I’ll never forget my first day of duty as a young American Air Force intelligence officer in Berlin, Germany. Among all of our other in-briefs and orientation activities, the base chaplain addressed us briefly for a mandatory introduction to ethics and war crimes law.

“What’s your primary job description?” he asked us all.

Hands went up and people started talking about logistics, administration, intelligence collection, and so forth.

“No, no,” the the chaplain answered. “That’s not what I mean. I’m talking about your primary mission. Each and every one of you sitting here today before me is charged primarily with killing people and breaking things. So, let’s talk about what that means to you all, from a personal moral perspective and in a general ethical framework.”

I’ve never forgotten that talk. Fortunately, I never had to face that primary mission. I spent my time in service mostly wearing a tie and working behind a desk. But I know many former service members who had different experiences, who did have to do things that most people would find too morally hard to bear.

The circumstances are different. I’m talking about Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq rather than Palestine. But I’ve seen up close what you’re talking about — what war and inflicting violence does to people’s souls. It’s terribly damaging. Some people never recover from it. They spend their lives bitter, resentful, and in some cases numb.

I’m not Jewish, although my husband was before he died, so I’m not going to try to interject myself into the rest of your conversation, which is one that must be had among Israelis. But I read your piece with interest, and I felt I should at least add a bit that I can attest to from personal experience.


Written by

Writer. Runner. Marine. Airman. Former LGBTQ and HIV activist. Former ActUpNY and Queer Nation. Polyglot. Middle-aged, uppity faggot. jamesfinnwrites@gmail.com

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