Join 3,572 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Amazing!
October 18, 2001 12:10 AM   Subscribe

Amazing! If I live to be 1000, I will never be able to properly underestimate the stupidity of human beings. Many of the enlisted personnel who are now seeking honorable discharges argue they didn't sign up to defend America; they just wanted to learn a trade or earn money for college. I'd let them go if they pay back the money spent of training and salary.
posted by thirteen (75 comments total)

 
Sounds like a one-way fast track to the front line to me.
It should be, anyway.
posted by Hima Otsubusu at 12:20 AM on October 18, 2001


Everyone has the right to try to get CO status. I don't see how this is a problem in a country with 1 million professional soldiers.

According to Peachey, potential recruits, many of whom are teenagers, "are at a very vulnerable age" when they meet with military recruiters that visit high school campuses.

I agree wholeheartedly, the teenagers really don't know what they're getting into and I've met my fair share that have regretted joining up.

Sounds like a one-way fast track to the front line to me.

Wanting to quit should be a fast track to the front line? I guess its easy to say stuff like that when you know there will never be a draft with so many professional soldiers.
posted by skallas at 12:25 AM on October 18, 2001


I was approached by those same recruiters at the same vulnerable age, I certainly could have used the opportunities the army offered, and I was never under any confusion about what signing up for the army means. I have a hard time believing anyone is that obtuse. These kids sound a little opportunistic to me.
posted by Hima Otsubusu at 12:42 AM on October 18, 2001


Skallas, I agree that many of these kids clearly don't have a good, realistic understanding of what they're getting into. I also believe that recruiters have a moral obligation to not misrepresent and romanticize the military when recruiting from among gullible teens. But I do think it's a bit dippy to join an armed force and then be surprised when you're asked to participate in military action. I don't think there's anything wrong with conscientious objecting, per se, but this "I had no idea!" attitude some recruits apparently have is screwy.
posted by Bixby23 at 12:50 AM on October 18, 2001


When I was 18 I went off to college. I couldn't wait to party, party, party. Of course, I knew there would be this thing called studying also.

I fail to see how anyone could feel sorry for someone who signed up voluntarily for the military unless they can prove they were mentally challenged at the time of signing.
posted by justgary at 12:58 AM on October 18, 2001


Yeah, i know those recruiters are ridiculous. However, a person signing up for the "Armed Forces" should have been intelligent enough to realize it wasn't just free college tuition and rock climbing on the weekends.
posted by rabbit at 1:16 AM on October 18, 2001


Hm, i have free college tuition AND rock climbing on the weekends w/o having signed up for the military. gotta love that HOPE scholarship!
posted by jmd82 at 1:21 AM on October 18, 2001


Having served a tour of duty in the Army, I have nothing but contempt for those who don't want to fight. I had contempt for them then and I especially do now. There are many "soldiers" who join the military to escape gangs, bad homes, poor employment outlook, etc., etc. Even during peace time, these are the leeches that never want to train or even perform their job. They just want that steady paycheck and the promise of a lifetime of pension checks in exchange for 20 years service.

I'm sort of a hard ass on this because it's people like that who get their fellow soldiers killed in combat. The NCO's (non-commissioned officers) who are waaaaay in excess of body fat requirements. Those who can't make a 2 mile run after 15 years in the military because they've been skirting physical training on medical excuse slips for years. They suck up to the right people to get their manditory physical fitness tests results doctored up so they won't become ineligable for the next promotion. It's one 20 year long scam against US taxpayers and the brave men and women who train hard to be able to defend America's interests whenever and wherever they may be.

Hey, you know that M16A1 they give you to clean every couple of months? Did it strike you a little strange that they asked you to handle weapons if you might not be asked to use it one day? See, I don't buy it. In basic training, if you want out, you can get out. It's not easy but if you really got duped by a recruiter, hey, there are ways of getting out. Hell, just fail basic training (2 or 3 times) and they slap an unfit for military duty stamp on your records and put you on a plane home. If you really are a CO, they will shuttle your ass out of there real quick too. In peace time, there's more people wanting in, than the army needs. In fact, the army has been downsizing for the last decade. I don't buy it all. They're cowards and should have their uniforms taken from them and kicked out with a Dishonerable Discharge preventing them from ever getting a government job for life.

Hell, the serviceman's oath makes it pretty damn clear:


"I DO SOLEMNLY SWEAR (OR AFFIRM) THAT I WILL SUPPORT AND DEFEND THE CONSTITUTION OF THE UNITED STATES AGAINST ALL ENEMIES, FOREIGN AND DOMESTIC; THAT I WILL BEAR TRUE FAITH AND ALLEGIANCE TO THE SAME; AND THAT I WILL OBEY THE ORDERS OF THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES AND THE ORDERS OF THE OFFICERS APPOINTED OVER ME, ACCORDING TO REGULATIONS AND THE UNIFORM CODE OF MILITARY JUSTICE. SO HELP ME GOD."



Also, the Soldier's Creed *must* be memorized by all recruits in basic training:


I am an American Soldier. I am a member of the United States Army -- a protector of the greatest nation on earth. Because I am proud of the uniform I wear, I will always act in ways creditable to the military service and the nation it is sworn to guard.

I am proud of my own organization. I will do all I can to make it the finest unit in the Army. I will be loyal to those under whom I serve. I will do my full part to carry out orders and instructions given to me or my unit.

As a soldier, I realize that I am a member of a time-honored profession--that I am doing my share to keep alive the principles of freedom for which my country stands. No matter what the situation I am in, I will never do anything, for pleasure, profit, or personal safety, which will disgrace my uniform, my unit, or my country. I will use every means I have, even beyond the line of duty, to restrain my Army comrades from actions disgraceful to themselves and to the uniform.

I am proud of my country and its flag. I will try to make the people of this nation proud of the service I represent, for I am an American Soldier.


What part did they not understand and why did they wait for a war to suddenly become COs?
posted by billman at 2:23 AM on October 18, 2001


Maybe some kids could find no other way to get an education; they joined and just hoped they wouldn't have to die for a stupid Bachelor of Science. Now that they are told they may indeed have to die for that BS, some of them are quite sensibly trying to find a way out. I don't blame them. America is the land of government-cheaters, including millions who break the speed limit and fiddle with tax deductions and so on as if it's simply the done thing.

