Soldiers Begin to Defect to Prevent Killing Innocents

In a recent New York Times article, Dan Bilefsky sheds light on the atrocities that occur on the battlefield and, more importantly, on how it is the responsibility of the individual soldiers to prevent such things from happening. Unfortunately, all too often soldiers are willing to shed their guilt by blaming their superiors and asserting that they just did their duty. However, every now and then there are soldiers willing to take a stand against these international atrocities. Once such soldier is Ammar Cheikh Omar.

The first time that Ammar Cheikh Omar was ordered to fire into an unarmed crowd of civilians, he mercifully fired his AK-47 just over the heads of the innocent protestors, but unfortunately he was one of the few who did. The United Nations estimates that Syrian foot soldiers such as Ammar Cheikh Omar are responsible for murdering over five thousand innocent protestors since March of last year. Sadly, this number is just a small representation of the staggering number of similar atrocities around the globe.

Fortunately, people like Ammar Cheikh Omar are finally beginning to take a stand by refusing to take part in these atrocities and defecting in order to avoid being placed in these gruesome situations. Currently, it is estimated that at least five thousand of these Syrian foot soldiers have defected, some of which defected after being ordered to return to their own villages and gun down innocent protestors whom they had know their entire lives. One soldier even underwent the tragedy of finding his brother among the bodies of innocent protesters that members of his unit had recently slaughtered. Considering the harsh penalties, such as death, that can result from defecting; the fact that these soldiers have the courage to stand up for what is right is incredible, especially considering the amount of soldiers who are willing to hide behind their orders. However, as remarkable as these efforts are, the efforts of these individuals is not nearly enough. The international community needs to take steps on a global scale to combat these problems. If a single man is willing to say no to committing these atrocities when at times there is literally a gun pointed to the back of his head, the international community should have the courage and conviction to match these contributions.

3 comments

  1. That is very heroic – it is so unfortunate though that they face death for their decisions. I have always been horrified by wartime accounts where soldiers justify their actions by saying that they were ordered to do it. The most glaring example I can think of like this is Nazi soldiers who ran the death camps. Being told to do something by a superior in the military is not an excuse for doing something that you know if clearly wrong – like firing an AK-47 into a crowd of unarmed protestors. While I do understand that it is difficult (and no doubt sometimes near impossible) to not follow orders or to get out of an objectionable situation – a soldier doing so should be commended. They should be honored, not killed.

  2. It is hard to believe that so many soldiers are willing to kill innocent people, but it is nice to hear that some have realized how wrong it is and are willing to take a stand. I think it may be easy for soldiers who are used to shooting into crowds to forget that those “faceless” protestors are someone’s brother, sister, mother, father, etc. It was probably a very eye-opening experience for those soldiers to be told they had to go into their own villages and kill people they may have known their entire lives.

    Soldiers are in a unique position of feeling justified when they kill because they are usually killing enemies in order to help protect their country, but I do not think it is easy to feel justified when those being murdered are innocent members of your own community. I do no think that soldiers can just blame their superiors for giving them the orders because they are the one who is pulling the trigger. They have a choice whether or not to follow that order, and I applaud those who have stood up for what they know is right and not murdered an innocent person just because they were ordered to do so.

  3. The choice of these soldiers to disobey their orders and defect brings into light the aspects of our moral conscience that guide us in distinguishing right from wrong, acceptable from unacceptable, as well as our choice to respond with action. As Matt suggests, the international community does need to respond to these ongoing atrocities. I am not convinced, however, that the aforementioned soldiers defect solely due to a strong moral conscience. No question that some of these men are guided by their morals, but as the post states, some soldiers defected after they were ordered to shoot protestors in their own villages. We do not have the facts to know whether or not these soldiers had previously followed similar orders targeted at strangers, and only defected when their own friends and family were put in danger, but in analyzing the bigger picture it is a consideration that should not be ignored. It is this unfortunate reality of human nature that I wish to highlight, not to undermine the courageous acts of the soldiers, but to point out the inadequate action by the international community. Often times people feel troubled when they are asked to do something immoral, but it takes something more for them to respond with actions. In my experience, I find that many of us only act when we are personally or intimately affected. Similarly, the international community will act in response to the dangers facing the most influential members of the community the strongest. So, are their actions guided more by their morals or the potential affects directly facing them?

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