Generous Orthodoxy  

Friday, May 11, 2007

Gen. Petraeus, saying what the church ought to be saying

Down here in Virginia, reading the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot, I've learned that Gen. David Petraeus, the top US commander in Iraq, is disturbed by the Pentagon report (discussed in the previous Tip) that fewer than half of Marines and only a little more than half of Army soldiers said they would report a member of their unit for killing or harming an civilian in Iraq. Moreover, more than 40 percent support the idea of in some cases, and 10 per cent report personally abusing civilians. Worst of all, only 47 percent of soldiers and 38 percent of Marines surveyed said that non-combatants should be treated with dignity and respect. Is this not deeply shocking? (and what's with the Marines?)

General Petraeus has sent a letter to US service members stating that adherence to the highest moral values is essential for US forces. He said that he understood the desire for revenge under stressful circumstances, but "hard as it might be, we must not let these emotions lead us-- or our comrades in arms-- to commit hasty, illegal actions," he writes.

Many of our soldiers are church-going, religious young people. If the churches matched their enthusiasm for "supporting the troops" with teaching about "respecting the dignity of every human person" as the baptismal service says, our troops would be better equipped for moral decisions in the cauldron of Iraq.

Gen. Petraeus has an earned Ph.D. in international relations from Princeton. Maybe Princeton is doing a better job of teaching ethics than the church.