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People and Politics Forum 23. 07. 2010

"Do soldiers deserve more respect?"


More information:

Abused and threatened - German soldiers on home soil

Members of the German armed forces are facing danger both on their foreign missions and back home. There has been an increase in the number of attacks and verbal abuse against soldiers and their families in Germany. Their detractors have the same message: criticizing their presence in Afghanistan. The soldiers, who risk their lives in their country's name, are seen in a bad light in their own country.

Our Question is:

"Do soldiers deserve more respect?"

Jeff Davis of the United States says Germany's soldiers deserve more support:

"Just saw your report showing 'your' soldiers returning from duty in Afghanistan, being beaten and shamefully harassed by alleged German citizens. How can you treat 'your' fellow citizens this way? Whose side are you on? Does your country have an organization that supports your military and their families? I'd like the address so this American family can support them. Please give this organization some deserved exposure."

Frank Boateng Agyarkwa from Ghana thinks it's wrong to make German servicemen and - women responsible for their government's decisions:

"I watched your programme in total dismay and bewilderment. German soldiers suffering abuse and insults in their country and on their own home soil? This is totally unacceptable. If the German people were to be invaded who would fight to protect them? While I am not asking the German people to shiver with fear at the army like we do here in Ghana, I believe the German people must of necessity respect their men in uniform. The policy to go to war in Afghnistan is NOT the personal decision of the soldiers but the decision of the German government. The angry Germans must direct their anger at their government and NOT at the soldiers whose morale will be seriously affected if the insults go on."

Roland Mathews from the United States agrees wholeheartedly but thinks mebers of the armed forces everywhere can also do something to help their own cause:

"Frontline soldiers should not be blamed for government policy. (…) Throughout history, governments have used propaganda and poverty as a means of filling the ranks of the military. Unfortunately, this will continue unless all soldiers worldwide realize this and form a union to protest being sent to fight in unjust wars. It was the returning vets protesting the Vietnam War that had a great effect on public opinion. But in the U.S., we are again being told it is unpatriotic to protest against the war and especially to criticize the military. This is all part of the Zeitgeist that permeates the society (…)."

David Moloney, Ireland, thinks Germans should stand up for their armed forces... or else:

"Attacks on members of the Bundeswehr are nothing short of a disgrace. Those who perpetrate such crimes should face the full rigors of the law. German society as a whole should be appalled that those who are risking their lives are under attack from their own citizens."

René Junghans, Brazil:

"I don't think soldiers deserve special respect. When you decide to become a soldier, you decide to kill other people and I find that abhorrent. If there were no armies, there'd be no wars. The billion-dollar weapons industry instigates wars so its producers can sell weapons to both sides. They're happy when wars break out, irrespective of how dirty they are (look at the invasions of Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan), because they can make more money. German soldiers are sent to war in Afghanistan, though it's got nothing to do with them. They're left to their fate, defending American interests. Many of these young men come back with blood on their hands and psychologically scarred. Then they're reviled at home. It's a vicious circle. If they want to earn extra respect, these young men should refuse to be drafted and learn a respectable profession instead, one in which they can help people and do something positive for their country. Then they'd be able to sleep better and could expect respect from their countrymen. The old saying still rings true: 'Make love, not war.'"

S. Venkatesh Sivakumar, India:

"Why shouldn’t they be treated with respect? Entire nations depend on them. I don’t think soldiers are responsible for what they are doing at all, whether it’s for the welfare of their own country or the destruction (in the name of welfare and care) of another. They are just like machines doing whatever the master wants them to do. It’s clear that 'their hands are tied and at no cost will they be loosened.' Soldiers deserve more respect than other people, because they are willing to lay down their lives."

