May 27, 2008

Speaking out

I have always admired the U.S. soldiers who spoke out against the Vietnam War. ... When do you last remember Indian soldiers speaking out against a war, any war, in India?

(Arundhati Roy, The War That Never Ends.)

Any answers?

70 comments:

Kavi said...

We are given to taking orders ! We can wax eloquence on everything under the sun, but come the order, there is murmur & compliance !

Distinctions between 'love for the motherland, & 'murder' by blind following of orders needs to emerge.

Perhaps the British lineage has brought with it a few elemnts as part of the DNA ! Have you heard (as much as the Yankkee) the Brit soldier speak out against war...am not sure !

km said...

Probably because dissent is something very American?

On a related note - have you seen the Vietnam docu "Winter Soldier"? It is indeed astonishing to see American soldiers, many of them hardly older than 22-23, speaking out against the war in Vietnam.

Prakash M Kini said...

As far as your question is concerned, if there is a reason for a soldier to speak out against the wars that we have been forced into, he would probably have come up with them. Apparently, Arundhati is asking for help. Boy, does she need some? Distinctions have also to be made between "rational opposition" and "plain ol' drivel".

On a similar note, I have always admired journalists who irrespective of their political leanings and bias, contribute to news rather than opinion. When was the last time, the Arundhati-ilk refrain from coming up with classic "coincidental" conspiracy theories?

Gaurav said...

Let us leave aside the validity of drawing parallels between Vietnam war, which was fought in some third country against an enemy that never threatened the US, and India's wars which have mostly been started by the enemy, with aggression onto our own soil.

Don't forget that the US had a draft during Vietnam. So individuals were literally being forced into a foreign war. India has always had a volunteer army, and its enemies have been largely known. So the dissenters are self-selected out.

Dilip D'Souza said...

if there is a reason for a soldier to speak out against the wars that we have been forced into, he would probably have come up with them.

So in a military force of over a million men, through 60 years, there's not one soldier who has found a reason to speak out? Every single one of them has approved of the fighting? You find it easy to believe that?

I've met some soldiers who would not fit that particular profile. It wasn't hard.

km: I'm not sure dissent is entirely American. The passions on every side of all kinds of debates in India themselves speak of at least differing points of view. However, on military matters alone there seems to be a reluctance to question official doctrine.

I will look for "Winter Soldier".

Kavi, that's an intriguing point about British soldiers. But don't forget such people as Siegfried Sassoon, with their opposition to WW1. (Have you read Pat Barker's "Regeneration"?)

Dilip D'Souza said...

I've heard of, or read, accounts of US soldiers speaking against WW2, WW1, the Civil War, the first Gulf war ('91), the current war ... besides Vietnam.

No parallels to be drawn in any of those?

I am willing to bet that every country that has ever been involved in war claims that the war was "started by the enemy."

The US doesn't have a draft now, as far as I know. There have been previous wars during which it didn't have a draft. Even so there are soldiers who speak out against the wars they are sent to fight in.

Dissenters being "self-selected out"? Again, in a military force of over a million, through 60 years? It stretches credibility.

Nikhil said...

As usual you avoided commenting on Gauravs comment that is the key issue here:
parallels between Vietnam war, which was fought in some third country against an enemy that never threatened the US, and India's wars which have mostly been started by the enemy, with aggression onto our own soil.

This is the key issue that our bleeding hearts avoid.
The only parallel I can draw with Vietnam is our operations in Sri Lanka

Suresh Hanumanthappa said...

I am amazed by the number of bloggers -- even if communist bloggers -- who quote Comrade Roy as if she is some sort of philosopher.

We all admire true dissidents in really despotic regimes like the former USSR who stood up for what they believed in at painful personal consequences for themselves. Solzhenitsyn, for example. When was the last time you saw Comrade Booker defend what she claimed to believe in at a great risk for herself?

We know the answer to that one. Supreme Court gave her the opportunity to spend 90 days in jail defending freedom of speech, but comrade sneaked out before night fell on the first.

Another question. We also admire European leftists who brought out the sinister nature of communism in books like "Blackbook of Communism". When was the last time you saw an Indian leftist do it?

Thomas Kuruvilla said...

As a middle-of-the roader, I'll state a middleground position. I think ideally the authorship of the quote under question should be irrelevant to the discussion. D'Souza is on the limited point of answering a question that deeply troubled him. But I agree Comrade Roy is not sincere in asking that question given her track record of hypocrisy. It is possible that she is trying to sling mud on India's attempts to defend itself by comparing India's wars with Vietnam. But my point is that that is irrelevant to D'Souza's question.

