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The Shooter
February 11, 2013 7:38 AM   Subscribe

The Shooter. It begins, "The man who shot and killed Osama bin Laden sat in a wicker chair in my backyard, wondering how he was going to feed his wife and kids or pay for their medical care."
posted by chunking express (211 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite

 
When I worked in the commercial sea urchin fishery, one of the boats in the fleet was crewed by a trio of former Navy SEALs. Because of their training, they knew how to dive, manage a boat, navigate, etc. Their landings were consistently in the top two or three boats in the fleet.

So maybe The Shooter has some marketable skills beyond security, just like those guys did.
posted by notyou at 7:48 AM on February 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


For a nation so deeply militaristic, you do not seem to treat your veterans very well. The suicide rate among old veterans is truly appalling, too.
posted by bouvin at 7:52 AM on February 11, 2013 [40 favorites]


But the Shooter will discover soon enough that when he leaves after sixteen years in the Navy, his body filled with scar tissue, arthritis, tendinitis, eye damage, and blown disks, here is what he gets from his employer and a grateful nation: Nothing. No pension, no health care, and no protection for himself or his family.

I'm often in Silver Spring, MD, near the recently closed Walter Reed Hospital, and regularly see 18-20 year olds missing multiple limbs, or with awful facial injuries, out for an afternoon away from their hospital rooms.

We now know that the treatment they get is in decrepit and unhealthy facilities, and that their relatives have to fight to even get them what little they have. It's heartbreaking that these guys continue to take the ghouls in recruitment and command at their word.
posted by ryanshepard at 7:55 AM on February 11, 2013 [9 favorites]


For a nation so deeply militaristic, you do not seem to treat your veterans very well. The suicide rate among old veterans is truly appalling, too.

I agree. All those "Support Our Troops" bumper stickers are actually code for "Do Not Question The War(s)" rather than actually supporting troops, veterans, and their families.
posted by Foosnark at 8:02 AM on February 11, 2013 [119 favorites]


Um, sorry, I thought US veterans got free heath care through the goverment? I know a combat medic that used to be in the US army and the government is paying for treatment for a back injury he has.... But then, I think he got it while in service.

Not trying to start and argument, just legitimately confused.
posted by Canageek at 8:11 AM on February 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


For a nation so deeply militaristic, you do not seem to treat your veterans very well. The suicide rate among old veterans is truly appalling, too.

I don't think this "you" exists as you think it does.
posted by The Michael The at 8:12 AM on February 11, 2013 [11 favorites]


You have to reach a minimum disability level in the service to get free healthcare when you leave.
posted by introp at 8:15 AM on February 11, 2013


his wife and kids or pay for their medical care

"Um, sorry, I thought US veterans got free heath care through the goverment?"

Close reading - not just for standardized tests.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 8:15 AM on February 11, 2013 [5 favorites]


I don't think this "you" exists as you think it does.

Stupid government of the people, for the people, by the people. If only we had a good dictator we could just say, "Not my fault!" and go back to hiding from the secret police.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 8:18 AM on February 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


The Michael The:
I don't think this "you" exists as you think it does.

I'm sorry, but from across the Atlantic, it is going to be "you". Successive governments of either of the two different parties "you" have chosen to have available have maintained these policies. "You" is not the individual, but the nation. And the nation apparently grinds these individuals (being the veterans) exceedingly fine.
posted by bouvin at 8:21 AM on February 11, 2013 [24 favorites]


That operation was so very close to being a major clusterfuck. I personally have a difficult time caring about what happens to our brainwashed assasins after they've outlived their usefulness. The only way to stop the machine is for young people to stop participating.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:21 AM on February 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


For a nation so deeply militaristic, you do not seem to treat your veterans very well.

It's a weird thing. Serve 19 years and separate, and you get approximately squat. Serve that 20th year and retire instead of just being discharged, and you get half your formal salary (more like a third of your actual endpoint pay) forever and almost-free medical care. Which isn't bad for someone 38-45 years old.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:24 AM on February 11, 2013 [10 favorites]


Burhanistan: I would like it if my government had a safety net for all its citizens, even the ones I disagree with or don't like.
posted by rmd1023 at 8:25 AM on February 11, 2013 [39 favorites]


Just another day in capitalist America. Continually generate value for those in charge or get off the bus of life.
posted by adamdschneider at 8:26 AM on February 11, 2013 [5 favorites]


The only way to stop the machine is for young people to stop participating.

Excellent plan. We'll need to get right on solving that racial poverty divide first, since unemployment for blacks can hit as much as double that of whites, and black men and women accordingly make up a disproportionate number of those serving in the military. You might want to also solve access to education, since enlisted men arrive with highschool but not college degrees at a rate of something like 93%.
posted by DarlingBri at 8:29 AM on February 11, 2013 [14 favorites]


The fact that "homeless veteran" is a thing that ever happens, probably makes me more ashamed of my country than anything else.
posted by jbickers at 8:30 AM on February 11, 2013 [15 favorites]


Close reading - not just for standardized tests.

Indeed. You have to read the whole article:
But the Shooter will discover soon enough that when he leaves after sixteen years in the Navy, his body filled with scar tissue, arthritis, tendonitis, eye damage, and blown disks, here is what he gets from his employer and a grateful nation:

Nothing. No pension, no health care, and no protection for himself or his family.
This is not true, since we do have the VA health care system.
posted by Jahaza at 8:31 AM on February 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


So maybe The Shooter has some marketable skills beyond security, just like those guys did.

Out of the hundreds of thousands of veterans mentioned, he must be one of the best equipped for another career. The article seems to be suggesting that the tragedy here is that the Shooter hasn't been instantly offered a job as an investment banker.
posted by ninebelow at 8:32 AM on February 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


For a nation so deeply militaristic, you do not seem to treat your veterans very well. The suicide rate among old veterans is truly appalling, too.

That is a feature, not a bug. A dead veteran costs the American people less in benefits in the long run.
posted by Renoroc at 8:36 AM on February 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Indeed. You have to read the whole article:
But the Shooter will discover soon enough that when he leaves after sixteen years in the Navy, his body filled with scar tissue, arthritis, tendonitis, eye damage, and blown disks, here is what he gets from his employer and a grateful nation:

Nothing. No pension, no health care, and no protection for himself or his family.
This is not true, since we do have the VA health care system.


Yeah, and your close reading must've missed this part:
Like many vets, he will have to wait at least eight months to have his disability claims adjudicated. Or even longer. The average wait time nationally is more than nine months, according to the Center for Investigative Reporting.
Also, VA health care wouldn't cover his kids anyway.
posted by ndfine at 8:36 AM on February 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


If you check the VA website for medical benefits it lists some of the items that make one qualify for benefits, which often extend to spouses and dependents under TRICARE.

http://www.va.gov/healthbenefits/

I also feel the need to point out here, that in the U.S. military service/demographics that identify strongly with the armed forces are also the same demographics that are most vocally opposed to expanding health care including Medicaid, the Affordable Care Act, and offering equal benefits to same-sex military families and veterans.
posted by forkisbetter at 8:36 AM on February 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


A lot of people forget that when you get out of the military there is no career counseling. Yes, plenty of veterans would do fantastically well in any number of jobs but no one is helping them figure out what those jobs are, how to apply, how to write a resume or how to interview. These are things that, having been in the workforce, we take for granted and are skills in their own right.
posted by Loto at 8:37 AM on February 11, 2013 [5 favorites]


Had a conversation about this with my Dad - apparently the Segal movie had it right. A lot of SEALs change their specialties as they approach the end of their career as special forces, to move into other parts of the Navy. Cook was especially popular, as they saw it as a way to land a job right out of the navy - they could run an industrial kitchen, and get preferential treatment in the hiring process for a government job. Janitorial services were another area, again, for the same reason: a government job they could do without retraining once they were out. He was on a research ship testing a minor piece of equipment for the Navy lab he worked for, and the sailor running the galley was a former SEAL, putting in his time.

The job market is now terrible for these kinds of careers, and the Navy has been less than optimal in retraining them for something better suited - at first, you could make bank as a mercenary for Blackwater or their like. Now that's gone, so security guard, with the vague hope of a spot opening up on the local police force opening up, is pretty much the only option now. It's tough to make a living as a security guard.
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:37 AM on February 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


My understanding is that it takes years to get VA disability status these days. He probably needs to find a job in the NAVY somewhere. Then he can get 4 more years of active service and qualify for all the good benefits.
posted by humanfont at 8:38 AM on February 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Successive governments of either of the two different parties "you" have chosen to have available have maintained these policies.

I tried to get people to vote Green with me this year, but all I heard was "AFTER THE ELECTION". Now we have drones killing Americans. Yay!
posted by DU at 8:38 AM on February 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


That operation was so very close to being a major clusterfuck. I personally have a difficult time caring about what happens to our brainwashed assasins after they've outlived their usefulness. The only way to stop the machine is for young people to stop participating.

Yeah, that's a really shitty and terrible attitude. To think that someone would so easily dismiss those veterans who have been shat on repeatedly, not just by the military-industrial complex but by the doe-eyed society that seems to revel in military culture is just offensive. Many of those veterans are the most vocal critics of war and its representation.

If you want to blame someone, blame the media tycoons who think it's patriotic to portray our armed forces as the end-all, be-all heroes of modern times. Blame the companies who shovel out military shooter simulations and movies that feature command decks and glorify command structure (including Star Trek, including Stargate, including Battlestar Galactica, including all the military science fiction that make up such a huge bulk of SF these days). Blame the shitty, fucked up culture that makes war seem glorious but don't blame the veterans.
posted by dubusadus at 8:39 AM on February 11, 2013 [19 favorites]


The article sort of glossed over why he elected to separate at 17 years instead of waiting 3 more years to retire at 20. Had he done so, he'd have 3 more years to figure out his post-military plan, he'd still be employed, and he'd bank another 3 years of salary, and when he did retire, he'd get half his base pay a month for the rest of his life.

He wouldn't have to stay in the SEALs for the rest of the 3 years, either. And, for what it's worth, the post-9/11 GI Bill would have given him 4 years of tuition at the rate of the most expensive state university in his state plus housing pay equivalent to what an E-5 in that zip code makes, so between that and his pension, that could be an option too.

This was an interesting article, but leaving me with very mixed feelings. I wish him the best and I'm grateful for his service.
posted by MoonOrb at 8:39 AM on February 11, 2013 [13 favorites]


> Blame the shitty, fucked up culture that makes war seem glorious but don't blame the veterans.

Eh, the only way it will ever stop is for people to stop fighting. But, my comment was rather inflammatory.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:40 AM on February 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


I worked (briefly) as an IT contractor at GE and recall that they had a pretty substantial outreach program to vets. The impression I got from reading through all of the materials is that there is much about the corporate culture that would feel familiar to military folks.
posted by jquinby at 8:41 AM on February 11, 2013


For a nation so deeply militaristic, you do not seem to treat your veterans very well. The suicide rate among old veterans is truly appalling, too.

Active duty as well.


And on the healthcare front, ROU_Xenophobe has it:

It's a weird thing. Serve 19 years and separate, and you get approximately squat. Serve that 20th year and retire instead of just being discharged, and you get half your formal salary (more like a third of your actual endpoint pay) forever and almost-free medical care. Which isn't bad for someone 38-45 years old.

You have to either be disabled while on active duty (and there are a ton of rules around that which I'm not even going to pretend to understand covering partial disability, etc); or retire after 20+ years. As an active duty dependent, I could get "free" heath care via Tricare, but it's such horrible coverage that I pay for my employer's PPO, as do most other dependents I know who have the choice of private employer provided health insurance.
posted by lyra4 at 8:43 AM on February 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


A lot of people forget that when you get out of the military there is no career counseling.

This runs directly counter to my experience. What was your experience when you exited military service?
posted by the man of twists and turns at 8:44 AM on February 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


A lot of people forget that when you get out of the military there is no career counseling. Yes, plenty of veterans would do fantastically well in any number of jobs but no one is helping them figure out what those jobs are, how to apply, how to write a resume or how to interview. These are things that, having been in the workforce, we take for granted and are skills in their own right.

They can use the same career counseling and training services available to civilians.

There are many private-sector programs out there to help re-train and prepare vets for work. There are also a lot of employment programs for vets...many more than there are for the general population.

The healthcare thing is definitely a problem, though. Just as it is in the general population.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:45 AM on February 11, 2013


It's a weird thing. Serve 19 years and separate, and you get approximately squat. Serve that 20th year and retire instead of just being discharged, and you get half your formal salary (more like a third of your actual endpoint pay) forever and almost-free medical care. Which isn't bad for someone 38-45 years old.

It's terrible for special ops. Terrible. The injury rate is much higher, as is the risk of death. 20 years for special ops is about 5-10 too long.
posted by jaduncan at 8:46 AM on February 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, and your close reading must've missed this part:

The wait for pension adjudication is not the same as health care enrollment.
posted by Jahaza at 8:46 AM on February 11, 2013


Not disability injury stuff, mind. Just tendons and discs and being slightly slower and carrying slightly more small stuff and knowing that it could all very well get you slow enough to be killed.
posted by jaduncan at 8:48 AM on February 11, 2013


My first reaction as well, was, why isn't he doing a gravy last 3-4 year stint to get to the pension age, then figure it out? Because rightly or wrongly, there is a big divide between before and after the magic 20 years.

It sounds to me like he's having a bit of a growing up moment, not really a mid-life crisis but a natural, "finished with this what's next" moment. Divorced, done with combat, unsure of what's next. I think this journalist has caught him in the enlisted man version of recent college grad lost syndrome.

Can't disagree with the general sentiments about the general state of vets, but then again there are lots of working and middle class Americans in tough straits as well now. I wish everyone well, and yeah, we need more than bumper stickers.
posted by C.A.S. at 9:02 AM on February 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


Renoroc: That is a feature, not a bug. A dead veteran costs the American people less in benefits in the long run.

Please. Do you really believe this? Savage as the system may be, there is nobody at the top of the VA or elsewhere in government calculating ways to increase the suicide rate of veterans in order to lower disability payouts. That's ridiculous, and that kind of cynical hyperbole does nothing to raise the level of the discussion.
posted by aaronbeekay at 9:03 AM on February 11, 2013 [10 favorites]


There's a lot of confusion here between DoD and VA health care, and DoD and VA pension programs. For example, TRICARE does cover dependents, but it is a DoD program and since he is not eligible for DoD pension he almost certainly does not get TRICARE. VA covers health benefits for dependents under certain very limited circumstances that are probably not true for him.

The safety net for veterans is enormous and complicated. It is completely possible for some veterans to get excellent care, and others to fall through the cracks and get none at all.
posted by miyabo at 9:11 AM on February 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


The article sort of glossed over why he elected to separate at 17 years instead of waiting 3 more years to retire at 20.