Also, it is quite possible that a kid -- say, an army brat of 17 or 18 who was raised in a pro-military household and sent to college by Dad on an ROTC scholarship -- could start at university with no independent opinion allowed, and then grow into a conscientious objector stranded among many unobjectors, conscientious or otherwise.

Let them swap people-shooting now for mine-clearing and people-feeding later, when the war is over (in, say, about 2010).
posted by pracowity at 2:30 AM on October 18, 2001


Sorry to follow up so quickly (and after such a long post) but I wanted to clarify something I forgot: I am not against COs. Not at all. As long as they come in COs and remain COs their entire military career/tour. Someone who decides they are a CO only when they might be sent into combat is a coward.

And being a CO doesn't mean you won't go into combat. I was a Combat Medical Specialist. Under the Genevia Convention, I was considered a non-combatant (they even gave me a nice little card to give to the enemy if I was captured explaining that I was not to be beaten). Believe me, I trained with guys from various Special Ops groups and with Rangers on many occassions and if you're in a hot zone, medic or not, you're going to be exchanging fire with the enemy. The enemy doesn't care if you have a red cross on your sleeve. In fact, that's simply a target. So being a CO could just get some of these people reassigned to jobs where they get to carry smaller guns and have to run out into the line of fire.
posted by billman at 2:31 AM on October 18, 2001


Any seen the form used to qualify for conscietious objector status? There is one.
The military never advertised itself as a trade school with the students giving nothing in return. Sort of like the Reserves and theGuard: gosh. I liked the money and we had fun. But you mean we have to do shit now?
In my view: keep them in service if only to keep them away from me.
posted by Postroad at 3:54 AM on October 18, 2001


Tough shit for them. But it raises an interesting side-issue: my girlfriend seriously thought of enlisting because it would pay her through graduate school, and she'd be happy to spend ten years in the medical corps as the payback. She knew that it cuts both ways. But that kind of quandry suggests that there's plenty of room for people to do non-combatant service in return for good skills training and a break on their tuition fees, if the infrastructure's in place. It may sound rather un-American in its emphasis on collective duty over individual ambition, but it looks as if there's room to expand the Peace Corps to provide similar -- not identical -- breaks for young people to train, and then use their skills to help the least well-off: building housing, providing medical care, teaching in "bad" schools, and so on.

Right now, there's a real disincentive to take public service jobs after college and training, because the level of debt accrued from acquiring a higher degree or a skilled trade tends to guide people into the highest-paid, most exclusive lines of work. In the UK, teachers and nurses are now being subsidised through their training, to ensure that people who want to teach or nurse aren't lost to jobs in office work; providing that kind of an alternative seems less troubling than having people sign up for the military under what's essentially false pretences.
posted by holgate at 4:23 AM on October 18, 2001



The military never advertised itself as a trade school with the students giving nothing in return.

Actually, when I was growing up, all of the TV ads I saw for army recruitment forgot about the fighting and emphasized the "trade school" aspect. I can't see that the "Army of One" slogan would have helped things any.
posted by thomas j wise at 4:40 AM on October 18, 2001


I think part of the problem is that of having a large military during peacetime means that the way to draw recruits is to reflect other aspects of military service: education, money for college, etc. We still see this in the "Army of One" ads that run on TV.

However, the recruits have found that peacetime doesn't last forever, and now they must fulfill the duties that the armed services were created for -- to defend this country by force of arms. If they aren't ready to do that, they shouldn't have joined up in the first place. I have absolutely no respect for such people. Like a previous poster, if you are a CO you should make that clear when you sign up. Declaring CO status when the bullets start to fly is just craven and weak.

That said, I'd bet that the vast, vast majority of soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen are ready to defend this country to the fullest of their ability. They'll be scared, sure. But they'll do themselves and their country proud.
posted by mrmanley at 5:48 AM on October 18, 2001


If they joined for an education, then they did so under false pretences - possibly depriving someone else of that opportunity. Now they want out because they might have to do what is expected in return for that education.
I really don't think many of them thought they would ever see conflict, but thats no exucse for joining the military and wanting to avoid actually fighting.
The problem, as billman alludes to is that a soldier who has no will to fight is more of a liability than no soldier at all - so what do you do?
If you let them object no questions asked it sends the message 'Join the Army, learn for free and bail at the first signs of conflict', if they stay you have a number of soldiers with no enthusiasm possibly endangering the lives of their colleagues.
Maybe latrine duty is the answer.
posted by Markb at 5:52 AM on October 18, 2001


Maybe some kids could find no other way to get an education; they joined and just hoped they wouldn't have to die for a stupid Bachelor of Science. Now that they are told they may indeed have to die for that BS, some of them are quite sensibly trying to find a way out. I don't blame them.

Sorry, but I find it morally repulsive that you would actually SUPPORT the unprincipled in their attempts to "work" the system, to get something for nothing, to lie about their intentions, swear false oaths, and cheat the government and the taxpayers. It's reprehensible behavior, and criminal. I say bring back the firing squad and shoot a few for treason. The rest would shut up quickly enough and fulfill their responsibilities.
posted by rushmc at 5:57 AM on October 18, 2001


I had no idea you could sign up, serve for any length of time, and suddenly have a documentable attack of conscience like this -- mighty convenient, especially in light of the organization that exists just to help you with your grievance. I wonder if anybody is paying the salary of "Bill Galvin, a counseling coordinator at the Center on Conscience and War." If so, that might be an interesting "follow the money" exercise.

I'm not sure I buy the argument about 18-year-old naivté, but I will concede that recruiters push the "build a future" aspect of enlistment while failing to concede that, after all, there's a reason why it's called "the service": You're expected to give, and give up, a lot -- in the most extreme case, your very life. The training, medical and dental care, food, housing, and uniforms you receive in exchange may pale by comparison. I applaud any recruiter with enough balls to give this kind of a balanced sales pitch to teenagers rather than concentrate on hitting the quota.