Manmath said...

Suresh, Thomas,

Both of you make valid points. But please explain why soldiers speaking up against wars is necessarily an admirable thing. Should we blow the trumpet and toot the horn for cricketers who write against cricket? Perhaps authors who express disgust against writing books deserve our admiration too? I think Comrade Roy's question is stupid and meaningless. We should all be vary of what she admires. She admired a nice plot od tribal land in Pachmarhi, illegally bought it and illegally built a villa on it. Shoud we admire that too?

Rohit Chaoudhary said...

Suresh,

Goodp oint. I admire American leftwingers like Christopher Hitchens who support America's war against terrorists. I could be wrong here, but the impression I gather is that Indian leftists are by and large supporters of terrorism. American leftists like Hitchens do not mince words about the religious nature of jihadi terrorism. But Indian leftsits seem to justify the killing of innocent Indians by terrorists with such excuses as that "wronged" people have no choice but to kill innocents in turn.

Sorry this may come across as offtopic, but I feel somehow this is all connected to the question Arundhati Roy invented.

Suresh Hanumanthappa said...

Thomas: Why is the authorship of the quote relevant? Because authorship reveals agendas. Is Comrade Roy against violence and killings?

Manmath: good question!

Rohit: yes. There's a world of difference between a true liberal like Hitchens and a clownish fake like Roy.

I am hogging too much comment space here, so I will stop for now.

Saurav said...

Hi Dilip, have been reading ur blog for a while now. Which are the wars our jawaans could have protested against? Those agaisnt Pakistan? Unthinkable.. one sure way of getting branded traitor, court martialled and everyday. Kargil was brought on us, to protest was to be a coward. And china we were beaten, valiant yet beaten. Hell they did not protest agaist the damn .303, the war itself was out of question.
What they could have protested against is the CI ops. Kashmir and NE. MAybe the human rights violations we see are a product of it in some ways. An army taking it back on the people it is not tranined to fight, in a war that is not war for something that happned because our political bosses goofed up.

OhTee said...

Nikhil, Suresh Hanumanthappa, Thomas Kuruvilla, Mammath, Rohit Chaoudhary (!) and then Suresh Hanumanthappa again ... all within 30 minutes, all sounding suspiciously like each other!

Come come tell us, Comrade D'Souza, aren't they all the same person?

Dilip D'Souza said...

Nikhil, I "avoided commenting"? How?

For one thing, if you don't like the parallel to the Vietnam war, there are other wars that I listed. I think you will agree that Roy's point is not solely about the Vietnam war.

For another, pretty much every country that gets into a war claims the enemy started it and that they got drawn in. (Just yesterday I read an article saying Iraq and Vietnam were not comparable because in Vietnam, the South Vietnam government "invited" the US in, whereas Saddam certainly did not "invite" the US in. This "analysis", of course, conveniently forgets the infamous Gulf of Tonkin incident, among various other issues.)

Please explain to me how I have "avoided commenting". What I think you mean is that I've not agreed with the views of Gaurav and you. That's fair to say, but quite different.

I'm glad to see that this post's other purpose has been spectacularly served: bring the Roy-haters out of the woodwork.

Dilip D'Souza said...

Saurav, I've met common Indian soldiers who have expressed opposition to our wars when we chatted. (As also to what you call CI ops). None of them struck me as cowards, either.

Those conversations are the reason I have my own answer to Roy's question.

Jai_Choorakkot said...

Dilip,

1. I think 'Himalayan Blunder' by John P Dalvi comes close though its not an outright "against the war" it heavily criticises the conduct of the war. Havent read it, only excerpts, but believe it criticizes our "Forward Policy" etc.

2. Nikhil pointed out the closest parallel- our SL operations. Have heard/ read abt some senior military officers having concerns but nothing much like direct dissent. More to do with defined scope of operations.


3. Maybe 1971 war was also one where we went on an overreactive aggression after an air attack by Pak ( in neutral terms our response was way over the stimulus and a planned attack to liberate E.Pak).

4. As some commenters pointed out, I think other wars were defensive (including 1962 China except our pushes under Forward policy) and fought on our territory. There is very limited scope for dissent here.

regards,
Jai

Ohteetoo! said...

I agree with Ohtee.

Suresh Hanumanthappa, Thomas Kuruvilla, Manmath and Rohi Chaoudhury, please post at different times using different IP's to prove that you are different people and not the same person.

Rabin said...

