Skip

We Were Abandoned.
September 12, 2007 7:24 AM   Subscribe


 
I love all the asides:
Carrying his team's .50-calibre rifle was Furlong, a soft-spoken infantryman who seemed destined for sniping from an early age. At 10 years old, back home on the East Coast, he and his friends would spread rotten fish on a piece of wood, wait for the flies to show up, then try to shoot them out of the air with their pellet guns. Born a righty, Furlong even learned to fire left-handed. It reached the point where he actually preferred it that way. In fact, when he took his sniper course in 2001, he performed all his target practice left-handed.
posted by chunking express at 7:27 AM on September 12, 2007


The snipers in the story also hold the world record for the longest kill, which now stands at 2,430 m away -- nearly 2 1/2 kilometres. They broke their own previous record, which they set on the same mission, in doing so.
posted by chunking express at 7:30 AM on September 12, 2007


Huh.

Government creates disposable killing machines, then abandons them when it's convenient.

Shocking.
posted by Avenger at 7:42 AM on September 12, 2007


Great men have no role in society anymore but as fodder for the politicians.

In a reasonable world, these men would be granted the respect that they earned through not only their achievements in the field of sniping but also for playing their part in protecting Coalition lives in Afghanistan.
posted by smackwich at 7:45 AM on September 12, 2007 [2 favorites]


Government creates disposable killing machines, then abandons them when it's convenient.

Well, I guess, except they aren't quite disposable since they are apparently the best of the best in terms of snipers.
posted by chunking express at 7:50 AM on September 12, 2007


Wait, I thought Metafilter was an American web site.
posted by dismas at 7:52 AM on September 12, 2007 [1 favorite]


A mile and a half. That's amazing. I couldn't hit water if I fell out of a fucking boat.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 8:07 AM on September 12, 2007 [6 favorites]


Great men have no role in society anymore but as fodder for the politicians.

How are these "great men" exactly? Good men? Sure. But they're essentially technicians, very skilled at the thing that they do. Sometimes that saves lives, just like an ER doc or nurse saves lives. Sometimes that ends lives, just like judge. What makes them greater than those people, or than an electrician or a good mechanic? Or do you mean they're "heroes" like all cops are heroes now, or all firefighters?

Talk about politician fodder!
posted by OmieWise at 8:07 AM on September 12, 2007 [6 favorites]


Well, there's always the private sector..
posted by Laen at 8:07 AM on September 12, 2007 [3 favorites]


Yeesh. "Great men"? Even "good men"? These men are professional killers!

It's not that their work isn't necessary at times; but they are trained to kill from a distance people who have, basically, no chance to fight back.

Someone doesn't become the top of their field if they don't like the work. These are people who enjoy and are proud of seeing their bullet rip through a man's body and end his life.

I'm going to save my sympathy for the people of Iraq and the people of Afghanistan, two places that the west has systematically shit on for a century.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 8:19 AM on September 12, 2007 [3 favorites]


Having now RTMFA, I'd agree that these guys sound pretty awesome. Heroic, even. I'm still not convinced that being in the military and doing your job qualifies you as a "great man," though.
posted by OmieWise at 8:19 AM on September 12, 2007


Who got the finger?
posted by kuujjuarapik at 8:21 AM on September 12, 2007


Having now RTMFA, I'd agree that these guys sound pretty awesome. Heroic, even. I'm still not convinced that being in the military and doing your job qualifies you as a "great man," though.
Being a hero is one of the perks of military service, like school loans.
posted by verb at 8:22 AM on September 12, 2007 [1 favorite]


Great men have no role in society anymore but as fodder for the politicians.

people who do their jobs well are used by the rest of the society until they're used up and tossed out

What makes them greater than those people, or than an electrician or a good mechanic?

our society doesn't want great people any more, it wants people who take orders and suck up
posted by pyramid termite at 8:34 AM on September 12, 2007 [1 favorite]


I don't know how to spin "sniper" into any kind of alluring resume language.

Competitive research: managed identification of competitive threats based on correlation with accepted metrics such as presence/absence of RPG. Led team in locating and bringing acquisition targets within scope. Killed them.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 8:39 AM on September 12, 2007 [14 favorites]


I would call these men "exceptionally skilled craftsman" rather than great men, and I would absolutely award them all points for keeping their heads and performing at such an unparalleled level in less than ideal conditions (to say the least).