Burnout is a real thing. It's very common in civilian fieldwork staff, who while they travel a lot and do strenuous outdoor work, operate under much, much less stressful conditions. There are only a very few who what to do it for more than a few years. Long-term deployments are especially effective at destroying families. It can easily get so bad that it's common for these folks to want to not just leave fieldwork but to get out entirely and do something else unrelated. If he's already medicating to control mood, this doesn't surprise me at all.
posted by bonehead at 9:13 AM on February 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Burnout in this case is conjecture. It's a huge omission in the article, not saying why he left 4 years before retirement. Couldn't he have gotten some kind of transfer within the military? Maybe not, but the reporter should have found out what was going on.
posted by DMelanogaster at 9:30 AM on February 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


Okay, just coming in here to update:

He is, in fact, having had a deployment, eligible for 5 free years of health care for himself for whatever he wants. After that, he is eligible for free healthcare for any injuries incurred in service, forever - UNLESS he got out with a dishonorable discharge - which is also an interesting question, because why the fuck would you leave at 17 rather than 20? Not voluntarily. Not even if you're burned out. This just doesnt' add up - or the article, either.
posted by corb at 9:31 AM on February 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


Burnout in this case is conjecture. It's a huge omission in the article, not saying why he left 4 years before retirement. Couldn't he have gotten some kind of transfer within the military?


From the article:
But he had already decided this would be his last deployment, his SEAL Team 6 sayonara.

"I wanted to see my children graduate and get married." He hoped to be able to sleep through the night for the first time in years. "I was burned out," he says. "And I realized that when I stopped getting an adrenaline rush from gunfights, it was time to go."
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:36 AM on February 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


This is not true, since we do have the VA health care system.

Which historically has been a delightful, well funded, professionally administered program.

Actually, it's gotten much better, but of late, the real problem is that its overburdened. There are people who have serious mental crises and they're put on a list for two weeks.
Staffing has gone up, sure.
But proportionately, the amount we as a nation spend on military equipment vs. the amount we spend on military personnel is scandalous.
Look at the "Memorial Day" iconography. It's mostly equipment rather than people.


So maybe The Shooter has some marketable skills beyond security, just like those guys did.


It's a bit like being a professional athlete for guys who are used to working in the sharp end. You're supremely trained for a specialized niche. Then all that is disregarded once you're out. For some reason many employers assume those military skill sets are not transferable. There are some that are. But that's a hard transition as well. Go from being responsible for people's lives serving missions critical to foreign policy decisions from the highest levels to wearing a name tag or a paper hat - kinda tough on ya.
I've spent more time in school/training than most M.D.s. Very smart friend of mine suggested I get into plumbing if I ever have to leave what I'm doing now.


A dead veteran costs the American people less in benefits in the long run.

And the costs for a disabled vet is pushed on to the social welfare/criminal/ sector same way we privatize profit and socialize risk in defense. They're "released to the community."
posted by Smedleyman at 9:38 AM on February 11, 2013 [5 favorites]


Note that: If you served in the active military service and were separated under any condition other than dishonorable, you MAY qualify for VA health care benefits. (emphasis mine)

I personally have a difficult time caring about what happens to our brainwashed assasins after they've outlived their usefulness. The only way to stop the machine is for young people to stop participating.

That's rather callous, cruel and, honestly, uncalled for. It ignores myriad factors that contribute to why people join the military. Sure sounds pithy though.

That is a feature, not a bug. A dead veteran costs the American people less in benefits in the long run.

Wow. I thought I was cynical. I don't think anyone has set out to determine that dead vets are cheaper so cut the benefits. It may be an externality of decisions to cut benefits but the impetus? I highly doubt that.

I wish him the best and I'm grateful for his service.

But you just wanted to point out that he didn't serve long enough? By implication, that he should have just shut up and stayed in another three years to receive benefits?
posted by IvoShandor at 9:38 AM on February 11, 2013 [5 favorites]


I guess more and more people seem to forget the NDAs they signed and the concept of quiet professionalism. Follow proper OPSEC and PERSEC procedures (not talking to the media) and reduce your chances of being identified for retaliation.
posted by RedShrek at 9:39 AM on February 11, 2013


Yes, but that explains only why he wanted to leave special operations and doesn't explain why he didn't do what the vast vast majority of servicemembers do who have been in for 16 or 17 years...stay until full retirement benefits vest at 20 years.
posted by MoonOrb at 9:39 AM on February 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


"I wanted to see my children graduate and get married." He hoped to be able to sleep through the night for the first time in years. "I was burned out," he says. "And I realized that when I stopped getting an adrenaline rush from gunfights, it was time to go."

Except that there are cross-branch and cross-MOS transfers. This just does not ring true. Someone with that much service, unless he screwed his commanding officer's wife or pissed hot, they would have hooked him up with a juicy transfer. Even people who aren't SpecOps have this ability - you're telling me the supposed shooter of OBL wouldn't be able to? Who's having (probably PTSD-related) trouble sleeping at night? Even a medical retirement would have been plausible.
posted by corb at 9:41 AM on February 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


That's rather callous, cruel and, honestly, uncalled for.

I've never killed anyone.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:42 AM on February 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


ninebelow: So maybe The Shooter has some marketable skills beyond security, just like those guys did.

Out of the hundreds of thousands of veterans mentioned, he must be one of the best equipped for another career. The article seems to be suggesting that the tragedy here is that the Shooter hasn't been instantly offered a job as an investment banker.
Glad you know so much more about The Shooter's chances than either the reporter who spent all that time with him, and in fact more than The Shooter does about himself.

How's your armchair, General?
posted by IAmBroom at 9:42 AM on February 11, 2013


I wish him the best and I'm grateful for his service.

But you just wanted to point out that he didn't serve long enough? By implication, that he should have just shut up and stayed in another three years to receive benefits?


IvoShandor--this is a really weird comment. What I was pointing out was that the article didn't explain why he left after 17 years instead of staying until 20. I'm curious about it, and I'm surprised that the article didn't delve into that, given the tone of the article.
posted by MoonOrb at 9:42 AM on February 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've never killed anyone.

Right. Because that's the only possible way to be callous or cruel.
posted by IvoShandor at 9:43 AM on February 11, 2013 [11 favorites]


forkisbetter: If you check the VA website for medical benefits it lists some of the items that make one qualify for benefits, which often extend to spouses and dependents under TRICARE.
If you read the article you'll see that he no longer qualifies under TRICARE.
posted by IAmBroom at 9:44 AM on February 11, 2013


IvoShandor--this is a really weird comment. What I was pointing out was that the article didn't explain why he left after 17 years instead of staying until 20. I'm curious about it, and I'm surprised that the article didn't delve into that, given the tone of the article.

My apologies. This thread looks like a "pile-on the evil American soldier" thread. I misinterpreted what you said. Sorry about that.
posted by IvoShandor at 9:44 AM on February 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Didn't this feel off to anyone else? I don't believe the article. It doesn't have the ring of truth -- not because of its descriptions of the difficulties facing a vet, but because of all the war hero masturbatory stuff. A guy slipped two cervical disks on a parachute jump, but jumped again the next day?

The military isn't stupid. A man or woman with that kind of injury could not physically perform. The highly trained SEALs are surely a costly asset, and wouldn't be used so carelessly.

There is a lot in this article that doesn't ring true.
posted by samofidelis at 9:45 AM on February 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yes, but that explains only why he wanted to leave special operations...

I was responding to a comment that said burnout was conjecture. Clearly it wasn't, the guy was done. Why didn't he stick around for another 3 or 4 years and get the benefits? Don't know and the article should have explicitly covered that.

It doesn't have the ring of truth -- not because of its descriptions of the difficulties facing a vet, but because of all the war hero masturbatory stuff.

Funny, I thought that gave it the ring of truth. Some guys love this stuff and enjoy doing it, no question. They want to be badass on the block, but only a few can really pull it off.

The military isn't stupid.

Hahahahahaha, good one.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:54 AM on February 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


The military isn't stupid.
Hahahahahaha, good one.


Whoa cool snark bro. Except you're being kind of fatuous. It's a huge bureaucracy, with a ton of conflicting tasks, and is shackled to Anerican politics. But it's also not dumb, no matter how superior one might feel from the distant remove of his or her keyboard.

I'm a physicist. We work with the USAF and USB research labs all the time, as well as the DTRA. I would bet I know plenty of men and women in uniform quite a bit brighter than you.
posted by samofidelis at 10:08 AM on February 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


Whoa cool snark bro. Except you're being kind of fatuous. It's a huge bureaucracy, with a ton of conflicting tasks, and is shackled to Anerican politics. But it's also not dumb, no matter how superior one might feel from the distant remove of his or her keyboard.

At least over here it isn't at all unusual for people to continue through Selection on quite serious injuries; frankly the training staff will only stop you for stuff like a broken pelvis.
posted by jaduncan at 10:11 AM on February 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Pedantic sidenote:
Similarly, NASA marshaled thousands of people to put a man on the moon, and history records that Neil Armstrong first set his foot there, not the equally talented Buzz Aldrin.

Armstrong and Aldrin were not equally talented. Armstrong was well respected and flew no only his rookie mission but both of his flights as commander. Aldrin considered more of an egghead or pedantic nit, despite his many talents, and probably got to be second man on the moon because Armstrong was one of the few if not the only Commander willing to tolerate his ass.

Seriously, Armstrong was offered the option to choose Jim Lovell over Aldrin, 'cause the latter had a reputation for pissing people off. Neil said the equivalent of "nah, he bring interesting insights, I don't have a problem with him."

posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:11 AM on February 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


That's not a suggestion that the people on or running Selection are stupid though. Unsurprisingly people trained to extremely high standards in three separate trades tend to be rather smart.
posted by jaduncan at 10:13 AM on February 11, 2013


I've never killed anyone.

Oh, you didn't? Great! How did you avoid having your tax money pay for drone strikes, anyway? Very curious. And you don't vote?

Nothing burns me more than people who contribute to killing and then wash their hands and get all sanctimonious about the people who actually pull triggers as a result of orders from duly elected civilian leaders.
posted by corb at 10:14 AM on February 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


The only way to stop the machine is for young people to stop participating.

Plenty of young people aren't realistically given a choice right now. To change participation, you need to fix a bunch of stuff completely unrelated to the war machine. (Including stuff that much of the country is studiously insisting isn't broken.)
posted by anonymisc at 10:18 AM on February 11, 2013


For the record, so far in this thread "experts" who have read part (or in some cases, all) of the article have pointed out to us:

* "It sounds to me like he's having a bit of a growing up moment".

* A strong implication that "he got out with a dishonorable discharge".

* A confident assurance that no one would ever leave the miltary three years before retirement. "Not voluntarily. Not even if you're burned out."

* Another outright charge that he may have "screwed his commanding officer's wife or pissed hot".

Have any of you opinion machines actually served on Seal Team 6? Have you personally killed 30 or more people in the line of duty? Do you currently have the entire, worldwide jihadist movement motivated to kill you and your family?

You sicken me.
posted by IAmBroom at 10:19 AM on February 11, 2013 [5 favorites]


I would bet I know plenty of men and women in uniform quite a bit brighter than you

Of that there is no absolutely no question, because you're setting a pretty low bar.

But the military is a huge, sprawling bureaucracy and a blanket statement that isn't stupid is huge overstatement. Sometimes the the entire US military is pretty smart, other times less so and at one time, you can find examples of brilliance and ridiculous stupidity within particular branches, programs, missions, soldiers or sailors.

Your initial point was that no way would a severely injured soldier continue performing or be allowed to performed. Considering that the article had a story about a trainee who almost killed himself because he was pushing so hard, I would be surprised if high level soldiers didn't perform when injured. These guys thrive on the adrenaline rush, on pushing themselves and knowing they are the cream of the crop.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:22 AM on February 11, 2013


IAmBroom, if I remember correctly, you're a vet? In which case, you should know that there is no excuse, ever, for asking that bullshit "How many people did you kill?

The fact that you even tried to raise it suggests that your temper may be flaring way too high to be participating in this thread right now.

Check yourself.
posted by corb at 10:24 AM on February 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


I would be surprised if high level soldiers didn't perform when injured.

You should be surprised then. In training/selection? Yeah. Getting the people you are closest to killed because you go in with a blown knee? I like to think that I haven't met anyone that much of a prick.
posted by jaduncan at 10:25 AM on February 11, 2013


In training/selection? Yeah. Getting the people you are closest to killed because you go in with a blown knee?

It sounds like it was training, but isn't clear.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:35 AM on February 11, 2013


why the fuck would you leave at 17 rather than 20? Not voluntarily. Not even if you're burned out.

He had just come back from a mission which he fully expected to be killed or captured on. He did re-up for another deployment, but that just sounded like it cemented his desire to get out. His marriage was falling apart. He was worried about his kids. He was medicating to sleep at night.

Furthermore, he'd had to deal with an internal inquiry because of that other guy's book coming out, which was apparently offensive and difficult enough that his colleagues and superiors were agitating for an official letter of apology afterwards. He'd come through one of the hardest, highest points of his career, then it had turned to shit.

Is it a surprise he just wanted to walk away?
posted by bonehead at 10:36 AM on February 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


Brandon, the old saw about the SEAL school drowning and then resuscitating its trainees has been circulating since I was in middle school, except back then we all talked about how badass it was that they all did it, because it was mandatory. You're using an anecdote from a questioned source to demonstrate the sound logic of another part of that source. That proves nothing.

I read Andy McNabb's SAS memoirs when I was young and hormonal, too. But your CO is not going to make you jump out of a plane when you can't move your head side-to-side, because you will die and you will cause other friendly assets to die because you cannot move your freaking head side-to-side.

I pulled that out because I thought it was clearly dumb. The rest of the article also has this veneer of weirdness to it. The only special forces people I ever met (not SEALs, but) were just quiet dudes in their early 30's who looked like they ran and swam a lot. They were smart and professional. They weren't muscle bound hulks with Sweet Tats, Brah, and they didn't know Arabic and Pashto and also maybe they interrogated bad guys? But never tortured them because HONOR. But also were getting mission briefs every night and going out there with five minutes notice to keep the world safe so we owe them a twenty-five million dollar bounty.

Seriously. The author of this piece has a Wikipedia page that looks like he wrote it himself, wherein he brags about how marrying Sharon Stone made him a celebrity. This article reads like his jerkoff note.
posted by samofidelis at 10:37 AM on February 11, 2013 [5 favorites]


Renoroc: That is a feature, not a bug. A dead veteran costs the American people less in benefits in the long run.

aaronbeekay: Please. Do you really believe this? Savage as the system may be, there is nobody at the top of the VA or elsewhere in government calculating ways to increase the suicide rate of veterans in order to lower disability payouts.


I read Renoroc's comment as being dark, cynical humor, but at the same time... res ipsa loquitur. The very existence of such a high suicide rate says that our society doesn't care enough to do what it would take to stop it.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 10:39 AM on February 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


By implication, that he should have just shut up and stayed in another three years to receive benefits?

...Yes? If he has a complaint about not having a pension or health benefits for his family then yes, I do think he should've stayed in another 3-4 years to receive those benefits. This man, like everyone else who has served in the military, is definitely aware that you have to stay in for at least 20 (or be rated medically disabled enough) to receive a pension or other retirement benefits, such as health care for dependents.

No longer receiving employee benefits after leaving your place of employment is not just for Navy SEALs.
posted by lullaby at 10:39 AM on February 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


This runs directly counter to my experience. What was your experience when you exited military service?