I'm even less sympathetic to anybody who accepted a commision and, as an officer, tries the "Wait, lemme out, I'm a CO" route, because with the added benefit of more age and education, they've had more time to contemplate the consequences of their decision. But what's far worse is this: Now they're in position of leadership and they're demonstrating in the most personal way that they're incapable of leading people because they themselves can't live up to the oaths they made. If that's not dishonorable, show me a better example.

Another Army public affairs spokesperson, who asked to not be identified, said, "Anybody who has ever joined the military at least ought to have it in the back of the mind that at all times we could go to war, that there's never a guaranteed peace."

Why would this person ask not to be identified? This person has certainly identified the crux of the problem. Is he/she afraid of backbiting from on high?
posted by alumshubby at 5:57 AM on October 18, 2001


ahahha.. I just find this whole thing amusing. I would be horribly embarrassed to claim that I didn't know that joining the armed forces might mean that at some point I could possibly maybe have to bear arms against an enemy. ;)

I suspect that the reason the tradeskill stuff is emphasized has something to do with the fact that 99% of the time the armed forces do peacekeeping and humanitarian aid.. I would imagine that people joining the armed forces during a long stretch of peace might wonder what the hell they are gonna do all day.
posted by xyzzy at 5:59 AM on October 18, 2001


I'm with billman. I mean, come ON! I consider myself pretty optimistic, but I always think about worst case scenarios, i.e. what if the plane crashes, what if there's a fire, etc. etc. If I were to consider joining the armed forces, I would sure as hell consider the possibility of being shot (or shooting someone) before I signed anything.

Is the marketing deceptive? Of course. That's what marketing is. We don't require automakers to show fatal car accidents in their ads, so I don't think the Army should be required to show a soldier in a VA hospital.
posted by groundhog at 6:02 AM on October 18, 2001


thomas j, it's exactly the same in Australia. Recruitment advertising for military training depicts young people rock climbing, parachuting, earnestly working on fun machinery, strutting about in front of cool looking jets. There's an overwhelming attitude of "we give you all this, no catch! You would be a fool to refuse!"

You see set pieces with people making comments about how much money they are earning (low tax!) The cool degree they got (free!) how healthy they feel, the way their self esteem has grown.....

Join the army! Of course it's up to me in my lounge room to add the obvious sarcastic conjoiner "And get killed!"

I'm not saying that people shouldn't join the army, that's not my call to make. But perhaps military advertising should be forced to do what cigarette companies have been forced to do for many years in many countries in the world, and that is, tell the truth. From the word go.

If you join the army, you will, in the event of a war, be required to perform active duty .

It may seem obvious, to me, but I'm not the person the military advertising is targeting. They are targeting cash-strapped kids who are somewhere between high school and university age.
posted by lucien at 6:04 AM on October 18, 2001


Monty Python: "I'd like to leave the army please, sir. "
posted by Steven Den Beste at 6:05 AM on October 18, 2001


I would imagine that people joining the armed forces during a long stretch of peace might wonder what the hell they are gonna do all day.

The cover feature of the most recent Atlantic, entitled "Peace Is Hell" (and sadly not online), talks about the problems of the US mission in Kosovo, whereby forces trained in combat have to adapt to both boredom and mediation. Well worth seeking out.
posted by holgate at 6:29 AM on October 18, 2001


I agree wholeheartedly, the teenagers really don't know what they're getting into and I've met my fair share that have regretted joining up.

Unbelievable.

Is anyone EVER responsible for their own decisions anymore? You can't join the military until you are 18. That is the age of adulthood in this culture. Christ people you can make ANYONE a victim...now even folks who willingly join the military are victims of deceptive marketing.

Sheesh.
posted by glenwood at 6:32 AM on October 18, 2001


But they'll do themselves and their country proud.

They can do themselves, but there's no way they're going to do me!

I dunno about the rest of the country.
posted by dogmatic at 6:45 AM on October 18, 2001


Ah yes, the sudden onset of COs. I remember when I signed up DURING Desert Shield. I started Army Infantry OSUT (One Station Unit Training) 5 days after the air war started.

We had one guy who had signed up for the Reserves. As Infantry. This little shit actually said,"But it was just supposed to be free money for college!". It was the first time I'd ever heard a Drill Sergeant laugh.

For those of you who are considering joining the military, I have some advice for you: Think about what job you will be doing. If you're a finance clerk, you're probably never going to hear a shot fired in anger. If you're Combat Arms, if we go to war, so do you.

Also, have a friend or friend of the family come with you to the recruiter's office. They should be able to help weed out the bullshit from the truth when the recruiter is talking. Remember: Recruiters are only recruiters because the military doesn't sell used cars. They will stretch the truth. Be especially careful if a recruiter asks if you are CID. He's the one that's going to screw you over. Trust me on this one. SSG Greene, I'm still looking for you...

DO NOT SIGN ANYTHING UNTIL YOU HAVE READ IT THOROUGHLY. Take any paperwork home with you if you can before signing it.

Oh, and the 3 choices of duty assignment? Good luck getting any of them unless you put down: 1) Greenland, 2) Korea, 3) Alaska.
posted by nickonomicon at 7:05 AM on October 18, 2001


I say bring back the firing squad and shoot a few for treason. The rest would shut up quickly enough and fulfill their responsibilities.

*puke*

rushmc, I find it morally repulsive that you could SUPPORT the arbitrary execution of someone because they no longer want to fight. What is this, WWI? Look, the Armed Forces advertises itself primarily as an instrument to gain a) technical training and b) money for college. Exactly how can they be surprised at having a good number of people who signed up for those two reasons alone? The Armed Forces subverted their message of service and duty by basically bribing people to join.