These men are professional killers!


Well, they were killers, when they served in the military, and a couple still do. To my knowledge, the others haven't become hitmen on the side (one is a policeman).

Someone doesn't become the top of their field if they don't like the work. These are people who enjoy and are proud of seeing their bullet rip through a man's body and end his life.

You are making a huge assumption. These men may be perfectionists who excel because of their own exacting standards and determination to work hard at whatever they undertake. I didn't see anything about these men high-fiving or bragging about their number of kills--quite the opposite. They had a job to do and they did it quietly and professionally. I wouldn't want to pull the trigger, but nor would I want anyone else killed because they failed to act as they did.

I'm going to save my sympathy for the people of Iraq and the people of Afghanistan, two places that the west has systematically shit on for a century.

And that's your prerogative. But consider this: these men were in the military service, required to do what was asked of them or face court martial. They weren't given a multiple-choice test that began with: "would you rather snipe the people your government has decided is the enemy or plant some crops?" You can't hang the whole "this war is wrong' albatross around their necks, as they had no part in that decision-making process.

Given that, maybe you could just look on this objectively as a situation wherein people were considered guilty by association, and then decide if you can spare them some sympathy.
posted by misha at 8:43 AM on September 12, 2007 [3 favorites]


Heh. The U.S. Army wouldn't even fill out a form for a finger. You get pissed and pop a few Iraquis, they send sonebody by later with $1,000 to say sorry, maybe.

An investigation? Puh-leeze.
posted by sacre_bleu at 8:45 AM on September 12, 2007


I thought to myself, "Shit, this is news?" as I've known about Rob Furlong's achievement for over a year now. Then I see the article is dated May 2006. What I didn't know was all the background and evil fuckery that went on afterwards, which redeems that small failing.

From the top of the CN Tower to Bloor street is a LONG way.
posted by Sk4n at 8:48 AM on September 12, 2007


They weren't given a multiple-choice test that began with: "would you rather snipe the people your government has decided is the enemy or plant some crops?" You can't hang the whole "this war is wrong' albatross around their necks, as they had no part in that decision-making process.

I must have missed the part about a Military Draft in Canada. Wait -- there isn't one? These guys signed up voluntarily?

Sorry, but these guys are dedicated, professional hired killers who are terribly depressed that the government eventually found them to be inconvenient (surprise!) and then disposed of them like so much used military equipment.

No, if you sign up to be a government sanctioned contract-killer (for whatever reason: cash, glory, women, patriotism) you should expect them to treat you about the same as any other criminal organization treats it's contract killers: lauded in public and the culture at large, yet strangely underpaid and perfectly expendable.

The sooner that we can spread the truth about soldiering -- .i.e, theres no honor or glory in what you do, in fact, you're nothing more than a cog in a very dangerous and uncaring machine -- maybe we'll eventually wisen up and stop encouraging our young men to go killing for fun and profit.
posted by Avenger at 9:04 AM on September 12, 2007 [6 favorites]


The army was quite happy with them when they were killing. The army was upset when they desecrated bodies and chopped off fingers as souvenirs. It runs contrary to the ethic of professional soldier to take body parts as booty. To their credit, the Canadian Forces is willing to give up even long-trained and record-holding expert soldiers if they step outside the rule of law. Sounds good to me.
posted by leftoverboy at 9:09 AM on September 12, 2007 [4 favorites]


Misha: what Avenger said.

No one becomes an elite sniper in the Canadian army without making a series of deliberate decisions to move in that direction, and then working extremely hard to achieve them, as the article made very clear.

No one could ever courts martial a sniper who wasn't able to do it any more. All you'd need to say is, "My hand shakes a little." You'd be back in North America training other people before you could say, "incredibly valuable skill."

We might need these people. Might, but right now they're supporting the US war effort which is rotten to the very core, so they're working on the side of the bad guys (I think the Taliban are even worse guys, btw.)

But don't pretend that they are passive victims who fell into the job. They strove with all their might over years to become elite professional killers.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 9:12 AM on September 12, 2007


Except we don't know that they chopped off fingers. Did you read the article?
posted by craniac at 9:14 AM on September 12, 2007


[I also don't want to disrespect the Canadian army -- they are astonishingly an army that has worked extensively in real peace-keeping for the UN, and they also exhibit a great degree of professionalism. If all the world's armies were like the Canadian army, the world would be a far, far better place. This however changes nothing I've written above...]
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 9:17 AM on September 12, 2007


But they're essentially technicians, very skilled at the thing that they do. Sometimes that saves lives, just like an ER doc or nurse saves lives. Sometimes that ends lives, just like judge. What makes them greater than those people, or than an electrician or a good mechanic?

