A fundamental aspect of the good news of the gospel is the message of liberty. As President Joseph F. Smith said, “The Kingdom of God is a Kingdom of freedom; the gospel of the Son of God is the gospel of liberty.” Men of God, both ancient and modern, have spoken on this issue repeatedly. This book analyzes what liberty is and how it applies to government.
photo credit: SmilingMonk
Recently I became aware of the story of Matthis Chiroux, an Iraq war veteran who has refused to return to military service. Just this past Sunday, Chiroux reaffirmed his desire to not participate in what he called the “Iraq Occupation”, offering his position as a Father’s Day present to his father who stood by his side as he read his remarks.
Sergeant Chiroux is one of over four thousand U.S. soldiers who refuse to continue their military employment each year. Unlike many others, Chiroux is not fleeing to Canada for refuge; he has decided to remain in this country, and through civil disobedience face whatever action the military may initiate.
Let’s rewind a few years and observe what this young man’s life might have been like in a parallel universe. Fresh out of high school, let’s imagine that Chiroux was a talented athlete who signed a contract to play with a national sports team. Excited for this opportunity and being a fan of the team for which he was recruited, he willingly signs on the dotted line and looks forward to participation. A few years down the road, he begins to witness more and more things happening in management of the team with which he disagrees. It reaches boiling point, and Chiroux decides to quit the team in favor of other pursuits.
Would he make the news? Would he face potentially severe punishment for his change of heart? Would his actions be labeled “desertion”? Clearly not. Why, then, do his actions become entirely offensive to many if his employer is the military?
Far worse, in this line of work he is expected to be prepared to kill on command. He’s not making donuts here—he is being trained as a soldier to fire upon and obliterate anybody his superiors see fit. In such a situation, it is quite easy to see that there would be a number of conscientious objectors—people who tire of war, peaceful citizens who want to lay down their weapons of mass destruction, and young boys who have become a little older and wiser.
If the fundamental right of refusal is preserved in other lines of work—allowing you to quit whatever job you like, for whatever reason—why is this not so in the military, one of the nation’s top employers? Forcing a person to remain in any line of work becomes a form of slavery, for voluntary cooperation has ceased, and the employer has now become an aggressor.
To be sure, much could be written about the tactics used by the military to recruit naÃ¯ve young people into its ranks. The propaganda, the promise of free education, the signing bonuses—all options are on the table in finding warm bodies to meet a quota. But unlike other employers, the military has no incentive to create a working environment in which its employees voluntarily and freely wish to remain and render their services. In the line of work where force permeates every action, treatment of employees differs little.
Military “desertion” (or, rather, the ability to terminate your employment with the military) is a fundamental right that should be preserved and offered for any who wish to resign. Soldiers are not pawns to be used in a game of war, but rather human beings who, if required to kill and destroy, should believe of their own accord that the cause for which they are fighting is just.
Any amount of force used in coercing the soldier to remain in such employment is nothing more than bondage. If we truly are a “free country”, such actions should be publicly repudiated by every public servant.