My biggest worry when I was on my way to Iraq in 2004 was not that I would be shot at by, or have to shoot enemy combatants.
My biggest worry was that I would be witness to a war crime, committed by my own fellow soldiers, and be too much of a coward to report it and ensure that it was properly dealt with. My worry was that I would witness such a thing and hide my head in the sand because I would be fear the consequences for my family if I came forward.
Fortunately, it never happened. I witnessed many acts of incompetence and of people in the chain of command putting their own personal interests above those of the unit, but that's no worse than in most civilian jobs.
What do you think? When is "I was just following orders" an excuse for cowardice? Not only for military folks, but for cops, government employees, civilian employees, or any of us?
Is there any time when it is right to ignore a crime where an innocent is being victimized by someone in authority, and we have the power to at least report it? Does the fact we may fear repercussions against us mean it's OK to keep mum about something we know is wrong?
For most people, it's never as dire as war crimes. But many times people will see something going on at work that they know is wrong, but say nothing for fear of their jobs, or at a minimum of being bullied by the ones doing wrong.
A recent roommate told me how he helped a coworker put sugar in another coworker's gas tank. I asked, "Isn't that the guy [the victim] you just told me would never overcharge customers for their car repairs?" "Yeah," said my roommate, "but he was an asshole."
Which brings up another, related question: Is it OK to treat someone ill just because you don't like them or their lifestyle, or skin tone, or religion?
These are certainly topics addressed in science fiction. When they are, those stories become some of the more important ones in the genre.