Should We Feel Badly For Deserters

That wacky pseudo-activist who has claimed to be the voice of those who oppose the war in Iraq has offered refuge to deserters on her land in Crawford, Texas.

Allow me to skip ahead and quote part of the article:

“Among a contingent of younger Iraq Veterans Against the War were several current service members.

One not wearing a name badge declined to reveal his identity. He said, with confirmation from his peers, that he was from the Seattle area, in his 20s, and had been “away-without-leave from a combat unit now in Iraq” for an undisclosed period of time.

The AWOL soldier said he decided to flee the Army after the invasion of Iraq because he believes the war illegal. He said he joined the military before 9/11 “because I had been to five different high schools and went through family problems. The military was a way to get friends and family structure.” He said he first began considering risking prosecution for desertion after the invasion of Iraq in March 2003.

Being AWOL, however, has been “hell,” he said, not only because of rifts in his family, but also because of “the uncertainty of not knowing if I will be caught as a deserter or if I should go public and turn myself in. I am constantly back and forth; it’s always on my mind.”

You know, I feel badly that these young people have been placed in a situation such as this. I really empathize with them and understand why someone might want to run away. In fact part of me wants to just ignore the fact that they have gone AWOL, but I just cannot do it.

And the simple reason that I cannot do so is because they enlisted. They made the choice to join the armed forces with the knowledge that they were giving up control of their lives to the government.

I believe in soldiers taking initiative to avoid acting in ways that compromise the morals and integrity of the military (yes, I know that sounds funny) but at the same time that initiative is limited. You are no longer a civilian and that is just the way it goes.

So the answer to my initial question is basically this. We can feel compassion for these people. We can understand that they are in a precarious situation and we can appreciate the how and why of it, but that doesn’t mean that we can ignore their culpability in placing themselves in this position.

It is like the drunk driver who feels remorse after killing someone. Of course they didn’t mean to do it, but who is responsible for placing themselves in such a position.

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