Papuna Tschanadiri, Georgia:

"I'm shocked at the way soldiers are treated in Germany. I think it's a great pity. No matter where they are, in Germany, Iraq or Afghanistan, they do their job. It's their profession. I come from Georgia and it is really different here. When our soldiers come home from foreign missions in places like Iraq, they are treated as heroes who are doing all they can to make the world a safer place (even if that sounds a bit exaggerated). I would advise Germans to treat their soldiers with more respect. If Germans don't approve of the Afghanistan mandate, they should direct their protests against the government. They're the ones who make the decisions (although I think it was a good decision). Soldiers are only carrying out their duties."

Gerhard Seeger, the Philippines:

"Soldiers should be respected too, like people in any profession, but I don't think they deserve special respect. I don't think they deserve to be beaten up at home, either. That just shows a lack of judgment (not to mention stupidity) on the part of the attackers. Soldiers have to follow orders. They can't just resign like you can in other jobs. The army was sent to Afghanistan by politicians. Protestors should direct their anger at them."

Hannelore Krause, Germany:

"In principle, they deserve neither more nor less respect than people in other professions. But soldiers are supposed to defend their countries in conflicts. In our globalized world they also have to help our allies in wars - as 'protectors' and 'helpers.' Often the reconstruction of a particular region is left to them. Then they do deserve special respect - especially since many end up dying for something they have nothing to do with. I don't think it's justified to attack them or treat them badly. Aggression is always directed at people who have no say."

Raghu Rawat, India:

"Yes,I think the soldiers deserve more respect. It is a shame that people are attacking them and abusing them verbally in Germany. The solders did not go to Afghanistan of their own choice, they were sent there and it was part of their duty. The citizens of any country should not forget that if any problem like war or natural calamities takes place then the soldiers protect us."

Erica Weiskircher, USA:

"Granted this was many years before I was born, but I feel German soldiers are getting similar treatment to soldiers coming back from the Vietnam war in the US. I feel terrible for them. I am not a supporter of either war the US has been involved in in recent history - but this is not the soldiers' fault. I support the troops, not the war. I found it disheartening how German soldiers were being treated - they are people and that is their career - they are following what they are told much like everyone else does at their respective jobs."

Not more than anyone else, says Australia’s Leko McCulloch:

“No. Soldiers don’t deserve more respect than doctors, priests, nurses, social workers or trash collectors. Each person deserves respect from his fellow man – and special respect is earned through one’s actions. To me, choosing a certain career doesn’t belong on the list of “good deeds” – after all, there are also black sheep among Bundeswehr soldiers, doctors, nurses, priests and trash collectors.”

Waltraud Maassen , New Zealand , says the verbal attacks are a disgrace:

“Not more or less than any other job. They do what they’re told, and they do it well. The current (verbal) attacks targeting them and their families are a disgrace. It’s not the first time soldiers have been verbally abused – that phenomenon was already seen during the Vietnam War. The people sent there had to endure the whole world’s fury and frustration, and they were never really recognized for their service. Politicians are happy to let the soldiers shoulder the blame – and it’s these politicians and governments that should have been held accountable. It’s not any different today … They bash the common soldier. Here in New Zealand, we only have professional soldiers, and they’re treated with respect because of the work they do around the world. Their missions in crisis zones are followed with interest, and their successes are genuinely celebrated. New Zealand and Australia’s Vietnam veterans also have a long road to recognition behind them. Now, they’re welcome to take part in veterans’ parades, and the names of fallen Kiwi soldiers in Vietnam are listed right beside those of fallen soldiers from both world wars. If someone puts their neck out for me, I’ll show my gratitude!”

George Wolf says his fellow Canadians honor their men and women in uniform:

“Since we joined the fight in Afghanistan, the reputation of Canadian soldiers at home has improved a lot. Not because the majority of our fellow citizens approve of the war, but because the soldiers – whose lives politicians have put on the line for a questionable goal – do a great job fulfilling their duties.”

A resounding “yes” from Herbert Fuchs in Finland:

“No question … Most people don’t even try to really think about what soldiers do for our security. People should show a bit more respect and honor our soldiers who are far from home. We’ll be forever indebted to our soldiers on that count.”

The editors of “People and Politics” reserve the right to abridge viewers’ letters.