Just Following Orders
The lawyer looked over to the jury. “At some point,” she continued, “a person needs to take responsibility. The country needs to be held accountable for its citizens' actions. Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, people of the court, citizens of the affected countries, I will prove to you, beyond a shadow of a doubt that the charges against the leader of this country, who is responsible for the attack, and the subsequent war, beginning April 2017, are true. I will prove to you that the cabinet members and advisers, knowingly and willingly, sent thousands of military personnel to fight an unjust war, resulting in the death of 80% of those deployed. I will prove the that the leader had first-hand knowledge of the attacks on our civilians and did nothing to protect or warn them. The leaders of this country will be held accountable for breaking the laws of humanity causing the deaths of millions. The United States is guilty of War Crimes and it will be held accountable. I will bring to light the atrocities this country as committed in the name of “peace”. The innocent dead and suffering will have justice. I shall begin with ….”
This scenario could be a reality in the next few years if the people do not stand up to the current tyrannical government. History has a nasty way of repeating itself. Why? Because we humans have a nasty habit of ignoring the past. We cannot forget where we came from. We cannot forget the past.
On August 6, 1945, at 8:10 am, the Enola Gay, the Great Artiste, and the Necessary Evil, were flying over the city of Hiroshima, Japan. Their orders were to drop their payload, an atomic bomb named Little Boy. The Enola Gay was carrying the payload. The other two planes were ordered to record the results of the bomb. Each plane was loaded with cameras and scientific equipment. The soldiers on board the planes were not told what type of bomb they were actually carrying. They were told not to fly through the cloud and to keep their protective eyewear on until the light faded. At 8:15 am, Little Boy was dropped on the unsuspecting city. It took 43 seconds to fall 31,060 feet and detonated 1,968 feet above the city to maximize the destruction. It detonated with the power of 16 kilotons of TNT. To put that in perspective, one kiloton is equivalent to 1000 tons of TNT. One ton is 2204.6 lbs. 1000 tons of TNT is roughly 2,204,600lbs. Multiply that by 16 and you have 35,273,600 lbs of TNT. That is an unfathomable amount, especially coming from a small atomic bomb. Approximately 80,000 were killed either by incineration from the blast or in the resulting fire. Those who survived looked into the face of death and lived in hell. Thermal flash burns, burns from fire, and radiation poisoning were among some of the issues plaguing the survivors, many of who could not receive any form of medical help since 90% of the doctors and 93% of the nurses in the city were killed. The bomb was supposed to land on a bridge but was blown off course and detonated near a medical center. Screams pierced the air as the people tried to make their way to help. To make matters worse, it began to rain. But this wasn't rain caused by nature—it was rain caused by the bomb. The heat of the bomb evaporated water and drew it up to the mushroom cloud and then made radioactive. It contaminated the land, the water, and the people. The generation that was a part of this war will say that the Japanese deserved it. Looking back, did they? The innocent men, women, and children? Documents revealed that the people were tired of the war and did not agree to it. Why were they punished? But the American government's propaganda dictated to the masses that it was a necessary evil, instead of a pissing contest with Russia. Japan had asked Russia to broker a peace deal with the Allies. Instead, Stalin refused. There were even letters to President Truman stating Japan would like to negotiate surrender. He never saw the letters. They were found in a desk of a top military official who happened to be head of the committee that oversaw the work on the atomic bombs. The bombs were used as a way to show the world that the US was a big player in the world of weapons. Following orders indeed.
The Nazi party was no better. History has made it clear that the Nazi ideology is a violation of human rights and breaks the rules of war. In Belarus alone, 120,698 Jewish and Romani people were murdered from 1941 to 1943. A good portion of the number exterminated were children, who were separated from their mothers and immediately sent to Auschwitz to be put to death in the gas chambers. The genocide of the Jewish people was appalling. Men following orders like good Germans.
Aktion T4 was a Nazi program that ran from September 1939 to August 1941 that resulted in the murder of over 70,000 people. Their crime? They were mentally and physically inferior—racial hygiene that needed to be cleansed of racial enemies. Mental institutions and church-led hospitals were required to provide “mercy killings” to patients that were “inferior”. The men behind the organization of this program have the blood of thousands of men, women, and children on their hands. But, hey, it was okay because they were following orders.
