Who’s the War Hero?
by Jacob G. Hornberger
Yesterday, a Chilean court ruled that a U.S. Navy captain, Ray E. Davis, participated in the murder of two Americans, Charles Horman and Frank Teruggi, in Chile in 1973. The murders were committed as part of a regime-change operation in which the U.S. national-security state and the Chilean national-security state were working together to oust democratically elected President Salvador Allende from office and replace him with a military dictatorship headed by Chilean military strongman Augusto Pinochet.
Davis didn’t personally commit the murders. Instead, he fingered Horman and Teruggi to his Chilean counterparts and then gave them the green light to murder the two men.
For more on the Horman and Teruggi murders, see my article “The U.S. Executions of Charles Horman and Frank Teruggi, Part 1,” which was posted on FFF’s website yesterday.
The timing of the Chilean court’s ruling is fortuitous because it comes in the context of the controversy swirling around the move American Sniper and, specifically, FFF Vice President Sheldon Richman’s article “The American Sniper Was No Hero.”
The question must be asked: Was U.S. Navy Captain Ray Davis a war hero for orchestrating the murder of American citizens Horman and Terrugi?
The Chilean military certainly thought so. In fact, the Chilean troops looked upon themselves as war heroes as they rounded up tens of thousands of Chilean citizens and herded them into concentration camps, where they raped them, tortured them, beat them, disappeared them, or executed them.
In fact, what the troops did to women is so horrible that I would not even think of putting it into this article. Suffice it to say that it related to matters sexual.
Permit me to give you just one example of the horror committed by the troops. There was a nationally renowned protest singer in Chile named Victor Jara. He was sort of Chile’s Bob Dylan. He was among the tens of thousands of Chilean people who were rounded up by the troops and taken to the National Stadium in Santiago during the coup.
The troops ordered Jara to sing a protest song with his guitar to his fellow inmates, which he did. They then proceeded to smash his wrists and hands and then ordered him to sing again with his guitar, after which they killed him.
Through the entire horror of the coup and its aftermath, there were people who honored, glorified, and praised the troops. That sector of society continually thanked the troops for their “service.”
What had the victims done to deserve being arrested, raped, tortured, beaten, disappeared, or executed? They were all believers in socialism or communism. That was their only “crime.” The mission of the troops was to eradicate socialism and communism from Chile and so they figured that the best way to do that was to kill people who believed in socialism and communism.
That’s in fact why Navy Captain Davis fingered Horman and Teruggi to his Chilean counterparts. Davis wanted Horman and Teruggi dead because they believed in welfare-state socialism and also opposed the U.S. government’s war in Vietnam. The military and the CIA considered them bad Americans–scum. It also didn’t help that Horman, a journalist, had discovered evidence of U.S. complicity in the coup, which U.S. officials were steadfastly and falsely denying to the American people and to the world.
I repeat: Was Davis a war hero for killing Horman and Teruggi? Don’t forget that the Chilean coup occurred during the Cold War, when the U.S. national-security state’s anti-communist crusade was still in full swing. In fact, in 1973 U.S. troops were still in Vietnam killing communists.
Perhaps I should mention that the U.S. military and the CIA were ecstatic over the Chilean coup. And why not? For three years, they had done everything to convince their counterparts in Chile that they had a solemn duty to save their country from a democratically elected president who, they said, was destroying the country with socialist programs.
It shouldn’t surprise anyone that neither the Justice Department nor Congress has ever launched an official investigation into the U.S. national-security state’s murder of Horman and Teruggi. As I point out my article, the State Department launched a secret investigation into the murder, reached the same conclusion as that Chilean court, and then proceeded to cover it up. When Horman’s widow Joyce Horman brought a wrongful-death action in U.S. District Court, the federal judiciary summarily dismissed her case, without permitting her to take even one deposition.
One thing is for sure: On September 11, 1973, the Chilean people learned first-hand what President Eisenhower had warned the American people about — about how a nation’s national-security establishment poses a grave threat to the liberties and democratic processes of a nation.
The Chilean court did not consider U.S. Navy Captain Ray Davis to be a war hero. The court’s ruling made it clear that it considered Davis, who is now deceased, to be a criminal. That’s precisely why the court sentenced two other officials, both Chileans, to prison terms for murdering Horman and Teruggi.
