This topic has always been a sensitive one in the American Muslim community. It seems that quite a few members of the US military are Muslims. I had not really given much thought to the issue until I saw a brother (fellow Muslim) at the Islamic Center of Tucson wearing full desert fatigues. The site was quite jarring considering I had never seen anything like it before. I ate lunch with the brother as many in the mosque looked on at him as if he was wearing a clown suit. We talked about his background and his recent tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. I attempted to subdue my feelings for telling this brother that he was fighting an unjust and illegal war and that his participation in these campaigns is against the principles of Islam. Some other brothers joined our conversation eventually. One of the brothers politely asked the question that was on everyones mind.
"Did you kill anyone?"
Whoa. I was shocked that he asked the question so bluntly. The answer was a silent one but we all saw the look on his face. The answer was there. The brother quietly finished eating and excused himself from the table which we were all sitting. That was that.
I recalled this story today after reading this article on the BBC about a Muslim chaplain in the US Marines. (read more here)
As Muslims, we live by a few principles and guidelines. One of those is the accountability for one's actions, especially in acts of war.
مِنْ أَجْلِ ذَلِكَ كَتَبْنَا عَلَى بَنِي إِسْرَائِيلَ أَنَّهُ مَن قَتَلَ نَفْسًا بِغَيْرِ نَفْسٍ أَوْ فَسَادٍ فِي الأَرْضِ فَكَأَنَّمَا قَتَلَ النَّاسَ جَمِيعًا وَمَنْ أَحْيَاهَا فَكَأَنَّمَا أَحْيَا النَّاسَ جَمِيعًا
The Quran 5:32 On that account: We ordained for the Children of Israel that if any one slew a person - unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief in the land - it would be as if he slew the whole people: and if any one saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole people.
There is no "I was only doing my job" defense in this case. Even if you are serving in the military, you are not exempt from the above verse. If a commanding officer, boss, President, orders one to commit injustice one is very liable for his or her decision. Wars are not only fought by governments, they are fought by individual soldiers who make conscious decisions to follow orders.