Friends III: “Soldiers of Conscience”

Gary Weimberg, the guy with whom I had endless conversations about what everything in the world means when we were both very young, grew up to be a producer of documentaries. He and his partner Catherine Ryan have produced a film called Soldiers of Conscience, about American soldiers who went to Iraq to fight for a cause they thought was right – and reached the difficult conclusion that no cause justified killing. The film is showing tonight in America on PBS. If you are in the land where PBS broadcasts, you can click here to find out when the show will air where you live. There will be a chat on the PBS site tomorrow.

I recommend seeing the film. I don’t recommend treating the situation it describes as a precise parallel to serving in the Israeli army. Several years ago, I wrote about Israeli soldiers who refuse to serve in the occupied territories. My goal was to explain the dilemma they faced, and to explain why other reservists who agreed with their criticism of the occupation did not accept their position. But those who refused to serve in the territories would not have qualified as conscientious objectors in the American army. They accepted, and affirmed, the duty of fighting to defend one’s country. Indeed, as I understood their position, they regarded defending their country as a moral duty.

Watching Soldiers of Conscience, one thing that’s clear is that the U.S. soldiers in the film have a much harder time connecting the war to which they were sent with defending their homes, their families, their neighbors. Because of that, it seems to me, they have an easier time concluding that no war is justified.

But then, nothing here is easy. Gary and Cathy have done an incredible job of portraying difficult choices. Watch their film. Tell your friends to watch it.