I fully support those who wish to now leave the service. There is no pressing need for them to remain. Any spots they leave empty could be quickly filled by the dramatic rise in enlistments. There is no need for people to die in Afghanistan if they don't feel compelled to risk their life for their country.
posted by thewittyname at 7:18 AM on October 18, 2001


You can't join the military until you are 18. That is the age of adulthood in this culture. Christ people you can make ANYONE a victim...

last time i checked, 18 year olds were still stupid little teenagers who often don't think things through. that's they way they're supposed to learn to be good, responsible adults (in theory): make a mistake, deal with the consequences, learn from that mistake (that doesn't always work, though, because there are a lot of 40 yr old dumb-asses). they may legally be adults, but they're still stupid. stupid. stupid.

also, isn't it possible that some of them have a problem with this war?

of course, we could just send all the people who want this war to fight it. that'd be a a way to swell military ranks.

have i mentioned that (most) 18 yr olds are stupid?
posted by tolkhan at 7:25 AM on October 18, 2001


they were stupid

very stupid

let them out if they want out, but make them pay back any benefits they have received - after all, they did sign a contract

or make them perform some other service until the end of the contract - like scooping up rubble in New York or at the Pentagon

but the worst thing to do would be to just open the door and let them go home, with no repercussions

so that's probably what will be done
posted by yesster at 7:33 AM on October 18, 2001


have i mentioned that (most) 18 yr olds are stupid?

I've always found it weird that people who aren't considered ready or responsible enough to even buy beer are actively recruited into the military and issued weapons.
posted by lia at 7:34 AM on October 18, 2001


I joined the military in 1991, with the Gulf War still pretty fresh in everybody's mind, and even then, you could tell that a lot of the women in my platoon were there for college money and college money alone. We did the PT, the bivouacs, the confidence course, and it was like sleep-away camp with uniforms. Then, about midway through the course, we did our bayonet training, which consists of hooking the bayonet to your weapon, and spending most of the day screaming adrenaline-inducing phrases like, "Blood and guts make the grass grow, drill sergeant!" while repeatedly charging and impaling a human-shaped dummy. That night in the barracks, there was an awful lot of crying, because I really think that's the first time these people realized that we were being trained to kill people. I don't think military advertising made them think this was a camp, I don't think they were necessarily stupid either. It was a case of looking at what they wanted to see (the GI Bill) and ignoring the bigger picture. People like to see what they want, and tend to freak out when they get what they asked for. I think the sudden rash of COs should be moved to support positions- they signed a contract, they swore an oath, they're now obligated to serve their country, whether that be by working the mess or standing on the front lines.
posted by headspace at 8:07 AM on October 18, 2001


isn't it possible that some of them have a problem with this war?

As a soldier, you don't get to pick and choose what wars you want to fight. Unless you're given an illegal order, you do what you're told, period. That's the way the military works.
posted by Cyrano at 8:11 AM on October 18, 2001


I don't see why this is weird at all. The September 11th disasters made a strong impression on a lot of people. People tend to do a lot of re-evaluation when things like that happen, and often discover that their priorities are out of order. This happened to many of us who aren't in the military; why should soldiers be any different?

If someone doesn't want to fight, why should we force them to fight? What's so strange about the idea that someone can sign up for the military, serve in peacetime for several years, then - when confronted with what war actually means - realize that it is something they cannot support? Isn't there something bizarre about the idea of the United States, supposed bastion of liberty and self-determination, forcing unwilling soldiers onto the battlefield?

-Mars
posted by Mars Saxman at 8:15 AM on October 18, 2001


what holgate said.

surely there are things that we (collectively) could pay 18 year olds to do that would be useful to society but not involve military service, that would also help them get ahead.

I'm a big fan of Americorps. A former significant other spent a year restoring streams - it was hard physical labor, but it paid his share of the rent (just barely), gave him money to go back to school, and just as importantly, gave him a little focus in his life.

I say bring back all those depression-era public works projects! :) (but not the dams, please, not the dams.)
posted by epersonae at 8:24 AM on October 18, 2001


Sounds to me like they need to make a good video of what life in the military is really like, during both peace and war. Include footage showing people being killed in combat (for those who managed to get to age 18 without seeing Private Ryan or similar movie). Show the video to potential recruits before they sign on the bottom line. Yea, you might have some that walk away at that point, but do we want to waste artillary training on them anyway?

If they want to back out later, at least they can't use the excuse that they didn't know what they were getting in to.
posted by ArkIlloid at 8:25 AM on October 18, 2001


Come on, guys, we all know that no one is responsible for their actions anymore. Personal responsibility is just an outdated, non-progressive idea used to discriminate against these tender souls who have had a sudden enlightenment.

Really, why should these pitiable folks have to live with the consequences of voluntarily joining a military force? Why the entire idea is ridiculous. I for one, think we should give them all a nice severance package, guarantee of a new job, and a nice apartment in the city of their choice.
posted by CRS at 8:48 AM on October 18, 2001


If someone doesn't want to fight, why should we force them to fight?
I don't think they were forced to be in a position where they could end up fighting. The time for
thinking is on the front end, and it is really too late to develop a conscience once you are already
holding a rifle. I cannot imagine anyone wanting these people around if this is the way they are going to play it, but it does not speak well of them. How old do people have to be before we don't give them a pass? I believe I had an adult grasp on responsibility when I was 13, and resented the hell out of people who restricted me from certain activities because I was considered too young. I was recruited hard when I graduated from High School because I needed to work to save for college. I am sure I looked attractive, as I had good grades, and appeared to be drifting. All you need to say to a recruiter is no. Their promises should be no harder to resist than a telemarketer. The reality of the armed forces should become very clear during basic training, and that is the time to address any misunderstanding about what you are there to do. I have an ex girlfriend who got out of boot camp with an honorable discharge. It is not encouraged, but like I said, if you don't want to be there, they do not want you.
I read too many issues off MRR growing up with letters from miserable soldiers to go that route, and I have an authority problem that I have no interest in losing. If I screwed up, I would have lived up to my agreement. I don't know what will happen to these unreliable bastards, but forgive me if I don't give a damn about the lazy and stupid.
posted by thirteen at 8:58 AM on October 18, 2001


On the one hand, I feel that if you enlisted, you should have to carry out the terms of your service, even if it is scarier than you envisioned.

On the other hand, I'm not sure how comfortable I am with some one who is so intentionally short sighted and insular in his or her world view as to think being in the armed forces will never involve combat being allowed to run around with a gun and a license to kill.
posted by jennyb at 9:04 AM on October 18, 2001


"Sharp uniforms"? "Nice...packages"?