The way I see it is that Davis’s murder of Horman and Teruggi is no different, in principle, from the murders committed by Adam Lanza.
Before people write all those nasty emails in defense of Davis, let me clarify that I am not saying Davis was a crazed killer who walked into a public school and killed a bunch of innocent children. I’m just saying that he was a trained Navy captain who murdered two innocent Americans as part of the U.S. government’s “war on communism.”
But murder is murder, whether it is committed by a crazed killer at a public school or by a military official who is killing innocent people as part of his job as an agent of the national-security state. That’s the point that Sheldon was making in his article. He wasn’t saying that American sniper Chris Kyle and Adam Lanza were the same types of people. Clearly they weren’t. What Sheldon was saying is that murder is murder, whether it’s committed by a crazed killer shooting a bunch of children in a school or a soldier who murders two innocent Americans or a soldier who is killing people in a war of aggression —that is, a war against a country that has never attacked the United States.
And it’s that issue — killings by soldiers in a war of aggression — that defenders of Chris Kyle simply cannot come to grips with. It was fascinating reading the attacks on Sheldon’s article because while they were filled with profanities, diatribes, flailing, and personal attacks, very few, if any, of them confronted, analyzed, and addressed the central issue: Is it acceptable for soldiers to kill people as part of a war of aggression, especially one whose only goal is nothing more than regime change?
In fact, the lack of critical analysis in the attacks on Sheldon’s article is, in my opinion, a perfect confirmation of the damage that public (i.e. government) schooling has done to people’s minds and why it is so important that we separate school and state in this country. In public schools, people are taught to memorize and regurgitate and repeat mindless bromides such as “Thank you for your service.” Equally bad, people are taught to defer to authority and look upon the government as their foster parent or, even worse, their god. By the time they graduate high school, the ability to engage in critical thinking and to question authority have been totally smashed out of them.
Consider William Calley, the U.S. soldier who killed a bunch of women and children in a village in Vietnam. Was he a war hero? He thought he was. In his mind, he was protecting our rights and freedoms by killing communists.
But even the U.S. military didn’t consider Calley a war hero. They prosecuted him for murder.
Was Calley the same as Adam Lanza? Of course not. Lanza was a crazed killer who walked into a public school and started killing children. Calley was a trained U.S. soldier who believed he was following orders by killing communists notwithstanding the fact that they were defenseless women and children.
But murder is murder, whether it’s committed by a crazed killer in a public school or by a trained U.S. soldier in a village in a foreign country. That’s the point Sheldon was making — murder is murder. That’s what his critics just can’t see.
I recently watched the movie Casualties of War, starring Michael J. Fox and Sean Penn. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it. It is a powerful film. And it’s based on a true story that took place during the Vietnam War.
Penn’s character was the head of Fox’s character’s unit in Vietnam. He ordered his men to help him kidnap a young Vietnamese woman so that they could use her as sex slave. Fox refused to obey Penn’s order and refused to participate in the kidnapping. When Penn and other men in the unit began raping the woman, Fox refused to participate. The rapists then shot and killed the woman.
Were the soldiers who raped and killed that Vietnamese woman war heroes? They certainly thought so. They figured the woman was a communist anyway, just as the Chilean troops figured that the people they were raping, torturing, beating, disappearing, and killing were communists.
But the truth is that they weren’t war heroes, notwithstanding the fact that they were American soldiers purportedly fighting to protect our freedom with their war in Vietnam. They were plain old ordinary rapists and murderers — yes, different from Adam Lanza in that they were U.S. soldiers while Lanza was a crazy man. Again, however, murder is murder whether it’s committed by a crazy man in a public school or by a U.S. soldier who rapes and kills a Vietnamese woman.
Many Americans have been taught to believe that soldiers have to follow whatever orders they are issued. That’s just not true. In fact, it’s the opposite. Every American soldier is taught that he has a solemn duty to refuse to obey orders that are unlawful. When a soldier, for example, is ordered to rape or kill defenseless women and children in a war zone, it is incumbent on him to refuse to obey the order. If he obeys the order anyway, he cannot use that as a defense at a subsequent criminal prosecution of him.
