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Homeless vets from the War on Terror
June 6, 2005 7:24 AM   Subscribe

The National Coalition for Homeless Veterans says soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan are beginning to request help from service providers. Stars & Stripes: "Advocates for the homeless already are seeing veterans from the war on terror living on the street, and say the government must do more to ease their transition from military to civilian life. Boone said the reasons behind the veterans' housing problems are varied: Some have emotional and mental issues from their combat experience, some have trouble finding work after leaving the military, some have health care bills which result in financial distress." Philly.com has more (Reg Req, or view here) on a recently homeless vet from Philadelphia.
posted by jenleigh (110 comments total)

 
Yes. I imagine being a government contract killer who has taken an active role in an illegal and immoral invasion and occupation must be somewhat stressful. The poor dears. My heart is struggling real hard to bleed here.

Here we go again.
posted by Decani at 7:35 AM on June 6, 2005


Decani: please, go fuck yourself. Thanks.
posted by jonmc at 7:42 AM on June 6, 2005


Perhaps not in so many words, and certainly for different reasons, but I'm with jonmc. To me, this is just another sad example of the administration's abuse of the military. Blame the warmongers, not the soldiers.
posted by Faint of Butt at 7:59 AM on June 6, 2005


What's that scent? Is it the first whiff of a sweet and fulfilling thread foreshadowing a thrilling new flavour sensation ready to explode across our intellectual taste buds? Or is it a turd in a bun.
posted by biffa at 8:02 AM on June 6, 2005


Apart from echoing jonmc's sentiments to Decani's near non-sequitur (a Paris of the left perhaps?....ok, sorry, that was low) , I'd point out that one of the problems of military life is they do not teach self-sufficiency.
When I got out and went to college I was much older than the - I won't call them kids - but students around me. They expected me to know everything like doing laundry, how to cook, etc. Before I went in my mom took care of that, while I was in other servicemen took care of that (although I could spit shine & press creases & make my bed quickly and really well) so although I knew extremely complex combat related things as well as how to eat just about anything in the wilderness, I had a hard time adjusting to life in a small town just doing things for myself.
Men leaving the service are analogous to women leaving a bad relationship. The military fosters dependancy on them. Perhaps not with the same intent, but certainly the same result that you really don't know how to take care of yourself. Couple that with combat stress and the natural alienation you feel (took me about 12 years to relearn how to relate to people on a simple human level) and you have these kinds of problems.
I'd love to see life skills taught in the service. Hell, even ex-cons get halfway houses.
posted by Smedleyman at 8:03 AM on June 6, 2005


actually your response tells me your reasons are the same as mine. And if I was over the top, I apologize, but the cutesy-ass tone of the comment tells me that's the kind of response decani was looking for.
posted by jonmc at 8:03 AM on June 6, 2005


Decani, try to remember that (most) everybody is human, regardless of who they work for or what they do for a living. Hating on the politicians who set up the whole mess is fine, especially those too craven and cowardly to ever serve in the military themselves.

But the majority of servicemen/women are blue-collar, average Americans. Are some of them violent white-trash gun nuts? Sure. But more of them are there because they honestly feel obligated to defend their country, or because they're down on their luck and found the military to be a good option for supporting themselves and their family, or (to put it bluntly) because they're not smart enough to get a well-paying civilian job.

That doesn't mean they're "contract killers" or, as you imply, that they're all gleefully out killing innocents in the name of Uncle Sam. Again, yes, some are, but to paint with such a broad brush just makes you look ignorant and small-minded.

Viewing the world as just black and white makes you no better (at least on a philosophical level) than the Bushites and their ilk. Again...everyone's human, even the "bad guys", and to think otherwise is to belittle them and yourself.
posted by cyrusdogstar at 8:05 AM on June 6, 2005


biffa --- wha?

Also, I'd add it goes without saying that a lot of these guys are fresh out of high school, know only what Uncle Sam taught them, and if their job (MOS, Rate, whathaveyou) was combat related, there aren't a lot of civilian occupations you can get (on top of the wonderful unemployment rates).
posted by Smedleyman at 8:08 AM on June 6, 2005


That was an excellent comment, Smedleyman. Your idea of halfway houses for soldiers rejoining civilian society is brilliant and would undoubtedly reduce the number of troubled and unemployed veterans. Of course, it wouldn't profit Halliburton any, so the administration would never go for it.
posted by Faint of Butt at 8:19 AM on June 6, 2005


on top of the wonderful unemployment rates

...and the base closures.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 8:20 AM on June 6, 2005


I have been saving old tennis shoes to send to Iraq to, you know, SUPPORT THE TROOPS. But now I guess I should send the old tennis shoes to the White House. To, you know, SUPPORT THE TROOPS.

Homeless veterans sleeping on sidewalks? Bush said we don't need more troops on the ground but I guess he only meant Iraq.
posted by surplus at 8:21 AM on June 6, 2005


A good friend of mine just got back from Iraq last week. He has foot problems, back problems, and shoulder problems, and he was one tick on a checklist away from having to have a suicide watch. And he considers himself to be in well above-average shape compared to the other guys in his unit.

We, and especially they, will be paying for this little "war" for decades.
posted by gurple at 8:32 AM on June 6, 2005


We, and especially they, will be paying for this little "war" for decades.

We, and especially they, will be fighting this little "war" for decades.
posted by The Dryyyyy Cracker at 8:44 AM on June 6, 2005


Decani writes "Yes. I imagine being a government contract killer who has taken an active role in an illegal and immoral invasion and occupation must be somewhat stressful. The poor dears. My heart is struggling real hard to bleed here."

Are you serious? That's one of the most offensive comments I've read here in a while and I agree with everything you said about the war.

It seems to me that we do a horrible job of this in the US. Does anyone know how it works in other countries?
posted by OmieWise at 8:46 AM on June 6, 2005


Here's a paper about the French use of Moroccan militias and the problems of post-fighting reintegration into Moroccan society.It's a Google cache link to html and a pdf. (The reintegration stuff is the last section of the paper.)
posted by OmieWise at 8:49 AM on June 6, 2005


There are also quite a few homeless vets from the first Gulf War.
I live a block away from a shelter and I run into dozens of homeless guys every day. The majority of them are NOT the "ranting at the sky-wearing everything they own-stink like 40z-big beard-nutcase" kind of homeless. Most of them are really tweaked out vets. They're tweaked from having been in the war and from living on the streets.
From having talked to them (no scientific study here, at all), the majority situation seems to be:
These guys know that there's some address that their disability checks are being sent but, often, they don't have access. Their debt, medical bills, etc are too much to put a dent in with their government checks. They'd work but their too disabled or too mentally unbalanced to hold down a job. On top of that, there's not a whole lot of support structure. They can go to veterans services, they can get their disability checks, but they'll still be in debt, they'll still be homeless, and they'll still be incapable.

When I saw footage and interviews of wounded troops recovering from Iraq and Afghanistan, I saw these broken guys, becoming dependant on their painkillers, with obvious psychological trauma (at the worst) and terrible depression (at best). I thought, "This war is creating the next generation of the homeless."

After WWII, there was something for troops to come back to. The GI bill still sent people to college, there was cheap suburban housing, and there were plenty of jobs to be filled (since everyone had been overseas).
Since Vietnam, there really hasn't been much for vets to come home to. A smaller portion of the population is involved in these wars. And, on an economic scale, they're not missed. The troops just aren't coming home to enough. A homecooked meal and a pat on the back just isn't enough. If someone comes home from war with a physical or psychological injury, the government owes them SO much.
posted by Jon-o at 8:56 AM on June 6, 2005


Dacani: Yeah, having zero understanding of your fellow man is about the same as being a government contract killer, on the morality scale. Actually I place it much lower, because sometimes a government is just in waging war, but having no understanding is always failing your gift of humanity.

I think the bottom line problem is the same regardless of whether it's a veteran out on the street, or a college dropout, or a drug addict,..., which is, we have a really difficult time actually making use of our most precious resource--human beings--these days. And when we have no use for a person, the provision of subsistence is shoddy, and worse yet, you have people placing that provision under philosophical attack, as if giving someone some soup and a place to sleep and take a shower, get clean clothing, is the biggest drain on our resources. Wow.

Seriously, I always bear in mind the Sistine Chapel ceiling, with God giving the gift of life and imparting divinity to man, that's any of us. Even someone smacked out on heroin he bought giving a blow job (0.0000001% of the cases, but we deal in our fears, not the most likely scenarios) But yeah, that's any of us have this divine gift of humanity, and our Harvard MBAs are too busy trying to figure out exactly how to fit the picture of a crew cut job applicant, to take a risk trying to solve a real human resources management problem.
posted by nervousfritz at 9:01 AM on June 6, 2005


Here's the testimony from the House Committe on Veteran's Affairs Hearing on the Status of Department of Veterans Affairs’ Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) programs.
There is debate. This MD thinks the problem is likely to be severe:
Information from a variety of other sources confirms a growing mental health problem among recent combatants. United Press International recently reported that 10% of the 12,000 soldiers evacuated through the military medical center at Landstuhl, Germany had "psychiatric or behavioral health issues." On February 19, 2004, the Washington Post reported that nearly 600 Army soldiers from Iraq were sent to mental health treatment facilities last year. Based on information provided by DoD on February 12, 2004, VA's Office of Public Health and Environmental Hazards reports that over 13,000 Iraqi Freedom veterans and nearly 1,800 Enduring Freedom veterans have already presented to VA Medical Centers for a variety of health concerns. Another 4,500 have contacted Vet Centers as of March. Of these 4,500, 12% have reported symptoms consistent with psychological trauma.
This AEI scholar is dubious (what a surprise):
It is generally put forth as an established truth — that roughly one-third of returnees from Vietnam suffered PTSD. This is at best debatable, given that fifteen percent were assigned to combat units. As we try to help the soldiers of Operation Iraqi Freedom meld back into society, it would be a mistake to rely too heavily on the conventional wisdom about Vietnam.
posted by OmieWise at 9:02 AM on June 6, 2005


I'm waiting for the National Coalition for Homeless Government Contractors...

Advocates for the homeless already are seeing veterans government contractors from the war on terror Haliburton war for profits living on the street, and say the government must do more to ease their transition from military high paid war profiteering to civilian life. Boone Cheney said the reasons behind the veterans' contractors' housing problems are varied: Some have emotional and mental issues from their combat experience getting caught defrauding the government, some have trouble finding work that pays anywhere near as well after leaving the military Haliburton. "The strain of stuffing their wallets with so much taxpayer money has created real problems adjusting to normal life," Cheney added.
posted by three blind mice at 9:04 AM on June 6, 2005


So when do they march on Washington?

I mean Decani, if you can't feel any human compassion for these scarred, scared, and ill-used young men, at least consider that they all are trained to shoot guns in organized groups and your own self-interest in seeing that they don't remember that.
posted by orthogonality at 9:31 AM on June 6, 2005


Unfortunately this isn't new. I remember being a kid (the early 70's, so I guess these would be people who served in Viet Nam) and seeing many homeless vets or war amputees. I would think that Smedleyman is probably correct on some of the whys.

I don't agree with the war, but I won't villify the troops. I find it sickening that people will heap contempt on these people.

I don't know how to put this well into words, but I don't see much difference in the blind hatred that some of the left has towards returning troops and the blind hatred that some of the right has towards middle easterners. The blind hatred led to the jingoism that made it seem like a great idea to start the war in the first place. The same blind hatred by a different part of the population is going to be used to harm these people.
posted by substrate at 10:12 AM on June 6, 2005


Unfortunately this isn't new. I remember being a kid (the early 70's, so I guess these would be people who served in Viet Nam) and seeing many homeless vets or war amputees. I would think that Smedleyman is probably correct on some of the whys.

I don't agree with the war, but I won't villify the troops. I find it sickening that people will heap contempt on these people.

I don't know how to put this well into words, but I don't see much difference in the blind hatred that some of the left has towards returning troops and the blind hatred that some of the right has towards middle easterners. The blind hatred led to the jingoism that made it seem like a great idea to start the war in the first place. The same blind hatred by a different part of the population is going to be used to harm these people.

(posting without spellcheck to escape the vicious jrun)
posted by substrate at 10:24 AM on June 6, 2005


Crap, sorry about the double post. It errored out and metafilter was unreachable for some time. I saw it was back up and I posted.
posted by substrate at 10:25 AM on June 6, 2005


about the double post. (joking)
Anyone recall the first thread posted regarding the subject?
I would like to compare the #s with today's post.
posted by thomcatspike at 12:20 PM on June 6, 2005


If you want to help homeless veterans, you can't do much better than to donate time and money to New Directions. I've toured their facility here in Southern California, and met with their Executive Director, and I can't speak highly enough of the work they do.
posted by Space Kitty at 12:25 PM on June 6, 2005


I don't know how to put this well into words, but I don't see much difference in the blind hatred that some of the left has towards returning troops and the blind hatred that some of the right has towards middle easterners.