Kinda puts a new spin on "Don't ask, don't tell".
posted by byort at 9:08 AM on October 18, 2001


Please. I'm not the military's biggest fan by any means, but when you sign up for it, you know you're signing up for the ARMED FORCES. Pretty self-explanatory. I don't want to go to war, therefore I never signed up for the military. Plus, I don't like all those push-ups they make you do ;)

It's like people signing up for the Air Force after Top Gun and then complaining that Kelly McGillis isn't rubbing ice all over them. Your life is not going to be like the movies, or even like the commercials on TV for the "army of one."

I say kick em out and make them pay the money back.
posted by witchstone at 9:10 AM on October 18, 2001


You can't join the military until you are 18. That is the age of adulthood in this culture.

Oh, that's another marginal reason for Americans to enlist: that if you're prepared to die for your country, you're considered old enough to buy a drink three years early.
posted by holgate at 9:11 AM on October 18, 2001


Wow, I agree with CRS! Neat.
Anyway, Mars is right, in my opinion. When I was 18, I could never have understood the gravity of what killing another human being means. Still probably can't, but now, at least, I know its something I wont do unless my own survival is at stake. So this doesn't seem that surprising to me. It's not even age related, I don't think. Something that some people develop. So are they lazy? I don't think so. Being a CO doesn't mean they sit on a lawn chair drinking bud. They'll do other, essential (and possibly dangerous) functions. What's the big deal?
posted by Doug at 9:12 AM on October 18, 2001


last time i checked, 18 year olds were still stupid little teenagers who often don't think things through. they may legally be adults, but they're still stupid. stupid. stupid.

Boy, I'm glad I'm 19 then. Wouldn't want to be one of those stupid 18 year olds.
posted by e^2 at 9:17 AM on October 18, 2001


Have you noticed that they're asking for honorable discharges? What that means is that if they were in for 7 months or longer, then they'll be eligible for veterans benefits after they're out.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 9:38 AM on October 18, 2001


Remember people, as they say in the UK military:

"If you can't take a joke you shouldn't have joined."

But really, this is stupidity in its highest. I've thought about military stuff through university, not because I need the money (though it'd be nice) but to try and put something back into the community, by defending it.

Haven't these people seen 'Saving Private Ryan'?

p.s. Afraid to say I'm a stupid 19 year old, there's always one..
posted by nedrichards at 9:41 AM on October 18, 2001


I agree with what was done in WWII. Make the COs medics. Then we see whether they are true COs or just cowards.

According to Steven Ambrose, many GIs at first thought the COs were chickens. But after seeing them brave fire to get to the wounded, they quickly realized they were the bravest of the brave -- and their best friends in a firefight.

If they balk at being a combat medic -- well, Leavenworth, Kansas is lovely this time of year.
posted by darren at 9:41 AM on October 18, 2001


Some of y'all don't seem to get this: people change. The experiences we have shape our opinions on things, and as our lives go on new experiences sometimes change our opinions. There is nothing unusual, cowardly, or reprehensible about someone realizing, in light of the last month's events, that they can not fight this war and still remain true to their conscience.

Furthermore, a lot of people seem to think that conscientious objector status gets you out of service altogether. As the Selective Service website on the subject explains, this is not the case. You still fulfill your original term of service, but depending on the beliefs that compel you to avoid combat, you are either reassigned to a noncombatant role within the military, or an alternative service role that "must be deemed to make a meaningful contribution to the maintenance of the national health, safety, and interest". Nobody's getting a free ride here.

Isn't the whole point of a volunteer army that every soldier is there by choice, and will thus be more likely to conduct themself with professionalism and enthusiasm? It doesn't matter what the reason is - if someone doesn't want to fight, they are not likely to be an effective soldier, and they should be moved elsewhere so that people who really do want to pull the trigger can do so. Why should they have to have a "good" reason to want out of combat? The fact that we want the best army we can get should be reason enough.

If military recruitment programs are attracting people who don't want to fight, then the recruiters are doing a bad job, and their ad campaigns and other tactics are legitimate targets for criticism.

-Mars
posted by
Mars Saxman at 10:16 AM on October 18, 2001


It seems that where there are divisions on this subject they fall into the following camps:

18 year olds still too stupid to be held accountable for their actions.

We should just let them out like they want.

Military advertising is deceptive.

They might really oppose this war.

Ok, so let's take a look at each:

18 and too dumb. Sorry, this isn't even allowed as a criminal defense unless the person is mentally unfit to stand trial. If you're 18, you can and will be tried in court as an adult. Every day you have the ability to make choices that could put you in that situation (rob a bank, run over a pedestrian, etc). Being dumb is not a valid defesne in any of those situations so why would it be a defesne now?

We should just let them out. NO WAY!!!!!! If they want out, they get out with a Dishonerable Discharge for cowardace during a time of war. Let them shop that around employers and schools. There absolutely, positively be a serious and long lasting cost to wanting out. If you want out because this isn't fun anymore, know that you can never work for the federal government, your fellow citizens will label you a traitor, and you'll remove any possibility of attending a 4 year university (it would be mighty difficult to get into any school that has competitive admissions). If you still feel that you object to the war enough that you're willing to make that tradeoff, then there's the door.

Advertising is deveptive. I have seen some really good statements on this and some really bad ones. First of all, the military advertising is as deceptive as any other advertising, EXCEPT, there are movies, television shows, books, etc. where one can see and find out about the horrors of war. We just had a war in 1991. Which means that in order to be a green recruit, you had to have been at least 8 years old. While I'll give you that you may not appreciate the gravity of war at 8 years of age, you have had a war in your lifetime. Even more recent, we have had men die in Somolia, Kosovo and in other minor conflicts. All of which have been televised, reported on, and made very known to the public. How can you tell me or anyone that this whole war concept was not disclosed to you.

They might really be opposed to this war. First off, you don't get to pick which wars you fight. You will obey all orders of the President of the United States and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign or domestic. There's not a whole lot of wiggle room in that for even the best lawyer. Besides, what war would they be in support of if not this one? None.

