Sunday, February 02, 2020

Splitting Hairs in Impeachment and War

Listening to Republican Senators  say that what Donald Trump did in that phone call with Ukrainian President Zelensky was "wrong" or "inappropriate" but not rising to the occasion of an impeachable offense reminds me of my own  sophistry in deciding what to do about military service during the Vietnam war.

By the time I graduated from college in 1970, I knew the war was clearly a mistake.  That was evident from the lack of discernible progress against a determined insurgency and the increasing illegitimacy of the South Vietnamese government we were propping up against that insurgency. Revelations about the My Lai massacre, secret bombings and expansion of the war into Cambodia led me to question the entire moral premise of the war.

Since my plan to ride out the war behind a four-year student deferment did not get me past the possibility of being drafted into the war, I wrestled with the morality of serving.  In the end I convinced myself that that the war was a policy error, not a moral issue, and accepted military service as a legitimate demand that my country could make of me.

Not only did I accept military service, I carried a rifle and other implements of destruction in combat, ready and willing to kill.  Even at the time my moral hair-spitting bothered me but I just put it aside and did my "duty" just wanting to get it all behind me.  As it happened, I didn't get it behind me.  My military service has haunted me ever since.

I wonder if Lamar Alexander, Lisa Murkowski and other Republican senators who recognize that Trump's actions were improper will ever be haunted by their legal hair-splitting.