Why haven't our soldiers spoken out? While I greatly admire Arundhati Roy and also am of the opinion that war (any war) is bad, I ask why single out soldiers? How can she expect soldiers to find a rationale for the war that they fight ("If I were a U.S. soldier, risking my life and sanity in the 100-plus-degree deserts of Iraq, I'd be asking some pretty serious questions of the CEOs of companies like Halliburton. How much do you earn? How much do I earn? What do you risk? What do I risk?").

It's a pretty tall order to ask of any soldier to find the rationale for a war. So what if a soldier doesn't ask these but just does his/her job? Or an ex-soldier reserves his/her comments about a war that he/she fought? Has this soldier let his/her country down? Bullshit!

We live in a society that accepts the mistakes transgressions of its leaders and find convienient 'bakras' to hang the blame on for being unresponsive. Lets atleast keep the people of our armed forces out of this. They have as much of a right to speak or not to speak as any of us do.

Dilip D'Souza said...

Rabin, good point. But I'm less interested in whether soldiers find a rationale for war than in wondering whether they speak out against it.

I think some of the explanations offered on this page are just wrong. Like in every army, ours too has its share of soldiers who are bothered by the wars they fight. The point is their inability, for whatever reason, to express it publicly.

Prakash M Kini said...

So in a military force of over a million men, through 60 years, there's not one soldier who has found a reason to speak out? Every single one of them has approved of the fighting? You find it easy to believe that?
If there was a voice against the war, and a reasonable one at that, give me one good reason, what with the eminent, aforesaid journalists we have, that the reasoning didnt appeal to us? Of course, I had it a taken that we are talking about ideology of why the wars were fought in the first place (which I think what Arundhati was hinting at) and not if he was being paid enough or not. For the latter, may I refer you to this wonderful book called The Himalayan by Brig J Dalvi.

I've met some soldiers who would not fit that particular profile. It wasn't hard.
Dont know about you, but I would've asked him why he took part in the war then! That shouldn't be too hard either.

I have come to this conclusion: whatever you do- there will be support and criticism. Constructive criticism is good but for someone trying to find why Indian soldiers didnt speak against the ideology of the war they participated in, because American soldiers did, that is crossing the line.

Prakash M Kini said...

Sorry, the name of the book I was talking about in my previous post is "The Himalayan Blunder".

Sudhir Kadkade said...

Encouraging dissent on strategy from serving soldiers during a war risks the civilian control of the military. In a democracy, it is the civilian leadership of the country that should take responsibility for war and peace. The military is a tool to achieve the objectives of the elected government. War, after all, is politics by other means. And in a democracy, politics is the realm of politicians, not soldiers.

Having said that, I can appreciate soldiers who vent on tactical matters before, after and even during conflict. I can appreciate that there be universal codes of conduct that limit warring nations, and that soldiers take these rules of engagement seriously.

Once soldiers retire and are not bound by secrecy laws, it is very useful for the populace to hear their points of view. An excellent example of this is Brig. Dalvi's "An Himalayan Blunder." It is so important to hear these criticisms that we need to ensure that the secrecy laws have short sunset clauses to allow such debates.

Dilip D'Souza said...

I would've asked him why he took part in the war then.

I did. The answers initially surprised me, but on speaking to more of them, and on reading more about soldiers in wars, they weren't so surprising any more. They fought not for some imagined "glory" or "country" or "patriotism", but for their soldier brothers in their particular paltan.

Rabin said...

dilip, my comment was more towards arundhati roy's interview..not sure if the common man really does have a voice in our country, don't blame the inability of some to air their views, blame the medium or the lack of it.

as an aside, if you think that elections are a way of vox of the volk coming through then, in the last 13 or so years that I've voted, I haven't found a single candidate (now I don't mean a party or someone's son/daughter but a candidate with a concrete agenda and views) that I even remotely identify with...have you?

so do I care about this political process we have? frankly my dear, I don't give a damn

Dilip D'Souza said...

Rabin, I have found a few candidates like you describe. Unfortunately, they've lost! But still, gotta keep plugging. I think.

Prakash M Kini said...

They fought not for some imagined "glory" or "country" or "patriotism", but for their soldier brothers in their particular paltan.
So you are saying they were against the war, had a strong and valid reason to be against it but still took part in it because others did? How lame is that? And what were the brothers-in-paltan fighting for? I hope someone was thinking of our Country.

Another quick query: You replied with why they took part in the war. My question was on the reasoning against the war. Example a soldier in the US may say the war on Iraq was unjustified because they thought Iraq had WMD and turns out they didnt. Similarly, what view does the Indian soldier hold on the basis of why the war was fought?