Well, one group took a job where part of the description was killing people or helping others kill people. The other group just happened to be born in a particular part of the world. You know, once on the BBC, I heard an an interview with this guy from an African country that I cannot recall--maybe Ethiopia--who worked his ass off to get money to pay for being smuggled into Italy, where he lived on the streets, because he refused to go into the army and kill others and would have been executed if he hadn't fled. For me, that guy is more of a hero than anyone else I've ever heard of--that's respect for humanity.

Overall, I agree with nervousfritz: everyone deserves help getting back onto his feet. But acting like it is a bigger travesty or that someone is more deserving of help because he willingly took a job killing people kinda gets me hivey.
posted by dame at 12:32 PM on June 6, 2005


These kids are getting fucked. If the left ever wants to be valid again it had better be the soldiers best advocate and voice. Here is the left's chance.

If not. Say hello President Frist.

Are some of them violent white-trash gun nuts?

Not to put too fine a point on it but THIS is a simple minded statement as well. "White" -trash? Gun nuts? What the hell does that mean? Like there are no poor black guys with guns running around? Or is only white guys that deserve derision? You may wanna check that knee jerking.

BTW. You guys just got sooooo trolled by the ever predictable Decani.

Decani. Your a pretentious little coward. But I got a give it to you. You sure can rile the crowd.
posted by tkchrist at 1:26 PM on June 6, 2005


"that someone is more deserving of help because he willingly took a job killing people kinda gets me hivey."
Your hiveyness is understood, dame. And not to go Col. Jessup on you, but there are folks out there, but for the bastards killing them, that would kill or enslave you.
Understand, I am not arguing about the larger picture here, the rightness or wrongness of any particular war, only the individual choice, specifically American service members, make.
While I might agree, being a 'babykilling' bastard myself, that there are people who have superior respect for humanity and certainly individuals more deserving of the appelation 'hero' (MLK perhaps or certainly Mother Theresa) I would disagree that this Ethiopian of which you speak is more worthy and individual just because he chose not to do something which takes lives. Could we then take the most lilly livered of cringing fawning live on our knees milquetoast and laud him as the most worthy of men - superior to the bloody mudfoot who decides he doesn't want to see the life and liberty of his family or friends or countrymen perverted and swears an oath to defend the ideals of democracy with his life or sacrifices his humanity by killing others who seek to destroy his ideas, his people, his home.
We who have so sworn place ourselves between war's desolation and those at home, SO THEY DO NOT HAVE TO KILL.
So they can remain relative innocents. So they can revile us as the monsters we become in their name because that is the sacrifice we make. We transform ourselves from fat, dumb, and happy couch potatoes and we become the bloody murdering bastards, so you don't have to be.
Your welcome.

Certainly this is not true of all soldiers in all armies, but I'm speaking about Americans. And certainly there are bad American soldiers. And certainly this administration leaves a lot to be desired, but as a whole, any common American trooper, is vastly superior to the alternative of chaos or rule by charisma or might or any other brand of tyrrany out there. You may feel as you will, but don't compare a man who chooses not to make such a sacrifice to one who will. Your Ethiopean fled. He did not dig in and fight for his ideals. He did not kill for them. He did not die for them.
He. Fucking. Left.
Some men have families, friends, or at least principles, and will not abandon them to the certainty or the comfort of peace no matter how distateful the alternative.
On your feet or on your knees? Simple choice.
posted by Smedleyman at 1:56 PM on June 6, 2005


Faint of Butt is right about Smedleyman being right!
The big thing is, you get a bunch of business types in charge as opposed to the more civic minded (vets of course, but anything that requires some self-sacrifice, peace corps, charity work, etc) and there suddenly becomes this shift away from caring at all about labor.
In this case 'labor' is the troops. And like any corporate enterprise are the enemy - to be given only accolades, which do not affect the bottom line. Of course, try and tell them that it's not about the bottom line and suddenly your 'crazy' like McCain or a 'pussy' who got 'easy' purple hearts like Kerry.

"Since Vietnam, there really hasn't been much for vets to come home to."
At some point they will start joining some of the organizations out there that exist to help them (DAV, Amer. Legion, etc. etc) When that happens...well, you don't want to have a hassle with folks who know how to use arms. + what orthogonality said
posted by Smedleyman at 2:04 PM on June 6, 2005


They can go to veterans services, they can get their disability checks, but they'll still be in debt, they'll still be homeless, and they'll still be incapable.

Well, why don't they just file for bankrupsy?

Oh, wait, yeah.

Can their veterans's checks be garnished? That seems somewhat fucked up.
posted by delmoi at 3:02 PM on June 6, 2005


Overall, I agree with nervousfritz: everyone deserves help getting back onto his feet. But acting like it is a bigger travesty or that someone is more deserving of help because he willingly took a job killing people kinda gets me hivey.

Permission to remain hivey granted!

Seriously though, I think that this is a special case because these people were employed by the state, not that they willingly took jobs to kill people. They were employed by the state - that is, by all of us - and then discarded when we were done with them. They are more deserving of help because we, as a society, took more responsibility for them when we hired them.

And as a former soldier, I met very few people who joined to be professional killers, or who wanted to kill anyone. If you watch the TV ads for any armed service, or talk to a recruiter, you probably won't hear too much about killing anyone. Many, many people joined with the relatively reasonable expectation that they would never see combat, and they were willing to risk this to pay for a college education. When I joined, it was near the end of the Cold War, where the expectation was that if we ever did see combat, there wouldn't be much fighting with all the nukes going off around us. So, many people turned a blind eye to the possibility that they'd actually have to fight. Many people in Iraq now likely joined before 2001, and have been kept in service by stop loss. My coworker has been to Iraq three times already - once in the first Gulf War, twice since. He didn't see those second two tours coming, let me tell you! D'oh!

And for active-duty servicemen, there simply isn't much preparation for life after service. This has two effects - first, it makes the likelihood of homelessness or other bad things a lot higher, and second, it encourages people to reenlist when they otherwise might not.
posted by me & my monkey at 5:38 PM on June 6, 2005


Sources for information on psychological effects. From the Office of Medical History [PDFs], Operation Desert Storm and the Gulf War. In particular -
Psychiatric Debriefing Following Operation Desert Shield/Storm
The "New Jersey Psychologists Care" Program: Statewide Support for Desert Shield/Storm Families
posted by tellurian at 8:03 PM on June 6, 2005


Oh, so it's about compassion for these poor soldiers who joined the service just to make a few bucks, and ended up in over their heads.

Here's a suggestion. When it becomes apparent you have to do something immoral to make those bucks, like invade another country and potentially kill or die for the flimsiest of fucking pretenses, try this revolutionary idea: walk up to the nearest officer and say "No, I won't do it."

We who do the day-to-day dirty (and yet spiritual work) of actually caring for these government contract workers (killing and dying for a fool's errand, the illegal and immoral invasion and occupation of another country) do feel enormous compassion and an understanding of their plight as young, foolhardy, inexperienced, eager-to-follow, fearful-of-challenging-authority, sentient beings.

However, that doesn't change the plain fact that they offered themselves in ignorance as tools, and that, sadly, is what they largely became. Those who wield the tools bear a greater responsibility, but those who sink to the level of merely "following orders" must bear guilt as well.

And they deserve a healing from that guilt, as well as every other wound. There are many. I'm not sure my own compassion extends much to their fruitcake leaders and their moronic supporters.

I'm still working on that.

We who have so sworn place ourselves between war's desolation and those at home, SO THEY DO NOT HAVE TO KILL.

Horseshit. Silly and outright fiction, and one self-servingly bleated by soldiers and their leaders since the beginning of time. You create far more problems than you ever solve. Violence has not and never will destroy violence. It is merely the knee-jerk reaction of the simple-minded and the craven, who, in their fear, lash out in a cycle as old as humanity.

And the rest of us are left to clean up after the idiocy of gutless, endless military violence. We will live in the shadow of endless future cycles of violence, all because a certain subset of humans foolishly command violence from those willing to still their own consciences, and be good, weak-willed followers.

Thanks, but no thanks. Sorry, but dame's "Ethiopian" has more guts than any soldier will ever have.
posted by fold_and_mutilate at 10:37 PM on June 6, 2005


That title cracks me up: "Homeless vets from the War on Terror." Since when did we start calling it that with a straight face?

Can someone tell me why this particular group of gullible kids is more worthy of food, shelter and dignity than anyone else? Is it because they were fooled or because they killed innocents that we owe them? I feel bad everytime I see a homeless person. The shabby treatment of these "heroes" at the hands of a goverment that used and discarded them doesn't surprise me. Yet, I don't feel any more sympathy for these particular people just because they agreed to be corporate gladiators. Somewhat the opposite, I'm afraid, despite the fact that this response is irrational and unfair.
posted by squirrel at 12:53 AM on June 7, 2005


A number of responses would seem to be in order, so here goes.


Decani: please, go fuck yourself. Thanks.

I'll pass, actually. I'm not my type.

Blame the warmongers, not the soldiers.

Why? Because they're only obeying orders (sometimes)? I seem to have heard that argument for excusing vile behaviour somewhere else. No, I'll blame both the architects and the perpetrators of immoral acts, actually.

Decani, try to remember that (most) everybody is human, regardless of who they work for or what they do for a living.

I never forgot that, and I don't think anything in my initial comment suggests I regard the military personnel engaged in the current conflicts as being non-human. I regard them as being humans who are perpetrating immoral and criminal acts.

Are you serious? That's one of the most offensive comments I've read here in a while

Absolutely serious, I'm afraid. I realise that refusing to join in with the "Support the Troops" mantra is offensive to many, but I value honesty over self-censorship, and what the troops are doing in Iraq and Afghanistan offends me far more than the mere expression of a distasteful opinion. By a long way. I'm prepared to put up with the predictable personal abuse expressing such an unpopular view inevitably attracts.

Yeah, having zero understanding of your fellow man is about the same as being a government contract killer, on the morality scale.

An interesting, if entirely deranged viewpoint.

Decani. Your a pretentious little coward.

A coward? Why do you say that? I assume you think you know quite a lot about me, and what I've done in my life. I'd be interested to know what causes you to declare that I lack courage. I'm always willing to consider ways in which I might improve myself.

That doesn't mean they're "contract killers"

No indeed. What makes them contract killers is the fact that they signed a contract agreeing to perform a role which might include killing on command. See?

or, as you imply, that they're all gleefully out killing innocents in the name of Uncle Sam.

I implied no such thing.
posted by Decani at 9:23 AM on June 7, 2005


Here's a suggestion. When it becomes apparent you have to do something immoral to make those bucks, like invade another country and potentially kill or die for the flimsiest of fucking pretenses, try this revolutionary idea: walk up to the nearest officer and say "No, I won't do it."

That's an easy suggestion to make, but harder to do. Military prison is still prison, and most people's morality isn't as easily distilled as yours is. Many people in the US military have an implicit understanding that they are there to defend their country and perform moral actions, and that they won't be ordered to perform immoral actions. They aren't given the tools or the time to evaluate everything as it comes along, but must rely on the understanding that they will not be ordered to do bad things. The military is not an occupation that rewards contemplation.

Violence has not and never will destroy violence.

That's absurd. Violence prevents violence very well, all the time. You may find that unpleasant, but a cursory reading of history demonstrates that it is undeniably true. Thanks to violence, no one's making lampshades from human skin in Europe.

Yet, I don't feel any more sympathy for these particular people just because they agreed to be corporate gladiators.

You might think that military service is agreeing to be a corporate gladiator, whatever that is. Others disagree. But in either case, these are people that provided service to their state and society, which should not discard them after they're no longer needed.

What makes them contract killers is the fact that they signed a contract agreeing to perform a role which might include killing on command.

By that logic, you must also think poorly of policemen, since they may find themselves in the same job predicament. Obviously, in the first case, you think that we could simply do without any military force. Do you also think that we could do without civil law enforcement?
posted by me & my monkey at 10:00 AM on June 7, 2005


By that logic, you must also think poorly of policemen, since they may find themselves in the same job predicament.

Rather than respond to your red herring, would you be so kind as to say directly whether you find "that logic" flawed or not? And if so, in what way?

Obviously, in the first case, you think that we could simply do without any military force. Do you also think that we could do without civil law enforcement?

No, I don't. I do, however, think we could do without grotesquely obvious straw men in argument. What a happy day it would be should that ever come to pass.
posted by Decani at 11:04 AM on June 7, 2005


I'd be interested to know what causes you to declare that I lack courage.

Because, as the son of a soldier, the brother of a soldier, and a former soldier - I'd like to see you have to balls to say your bullshit about being amoral contract killers to my face. Pussy.

Let me know when your in Seattle.
posted by tkchrist at 12:10 PM on June 7, 2005


Rather than respond to your red herring, would you be so kind as to say directly whether you find "that logic" flawed or not? And if so, in what way?

The logic may be perfect, but I maintain that the premises are flawed. Without correct premises, perfect logic is useless. That's the whole point of my asking you whether you thought the two things were logically consistent. I don't see why it's a red herring, either. Or a straw man. You're certainly up to date with your rhetorical buzzwords, though, and I commend you for that. But your usage is sadly misplaced - I'm simply trying to find out what exactly it means to be a "contract killer" and whether being one is necessarily immoral, by your lights. Why not just answer the question in a straightforward manner?