More than a few close family members and friends have left the military with nothing more than some paperwork and a handshake. Most knew about the college education options but that's not what I'm talking about. If career counseling was available to them they didn't know about it. I know there are non-profits offering this service to veterans but again, it's a matter of knowing where to look or hoping they find you. Maybe this varies by branch?
posted by Loto at 10:41 AM on February 11, 2013


aaronbeekay: Please. Do you really believe this? Savage as the system may be, there is nobody at the top of the VA or elsewhere in government calculating ways to increase the suicide rate of veterans in order to lower disability payouts.

Not exactly, but there have been a lot of exposes about people in government and at VA who have calculated ways to deny PTSD benefits to lower disability payouts, which has the side effect of increasing the suicide rate.
posted by corb at 10:41 AM on February 11, 2013 [5 favorites]


A lot of people forget that when you get out of the military there is no career counseling. Yes, plenty of veterans would do fantastically well in any number of jobs but no one is helping them figure out what those jobs are, how to apply, how to write a resume or how to interview.

Bull. There are several days worth of "transition assistance" courses that are mandatory for people who are separating/retiring from the military. The classes include resume-writing, financial management, post-career options, etc.
posted by davidmsc at 10:46 AM on February 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Here is the author Phil Bronstein's editorial after Obama's first inauguration, telling us we should all lighten up in our criticism of this poor Bush fella:

Right here. Interesting how this ur-badass was chanting Bush quotes to himself when he shot Bin Laden, isn't it?
posted by samofidelis at 10:49 AM on February 11, 2013


davidmsc: How recent is all this? I'm fully willing to admit I'm wrong here but all my cousins have complained about the lack of that exact thing. They were enlistees with the Army if that makes a difference and left the military between 10-15 years ago.
posted by Loto at 10:50 AM on February 11, 2013


Bull. There are several days worth of "transition assistance" courses that are mandatory for people who are separating/retiring from the military. The classes include resume-writing, financial management, post-career options, etc.

I've taken those classes. They are functionally useless for the real world, and their major contribution to your future employment is to tell you that there are lots of government jobs out there that give veterans' preference.

I left the Army recently. If anyone is interested, I can go try to dig up some of the material, which is so hilariously out of date it contains dress advice from the 80's, if memory serves, and the complete wrong way to write resumes.
posted by corb at 10:53 AM on February 11, 2013 [6 favorites]


Loto: Ah - time difference, perhaps. The mandatory TAP (Transition Assistance Program) stuff began probably right around that time, 10 or so years ago. I had to go through it in '07 - much of it was wasted on an older guy with 20 years (me), but probably of more value to the young did-their-four-years-and-out crew. Pretty sure it's across all branches of service.
posted by davidmsc at 10:53 AM on February 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


A guy slipped two cervical disks on a parachute jump, but jumped again the next day?

The military isn't stupid. A man or woman with that kind of injury could not physically perform. The highly trained SEALs are surely a costly asset, and wouldn't be used so carelessly.


You kind of have to know the culture. I went through jump school with bloody stools and a fever. I went to the troop medical center to see what my options were. They told me to drop the course and check in to the hospital, or drink a pitcher of water on the spot and take home three bottles of government issue kaopectate. Which I did. Because there was no way in hell I was dropping the course.

Once I was on active duty, it was more of the same. Depending on the unit and the culture, even in combat support units, you can see some pretty crazy self-neglect in the name of hard training, and the medical care involves a lot of "Are you good? You're good? O.k. Here's some motrin. Don't run for a week."

I also had a solider at Ft. Bragg who had a bad jump and ended up with six or seven pins in his foot and ankle. Even knowing he was badly fucked up, other soldiers made constant sport of him for walking down Ardennes when the rest of the unit was running.
posted by mph at 10:54 AM on February 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


The Transition Assitance Program was in place when I separated in 2004, and it was mandatory--I couldn't get out of most of it even though I had a job lined up. Now, the quality and effectiveness of the program is debatable, but there is no question that programs intended to force separating servicemembers to confront their post-military future and give them resources existed.
posted by MoonOrb at 10:56 AM on February 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


Beyond 'The Shooter': The long look at life after active duty
posted by homunculus at 11:10 AM on February 11, 2013


The only special forces people I ever met (not SEALs, but)... they didn't know Arabic and Pashto...

Ummm....

There's a lot I don't like about the article, but that's one of your criteria for crying, "B.S."?

Green Berets, for example, spend 18-24 weeks learning French, Indonesian-Bahasa, Spanish, Arabic, Mandarin, Czech, Dari, Hungarian, Korean, Pashto, Persian-Farsi, Polish, Russian, Tagalog, Thai, Turkish, or Urdu in Phase II of the Special Forces Qualification Course.

And even if they didn't study Arabic or Pashto then, by the time guys are DEVGRU operators with multiple deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan under their belts they've picked some up.
posted by Jahaza at 11:15 AM on February 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


Right here. Interesting how this ur-badass was chanting Bush quotes to himself when he shot Bin Laden, isn't it?

I don't know about the injury stuff, but I don't think it's worth reading a whole lot into the Bush quote. Whether you think he was a good president or not, he was president during 9/11, and it's hardly surprising to me that when you are preparing to kill the person responsible for a terrorist attack, you think about your memories of the attack itself, which would include President Bush, prominently. I mean, I'd bet plenty of WWII soldiers voted for Willkie but thought of the "day of infamy" speech at some point too.
posted by dsfan at 11:17 AM on February 11, 2013


(I know SEALs don't have to pass language training to qualify initially the way Green Berets do, but language training is not rare for Special Forces in general.)
posted by Jahaza at 11:20 AM on February 11, 2013


And it is not rare at all for deploying servicemembers to learn some basic phrases in the local language either prior to or during a deployment.
posted by A Bad Catholic at 11:25 AM on February 11, 2013


Reading this article again, I think the thing that really bothered me was actually the elitist tone of the whole thing. Like, he wasn't complaining that transition services are shitty for vets, he was complaining they weren't good enough for Seal Team 6 vets. That there's no "upper-level job placement" for them. Well, there are a lot of jobs in the military that require incredible levels of talent, dedication, and intelligence, and there's no upper-level job placement for them either, because there is no upper-level job placement for any veteran.

And that is a problem. It is a problem that the only job programs we have for veterans are lower-level entry positions. But that is not a Seal Team 6 problem, that's a veteran problem, and it's not helped by bullshit authors complaining that the "Navy choir" gets equal money.
posted by corb at 11:25 AM on February 11, 2013 [9 favorites]


The only special forces people I ever met (not SEALs, but) were just quiet dudes in their early 30's who looked like they ran and swam a lot.

Sorry, but that doesn't have the ring of truth to it.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:25 AM on February 11, 2013


Sorry, but that doesn't have the ring of truth to it.

At least in the UK they tend to be fairly quiet in the bar. I've not been around US types, so can't comment on that or the difference in culture.
posted by jaduncan at 11:29 AM on February 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


So the awful problem that veterans face is that they are treated like everybody else in America? It does suck. For everyone.
posted by srboisvert at 11:29 AM on February 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've taken those classes. They are functionally useless for the real world, and their major contribution to your future employment is to tell you that there are lots of government jobs out there that give veterans' preference.

I left the Army recently. If anyone is interested, I can go try to dig up some of the material, which is so hilariously out of date it contains dress advice from the 80's, if memory serves, and the complete wrong way to write resumes.


A quick check of the TAP documentation collection (particularly the manuals) provides information from 2010 that doesn't bear this out. There is a good amount of advice for both the private and public sectors, with a slight but understandable emphasis on the latter given the ease of transfer and benefits. The dress advice is fairly extensive (1 page each for men and women), and to me at least doesn't strike me as something taken from the 80s. The resume advice is fairly sound, with plentiful samples and areas of focus, although they play a little loose with the 2-page limit.
posted by zombieflanders at 11:31 AM on February 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


The only special forces people I ever met (not SEALs, but) were just quiet dudes in their early 30's who looked like they ran and swam a lot.

Sorry, but that doesn't have the ring of truth to it.


The "dudes who looks like they run and swim a lot" matches with my experiences with SF personnel.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 11:36 AM on February 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


jadunacan, you're making the mistake of thinking that Mr. Blather is attempting to add actual substance to the debate.

Here are all the special forces people I know well enough to call personal friends:

Two Marines who did something weird I didn't understand in Iraq, because I didn't think that there were Marine special forces. I know that one of them ended up basically guarding a general's laptop, or at least that is what his friends teased him about. He served one full tour in Iraq and part of another -- something else that I didn't understand? I don't know how they get broken up. Before serving, he swam at an Ivy league school for a year after high school before flunking enough courses to realize it wasn't for him, then did a year at the big state university to similar effect, then enlisted. After his time in Iraq he got a change of assignment to doing embassy security, and served somewhere in central Asia, an embassy in Africa, and I think maybe an additional place in the Carribean? He was out as of two years ago and instantly got fat, finished his undergrad, and wet to law school. He and his friends are my primary model for what these guys were like.

A former Lt. Col. in the Green Beret, who worked for FEMA in Virginia after leaving the service. He worked out of Mt. Weather after Sept. 11th for about two months, and only talked to his wife for maybe five minutes the whole time. He's retired now, with early onset Alzheimer's.

Anyway, Brandon, thanks for pushing this conversation forward so productively.
posted by samofidelis at 11:45 AM on February 11, 2013


The most awful thing I immediately notice from that TAP documentation is their translation of what a good paying job is.
EXAMPLE: I want a good paying, daytime job so I can continue my education.

This job goal is not specific enough to suggest where to start looking for this kind of employment. Your job search will not be focused. You may find a job, but it will probably not be the most appropriate one.

EXAMPLE: I want a job in warehousing because I already have military experience doing this type of work. ... The position must pay at least $7.00 per hour and have a minimum of pressure so I can concentrate on my studies.

Way to encourage vets to shoot for the moon, there. I'm sure that $7 an hour will really put you into a secure financial state.
posted by corb at 11:51 AM on February 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


The only special forces people I ever met (not SEALs, but) were just quiet dudes in their early 30's who looked like they ran and swam a lot.

Sorry, but that doesn't have the ring of truth to it.
You're wrong, generally speaking. Special Operations in general selects for middle height and middle weight, because of the physical demands. Larger people tend to rack up stress fractures and injuries at a higher rate, and smaller people tend to have trouble with pack and rack weight.

There are, of course, exceptions, but by and large the Special Operations community is populated by guys who look like extremely fit triathletes, somewhere between 5'8" and 5'11", anywhere between 170 and 220 pounds.

There's a lot I want to say about this, but Dick Couch has done it better and thorough-er in three books about the SEALs: posted by scrump at 11:55 AM on February 11, 2013 [5 favorites]


1. Am I the only one who thought Brandon Blatcher was just having some fun when he said "Sorry but that doesn't have the ring of truth to it?"

2. I've already said the TAP stuff wasn't extremely helpful, but in your example, corb, the context is a guy who's going to school at night, so the idea that he might be looking for a minimum-wage type job while he gets his degree seems actually kind of reasonable to me.
posted by MoonOrb at 11:57 AM on February 11, 2013


The only special forces people I ever met (not SEALs, but) were just quiet dudes in their early 30's who looked like they ran and swam a lot.

Sorry, but that doesn't have the ring of truth to it.


No, it matches with my experience - grew up near the Navy War College/SWOS School/Navy lab in Newport, and had a few retired/discharged examples of the breed as volunteer scout leaders. Navy lab loved hiring these guys as civilians, so long as they had a college degree, to send them to the arctic, usually to field test something or other. Others were instructors or academicians. Quiet and pleasant, trim rather than buff.

One of them broke his hip while hiking alone in below-freezing weather in the days before cell phones, and crawled to a nearby house ("Only a half mile, I was fortunate"), broke in as no one was home, and called the ambulance. He left a written apology with his number and an offer to replace the door he smashed open, bare-handed, with a broken hip.

The culture may have changed since then, but that's what I remember.
posted by Slap*Happy at 12:01 PM on February 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


jadunacan, you're making the mistake of thinking that Mr. Blather is attempting to add actual substance to the debate.

It's not really a debate, just people talking about what they know and in some instances, insisting they're way is the right way.

My particular background includes knowing a few military peeps and a couple of special forces types who were indeed the big burly types, along with a few of their leaner friends.

But at this point were, we're discussing the size of soldiers and what's true or not to decide whether the article is true or it, which is becoming a bit absurd.


1. Am I the only one who thought Brandon Blatcher was just having some fun when he said "Sorry but that doesn't have the ring of truth to it?"

No, I thought he was poking fun too!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:07 PM on February 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


He left a written apology with his number and an offer to replace the door he smashed open, bare-handed, with a broken hip.

i would've preferred the thread to be just stories of polite bad-asses.
posted by twist my arm at 12:07 PM on February 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


Way to cherry-pick and abuse the ellipsis, there. Full quote (emphasis mine):
I want a job in warehousing because I already have military experience doing this type of work. It needs to be part-time and at night so I can use my military education fund to attend school during the day which will enable me to change my career. The position must pay at least $7.00 per hour and have a minimum of pressure so I can concentrate on my studies.
I'm sure that $7 an hour will really put you into a secure financial state.

As of 2010, when this was written, the average hourly wage for warehouse workers was just over $11/hr, and even those with several years of experience started out as low as $8/hr. It's not a stretch to see part-time paying less, and depending on locale and cost of living, it could be less still.
posted by zombieflanders at 12:08 PM on February 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


I cherry-picked the ellipsis because it seemed obnoxious in a totally different way and I didn't want it to distract.

But essentially, the idea that someone whose goal is to get a good-paying job would be sidetracked into low-paying warehouse work because that is somehow "more" what he /really/ should want to do is mind-blowingly offensive. Guy is looking for a good job, why not help him translate what he actually wants into something he could potentially do that will meet his stated needs?

Original idea was to find goodpaying work during the day - they suggest he should work part time shitty work at night instead. It's completely ass-backwards.
posted by corb at 12:21 PM on February 11, 2013


> h, you didn't? Great! How did you avoid having your tax money pay for drone strikes, anyway? Very curious. And you don't vote? Nothing burns me more than people who contribute to killing and then wash their hands and get all sanctimonious about the people who actually pull triggers as a result of orders from duly elected civilian leaders.

Did you just say I contributed to the killing? Because that's a ridiculous argument. Anyway, at the risk of trolling the thread, it is indeed my belief that the people who fight the wars deserve the brunt of the blame and they're the ones who have to live with their actions. No amount of derision heaped my way will change how I think about that. But, thankfully, who is to "blame" is a rather meaningless concept, especially concerning this thread.
posted by Burhanistan at 12:21 PM on February 11, 2013


I cherry-picked the ellipsis because it seemed obnoxious in a totally different way and I didn't want it to distract.

But essentially, the idea that someone whose goal is to get a good-paying job would be sidetracked into low-paying warehouse work because that is somehow "more" what he /really/ should want to do is mind-blowingly offensive. Guy is looking for a good job, why not help him translate what he actually wants into something he could potentially do that will meet his stated needs?


What part of "so I can use my military education fund to attend school during the day which will enable me to change my career" didn't make sense to you? As you phrased it with the omitted text, sure it sounds like what you're talking about. Reinstate the text, and it's blindingly obvious that the warehouse job is a sidetrack only in the sense that its meant to be a stepping-stone, that the job is less about what he "really should want to do" and more about what he can do with his experience in the here and now, and that he's actively pursuing what he actually wants via military education.