Dilip D'Souza said...

How lame is that?

Not very lame at all, and all the more reason we should all speak to/read accounts from soldiers who have fought hard. May I suggest, for example, "With the Old Breed" by Eugene Sledge.

Similarly, what view does the Indian soldier hold on the basis of why the war was fought?

Many views, I'm sure. It's worth finding out for yourself. The wrong assumption to make is the one I had until I started meeting some soldiers: that every soldier's motivations and feelings about the war they fight are the same, and that they exactly match the rhetoric from leaders and the rest of us.

Pankaj said...

Dileep,

Your question is specially pertinent to the army's role in actions within the country (northeast, J&K, Punjab in the 80s..). There is some discussion on this now and then within the armed forces circles, but not nearly enough, and not as much as in the US. Why?

- Since 1947, our external wars have been mostly defensive in nature (the one exception probably being IPKF operation in Sri Lanka). As commentators have pointed out here, when you are being attacked, you defend yourselves and do not ask many questions. There are fewer ethical conundrums. Soldiers themselves are therefore yet to develop a culture of thinking for themselves.

- Though our constitution promises freedom of speech and thought our culture is by and large against these freedoms. Our upbringing and role models teach us to obey. Rarely are we taught to think for ourselves, even less to speak out, and least of all to act on our convictions.

- Caste, community, religion and wealth based divisions in our minds have taught us to be comfortable with the concept of "us" and "them". Coupled with our reluctance to think for ourselves it is easy for us to rationalise callousness of thought and action against others, and therefore to serve as willing tools for others.

- In general we have servile mindsets. For instance we wants jobs - we don't want to create jobs. Even in non-armed forces scenario we are most comfortable carrying out orders. We rarely criticize or even evaluate (on an ethical plane) our employer organisations (though we may criticize our superiors in these organisations).

- The US has been at war in 12 of 26 years between 1775 and 1800, 21 years in the 19th century, 38 years in the 20th century and 5+ years already in the 21st century. That is a total of 76 years since their independence 233 years ago. Barring the War of Independence and the Civil War most of these wars have been aggressive in nature (against the Red Indians, the Spanish, the French, or wars which weren't really their business (WW I, Korea, Vietnam, Grenada, Iraq; the jury is out on whether Hiroshima amounted to an attack warranting their direct participation in WW II). They have had ample opportunity to employ hindsight to analyse whether the wars were worth it, and a significant number of Americans conclude, and express, that they were not.

Perhaps as we learn to be more comfortable with the freedoms granted us by our constitution, and as the need to use these freedoms become a more prominent issue we will hear more of the contrary views.

Prakash M Kini said...

all the more reason we should all speak to/read accounts from soldiers who have fought hard.
From someone that cannot stand up to his point of view or make it across to his fellow cadres? I'd rather not derive my inspiration from that shop. I am not against his freedom of speech- all I want to know is if it makes sense. That, the argument above, certainly didnt make *any* sense, well, to me.

It's worth finding out for yourself. The wrong assumption to make is the one I had until I started meeting some soldiers:
The ones I met at my NCC camps werent dull in spirit - patriotic and otherwise. I admit I know only a very few of them. That is probably why I have been asking people who have apparently known them better to tell us what it is.

that every soldier's motivations and feelings about the war they fight are the same, and that they exactly match the rhetoric from leaders and the rest of us.
....while being oblivious to the very fact that ours wars were reactionary in nature and that most times we were trying to save India rather than eat up Pakistan? Our leaders and movies paint a ridiculous picture, no doubt. But, is the common soldiers non-adherence to this uber-zingoistic view, supposed to mean they have zero patriotic spirit and they fight wars for the benefit of their fellow soldiers only? I beg to differ.

Dilip D'Souza said...

I'd rather not derive my inspiration from that shop.

What a pity. I find thinking, questioning people who do their best amazingly inspiring.

is the common soldiers non-adherence to this uber-zingoistic view, supposed to mean they have zero patriotic spirit and they fight wars for the benefit of their fellow soldiers only?

Entirely on the contrary. These are some of the finest patriots I know: men who put meaning into their patriotism rather than just rhetoric about glory and country. For them, patriotism means standing up for their fellow men. I can think of no better definition of the word.

Pankaj said...

Please read Pearl Harbour for Hiroshima in my post above :)

Prakash M Kini said...