Because, as the son of a soldier, the brother of a soldier, and a former soldier - I'd like to see you have to balls to say your bullshit about being amoral contract killers to my face.

As the son of a soldier and a former soldier myself, I would say it takes more balls to let someone speak their mind than to punch them out for doing so. You served to protect the freedom of speech that Decani enjoys now.
posted by me & my monkey at 12:47 PM on June 7, 2005


me & my monkey writes "As the son of a soldier and a former soldier myself, I would say it takes more balls to let someone speak their mind than to punch them out for doing so. You served to protect the freedom of speech that Decani enjoys now."

Well said.
posted by terrapin at 1:18 PM on June 7, 2005


Violence has not and never will destroy violence.

That's absurd. Violence prevents violence very well, all the time. You may find that unpleasant, but a cursory reading of history demonstrates that it is undeniably true. Thanks to violence, no one's making lampshades from human skin in Europe.


Well, the argument is that without the violence of the First World War, there would not have been the historical condidions to enable the Holocaust, and that war would not have begun without the violent assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, etc. Now, you would retort that people are violent, so it is all silly utopianism, and I would say nothing will change until people are willing to make that change personally, so I will make that change and avoid violence and condemn violence done in my name.

I don't know who is right in this circumstance. Obviously I think I am, but I don't really know.

I've been thinking a lot about Switzerland lately. I don't really know anything about it, but I'm intrigued by the notion of a principled neutrality. It seems to have worked well for them. We won't fuck with you if you don't directly invade us, but we'll be prepared. If that was the case, I think I might be able to respect the military. (I still probably wouldn't kill anyone, even to save myself, because I don't think I could live myself, but that is an extreme and totally personal view.) As it is, I think anyone with a basic grasp of American history should know that joining the American military means you will be ordered to do immoral things at the behest of people and corporations concerned only with themselves.

I know one objection to neutrality is the idea that you're letting other people suffer to maintain your conscience, but I am not convinced that freedom brought at the end of a bayonet is freedom or that it is a good way to create any sort of free society.

And Smedleyman, the "Ethiopian" left his entire life behind because to him not killing was worth that much. I know that isn't your set of values, but I wish you could imagine that for some people living on your knees is being forced to kill people.
posted by dame at 1:18 PM on June 7, 2005


As the son of a soldier and a former soldier myself, I would say it takes more balls to let someone speak their mind than to punch them out for doing so. You served to protect the freedom of speech that Decani enjoys now.

Maybe. But I think he's in the UK. So I didn't do shit for him.

It has been my experience that these anonymous absolutists who go about making such stupid elitist pronouncements tend to be no-shows when called out.

He DOESN'T have the balls to say shit like that to a soldier's face and he knows it. And you know it.

He asked what evidence I have he is a coward. There it is. Stop preaching to the choir, anonymous, and step up to ME. Tell ME I'm amoral. Yes. He has a right to opinions. NOBODY will listen to him if all he does is bitch.

He really thinks that bitching about the world will change it. You and I both know sometimes evil motherfuckers got to die to change things. It won't bring utopia. It won't make the world perfect. And innocent blood is always spilt in the process. But that is history. Now. Yesterday. Tomorrow.

The Decani's of the world secretly relish their powerlessness. See. They will never have to DO anything. Put nothing on the line. Let everybody else do it. Do nothing but bitch.

By alienating the people who kill and DIE for them they virtually guarantee progressive values will remain inert and ignored. Those guys that have the guns and the will to sacrifice themselves are the ones that have ALWAYS led progressive changes.

But they will sure as shit not listen to Decani.
posted by tkchrist at 1:42 PM on June 7, 2005


tkchrist writes "He asked what evidence I have he is a coward. There it is."

Or it could be he isn't sitting in front of his computer monitor hitting refresh every 30 seconds.
posted by terrapin at 1:48 PM on June 7, 2005


Now, you would retort that people are violent, so it is all silly utopianism, and I would say nothing will change until people are willing to make that change personally, so I will make that change and avoid violence and condemn violence done in my name.

There it is. There is the fallacy. Your philosophy requires every single person in the entire world to miraculously change. Some how you have to alter the entire history of human behavior, political communities and self-interests.

Now. Seriously. How likely is that? So if only 1% percent of the world population decides to tell you to go fuck yourself and wants rape your daughter, steal you possessions, and run you from your home. With no threat of violence what are you gonna do to protect yourself from that 1%? BTW. That 1% is a shit load of people.

The only other solution - sans violence - is some huge authority that controls peoples behavior so that wont have to change - simply obey. That isn't to fun either.

So how? How does this massive and historical personal transformation of human consciousness take place? And how long does it take?

I'm sorry. Violence DOES work.
posted by tkchrist at 1:52 PM on June 7, 2005


Or it could be he isn't sitting in front of his computer monitor hitting refresh every 30 seconds.

Oh yeah? Well. It's 45 seconds, smart ass.
posted by tkchrist at 1:55 PM on June 7, 2005


tkchrist writes "Oh yeah? Well. It's 45 seconds, smart ass."

Ut oh. Guess I'm next in line for an ass wuppin'.
posted by terrapin at 2:02 PM on June 7, 2005


Guess I'm next in line for an ass wuppin'.
Nah. You got about 347 people in line ahead of you. Right after Ashton Kutcher.
posted by tkchrist at 2:16 PM on June 7, 2005


"Here's a suggestion. When it becomes apparent you have to do something immoral to make those bucks, like invade another country and potentially kill or die for the flimsiest of fucking pretenses, try this revolutionary idea: walk up to the nearest officer and say "No, I won't do it."
Here's a suggestion. When it becomes apparent men with guns attempt to exterminate your people based on a creed or what some nut said 1000 years ago, just say "No." Yeah. That'll work. Scare off those Nazis right away.
Speaking of which lots of genocides going on in Ethiopia right now....good thing dame's Ethiopian is kicking back in Italy, right? What a hero.

"so I will make that change and avoid violence and condemn violence done in my name"
Fucking Duh.

Here's a further suggestion: Read what people write fold_and_mutilate.
Nowhere did I advocate "endless military violence" nor did I advocate being a follower. My response was to the Ethiopian comparison and what men sign up for it was divorced from any particular situation. Perhaps I didn't fully qualify it. Do I think the current Iraq war is b.s.? Yep (a qualified yep). Does it have any bearing on what I wrote? Nope.
Anyone who disagrees with the current situation in Iraq and is a soldier should on principle refuse to take part in it. Does this mean desertion? No.
My assertion is simply that you should fight for your principles, if this can be achieved through non-violent means so much the better.
When it can't, the state hires men who are willing to become as you poorly echoed Thoreau - tools of the state.
That's the sacrifice. Not running and hiding like a coward. Or preaching non-violence as the only possible means. I certainly agree with force as a fallacious argument, but it is one to which there is ultimately no retort without engaging in it oneself.
Some people will use force. That others seek to prevent them from using it is not a flaw.
Courage is not the only or best virtue, but it's the only one that makes the other virtues possible.

"Whenever any form of government becomes destructive of ... [Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness], it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government."
How would you suggest they then do that? Ask politely? Starve themselves? If it works it works. Sometimes it doesn't work.

So I'll see your Ethiopian runner and raise you an Indian:
"Abstract truth has no value unless it incarnates in human beings who represent it, by proving their readiness to die for it."
Ghandi was the soul of passive resistance, but many, many Indians died for their ideals.
I am not saying one must fight with weapons alone, but one must be willing to sacrifice and/or die or there can be no change.
The Ethiopian wasn't. Clearly.
 
Men who sign up are willing to die for what they believe in. They are willing to kill. That this willingness is misdirected is certainly a crime. They are not omniscient however. Nor do they have the perfect moral reasoning or the limitless mercy or the boundless energy devoted to peace and understanding as you certainly seem to possess.
An understanding which, if I infer correctly, would place the welfare of a homeless derelict drunk over that of a homeless veteran. Or, more certainly, that of an Ethiopian who recognizes and runs from a situation rather than staying and possibly dying to remedy it as opposed to a person who is willing to lay down their life, but does not see the correct path.
In short then- it is intellect or an informed outlook not self-sacrifice which is the greater virtue?
(If so, I wouldn't want to be your child)

Insofar as your "weak willed followers" comment and the Ethiopian who left his entire life behind because to him not killing was worth that much (and - to reiterate - I'm not talking about killing I'm talking about fighting) - I'd throw more Ghandi at you:
"There are times when you have to obey a call which is the highest of all, i.e. the voice of conscience even though such obedience may cost many a bitter tear, and even more, separation from friends, from family, from the state to which you may belong, from all that you have held as dear as life itself. For this obedience is the law of our being."

You might think this supports the Ethiopian's point but again, I'm arguing the desire and will to sacrifice oneself as a superior morality - in the above quoted Roman sense, oft embodied by those who choose to serve - not the uses of soldiers & cadre in the interests of nationalism or the legitimacy of violence for those or purposes other than defense (certainly not initiation of violence). And by service, I mean service to one's country and fellow men, whether by violence or other means. For example: I respect John Kerry for his service, I respect him that much more for what he did when he came home.

But of course, feel free to infer your own outlook without regarding my argument, or focus tightly on one marginal line of thinking or simply disregard or carefully misunderstand what I'm saying, write it off as the self-serving bleating of "outright fiction" and go on your merry way believing in the superiority of those who are far to intelligent and well-informed to do anything as cowardly as throw themselves between danger and the greater good.

Me, I've been there. And like many others it has made me far more committed to ending the necessity for it and destroying those who pervert the desire for self-sacrifice for their own ends.

But because these men don't have the supreme intellect and flawless clarity to know for certain dispite being deluged by media to the contrary that the war in Iraq was illegal and immoral, etc...like oh so many of us here - because they lack the absolute proof of this, they actually deserve LESS compassion than someone who is just as drunk or hopeless or crazy & homeless but utterly lacking in a conscience to get them into those dire straits?
So - piss on 'em because they wanted to serve.

Nice ethos there.

(Not that, again, I expect this to be read. It is admittedly too long. But I felt the point had to be made clear. And not that I pulled that off.)
+ tkchrist said - it is frustrating.
But : + what me & my monkey said. Free speech rules.
posted by Smedleyman at 2:18 PM on June 7, 2005


Note: all "you"s etc. in the general sense of course. For all I know we're all working for charities & NGO's like Doctors without boarders, etc.
posted by Smedleyman at 2:23 PM on June 7, 2005


Word. Smed. Word.

BTW. You know that Ghandi was IN the British Army? In 1906, he joined the military with a rank of Sergeant-Major and actively participated in the war against black africans.
posted by tkchrist at 2:45 PM on June 7, 2005


Well, the argument is that without the violence of the First World War, there would not have been the historical condidions to enable the Holocaust, and that war would not have begun without the violent assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, etc. Now, you would retort that people are violent, so it is all silly utopianism, and I would say nothing will change until people are willing to make that change personally, so I will make that change and avoid violence and condemn violence done in my name.

I don't know who is right in this circumstance. Obviously I think I am, but I don't really know.


And I don't know you're wrong - ethics, like any other branch of philosophy, cannot be demonstrated using the scientific method as far as I can tell.

But the fact is, we cannot repair the past. We can only control what we do now and in the future. It would be nice to be born in a world free of human-created suffering, but since we aren't, it's not a helpful guide for figuring out what to do. We are caught in the present, and must make our decisions accordingly. And, my point was simply that there are plenty of historical cases where the apparent best answer to violence has been violence in return.

Given that we can't decide the morality of military service in a general sense, I would hope that we could at least agree that we should treat servicemen better than we do, as a society. I think you can find practical reasons for supporting this, despite your own distaste for military service. Here's one that no one's mentioned so far: the more the middle class is involved in military service, the less likely we'll go on unnecessary adventures.

I've been thinking a lot about Switzerland lately. I don't really know anything about it, but I'm intrigued by the notion of a principled neutrality. It seems to have worked well for them.

Switzerland is not a principled anything. Their neutrality is derived from their early mercenary practices.

As it is, I think anyone with a basic grasp of American history should know that joining the American military means you will be ordered to do immoral things at the behest of people and corporations concerned only with themselves.

Really? I have a decent grasp of American history, I think. I joined the US Army at the age of 17, with the expectation that I would not be ordered to do immoral things. Nor did I expect to do anything at the behest of any corporation. And I was correct in my expectations. I did not fire a shot in anger, although I was placed in some situations that could have resulted in shooting. I served on several border tours along the East German and Czech borders, and we were given very specific rules of engagement, on how we could protect people as they fled from East Germany. However, they'd usually get shot by their own people before they'd get close enough for us to protect them. I was very fortunate that I never saw this happen; it was a very depressing thing to see, apparently.

You got about 347 people in line ahead of you. Right after Ashton Kutcher.

Not the face, ok? Anything but the face.
posted by me & my monkey at 2:48 PM on June 7, 2005


tkchrist many people are surprised when I'm asked who the baddest MoFo in the world was and I answer Ghandi.