The only mind-blowingly offensive thing here is how you tried to completely change the meaning of a document by selectively removing language.

Original idea was to find goodpaying work during the day - they suggest he should work part time shitty work at night instead. It's completely ass-backwards.

It seems fairly clear that the switching of classes to during the day (and therefore full-time) and work part-time at night is to make better use of his education so that he can get the better job sooner.
posted by zombieflanders at 12:37 PM on February 11, 2013


Except that he might actually have reason to want a good paying job - maybe a family to support, or some other reason why taking full time day classes just isn't going to cut it. Its' the bullshit paternalism that is offensive there.

In other news, however, military blogs throw doubt on the veracity of the Shooter story.
posted by corb at 12:39 PM on February 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


Did you just say I contributed to the killing? Because that's a ridiculous argument.

I don't think it is. It bothers me how much wealth I produced has been spent killing civilians (there are calculators online if you like). I am unsure the extent of my moral culpability, but I know it is not zero - no-one is holding a gun to my head and forcing me to live and work in a country that will use my labor for war, openly and with my knowledge. I do so freely. How much culpability is mine I don't know, but there is definitely some.
posted by anonymisc at 12:42 PM on February 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


So far, no one has come up with a reliable calculus. But when that argument is used as a blunt instrument for shaming as it was here, then it is indeed ridiculous.
posted by Burhanistan at 12:44 PM on February 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Besides, very few of us "choose" to work in the USA versus somewhere else. That's a privilege and a luxury. The idea that just because you're paying taxes means you're guilty is not one that holds any truck. If I didn't pay taxes I'd run the risk of fines or prison. It's a cheap means of deflecting sentiment.

The problem is kind of intractable, though.
posted by Burhanistan at 12:49 PM on February 11, 2013


Except that he might actually have reason to want a good paying job - maybe a family to support, or some other reason why taking full time day classes just isn't going to cut it. Its' the bullshit paternalism that is offensive there.

Okay, now you're just randomly adding in hypotheticals for this one quote. The example doesn't mention that, and the document we're quoting specifically says to "[m]ake sure your employment goals are realistic for your personal needs" less than a half of a page later. Stop trying to expand this one out-of-context and mangled (by you) quote into a de facto absence of transitional training, non-existent fashion tips from the 80s and all.
posted by zombieflanders at 12:54 PM on February 11, 2013


Hardass me commenting: We should have better health coverage for vets and all Americans, but perhaps their needed to be a better option for him within the military so he could fulfill his contract and get his insurance benefits. It seems like they can't just rewrite the rules because he claims to have shot OBL.
posted by nutate at 1:07 PM on February 11, 2013


Besides, very few of us "choose" to work in the USA versus somewhere else. That's a privilege and a luxury.

If people born in a war-torn shithole can flee with nothing, poor as dirt, and build new lives elsewhere, then moving elsewhere is not something we can dismiss as totally beyond us. It's only a privilege and a luxury for it to be easy to do so.
posted by anonymisc at 1:13 PM on February 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


Right, but to use that as an argument for complicity in a war is....stretching things, to be charitable.
posted by Burhanistan at 1:14 PM on February 11, 2013


I mean, do the immigrants who risk life and freedom to smuggle themselves here for shit work also deserve the blame for our wars? It's fucking stupid, frankly.
posted by Burhanistan at 1:15 PM on February 11, 2013


Right, but to use that as an argument for complicity in a war is....stretching things, to be charitable.

You argued that people should stop participating. If they stop participating this way, it ends the wars every bit as surely as it does if they stop participating directly. Therefore, it seems strange to me to argue there isn't a collective complicity in our funding the wars.
And the hardship involved in us pulling up roots and going elsewhere is no worse than the hardship involved in some people refusing service.
posted by anonymisc at 1:18 PM on February 11, 2013 [5 favorites]


Eh, no they are not the same. We'll have to agree to disagree...or not, but they are not even in the same zipcode.
posted by Burhanistan at 1:19 PM on February 11, 2013


smuggle themselves here for shit work also deserve the blame for our wars? It's fucking stupid, frankly.

If so, then it's similarly fucking stupid to assign blame to people who have little choice but to enlist.
posted by anonymisc at 1:22 PM on February 11, 2013


Corb's link to This Ain't Hell has a lot of former service people making pretty sharp remarks pointing out the holes in this story.
posted by samofidelis at 1:24 PM on February 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


> If so, then it's similarly fucking stupid to assign blame to people who have little choice but to enlist.

That would be true, but they are not forced to accept combat roles.
posted by Burhanistan at 1:26 PM on February 11, 2013


Also, that's still a false equivalency.
posted by Burhanistan at 1:27 PM on February 11, 2013


corb: IAmBroom, if I remember correctly, you're a vet? In which case, you should know that there is no excuse, ever, for asking that bullshit "How many people did you kill?

The fact that you even tried to raise it suggests that your temper may be flaring way too high to be participating in this thread right now.

Check yourself.
Nope, you remember incorrectly.

And my question was perfectly legitimate: this man has lived through emotionally disturbing events that are far more numerous than the vast majority of combat veterans. No one who hasn't been in his shoes - really, literally, no one else on earth - is qualified to declare what he would do in his situation, as many of you are doing. It's utter nonsense; internet expert logic at its finest.

I have a buddy who left the Naval Academy a couple days before he was to graduate with high marks. If he wouldn't stick it out a few more days, someone fearing for his family's life may - just may - be unwilling to do three more years away from them, unable to visit, love, enjoy, and attempt to protect them.
posted by IAmBroom at 1:33 PM on February 11, 2013


Supplying the bullets need not be equivalent to pulling the triggers, but it's pretty clear that both are part and parcel of the war, both are needed, both make it possible, and therefore both are morally culpable, regardless of whether you think that culpability is 50-50 or 10-90 or whatever.
posted by anonymisc at 1:33 PM on February 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


> Supplying the bullets need not be equivalent to pulling the triggers, but it's pretty clear that both are part and parcel of the war, both are needed, both make it possible, and therefore both are morally culpable, regardless of whether you think that culpability is 50-50 or 10-90 or whatever.

Nope, there's only blame for the people who fight it and those who order them to. Paying taxes is not a factor, and the argument is silly. Have a good one.
posted by Burhanistan at 1:35 PM on February 11, 2013


Nope, you remember incorrectly.

Ah, okay, then my apologies for the harshness. Assuming you're acting in good faith:

It is considered really offensive to ask veterans how many people they have killed. Aside from the obvious, it's one of those questions that kind of demands an answer - whether or not it's given to you, the veteran starts forming one in their head. They then are thrown immediately into the middle of their own private wars - how many people they have killed, how many kills they contributed to, which ones count, which don't. It can be a strong trigger for people with PTSD. It also is considered in poor taste for a lot of complex reasons around fetishizing kills and simplifying the war.

A lot of us are questioning why the guy would leave at 17 years - but not just why he would want to leave, why he would want to leave /without benefits/ at 17. He mentions a lot of PTSD symptoms in the news article - more than enough for a medical retirement, especially if he feels he never wants to handle a gun again. There are some gaps in the story. We don't know why, or how, but we know something smells.
posted by corb at 1:41 PM on February 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


It doesn't sound like the military is being particularly irrational or cruel here. They didn't say 'you have to keep being a SEAL or we'll kick you out', they offered him a support, presumably non-combat, position to finish out his 20 years, he turned it down. 20 years of service to get half your pay for life is not that onerous, and it's the same deal as it is for everyone. I'm not sure that I think shooting OBL should get you different rules.

I can understand that he may have been so burned out that he just didn't want to do it, but it's a choice he made.
posted by tavella at 2:02 PM on February 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think that if someone serves in combat, during a war, they should perhaps get a bit more consideration as far additional benefits after service. As it is we're turning these kids out into the world, many of whom are not career military, passing over their applications for benefits (i.e. treatment for the various psychological issues that come with mowing down other humans and watching other humans get mowed down) and then throwing our hands to the air in exasperation when they start to kill themselves.

This SEAL is but one example. And while not entirely egregious, it does demonstrate the coldness with which the United States of We Love the Military really turns a blind eye to the issues that stem from our foreign misadventures.

Oh, you don't have 20 years? Get a helmet.
posted by IvoShandor at 2:12 PM on February 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


I would espouse that veterans actually have much better access to many social services than plain old poor folks in this country. Which isn't to say that veterans have it easy.

Also, FWIW, my heroes are people who choose not to fight.
posted by nowhere man at 2:18 PM on February 11, 2013


they should perhaps get a bit more consideration as far additional benefits after service

They do. All OIF/OEF combat veterans are entitled to at least five years of free health care with the VA after they leave service. Potentially more depending on disability status or income level. They can get their "treatment for the various psychological issues" that way.
posted by lullaby at 2:31 PM on February 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've never killed anyone.

You're still young. Don't be so quick to judge your elders or those who have.
posted by humanfont at 3:19 PM on February 11, 2013 [5 favorites]


I think that if someone serves in combat, during a war, they should perhaps get a bit more consideration as far additional benefits after service.

They do. And that was the same for WWII veterans when they were demobilized: they got a GI Bill, their war-related injures treated by the VA, preference for many jobs, and have their years of service count towards their seniority in a federal job (after 15 years seniority in the federal government, you get 6 weeks vacation per year. After a 15 year career in the military, you get that at any federal job on day 1). But the deal -- and big appeal of the military -- is that you get a permanent pension for leaving after 20 years of service, and those with 20 years of service are in a different career category than those without. Everyone knows this, and it's the "gold ring" that plenty of people in the military chase after. That's what was so inexplicable, to me, about the tone of this article. It went on about how he's out of the military with no pension. Well of course he doesn't have a pension-- you get that after 20 years of service, and he didn't have that. If he's eligible for any sort of disability benefits based on his injuries, then obviously he should get that, but that would be a different article: "How the military wrongly denies disability benefit applications from our injured soldiers."

The people I feel genuinely sorry for are the ones that the military sidelines and tries to get out of the service right before their 20 years are up specifically for the purpose of avoiding having to be on the hook for their military pensions.
posted by deanc at 4:49 PM on February 11, 2013


Stars and Stripes says the claim that the Shooter isn't provided healthcare is wrong.
posted by schoolgirl report at 5:11 PM on February 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


A lot of people forget that when you get out of the military there is no career counseling

In the 1990s I worked at a service bureau in Boston, and they started working with a company that helped place people coming out of the service. We got a number of good middle managers who had just been discharged. They knew how to run a group of people, and they were glad for a nice 9-5 gig.
posted by wenestvedt at 5:36 PM on February 11, 2013


As someone who eats meat, but has never killed it for himself; benefits from sanitation, without ever having to know how it is maintained; and lives unharassed by war, without ever having to have really fought for it, I am reluctant to get stuck into someone who's quite possibly contributed to the lifestyle I enjoy by doing something I never would.

It feels a bit like picking on a carpenter because you don't like the high-rise going up in your neighbourhood. Yes, without him, and anyone else looking to work for money to replace him, it couldn't happen, but surely there's a better avenue of complaint.

And so even as a lefty who's generally opposed to the various wars going on, I'm more moved by this man's role as a worker than the dubious enterprise he's engaged in. In that context I think it is a bit sad that people's investments in themselves and their future, even in the military, can be fairly quickly rendered worthless, like losing your retirement savings through one bad investment. In civilian life, he's a mature-age job seeker with not a lot on his resume.

What surprises me is that the ex-military guy assumes that in civilian life, and companies in particular, that strong, capable, decisive people with charisma and a commitment to ideals (however flawed) would be appealing to the entrenched leadership. From what I can see, they'd rather keep their distance from a potential competitor.
posted by pulposus at 5:46 PM on February 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


It feels a bit like picking on a carpenter because you don't like the high-rise going up in your neighbourhood.

What kind of shoddy high rises are going up in your neighborhood?

From what I can see, they'd rather keep their distance from a potential competitor.

A concern I've heard is that military people are used to instant, unquestioned obedience, and that doesn't translate into effective civilian management. That may just be an excuse, of course.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 6:31 PM on February 11, 2013


What surprises me is that the ex-military guy assumes that in civilian life, and companies in particular, that strong, capable, decisive people with charisma and a commitment to ideals (however flawed) would be appealing to the entrenched leadership. From what I can see, they'd rather keep their distance from a potential competitor.

That's a level of cynicism you're only going to achieve by experiencing it directly. He's a member of an elite within an elite in a military that sells itself as the ticket to expanded opportunities in the civilian universe that others don't have access to.

The truth is that a lot of jobs, and this is a phenomenon that is legion within all sorts of jobs in the government, have non-transferable skillsets, and the military is one of those jobs. But the legacy of our all-volunteer military was that we needed to create a lot of propaganda about how being in the military would promise you a bright future in the civilian world, and this was backed up with stories of WWII veterans who were wealthy and successful, but only because just about everyone from that generation served in WWII, so obviously you could point to anyone you wanted to make your case that veterans were specially suited for success in the civilian world if you wanted to create those expectations.
posted by deanc at 6:33 PM on February 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


From the article schoolgirl report linked to:

"The writer, Phil Bronstein, who heads up the Center for Investigative Reporting, stands by the story. He said the assertion that the government gave the SEAL “nothing” in terms of health care is both fair and accurate, because the SEAL didn’t know the VA benefits existed.

“No one ever told him that this is available,” Bronstein said.

He said there wasn’t space in the article to explain that the former SEAL’s lack of healthcare was driven by an ignorance of the benefits to which he is entitled. "

Ah. That's all right then. There wasn't room.
posted by merelyglib at 7:19 PM on February 11, 2013 [6 favorites]


In the early nineties the Dept. of Defense offered a pro-rated early retirement plan, basically -2.5% less per year from your base pay for every year prior to 20 years but not less than 15. So, he could have left with 40% and his medical, plus the medical for his family... but that was then. VA benefits cover him, not his family, btw.

Clearly, he should've sucked it up and taken a training billet or a non-deploying job and finished to 20. Why he didn't wasn't spelled out but if I had to guess I'd say *ego*. I've swallowed a shit river of pride for the all or nothing benefits for the sake of my loved ones - why couldn't he?

/shrug, special devgru peeps, I guess...

The irony - folks are talking that sequestration may trigger the early retirement plan from 1992. Undoubtedly, he's a warrior - but doesn't translate into the job market well. I did see multiple job offers for him on twitter, for what its worth.

And whoever mentioned the Transition Assistance Program - its been a joke for a long time. The brass just got the word on that and are scrambling to fix it. So, I figure the government contractor will have it down in 5-7 years. Give or take, with cost overruns and such.
posted by vonstadler at 7:34 PM on February 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Undoubtedly, he's a warrior - but doesn't translate into the job market well.

I'm reminded of an old MAD Magazine panel, which had an older man at "Bob's Flamethrower Service" (or some such) taking a Help Wanted sign out of the window while he greets a recently discharged service member, complete with flamethrower.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 9:12 PM on February 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


There's a second piece up on the cironline site which talks a bit more about his medical situation. He seems to be stuck without coverage while his claims are processed and further was not aware (or made aware) of additional coverage he might have.

Further, SF Colonel Nye, and likely all of SOCOM, clearly wishes that this had never come to light, and that he'd had the good grace to do his suffering out of range of the media.
posted by bonehead at 9:19 PM on February 11, 2013


Isn't this a likely fraud? It doesn't read as particularly convincing to me.

Many details do not jibe with the official stories - and as far as I can see there's no proof whatsoever that this story is true.

> It is considered really offensive to ask veterans how many people they have killed.

> It feels a bit like picking on a carpenter because you don't like the high-rise going up in your neighbourhood.

I find this whole discussion quite surrealistic, and I hate to pick out just one or two comments - there's this world where most of you live where continuous warfare is completely normal, a sniper is a tradesman just like a carpenter, and it's gauche to ask moral questions about the products they are providing.

The net effect is that it's impossible to oppose the war in any significant fashion at all. All Serious People agree that soldiers who joined for economic reasons and are just following orders are laundered from the moral consequences of their actions and that it's just rude to argue otherwise.

Clearly it's the people at the top we need to deal with!, but all Serious People also agree that we absolutely must choose between one of only two political parties, both of which are completely and unquestioningly pro-war.

The United States has been continuously at war for seventy years, and it's been so long that Americans can't even imagine what it would be like to stop, that it's considered childish and rude to argue that war is a bad thing.

The idea that soldiers are not responsible for their actions has had grave and negative consequences for this society. The very reason that we assign some actions a negative moral value is to discourage them. You'd logically expect a system that removed guilt en masse to cause exactly the effects we are seeing - repeated, massive acts of violence and destruction with no moral soul-searching, no recriminations, and no apparent lesson learned from repeated failure.

It is a warped parallel to the mortgage fraud that led to the Global Financial Crisis. There, financially dodgy securities were packaged into derivatives and the risk seemed to magically disappear. Here, morally dodgy acts are packaged up into "the military system" and magically the moral responsibility seems to evaporate.

This is why the United States, the greatest military power in history, has blundered from failed war to failed war like a chain smoker lighting fresh cigarettes from the stubs of previous ones. It's really not clear any more if the US cares if it gains anything from wars it starts, as long as there's always another new war coming along.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 11:16 PM on February 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


While it does vibe rather oddly, it appears that it does so because of the individual's own ignorance of his benefits. At least, this quote from the followup article seems solid:

"In an interview, Col. Tim Nye, spokesman for the U.S. Special Operations Command in Tampa, Fla., said the Shooter was treated according to military regulations. He did not deserve a pension, Nye said, because he served for 16 years, not the required 20.

“Those are the rules that are in place, and he was well aware of those,” Nye said. “Clearly, the best of the best, he has done everything that was asked of him and more – but that’s what he signed up to do.”"

While the first bit could have been talking about an abstract situation posited by the reporter, the second seems clear that they both know they are talking about a specific person and that they both agree that he was what he said he was. At least, I expect that if someone was running around falsely claiming to have been the Bin Laden shooter, the military would be squashing it firmly, not giving quotes to support it.
posted by tavella at 12:38 AM on February 12, 2013


Yeah, it's a hugely different thing to say "The VA isn't taking care of me" and to say "I didn't know the VA would take care of me." I'm also skeptical about that - that IS one of the things that is covered a lot in those TAP classes I look down on otherwise.

The idea that soldiers are not responsible for their actions has had grave and negative consequences for this society. The very reason that we assign some actions a negative moral value is to discourage them. You'd logically expect a system that removed guilt en masse to cause exactly the effects we are seeing - repeated, massive acts of violence and destruction with no moral soul-searching, no recriminations, and no apparent lesson learned from repeated failure.

Except that the problem is that you are arguing for removing guilt en masse - for shifting it from the backs of the people who vote for pro-war candidates, who pay taxes that go to bullets, and who never raise a finger to oppose the war - to the small fraction - the .1% - of the country who actually goes to war. Making soldiers into a convenient whipping boy is not likely to decrease the chance of wars - instead it allows everyone freedom from responsibility, because they can tell themselves that they're not a soldier and they're not at fault - as seen above.
posted by corb at 5:22 AM on February 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


> because they can tell themselves that they're not a soldier and they're not at fault - as seen above.

At this point, I'm writing you off as a crank. But no one demonstrated that at all. Bad logic, false equivalencies, and harumphing won't help your arguments.
posted by Burhanistan at 5:31 AM on February 12, 2013


Its sounds fraudulent b/c you're dealing with massive egos... you've likely never met guys who've simply mastered the physical and mental challenges these dudes have accomplished. Therefore, they sometimes forget themselves... Moreover, they've ended some folks.

As for benefits, they don't typically like to talk about money and benefits - since they often times like to say that they're not in it for the money, benefits, medals, etc.

Think of McChrystal in Rolling Stone.

posted by vonstadler at 5:36 AM on February 12, 2013


But no one demonstrated that at all.

You, in fact, have been grand high poohbah of The War Is Not My Fault, Blame Those Icky Soldiers.
posted by corb at 5:37 AM on February 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


On a side note on the Shooter, I've heard one potential theory advanced for why the guy would want to get out at 16 years - to screw the spouse out of retirement pay if they wound up divorcing. I don't know how likely this is, since they're just separated and in the same house and seem amicable, but just putting it out there.
posted by corb at 5:46 AM on February 12, 2013


As for surrealism and the state of our war-like culture, beyond The Shooter:

The United States has been continuously at war for seventy years, and it's been so long that Americans can't even imagine what it would be like to stop, that it's considered childish and rude to argue that war is a bad thing.

Actually, some Americans can imagine what its like to stop, and it was considered neither childish nor rude to be argued as a bad thing. At least not by me, a full-blooded 'merican! f-yeah.

The idea that soldiers are not responsible for their actions has had grave and negative consequences for this society. The very reason that we assign some actions a negative moral value is to discourage them. You'd logically expect a system that removed guilt en masse to cause exactly the effects we are seeing - repeated, massive acts of violence and destruction with no moral soul-searching, no recriminations, and no apparent lesson learned from repeated failure.

Our soldiers are held accountable - Robert Bales is on trial for murder isn't he? There is a discourse going on, you may not have seen it - see Democracy Now's interview with Andrew Bacevich for more.

It is a warped parallel to the mortgage fraud that led to the Global Financial Crisis. There, financially dodgy securities were packaged into derivatives and the risk seemed to magically disappear. Here, morally dodgy acts are packaged up into "the military system" and magically the moral responsibility seems to evaporate.

Morally dodgy acts aren't packaged - they're voted on. Moral responsibility hasn't evaporated, though it seems to b/c you're outraged about the war and the violence. I get that...

This is why the United States, the greatest military power in history, has blundered from failed war to failed war like a chain smoker lighting fresh cigarettes from the stubs of previous ones. It's really not clear any more if the US cares if it gains anything from wars it starts, as long as there's always another new war coming along.

One could argue its no longer a war about global terrorism, but access to scarce natural resources - in that sense, have we failed?
posted by vonstadler at 5:58 AM on February 12, 2013


> You, in fact, have been grand high poohbah of The War Is Not My Fault, Blame Those Icky Soldiers.

Ok, whatever. But that doesn't demonstrate that your argument that everyone else is guilty holds any merit. I don't think you're able to see the difference, though.
posted by Burhanistan at 6:31 AM on February 12, 2013


One could argue its no longer a war about global terrorism, but access to scarce natural resources

Many people have been arguing that all along.
posted by adamdschneider at 7:03 AM on February 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't know how likely this is, since they're just separated and in the same house and seem amicable, but just putting it out there.

While anything is possible in extremis, that seems to me to be a uncharitable speculation without evidence for it.

What seems to me to be far more likely is that there were at least two bureaucratic bugfucks about 1) what happened during the mission (i.e. who was responsible for killing Bin Laden) and 2) the subsequent witch hunt when it became clear that someone was breaking security and writing a book. It sounds like the "Shooter" went through at least two round of inquires in the months following and that there was bad blood all round both times. The latter witch hunt seems to have been especially nasty. He seems likely to have made a number of enemies in the upper command ranks during these two fights.
"In an interview, Col. Tim Nye, spokesman for the U.S. Special Operations Command in Tampa, Fla., said the Shooter was treated according to military regulations. He did not deserve a pension, Nye said, because he served for 16 years, not the required 20.

“Those are the rules that are in place, and he was well aware of those,” Nye said. “Clearly, the best of the best, he has done everything that was asked of him and more – but that’s what he signed up to do.”
In bureaucratic terms, that's "We hope this asshole fucks off and dies." That's not something that would be said of an ex-colleague for whom people were trying their best to help. That is a Pilate washing his hands of the matter.

Whatever the terms of his separation, there appear to be many burning bridges behind him. That, combined with his obvious ego, says to me that this decision was mostly about a hostile work environment and an unwillingness to deal with that for the balance of his time. The personal life factors contributed too, I'm certain, but unwillingness on his part to have pissed off brass to fuck with him for the next three or four years was, in my view, the major reason why he chose to leave.
posted by bonehead at 8:49 AM on February 12, 2013


Sometimes the the entire US military is pretty smart, other times less so and at one time, you can find examples of brilliance and ridiculous stupidity within particular branches, programs, missions, soldiers or sailors.”

Actually, there is no other swath of people cut so large that have to score at a certain level on a standardized test. Your average servicemember is going to be smarter than your average American because the servicemember has to be a high school graduate and has to pass the ASVAB to get in.

“it's a matter of knowing where to look or hoping they find you. Maybe this varies by branch?”

And rank. And background. Enlisted men once they’re off inactive reserve can rest easy. Past a certain clearance level, what you’ve signed to not talk about, or an O level, etc. they will never stop fucking with your life. Ever.

“Also, FWIW, my heroes are people who choose not to fight.”

Odd, those are the only people I consider villains. I heard a good take on that a while back on NPR. This black woman was being interviewed about MLK and civil rights and she said no one was innocent. The people who sat on the sidelines were just as culpable. Either you took a position and fought or you were worse than the racists.

I deeply respect people who protest, who go to jail, all that. And I respect people who enlist Nothing wrong with busting your ass for your family. But what people who sacrifice to oppose a given war have in common with people who sacrifice to go to war is the desire to serve their country and serve something other than their own selfish ends.

I remember all the protest over Somalia. I remember the din of silence from Darfur. The rightness or wrongness of a given conflict doesn’t enter in to the unselfish act of agreeing to support or defend.

Although plenty of people opposed Somalia and Darfur for selfish and/or expedient reasons. I would have been happy to lay my life down or take others’ lives to stop the genocide. Does that it make me a villain?
Does it make a villain out of someone who genuinely believes in non-violence who opposed U.S. involvement in Africa?
I don’t think so.
Mostly motivations can be cloudy. But sometimes they’re pretty clear. I think the politicians who use those things for their own ends though have a lot of blame to bear.

“My particular background includes knowing a few military peeps and a couple of special forces types who were indeed the big burly types…”

Well someone’s got to carry all the shit while the little bastards run around and raise hell.

"Are you good? You're good? O.k. Here's some motrin. Don't run for a week."

Ah Motrin, the staff of life. I got some meat and cartilage torn up inside me one time they gave me Motrin. Could barely breathe. Yeah, Motrin.
Had a Navy flight crew doctor grab me and pump me full of painkillers and send me off to get prepped for surgery.
Grabbed the other doctor by the collar and swung him around yelling at him, asking him where he got his medical degree, etc. Broke his collarbone. Wound up in the bed next to me in agony. He got Motrin.
Good times.
posted by Smedleyman at 9:24 AM on February 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


Phil Bronstien really comes across looking like an ass here. This article was basically an excuse to write up a first person account of the Bin Laden hit under the guise of concern trolling over the fate of the shooter. The journalist ends up exploiting his source for some war porn and provides questionable information about the options and choices facing veterans who depart the army early.
posted by humanfont at 9:29 AM on February 12, 2013


I don't think Phil Bronstein had a source. I think this was fabricated from whole cloth. Esquire's response to Stars & Stripes was barely coherent. They screwed up.
posted by samofidelis at 11:34 AM on February 12, 2013


Your average servicemember is going to be smarter than your average American because the servicemember has to be a high school graduate and has to pass the ASVAB to get in

No, that's not how logic works.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 11:54 AM on February 12, 2013


No, that's not how logic works.

I passed statistics. But I'm not an expert. Explain to me how I'm wrong.


I don't know that it's war porn so much as a well worn trope. The return to a changed land from war to disdain and disparagement is at least as old as the Odyssey. You get back to Ithaca and no one recognizes you and the place has entirely changed and people who have invested nothing of themselves into their home debase your sacrifice because of your absence or the nature it takes.

Revolutionary war veterans came home to find bankers had taken their land (well, they weren't around to work it, were they?) Civil war veterans had to prove their disability was directly attributable to military service. WW I had the bonus marches, and how delightful a thing was that. WWII the VA was overwhelmed and again, disabilities, wounds, were overlooked - WWII vets suffering from disabilities caused by radiation were finally protected though when the Radiation exposed veterans compensation act was passed - in 1988. Vietnam the VA still claimed PTSD had nothing to do with serving in a war zone.
Even recently, we had Building 18 in the Armu’s Walter Reed Medical Center.

I strongly suspect this all because of a very ancient antagonism between the returning veteran and the population that sends them off to war.

I appreciate Tolkien more now than when I was a kid because it's a fairly sophisticated commentary on confronting danger outside your home and how people deal with those who do.
You have the Hobbits who know nothing of the world, very suspicious of the Rangers, the wizards and everyone else involved. Very provincial. And arguing that there is no need to go and fight evil and those who do are very strange.
And in a sense they're right. When you do go and confront evil you are changed by the process. But regardless, the Shire would never remain the same whether any of the hobbits left to fight or not.
Their homes would have changed, they merely wouldn't have noticed that they changed because they would have changed along with it.

Sam Gamgee in Mordor dreamed of going back to his garden, having a pipe and a jar. When he got home, the place was entirely changed by Sharkey and the hobbits couldn't put it back the way it was and indeed there were some hobbits who deeply resented them trying, being invested in the new way of things and not having noticed how their lifestyle changed.
Their moral nexus is separated.

Robert Graves puts it well: "England looked strange to us returned soldiers. We could not understand the war madness that ran wild everywhere, looking for a pseudo-military outlet. The civilians talked a foreign language and it was newspaper language."

Although typically a lot of pro-peace folks can make the clear distinction between veterans as human beings and what they did in their role as troops. Typically that supports peace movements, at least historically. And historically separation between anti-war people and returning vets mutes an accurate picture of war (and the return) from getting out.

And guess who's agenda that serves?
posted by Smedleyman at 12:37 PM on February 12, 2013 [5 favorites]


I don't know that it's war porn so much as a well worn trope.

And I think it was a trope that the author of the piece really, really wanted to tell, and he was going to tell it regardless of what facts or logic got in the way. And then got sort of resentful when someone pointed out that he really had to massage the narrative to make it into something he wanted.
posted by deanc at 2:41 PM on February 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


Explain to me how I'm wrong.