What a pity. I find thinking, questioning people who do their best amazingly inspiring.
The kind that endangers the life of self, let alone that of their friends, for a cause they dont even believe in- not to mention when they have a point against the war in the first place? Since when have these people been referred to as "thinking questioning people who do their bit"? People with a valid argument probably would have inspired their cadres against the war or at least spoken out against it.

No thanks, I prefer practical people with common sense for the inspiration part.

For them, patriotism means standing up for their fellow men. I can think of no better definition of the word.
I think my society would be better served if I can point out my reasoning (assuming I have one) against the war and save fellow men from needless trouble, misery and death. That would be a better service, in my humble opinion, than watching them die in a futile battle (which would be my opinion then) or getting myself killed for a cause I have no regard for.

Dilip D'Souza said...

Prakash, all I can say is, again, you should go speak to some soldiers. I think it will open your eyes far more than what I'm attempting to say here and you don't seem to believe.

Anonymous said...

Three words 'Azad Hind Fauj'

Anonymous said...

"Privatization is the antithesis of democracy" - Arundhati Roy.

Discuss (30 marks)

Anonymous said...

Just like some people oversimplify and romanticize 'patriotism' and 'democracy', some others oversimplify and romanticize 'dissent' and 'conscience'.

Anonymous said...

To be fair to Arundhati, this interview is old. Some new wisdom has been acquired by Arundhati of late. She has been known to come to the realization that the Congress and the Left parties are in no way any more principled than the right. I wonder when Mr D'Souza will see the light.

Jai_Choorakkot said...

1. This conversation reminds me of the cerebral movie 'A Few Good Men*' and Jack Nicholson's

"You obey orders or people die"

Soldiers probably internalize this concept, their very lives are at stake on the cohesion of the fighting unit. I'm annoyed at the suggestion from some that they are servile, unthinking etc.

2. "brothers-of-the-paltan.
patriotism means standing up for their fellow men(women?)."

Well its some -ISM. The problems I see:

- acts of aggression / defense are not differentiated.

- other groups of men/women who believe in their groupings will stand together for these. They could be insurgents, naxalites, terrorists etc.

Patriotism isnt quite my definition for the affinity they feel for each other.

- Stretching a bit, sub-groupings can emerge within a group and sub-fellows will stand together, possibly against another sub-group of the main group.

Would this be an intra-patriotic conflict of sub-patriotisms.

rgds,
Jai

*Getting OT a little, what a movie. It provided a case where orders (for the Code Red) should morally have been turned down. It was clear to me that was an illegal order but I've wondered what will happen IRL if somebody did that.

Anonymous said...

At some point, soldiering must be a job, like any other. You just do your job. There was dissent in Vietnam (and Iraq) because the US got a bloody nose in both. If there had been an easy victory instead of a long line of body-bags, there would have been no dissent.

This is what I meant by romantisizing dissent.

Anonymous said...

If I were a soldier, I would fight for that undefinable notion called pride. The same notion that makes me work at whatever I do for a living. I get paid for it, and I feel a sense of shame when I goof off too much.

The world is a complicated place. The morality of war is an ambiguous business. If I have problems with fighting wars, I should not be in the fighting forces. (I don't have a problem with war. I would love to kill, but my eyesight was too weak, so they wouldn't let me into the military).

Suprajit Gangooly said...

I find this point by Rohit Choudhary very pertinent:

"American leftists like Hitchens do not mince words about the religious nature of jihadi terrorism. But Indian leftsits seem to justify the killing of innocent Indians by terrorists with such excuses as that "wronged" people have no choice but to kill innocents in turn."

So where are the thinking, questioning leftists that we can all be amazingly inspired by? Groupthink and mindless conformism to the same old third-rate ideas are the hallmark of the left today. Look at this very thread. One leftist unthinkingly, unquestioningly quotes another leftist. Did he stop to ask _why_ did American soldiers question Vietnam war? Did he then think through and make a case that Indian soldiers have similar reasons to question the wars that India fought? Nope. Instead, he expects Indian soldiers to unthinkingly, unquestioningly imitate their American counterparts. Why? Because some leftwing diva asked a dumbass question!

Sridhar Reddi said...

Excellent point Gangooly!

Thomas Kuruvilla said...

As a middle-grounder, I do not agree with Gangooly's point. Dilip D'Souza happened to like Arundhati Roy's statement and quoted it. What is wrong with that? The point about the grounds on which American soldiers questioned Vietnam war are irrelevant. The thing to notice is that they questioned authority when they believed authority was doing wrong. D'Souza believes that authroity in Indian context also could be doing wrong. They won't be always right, right? So he is surpised that authority in India is not challenged. That is the point. I am not saying I agree with Roy and D'Souza, but I think their critics are being unfair.