That’s not to say that there isn’t sometimes a price to be paid for refusing to obey unlawful orders. For example, during the Chilean coup, there were Chilean soldiers who refused to participate in the coup on the grounds that to do so would violate the oath that the soldiers had taken to support and defend the constitution of Chile, which did not provide for a military coup as a way to remove a democratically elected president from office. They were arrested and either incarcerated or shot.
In fact, those soldiers weren’t the only ones who paid a high price for fulfilling their oath to support and defend the constitution. In 1970, the commanding general of the entire Chilean Armed Forces, a man named General Rene Schneider, refused to consider pleas by U.S. national-security state officials for a military coup in his country. His reason? He was committed to fulfilling the oath he had taken to support and defend the constitution.
That caused the CIA to secretly orchestrate his violent kidnapping, even smuggling the weapons into the country to get the job done. During the kidnapping, Schneider was shot dead, leaving a widow and small children to grieve his loss.
Were the CIA kidnapping conspirators war heroes? They certainly thought so. Today, many Chileans consider them criminals, notwithstanding the fact that they were working for the U.S. national-security state, the totalitarian-like apparatus that was grafted onto America’s governmental structure after World War II, in the name of combatting communism.
So, the three critical issues — the ones that defenders of Chris Kyle are obviously having trouble coming to grips with are these:
1.Was the Nuremberg War Crimes Tribunal right or wrong in labeling a war of aggression as a war crime?
2.Do the principles set forth at Nuremberg apply only to Germany or are they universal?
3.Did the U.S. government initiate a war of aggression against Iraq?
4.When soldiers kill people as part of a war of aggression, are they heroes or are they murderers?
Why do so many people have a difficult time confronting those fundamental issues? One reason is public schooling, as I stated above. But another reason is because the national-security state has so warped and perverted the principles, values, and consciences of the American people that they are unable to distinguish between right and wrong when it comes to military operations and CIA operations.
The same phenomenon occurred during the Chilean coup. Many people simply could not understand — indeed, they’re still not able to understand — why it’s wrong for soldiers to arrest, rape, torture, abuse, disappear, or kill people just because of their ideological beliefs. By the same token, undoubtedly there are some Americans who would come to the defense of Navy Captain Ray Davis, Army Lt. William Calley, and the real-life person depicted by Sean Penn.
There is another factor to consider here: The invasion of Iraq was nothing more than a regime-change operation, just like the one in Chile and so many others that have been orchestrated and carried out by the U.S. national-security state. That’s it. That’s what U.S. soldiers, including Chris Kyle, were killing Iraqis for — to effect regime change, one intended to oust a former partner and ally of the U.S. government, a ruler to whom they had delivered the WMDs they later used as the scam to justify their invasion, and replace him with a pro-U.S. stooge, just like they did in Chile, Guatemala, Iran, and many other places.
Let’s recap the principles:
As much as some people would like to believe that the principles set forth at Nuremberg applied only to Germany, it’s just not the case. The principles set forth at Nuremberg apply universally.
It is undisputed that Iraq never attacked the United States. That made the U.S. government the aggressor in the Iraq War.
Waging a war of aggression is a war crime, as set forth at Nuremberg.
Since the U.S. war on Iraq constituted a war crime, one cannot escape the conclusion: No U.S. soldier had the right, moral or legal, to kill even one Iraqi — not in “self-defense” and not in defense of other soldiers. Every U.S. soldier had the solemn duty to say to President George W. Bush what Gen. Rene Schneider said to U.S. national security state officials: “I will not violate the oath I have taken to support and defend the U.S. Constitution and I will not violate the war-crime principles against wars of aggression set forth at Nuremberg. I refuse to obey your order to deploy to Iraq and kill people wrongfully in your regime-change operation.”
At the same time, the duty of the citizen is not to blindly support what the president and his troops are doing. The duty of a citizen is to make a critical examination into what the president has his troops doing. If it’s the right thing, then the citizen supports it. If it’s the wrong, then the citizen opposes it.
Aggression and the American Sniper by Jacob G. Hornberger
McDaniel and Botkin Are Wrong: The Troops Never Defended Our Freedom in Iraq and Vietnam by Jacob G. Hornberger