For starters: Most people get a HS diploma. Most people who take the ASVAB 'pass.'
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 2:56 PM on February 12, 2013


Esquire’s Shooter Interview and the Drivers of VA Disability Backlog
posted by the man of twists and turns at 5:55 PM on February 12, 2013



Gawker: Esquire Editors: If You Complain About Our Botched Story You Hate The Troops

Also on twitter, some strong vet-on-vet fighting with big names in the milblogosphere. Everyone seems to agree the Esquire article is messed up, but the money quote is from Matt Gallagher: "PR efforts to focus on the Esquire tree rather than the VA forest is Death-Star worthy."
posted by corb at 6:49 AM on February 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


And I think it was a trope that the author of the piece really, really wanted to tell, and he was going to tell it regardless of what facts or logic got in the way.

Yeah, I've never understood that part. How is it still journalism? I'm pretty sure people who read Homer got that it was supposed to be representational and not a factual account of nearly being eaten by literal giant cyclops.

For starters: Most people get a HS diploma. Most people who take the ASVAB 'pass.'
Ok, so most people get a HS diploma. The set of all Americans includes some people who do not have a HS diploma or GED. The set of servicemembers has zero people who do not have a HS diploma (or GED).

Most people who take the ASVAB pass. Some do not. The set of people in the military = all passed. The set of all Americans has people who did not pass.

So, math.

It's not bias. I'd argue you can take nearly any sample set of people involved in training and show the same thing. Not just warriors. But for sake of argument - use Rome as an example. The average Roman trooper was smarter than the average Roman. For starters, he had advantages from service (being a citizen of Rome).
But just speaking of "smarts" if he was a carpenter vs. a plebeian carpenter. They have the same skill set. The legionary knows basic engineering and surveying on top of that (from building fortifications) and so knows the maths, he's got survival skills, he's got some physical education so he knows how to take care of his body, health skills, etc. could cook for himself.

Enlisted man training is just 12 weeks or so. But it's 12 weeks that someone else doesn't have. And that's disregarding OCS which has minimum SAT/ACT requirements and requires a bachelors degree on commissioning.
All included in the "military" set.
People who fail out of that, go into the set of all Americans.

I don't know, I think the logic is obvious.
You might as well argue that the average American is smarter than the average first year college student for enlisted personnel or the average college graduate if we include the officer corps.

It's not bartending school. That's not to slight the average Joe USA. But the average Joe's training isn't dealing with potential life and death decisions. So yeah, little bit smarter - at least in terms of training.
If you're arguing "smart" in the loose sense of the term. Yeah, military folks are as dumb as any other human.
posted by Smedleyman at 9:12 AM on February 13, 2013


People who fail out of that, go into the set of all Americans.

So does everyone who never tries to enlist.

Bartenders might be smarter than average, but a bartending certificate isn't proof of that.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 9:35 AM on February 13, 2013


A timeline of the edits and lies about the Esquire edits - and their response to Megan McCloskey, who wrote the Stars & Stripes article.
posted by corb at 9:55 AM on February 13, 2013


I don't know if they updated it after you posted the link, but it seems less "edits and lies" and more "the web version didn't reflect the final version that went to print."
posted by zombieflanders at 12:40 PM on February 13, 2013


Yeah, I've never understood that part. How is it still journalism? I'm pretty sure people who read Homer got that it was supposed to be representational and not a factual account of nearly being eaten by literal giant cyclops.

When people point out the misrepresentations of "true story" movies, the one common reply is, "this is just the director's interpretation, and how is this any different than a documentary which itself would be the interpretation of the documentarian?" This Esquire article is just looping back in the other direction: "everything is interpretation", there's no reason to expect that the article adhere to some kind of "factual" standard and the readers can "decide for themselves."
posted by deanc at 12:42 PM on February 13, 2013


All you are showing is that the distribution of education between the civilian and military populations is different. This does not prove that the average individual from either set is above or below the average from the alternate. Suppose we had a population of 20 civilians and 5 soldiers. Even if some of the civilians are below the minimum of the soldiers, it does not follow that the average will be higher. Some of the civilians may be at a higher proficiency this making it a wider distribution.
posted by humanfont at 2:56 PM on February 13, 2013


Bartenders might be smarter than average, but a bartending certificate isn't proof of that.
Well, no, bartenders wouldn't be smarter than average. There are no educational standards for being a bartender. It's, at best, a technical training.
Military training is only technically training in part.

"This does not prove that the average individual from either set is above or below the average from the alternate."
Given an equal proportion. There are obviously far more civilians, so there are far more degrees. But on average, military personnel are better educated.
82% of officers have a bachelor’s degree (But 100% have at least a bachelor’s) or higher.
30% of the general population have a bachelor’s or higher.

93% of enlisted men had HS (but 100% have to have HS or equivalent) and/or some college. 60% of gen pop had HS and/or college credit.

There's a minimum "100%" standard in the military for certain degrees. That simply doesn't exist in the U.S. You don't have to graduate high school or pass an additional minimum standard test after high school and go through further training to be a member of American society.
posted by Smedleyman at 9:17 PM on February 13, 2013


Well, no, bartenders wouldn't be smarter than average. There are no educational standards for being a bartender. It's, at best, a technical training.

Humanfront has the statistics response, but if I may... It's not just pouring drinks, there's frequently a component of salesmanship involved, the product being yourself and how you make people feel when they're at your bar. The two biggest tools are your physical appearance and your personality. And your personality is not part of any technical or certification training.

All of this boils down to just talking, but that can encompass literally any topic. Religion, politics, sports, trivia, culture, food, science. Being able to read people quickly, anticipate their needs, and entertain all walks of life-- shit, maybe bartenders would make good spies. Lord knows people share enough secrets with them.

Seems to me you're saying that because there aren't any requirements, therefore anyone could become a bartender. You're ignoring the fact that not all people will end up being successful at it. And if you're not successful, you either get fired or you don't make good money. So you don't stay a bartender for very long.

Sometimes bartenders are working through school, or fucking around before or after schooling. In this economy it's not unusual to be underemployed. Sometimes career restaurant workers are people who prefer the pace and atmosphere of working in a restaurant after having worked in an office environment and finding it unsatisfying.

I know this is a long tangent, but if you've so easily underestimated a large group of people, maybe you're also overestimating the efficacy of basic educational standards in making the point you wanted to make.
posted by twist my arm at 12:12 AM on February 14, 2013


"Those are the rules that are in place, and he was well aware of those,” Nye said. "Clearly, the best of the best, he has done everything that was asked of him and more – but that’s what he signed up to do."


At least, I expect that if someone was running around falsely claiming to have been the Bin Laden shooter, the military would be squashing it firmly, not giving quotes to support it.



Sequestration anyone?

Squashing it? This is the perfect story at the perfect time for the military, regardless of the truthiness of it.

Because the version that will be spread around Facebook and Twitter will be the Esquire version of events. And the edits? The followup? What of them?

SQUIRREL!
posted by formless at 12:34 AM on February 14, 2013


Seems to me you're saying that because there aren't any requirements, therefore anyone could become a bartender.
Not what I'm saying.
It's a response to: "Bartenders might be smarter than average, but a bartending certificate isn't proof of that."
A bartending certificate is, at best, proof of being technically trained.

What I'm saying is close to what you're saying, there are a plethora of other skills involved in military training that are intangible.

And as I said - almost any selected set, bartenders say, are going to be smarter than the overall largest set which includes the lowest common denominator, as you say - people who are unsuccessful bartenders.

I don't know, seems a simple point - you have a group that requires you be a high school graduate and pass a test to get in vs. a group that doesn't have those requirements and includes people who failed to get in to the first group.

Seems to me the first group is going to have a higher standard since the 2nd group has no standard at all.
If I'm wrong there explain to me how.
posted by Smedleyman at 8:54 AM on February 14, 2013


you have a group that requires you be a high school graduate and pass a test to get in vs. a group that doesn't have those requirements and includes people who failed to get in to the first group.

That would be valid if those were the only two options, e.g. if it was a required application. But there's a HUGE cohort that never tried to get into the military. Some wouldn't have met the standards, some would have aced them. You don't account for them.

As an aside, it would be interesting to see the enlistment rate by score of those who took the ASVAB. (I scored very high, but didn't enlist.)
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 12:35 PM on February 14, 2013


Let me walk you through it. First with raw math. Let us create two sets A and B. Set A contains a list of 10 numbers distributed between 1-5. Set B contains a list of 3 numbers where no number is less than 2. Does it follow that the average of set B is always higher than set A? No it does not. As an simplified example

Set A = [1,1,2,2,3,3,4,4,5,5] (Average 3)
Set B = [2,2,3] (Average 2.23)

The average for each set is dependent upon the distribution. When one looks at actual distributions of the military vs. civilian population it is true that the low end of the distribution will be higher than the low end of the general civilian population, however the distribution to the upper end is also more limited in the military. For example officers (who are generally the ones with college degrees) represent only 20% of the military workforce vs. >30% of the US civilian workforce. The average age of civilians is 38 vs 28 in the military. 3% of the civilian population has attained a doctorate level of education vs. 1.7% of military service members. The 10 year age gap provides civilians with an advantage when it comes to skills development and training. For example a military officer is likely to have a BA/BS+ 5 years of experience at 28 years old, while a civilian would be at BA/BS+15 at age 38. In almost any profession that is the difference between a journeyman and a master practitioner.
posted by humanfont at 2:08 PM on February 14, 2013


That would be valid if those were the only two options, e.g. if it was a required application
All right. Well, I thought that was the basic premise from samofidelis' and Brandon Blatcher's comments.

It was a very basic simple point to address that the military is a huge bureaucracy with varied levels of intellect that typically are asked to perform at a higher level than the civilian sector.

Want to argue they're all idiots, fine.
I'm not sure what that's predicated on, I'm thinking of NAEP stats the normalized ASVAB, etc., being essentially an IQ test, average in the U.S. is 100, average from armed forces is around 105, so I disagree. But it's besides the point.

They're expected to be more dedicated and perform no matter their circumstances (personal life, how they feel, think they should move on, emotional state, etc) and are asked to give a greater level of commitment to the job than Joe Civilian. So people can be hurt - even though or whether or not - they're smarter or dumber.

Whatever the case, I'm not married to the comment. Not looking to beanplate the thing. Just getting across that general idea - contrary to samofidelis and Brandon Blatcher's points, the military itself can be entirely smart and still waste personnel resources in spite of itself.

So, concerning the actual topic at hand, punching a clock in an office is not the same as being a SEAL in the combat zone.

This Esquire article is just looping back in the other direction: "everything is interpretation",

Here's stars and stripes on it.
Here's Poynter with the blow by blow. And they sort of put the boot into Esquire's winkies.

But there isn't much of "a long peek into the lives of elite forces." I think that fact goes unexamined in the noise.
As typical, really. I mean in American journalism troops are either to be surrounded by bunting and constantly fellated in Red, White and Blue or feared and pitied as monsters.

On the one hand, I don't think someone deserves more benefits by simple virtue of being in special forces - people working in a combat zone are risking their lives as well, people driving forklifts less so, but they're still sacrificing, they signed the same papers.
On the other, it's not "a job" type job, and there are demands, mental and physical, that will just wear you the hell out after 16 years.

OTOH He went in knowing the score if he didn't put in 20. But putting in 10 years of that is more like being a pro-athlete for 10 years than working at physical labor. But you get combat pay. But -

I don't know the answers.
I do know the media attention in and of itself is corrosive. SEALs today are like Ninja in the, what, 70s? 80s? They're popular and completely misrepresented.

What do you offer a guy who used to performing at that level after 20 years that won't make him sign a book deal or talk to the press? It's not like you're not used to being listened to or taken seriously.

Buddy of mine got out recently, just can't deal with it. He's used to being in command. He's the old man, A#1, the big cheese, head honch... but I digress.
He's going to stand in line to get a drivers license like any other schmuck?
Well, yeah, but it doesn't mean to him what it means to everyone else. He himself didn't have massive wealth, but he's used to the world turning under his hand. He gives the world, hundreds of millions of dollars in equipment and resources and countless lives change direction. People risked their very lives at his word.
And now he eats at Subway.
That can be hard on a brother, all I'm saying.

Something I heard a while back that's helped me adjust: We move in that world, but we're not of that world.
This mantra lets me hang out with guys who own yachts and spend more on lunch than most people make in a year and not go crazy.

But how is it we failed to keep this guy "The Shooter" quiet? Why isn't he fat, dumb and happy and enjoying his family?

Thread recently about Chris Kyle. No one should have known who the hell he was for another 20 years or so. But people keep winding up in the media. And a large part of that is their rapaciousness, but too because we do ditch guys like this and say Hey, just suck it up.
So yeah, Esquire is full of ass and factually incorrect, but by the same token we really don't give a lot of support as compared to the job.

I don't know if that's a private sector thing or what. There just seems a general lack of appreciation for jobs focused on the public good. (Ok, some debates as to whether military work is altruistic, but it's not something people do for money).
Cops, firefighters, nurses, especially teachers, just get shit on all over for crap pay, and lousy work conditions.

I mean look: "Like every combat veteran of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, the former SEAL
... automatically eligible for five years of free healthcare through the Department of Veterans Affairs."

That's factual.
But look at the word "free."
It's not free. He f'ing earned it. Yes, taxpayers pay for it, but he's earned at least 5 goddamn years of medical care, no? It's not free the way you toss a bone to a dog.

It's on the other side of the political spectrum but the same vibe on teacher's pensions. 'Well, they get summers off, and retire with a big chunk of change' - hell yeah. It's a job that kicks your ass and breaks your heart because people send you off to do it, they know you need it, they think to themselves they could do it - but when it comes time to pony up they take a walk. Go work for themselves, their own, get what they can for themselves.
Nothing wrong with it. But it's not the same thing as going off to cover someone else.

Someone has to put out the fire, arrest the criminal, shoot and get shot at, teach kids, all that. But it's completely disproportionately valued in our society.
I think people take for granted those sacrifices. Not just in the din of this kind of measure your dick crap but in all things. Troops, teachers, public servants in general.
Altruism gets paid shit and when someone asks for some basic decency it's like pulling teeth to cut them a check.

Ah, hell, I'm probably a socialist now.

I think Steve Buscemi is a good model of quiet professionalism. Not a lot of people even knew he had been a firefighter. Just showed up after 9/11 and helped. Gives freely of his time to Friends of Firefighters.
It's awesome he does this. It's awesome we have organizations like this. But it's a shame we need them. Meanwhile, firefighters, exploited as heroes of 9/11, screwed out of respiratory health care.

Same shit, different day.
posted by Smedleyman at 2:12 PM on February 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


They're expected to be more dedicated and perform no matter their circumstances (personal life, how they feel, think they should move on, emotional state, etc) and are asked to give a greater level of commitment to the job than Joe Civilian

That is a myth created by recruiters and a billon dollar PR budget. If you plan to be in the middle or upper middle class then you'd better be prepared to have total commitment to your job. From Tenure at the university, partner at the law firm, MD in practice, making your number in sales, getting that project done on time to satisfy your clients, you better be prepared to work your ass off and make sacrifices. And don't pull the military folks get shot at. Plenty of civilians end up in jobs where they get shot at too. When I was working in international development, I got shot at. My EMT friends get shot at. At least in the military you kind of go into it with the expectation that its part of the job and you might get to shoot back.