If someone with a heart more gentle than mine decides to pull them out of their job assignments and to let them serve out their term in a non-combat role (for which the taxpayers would have to pay to retrain them), they should be stationed at Ft. Benning or Ft. Bragg. as support for the Airborne, Rangers, Special Forces, and other light infanatry. They should also be made to wear a special patch identifying them as COs. Then they could look into the eyes of real soldiers every single day and see the contempt that a real soldier, even one who only came in to get experience and college money, has for cowards who lack the self dignity to honor their oaths.
posted by billman at 10:16 AM on October 18, 2001


maybe they should have to wear a yellow arm patch? or perhaps a little badge with a star?
I don't agree with them having to fight. I think they should get a discharge, but without any adjectives.
posted by nprigoda at 10:26 AM on October 18, 2001


Unless you're given an illegal order

what about the ones that are legal, but unconscionable? if you have a problem fighting in a war because you don't feel it's just, that's where the CO thing comes in. even if i was silly enough to join the military, i'd have problems fighting in *this* war. i'd rather go to prison, or, as rushmc would like, face the firing squad. better to die for something you believe in than fight for something you don't.

Boy, I'm glad I'm 19 then

me too. hate those 18 yr olds :)

i'm generalizing, of course. not all 18 (or any age) year olds are stupid. *i* certainly wasn't.

we all know that no one is responsible for their actions anymore ... who have had a sudden enlightenment

you don't think it's possible to undergo a sudden enlightment concerning the killing of another person? i'm not saying that's what happened in every case, but you seem to be dismissing the possibilty out of hand.
posted by tolkhan at 10:34 AM on October 18, 2001


18 year olds still too stupid to be held accountable for their actions.

no no no. they should be held accountable. 18yos, generally, just aren't mature or experienced enough to think everything through. youngsters are notoriously shortsighted about things, often unable to see beyond the romanticized crap that's thrown at them all the time until they actually have to face the reality. some of us learn it at an earlier age than others, and some never seem to learn it.

your fellow citizens will label you a traitor

why are we equating cowardice with being a traitor?
posted by tolkhan at 10:52 AM on October 18, 2001


I don't have a problem with the beliefs of COs, but I believe their commitment overrides their conscience once enlisted. Joining up is a serious thing. We have gone over this stuff in other threads, you give up your right to privacy, and you abandon your right to choose for awhile. You don't get the right to choose who you serve with (Black people, homosexuals, black homosexuals) or what you do. Once you are in, the government owns you. You can claim that COs do useful work, but I don't think the army is really all that interested in signing up objectors. I would never be interested in serving in a UN related action, but if I was enlisted I know I would not have a choice in the matter and might very well end up in a stupid blue helmet. Break your contract, accept your dishonorable, which is fair enough as it is dishonorable to go back on a contract. Don't want to kill, don't join the services.
posted by thirteen at 10:54 AM on October 18, 2001


Some of y'all don't seem to get this: people change.

Yes, and isn't it amazing how quickly these 'changes' appear once a war is on the horizon.

If we were still in peace time do you think they'd still be begging to get out? No, they'd still be enjoying the benefits.

I think they should get a discharge, but without any adjectives.

Of course. Just let them go without any consequences at all. Brilliant. If I'd known I could join the military, get the benefits, and then simply discharge when a conflict arose, I'd have joined long ago.
posted by justgary at 10:59 AM on October 18, 2001



you don't think it's possible to undergo a sudden enlightment concerning the killing of another person? i'm not saying that's what happened in every case, but you seem to be dismissing the possibilty out of hand.


No, I think not going through some sort of change when asked to kill and when actually killing is not normal. In fact, any soldier who does not display some signs of mental scaring after combat needs to seek treatment (I say that in all seriousness as a Combat Medical Specialist. That is a sign we look for in taking someone off the line). Believe me, I've been close to going into combat on more than one occassion and your mind plays some wicked crap on you. You're scared but you know that you have to do what you have to do. The most quiet place on earth is on a transport vehicle taking men into battle. You can see the turmoil going on in the face of every man as he sits there silently going over his thoughts. But, you focus, you muster up your courage and you do it.

Now if you've had CO feelings and you didn't disclose them hoping to ride out your tour without a conflict, you spun life's big roulette wheel and lost.

Police don't get to pick which laws they enforce. Judges don't get to make up laws to suit their views (some do, but technically, they don't). There are a ton of careers and life choices we make where we don't get to pick a lot of the parameters of what part we want to do and what part we have to do. Soldiers, by oath, and by declaration do not have the right to pick and choose what conflicts they wish to engage in. You obey the orders of the President of the US, even unto your own end. If that doesn't sound fun, then you have a chance to get out in during screening, during in processing, during basic training, even during your tour but not when the shit hits the fan. When the time comes, you go or take the Dishonerable Discharge because breaking your oath, breaking your sworn duties, is Dishonerable, period.
posted by billman at 11:20 AM on October 18, 2001


FYI, here's the regulation concerning CO status (Acrobat reader required).

While I can understand rethinking a lot of things since 9/11 (I've been doing the same), how come they didn't object during the week of or the week after but are now suddenly having an attack of conscience when the war starts.

I doubt their behavior. Some may have real objections but I believe that more of them are just cowards.
posted by TNLNYC at 11:34 AM on October 18, 2001


Police don't get to pick which laws they enforce

heh. tell that to the police.


do not have the right to pick and choose what conflicts they wish to engage in.

so, hypothetically, if the U.S. declares war on Liechtenstein because Andorra says the Liechtensteiner Prince called our President's mama a terribly rude name, our troops shouldn't hesitate to attack and kill the people of Liechtenstein?
posted by tolkhan at 11:39 AM on October 18, 2001


tolkhan: The oath is to follow the orders of the President of the United States.

"I DO SOLEMNLY SWEAR (OR AFFIRM) THAT I WILL SUPPORT AND DEFEND THE CONSTITUTION OF THE UNITED STATES AGAINST ALL ENEMIES, FOREIGN AND DOMESTIC; THAT I WILL BEAR TRUE FAITH AND ALLEGIANCE TO THE SAME; AND THAT I WILL OBEY THE ORDERS OF THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES AND THE ORDERS OF THE OFFICERS APPOINTED OVER ME, ACCORDING TO REGULATIONS AND THE UNIFORM CODE OF MILITARY JUSTICE. SO HELP ME GOD."

