You Can’t Legislate Honor
October 13, 2007 § 6 Comments
The story in brief:
Four Navy SEALs on a covert mission come across some unarmed civilians in remote Afghanistan. They now face a moral dilemma: kill the civilians and thereby assure that they are not exposed to local Taliban, or let the civilians go and risk betrayal and exposure.
Their natural sense of honor supported by the legislated morality embodied in their formal rules of engagement, the SEALs let the civilians go. The civilians promptly betray them to the Taliban. Three of the SEALs and sixteen members of a reinforcement team give their lives as a result of the choice to release the civilians rather than summarily executing them.
The badly wounded sole survivor of the original four SEALs, Marcus Luttrell, is taken in by a group of friendly Afghans. As Luttrell puts it, “I probably killed one of their cousins. And now I’m shot up, and they’re using all the village medical supplies to help me.” These Afghans go for help from the US Marines, carrying a note from Luttrell, and Luttrell is eventually rescued.
In a world with less honor in it, nineteen American soldiers would still be alive. The commander of the four-man SEAL team, Lt. Michael P. Murphy, has been posthumously awarded the Navy Medal of Honor. It is hard to imagine anything more appropriate. These men valorously and quite directly gave their lives for no other objective purpose than to preserve the honor, the integrity, the basic goodness of America. What we do both reflects and makes us into what we are. Heaven help us if we alter our rules of engagement – Heaven help us that we have already altered our rules of interrogation – in such a way as to dishonor the sacrifice made by these men.
(Cross-posted at What’s Wrong With the World)