(Matty P had two guests posts related to the firebombing of Dresden. To read all our posts on A Week of Human Tragedy: The Firebombing of Dresden, please click here.)
The Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode “Rules of Engagement” opens with Commander Worf wandering the halls of the USS Defiant. The corridors are littered with his fallen comrades. The enemy raises their weapons in triumph. Forcing his way to the bridge, he doesn’t find fallen comrades or fallen enemies there, but slain children. Worf wakes up from the dream, awaiting trial for the murder of civilians. (For those who are worried, Worf didn’t kill the civilians, it was a ruse to break him.)
But his inner struggle hits a chord with our discussion on Dresden and civilian bombings. After On Violence’s week on Dresden, I realized something still bothered me. Not something that was said, but what I let go unsaid. There was more to the moral issue than simply citing the Geneva convention. We left untouched the issue of honor in warfare.
For the unfamiliar, the Klingons are an archetypal race based on war and conflict from the Star Trek universe. Klingons adhere to warrior codes and honor, in much the same way the ancient samurai balance war and tranquility, the ultimate “war is war”-iors. But they do not see war as hell; it is glorious. War is the ultimate test of character, personal strength, and most of all; honor. In much the same way many young American see joining the military as a rite of passage, battle and service is the right of passage for a Klingon.
In “Rules of Engagement,” Worf believes he had done the unthinkable in his or any culture. He has murdered civilians. It was an accident: they’re ship wandered onto a battle field. While, by their religion they had died gloriously, by all accounts, his actions are dishonorable. Worf faces the same punishment we should expect here and now: imprisonment and a dishonorable discharge from service.
Honor is not a term I use lightly. Honor is more than a social conditioning or personal code. It is it a distinguishing between right and wrong. Between the ethical and unethical. As the son of a soldier and warrior; of combat veterans, the concept of honor was ingrained. Seemingly small things. You don’t kick someone when they’re down (figuratively or literally). Be gracious in victory and defeat. Commend personal sacrifice. Protect and don’t bully the weak. They’re the same basic tenants that any parent teachers their child, we just had a word for it.
It is also a basis for military conduct. We respect and honor our service members for their willingness to sacrifice their safety for others. The ribbons on a soldier’s chest are not for decoration, they are to distinguish honorable service. The men who guard and handle our nation’s banner are the Honor Guard. And the Medal of Honor is this nation’s highest honor. Honor is the military’s highest tradition.
When I think of Dresden and the civilians that died, I’m am saddened. I think, for a both a Klingon and a member of our United States military: there is no honor in this...