The Constitution is supposed to offer some sort of checks and balances to keep the Executive from just whilly-nilly going off and attacking people. Under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, there is only one reason to disobey an order and that is if it is illegal. If your order are legal and the President says to attack Liechtenstein you don't get to suddenly become an expert in foreign policy. In fact, in most cases, the troops are not made aware of all the details. You follow the orders given to you. Now that seems a little stupid but let's say that Col. Bigshot says that you need to go in and secure a position. You think it's stupid because there's nothing there. What you may not know is that they are planning a surprise attack and using that position as a deployment area. If you decide that the old Col is crazy and ignore the order thinking he will never find out, you just may get people killed. No, you follow the orders no matter what. The mission is always more important than any one person.

If that doesn't sound like something you're cool with . . . don't join the military.
posted by billman at 11:54 AM on October 18, 2001


"I fully support those who wish to now leave the service. There is no pressing need for them to remain. Any spots they leave empty could be quickly filled by the dramatic rise in enlistment. There is no need for people to die in Afghanistan if they don't feel compelled to risk their life for their country."

Its real simple, the US government spend x amount of money training these kids, they are obliged to pay it back. Any one want to guess how?
posted by madmanz123 at 11:55 AM on October 18, 2001


tolkhan: The oath...

yes, yes, i read it the first time it was posted here.

so you don't have a problem with the whole "i was just following orders" excuse then.

Under the Uniform Code of Military Justice

irrelevant. i wasn't asking whether it was legal or acceptable within the Code to disobey an order that, though legal, you believe to be immoral or unconscionable. there's a difference between an action being right or wrong'and it being legal or illegal. personally, i'd rather do what's right (most of the time), and i don't think that the result justifies the methods or reasoning used.

still, i'd like to contemplate this scenario in which Andorra uses the US as a pawn in some sort of blood fued with Liechtenstein. but that's waaaay off topic. what was the topic again?
posted by tolkhan at 12:14 PM on October 18, 2001


that is absolutely the most ridiculous thing i've heard all day! of course the military doesn't focus on the fighting/killing aspect of it - no one would sign up! but come on, people, it's the ARMED FORCES! what did you think they did??

i was considering enlisting when i was 18. it was certainly tempting, but i weighed all the options and decided that I wouldn't be able to go to war. I knew exactly what i would be getting into. and i'm up here in canada, so the threat isn't even as big.

let them drop out if they want to, but they should have to do years and years of community service in repayment i think.
posted by degan at 12:21 PM on October 18, 2001


Forgive me from being a bit dense, but why the hell would a CO enlist in the military in the first place?

Fuck 'em. They knew what they were getting into, deceptive advertising or no. Go into that foxhole and wait to kill, soldier. This is what the ARMED FORCES are all about.
posted by solistrato at 12:43 PM on October 18, 2001


Billman doesn't even begin to describe it. Sometimes what the men are told to do doesn't make sense until years later.

Sometimes the reason is extremely deep. In WWII, sometimes the code breakers at Bletchley Park would request the RAF to bomb a certain location simply so that the Germans would talk about it in code so that the code breakers would know what they were talking about, so as to make it easier to break in.

Or it might be part of a deception operation. Those can result in extremely strange orders. For example, as part of Operation Fortitude, the greatest deception in military history, some US troops left port wearing the insignia of one unit, and once at sea were issued others to place on their uniforms. This was one part of an extremely elaborate charade which convinced the Germans that the main landing in France was going to be in Calais, and that the Normandy landing was a feint.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 1:18 PM on October 18, 2001


Neal Stephenson's Cryptonomicon, though a work of fiction, has lots of great stuff, more or less true, about the British code breakers and deception operations. Apparently, even when they broke a code, they had to be careful how much information they used from German communications to avoid tipping the Germans off that their code was compromised. At times, when they did decide to act decisively on information, they would actually arrange for the Germans to discover their people in the act of espionage or surveillance so that the Germans would believe that was how the information was obtained. Time after time, the Allies "just happened" to be in the right place to find out about German plans in the nick of time to foil them. In reality, they knew about them well in advance, but wanted the Germans to convince themselves that the Allies were just having a run of good luck. Soldiers involved in these kinds of operations often found the orders nonsensical, as portrayed in Stephenson's book.
posted by kindall at 1:42 PM on October 18, 2001


Make the COs medics. Then we see whether they are true COs or just cowards.

That could get tough on the wounded who need a dependable medic. (While I'm on the medic topic, I'd like to throw in some praise for them. I've known of cases where medics were tending wounded under fire and placed their bodies between the wounded man and the enemy to shield them. That's the bravest thing I've ever seen or heard of on a battlefield. One of the medics I know who did this was a CO, so there's no definite litmus test of COs vs. courage.)

I don't blame them. America is the land of government-cheaters, including millions who break the speed limit and fiddle with tax deductions and so on as if it's simply the done thing.

Pracowity, did you really mean that "everyone else does it, so it's OK"? That doesn't sound like your usual line of reasoning.
posted by joaquim at 2:31 PM on October 18, 2001


I don't have a problem with the beliefs of COs, but I believe their commitment overrides their conscience once enlisted. Joining up is a serious thing.

Precisely. If their newfound feelings are truly that profound and heartfelt, let them desert. There is more decency in that than in expecting a "get out of war free" ticket from society as a matter of course.

I am shocked by the lack of honor displayed by most in this thread. And I don't shock easily.

18-yr-olds are NOT stupid. They know (as much as one *can* know second-hand) what war is, and that they are risking participating in one in exchange for the phat l00t. To suggest that they are and they don't is demeaning and patronizing. Walking away from this commitment would be an outrage against their own morality and a crime against their country. I said treason, and that's what I meant. Look it up.
posted by rushmc at 6:15 PM on October 18, 2001


Obviously, based on my previous posts, I'm in the "they're cowards" camp on this but I thought it might be interesting to approach this from a slightly different perspective. It's something I've noted about the younger generation and many of those who have the strongest anti-war views.