Christopher Bougainvillea said...

Oh shut up, Thomas Kuruvilla.

OhTee said...

Very very interesting! "Suprajit Gangooly", "Sridhar Reddi", "Thomas Kuruvilla" and "Christopher Bougainvillea", again within minutes and again sounding exactly alike but this time even pretending dissent with each other!!

Just one of you, tell the truth? What you have to say, Comrade D'Souza?

Dilip D'Souza said...

Anonymous 5:03pm/5:20pm: I'm sure there are soldiers who see soldiering as just a job and that's reason enough to do it and do it well.

But there have been dissenting voices among US soldiers in every war they have fought, regardless of body-bags and/or "easy victories". For example, the book I mentioned above, "With the Old Breed" by Sledge. Sledge was a US Marine fought hard and valiantly in the Pacific during WW2. Even so, the dehumanizing brutality and conditions had him asking questions.

It's a book that should be read by everyone who talks easily of "glory", or that wars were "thrust on us", and such like.

Pankaj, in the US at least, I don't think the "jury is out" on the Pearl Harbour issue: the great majority of people there think PH was an unwarranted attack on the US and therefore they had no choice but to enter the war. Parallels to the way we feel about Kargil, actually.

Ohteetoo! said...

I'm beginning to wonder if Ohtee and Thomas Kuruvilla and Jai Chorakkoot are the same person. Multiple Personality Disorder? Jekyll and Hyde?

Jahnavi said...

Suresh Hanumanthappa,

Yes, there are Indian leftists who speak out against sinister leftwingers. Ramchandra Guha questioned The Hindu's endorsement of communists' brutalities on Tibetans. He earns my respect, though I, like you, detest fascist ideologies like communism.

But of course, when was the last time Comrade Roy spoke out against Comrade Ram's drum-beating in favor of the Chinese state's oppressive policies?

krishna said...

Dilip,
This is a wonderful comparison. American soldiers said nasty things about Vietnam (after they put off their uniform BTW), so which is India's Vietnam, may I ask? Which wars or invasions have we initiated, that are ongoing? What is a poor soldier to protest about?
Our govts are reluctant to fight or enter conflicts. This has been true since independence, and is generally a good thing. But our govts go a step further, they appease our enemies, beginning with Nehru and China/Tibet (incidentally have you heard of Gen. Thimayya? he very much dissented, though not in a way Ms. Roy would appreciate), and now with the latest govt's craven stance on Tibet and its treatment of Tibetans in India.

Pankaj said...

Dilip,

On the question of American entry into WW II, well, there are theories that Churchill and probably FDR had knowledge that Japan would attack Pearl Harbour. But they did nothing to warn the operational staff at Pearl Harbor because both wanted an incident that would decisively turn American public opinion (hitherto opposed to entering the war) in favour of joining the war. Several books have been written on the topic. There is also plenty of material on the net on the subject.

Which is of course not to say that these theories are true. However it is also a fact that before Pearl Harbour American opinion was pretty much against entering the war, and there is evidence that FDR himself felt that America should enter the war on the side of Britain. This point is specially relevant in the American context because the constitution of the US prohibits the president from entering the country into war without express authorisation by the Congress. After Pearl Harbour such an authorisation was easily obtained by FDR.

Prakash M Kini said...

Sledge was a US Marine fought hard and valiantly in the Pacific during WW2. Even so, the dehumanizing brutality and conditions had him asking questions.
Dilip, In the context of Ms Roy's wanderings on this subject, we are probably talking more about why Indian soldiers dont talk against their Government's policy of going into a war than the "dehumanising contions" of the war.

I, for one, would severely doubt the mental capacity of the individual who went to a war and did not expect what he saw! Its like saying I wanted to be a mechanical engineer - but hey - I saw this big lathe and man, what have I gotten myself into?

It's a book that should be read by everyone who talks easily of "glory", or that wars were "thrust on us", and such like.
Believe me- glory and thrust are really hard words to utter. I use up a lot of my muscles in saying them. That, I am told is some way to burn calories.

But seriously, we have jumped all over why Indian soldiers must oppose the idea of a war (in the Indian wars context) to debating whether one must speak easily of "glory" and "wars thrust upon us". And may I safely say, I still see no reason on why an Indian soldier must revolt against the Indian Govt for getting into wars that we have? - which makes me think no one has any.