The establishment of the Einsatzgruppen, mobile killing units, were responsible for mass killings by shooting. The massacre of Babi Yar saw the death of over 33,000 Jews in two days. TWO DAYS. That is an unfathomable number. There is no justification for that number. These were men who loved to kill. Hitler should have been looking at the mental health of his killing units for signs of insanity instead of hospitals. Hitler's orders to annihilate the Judeo-Bolshevism was interpreted by the Einsatzgruppen commanders to use extreme force and violence to the Jewish population. The commanders gave the orders and the soldiers had to follow them without thought and without mercy.
The Vietnam War caused 627,000 civilian deaths. 18.2 millions gallons of Agent Orange was sprayed over 10% of South Vietnam during 1961-1971 with lasting effects. 400,000 were maimed or killed by the chemical and a further 500,000 children were born with birth defects, something the US does not want to admit. It wasn't until 2012 that the US decided to help Vietnam clean up the mess they made. The people of Vietnam were living with contaminated water, crops, land, and food for nearly 40 years before the US finally decided to help. But the US was not charged with war crimes even though it broke several of the Rules put into place for the treatment of prisoners of war. The Massacre of Mai Lai has been glossed over in the history books since history is written by the victors. The US military conducted themselves in a disgusting manner, killing innocent men, women, and children. In the end, only one person, the platoon leader, was convicted. He was on house arrest for three years instead of serving the initial life sentence. No one else in his squad was convicted of war crimes because they were just following orders. Where were the orders to push a villager into a well and then toss in a grenade? Where were the orders to shoot villagers in the back of the head because they were praying and crying in a temple? Where was the order to shoot innocent women with babies in their arms as they were trying to protect them? Where were the orders to rape and sexually assault young women and girls? Or the orders that allowed the soldiers to pile villagers in a ditch and kill them with a grenade launcher? Nowhere. There were no orders just like there was no enemy fire during the massacre. There were no enemies and no weapons in My Lai. Just soldiers following orders like good soldiers are supposed to do. To make matters worse, there were those that did not participate in the actions of their comrades. Instead, they stood silent. They said nothing. They could have reported the tragedy, but they stayed silent and silence is deadly.
On April 24, 1863, Abraham Lincoln created the Instructions for the Government of Armies of the United States in the Field, or, as it is commonly known, the Lieber Code. This document dictates how American soldiers should conduct themselves during wartime as well as the ethical treatment of the population in occupied areas. These ideas were expanded upon during the Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907 and again in the Geneva Conventions. The Geneva Protocol forbade the use of chemical and biological weapons—something the Nazi Party ignored. During the Nuremberg Trials, the Allies had to define what constitutes a war crime and to whom does it apply. The biggest hurdle that was faced was outdated practice of “Superior Orders”, meaning, a leader gives an order, it is followed, and the underling is not at fault since he was following orders. The Nuremberg Principles not only defined, in black and white, what is considered a war crime but also states that following orders no longer protects a soldier's actions. When an order is given that violates human rights, the soldier cannot hide behind a superior officer because he knows that the order is morally wrong and he has the possibility to object. In other words, “I was just following orders” is no longer a viable excuse for crimes against humanity. Since the Nuremberg Trials were military trials, the main defense for the Nazis on trial was called, the Nuremberg Defense stating “Befehl ist befehl”, or literally, “an order is an order”.
While there are interpretations to the principles that have applied to more modern cases, the main fact of the rule is clear. These rules and codes of conduct are here for a reason. They protect the innocent, or rather, try to protect the innocent. Dictators and tyrants have a habit of doing what they please. The point of this rambling history lesson is this: SILENCE KILLS. It is citizen's moral duty to ensure the government is not trying to start illegal wars or committing crimes against humanity or peace. When a country tries to segregate a particular ethnicity from the rest of the country because they are of a certain race, sex, religion, or cultural heritage, it is the civic duty of the people to speak against it. No government has the right to dictate what a person is allowed to look, act, or worship. If not, then the world is looking at another genocide, and this time, it will be the United States standing in front of an international tribunal for war crimes. Where are you going to be? With the aggressors? With the protesters? Or, worst of all—the most guilty of all, with the silent?