I know that many soldiers serve with distinction and honor. They do their country a service. I don't think it is wise though to fall into the trap of myth making that transforms our soldiers to elite supermen better than the civilians who lead them and the population as a whole. That is a dangerous myth and it leads to terrible things for democracies.
posted by humanfont at 2:57 PM on February 14, 2013


I know that many soldiers serve with distinction and honor. They do their country a service. I don't think it is wise though to fall into the trap of myth making that transforms our soldiers to elite supermen better than the civilians who lead them and the population as a whole. That is a dangerous myth and it leads to terrible things for democracies.

And the dark mirror to that myth is that soldiers are nothing special, that anyone could do what they do, and that everyone does do what they do, so there's no sense in honoring them.

Whether dangerous or not, it is a lie.

There are many jobs that contain elements of what soldiers do. There are jobs that have high levels of commitment. There are jobs where you must work and make sacrifices. There are jobs where people get shot at.

There are no jobs, not a single one, that approaches the totality of commitment and sacrifice of soldiering. Not a single one.

Name me a single job in the contiguous United States where your employer, not the law, but your employer, can legally forbid you to marry the person you love and send you to jail if you do it anyway.

Name me a single job in the contiguous United States where your employer has the ability to force you to eat bread and water for two months if you give him a dirty look, or show up a minute late for work.

Name me a single job in the contiguous United States that you have no ability to quit or give notice.
posted by corb at 3:51 PM on February 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


DavidMSC and MoonOrb are right about the prevalence of TAP - the transition assistance program. It just doesn't last long, unless you are lucky enough to be close to a base offering continuing services. The adjustment takes a while, though, and the average 20something person who is about to radically change his or her life is not ready to immediately take advantage of their opportunities - whether or not they've experienced combat or a traumatic experience in the military. In the meantime, TAP's a big blur of information.

Tricare is generally just for dependents/family members, it's fucking awful, and a lot of providers don't take it.

Anyway, folks, don't assume it was so much better years ago in the VA system, or that people were oh-so responsive to veterans' needs back then. Try reading Soldier from the War Returning, by Thomas Childers, about untreated WWII vets with PTSD.
posted by mitschlag at 4:38 PM on February 14, 2013


And the dark mirror to that myth is that soldiers are nothing special

If by "dark mirror" you mean "strawman argument made by almost nobody," then yes.

that anyone could do what they do

This sounds like an argument for some sort of biological determinism. Anyone capable of being a soldier could do what they do, unless you believe that soldiers are inherently superior biological or genetic beings. If you meant whether or not they are doing what they do, then sure.

and that everyone does do what they do, so there's no sense in honoring them

Except that this very rarely happens.

Whether dangerous or not, it is a lie.

What's a lie? That soldiers are not biologically superior beings to civilians?

There are no jobs, not a single one, that approaches the totality of commitment and sacrifice of soldiering. Not a single one.

Whether or not that's fact rather than opinion, that doesn't make it something that is superior by dint of being a part of. You're edging really close to the danger that humanfont mentions in ascribing automatic and/or inherent greater civil rights to certain members of society. Starship Troopers is science fiction, not a civics manual.

Name me a single job in the contiguous United States where your employer, not the law, but your employer, can legally forbid you to marry the person you love and send you to jail if you do it anyway.

None, including the military.

Name me a single job in the contiguous United States where your employer has the ability to force you to eat bread and water for two months if you give him a dirty look, or show up a minute late for work.

None, including the military.

Name me a single job in the contiguous United States that you have no ability to quit or give notice.

None, including the military.
posted by zombieflanders at 4:41 PM on February 14, 2013


I don't think it is wise though to fall into the trap of myth making that transforms our soldiers to elite supermen better than the civilians who lead them and the population as a whole
Pretty sure I didn't do that. Lemme check and see if I said "firefighters" and "teachers" and stuff.
*checks*
Yup. Looks like I did.

But how, exactly the fuck are MOST Americans getting tenure at the university, being a partner at the law firm, or being an MD in practice?


When I was working in international development, I got shot at.
I've been shot. Could you quit? 'Cause I couldn't. Under fire that warrants execution.
Ever have an IED go off near you? How many funerals have you gone to?
I remember lying in a pool of blood and oil trying to crawl to cover, unable to stand to help my people because my legs don't work thinking "Jesus Christ, please, God I hope I make my number in sales!"

If you plan to be in the middle or upper middle class then you'd better be prepared to have total commitment to your job.

If.

I know that many soldiers serve with distinction and honor. They do their country a service.
Gosh, thanks. Asking for health care just too much then? Pat on the head is enough?
Do you have a point to make that's not condescension?

What is it you have to contribute at all except gainsaying what I have to say?
Anything?
Your solution is what, this guy stay in the Navy 4 more years?
Thanks, that really helps explore the issue.


Name me a single job in the contiguous United States that you have no ability to quit or give notice.
None, including the military.

Pretty sure you don't get in trouble for being AWOL from being an office clerk. You can quit.


Anyone capable of being a soldier could do what they do,


Except they don't. Anyone capable of being a firefighter could do what they do. Not everyone is a firefighter.
There is a qualitative difference between doing a job where you sacrifice for the public good and a job where you work to make money.
Plenty of people choose not to be teachers without biological determinism being involved.

As it happens I do think teachers are special. I think firefighters are special. I think troops are special. I do think anyone who works for something other than making more money is special.
Sure, people could, yeah. Makes it all the worse when they don't.
posted by Smedleyman at 4:59 PM on February 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


"strawman argument made by almost nobody"

Lot of that going around. Simple question - should there be more support for public service workers who are endangered by the nature of their duties?

Do you think the U.S. has shown that support or do you think the U.S. values the private sector services and not paying taxes more than showing that support?

I think the answers are obvious.
And I think that it applies to servicemembers as well.
posted by Smedleyman at 5:22 PM on February 14, 2013


Ever have an IED go off near you? How many funerals have you gone to?
I remember lying in a pool of blood and oil trying to crawl to cover, unable to stand to help my people because my legs don't work thinking "Jesus Christ, please, God I hope I make my number in sales!"


This oneupsmanship shtick is getting kind of old. You don't have to denigrate other people or prove how many people's asses you kicked or could kick to say you were in the military. I thought it was contrary to quiet professionalism and in poor taste to fetishize the violence or boast frat-boy style about how badass you supposedly are.

Pretty sure you don't get in trouble for being AWOL from being an office clerk. You can quit.

You can leave the military, too. It may not be beneficial to you--it often isn't--but the military can not force you to stay.

Except they don't. Anyone capable of being a firefighter could do what they do. Not everyone is a firefighter.
There is a qualitative difference between doing a job where you sacrifice for the public good and a job where you work to make money.
Plenty of people choose not to be teachers without biological determinism being involved.


Which is what I was saying, so...okay?

As it happens I do think teachers are special. I think firefighters are special. I think troops are special. I do think anyone who works for something other than making more money is special.
Sure, people could, yeah. Makes it all the worse when they don't.


Again with the denigration of people for not following certain paths. You do know that you can show respect to some without disrespecting others, right?
posted by zombieflanders at 5:31 PM on February 14, 2013


Lot of that going around.

Show me the opinion polling that says that vast majorities don't consider military service important, then. Otherwise, we're just playing that stupid "both sides are equally bad" game that is almost never true.

Simple question - should there be more support for public service workers who are endangered by the nature of their duties?

Qualify "more support." Do I believe that they deserve, say, quality healthcare provided by the government? Yes, but then again I believe everybody deserves it, although . Do I believe that the rights of others deserve to be minimized in comparison or not brought up to their standards (for example, in the Ohio voting rights debacle that the GOP tried to claim was anti-military)? No.

Do you think the U.S. has shown that support or do you think the U.S. values the private sector services and not paying taxes more than showing that support?

Again, qualify the support and who you mean by the US. It's safe to say that the US as a whole thinks that more support would be a good thing. On the other hand, a large and vocal minority of the US and a not-entirely-representative political system helped by institutional advantages they have given themselves certainly seems to value the private sector and not paying taxes more than showing that support. They just use concepts like "small government" and "free market solutions" as an excuse not to provide that support, even though there is almost no evidence, historical or otherwise, to support their assertions.
posted by zombieflanders at 5:51 PM on February 14, 2013


You don't have to denigrate other people or prove how many people's asses you kicked or could kick to say you were in the military.

So the analogy that being shot at on occasion and/or working hard at a job being just like combat is apt?
'Cause that's what I was making fun of.
But you're right. I shouldn't get snarky. My fault for not communicating clearly.

You can leave the military, too. It may not be beneficial to you--it often isn't--but the military can not force you to stay.

So you genuinely did not know that "can quit" means "can quit without consequences other than losing the job such as going to jail for a long time"?
I mean you get how that is irritating, no? And seems like pointless nitpicking to people on the other end of the argument.

Which is what I was saying, so...okay?

So ok. Same page.

Again with the denigration of people for not following certain paths. You do know that you can show respect to some without disrespecting others, right?


Who's being disrespected? The hypothetical stockbroker or currency trader? Guys like Dick Cheney who had "other priorities'?
I'm not trying to dominate the thread. Only thing I want control over is my own words. Only place I expect validation is on my own experience. It's not the ass I've kicked. It's firsthand experience. I've been in the military. I've been in the private sector. There is more expected from people in the military. But my direct observation is not a "myth created by recruiters and a billon dollar PR budget." See me saying humanfont doesn't know shit about the real truth concerning international development? Nope. See me saying his job wasn't dangerous? Nope. My problem was with his analogy. The sales guy making his quota thing. That idea, yeah, I disrespect. I mock. Ideas for me are fair game. His experience of it, no, I take that seriously.
I sincerely doubt his mind was on quarterly sales figures when he was getting shot at too.

I've worked with NGOs and non-profits as well. The same holds. Not to the level of the threat of jail time, but same expectations of commitment. That is - less pay. Less material benefit all around because you're supposed to derive your reward from aiding the cause.

Again, guy working to support his family, nothing wrong with that at all. Different thing tho.

Show me the opinion polling that says that vast majorities don't consider military service important, then.
I consider military service incredibly important. Wait, no I don't. Not important at all.
See how saying that either way doesn't cost me a dime?

Otherwise, we're just playing that stupid "both sides are equally bad" game that is almost never true.

You're the only one playing it. You think I'm a big Bush fan or something, don't you? You think I've got a cabin loaded with guns and bibles and I love Ted Nugent. You didn't even get my Stripes reference. Bet you didn't even look at the link. No. I really don't care. That's not a dodge or rhetorical trick, more than willing to blame the GOP for a lot of things, but I genuinely don't care who's at fault, just want to see the stuff that's broken get fixed.

Qualify "more support."

Offhand:
9/11 responders wait for compensation for their illnesses.


Do I believe that they deserve, say, quality healthcare provided by the government? Yes,
So, same page.

but then again I believe everybody deserves it, although.

Not everyone is sent into harms way by their government.
See the difference there?

Do I believe that the rights of others deserve to be minimized in comparison or not brought up to their standards (for example, in the Ohio voting rights debacle that the GOP tried to claim was anti-military)? No.
Because that's obviously what I was saying.

Here:
"Right now, it doesn’t really matter to me what dysfunction of our political system caused the failure – again – of the bill that would help the 9/11 workers still suffering. It doesn’t matter to me that it was a Republican failure or a Democratic one. I don’t care if it was a procedural struggle or a political charade to call one another out on unrelated, hot button issues in advance of the mid-term elections in November. It was wrong of us to forsake these amazing workers for this long, and it was wrong this week for Congress to let them down all over again."
Know who said that? Wasn't me. It was Michael Moore. Same point.

Here's those right wingnuts at Mother Jones: "While many Americans believe that all veterans can get care from the VA, even combat veterans may not be able to obtain VA care"

U.S. society as a whole, is willing to pay more money for business folks and tolerate less pay for people in public sector jobs. Often to the detriment of people in those public sector jobs - regardless of political outlook.

We call sports professionals "heroes." We call troops "heroes." Guess who gets paid more?
The words are meaningless. What people say they think is meaningless if it's not backed by action.
Thus the point about Steve Buscimi. You get that's illustrative, no?

I'm all for government health care, in fact more vets would get healthcare along with lower income families under the Affordable Care Act.

But it's one thing to get hurt and not get care from your government, it's another to be sent to do something by your government, get hurt, and not get care from your government.

I'm not looking to denigrate anyone. Military service is simply not like civilian work.

Only the government can admit men and woman into military service and only the government can guarantee that they are covered after they serve.
posted by Smedleyman at 6:46 PM on February 14, 2013


The Navy put out a response.
“Concerning recent writing and reporting on ‘The Shooter’ and his alleged situation, this former SEAL made a deliberate and informed decision to leave the NAVY several years short of Retirement status,” Pybus said. “Months ahead of his separation, he was counseled on status and benefits, and provided with options to continue his career until Retirement eligible. Claims to the contrary in these matters are false.”

Even so, Pybus adds, “Naval Special Warfare and the Navy are prepared to help this former service member address health or transition issues, as we would with other former members.”

Lt. Cmdr. David McKinney, a spokesman for Naval Speical Warfare Command, would not confirm if the subject of the Esquire article was indeed the SEAL who killed bin Laden.

Pybus had more strong words to say in the wake of the Esquire article.

“I am very disappointed with the few people who use their SEAL cachet for self-serving purposes, particularly through falsehoods and certainly when the safety and security of themselves and their active-duty teammates and families are put at risk,” he said. “Most of our former or retired NSW members find a suitable second career without compromising the ideals of their active service — honor, courage and commitment. Most of our veterans with physical or mental health issues get some degree of health care, and we are actively pursuing even better options in this realm. I think we’re doing the things that you would expect from a dedicated, disciplined and trusted force.”
posted by lullaby at 6:47 PM on February 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


And the dark mirror to that myth is that soldiers are nothing special, that anyone could do what they do

Anyone can do what a soldier does and often they do. The majority of those who gave their lives for this nation were conscripts. Just ordinary guys who were rounded up by the draft board and forced to give their lives for your freedom.
posted by humanfont at 7:46 PM on February 14, 2013


Just ordinary guys who were rounded up by the draft board
Yeah, that makes it so much worse. Conscription, then abandonment.

Here's your life back after we've contorted your world view out of alignment with everyone back home. Thanks for getting us the (insert, political win, oil, copper, mineral rights, defense sales), so long suckers.

I hope you know humanfont, my rage is directed at the people who make war, those who apathetically ignore them enough to allow it to perpetuate and those who profit by it.

That makes me truly angry. If it sounded like that malignity which I admit was purposefully in my words, was personally and purposefully directed at you I apologize.

Good soldiers seem to kill themselves. It seems like they're best exploited for whatever purpose of the left or right for whatever points to be made, they die for it.

Lousy ones like me hang around and wind up skewing the profit margin. Although got some value out of me last week.
But I think I empathize with "The Shooter" whiney fuck that he is. Because it just does get to you.
Maybe the people who don't sign up intuit that. Or have parents that talk them out of it.
We were the opposite. My whole family was and is in public service of some kind. Mostly warriors, but a lot of cops and firefighters.
I was a kid my uncle and I were sparing. Big on vale tudo back then my uncle. No rules. A win is determined by who the guy is who's able to walk out of the ring. He would train police in hand to hand, but he was a private citizen. Made his money from being a fighter.

