Honoring Troops and Veterans Means Honoring Their Consciences
This blind spot in the consciences objector policy is particularly destructive because the military teaches its members about just war doctrine. According to the new report from the Truth Commission on Conscience in War:
“This...creates a major, irresolvable conflict. It denies freedom of religious practice and the exercise of moral conscience to those serving in the military who object to a particular war based on the moral criteria of just war, which the military itself teaches and upholds as important.
“What the military teaches, therefore, it also punishes.”
The commission’s report goes on to describe the effect of such a destructive conflict:
"When people in military service are forced to fight a war that violates their most deeply held moral beliefs, the aftermath can be severe. Indeed, new research is showing that war can bring long-lasting moral harm to veterans. VA clinical psychologists have identified a previously untreated and still rarely addressed hidden wound of war called “moral injury.” Moral injury comes from “perpetrating, failing to prevent, or bearing witness to acts that transgress deeply held moral beliefs and expectations.” The long-term impact can be “emotionally, psychologically, behaviorally, spiritually, and socially” devastating, sometimes lasting an entire lifetime. Or the impact of moral injury can foster internal conflict and self-condemnation so severe that their burdens become intolerable and lead to suicide.
Tolerating this destructive contradictory policy fails to support the troops, as does tolerating the continuation of an unjust war in Afghanistan.
As we speak, the Truth Commission on Conscience in War is pushing for the recognition of a right to selective conscientious objection to allow C.O. status for those whose deeply held convictions indict a particular war as unjust or immoral. You can learn more about this and the three days of Veterans Day-related events they’re hosting at http://conscienceinwar.org.
On the tenth Veterans Day of the Afghanistan War, it’s time to do more for our troops and veterans than put a sticker on a car or a magnet on the fridge. Let’s get moving.