On the topic, what would you do if someone tried to, knock on wood, stab you tomorrow? and wouldnt give up unless one of you was severely injured? I dont know about you but for me, all books I have read apart, I would try and save myself - and kick the other persons butt, if need be. And yes, I would not think too much about the adages on "showing my other cheek" either.

You probably have given up reading this comment but that cant wholly be my mistake.

Gopal Balakrishnan said...

More questions can be asked on the same lines.

There are many admirable white Americans who acknowledge the brutalities perpetrated on native Indians following white people's arrival in America. When was the last time you saw an Indian Christian denounce the atrocities effected on Goan Hindus by the Portuguese and the Catholic Church?

Thomas Kuruvilla said...

Gopal, as a middle-of-the-roader who prefers to take centrist positions, I feel that your question is not a fair one. Indo-Pak wars happened now, in the last 40 years, so it is not wrong ask Indian soldiers of today to take a stand on them. But what can Goan Catholics say about Gaon Inquisition that ended 200 years ago? This is not to say I agree completely with Arundhati Roy and Dilip D'Souza but I am just saying your question is not on the same lines as theirs.

Bye,
Thomas

Thomas Bogusvilla said...

I am positively certain that Thomas Kuruvilla and Jai Chorakkoot are the the same person.

Ella Ella Under My Umbrella said...

Yes, Thomas is fake.

oldhen said...

Forget the trolls, Dilip what's your answer - I'm (genuinely, non-troll-ly) curious.. It may in part be due to our strong sense of duty, and in many ways it seems that supine though the US media is, Indian MSM is even less critical in questions of military ventures of one form or another.. Our glorious army's conduct in Kashmir / Punjab etc. is rarely questioned in the mainstream

Shuvro Highcut said...

Comrade Roy herself is the Queen of Trolls anyway. Leftwingers have this curious belief that they are qualified to moralize and sermonize but not obliged to face up to the uncomfortable questions asked of them. The spit-and-scoot school of debate. Look at Comrade D'Souza in this thread for example.

Thomas Kuruvilla said...

Hen and Highcut, please stop masquerading as different people.

As a person who abhors extremes and is open to seeing valid points in everyone's argument, I do not think there is anything wrong with the leftwinger belief that the onerous responsibility of asking questions is on their delicate shoulders. Questions are good, no matter from which belief they stem from. Questions make us think and because we think we .. well, what we do? ... well, we answer. The person who does not answer in my view is the person who does not think. Instead of ridiculing leftwinger pompousness let us thank them for making us think. That does not mean I agree with leftwingers. Just stating we should allow them to ask questions. That is all.

Thank you,
Thomas

Cuba Is Valhalla said...

This Thomas guy is incorrigible. He needs to be hensored pronto.

Dilip D'Souza said...

In the context of Ms Roy's wanderings on this subject, we are probably talking more about why Indian soldiers dont talk against their Government's policy of going into a war than the "dehumanising contions" of the war.

Indeed we are. (Or should be). I say again, please read his book. It opened my eyes.

I still see no reason on why an Indian soldier must revolt against the Indian Govt for getting into wars that we have? - which makes me think no one has any.

If you see no reason for something, how do you conclude that no one else has any? I've indicated earlier in this discussion, for example, that I've personally met Indian soldiers who "expressed opposition to our wars when we chatted."

Like you, I would react to someone trying to stab me by fighting back. I'm not sure what the relevance of this is, though.

No, I didn't give up reading your comment.

Dilip D'Souza said...

oldhen, I think what you are saying is some of it. Strong sense of duty, media (and people) that is largely uncritical of military matters, etc.

But there may be an even more basic reason. Why, I wondered, have there been no books on our wars like Sledge's "With the Old Breed" -- which is about a war that a lot of Americans, and Sledge himself, believed had been thrust on America? Or even like Anthony Swofford's "Jarhead" (not quite as critical of the war, but of various aspects of being a soldier)? (Note that neither of these books is about Vietnam).

After all, I have met at least a few Indian soldiers who have said things in some ways similar to what's in those two books. Why no books, then?

Part of the reason is yes, that sense of duty etc that you mention. But surely a part of the reason is also their lack of access, in various ways, to getting such a book out. How many of them keep the detailed diaries that Swofford and Sledge did? How many of them want to write a book-length narrative? Sure, they might team up with a writer/journalist to do it, but where are the writers who would write such a book? (See point above about being largely uncritical).

I might consider it, but some of the guys I met did not want to go beyond just chatting quietly, some did not have the material a book would need ... etc. Yet how could I disregard the things they said?