So I asked him, being that I'm learning how to fight, would I be a good cop. Would I make a good soldier?
HELL NO! He said. You'd be sticking your neck out for people who wouldn't piss on you if you caught fire.
posted by Smedleyman at 9:08 PM on February 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


You can leave the military, too. It may not be beneficial to you--it often isn't--but the military can not force you to stay.
USMCJ Article 85
Desertion

Maximum punishment.

(1) Completed or attempted desertion with intent to avoid hazardous duty or to shirk important service. Dishonorable discharge, forfeiture of all pay and allowances, and confinement for 5 years.

(2) Other cases of completed or attempted desertion.

(a) Terminated by apprehension. Dishonorable discharge, forfeiture of all pay and allowances, and confinement for 3 years.
(b) Terminated otherwise. Dishonorable discharge, forfeiture of all pay and allowances, and confinement for 2 years.

(3) In time of war. Death or such other punishment as a court-martial may direct.
In that the consequences range up to execution, no, we agree that it indeed may not be beneficial. I'm not entirely sure what you imagine 'forcing' would entail if not killing someone if they do leave.
posted by jaduncan at 4:01 AM on February 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


None, including the military.

Have you been in the military? Or read the Uniform Code of Military Justice? Because otherwise, your answers sound like some incredibly ignorant shit.

These are actual situations. The one about the marriage? It happened in my unit.

And yes, they can send you to jail for "disrespectful behavior", which can include "looking at them funny."

You'd be sticking your neck out for people who wouldn't piss on you if you caught fire.

Yeah, and don't think that's not a source of bitterness in and of itself. And while they were refusing to piss on you to put the fire out, they'd talk about how their lawyer job is just like military service.
posted by corb at 5:11 AM on February 15, 2013


The UMCJ does not allow for a nonjudicial punishment of bread and water with a duration of two months.

I'm also under the impression that you can also request a dishonorable discharge under many circumstances where you face extended non-judicial punishment.
posted by humanfont at 5:25 AM on February 15, 2013


Correct that you cannot be put on bread and water for more than a few days. Two months was wildly inaccurate. You cannot request a DD to avoid non judicial punishment. A DD is a sentence that only a court martial can impose. You may be thinking of servicembers accepting Other Than Honorable discharges in lieu of a court martial. This is akin to a plea bargain, really, and there can be situations in which NJP could be an option, but the commander opts for a court martial instead, and the member winds up taking an OTH in lieu. But the power rests with the command, who has to make this option available. Enlisted people cannot just quit without risking confinement-there is no option for them to skip the punishment at their own election unless this option is presented to them.
posted by MoonOrb at 6:29 AM on February 15, 2013


Yeah, I was combining the duration of a commanders' arbitrary jail time without trial (which is 2 months) with the bread-and-water time, which is 3 days.

However, the point, which is that even the slightest bit of perceived disrespect can get you jailed with extremely difficult circumstances. Bread and water specifically may be only three days, but they can certainly dictate your other food indefinitely. Not to mention a host of other incredibly demeaning circumstances that would be considered cruel and unusual in civilian prisons.
posted by corb at 7:14 AM on February 15, 2013


Not to mention a host of other incredibly demeaning circumstances

Just ask Bradley Manning.

To the larger issue, it seems that there are swaths of American culture that honor and respect the *idea* of the troops - the troops in abstract, as it were. But when it comes time to dealing with the actual individuals, well, fuck 'em.
posted by rmd1023 at 7:40 AM on February 15, 2013


He is, in fact, having had a deployment, eligible for 5 free years of health care for himself for whatever he wants.

Ah, but what kinds of hoops might he have had to jump through to "prove" his eligibility?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:56 AM on February 15, 2013


Not to mention a host of other incredibly demeaning circumstances that would be considered cruel and unusual in civilian prisons.

It really sucks for all those people who were drafted then, doesn't it. As for the ones who volunteered, well, they chose to do so. Perhaps "as a result of a string of choices that have gone horribly wrong."
posted by the man of twists and turns at 7:57 AM on February 15, 2013


To the larger issue, it seems that there are swaths of American culture that honor and respect the *idea* of the troops - the troops in abstract, as it were. But when it comes time to dealing with the actual individuals, well, fuck 'em.

Nothing new or unique there.
posted by jquinby at 8:00 AM on February 15, 2013


As for the ones who volunteered, well, they chose to do so.

Yes, they did choose to do so. They chose to voluntarily sacrifice their lives and portions of their dignity so that you could sit safe on the internet looking down your nose on them.

Mazel Tov.

Ah, but what kinds of hoops might he have had to jump through to "prove" his eligibility?

Very few to get those 5 years. Most of the bullshit hoops the VA throws up is actually for compensation, rather than for healthcare.
posted by corb at 8:15 AM on February 15, 2013


I'm having a hard time thinking of what kind of military discipline or punishment could be lawfully imposed that would be considered cruel and unusual in civilian prisons.

Bread and water for three days? Hard labor with or without confinement?
posted by MoonOrb at 8:19 AM on February 15, 2013


I'm having a hard time thinking of what kind of military discipline or punishment could be lawfully imposed that would be considered cruel and unusual in civilian prisons.

I think the key is that there are far less legal restrictions to what sort of punishment can be imposed. So the forms of punishment's only limitation is often, short of physical abuse, their imagination - in particular in the Non-Judicial-Punishment world.
posted by corb at 8:28 AM on February 15, 2013


They chose to voluntarily sacrifice their lives and portions of their dignity so that you could sit safe on the internet looking down your nose on them.

Is this a specific "you" directed at me? The nametapes stitched on my Type III uniform don't say "Army," but then I've never been impressed by the other services.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 8:28 AM on February 15, 2013


> They chose to voluntarily sacrifice their lives and portions of their dignity so that you could sit safe on the internet looking down your nose on them.

Ah, the old "we have to kill people overseas to protect your first amendment rights" lie. How many more will die or be disfigured because of this fabrication?
posted by Burhanistan at 8:30 AM on February 15, 2013


Fair enough, but I still cannot think of a type of punishment that would be meted out at NJP that would be considered cruel and unusual in a civilian prison. Also, the servicemembers who are being awarded NJP don't wholly give up their constitutional protections--if punishment is cruel and unusual, it's cruel and unusual. Even if you're a servicemember.

I think you just overstated the case here in your zeal to make your point. I agree with you that military jobs are different than civilian jobs, and I agree with you that you could be physically locked up for giving your boss a dirty look (unlike a civilian who might merely be fired), but I don't see any need for hyperbole here.
posted by MoonOrb at 8:36 AM on February 15, 2013



Ah, the old "we have to kill people overseas to protect your first amendment rights" lie.

Fair enough, but I still cannot think of a type of punishment that would be meted out at NJP that would be considered cruel and unusual in a civilian prison. Also, the servicemembers who are being awarded NJP don't wholly give up their constitutional protections--if punishment is cruel and unusual, it's cruel and unusual. Even if you're a servicemember.

I think part of this is just a fundamental incomprehensibility of understanding in the totality of what military life is like. And it's not even your fault, and I don't blame you, because it's a thing that's really hard to explain.

Military discipline is motherfucking harsh. And there's a reason for it to be harsh - because they want you to obey orders in combat, rather than potentially risk the lives of your fellow soldiers by screwing something up or getting it wrong or questioning the reasons.

But it is harsh in ways that are incredibly complex.

One of the harshest ones is the concept of collective punishment - that if one guy in your entire unit did something, everyone can suffer. Physically, mentally. That it will give everyone else sufficient motivation to "correct you."

Things I can think of off the top of my head? Its' hard, because so much of this was my /life/, occuring for several years, and I wasn't trying to keep score. Does force-feeding someone until they vomit count? Forcing soldiers to hold another girl down, strip and forcibly wash her against her will? Forcing soldiers to consume alcohol past the point when it was safe on pain of punishment? Forcing soldiers not to seek medical treatment? I don't know what you, personally, will think of as cruel and unusual. In fact, I'm barely sure I'm even sure what's cruel and unusual anymore.

And I don't even know if it's wrong or not - because yes, it's effective.

We surrender our humanity. The thing that soldiers sacrifice most is themselves - killing their own conscience so that others don't have to. They shout "kill, kill, kill without mercy" so that people two thousand miles away can convince themselves that they are moral individuals.

And everyone in America is made safer because of it. Everyone lives a more comfortable and rich existence, enjoying the fruits of cheap land and cheap good and cheap production and cheap natural resources. Everyone gets to have their other jobs where they don't have to fight to protect the polis, and they can look down on those rough and tumble, shitty soldiers, who do those shitty moral things, and are totally not superior at all in devoting their lives, their bodies, and their sanity to the service of others.

But I'm going to step out, because it's something that makes me hot. Because those people who gave their lives, their bodies, and their sanity are my friends. Because I attend on average four funerals a year, most to suicide. Some to combat. Some to complications. Because I watch the marriage breakups, the alcoholism, the breakdown of all human relationships. They are the voluntary sacrifices to make this society safe - the blood that brings the corn in. And it makes me sick when I realize how trivial some of the things they gave up everything for are.
posted by corb at 9:02 AM on February 15, 2013


> We surrender our humanity. The thing that soldiers sacrifice most is themselves - killing their own conscience so that others don't have to. They shout "kill, kill, kill without mercy" so that people two thousand miles away can convince themselves that they are moral individuals.

Absolute tripe.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:03 AM on February 15, 2013


I think part of this is just a fundamental incomprehensibility of understanding in the totality of what military life is like. And it's not even your fault, and I don't blame you, because it's a thing that's really hard to explain.

I'm a veteran.

I'm not disputing that NJP can be an awful thing to endure. I think it's hyperbolic to contend that it is something that would be considered cruel and unusual in civilian prisons. I don't think the hyperbole helps advance the point you were trying to make originally, which, in fact, I happen to agree with. And now saying that I fundamentally don't understand military life is silly.

Also, the things you described would be illegal. I'm not saying they don't happen, because illegal things happen everywhere. And to the extent we have commanding officers punishing people by (for example) having other service members strip their clothes off or forcing them to drink excess alcohol, those CO's need to be, at a minimum, relieved of command, and, I'd argue, court-martialed.
posted by MoonOrb at 9:15 AM on February 15, 2013


But I'm going to step out, because it's something that makes me hot. Because those people who gave their lives, their bodies, and their sanity are my friends. Because I attend on average four funerals a year, most to suicide. Some to combat. Some to complications. Because I watch the marriage breakups, the alcoholism, the breakdown of all human relationships. They are the voluntary sacrifices to make this society safe - the blood that brings the corn in. And it makes me sick when I realize how trivial some of the things they gave up everything for are.

Corb: you absolutely should be incensed at how many of your friends are suffering.

But the people you should be turning your anger at are the officials you elected to take care of them, who are letting them down.

You clearly believe that your friends are receiving decent enough health care - but might more of them have been spared this kind of suffering if their health care were better? Just maybe?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:15 AM on February 15, 2013


Corb: you absolutely should be incensed at how many of your friends are suffering.

I can't speak for corb, but I personally am deeply saddened by the suffering of veterans.

What incenses me is the casual dismissal of said suffering by citizens who feel no responsibility for it.

What, exactly, does citizenship mean?
posted by MoTLD at 10:37 AM on February 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Burhanistan: Absolute tripe.

Interesting... I don't believe you know much about killing. So, maybe read up on it then come back and drop in your two cents on the subject.
posted by vonstadler at 11:41 AM on February 15, 2013


The tripe is that second part. I don't doubt that they have to have their conscience removed, but it has nothing to do with me. Making false comparisons on the internet won't change that.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:50 AM on February 15, 2013


The second part - Andrew Bacevich addressed this in The New American Militarism that "Today as never before in their history Americans are enthralled with military power" and that you might be in the minority in this sense, that many 'mericans are feeling morally justified by the Endless War and the need for bigger and better war machines and a steady-state of war. Maybe a sequester will slow this down for a second or two? Or not...

But back to The Shooter... How 'bout a lil' more stfu in the brotherhood?
posted by vonstadler at 12:13 PM on February 15, 2013


They shout "kill, kill, kill without mercy" so that people two thousand miles away can convince themselves that they are moral individuals.

They're making it easy.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 12:55 PM on February 15, 2013


How 'bout a lil' more stfu in the brotherhood?

That's the thing, on the one hand I agree people in general and this guy in particular should stop selling out to the media and hosing their respective communities (Kyle comes to mind here too. As does Ventura, Marcinko, plenty of other people, not to pick on the SEALs)
OTOH there's Benjamin Busch and Pete Blaber who have written books and not become media darlings. Although it's smart to shy away from that as well. zombieflanders accused me of the same. But no one here knows my name. I could be a 14 year old war junkie or a guy who reads a lot of Tom Clancy. And I've taken pains to avoid connections. Rethought doing the MEU-Rome thing too. Too much exposure. And hell, I enjoy writing (well, mostly a buddy of mine making the words purdy).

"The Shooter" seems to be wanting to spread the thing about the problems with healthcare more than trading on his name for money though.
It's a sad truth that his word carries more weight in American culture. I question why Esquire went with him instead of say (off the cuff) one of the guys who rescued Jessica Buchanan and Poul Thisted. Probably because shooting bin Laden was so high profile and so, well, violent.
There are plenty of people no one's ever heard of making sacrifices, doing good work, saving lives. Not even SF guys or intelligence (although Tony Mendez was lionized, particularly after the Ben Affleck film) there's Humanitarian assistance survey teams (f'ing zero press for them), people doing airlifts, core of engineers, medical corps, etc. tons of non-combat operations that routinely save lives.

I don't know. It's pretty easy to be seduced by the media.

Ah, but what kinds of hoops might he have had to jump through to "prove" his eligibility?

This.

That's the core of the thing. In the U.S. health care is a commodity so we think about having to earn it. I don't think anyone should have to prove they deserve medical care. Or have to jump through endless hoops to get it.
In the case of the VA, if we're going to start wars, we should plan to take care of our people after them. But we don't. We take care of someone else.

There's no excuse for the five biggest defense contractors in the U.S. increasing profits by 450 percent since '02, and our government giving them $13 billion in gravy while people bitch that this guy isn't getting his own back enough.
Sure, I don't think he should have aired his dirty laundry in public.
But generally speaking our entire defense industry is a scam and all the risk and effort is dumped on the public and the people who shouldn't have to be jumping through hoops.
posted by Smedleyman at 3:39 PM on February 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


CIA Finds Some Extra Pics of bin Laden’s Corpse Lying Around the Office
posted by homunculus at 4:05 PM on February 15, 2013


Unacceptable wait times worsen for beleagured VA
posted by homunculus at 11:44 AM on February 20, 2013


'The Shooter' On the Hill
posted by homunculus at 10:28 AM on February 23, 2013


U.S. Reviewing Whether SEAL Divulged Secret Raid Details
posted by homunculus at 10:28 AM on February 23, 2013


Soldiers Deployed Overseas Far More Likely to Be Unemployed When They Come Home
posted by homunculus at 4:48 PM on February 25, 2013


Exclusive: Story About Real bin Laden “Shooter”: Film Deal In the Works
posted by jquinby at 12:44 PM on February 27, 2013


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