"I know that isn't your set of values, but I wish you could imagine that for some people living on your knees is being forced to kill people."
In fact dame, it is within my set of values:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taoism
I merely argue practical matters. In the ideal, we agree. Peace and non-violence are certainly ends worth striving for.
How much more then, by your own arguments, must a misguided man be shown the way?
posted by Smedleyman at 3:48 PM on June 7, 2005


Switzerland is not a principled anything. Their neutrality is derived from their early mercenary practices.

Sorry, monkey, I skipped a step in my thought-process there. Neutrality working out in one context made me consider it in a better one. Forgive me for not being clearer.

Given that we can't decide the morality of military service in a general sense, I would hope that we could at least agree that we should treat servicemen better than we do, as a society. I think you can find practical reasons for supporting this, despite your own distaste for military service. Here's one that no one's mentioned so far: the more the middle class is involved in military service, the less likely we'll go on unnecessary adventures.

I think we should treat everyone who needs help better, even if, hell especially if, they do things we don't approve of. And I'll go you one better: I think there ought to be a draft--for both men and women. It would get both of us what we want; servicepeople would be treated better and everyone would be forced to really consider how they feel on these questions.

Anyway, I don't really have the time to reply to the broader philosophical objections from you guys right now. I have to finish my work so I can go swimming. But I did read what you wrote, Smedley.
posted by dame at 3:58 PM on June 7, 2005


"But I did read what you wrote, Smedley."
Thanks.
/no sarcasm
posted by Smedleyman at 4:29 PM on June 7, 2005


Because, as the son of a soldier, the brother of a soldier, and a former soldier - I'd like to see you have to balls to say your bullshit about being amoral contract killers to my face. Pussy.

Dear me - a threat. And you wonder why I have little respect for soldiers? Comedy gold. But aside from that, you're not being logical. You called me a coward. That means you simply assumed I wouldn't have the courage to express my opinion to your face. You had no evidence to assume that was true and, in fact, it isn't: a fact that anyone who actually knows me in RL would vouch for. I express my opinions openly wherever and whenever I consider them appropriate.

If I were to ever have the misfortune of meeting you in person, you nasty little testosterone-addled thug, I'd be happy to repeat my opinion that soldiers are contract killers who are currently reaping the predictable consequences of their unfortunate life decisions in Iraq. And if you act like the violent criminal you appear to be by attacking me for it I'll do my best to defend myself. Whether I prevail or not, however, I'd certainly bring charges for assault and hire the best lawyer I can find to get your thug ass put behind bars for the longest possible period. Are we clear now, tough guy?
posted by Decani at 5:37 AM on June 8, 2005


m & mm:

The logic may be perfect, but I maintain that the premises are flawed. Without correct premises, perfect logic is useless.

Absolutely. And my premises are as follows:

1. When a person voluntarily becomes a soldier, they sign an agreement, or contract.

2. Amongst other things, that contract binds the person to obeying orders which may very well include orders to kill people.


My conclusion, based on these premises, is that it is reasonable to describe soldiers as contract killers. Because they are required to kill to order, based on a contract they voluntarily signed. So tell me where you think my premises are flawed and I'll have a look at it.

I don't see why it's a red herring, either.

Your question about the police was a diversion to what I consider to be a weak analogy. As such, it's a red herring. The analogy between policeman and soldier is not solid. A policeman is never expected to kill as part of his job (although he may need to in situations where direct defence of life is necessary); a soldier is.

Or a straw man.

Your straw man lies in your absolute declaration that I must hold an opinion I do not, thus:

Obviously, in the first case, you think that we could simply do without any military force.

I neither said that, believe it nor does it follow logically from my opinion that soldiers are contract killers. Ergo: straw man.
posted by Decani at 6:13 AM on June 8, 2005


A policeman is never expected to kill as part of his job (although he may need to in situations where direct defence of life is necessary); a soldier is.

This is incorrect. Policemen, like soldiers, are trained to kill. Police firearms are intentionally lethal weapons, and police firearms training (like any other firearms training) is to shoot centermass - that is, to kill. And, they are expected to kill in appropriate circumstances. And, they can be fired for their failure to perform appropriately. So, I don't see how policemen are any less contract killers than soldiers. I can certainly tell you this - if I'd chosen to be a Baltimore City policeman between '84 and '87 instead of a soldier in Germany, I would have been more likely to be in a position to use deadly force.

Interestingly, we're starting to see a crossover of tactics and goals between police and military as the military is asked to do more peacekeeping and as the police have to deal with more heavily armed assailants.

I neither said that, believe it nor does it follow logically from my opinion that soldiers are contract killers.

You are correct, and I apologize for my incorrect inference. I assumed that being a contract killer was a bad thing, but apparently you believe that military force is a necessary evil. I can understand that. However, if that's the case, why do you condemn the people who are performing this necessary task? You have me more confused than ever.
posted by me & my monkey at 6:30 AM on June 8, 2005


Oh, and I see Mr "Decani sure knows how to troll you people" seems remarkable unwilling or unable to stop responding to Decani in his usual charming manner, so...

Maybe. But I think he's in the UK. So I didn't do shit for him.

I'm British, but I have lived and worked in New York for over three years. But yes, you didn't do shit for me. And, I have to say, you're still not doing shit for me - oh, other than making me mildly amused at how well you're presenting the image of the American soldier as a decent human being, of course.

It has been my experience that these anonymous absolutists who go about making such stupid elitist pronouncements tend to be no-shows when called out.

I believe you. So you should certainly take your limited personal experience and apply it as a sweeping generalisation to the entire world, including people you know nothing whatsoever about beyond a few words on an internet forum. That would be a very intelligent, fair-minded, reasonable thing to do.

He DOESN'T have the balls to say shit like that to a soldier's face and he knows it. And you know it.

No he doesn't know it. And neither do you. I have said shit like that to a soldier's face. My best friend's brother joined up. He was doing it basically because he was an under-achieving yob who liked guns. I told him so, when he was fucking around with a gun in the back yard. I said,

"Why don't you put that thing away? Nobody's impressed with your macho bullshit but you. Save it for the next fucking Falklands, eh?"

He then proceeded to fire around my feet to try to make me "dance". I didn't move a muscle. He got tired of it eventually - around the time my friend, his brother, called him a childish little cunt who deserved to get a fucking limb blown off. That sobered him up a bit. His brother always was way more intelligent than him. Which was probably why his brother became a marine biologist and he became a contract killer.


He asked what evidence I have he is a coward. There it is.

Where? Where is it? Your opinion that your previous experience must always apply generally? Is that your evidence?


He really thinks that bitching about the world will change it.

No, I don't. I never said I did, nor did I imply it. So don't tell lies, please.

The Decani's of the world secretly relish their powerlessness.

I'm powerless? In what sense? On what do you base that assertion?

See. They will never have to DO anything. Put nothing on the line. Let everybody else do it. Do nothing but bitch.

Where are you getting this stuff from? Are you psychic? Why is it that you think you know so much about me, my beliefs and my actions? I'm 46 years old. I've done a lot of things in my life. Why do you think you know so much about them that you can make sweeping dismissals like that? I'm sure you must have a good reason. It couldn't be because you're a bigot with a predisposition towards violence whose got himself a bit jazzed up on testosterone (and roids?) after seeing a mere opinion he doesn't like, could it? No. I couldn't make an assumption like that about you. I don't know enough.


Those guys that have the guns and the will to sacrifice themselves are the ones that have ALWAYS led progressive changes.

Ah yes. Thank goodness Archimedes, Pythagoras, Galileo, Copernicus, Hume, Mill, Russell, Gandhi, Greer, Friedan et all were always packin' heat, eh?

But they will sure as shit not listen to Decani.

And I sure as shit care a lot about having a bunch of violent meatheads like you listen to me, sport.
posted by Decani at 6:40 AM on June 8, 2005


Thank goodness Archimedes, Pythagoras, Galileo, Copernicus, Hume, Mill, Russell, Gandhi, Greer, Friedan et all were always packin' heat, eh?

Do you mean the Archimedes responsible for the destruction of Marcellus' fleet?

Do you mean the Galileo who described his telescope as "a thing of inestimable benefit for all transactions and undertakings, maritime or terrestrial, allowing us at sea to discover at a much greater distance than usual the hulls and sails of the enemy, so that for two hours or more we can detect him before he detects us..."

Or the David Hume who served as an officer in the British Army?

I could go on, but it's too much work. But I really would appreciate more insight into whether being a contract killer is acceptable behavior under the right circumstances. Forget about the internet tough guy stuff - I don't think you're a coward, and I wouldn't care if you were.
posted by me & my monkey at 8:08 AM on June 8, 2005


M & mm: yes, yes. But I think you take my point, no? What Archimedes, Galileo and Hume did in terms of making "progressive changes" had nothing to do with their military connections or actions. I think you know this, just as I think you know that I could have continued that list for a very, very long time indeed and filled it only with great, progressive people who had no military connections whatsoever. So congratulations on scoring an exceedingly cheap point. May it serve you well.

I owe you a couple of responses, I know. Unfortunately work is piling up here so I'll have to get back to them later. I wish I didn't get myself into these arguments since I can't be a "refresh every 45 seconds" sort of person.
posted by Decani at 8:15 AM on June 8, 2005


But I think you take my point, no? What Archimedes, Galileo and Hume did in terms of making "progressive changes" had nothing to do with their military connections or actions.

In the case of Archimedes, at least, I would completely disagree. But then again, I don't think of Archimedes or Galileo as being progressive in any sense other than the obvious progression of human knowledge. There's a reason that physics used to be taught as "artillery."

So congratulations on scoring an exceedingly cheap point. May it serve you well.

I owe you a couple of responses, I know. Unfortunately work is piling up here so I'll have to get back to them later. I wish I didn't get myself into these arguments since I can't be a "refresh every 45 seconds" sort of person.


Given your time constraints, perhaps you'd get more bang for your buck with less snideness about cheap points. I'm not looking for points, as they aren't redeemable anywhere.

So you should certainly take your limited personal experience and apply it as a sweeping generalisation to the entire world, including people you know nothing whatsoever about beyond a few words on an internet forum. That would be a very intelligent, fair-minded, reasonable thing to do.

...

I have said shit like that to a soldier's face. My best friend's brother joined up. He was doing it basically because he was an under-achieving yob who liked guns.


This is pure speculation on my part, but it seems your strong dislike of soldiers in general may stem from your limited personal experience. Of course, maybe that's just a cheap point.
posted by me & my monkey at 8:30 AM on June 8, 2005


M&mm: yes, that is just another cheap shot on your part. I gave that personal example as a direct refutation of tkchrist's statement:

He DOESN'T have the balls to say shit like that to a soldier's face and he knows it.

It is unfair of you to twist that in order to suggest that my wider dislike of soldiers stems solely from that. So: cheap shot.

I've enjoyed our exchanges thus far and I've appreciated the fact that you have generally tried to argue reasonably rather than resorting to the knee-jerk "OMG he isn't chanting 'Support Our Troops'!" mindlessness of the wider herd. I'm going to lose interest real fast if you intend to move away from that approach as, sadly, you appear to be doing.

Re Archimedes et al: look, you can continue to hammer away at the fact that Archimedes and one or two others out of my quickly tossed-off list had military experience. I was attempting to refute tkchrist's fatuous assertion that "progressive changes" only occur via men with guns. A few of the examples I gave were not ideal; yes, conceded, again. But I still think you take my point, yes? Or no? Do you think progressive changes only occur via men with guns, or not? If you say not yet continue to criticise a few of the (once again) many examples I could have given, you must excuse me if I continue to call that a cheap shot.

There was no snideness involved, I assure you. I called "cheap shot" because I believed that you agree with the broader point I was trying to make yet chose to nitpick a couple of specific examples. That nitpicking may invalidate or weaken those specific examples, but not the point. If I was wrong about your agreeing with that point, I stand corrected.
posted by Decani at 9:26 AM on June 8, 2005


Do you think progressive changes only occur via men with guns, or not?

No, of course not. However, I also don't think that they only occur via peaceful means.

If I was wrong about your agreeing with that point, I stand corrected.

I guess that my point was simply a difference of opinion on what "progressive change" means. I wouldn't classify scientific progress as progressive change. On the other hand, I believe that most progressive social and political change throughout human history has resulted from violence. To the extent that progressive change today doesn't rely upon violence, I think that credit is due to the conditions that make this possible - which were achieved through violence.

I would still like to read your responses on my previous questions, because they are much more important (to me at least) than anything about Archimedes.
posted by me & my monkey at 10:12 AM on June 8, 2005


you nasty little testosterone-addled thug

And. I can smell your fear. LOL. Melodramatic, much?

And if you act like the violent criminal you appear to be by attacking me for it I'll do my best to defend myself.

LOL. Such as? Curl up in the fetal position and scream for your mommy? No you would call on somebody else - LIKE ME - to defend your pathetic ass.

I couldn't make an assumption like that about you.

LMAO. You made whole bunch of assumptions. Thug. Criminal. Violent. Ok. Maybe violent... but in the very controlled and judicious context of boxing ring or wrestling mat.

Lastly: You assumed I would attack you? And that makes me laugh. Because you KNOW it wouldn't come to that because you would NEVER show. Stop pretending. Your story is bullshit about your friends psycho brother, BTW.

Let's say I was going to be in London in early September - it's quite possible again this year - would you show up to say these things to my face? Yes. Or. No? Would you go out of your way and allay your fear to stand for your principles one on one WHERE IT COUNTS? Seriously? Be 100% honest.

Most importantly. Who said I would hit you? Not me? You assume that because you are afraid before you even meet me. You are a coward. Get it, yet? You FEAR me over mere words.

I'll try to tell you why.

You don't even understand WHY somebody like me would cross an ocean and stand up to someone face and state my principles and risk taking a beating. You fear the very idea.

See, you may be much bigger and meaner than me. I don't care. I know what's right. I will stand up for it. Calling my father, his father, an amoral killer for doing the same, for giving their lives for people like YOU — calling them amoral — that ain't right.

AND I don't chant USA-USA. It isn't about that. I don't have a single yellow ribbon. It ain't about that either. I am AGAINST the war in iraq. It ain't about that. It is a deeply personal thing.

But you don't understand because you live in fear and it is such a part of you you can't understand why others CAN'T.

If we met I would just laugh in your face.
posted by tkchrist at 10:15 AM on June 8, 2005


tkchrist - dude, right now you are being a teensy bit of a spazz and I'd maybe think of toning that down a little.
posted by longbaugh at 10:29 AM on June 8, 2005


teensy bit? understatement.
posted by terrapin at 10:37 AM on June 8, 2005


teensy bit? understatement.

You moved up to 344, Mister.

dude, right now you are being a teensy bit of a spazz and I'd maybe think of toning that down a little.

Yeah. Your right. But damn it I feel so much better. For you all this is intellectual. For me it's just therapy.
posted by tkchrist at 10:47 AM on June 8, 2005


Might I suggest Tai Chi and some sex?

Works a treat.
posted by longbaugh at 10:49 AM on June 8, 2005


Might I suggest Tai Chi and some sex?

Kinky. But I'll give it try. Oh. Wait. NOT simultaneously?
posted by tkchrist at 11:03 AM on June 8, 2005


That would be tantric yoga...
posted by longbaugh at 11:07 AM on June 8, 2005


Wow, tkchrist. Your quite the internet tough guy... you assume someone is a coward because he won't fly 8000 miles to come say something to your face? You can smell his fear? Now you want him to meet you when your in London. Why? Decani has already expressed his opinion and his willingness (or lack of) to say it to your face doesn't make it any more (or less) valid. Do you think your going to change his mind by fighting him? Or is it that since bullying people is going so well on a macro level that your thinking it's going to win a few hearts and minds one-on-one.

If you are using MetaFilter for therapy I might suggest going another route, it doesn't seem particularly effective.

BTW, would you mind telling me why I should automatically respect someone because his job choice involves carrying a gun for the United States? I could see it if I believed our security or way of life was threatened by some foreign government, but I'm not seeing that. I do not believe that the military is fighting for me and I believe that I was safer and participating in a more robust economy a few years ago than I am now. As a consequence I feel no more empathy or concern for a homeless veteran of the "WOT" than I do for anyone else who has fallen through the ever-shrinking safety net.

It's unfortunate that the government doesn't do more for them but it also unfortunate the government doesn't do more for children living in poverty, the mentally ill or any other of a dozen demographic groups.
posted by cedar at 11:58 AM on June 8, 2005


Most importantly. Who said I would hit you? Not me? You assume that because you are afraid before you even meet me. You are a coward. Get it, yet? You FEAR me over mere words.

I never thought I'd end up defending Decani here, but if you said "I dare you to say that to my face" to me, I would naturally assume that you were threatening physical violence. And furthermore, like any sane person, I'd make every attempt to avoid said violence. Does that make me a coward? Or just a sensible person? I don't think I'm a coward. I have seen violence, and participated in violent acts, and prefer to avoid repetition if possible. So please, for the sake of a fellow ex-soldier, drop the coward stuff.

BTW, would you mind telling me why I should automatically respect someone because his job choice involves carrying a gun for the United States? I could see it if I believed our security or way of life was threatened by some foreign government, but I'm not seeing that.

I don't think anyone's asking for your respect. However, I think that the government has more of an obligation to the people who serve it directly than to others - it's as simple as that. These people aren't just "falling through the safety net" - they're being pushed through after the government is done with them. And the people who serve in Iraq didn't choose to do so, in most cases - they joined for whatever reasons they had, and ended up being sent there. They may well have joined after 9/11 in an attempt to protect their country as best they could.
posted by me & my monkey at 12:11 PM on June 8, 2005


I'd suggest putting the Decani/ tkchrist argument on the national level.
So "And if you act like the violent criminal you appear to be by attacking me for it I'll do my best to defend myself. "
So where have we heard that before? We were defending ourselves from Iraq weren't we?

"Whether I prevail or not, however, I'd certainly bring charges for assault and hire the best lawyer I can find to get your thug ass put behind bars for the longest possible period."
And who will you get to put a thug in jail? What is it they will threaten tkchrist with if he refuses to comply? What if those you get to put tkchrist in jail don't believe you and question the rightness of putting him in jail? Perhaps the judge who orders it is a fascist and so the police won't comply?


"A policeman is never expected to kill as part of his job (although he may need to in situations where direct defence of life is necessary); a soldier is."
Soldiers exist to serve nations in exactly the same way you asserted your right to defend yourself. They follow and should follow legal orders. It is a horrible abuse that they are misused and their purpose is perverted and motives are cloaked in distortions. The law must still rule.

"Would you mind telling me why I should automatically respect someone because his job choice involves carrying a gun for the United States?"
He has sworn to uphold & defend the constitution of the United States and kill or die to protect you if you are a US citizen.
(see the above statement on perversion of this)

"I could see it if I believed our security or way of life was threatened by some foreign government, but I'm not seeing that."
- Indeed cedar. Were it only that we all possessed your perfect wisdom.

"I do not believe that the military is fighting for me and I believe that I was safer and participating in a more robust economy a few years ago than I am now."
Probably true.

"As a consequence I feel no more empathy or concern for a homeless veteran of the "WOT" than I do for anyone else who has fallen through the ever-shrinking safety net. It's unfortunate that the government doesn't do more for them but it also unfortunate the government doesn't do more for children living in poverty, the mentally ill or any other of a dozen demographic groups."

So - a homeless veteran is the moral equivalent of a homeless mentally ill person and deserves no more empathy or concern from you beause a government which he has served, and through that service, served you, has used him and thrown him away as opposed to a - certainly deserving of sympathy - but otherwise non-serving mentally ill person who the government - and you - have no prior connection to.
I see.
Remind me not to do you a favor, because if you didn't need a favor just then, or if the favor was inadequite or misguided in your personal judgement than I am no more deserving of any attention than someone who has completely ignored you all their lives.


What part of: a soldier cannot choose when and where to fight - do you people not understand?
Yes, we were/are "contract killers" we are also "contract suicides" we are also "contract bodyguards" and "contract bridgebuilders."

me & my monkey defended many points very well (and patiently I might add) but get this through your heads:
It does not matter if any particular engagement is right or wrong. It does not matter if the war in general is illegal or a travesty or whatever. They are supposed to obey LEGAL orders (not - say - torture or genocides, etc). They must assume any legal order which comes through the chain of command is an order from a superior who draws authority from the President of the United States and the Constitution of the United States. The authority of the office and the document is vested in the People of the United States. These institutions are founded in law, they cannot and should not change with the ethos of any individual soldier or indeed the military as a whole otherwise we lose the rule of law and are ruled by might alone.
The only part of the equation that can change is the will of the people. Guess what, that's you, not them.
But right now, in the US, the will of the people seems to be to support the war(s). So what then for the soldier?
You think this particular war is wrong? You think soldiers now shouldn't be doing violence in your name? Then pick up a weapon - be it words, be it passive resistance, be it organization, and you fucking well fight to change it.
Do for them at the very least what they have sworn to do for you.

oh, no wait....it's better to just be cynical isn't it? Yeah, forget about it. It's so much better to be personally for peace and be morally and intellectually superior and believe those who signed up are simply brutal thugs. Their motives for serving are because they're bloodthirsty, not that they have a different idea of altruism . And anyway, if they do have a different idea of altruism, they're wrong, so that makes them just as disposable as anyone else.


More long winded statements, but I want to be clear.
posted by Smedleyman at 2:15 PM on June 8, 2005


Decani/ tkchrist argument on the national level

Er... I can't say I endorse that.

if you said "I dare you to say that to my face" to me, I would naturally assume that you were threatening physical violence.

So what. Maybe it does infer violence. So? Isn't that where your principles COUNT? In the face of opposition?

If you make such deliberately demeaning and provocative statements that you KNOW will piss people off - like Decani did - if called on would you not stand by them... one on one to the person you were referring?

What good are your principles if you won't risk something for them? Sorry. I don't get that at all. And that is what soldiers do.

I'm not saying they are the only ones in the culture who put it on the line - but they are the obvious examples. And from them we get many - if not MOST - of the examples of great men (& women) through out history who tried to change things. Not necessarily for the better... but they are by and large the vital instruments of change in the world. Not necessarily the thinkers but the LABOR that made things change. Almost ALL of the great people Decani named were soldiers at one time. Willing to KILL and DIE for what they believed. It was part of them.

So. If he DID come to me, face to face, and said "yeah, I do think soldiers are amoral contract killers who deserve no sympathy" (Better yet say it to a quadriplegic vet.)

He stands a good chance I might just respect him MORE for it - knowing that there COULD have been fists and he risked something. Yeah, I'd still think he was an asshole. But at least he kind of earned his opinion.

Do you think your going to change his mind by fighting him?

*sigh* No. But at least I will respect HIM. I don't give shit about changing HIS mind. I want to give him the opportunity to look me in the eye and change MINE.
posted by tkchrist at 3:03 PM on June 8, 2005


So what. Maybe it does infer violence. So? Isn't that where your principles COUNT? In the face of opposition?

Look, you can't have it both ways. Either you are threatening someone or you aren't. If you phrase your threat so that it's still vague, it's still a threat. And if someone disagrees with you, they don't need to take you up on your threat to justify their principles. I don't know about you, but I served my country so that people could say whatever the hell they wanted, whether I agreed with it or not, as long as I could do the same.

Let me put this another way. I am a gay man, an atheist, and a vegetarian. There are plenty of people who believe I shouldn't be one of those, or all of them. If someone on a message board calls me a God-hating salad-munching faggot, I don't feel I have to threaten them with violence, because it's not really a threat, and I don't need to descend to their level to respond. I'm glad they can do that, because in turn it means I can say what I believe. If someone in a dark alley calls me the same thing, I will perceive them as a threat and react accordingly, which may involve violence. But I'm not going to threaten someone for saying something, no matter how offensive, unless I am also physically threatened. And I'm not going to go into the dark alley looking for a fight, either. Unnecessary violence is bad, and the unnecessary threat of violence is bad. There is nothing you can say in its defense.
posted by me & my monkey at 3:39 PM on June 8, 2005


M&MM - Ok. You make good points. I will meditate on this further from the tree of woe. I rescind all challenges until further notice.
posted by tkchrist at 3:51 PM on June 8, 2005


me & my monkey, so then if I agree with you, does that make me a gay, vegetarian, atheist as well? 'Cause there's no fucking way I'm eating salads.

I think the issue here is different from someone taking exception to your lifestyle. It's not that someone needs to take you on over a threat to justify their principles, it's that part of the issue were discussing itself is how to deal with that threat.

In this case Decani asserts that he would use violence for defense, which to my mind is hypocritical. How can one defend one's principles of non-violence by 'defending' himself? (presumably through use of violence)
And why then is it ok for one man to use violence for defense, but not ok for another.
By extension - why is it ok for a man to defend his principles against an aggressor, but wrong for a man to contract with his country to defend his and his country's principles against an aggressor?

Hence the perhaps poorly expressed "Decani/ tkchrist argument on the national level" analogy.
I think in shorthand sometimes.
posted by Smedleyman at 4:13 PM on June 8, 2005


I'd add that if decani showed up but took a beating that would eliminate that hypocracy.
And I certainly agree with that as an ideal, and one ultimately achievable however impractical now.
posted by Smedleyman at 4:16 PM on June 8, 2005


Y'know - despite all my ranting that nearly ruined this thread - I read through the thread top to bottom again and actually it's been a really good thread. Just thought I'd say that. Oh. And

terrapin - don't think I missed your sneaky snark in the grey. The old angry tkchrist might be tempted to move you up the list to like 315-317 (a spot currently occupied by Paris Hilton and the Quiznos talking baby).

But the New Contemplative tk will let it slide.
posted by tkchrist at 4:40 PM on June 8, 2005


Smedleyman: where did I say I have a "principle of non-violence?" I can't seem to find where I said that. Could you point it out to me, please? Or, failing that, could you retract your false implication that I did say that? Thanks.
posted by Decani at 5:14 PM on June 8, 2005


Policemen, like soldiers, are trained to kill.

Since no one else is going to put this red herring to bed, I may as well do it. Police do not, as a standard function of their job, engage in organized, methodical human slaughter; soldiers do. Not every soldier, no, but it's a standard expectation that any of them may be required to do it. Both professionals carry guns, but their professions are quite different.

Interesting thread, indeed. tkchrist seemed to finally get his head together, not a moment too soon. That keyboard bully routine was just embarrassing. Watching him swing at shadows and declare that others are cowards living in fear actually moved me to pity--an emotion I don't savor.

On preview: Decani, you rocked the house in this thread.
posted by squirrel at 5:17 PM on June 8, 2005


tkchrist:

And. I can smell your fear. LOL.

Well, I'm sorry to have to tell you that what you're smelling is a delusion. I've tangled with lots of violent, threatening thugs in my time and I stopped being afraid of them many, many years ago. This was a considered decision, by the way.

Melodramatic, much?

Well, not to the extent of issuing thinly-veiled threats to strangers on an internet forum, no.

LOL. Such as? Curl up in the fetal position and scream for your mommy? No you would call on somebody else - LIKE ME - to defend your pathetic ass.

No, actually. As a reasonably strong but short man I tend to try to end violent encounters as quickly as possible, usually by going for the eyes or the throat. I've also had success by grabbing the bollocks and nutting my assailant very hard with my very large forehead. One time I was attacked by a thug who was much taller than me (this isn't an uncommon state of affairs, sadly) and I managed to dissuade him from pursuing his assault by biting almost clean through his cheek. I tend to do whatever works, you know? I improvise. But I don't curl up until I get knocked cold. Still, I]m sure it's easier for you to believe your violent bigot's fantasy, so you enjoy yourself, old son.

LMAO. You made whole bunch of assumptions. Thug.

Yes. I based that on the fact that you plainly implied a physical threat against me.

Criminal.

I didn't call you a criminal. I told you what actions I would take IF you acted like a criminal by assaulting me. Lying is not impressive. It's revealing that you need to resort to it.

Lastly: You assumed I would attack you?

Yes, I did. Because you said I wouldn't have the courage to repeat my opinion of soldiers to your face. What would I have to be scared of if that wasn't a physical threat? That you might say rude words to me, perhaps? Come on. Disingenuousness doesn't suit you. It was perfectly reasonable to assume that you were suggesting you'd punch me out. If not, I suggest you choose your words more carefully in future. Unless you enjoy giving people the wrong impression about your nature, of course.

Because you KNOW it wouldn't come to that because you would NEVER show.

Well, I certainly won't be making a special trip to Seattle just to prove a presumptious gobshite like you wrong, no. But should I ever happen to find myself there for some other, civilised reason, I will contact you. I promise. We can go for a beer and I'll tell you to your face that I think soldiers are contract killers who reap what they sow when they end up in a warzone. Because I enjoy proving bigots like you wrong. I enjoy it more than just about anything. Sad, that, isn't it? We all have our failings. That's mine; yours is blustering like a tenth-rate roidhead on an internet forum. Somebody will love us both nevertheless, which makes me feel all warm inside.


Stop pretending. Your story is bullshit about your friends psycho brother, BTW.

That's a good little bigot. Simply refuse to believe anything that doesn't fit your narrow-minded bigot's view. You have something in common with Dubya. That's his way of dealing with reality when it doesn't work out for him.

I don't lie. Ever. But hey, you just go right ahead and disbelieve that. Keep it simple. You need that, I can tell.


Let's say I was going to be in London in early September - it's quite possible again this year - would you show up to say these things to my face? Yes. Or. No?


If I were in London at the time, certainly. Yes.

Would you go out of your way and allay your fear to stand for your principles one on one WHERE IT COUNTS? Seriously? Be 100% honest.

I doubt I'd go out of my way. Not for a bigoted loudmouth like you. But if we were in the same town and we both had a free hour I'd do it. Yes.


Most importantly. Who said I would hit you? Not me? You assume that because you are afraid before you even meet me.

Wrong. I assumed that because I simply couldn't think of a single other reason why you'd imagine I'd be scared of meeting you and why you'd insist I wouldn't dare express my opinion to your face.

You are a coward. Get it, yet? You FEAR me over mere words.

No, I don't. You are simply claiming something which is untrue. I don't fear you at all. If we met and you hit me I'd try to tear your fucking face off and I wouldn't stop until I'd either succeeded or you'd laid me out. And whether I succeeded or not, I'd see you imprisoned for assault. I've had to physically defend myself many, many times in my life - usually from jerks like you who throw get hysterically offended (in both senses of the word) simply because someone criticises or insults something or someone they hold dear. I don't seek it, but neither do I shrink from it. I recognise that dealing rationally with offence is part of living in a free society. People like seem to have struggles with that notion.

You're wrong about me. You have no grounds at all to make the assumptions you do and it's very telling that you so desperately keep doing so without any evidence whatsoever.

You don't even understand WHY somebody like me would cross an ocean and stand up to someone face and state my principles and risk taking a beating. You fear the very idea.

Well, I don't understand why you'd cross an ocean just to do that, no. That seems like the extreme, borderline psychotic overreaction of a profoundly immature, stunted personality. But I certainly understand why you'd take time to express your opinions in RL if a reasonable opportunity presented itself. Because I'd do the same.


See, you may be much bigger and meaner than me. I don't care.

I seriously doubt it. I'm 46 years old, 5'8" and about 175 pounds. But I never initiate physical violence. Ever. No need to consider that. I believe that there is never an excuse for violence except in self defence or the defence of innocent people.


I know what's right. I will stand up for it.

How nice to be so certain of what's right. You must be a very wise, intelligent and well-educated man.


Calling my father, his father, an amoral killer

Where did I call them "amoral" killers? I think you'll find I called them contract killers. Please don't tell lies and distort my words. It's both immoral and unhelpful.


But you don't understand because you live in fear

Another lie, borne of your own fevered bigotry. I don't live in fear at all. But hey, as I keep saying... you obviously need to believe lies about people you disagree with. I can understand it must make it easier for you to live with yourself. I don't begrudge you it. It's just something weak personalities seem to need to do in order to get by. None of us are perfect.

If we met I would just laugh in your face.

Fine. And I would simply repeat my opinion about soldiers and offer to buy you a beer. No laughter. I don't find you funny, I'm afraid. At all.
posted by Decani at 5:57 PM on June 8, 2005


M&mm: I apologise for spending all that time joshing with tkchrist instead of answering your reasonable questions, but it was irresistable. I will do so tomorrow.
posted by Decani at 6:06 PM on June 8, 2005


Since no one else is going to put this red herring to bed, I may as well do it. Police do not, as a standard function of their job, engage in organized, methodical human slaughter; soldiers do. Not every soldier, no, but it's a standard expectation that any of them may be required to do it. Both professionals carry guns, but their professions are quite different.

Most soldiers do not engage in organized, methodical slaughter of anything beyond beer bottles. Most soldiers never fire a shot outside of a firing range. Most soldiers can enter the military with the rational expectation that they will never see combat, and that Uncle Sugar will pay for their college education.

I was in the Army between '84 and '87. Had I instead joined the Baltimore City police department during the same time, I would have had a significantly higher likelihood of firing my weapon in the line of duty. This is actually one of the reasons I didn't consider a police career when I left the Army - a lot of my acquaintances did. I did not want to work in a field where I would be that likely to be involved in violent situations.

And for that matter, I still don't see the difference - why is it relevant that it's organized or methodical? What is the difference between shooting someone on the streets of Baltimore or Baghdad?

Also, the vast majority of soldiers even in wartime do not participate in violence. Most fill supporting roles. Some actually support combat units. Still fewer actually serve in combat arms units. At least when I was in, there were plenty of mechanics, cooks, and clerks behind every infantryman or tanker. It is my impression at least that the ratio of support personnel to cops on the street is lower.

Finally, when I joined the Army and served in Germany near the end of the Cold War, I had every expectation that if it came to actual combat with the Soviets, I would die before I got to take part in much organized, methodical slaughter. The life expectancy of our company was about two hours, tops - we were the easternmost armored unit in Germany. But of course if it had come to actual combat with the Soviets, I suppose all bets would be off no matter where you were.

I apologise for spending all that time joshing with tkchrist instead of answering your reasonable questions, but it was irresistable. I will do so tomorrow.

I cannot hold it against you, since you have so graciously given me the opportunity to read "grabbing the bollocks and nutting my assailant very hard with my very large forehead." That's something you don't see every day. Until I got to the "forehead" part, I thought you meant something quite different and unusual for a self-defense tactic.
posted by me & my monkey at 7:45 PM on June 8, 2005


Most soldiers do not engage in organized, methodical slaughter of anything beyond beer bottles.

Cold comfort for the families of the slaughtered thousands in Iraq, monkey. Massacres like Falluja may not be within the experience of all soldiers, but they aren't within the experience of any cops. Even if a few cops have killed dozens of people, the context of the killings are different. Cops and soldiers serve very different functions. Don't get me wrong: I'm no cop lover. But early on in this thread, you called out Decani with this red herring that if soldiers are contract killers, so are cops. It's just not true: the job descriptions aren't the same. If you can't see the difference, I'm glad you didn't become a cop.

And for that matter, I still don't see the difference - why is it relevant that it's organized or methodical?

You're not Jewish, are you? Nor a history major, I assume.

What is the difference between shooting someone on the streets of Baltimore or Baghdad?

Contexts. Legal, political, ethical. Lots of contexts.
posted by squirrel at 9:29 PM on June 8, 2005


Cold comfort for the families of the slaughtered thousands in Iraq, monkey.

You know, everything in the world isn't about Iraq. Plenty of people joined the miltary before Iraq, and plenty of people will join after its over, and most of those people will never fire a shot in anger. Again, many of the people in Iraq now would not have joined if they really thought they would be asked to fight on such a flimsy basis. Unfortunately for them, it's a little late for them to do anything about it.

Even if a few cops have killed dozens of people, the context of the killings are different. Cops and soldiers serve very different functions. Don't get me wrong: I'm no cop lover. But early on in this thread, you called out Decani with this red herring that if soldiers are contract killers, so are cops. It's just not true: the job descriptions aren't the same. If you can't see the difference, I'm glad you didn't become a cop.

How does the context matter? You keep saying it as if that will make it true, but you provide no demonstration of its truth. Are you saying that quantity has a quality all its own? Are you saying that, because the context of the killing is different, that in one case you are a killer and in the other you aren't? Because all I'm saying is that both jobs put you in a position where you may be required to use deadly force. If you can't see the commonality, I'm glad you didn't become a logician.

And, best of all, I like how you feel it necessary to qualify that you're not a "cop lover." Whatever. It's just as necessary to have cops as garbagemen or doctors or lawyers or whatever the hell you do for a living, so what does love have to do with it?

You're not Jewish, are you? Nor a history major, I assume.

I am neither. Are you? If so, how is that at all relevant? In any case, I am probably as familiar with history in general and the Holocaust in particular as you are. After all, when you live in Germany, it's easy to take in the sights while you're going to Oktoberfest anyway. I'm sure the liberated shared your distaste for the horrible massacre-happy contract killers who were American soldiers. So, you're wasting your time with your snide remarks. Why not actually demonstrate your argument with, uh, facts?

Contexts. Legal, political, ethical. Lots of contexts.

Yeah, tell that to the guy bleeding out from the gunshot wound. I'm sure he's going to be all about the context. Or for that matter, the guy pulling the trigger - he's just as likely to be traumatized by what he's done in either case.
posted by me & my monkey at 12:15 AM on June 9, 2005


If you don't understand the differences that contexts make, particularly when it comes to killing, then I politely withdraw from this discussion: we don't have enough foundational agreements to have a productive discussion; we're having two different arguments instead of one.
posted by squirrel at 12:45 AM on June 9, 2005


If you don't understand the differences that contexts make, particularly when it comes to killing, then I politely withdraw from this discussion: we don't have enough foundational agreements to have a productive discussion; we're having two different arguments instead of one.

In the interest of resolving the discussion amicably, let's see if we can just have one argument. Decani said that people in the military were contract killers because they signed a contract to perform a job that may require them to kill someone. I asked whether police also fell into that category, in that respect and only in that respect. Decani implied that they did, at one point, or perhaps I'm just reading that into what he said. I'm not asking whether police are morally equivalent to military people. I'm not asking you about the morality of being a contract killer either; that is for Decani to answer. So, my question to you is simply, do you agree that police are also contract killers in this sense?
posted by me & my monkey at 8:25 AM on June 9, 2005


m&mk: I think that the main difference between police and military is that, although both are agents of state force, normally a policeman is no more allowed to kill than a civilian is, that is, only in order to defend himself or others from immediate attack. In the case of the military, killing and destroying is the whole point, no matter how much we try to fool ourselves (and most importantly, the young people we need to enlist to protect us) into thinking otherwise. Moreover, no judiciary force can currently prosecute soldiers merely for killing enemy soldiers even in a war of aggression, whereas "I was only following orders" is never going to be a sufficient defence for a policeman who kills somebody else (even the worst criminal) under illegal orders. This is the crucial difference between war and law enforcement and incidentally also the reason why concepts such as the "War on Drugs" and the "War on Terror" are so dangerous: they erode the judiciary oversight of the executive.
posted by Skeptic at 12:51 PM on June 9, 2005


"Smedleyman: where did I say I have a "principle of non-violence?" I can't seem to find where I said that. Could you point it out to me, please? Or, failing that, could you retract your false implication that I did say that? Thanks."

More long stuff 'cause I have to think about this...

Yeah, alright. Decani, I seem to have mixed you up with dame. I'm not sure that it warrents an apology though. Your previous statements from exact word but more from the tone and trend, can lead to a reasonable conclusion that you are asserting an argument from a position of non-violence - since you decry violence, it's use, it's usefulness, those who use it, and use it as a pejorative term
For example:
"I regard them as being humans who are perpetrating immoral and criminal acts."
"it is reasonable to describe soldiers as contract killers. Because they are required to kill to order, based on a contract they voluntarily signed."
"His brother always was way more intelligent than him. Which was probably why his brother became a marine biologist and he became a contract killer."
"you're a bigot with a predisposition towards violence whose got himself a bit jazzed up on testosterone (and roids?) "
"Ah yes. Thank goodness Archimedes, Pythagoras, Galileo, Copernicus, Hume, Mill, Russell, Gandhi, Greer, Friedan et all were always packin' heat, eh?"
"And I sure as shit care a lot about having a bunch of violent meatheads like you listen to me, sport."
" What (those men) did in terms of making "progressive changes" had nothing to do with their military connections or actions"
and so forth.

I'm certain the passionate reaction to your posts have to do with this sort of condescending tone. I don't know that you mean it, perhaps it's because you're British? I don't know. I mean no offense, I'm trying to take you at your word, but even the above (top) quote asking me to find where you said that reads as a bit patronizing. Again, polite words there and this medium is subject to misunderstanding in tone (we often have to denote when we use sarcasm), so I have to figure your being straight with me.

By your own admission you don't hit refresh every few minutes, no one expects you to (or shouldn't). So it becomes necessary to build - in my mind - the strongest argument I can extrapolate from your comments. That argument, to me, is that non-violence is superior to the use of violence.
Which I readily concede.
What confuses me is your apparent (I'll stress apparent there) inability to reconcile your - and others here - belief that there is never an excuse for violence except in self-defense or defense of innocents as that is the express stated purpose of the armed forces of the United States (previous the Iraq engagement - and even the the pre-emptive attack was characterized as self-defense).
And further that others may not see this specific engagement as deleterious to that cause.
There are other perspectives there, there are other viewpoints which make soldiering in the minds of those doing the job valid expressions of protecting the innocent and defending themselves.
There are certainly sources which promote this perspective specifically regarding the war in Iraq as a noble cause (promoting democracy, removing a tyrant, etc.) and while you or I might believe differently, it is important to note that we do not have any inherent nobility simply for holding this perspective.
Many people with other perspectives believe theirs is just as right, if not more so.
What makes many of them so odious is not - to me - that they use violence, but that they refuse to see there are persectives other than theirs and ways of looking at things that are just as real to us as theirs is to them.

I believe I've made my point as to why soldiers cannot choose where, where, and why to fight.
So I find it hard to believe anyone would choose, as an argument to denigrate homeless veterans based on the conditions of a particular engagement, instead of arguing from a moral high ground position of non-violence as a whole.

I further fail to see how a soldier - who is cut off from almost all media contrary to the war fighting perspective and is typically bombarded with it long before entering service anyway - is supposed to - during each engagement, judge the morality of a given act in any context other than orders.
I and my team, and teams like ours, saved the world. No hyperbole. Your welcome.
There were days the nukes may have flown. They didn't. Everything from then on is gravy. The world didn't end today.
Was Col. Stanislav Petrov a 'contract killer'?
Well, yes, yes he was. Did he save the world? Yep.
It's not as simple as many seem - seem - to be trying to make it.
Should those nukes have been there? Should we be pointing them at each other? Wouldn't the world be better off without them?

Well, sure. But you can trace this all back to when caveman Ugh hit Oorg with a rock.
You feel the need to defend yourself, Decani. How is that different from a nation feeling the need to defend itself?
Considering this from an outside observer - what makes your decision right and another's wrong?
There is no way I can determine your need to defend yourself and your actions to do so in any given situation is more valid than anyone elses.
I can't get inside your head.
Define self defense. Would it be right to grab my nuts if I punch you? Howabout if I punch your mother? Howabout if I punch some guy you don't know? Howabout if I steal your money? Cut off your water supply? Cut off your air supply?
While nations are far more observable they are subject to the same degrees of 'self-defense' but with far far more shades of grey.
Within those corridors of doubt lay a soldier's faith in his superiors. His honor. And so if his leaders are acting immorally - guess who elected them?

So in essence I was arguing with your tone, and the extrapolation of an argument based on the superiority of the ethos of non-violence and my response was to cede that, but counter with the necessary evil and need for law and order in meting out justice and war, I have no response to an argument which appears to me now to argue in favor of the subjective, if not capricius use of violence as - and I'm again extrapolating - valid only on the interpersonal level.
I thought Lycurgus had settled that matter thousands of years ago.
It's appaling to me anyone would attempt to argue from that position. I mean even after Nazi Germany lost WWII no one held the rank and file soldiers who did not participate in the atrocities as accountable for those acts. Many of them were just as shocked as the rest of the world, it was kept secret after all.

So, I suppose I must conclude an apology is in order for the false implication that you did say that you believed in non-violence as a principle, but don't you wish you had?
posted by Smedleyman at 1:39 PM on June 9, 2005


I think that the main difference between police and military is that, although both are agents of state force, normally a policeman is no more allowed to kill than a civilian is, that is, only in order to defend himself or others from immediate attack. In the case of the military, killing and destroying is the whole point, no matter how much we try to fool ourselves (and most importantly, the young people we need to enlist to protect us) into thinking otherwise.

Well, sure, I guess. But both have rules of engagement, and those rules are probably stricter than you might think. And, I disagree with your contention that the whole point of the military is killing and destroying. It is not, just as the whole point of an abortion isn't to kill a fetus. The point of the military is to exert control: control over people, control over places. The killing and destroying is integral to this process, but it certainly isn't the point.

But in any case, that's irrelevant to the question I had with Decani, which was simply whether anyone who takes a job that may require the use of lethal force is therefore a "contract killer." I freely admit that the killing may be more or less justified in different cases, and that many military actions are immoral. His point, as I understood it, was that soldiers didn't deserve our sympathy or support because they are contract killers.
posted by me & my monkey at 1:44 PM on June 9, 2005


Men leaving the service are analogous to women leaving a bad relationship

I'm curious, do a lot of returning female soldiers end up homeless and unable to fit in and take care of themselves as well? I just don't know how much combat an American female soldier sees. I'm also guessing that since females, by and large, are still raised to be agreeable little homemakers, that sort of gender assigned brainwashing might be a saving grace in this sitch.

It's simply despicable for a government to not properly care for it's returning soldiers.
posted by zarah at 1:48 PM on June 9, 2005


"This is the crucial difference between war and law enforcement and incidentally also the reason why concepts such as the "War on Drugs" and the "War on Terror" are so dangerous: they erode the judiciary oversight of the executive."
Aha! A counter argument I can agree with.

Skeptic , I would say though that - war of agression aside - the term 'defense' is fluid. Currently our weapons technology is in an assault phase - that is - we have no armor to counter missile weapons.
In medieval times you could build a castle and sit it out and reasonably argue you were engaged in defense.
Modern tactics don't allow that, so you, by necessity, have to go and kick over the other guy's tea wagon to engage in 'defense'.

I will concede this does require some deception on the part of recruiters, etc. And it is a far greater and more moral pursuit to not engage in it or warfighting.
Your statement aside, I still don't see - in even as simple a matter as legal responsibility - why homeless vets are or should be less entitled to aid than any Joe on the street.
posted by Smedleyman at 1:52 PM on June 9, 2005


They should be equally entitled, Smedleyman. I haven't heard anyone here claim that soldiers should be less entitled to federal safety nets. Some have argued that they aren't entitled to more, but that's not the same as saying they are entitled to less.


This is the crucial difference between war and law enforcement.


Well said, skeptic. Yet, I would warn you that your explanation created contexts, which are hardball concepts to some people. I predict that most of your argument is practically invisible for those who don't understand the applications of context in ethical and legal matters. The 'don't do nuance' folks, perhaps. Well, regardless, you explained it better than I was able to. Thanks for that.

On preview: What did I say? Didn't I warn you?

...and incidentally also the reason why concepts such as the "War on Drugs" and the "War on Terror" are so dangerous: they erode the judiciary oversight of the executive.

Slam dunk.
posted by squirrel at 8:39 PM on June 9, 2005


His point, as I understood it, was that soldiers didn't deserve our sympathy or support because they are contract killers.

This may be the kernel of misunderstanding, Monkey. Maybe Decani would say that soldiers deserve less than the average citizen, but I doubt that he would. I think that he was responding to what he inferred as soldier's deserving special or superior treatment, presumably because of the gift to society that their service represents. In rejecting that perceived (possibly implied) suggestion of superiority, Decani laid out emotional but reasonable arguments against granting soldiers an elevated status. Indeed, he indicated that a reduced ethical status was possible, if the soldiers acted unethically, as they have in Iraq.

Importantly, Decani never said that even the unethical are not entitled to equal federal protections against hunger.

We can agree to disagree about the ethics of the war, and of that of the soldiers in this particular campaign, but I think we can all agree that every US citizen should be protected against hunger and homelessness.
posted by squirrel at 9:54 PM on June 9, 2005


Goddamnit I had a hellish day at work yesterday and I'm all set for another one today so apologies again for the delay.

Skeptic and squirrel did a pretty good job of highlighting the differences - crucial differences - between cops and soldiers. And yes, M&mm; context matters and quantity matters, but that isn't all there is to it. I say that "contract killer" is inappropriate to use as a description for a cop but appropriate for a soldier. I think I have three opinions to back up here so here goes:

1. Context is important. This statement is true in this argument and anywhere else. I'm frankly pretty staggered that you seem to be questioning it. Is a drafted soldier to be judged in exactly the same way as a volunteer? Is a soldier who volunteered to fight Hitler to be judged in exactly the same way as one who volunteered because he agreed that invading Iraq was a great thing to do or, even more extreme, because he thought that doing whatever the hell his government-du-jour tells him he should do is a noble cause to dedicate his life and personal morality to? Is he to be compared with someone who joins the cops because he sees how it is largely a way to help make life better for people in his immediate community? Come on.

2. Quantity is important. As Skeptic points out, policemen are not routinely expected to kill. EVER. Yes, they are trained to shoot to kill (in America and elsewhere, although not in my country) but this is only so that they are prepared for those relatively infrequent situations where their life, or the lives their colleagues, or the lives of innocent bystanders are judged to be directly under threat. It is not part of the cop's job description that they will ever be expected to go out and kill lots and lots of people simply because their boss tells them to. They may be expected to use good judgement to kill in defence of the aforementioned lives. Period. This is a long, long way from what a soldier agrees to do; which is to kill whoever, wherever, whenever he's told to.

3. Which is why it is appropriate to call the soldier a contract killer but not the cop. A soldiers job is to be a trained user of deadly force and that is pretty much it. Of course, that description is extremely high-level and doesn't mention all the many, many detailed elements of training and practice which make up the routine of the job, but that is the primary purpose of being a soldier: to be capable of and willing to use deadly force against a perceived enemy or to use the threat of that deadly force as a deterrent. This is simply not true for the job description of a cop, and I really hope I don't need to spell out why.

The late, great Bill Hicks said it much more forcefully than I have on this thread. He cut to the bone very hard indeed to be deliberately provocative. He overstated with his choice of words which - like much of his act - was intended to be both inflammatory and provocative in order to shock people out of the lazy "Support Our Troops No Matter What They Do" thinking which causes so much evil in the world - from the gates of Auschwitz to the runined homes of Fallujah. He said this, at the end of his brilliant piece on gays in the military:

"Anyone... DUMB ENOUGH to want to be in the military should be allowed in. End of fucking story. That should be the only requirement. I don't care how many pushups you can do, put on a helmet, go wait in that foxhole, we'll tell you when we need you to kill somebody.
You know i'm sick of hearing military guys saying 'The esprit de corps will be affected, and we are such a moral...' Excuse me! Aren't y'all just hired fucking killers? SHUT UP! You are thugs and when we need you to go blow the fuck out of a nation of little brown people we'll let you know."

It doesn't have to be brown people, of course. But the point stands. Sorry. People need to face it instead of chanting comforting delusions so that they don't have to feel so bad about what "Our Troops" actually do.
posted by Decani at 5:19 AM on June 10, 2005


/purchases a little Decani badge for his SUV
posted by longbaugh at 6:09 AM on June 10, 2005


Is a soldier who volunteered to fight Hitler to be judged in exactly the same way as one who volunteered because he agreed that invading Iraq was a great thing to do or, even more extreme, because he thought that doing whatever the hell his government-du-jour tells him he should do is a noble cause to dedicate his life and personal morality to?

It's much easier to judge things in retrospect, but yes, I think they're judged in exactly the same way, because they both had the same motivation. I don't see how the "government-du-jour" situation is any different now than it was then; there were plenty of people who thought FDR was a terrible warmongerer, and they wanted nothing to do with Europe's problems. I suspect that, for example, the average volunteer had no idea about the extent of the Final Solution. A lot of today's volunteers are there because they joined in response to 9/11, just like a lot of WWII volunteers were there because of Pearl Harbor. Had Patton gotten his way, we might have fought the Soviet Union (unjustifiably, in my opinion) directly after the Nazis. That would have been closely analogous to the current situation, I think. Would those rank-and-file soldiers then be culpable for that?

A soldiers job is to be a trained user of deadly force and that is pretty much it. Of course, that description is extremely high-level and doesn't mention all the many, many detailed elements of training and practice which make up the routine of the job, but that is the primary purpose of being a soldier: to be capable of and willing to use deadly force against a perceived enemy or to use the threat of that deadly force as a deterrent. This is simply not true for the job description of a cop, and I really hope I don't need to spell out why.

Again, I will point out that a relatively small number of soldiers are in combat arms units. The Army is like any other bureaucracy - there are a few people doing most of the actual work, and a lot of people providing support to them. So, again, I will point out that it has often been possible to have the rational expectation that you are less likely to actually have to shoot someone as a soldier than as a cop. And most major police departments have people whose jobs directly involve the intentional use of deadly force - police snipers, SWAT teams. Are those specific people contract killers?

He overstated with his choice of words which - like much of his act - was intended to be both inflammatory and provocative in order to shock people out of the lazy "Support Our Troops No Matter What They Do" thinking which causes so much evil in the world - from the gates of Auschwitz to the runined homes of Fallujah.

Of course, if you're willing to follow his logic to its ultimate conclusion, the gates of Auschwitz would still be accepting customers, if you know what I mean.

But I'm not sure if his logic is yours - after all, you chided me earlier in the thread for my inference that you thought we didn't need a military at all. So which is is - do we need one? If we do, should we hold its members in contempt because they chose to do what we said we needed? Or do you support the draft? I guess I'm having trouble figuring out your recommended prescription for what to do.
posted by me & my monkey at 6:56 AM on June 10, 2005


I think you know exactly what they mean but are being deliberately obtuse. The alternative is that you just don't get it at all, but I figure you are way smarter than that.
posted by longbaugh at 7:23 AM on June 10, 2005


We can agree to disagree about the ethics of the war, and of that of the soldiers in this particular campaign, but I think we can all agree that every US citizen should be protected against hunger and homelessness.

Sure, although I suspect we largely agree on the ethics of the current war in Iraq. My point in saying that the government should do more for veterans than it does was simply that I believe the government, like any other employer, should be held to certain standards on how it treats its employees, and I further believe that it isn't doing that. I think that the government has a higher obligation to an ex-soldier than to every US citizen, because the government has the added obligation of having been that ex-soldier's employer.

I think you know exactly what they mean but are being deliberately obtuse.

I'm not sure what you mean by this. I don't think that what Decani is saying is logically consistent. I kind of regret bringing up the police thing; it's largely irrelevant, and I only brought it up in the first place because I assumed that Decani thought that being a contract killer was a bad thing, by its very nature. Now, I'm not sure he believes that. I previously assumed that he thought that there was never a need for military force, but he said that was a mistaken assumption on my part. So far, here's my understanding of what Decani has said:

1. Joining the military is bad.
2. Joining the military to fight Hitler was not bad.
3. We need to maintain a standing army.

As you can imagine, I'm having difficulty reconciling these things.
posted by me & my monkey at 7:45 AM on June 10, 2005


My understanding is more along the lines of this -

(1) - Joining the military in actual defence of your nation from foreign invaders or possibly assisting another nation overthrow invaders is okay. Joining the military and then taking part in morally dubious activities in the name of your government is not okay.
(2) - As this is tied in to the one above, this now makes perfect sense.
(3) - Obviously. In the instance that (1) occurs we need a trained group of people to ward off those who would kill or enslave us or our friends.
posted by longbaugh at 7:59 AM on June 10, 2005


(1) - Joining the military in actual defence of your nation from foreign invaders or possibly assisting another nation overthrow invaders is okay. Joining the military and then taking part in morally dubious activities in the name of your government is not okay.
(2) - As this is tied in to the one above, this now makes perfect sense.


But you'd have to know this in advance, then? If you join for those reasons because you've been told that your country is threatened, but it turns out later that you were lied to, was it ok or not ok to join? Or, if you join for those reasons and they turn out to be correct, and you are later ordered to do things that are "morally dubious," what then? Or, if you join when there is no current threat, but later are sent to Iraq, what then? Because once you join the military, you are in the military until you're out - you can't wake up each morning and evaluate what you've been told to do to ensure that it's moral, beyond the simplest things.

(3) - Obviously. In the instance that (1) occurs we need a trained group of people to ward off those who would kill or enslave us or our friends.

If this is true, then a blanket condemnation of people in the military is unwarranted. If you think it's morally wrong for people to join the military, you must believe that others shouldn't join the military, in which case it wouldn't exist. I just don't see how you can have it both ways.
posted by me & my monkey at 8:17 AM on June 10, 2005


I'm talking Red Dawn here m & m m. You'd have to have waves of darkies/commies/oily drug dealers/flavour-of-the-month enemies rolling up on the shorelines and leaping from planes to prove to me my country was threatened. For the first 25 years of my life I was under threat of terrorism and I don't seem to recall bombing a country to rubble in reply.

It's usually pretty simple to identify whether a particular action is right or wrong and to stand up for your actions. I did. That's why I left. All it took was examination of my motivations and the examination of those who gave me orders. They were incompatible, so I quit.

I personally have no problem with the existence of the military. I do have issues with most of the idiots who sign up (by fuck some of the infantry I knew were stupid). I would prefer a self defence force and an international rapid reaction unit that would act in the event of disaster or attempted genocide.
posted by longbaugh at 8:30 AM on June 10, 2005


You'd have to have waves of darkies/commies/oily drug dealers/flavour-of-the-month enemies rolling up on the shorelines and leaping from planes to prove to me my country was threatened.

Clearly then, by your lights, the US intervention in Europe during WWII was unjustified. That's fine with me if you believe it, but I just want to make sure I'm not misinterpreting you. But for me, I'd have joined after 9/11 had I not been too old (and openly gay and all.)

It's usually pretty simple to identify whether a particular action is right or wrong and to stand up for your actions. I did. That's why I left. All it took was examination of my motivations and the examination of those who gave me orders. They were incompatible, so I quit.

Did you just wake up one morning and leave? Or did you wait until your enlistment was up? Out of curiosity, what was the one particular action that triggered your leaving?

I personally have no problem with the existence of the military. I do have issues with most of the idiots who sign up (by fuck some of the infantry I knew were stupid).

How is this at all relevant? There are stupid people in any profession.

I would prefer a self defence force and an international rapid reaction unit that would act in the event of disaster or attempted genocide.

Who would control this "international rapid reaction force" anyway? Would it be as effective as the UN peacekeepers everywhere who stand by as people are slaughtered around them? Would the members of said force be contract killers according to Decani?
posted by me & my monkey at 8:47 AM on June 10, 2005


Clearly then, by your lights, the US intervention in Europe during WWII was unjustified. That's fine with me if you believe it, but I just want to make sure I'm not misinterpreting you.

Well no, because as I said prior to that - Joining the military in actual defence of your nation from foreign invaders or possibly assisting another nation overthrow invaders is okay.

Did you just wake up one morning and leave? Or did you wait until your enlistment was up? Out of curiosity, what was the one particular action that triggered your leaving?

There was no one thing. It was a gradual waking up process - I realised my initial reasons for joining were wrong and based on poor thinking. I didn't wait until my enlistment was up because I didn't want to find myself in a situation where I would have to bend my morals to fit the desires of my "superiors" and so bought myself out of the contract.

How is this at all relevant? There are stupid people in any profession.

A stupid person working in technical support might tell you to put ice cream in your PC. This is bad. A stupid person with access to firearms, explosives etc. can cause lots of death to innocents, colleagues etc.

Who would control this "international rapid reaction force" anyway?

Now there you have me. Would that there was a decent international effort to prevent mass murder. I suggest making me supreme ruler and we'll see how that turns out.

Would it be as effective as the UN peacekeepers everywhere who stand by as people are slaughtered around them?

No it wouldn't - that's the whole point. Rather than standing by and allowing two groups to cut each other to ribbons the RRF stands in the middle and enforces peace. This would be both a military and law enforcement action (something that the British Army does excel at).
posted by longbaugh at 9:37 AM on June 10, 2005


Well no, because as I said prior to that - Joining the military in actual defence of your nation from foreign invaders or possibly assisting another nation overthrow invaders is okay.

That seems inconsistent with your "Red Dawn" reference. During the Second World War, the US was not threatened by invasion from Germany, or from Japan for that matter. There was quite a bit of isolationist thinking at the time. You might think I'm being obtuse by pushing this, but I'm looking for what you think are clear, acceptable reasons for joining the military. The whole "assisting another nation" bit is a giant loophole which requires clearer definition. Do these invaders have to be foreign to the country in question? How about Bosnia? Was that intervention warranted? In that case, we had a bunch of ethnic groups who all lived in the same place.

... and so bought myself out of the contract.

I'm not exactly sure what you mean by this. I don't believe that people in the US military can buy themselves out of anything, and I'm not familiar with the policies of other countries.

A stupid person with access to firearms, explosives etc. can cause lots of death to innocents, colleagues etc.

Thus the emphasis on doing what you're told, obeying orders, the chain of command and so on.

Rather than standing by and allowing two groups to cut each other to ribbons the RRF stands in the middle and enforces peace.

I like the way you talk about this in the present tense, as if it actually existed. Alas ...

This would be both a military and law enforcement action (something that the British Army does excel at).

The blurring of lines between military and law enforcement has been going on for a while, which is what prompted me to ask the earlier question.
posted by me & my monkey at 1:14 PM on June 10, 2005


The blurring of lines between military and law enforcement has been going on for a while.

Well, not for me. The reason why I introduced that phrase in this thread (to some success, as it seems) and put some emphasis in this, it is because it encapsulated the difference between a policeman and a soldier. The job of a policeman is to enforce the law, that of a soldier to enforce orders. The difference may appear to be subtle, but certainly isn't: laws (at least in our democratic societies) are public, publically debated and passed following a complex process of checks and balances. This is definitely not the case with military orders.

When a policeman joins the police force, he knows (or should know) what he'll have to enforce: laws aren't that easily changed. On the other hand, a soldier is basically extending a blank cheque to his superiors to use him as they like. It's a difference that goes far beyond rules of engagement.

Now, it is true that soldiers are often called to take law enforcement duties, particularly in peacekeeping roles. It is also true that soldiers of some nations receive comparatively good training for this: the UK (because of "The Troubles") comes to mind, but also all nations with long experience of providing troops for UN peacekeeping. Nevertheless, those soldiers are only law enforcers because those are their current orders: the next day they may be ordered to break the law, and they will be obliged to do so: whoever gave the order may eventually be prosecuted, but not necessarily the soldiers who execute it...
posted by Skeptic at 3:33 PM on June 10, 2005


...to shock people out of the lazy "Support Our Troops No Matter What They Do"
If that's your ultimate point we have no disagreement.

RRF stands in the middle and enforces peace.
This would be both a military and law enforcement action
(something that the British Army does excel at).


Enforce peace and you run into the same connundrum - who watches the watchmen? Particularly when those watchmen are 'contract killers'.
And the Brits did do some nasty things to Irish civilians, didn't they?
posted by Smedleyman at 11:08 AM on June 12, 2005


During the Second World War, the US was not threatened by invasion from Germany, or from Japan for that matter.

You do appreciate that it was Japan and Germany that declared war on the US and not the other way round? Japan certainly would have taken away US held territory if the US had not fought back.
posted by biffa at 1:15 AM on June 13, 2005


You do appreciate that it was Japan and Germany that declared war on the US and not the other way round?

Why, yes, I am aware of that. However, neither was a threat to the continental US, and the US could have avoided getting involved in direct military action against both countries. None of the "US held territory" was especially important to the US economy, especially in the long run. In addition, we could have pursued action against the Japanese without doing the same against the Germans, although that would have made the British very unhappy. And the Russians too, I suppose, although we probably wouldn't have cared so much about them. But my point is simply that the liberation of Europe was not a purely defensive action - there were no "waves of darkies/commies/oily drug dealers/flavour-of-the-month enemies rolling up on the shorelines and leaping from planes" in America.
posted by me & my monkey at 6:27 AM on June 13, 2005


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