Here's just one very small example. At the LoC once, where a subedar pointed out the forward India and Pak posts in the distance that were just a few dozen metres apart (much like an early scene in the film Lakshya). I asked some officers later, do the Indian and Pak soldiers in those posts talk to each other? They all said "no". But when I asked the subedar, and some other lower ranks, they said "Yes, we do speak to the Pakistanis."

And when they do, they do some thinking about the fighting. That's what I'm talking about.

Arjun Jhunjhunwala said...

Thomas Kuruvilla, sorry I have to disagree with you. Any clod -- including A Roy -- can ask questions. But having opinions is an art. There are many fine bloggers on the net. They state informed opinions, and thereby open themselves up to be challenged. The question-askers, on the contrary, do not have the courage to state their opinions in a forthright manner, and then stand by them and defend them, perhaps because their opinions are way too perverse to be stated without causing revulsion and shock. Hence they _insinuate_ opinions through questions. The advantage of this tactic is that the question-asker needs to defend nothing. He can simply keep shooting down the answers and keep putting the onus on the answer-giver to defend _his_ opinion.

Any questions?

Neelam Agarwala said...

Good point there Arjun. Jai Chorakkoot and Thomas Kuruvilla claim to be middle-of-the-roaders, but I don't think they are. I have a feeling they're parked in the service lane on the left side.

Goyal said...

Maybe it is because those who spoke out against the American wars were fighting wars (Vietnam, Iraq) that were not forced on them, but US politicians chose to fight for no apparent reason, even when most of the public did not want it. Which is probably why the war against Afghanistan faced zero public outcry.

On the other hand, other that the operation in Sri Lankan war India has always been pushed into a war, rather than starting one itself. And I thought a lot of people did oppose it.

oldhen said...

That's a good point Dilip, about soldiers not having access to publishing.. You should write that book Dilip - I'm sure it'll find lots of readers :-)

As a more immediate alternative, is a n anonymous way for them (resisting soldiers) to blog?

deadmanoncampus said...

Well,Arundhati Roy is a cheap dirty slut.It's hard to know what that dirty bitch stands for!

deadmanoncampus said...

Well on 2d thot, at least she uses her own name. Unlike me.

On another subj, dcubed you cheap scumbag I think you've engineered this whole comments section. Youre Jai Chokarot, youre oldhen, youre Prakash Kini, Kadkade, also the otherz with fakery is even more transparent.

kaffir said...

If a soldier has any ethical problems with fighting a war, then the solution for him or her is simple - take off your uniform and walk away. Rest all is just navel grazing and hemming-hawing, and looking at an issue through the lens of ideology.

Then again, I fail to see the parallel between Vietnam war and the wars India has fought, and maybe Ms. Roy can elaborate on that.

Yes, I would love to live as a world citizen too, but there's this thing called reality that stands in the way. Sure, I can work toward that goal, but I wouldn't base my current actions as if the goal has already been established.

krishna said...

See, there have been books on the wars India has fought, accounts of the war with China which are pretty critical. Here are a few:
1. "Himalayan Blunder" By Brig. J.P. Dalvi.

2. "The Guilty Men of 1962" by D. R. Manenkar.

3. "The Chinese Invasion of NEFA", by Sita Ram Johri, Foreword By K.M. Cariappa.

The chinese conflict was not a happy phase in Indian history, and there are many books by Indians (yes, including military people) on it.

The other conflict that was poorly managed and killed lots of people was the indian intervention in Sri Lanka. For critical accounts of govt failures on this front, you need to look no farther than the Justice Jain commission report, which is easily available through google. For ease of reading:
http://www.india-today.com/jain/related.html

There are even books on Operation Bluestar representing various shades of opinion if you want to read about them.

The rhetorical question: ". When do you last remember Indian soldiers speaking out against a war, any war, in India?"

by Ms. Roy is a cheap device meant to utilize people's (and probably her own) ignorance for propaganda.

Anyway, where are the major and pointless conflicts that India has initiated, except those to protect the integrity of the Union? Where are the napalm bombs and carpet bombing of another nation? The United States should hardly be an idol worth emulation in this regard. In the 18th and 19th century, its govts wiped out an entire culture and society, and Vietnam only became an issue when american soldiers started coming home in bodybags, not because the US unlawfully killed hundreds of thousands of vietnamese and other asians (by the end of the conflict these numbers were in the millions). Given her general anti american stance, it is curious that she uses US *soldiers* as an example worth emulating.