Reaction to Soldiers of Conscience
The documentary Soldiers of Conscience looks at the moral dilemmas that combatants face when they are forced to engage enemies in the battlefield. Sometimes these interactions force the soldiers to kill their adversaries, an issue that conflicts with their moral standings and their ethics. According to the documentary, the army was faced with a crisis after the Second World War when it emerged that seventy-five percent of American soldiers would not fire upon their adversaries even if they had orders or the opportunity to do so. As a solution, the army introduced training measures that saw soldiers fire on their adversaries reflectively, an issue that increased the seriousness of the ethical crises that the soldiers went through (Weimberg, Ryan, Coyote and Boekelheide).
The issues raised by the documentary support arguments that claim that humans have a strong sense of morality that helps them determine what is right and what is wrong in different circumstances. The fact that soldiers interviewed in the documentary refused to fight in different wars and even went as far as spending time in jail for their moral position shows that people tend to retain a strong sense of ethics under difficult circumstances. Their sense of morality sometimes remains intact even when they have been subjected through an arduous process of indoctrination, training and socialization so that they can carry out certain acts without question.
However, the issues raised in the
film reveal that some aspects of human nature such as the survival instinct are
sometimes exaggerated. The documentary revealed that almost all soldiers have
to deal with a burdened conscience even if they killed their adversaries to
save their own lives. This shows that survival, as a natural instinct in human
beings, does not override other important aspects such as morality. Even when
soldiers are forced to kill other combatants for their own survival, they have
to deal with their own consciences.
Weimberg, Gary, Catherine M. Ryan, Peter Coyote, and Todd Boekelheide. Soldiers of Conscience. New York: Docuramafilms, 2009.