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The world should be grateful that American democracy controls the U.S. military

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This author remembers a family chat over the dinner table, now more than 45 years ago.  Grandpa was talking about the "mustard gas" that they used to use in World War I. 

"They outlawed that," he said.  

"Why did they do that?" your author - age 5 - asked.  

"Because!" Grandpa said. "It wasn't fair!"  

That's exactly what Grandpa said. I can remember the gusto and the booming voice.

Being fair, during war?! Your author was puzzled.  

"If they could outlaw mustard gas, why couldn't they just outlaw war, too?"

Oh, for the privileges of childhood!

War Is Hell. As we move further into the 21st century, and as the Soviet Union moves further into the past tense, the U.S. military enjoys complete domination over that realm of hell. The Army's toughest opponents are now often the citizens they serve, citizens who condemn U.S. actions from within its own borders.

Does the U.S. do enough to protect civilians in foreign countries with whom we are at war? Does the U.S. fight fair? Are drones "terrorist" weapons?

There are people who accuse our Army of being no different from other armies, foreign armies that burn and pillage and send terrified civilians scurrying for cover. Fine. It is America, and they have the right to say what they want to. But we have the right to ask a few questions, too.

Drones are proliferating. It's a fair debate. Should a servicemember really operate a joystick, send a missile through a sliding-glass window in Afghanistan, blow up a house, and then bump knuckles with the servicemember in the next chair?

Critics of the U.S. tick off its "military atrocities" on their fingers - criminal acts against Native Americans, against the Viet Cong, or "unfair" treatment of residents at Hotel Gitmo in Cuba. Was Prof. Ward Churchill right - did the U.S. deserve the sort of civilian terrorist horror that Osama bin Laden laid on us? Churchill will tell you that the only difference between bin Laden, and us, is the side of the world on which we were born.

Hang on, full stop, right there. Whether you are Republican or Democrat, there is no moral equivalency between Josef Stalin, Mao Zedong, Adolf Hitler and ANY American president.  

For instance, most people are surprised to learn that NO government before 1900 A.D. made ANY effort to avoid civilian casualties at all. Meanwhile, the United States military goes to heroic lengths to protect "enemy" civilians - in the very countries that declare war on us. Typically the United States air-drops food and medicine to "hostile" civilians who are suffering under the governments we are fighting. It's an attitude that Adolf Hitler didn't share.  

Compare U.S. foreign aid to the estimated 40 to 70 million Chinese (not foreigners!) who died under Mao, or to the 20 million Russians (not foreigners) who died under Stalin.  We won't even discuss the atrocities that occurred under Hitler. Comparing the actions of any U.S. president to Adolf Hitler is insulting to those who suffered under the Nazis.

True, there have been occasions during which U.S. servicemembers have committed crimes.  The difference is, in America, we send people to jail for that. Then we record in our school texts that we are ashamed of these acts. American standards are different: We hold ourselves accountable for crimes, whether civilians commit them or soldiers do.

We, in fact, are holding ourselves accountable in this newspaper: We are peacefully, and legally, discussing what our government has done. We're calling for it to behave better in the future. Try doing that in North Korea.

When our brothers and sisters in the U.S. Army walk down the street in Iraq, the locals do not dive behind walls for cover. Was that true when Nazis tromped through the streets of Warsaw? If Kim Jong-un's troops were able to occupy Pike Place Market, we wouldn't be enjoying quite the same sense of peace and tranquility that the Iraqis enjoyed in Baghdad.

For the last several years, the North Koreans have been threatening us over their claimed ability to put one (1) nuclear warhead on one (1) missile that might be capable of hitting the United States. Think seriously about what the planet would be like if things were reversed - if North Korea had a military a thousand times stronger than ours.

Name any empire whose army dominated the known world. Those empires' foreign policies were as different from America's as they were different from the Seattle Mariners'.

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