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It occurred to me that there is a common break in effectiveness of both the U.S. military chain of command and the infallibility of the Catholic Church when it comes charges of sexual abuse.

Yesterday’s defeat of legislation that would circumvent the military chain of command and impose an independent military review of sexual abuse cases (some 24,000 of them per year of late!) seems to reflect an unwillingness by the military and many in Congress to accept that the chain of common is broken in this regard, and that escalating sexual abuse charges in the military is somehow acceptable.

Is this an odd and pathetic parallel to the Pope’s recent assertion that the Catholic Church is the most effective and concerned organization when it comes to dealing with charges of sexual abuses in the church, rather than civil authorities?

That the highest levels of the military and the church appear to have their heads in the sand in regard to sexual abuse is an odd comparison, but perhaps suggests that absolute authority breeds corruption of very basic human standards of conduct, and that independent review is the only way to assure greater justice for the victims of such human exploitation.

We hear more about drones as technology and less about their strategic purpose as remote killing machines, and the implications of that rapidly increasing capability.

Rocks and sticks and other sharp objects were the first drones — killing devices controlled by humans at some distance, however modest, from their target. Chinese firesticks, rifles, pistols, cannon then came along, followed by flying manned bombers and missiles.

Reagan tinkered with space-based lasers, but that costly technology wound up on two card tables in the basement of Yerkes Observatory at Geneva Lake, Wisconsin.

Then, to further help avert the need for sending in troops or blowing up large chunks of geography, and to save a few gazillion bucks too, we come to the era of drones, which cannot only kill more precisely, but invade the privacy of anything that can be scanned from the air.

We’re upset about collateral damage — those innocents near a target who get killed, and whose families will forever hate and seek revenge on the monsters responsible. We’re concerned that anyone, including U.S. citizens, can be targeted by drones, with an apparent paucity of checks and balances to be sure they deserve a death sentence from the sky.

What’s next, perhaps lasers carried aloft by drones, which can pin-point a target more closely, and explode the brain of a single person? And what happens when rogues of all kinds — terrorists, nations or even individuals — can target people anywhere with drones? Yes, that’s around the corner, too. Have we unleashed the terror of the end times? 

Well, that’s what peoples have thought each step along the way of remote killing. But Instead of gun powder and vast armies moving across the terrain, we have pin pricks of death popping off human targets anywhere at will. At the end of the day, the only saving grace for individuals will be the overwhelming use of power — new powers — by protecting entities. 

Like a country, like the U.S., approaching a time with a gun in nearly every home and pocket book, the day of the ubiquitous killing drone is just around the corner. Interesting that our far-seeing government has canned NASA’s human space program. Now, we can just send out our drones to conquer the universe. And so it goes. Sorry for “droning” on.

After your additional comments and analysis, I’m even more concerned that the “Oath Department” at the Pentagon is asleep at the switch. If innocents like my old high school friend, you and I can detect these obvious incongruities, one wonders how we can trust the military to know whether the next drone target to kill is going to be a terrorist militant or a school marm. Obviously, we can’t! Our technological capabilities seem to be over-reaching our human ethics and intelligence capacity, and we are breeding the next generation of America-haters among the collateral damage.

Chuck

From a friend: I’ve been doing too much proof-reading lately.

Actually, the two oaths are completely different. Officers indicate their rank in the first line, enlisted only their name. Then they are different again after the phrase “true faith and allegiance to the same”, with even more implications than you imputed, although I agree with your thoughts. Both swear to support and defend, but officers take the oath without reservation and will “well and faithfully discharge” their duties. Enlisted personnel have no such obligation. They only agree to obey orders. They can be shirkers, evaders, draftees, in short: cannon fodder. At least they both agree to do it with God’s help at the end.

The variance seems to me to imply a completely different world-view. The officer’s oath is about mind-set and belief and ability; there is no mention of following orders or even agreeing with them. The enlisted is about following orders, no thought desired. We could both go on at length about the implications of that.

Memorial Day is always a mixed bag for me. I do weep for those who served and suffered. But most of them were followers, even the officers, of political leaders who had made life and death decisions on their behalf, sometimes for very bad reasons. Of late, especially since Vietnam, those reasons have been somewhere on the scale between questionable and dead wrong.

When we had the draft, in the Vietnam era, one could have great compassion for the young who sacrificed their options in life to serve their country when called. Even those who dodged service gave up option then. Since the end of the draft, many who have served have done so just to get a job and some training that was not otherwise readily available for them. We can have sympathy for them that they made such a Hobson’s choice.

Today, as we honor those who served, and especially those who suffered and died in place of ourselves, and as we remember their families, we might best respect their loyalty to their nation  by questioning the motives and the thinking of those who are our political leaders today, as to their military strategies. Do these strategies justify the continued use of our military might, and are the American people being served well by these strategies and the people behind them?

The loyalties and sacrifices of generations of Americans who have served and supported the military are best served, I believe, by an engaged, questioning, demanding public,  that holds our leadership accountable for their strategies and decisions, and speaks out boldly on behalf of those who have served, are serving and those yet to be called.

America has too often been a nation of Forest Gumps, being led to the slaughter by cynical, distant leaders. Memorial Day should be about honoring those who serve by questioning those who lead. It’s not just about memories, but accountability. For a personal story about questioning and service, see my essay, “All That Glitters,” as presented to the Chicago Literary Club. http://www.chilit.org/Papers%20by%20author/Ebeling%20–%20All%20That%20Glitters.htm

Of the 2.59 million U.S. soldiers, sailors, Marines and Air Force people who served in Vietnam, the biggest lament of many is that the U.S. seemingly learned nothing from the experience, other than how to isolate the majority of the American people (the 99%) from direct involvement in the horrors of warfare, giving political and military/industrial leaders more free rein in pursuit of military adventures.

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