I've been involved with the Internet industry for 7+ years. I started out consulting for AOL, which led to me quiting my job in the financial markets and starting as a bottom rung programmer for a fraction of the pay I was making. I went from an office and secretary to working in a warehouse with no heating or air conditioning. But, I worked my way up over the years and held senior level positions in several publicly traded companies. Anyway, the reason I throw that out there is that over that time, I noticed the flow of younger folks who just had no clue. There were times I wanted to get up and punch a job candidate in the face. Their smugness and complete lack of respect were at levels I had never experienced in my life. I had former JPL guys with 20 years experience on my team and here was some new CS graduate who could barely code, demanding (not asking, demanding) a six figure starting salary, a car allowence, etc., etc. And oh, he had three other offers on the table so if I could get back to him by the end of the day, it would be in my best interest. It's a small industry so I would see them jump from company to company, always with a bigger set of demands. . . until the bottom fell out of the market. All of a sudden, these guys can't find jobs and they start blaming the stupid CEO's, VC, investors, the stock market, and the entire world for their misfortune. How can they be expected to live on the $40k that they're being offered now? They have BMW payments to make.

How does this all fit together? It's just that when I hear the younger anti-war people, when I hear the words of people who suddenly became COs overnight, the words, the tone, are the same as the snotnose kid who sat across from me in those interviews. Why should I make sacrafices? The world owes me something. I can't be expected to take responsibility. I was only here for the college money, I never signed up to fight. That's for other suckers, not me. I just want my benefits.

Have we (in the royal sense) raised a generation of youth that are so self-centered that people can argue with a straight face that cowardace in a time of war is not treason? Is this what we have to look forward from the "Me" generation?
posted by billman at 7:52 PM on October 18, 2001


I agree with you rushmc, but I must say that most of my interactions with some of the 44000 US military personnel here in Korea have made it difficult to think about them and the word 'honourable' in the same breath.

Now I'm relatively sure people will take offense at this - fair enough - and I don't intend to paint all American soldiers with the same broad and negative brush, but the vast majority that I've met here (and it's not an insignificant number) have been drunken yahoos.

billman - I think not, actually. We can thank shoddy education, sensationalist tabloid media, moral bankruptcy of the Boomers, whole constellations of chicken-little stars, for the blank-faced 'whatever-dude' youngsters of today. I think the net-bubble cash frenzy was an unrelated thing, one that was nonetheless custom made for these teens and 20-somethings of today.

I'm not too far off that age, on the high side, and I suspect that each and every generation has bemoaned the same lack of character in the one coming up behind them. There will be, as there always is, a vast undifferentiated monkey-mass of humanity, with a few bright spots.

I still believe "The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity"...I can but hope that this is a polarization that applies to the bulk of these younger people these days.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 8:06 PM on October 18, 2001


The best lack all conviction

I've always wondered what criteria Yeats was using to judge the "best"....
posted by rushmc at 8:49 PM on October 18, 2001


stavrosthewonderchicken: I agree with you on the US military personnel. Having been stationed overseas (Europe), I will admit to being one of those ugly American GI's that the locals love to hate. For the average kid overseas, the service is like one huge Spring Break party. Add lots of testosterone, immaturity, and alcohol and . . . well, I'm sure you know :-) But, when they need to put it on the line, those same drunken yahoos comprise the most sophisticated and awesome military power in history.

And, just to clarify, I wasn't saying that the Internet bubble caused the attitude, I was commenting that that was where I ran into it. I agree with your observations about shoddy education, etc. I would also add that these kids grew up in one of the greatest periods of economic growth in US history. This has lead to a false sense of entitlement which in turn has lead to a bizarre sense of values.
posted by billman at 9:35 PM on October 18, 2001


> those same drunken yahoos comprise the most
> sophisticated and awesome military power in history.

Any "sophisticated and awesome military power" the US has is expensive machinery designed and built by engineers who were too smart to join the army. The drunken yahoos who did join up are the guidance systems for rifles and other weapons that haven't yet been automated.
posted by pracowity at 11:18 PM on October 18, 2001


You're paid to stop a bullet.
It's a soldier's job, they say,
and so you stop the bullet,
and then, they stop your pay...

Should I write a letter to my congressman?

Each congressman has two ends,
a sitting, and a thinking end,
but since his whole success depends upon his seat,
why bother, friend?

(Vietnam-era Chad Mitchell Trio rhyming -- bunch of hippies)
posted by Bixby23 at 1:41 AM on October 19, 2001


I would also add that these kids grew up in one of the greatest periods of economic growth in US history. This has lead to a false sense of entitlement which in turn has lead to a bizarre sense of values.

Now there, I think, you have a big point. Is there much of a difference between Army recruitment tactics and a "pre-approved" credit card mailshot?
posted by holgate at 3:08 AM on October 19, 2001


Stavros, you've been seeing them when they're on leave. (No wonder they're drunk.) It's like trying to judge people based on how they act when they're on vacation. It isn't a fair representation of what they're like normally.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 6:40 AM on October 19, 2001


Steven, Stavros wasn't just seeing the ones on leave. I've more functional alcoholics in the military than anywhere else. And being drunk is only a partial excuse. Some are just clueless.

When we were on an exercise in Japan (Yama Sakura '92 for those of you playing along at home), I overheard some Air National Guard guys complaining that "How stupid are these people that they can't learn english?". They did this in a shopping center. With hundreds of Japanese around them. Unfortunately, they didn't get the living shit kicked out of them.
posted by nickonomicon at 7:09 AM on October 19, 2001


Actually, Steven, I've been invited onto base (two different ones) by some servicemen friends on a number of occasions, in two different cities, and though I admit that my description earlier was less appropriate for the folks I met at the bars on 'US soil', where better behaviour was required, I stand by my characterisation.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 8:22 AM on October 19, 2001


It isn't a fair representation of what they're like normally.

Fair enough, but should they be excused of their responsibilities and good sense simply because they are "on leave?"
posted by rushmc at 5:40 PM on October 19, 2001


« Older Pledge of Allegiance back in Minnesota school dist...   |   Osama Dance.... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments