The War as We Saw It
August 21, 2007 5:46 PM   Subscribe

The War as We Saw It. A powerful op-ed about Iraq written by seven infantrymen and noncommissioned officers with the 82nd Airborne Division who will soon be heading home, it has received surprisingly little attention.
posted by homunculus (72 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
Well, Tucker did spend some time on it. (Mentioned in the article)
posted by absalom at 5:49 PM on August 21, 2007


Yes, Tucker totally pwned those guys, what with his lengthy and extensive record of sacrifice and public service!
posted by clevershark at 6:00 PM on August 21, 2007


Just seems weird reading that and comparing to WW1 and WW2 narratives, when the world actually rested on the outcome of such-and-such wars. The one common thread appears to be commonsense and runs through all American wars.

-Incompetent leaders
-War profiteers
-Indifferent Public
-Romantic ideals thwarted
- ETC ETC ETC

The thing that separates current vets from past vets is that there are no draftees serving. If they would have read anything, perhaps war is a racket than they wouldn't be in the situation. I don't see what the big deal is, what is happening in Iraq now is little different than what has happened in American history. Of course the fault lies with all people who vote for Democrats and Republicans.

The real victims are Iraqis. The contemporary American troops have it fairly easy compared to, say, the troops in Real War
posted by Gnostic Novelist at 6:00 PM on August 21, 2007


Little attention? Does that mean there are a few Americans who do not read the NY Times? That aside, it was discussed on cable tv, and the vet opposing it (one defended it) stated that the writers were but in one specific loacation and that did not reflect upon what was going on overall. I note this not that I believe in their arguement but to indicate that there are those in the military who
believe that what is being done is working. And so what we have, i guess, is the usual red versus blue, or liberal versus conservative, or anti-Bush war versus pro Bush war.

The important point that all seem now agreeing upon is that whether the surge is or is not working, there is a failure in total on the political front and that withouta change here, all the military and all the surging and all the time spent in Iraq will not bring about stability.
posted by Postroad at 6:06 PM on August 21, 2007


"As committed soldiers, we will see this mission through."

Bad call. They could encourage withdrawal from Iraq, even if it means mutiny and internal rebellion, to focus instead on throwing the bums out who now run the U.S. But they won't consider it, and I won't ask them to in public.
posted by davy at 6:07 PM on August 21, 2007


Bad call. They could encourage withdrawal from Iraq, even if it means mutiny and internal rebellion, to focus instead on throwing the bums out who now run the U.S. But they won't consider it, and I won't ask them to in public.

You really believe that the military should be making political decisions for us?
posted by Snyder at 6:41 PM on August 21, 2007


“They could encourage withdrawal from Iraq, even if it means mutiny and internal rebellion, to focus instead on throwing the bums out who now run the U.S.”

Man that’d be great. It’d be like a helpful Big Brother looking out for us, but y’know with guns, whenever we elect the ‘wrong’ people.

That was a well reasoned, cogent essay exploring a number of effects of policy based not on conjecture but direct experiance of the end result of those policies.
It’s not at all surprising that the first reaction is to dichotomize it into the yes/no, conservatard/librul, talking head spoon fed mush.

Tucker Carlson is beneath consideration on this topic.
It’s always amazed me that in any other field of endeavor you can bring in “the guy” - the engineer who built the thing, the ball player who played the game, the doctor who performed the operation - and in those situations “the guy”’s experiance lends at least some credence to whatever the assertion.
In politics anyone can override anyone else’s opinion apparently, regardless of empirical evidence.
You don’t have some schnook like Carlson patronizing Ben Carson saying he respects his experiance using radiofrequency and glycerine rhizotomy in treating trigeminal neuralgia but he distrusts that assertion, like it’s some matter anyone can have an opinon on or they need a public poll.
‘Say, I don’t know anything about the tensile strength of concrete or the load bearing aspects of any materials much less how they perform under water pressure, but I think you’re wrong about how to build this here dam. Let’s hear from some folks in the public.’

Troops - any combat noncom - is an expert in policy execution at the ultimate level. Doesn’t give him the big picture. Doesn’t mean he can balance the budget or coordinate the logistics. But if the guy at the end of the chain says “I can’t do my job this way” you’re going to want to listen to him and ask why.
posted by Smedleyman at 6:43 PM on August 21, 2007 [9 favorites]


Trust Airborne or Brookings Institute?
posted by homunculus at 6:45 PM on August 21, 2007


I think what he means by "not much attention" is not much attention to the op-ed by Kenneth Pollack and Michael O'Hanlon, after they wrote it, they were all over TV promoting their "views" as "war critics turned believers" Of course, they had always believed in the war, and even supported the surge. But, now they had been to Iraq, were given a dog and pony show, and decided that the surge was working. Then they went all over TV and proclaimed to have been "converted".

It was all quite ridiculous.
posted by delmoi at 6:48 PM on August 21, 2007 [2 favorites]


O’Hanlon and Pollack supported the Administration's theme, and were available to appear on all the talking head shows. The grunts were busy supporting the Administration's military commitments, and hence were not available for TV appearances. Welcome to the 24 hour news cycle.
posted by procrastination at 6:59 PM on August 21, 2007


"...there are those in the military who believe that what is being done is working."

And each and every one of them is lying to himself.
posted by rougy at 7:09 PM on August 21, 2007 [2 favorites]


All I can think of is what my town is gonna be like once all these guys come home with PTSD.

The good news is that our next generation of politicians might actually come from the group that is now over there in the thick of it.
posted by konolia at 7:37 PM on August 21, 2007


I can't speak for anyone else, but I, personally, don't want some 20-something PTSD iraq veteran with blood on his hands, and murder still fresh in his mind to come back home and move in next to me and my 15 month daughter.

I say leave them there. Have them take up residency. Let them show us what kind of commitment the US military has for the Iraqi populace.

Don't bring them home. They have already wasted whatever humanity they may have started out with. Keep it away from my family.
posted by Balisong at 7:53 PM on August 21, 2007 [2 favorites]


I think they'll have enough problems without being treated like lepers, Balisong.
posted by StrikeTheViol at 8:03 PM on August 21, 2007 [3 favorites]


Let's just ignore Balisong's comment as a piss-poor attempt at sarcasm.
posted by mek at 8:04 PM on August 21, 2007


>>"...there are those in the military who believe that what is being done is working."

>"And each and every one of them is lying to himself."


Hey, no fair, that's the voters' job. You know, those hapless snooks who believe voting Republican will win the war or voting Democrat will end it.

And Smedleyman, what are you on about? It was "mutinous" troops in their respective countries who actually overthrew the Tsar and the Kaiser, and would've overthrown the French government had the American army not been there by then. But let me guess, the FIRST Gulf War counts as ancient history round here, right?

As for those troops who won't support Workers' and Soldiers' Councils, who still believe that "patriotic" bullshit, Balisong has reason. Let's not forget that each and every U.S. "troop" in Iraq is a volunteer, that they were not drafted. I've said this before and I'll say it again: if you want to join a peaceful organization try the frigging Peace Corps. Or are people so stupid they don't know why they're trained to use deadly weapons?
posted by davy at 8:06 PM on August 21, 2007


Have them move next to your house.

My favorite color is still camoflage, and I still live in a town with a huge army base, Ft. Carson, and several AF bases. (Peterson, Schriver, NORAD, USAFA)

The town has been pretty trouble free since they've been gone.
Maybe I'm the only one who has noticed it.
posted by Balisong at 8:12 PM on August 21, 2007


Hey Balisong, there're a lot of frustrated young women out there now huh? Maybe you should rent out your sofa till the traveler gets lucky.
posted by davy at 8:18 PM on August 21, 2007


My wife wouldn't like it.
posted by Balisong at 8:23 PM on August 21, 2007


Sure, join the Peace Corps, a fine institution that can't give a family-feeding wage, although it'd be nice if it did. There's more that one reason to join an army, davy.

I'm not sure how sarcastic that was meant to be, Balisong, but if you're callous enough to think the army's just garbage in, garbage out, I think we're past conversation.
posted by StrikeTheViol at 8:24 PM on August 21, 2007


In politics anyone can override anyone else’s opinion apparently, regardless of empirical evidence.

Yah, it seems like nowadays they just let anybody vote.
posted by Slap Factory at 8:28 PM on August 21, 2007


The Other War: Iraq Vets Bear Witness
posted by Huplescat at 8:41 PM on August 21, 2007


Don't bring them home. They have already wasted whatever humanity they may have started out with. Keep it away from my family.

That attitude may be even more evil than the one that started this war in the first place.
posted by Malor at 8:47 PM on August 21, 2007 [2 favorites]


Let's not forget that each and every U.S. "troop" in Iraq is a volunteer, that they were not drafted.

And what do you think would happen if not enough people volunteered? Snake, meet your tail.
posted by Cyrano at 9:05 PM on August 21, 2007


PTSD is certainly a major concern, and if you "believe" in Gulf War Syndrome, then that's also huge. The hidden post-war cost may be as enormous as the initial price tag... both in dollars, and in human lives.
posted by mek at 9:09 PM on August 21, 2007


"And what do you think would happen if not enough people volunteered?"

Fewer wasteful foreign "conquests" perhaps? Chickenhawk politicos are less likely to start a war without people to send to it. These wars (don't forget Afghanistan) would have been impossible without built-in "cannon fodder."

Or are you thinking the U.S. government will restart the draft? Yeah, that'd be really smart: the last revolution had a chance till they quit drafting people, so bringing it back would be a wonderful idea. (Therefore every good Trotskyite should be in favor of a new draft, eh?) Personally I doubt the chickenhawks are THAT stupid, but I have been wrong once or twice.
posted by davy at 9:16 PM on August 21, 2007


The War Tapes
posted by poweredbybeard at 11:10 PM on August 21, 2007


No End In Sight
posted by homunculus at 12:20 AM on August 22, 2007


Cheers for the post, homunculus. I miss a lot more NYT content than I should as so much is paid for these days. That Op-Ed was eloquent and based on real world experience.

So much Iraq focused content is too full of heat and light to be truly illuminating - either from disappointed armchair warriors or the reasonably enraged anti-war voices.

There are no easy answers and I think, for now, it is more productive to focus on where we are and what we can do now than the terrible and criminally stupid way we have got here. Peter Galbraith and Rory Stewart have recently offered some insights I recommend reading.
posted by The Salaryman at 4:38 AM on August 22, 2007


Great op-ed—thanks for the post.

It was "mutinous" troops in their respective countries who actually overthrew the Tsar and the Kaiser


And gosh, that went well, didn't it?
posted by languagehat at 6:02 AM on August 22, 2007


I can't speak for anyone else, but I, personally, don't want some 20-something PTSD iraq veteran with blood on his hands, and murder still fresh in his mind to come back home and move in next to me and my 15 month daughter.

As much as I am concerned for the mental heath of returning soldiers, THAT is one of the most offensive things I have ever read on this site.
posted by konolia at 6:06 AM on August 22, 2007 [1 favorite]


Seconded. Especially the refusal to recognize the humanity of the mentally ill, but it was the Keep it away from my family, that got to me, and I didn't know why....then, I figured it out:

It Rubs The Lotion On Its Skin
posted by StrikeTheViol at 7:54 AM on August 22, 2007


As much as I am concerned for the mental heath of returning soldiers, THAT is one of the most offensive things I have ever read on this site.

Well, try to look at it from the opposing viewpoint. These people volunteered to do a job that they had to know involved killing others. If they'd taken a few minutes to look it up, something that should be their moral responsibility if they're setting out to kill for their country, they'd see that for the last 40 years or so, these victims were mostly innocent bystanders.

Then, the military systematically programmed them so that they were able to kill others without thinking about it (historically, most soldiers find themselves incapable of actually killing others when it comes down to it). Then, these soldiers were put into a war where the value of a civilian life is very low and soldiers were allowed if not encouraged to do things like run civilians over rather than stop; where unless you rape and murder a child, you can get away with almost any crime you like.

Soon, they'll be discarded back into the streets of America. They've probably mostly realized that the war was a fuck-up from beginning to end. Many of them will have mental or physical health problems. They'll soon realize how little support they get from the VA.

They have guns. They have training. They've killed, often killed innocents. For the most part, they've shown no conscience and no responsibility.

So, yes, I'd be frightened if I lived in a neighborhood with a lot of Iraq II vets.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 8:05 AM on August 22, 2007


Bush: History to Prove Iraq War Worth It
posted by homunculus at 9:29 AM on August 22, 2007


Me: "It was 'mutinous' troops in their respective countries who actually overthrew the Tsar and the Kaiser"

languagehat: "And gosh, that went well, didn't it?"

Oh brother. You know as well as I do that the debacles of 1917-8 were caused by Leninist putschists in Russia and sellout "Social Democrats" in Germany, not the mutinous soldiers who chased the crowned heads out of the country. By the kind of "logic" you've just used the American Revolution of 1776 was a very bad thing because it led to George W. Bush. Should we email Buckingham Palace and give them back their colonies?

You also know that, unlike today's self-selected U.S. "troops" of volunteers, the various Imperial forces were created by the draft -- and that by 1917-18 their respective populi were sick of the war and wanted it over with PDQ. Remember, one very successful Bolshevik tactic was calling for immediate peace even at the cost of surrendering half of Tsarist territory to the Germans (albeit lands like Poland and Ukraine which had been conquered by force a century or more before anyway); (the remnants of) an army would not agree to that unless a majority of the troops were unwilling to continue the war in the first place. Of course these mutinous remnants from WW1 contrast sharply with today's gung-ho bunch of brainwashed volunteers who "will see this mission through," said contrast being my point. (Note also that an immediate bug-out from "the Middle East" would not involve surrendering any American territory, just giving those countries back to their own peoples to do with as they see fit.)

It's cute little cracks like the one you just made up there that lead me to suggest you may be bolstering your personal popularity around here by pandering to unthinking prejudices against uncommon ideas and those who hold them. I know you can do better so I wish you'd cut it out.

But hey, if you were really serious, following your logic means ending slavery was a bad idea because it led to car radios blasting hiphop down residential streets at 2 A.M. Would you suggest America repent of Emancipation because "Golly, that turned out well, eh?"
posted by davy at 9:59 AM on August 22, 2007


The whole "volunteer soldiers = filthy muderers" schtick got old for me a long time ago. Most of the people taking that position do not have the nerve to really follow it through to its logical conclusions. Here's a suggestion: If you're not willing to advocate for the elimination of armies, don't damn soldiers for performing their duties. (And just in case if you're advocating for the elimination of armies, at least have the wit to recognize that it would entail a lot of people getting killed before things settled down.)

gnostic novelist: The point that Smedley Butler was trying to make was not "t'was ever thus" -- it was "you damned civilians better get your act together and stop your politicians from using us soldiers as thugs, or you're going to have soldiers quartered in your homes."
posted by lodurr at 10:28 AM on August 22, 2007


Iraq: Act Without Thinking

Soldiers of Conscience sounds very similar to the article Hope on the Battlefield which was discussed in this post.
posted by homunculus at 10:29 AM on August 22, 2007


You know as well as I do that the debacles of 1917-8 were caused by...

... OK, that's enough of that. Please stop rationalizing what's obviously a really marginal and ill-considered position. You'll do better if you just back out of it and moderate now, than if you keep bulling forward.

davy, the reason we do not permit military control of civilian affairs is that when the military meddles in civilian affairs, it almost inevitably sets the stage for things getting really screwed up.

I can think of a few examples where a military coup resulted in good things in a short-medium term. I'm given to understand it usually works this way in Thailand, and it's arguable (but just barely) that it worked that way in Brazil. Usually it ends badly for most of the people concerned (Chile, Argentina, Iran, Iraq, Egypt, France, and Spainy spring to mind at the drop of a hat).
posted by lodurr at 10:34 AM on August 22, 2007


So, yes, I'd be frightened if I lived in a neighborhood with a lot of Iraq II vets

I live in a city with them, go to church with them, and shop at Wal-mart with them. Just in case you don't know I live right next to Fort Bragg.

I worry about our troops, but in the clear majority of cases I am honored to be their neighbor. I'm afraid FOR them but never afraid OF them.
posted by konolia at 10:51 AM on August 22, 2007


Hey lodurr, it's better for people to be killed in the course of abolishing armies than for the furtherance of everlasting militarism, like it's better to die during surgery than to be left bleeding in the street.

And by the way, look up "false dilemma" sometime. Bad "logic" in defense of evil got old millennia ago. An historical example, since I brought the analogy up earlier, was "before you think about freeing the slaves you'd better have a plan for all the white girls that'll be raped." See what I mean, or do you need a 1500-word exposition?
posted by davy at 11:15 AM on August 22, 2007


You know as well as I do that the debacles of 1917-8 were caused by Leninist putschists in Russia and sellout "Social Democrats" in Germany, not the mutinous soldiers who chased the crowned heads out of the country. By the kind of "logic" you've just used the American Revolution of 1776 was a very bad thing because it led to George W. Bush. Should we email Buckingham Palace and give them back their colonies?

Depends what you mean by "caused." No, the mutinous soldiers didn't literally put Lenin and Hitler on their thrones (or rather, the mutinous soldiers who got rid of the crowned heads weren't the same ones who put them there, although there was overlap), but they created the necessary conditions for totalitarian takeover. Both countries would have been better off if the crowned heads had been left in place and democratic reform had taken place by fits and starts. And frankly, I'm not at all sure the world is a better place because of the American Revolution; it's something I've thought about off and on as I read history. The sad truth is, comrade, I've lost my faith in revolution as a solution to bad situations. It's a bloody mess.

It's cute little cracks like the one you just made up there that lead me to suggest you may be bolstering your personal popularity around here by pandering to unthinking prejudices against uncommon ideas and those who hold them.

Two things:

1) You've got to be kidding if you think I go around "pandering to unthinking prejudices against uncommon ideas"; I hold such ideas myself (anarchism, rabid descriptivism, tolerance for religion—I presume we're talking about uncommon here at MeFi), and my instinct is always to support the underdog. And you'll just have to take my word for it that I've never once thought about "favorites" or "popularity" when I made a comment (or post either).

2) I'm not sure how to put this without offending you, but... well, let's just say I'm a little surprised to hear you in particular taking umbrage at "cute little cracks."
posted by languagehat at 11:30 AM on August 22, 2007


And lodurr does it again: I am NOT arguing for a military coup or "military control of civilian affairs," I'm saying that our troops should refuse to keep oppressing and colonizing the peoples of "the Middle East" so they can QUIT BEING SOLDIERS. That is, their duty as Americans and as human beings should outweigh their "obligations" to the Bush regime: what better way can you think of to end a war than soldiers refusing to keep fighting it? It's like "Ain't gonna study war no more, and you can't make me." Get it yet?

As for what comes next, that'd be up to the American people, wouldn't it. I doubt America would stand for a military dictatorship; I don't even think most Marines would go for it. That is, I have some feeling that underneath the camouflage you'll find a human being. If I didn't think the troops are still human I would argue for prolonging these wars indefinitely to keep the troops over there away from me.
posted by davy at 11:31 AM on August 22, 2007


"I'm a little surprised to hear you in particular taking umbrage at 'cute little cracks.'"

It's a matter of context, fellow old fellow.
posted by davy at 11:33 AM on August 22, 2007


"[T]he mutinous soldiers...created the necessary conditions for totalitarian takeover."

We differ there: I think they played a mostly unwitting part, but there was a lot more going on nationally and internationally than that. E.g., I don't think the mutinous soldiers and sailors at Petrograd made the British land troops in the Crimea (etc.), nor do I think the mutinous Russian troops overthrew the Tsar so some ex-lawyer and his egghead buddies could push them around instead. I think you're oversimplifying greatly (and that you'll agree I know what 'oversimplifying' is).

Not that I think the main motive of most of the mutineers was anything but simple: they wanted to end that stupid war and go home to their families. It's just that before they could do that they had to...um... take a few steps first.
posted by davy at 12:45 PM on August 22, 2007


War's Chilling Reality
posted by homunculus at 12:58 PM on August 22, 2007


Davy: And by the way, look up "false dilemma" sometime. Bad "logic" in defense of evil got old millennia ago. An historical example, since I brought the analogy up earlier, was "before you think about freeing the slaves you'd better have a plan for all the white girls that'll be raped." See what I mean, or do you need a 1500-word exposition

Hey, davy, I'm completely at a loss as to what the hell you're talking about. I offered a couple of opinions. I basically said that I don't have respect for the argument that soldiers = killers -- is that what you're atlking about? And I pointed out that you don't seem to actually understand Smedley Butler's point.

Ah, I see, it was this: "davy, the reason we do not permit military control of civilian affairs is that when the military meddles in civilian affairs, it almost inevitably sets the stage for things getting really screwed up."

So that's what you've got your sophomoric little logic-nazi ass in an uproar over: Me, making an observation about the reason for the Constitutionally-codified separation of military and civilian affairs in the United States. How silly of me to mention that. Of course it wasn't germaine to your point in the slightest.

I tell you what: You stop taking ill-considered positions, and I'll stop commenting on their ramifications or on topics related to them.

Better yet, you stop behaving like a sophomore rhetoric student, and then maybe we can engage in a discussion, instead of having to count coup on one another all afternoon.
posted by lodurr at 1:16 PM on August 22, 2007


davy: I doubt America would stand for a military dictatorship; I don't even think most Marines would go for it.

I'm not worried about Marines. Or the Army, for that matter. They have a professional officer corp dominated by Academy graudates -- in short, people who've been inculcated with trivial cultural values such as civilian control of the military.

I am worried about the National Guard, who are comprised largely of people who have not had the benefit of such indoctrination.

And I am worried about the American people, who generally prove themselves to be more and more gullible all the time.

That said, I do agree that a military dictatorship is quite unlikely in the US. We'd go for something much more subtle.
posted by lodurr at 1:24 PM on August 22, 2007


Oh lodurr, whatever.

That said, I think I know what you mean by "something more subtle" than a military dictatorship, and I don't think I'd like that much either. How about checking out your local anarchist federation to see what they're thinking?
posted by davy at 1:31 PM on August 22, 2007


I regret that I have but only one opportunity to favor this comment, Smedleyman because I'd be like a rat at a Skinner box hammering that damned [+] until Matt's server was DDoS'ed if given the opportunity.

Spot-fucking-on.
posted by Fezboy! at 1:35 PM on August 22, 2007


I further regret not proofing my previous comment for this testament to my poor spelling and grammar will live on forever.
posted by Fezboy! at 1:46 PM on August 22, 2007


How about checking out your local anarchist federation to see what they're thinking?

I have a lot more respect for some anarchists than for just about any libertarians -- in my experience, anarchists are much, much more likely to actually go and actually try what they're selling. But once I get past the initial agreement about a few global ideas, I usually find that anarchists and I just disagree about some very basic things. I've come to the conclusion that for the most part, anarchism (of whatever flavor you like) sounds a lot better (sure as hell a lot more comprehensible) when it's being described by someone who'd not practicing it.

In any case, I think most "black bloc"-style anti-globalists are fighting the wrong fight, using the wrong methods. They're making a frontal assault against an armored line, in hopes that their example will be inspirational; the people they're trying to reach, meanwhile, are getting their version of the story from people who want the black bloc to look stupid, and in any case wouldn't understand their message if they could get it directly.
posted by lodurr at 1:59 PM on August 22, 2007


Former CIA officer: US to attack Iran within 6 months
posted by homunculus at 2:06 PM on August 22, 2007


Yeah Fezboy!, totally ignore my several (I'd thought unnecessary to begin with) re-re-re- clarifications that I'm NOT arguing in favor of military dictatorship or even "putting the troops in charge" here in America. The k3wl3st d00d in the room is always right, whether or not either of you know what he's talking about.

Hint: when troops 'QUIT BEING SOLDIERS' (to quote myself) it would NOT mean (as lodurr put it) "military control over civilian affairs." Quite the contrary: it would mean "troops" putting an end to military affairs so they can quit being "troops" and get back to being American human beings. In order to have a military coup or a military dictatorship you've got to have a military, right? Or do you really have no idea what "desertion," "mutiny" and "demobilization" mean? Or maybe you're one of those guys that fails to understand "stop," "quit that" or "cut it out"?

But hey, I get tired of beating a brain-dead horse, so, like, jerk-fucking-off.

I also suspect I'm skirting close to being called out for "OMG! Getting mathowie checked out by the FBI!1!!" so I'll go do something else. Those people who still don't get what I'm talking about will never understand it; over-reliance on Cliff Notes and downloaded term papers might have something to do with inability to 'read for content,' if indeed I can credit some folks that much.

On preview: yeah lodurr, now that I'm middle-aged and more experienced I see a few problems with the Black Bloc tactic myself. But I must be missing a connection here: what's Black Blockery got to do with the subject of this thread anyway? I don't think the troops in Iraq really need to buy black jeans and T-shirts first.
posted by davy at 2:10 PM on August 22, 2007


I was more excited about the paragraphs subsequent to his single line rebuttal. Those paragraphs being what seemed the main point of his comment from what I understood. But, yeah, this thread is definitely about you, davy, so whatever bips your bippy.
posted by Fezboy! at 2:18 PM on August 22, 2007


In that case Fezboy!, my bad, please excuse my going off on you personally per se; pretend I directed my points, behind which I still stand, at "to whom it may concern."
posted by davy at 2:53 PM on August 22, 2007


Well, to address Balisong's point, A. that is a very common reaction to returning troops.
My only response would be that we should then completlely dismantle the military and if you want any kind of defense - and it's not just land anymore it's trade interests and a vast conceptual infrastructure - then you pick up a weapon and do it yourself.
Our particular situation aside - in form excluding veterans raises certain issues of rights.
I can see no situation in which it can possibly be desirable that individuals who might be asked to give their lives for a society would willingly be separated from that society so others who did not contribute could reap the benefits of such sacrifices.
Stalin of course executed or gulaged returning soldiers by the trainload.

B. I was pretty much all sharp end. Had - still have - some issues. But those are inside and the people next door to my wife and I have us watch their kids all the time. And my own are just fine. Being trained to kill has, for me, made me very cautious in the use of force.

C. If it's some sort of Platonic retribution you're after, look no further and take heart! Many vets who require medical and mental health care are very much being abandoned to the extent they can't live next door to you because they can't live anywhere. They're homeless and just as abandoned at home as if we left them overseas. Hooray!

"It was "mutinous" troops in their respective countries who actually overthrew the Tsar and the Kaiser, and would've overthrown the French government had the American army not been there by then. But let me guess, the FIRST Gulf War counts as ancient history round here, right?" (et.al)

First, having been in the first Gulf war, as well as more than a few others, no, not ancient history at all at least to me.
Now, What am I on about? Well, any coup must be political first. Hell, the troops are being used improperly NOW.
Think someone isn't going to get tricky ideas when infantry occupation becomes (completely temporarially
we're assured) the norm? When the posse comitatus laws are gone?
On top of that everyone and his brother is saying you can't build a democracy through force in Iraq.
How the hell is that going to suddenly work here?
In addition, not the military isn't united by ideology. Some troops think what they're doing is working.
Perhaps there are local pockets where it is. Perhaps they define the mission differently. Either way there is dissent.

Who then takes the reins? Certainly not the ideological leader of such a movement, not in the military. They'd follow the chain of command.
I personally have no desire to entrust that amount of power into one General's hands, no matter how trustworthy he or she is.
Furthermore, their obligation is not to a particular administration. In saying they will complete the mission they are reaffirming their duty and obligation to the democratic system of civilian control of the military.

There has to be civilian control of the military. Otherwise? There isn't.

Even in the negative where they refuse to fight, the troops would be usurping the civilian right to control when, where and if they fight.
(What if they'd done so under Clinton? Lots of talk from the right about the troops wanting to walk, all the 'wag the dog ' tripe - what if they refused to follow Clinton as commander in chief because they thought they were fighting only as a distraction to his blowjob? Well, never happened. But same deal.)

If someone wants to object, they do it once they're out of the theater of combat - solid. I can respect that.
Desertion, no, for the above reasons.

And in any event mass desertion would require communication and organization - and ultimately command and control - which again leads to a control of force problem and the appearance if not the fact of a military revolt (you can't rely on intent in such cases as deception has always
been a warfighting application, damned handy in revolutions as well).

Civilians of course have a duty to control their system, which, y'know, hasn't been going so well.
But there are ways other than guns to restore that control (Ironic, I know, a babykiller such as myself would take such a position)

But if you're so gung-ho about an armed revolt, why don't you organize some men, pick up a weapon and make it happen yourself instead of bitching about how someone else should risk their lives for what you believe.
Far as I know that's exactly what the chickenhawks are doing.

The reason they (and you) are wrong is not because they refuse to fight for their own cause, but that the only place armed force is safely exercised is by the consensually derived policies of a civilian controlled government. Not for any given faction or ideology of that government.
Currently the Republicans under George Bush control the government. If the congress revoked the right to use force in Iraq, cut the funding, etc. the war would end.
That, and other similar avenues are the proper recourse to end the war. A further redress might be putting Bushco on trial. But it is not the business of the military to exert force on its government to support a given faction. When it does happen (devoid of actual physical force of course, but in funding terms or intelligence, etc.) it is wrong, and it is just as wrong under and for one faction as it is by and for another.

We can debate whether the Iraq war is legitimate and was something intended by the civilian populace (given it's predicated on a lie, I'd say not), but as to whether I want armed men in the street to kick into shape the kind of government you - or even I myself - want, no, I'm not going to accept that and I'd resist. I'd organize, arm and spend my own life and take the lives of others myself if necessary.

(But of course, once I do and folks like Balisong and lupus_yonderboy can safely reap the rewards I'll be cast out of the community and country I myself helped defend. 'Cause when I'm fighting and dying for you (not "them""), I'm a hero. But once I'm back, I'm a crazed bloodthirsty monster who's lost all his humanity and will likely kill his child for no reason. Just as when one of us tells Tucker Carlson the war isn't working we're dumb grunts, but if we say things are just peachy we're heros with moral authority)


"The point that Smedley Butler was trying to make was not "t'was ever thus" -- it was "you damned civilians better get your act together and stop your politicians from using us soldiers as thugs, or you're going to have soldiers quartered in your homes."" - lodurr

Fucking A.
posted by Smedleyman at 4:06 PM on August 22, 2007 [2 favorites]


("Armed men" in the street should be "armed infantry" - armed men in the street kicking the government into shape could be a revolution. And indeed, might not be that far fetched if elections aren't held in 2008. More likely the voting system will be thoroughly and systematically corrupted such that the fog of ambiguity shrouds all that from the media as well, but y'know.)
posted by Smedleyman at 4:15 PM on August 22, 2007


lodurr, considering that Academy graduates are by no means the majority of officers, and that many Guard people are ex-active duty, why do you feel that there is such a huge difference in culture between the regular military and the Guard (and I assume Reserve)?
posted by Snyder at 6:19 PM on August 22, 2007


Oh, and Smedleyman, right fucking on. The fact that some people think they can simply invite the military to disregard civilian authority because it agress with their politics or ideology, and that precedent will somehow not extend to other forms of usurpation of civilan authority that will not be agreeable to them is simply moronic.

It's a pleasing fantasy to elements of both the left-wing and the right-wing (Footfall, I'm looking at you,) that soldiers have some innate wisdom or moral authority where they can simply ignore civilan authority when it fits some talking point, but would otherwise freak out. There's a reason we have civilian control, and even it leads to stupid, bloody wars, well, then I guess it's our responsibility, as civilians, to prevent or end them. In only the most limited and extreme circumstances can I see a valid reason for the military to defy orders, and Iraq ain't it.
posted by Snyder at 6:52 PM on August 22, 2007


The Al-Sabah family.
posted by davy at 7:15 PM on August 22, 2007


Historian: Bush’s ‘distortion’ of Vietnam ‘boggles my mind.’
posted by homunculus at 7:34 PM on August 22, 2007


War destroys people. Soldiers and civilians and politicians and everyone else.

Modern western society owes everything to war. America's most of all. We were founded on war and genocide. Original sin, still with us.
posted by fourcheesemac at 10:01 PM on August 22, 2007


Davy: They only "quit being soldiers" when they're discharged. That's the law.

By law, until that point, they are subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice. And, if they take that kind of thing seriously, their own sense of commitment.

Many soldiers do take a stand while they're still soldiers. They take that stand as individuals, who happen to be soldiers. They are not acting in a military capacity. If they take those actions with cognizance of their ramifications -- e.g., they might be arrested, fined, stripped of veterans benefits or pensions, etc. -- then I have the utmost respect for their actions.

What you seemed to me to be advocating was mutiny. If that's what you're advocating, then what you're describing is not 'soldiers ceasing to be soldiers.' Rather, it's 'soldiers engaging in mutiny.'

Is that wrong? I don't know; I think it's a really, profoundly bad precedent, at least. If you want to have an army, you have to have an ethos of discipline and obedience. The Uniform Code already poses some serious challenges to that in that it requires all soldiers to obey US law even to the point of disobeying orders, and it's my understanding that the military works pretty hard to address that challenge.

From 'mutiny' to 'coup' really is a very small step, in any case. All coups are mutinies, by definition. I imagine that the argument would be vehemently made by many (I probably wouldn't be making it) that any mutiny was an attempted coup, by virtue of the fact that it attempted to thwart the Will of the Executive. That kind of group action would be mind-bogglingly hard for any given soldier to engage in, let alone getting a bunch of others to engage in it with you. (Of course it would get easier past a certain critical mass, but I just don't see getting to that mass.)

Then we have to ask ourselves whether the 'mutiny' would be likely to have any positive results. Put another way: Would the mutineers (not elected by anybody but themselves) want what I want? Would what they want be good for the country? Would they really be in a position to make that kind of judgement?

(Aside: Has anybody every done an analysis of the way that the Republicans use the term "executive"? Especially in relation to the sanctification of business culture that we've engaged in here in the US for the last 100 years or so.)

davy: But I must be missing a connection here: what's Black Blockery got to do with the subject of this thread anyway?

Nothing that I can think of, this morning. BUt I expect it's got everything to do, though, with me posting on two threads while simultaneously trying to do two other things. Mea culpa.
posted by lodurr at 5:23 AM on August 23, 2007


Snyder: I think the proportion of service academy graduates in the regular military is high enough that they have a strong impact on the ethos of the organization -- especially among middle and senior officers, Captains on up. I would expect the Captains to be the real drivers in formation of an ethos.

I'm talking Guard for a reason. The proportion of Academy grads is going to be lower in the Reserve, but as you point out (and especially now), the proportion of ex-active-duty is probably much, much higher than in the Guard. And I'm assuming (perhaps wrongly, so you'll correct me if so) that the same constitutional restrictiosn on how they can be deployed apply to the Reserves as to the regular military.

The Guard, though, it seems to me, is perpetually at risk of being turned into "political muscle." ("I'm the Governor's muscle. I get called when he gets nervous," as Ronny Cox's Guard general puts it in Taps.) I'm seeing signs in recent years, and especially under the current president, of the Guard being effectively federalized. That's one of the things I feared as an outcome after Katrina. It hasn't happened as I feared it might, but AFAIAC we still need to be vigilant: Better "Governor's muscle" than "President's muscle."

And the Guard defnitely doesn't share the same professional ethos as the national services [for lack of a better umbrella term]. Remember that it was Guard troops at Abu Ghraib. I have respect for people who get into the Guard for good reasons, but in a bad situation, culture turns sour unless there's someone driving it in the right direction from a position of authority. And when you're in a chaotic, life and death situation, it's really hard to create and inculcate a new professional ethos.
posted by lodurr at 5:37 AM on August 23, 2007


The key to understanding right-wing rhetoric can be found in an episode of the television series Star Trek: The Next Generation.
posted by homunculus at 10:55 AM on August 23, 2007 [1 favorite]


Daily Show: Three Generations of “America to the Rescue”
posted by homunculus at 5:39 PM on August 23, 2007


GIs' morale dips as Iraq war drags on: With tours extended, multiple deployments and new tactics that put them in bare posts in greater danger, they feel leaders are out of touch with reality.
posted by homunculus at 9:53 AM on August 26, 2007


Iraq Body Count Running at Double Pace
posted by homunculus at 9:54 AM on August 26, 2007


Challenging the Generals
posted by homunculus at 5:39 PM on August 26, 2007


“Matthew Moore told me that he knew that he had shot someone that was holding an unloaded gun,” the affidavit said. “Moore said that when he fired the handgun he acted on a reflex.”
posted by Balisong at 7:49 PM on August 29, 2007


Two of Seven Soldiers Who Wrote 'NYT' Op-Ed Die in Iraq
posted by homunculus at 2:23 PM on September 12, 2007


2 G.I.’s, Skeptical but Loyal, Die in a Truck Crash in Iraq
posted by homunculus at 9:59 AM on September 13, 2007


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