking hard. Everyone wants to eat, but nobody wants to cook.

U.S. Navy sailor Pablo Paredes decided not to go when his ship left port . He recently went on trial in military court. Here are some excerpts from his statement to the judge last week:

I am convinced that the current war in Iraq is illegal. I am also convinced that the true causality for it lacked any high ground in the topography of morality. I believe as a member of the Armed Forces, beyond having duty to my Chain of Command and my President, I have a higher duty to my conscience and to the supreme law of the land. Both of these higher duties dictate that I must not participate in any way, hands-on or indirect, in the current aggression that has been unleashed on Iraq. In the past few months I have been continually asked if I regret my decision to refuse to board my ship and to do so publicly. I have spent hour upon hour reflecting on my decision, and I can tell you with every fiber of certitude that I possess that I feel in my heart I did the right thing.…

I understood… what the precedent was for service members participating in illegal wars. I read extensively on the arguments and results of Nazi German soldiers, as well as imperial Japanese soldiers, in the Nuremberg and Tokyo Trials, respectively. In all I read I came to an overwhelming conclusion supported by countless examples that any soldier who knowingly participates in an illegal war can find no haven in the fact that they were following orders, in the eyes of international law.

Nazi aggression and imperialist Japan are very charged moments of history and simply mentioning them evokes many emotions and reminds of many atrocities. So I want to be very clear that I am in no way comparing our current government to any of the historical counterparts. I am not comparing the leaders or their acts, not their militaries nor their acts. I am only citing the trials because they are the best example of judicial precedent for what a soldier/sailor is expected to do when faced with the decision to participate or refuse to participate in what he perceives is an illegal war.

I think we would all agree that a service member must not participate in random unprovoked illegitimate violence simply because he is ordered to. What I submit to you and the court is that I am convinced that the current war is exactly that. So, if there’s anything I could be guilty of, it is my beliefs. I am guilty of believing this war is illegal. I’m guilty of believing war in all forms is immoral and useless, and I am guilty of believing that as a service member I have a duty to refuse to participate in this war because it is illegal.

The judge agreed… both that he was guilty, and, apparently, that Paredes had reasonable cause to believe that the war in Iraq was an illegal one.