In “What Consequences?” (Cultural Revolutions, October), R. Cort Kirkwood stated (with regard to the WikiLeaks case) that Army Pfc. Bradley “Manning is a traitor.  He deserves the firing squad.”  Just the same as a German soldier would have been executed as a traitor for revealing documents about the Nazi concentration camps.

Mr. Kirkwood, I am just as loyal an American as you are.  I served my country for eight years on active duty in the 50’s.  As an American and a Catholic I expect our soldiers to adhere to certain standards of conduct, and if they are laughing and joking about shooting innocent civilians for sport, I want to know about it.  If Mr. Kirkwood considers this anti-American, then he fails to appreciate the consequences of our government hiding its misdeeds behind a veil of secrecy.  I understand that under the stress of combat things will be done that shouldn’t be done, and I would certainly allow much leeway in judging conduct.  But the consequences of simply saying “stuff happens” can be seen in the behavior of the Nazi and Japanese militaries in World War II.

—Robert A. Charron

Raleigh, NC

Mr. Kirkwood Replies:

Comparing American military forces with the Nazis who were slaughtering Jews is an outrageous false analogy.  Mr. Manning was not exposing murderous concentration-camp guards.  He was exposing, in addition to those soldiers who might have been committing war crimes (a very small percentage of them), a great many of his other comrades who are good and decent men risking their lives in a cause they believe to be just.

Mr. Charron then claims that I think he is anti-American to expect GIs not to joke about killing innocent civilians for sport.  He also claims that I believe “stuff happens.”  These arguments are straw men, the second informal fallacy in his short letter.  I wrote nothing of the kind.  Nor do I think it.

After the informal fallacies, he stated that I fail to appreciate the consequences of the government hiding its misdeeds.  This argument has no premise at all, and is an example of begging the question.  Again, I wrote nothing of the kind, and nothing in my piece suggests that I believe that.

Beyond that, as I wrote in my piece, neither Mr. Charron nor anyone else needed to see these documents to know our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are grave foreign-policy errors.  Nor did he need to see them to know that certain young men who join the military will go berserk and commit war crimes, or that, in fact, some of those young men have, indeed, committed such crimes.