“To be a man is . . . to be responsible. It is to feel shame at the sight of what seems to be unmerited misery. It is to take pride in a victory won by one’s comrades. It is to feel, when setting one’s stone, that one is contributing to the building of the world.” —Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (1900–1944), French aviator, writer. Wind, Sand, and Stars, chapter 2, section 2, 1939.
I just finished Vincent Bugliosi's book, The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder. Mr. Bugliosi lays out a compelling case for both the why and the how to indict and prosecute George W. Bush for murder in the court of any state in the Union who has lost a soldier during the illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq, because of the lies and deceptions leading up to that event.
There will be some out there who will claim that a national leader cannot be held responsible for putting a soldier into harm's way, no matter what the reason. My answer to them is found in the story of King David, Uriah the Hittite, and Bathsheba, from the Old Testament. This sordid tale is specifically found in the Second Book of Samuel, chapters eleven and twelve.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the story: David, King of Israel, one day saw the beautiful Bathsheba, and decided that he must have her. Discovering that she was the wife of one of his captains, Uriah the Hittite, David seduced Bathsheba.
When Bathsheba told David she was pregnant, he commanded Uriah to return to Jerusalem in the hope that by Uriah's presence, Bathsheba's indiscretion might be hidden from Uriah. But Uriah did not lie with his wife (to put it politely), saying it would be wrong for him to do so when his fellow soldiers were cold and hungry at the front.
So David wrote a letter, commanding his general Joab, to place Uriah in the forefront of the battle and that the soldiers of Israel be withdrawn from him, ensuring that Uriah would be killed, so he would not discover Bathsheba's adultery, which was a capital offense. Ironically, David sent this letter with Uriah when he returned to the Israeli army. Uriah died, and when David was informed, he took Bathsheba as one of his wives, and she bore him a son. “But the thing that David had done displeased the Lord.” (2 Samuel 11:27; KJV)
God sent His prophet Nathan to David with an allegorical tale about a rich man with many sheep, who stole his poor neighbor's only ewe lamb to provide a feast for an important visitor, rather than slaughter one of his own flock. This tale angered David, who said the rich man should be put to death for his crime, and the poor man should receive four ewe lambs from the rich man's flock in compensation.
“And Nathan said to David, 'Thou art the man. Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, I anointed thee king over Israel, and I delivered thee out of the hand of Saul;'
'And I gave thee thy master's house, and thy master's wives into thy bosom, and gave thee the house of Israel and of Judah; and if that had been too little, I would moreover have given unto thee such and such things.'
'Wherefore hast thou despised the commandment of the Lord, to do evil in His sight? Thou hast killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword, and hast taken his wife to be thy wife, and hast slain him with the sword of the children of Ammon.'”(2 Samuel 12:7-9, KJV)
Nathan told David that God would punish him: that the sword would never depart David's house (in other word's he would not know peace); that evil will rise up in David's house (rebellion by his children); and that God would take David's wives and give them to a neighbor (also translated stranger) to lie with. Nathan also said God commanded that this first child with Bathsheba would die, but in His mercy, God would not kill David for his sin.
In short, it is wrong in the view of the Bible (and if you believe, God), for a leader to order a soldier to his death for personal reasons or gain.
Holding a nation's leaders responsible for their failures in governance or military command is not a new idea. The Athenians did it, as did the Romans. My favorite story is that of the Proconsul Quintus Servilius Caepio the Elder who—during the Germanic invasions of the late Second Century B.C.E.—refused to obey the orders of his political superior (but social inferior), Consul Gnaeus Mallius Maximus.
Servilius Caepio attacked a horde of Cimbri and Teutons (200,000+) with whom Mallius Maximus had been negotiating. This resulted in the annihilation of the two Roman armies, sixteen legions of Roman troops and their Italian allies, around 80,000 legionaries. Mallius Maximus fought his way out with his cavalry, while Servilius Caepio simply ran for his life. Soon after Servilius Caepio reached Rome, and blamed Mallius Maximus for the Arausio debacle. Other survivors began arriving in Rome soon after (including Mallius Maximus) bringing the real story. Both generals were impeached in Rome's Popular Assembly. Servilius Caepio was convicted, levied a huge fine, and sent into exile.
Georges Clemenceau, Premier of France during the First World War, once stated that “War is too important a matter to be left to the military.” In this I suspect he meant that while the military should fight the wars, they should not decide when to start it, end it, or what its ultimate objectives should be. I would also say that war is too dangerous and vital a matter to be left to the whim and ego of dictators, kings, oligarchs and politicians.
Our Founding Fathers knew their history, and left the declaration of war to that part of the Federal Government—the Congress—which was closest to those who would ultimately pay the price for a war: the people. The last sixty years has seen that wisdom increasingly ignored, thrown aside like a worn out garment. At first it was our fear of the often exaggerated threat posed by the Soviet Union, and now by the vastly overstated threat of “terrorism.” In our hubris and desire for power and wealth, we (the American people) have squandered many of the guarantees against tyranny provided us by our Constitution. We need to remind ourselves what Franklin, Jefferson, Madison, and the other founders knew: that history shows republics die from internal decay, not external force.