These guys aren't just "very skilled" at the thing they do, they are the best of the best of the best. Hardly anybody can even get into sniper school, much less pass, much less set records in the field. The level of skill involved has nothing to do with electricians or mechanics, not even the very best electricians or mechanics. We're talking about something that only a handful of people on Earth are capable of doing, not something that anybody could be trained to do.

The sooner that we can spread the truth about soldiering -- .i.e, theres no honor or glory in what you do, in fact, you're nothing more than a cog in a very dangerous and uncaring machine

Yeah, well, the problem with that would be the occasional honor and glory. But please, continue pretending as if duty and competition in the field don't exist... IMHO "war is nothing but an uncaring machine" is as foolish as "war is nothing but glory". History, even recent history, suggests that there's at least some measure of both. "hmm, I set the world record for sniping and won the respect of the entire profession, then got kicked out... gee, I guess there is no glory because the Army is uncaring!" Come on.
posted by vorfeed at 9:19 AM on September 12, 2007 [2 favorites]


Yeah, well, the problem with that would be the occasional honor and glory. But please, continue pretending as if duty and competition in the field don't exist... IMHO "war is nothing but an uncaring machine" is as foolish as "war is nothing but glory". History, even recent history, suggests that there's at least some measure of both. "hmm, I set the world record for sniping and won the respect of the entire profession, then got kicked out... gee, I guess there is no glory because the Army is uncaring!" Come on.

I hear Sammy "The Bull" Gravano set the world record for most sucessful hits in a 24 hour period. W00t for him, m i rite?

No, theres nothing honorable or glorious about taking human life. Even human life that your government wants you to take. Even if said human life was taken with an extraordinary amount of skill. Even if the taking of that human life gets tons of positive feedback from other hired killers.

War is a racket. Don't believe the hype.
posted by Avenger at 9:36 AM on September 12, 2007


Canada doesn't have the draft, so yes these men signed up, and I am an uniformed idiot.

Of course, at least one of them had been in the military for 13 years before the encounter in the article (came in at 17 and was ~30). I'm not sure at 17 you really know what you are signing up for. You might have only seen death depicted in movies/games and not actually experienced what people dying around you is like, or what it feels like to kill a person. (And once you have, how surreal must it seem to go back home and work at a gas station or the like.)

FWIW, I am completely and utterly against this war, and I would never want my boys to sign up for the military, period.
posted by misha at 9:44 AM on September 12, 2007


A confirmed kill from 2,430 metres. That qualifies slightly higher than 'skilled professional'.

Also, it's easy to think of these guys as ruthless killing machines, but there's something more honest about what they do than with any single Airforce pilot that goes on bombing runs or navy gunner that shells cities from hundreds of miles away. A sniper sees who they are going to kill and they see them die. And are directly responsible for it. No person takes this road without sacrificing something of themselves in the process.
posted by slimepuppy at 9:48 AM on September 12, 2007 [1 favorite]


Except we don't know that they chopped off fingers. Did you read the article?

Yeah, we know that they were first on the scene when somebody mutilated and desecrated corpses and also, that the Forces has learned to hide its shit since the Airborne fiasco. Therefore, fuck 'em.
posted by mobunited at 10:07 AM on September 12, 2007


I hear Sammy "The Bull" Gravano set the world record for most sucessful hits in a 24 hour period. W00t for him, m i rite?

Yes. If that were the same level of skill that these guys have displayed (not sure how many hits per day those mafia guys get), and if others acknowledged the accomplishment with respect, then yes, that's glorious. Depending on who you ask, it may not be moral, or legal, or acceptable, but glorious? Doing something highly distinctive under pressure and threat of death is pretty much the definition of glory.

No, theres nothing honorable or glorious about taking human life.

That's your hang-up, not mine, and I'm afraid repeating it isn't going to make it any more true. War is a racket, and it is also an opportunity for glory and honor. War is not something that fits nicely in anyone's moralistic box, mine and yours included... much like life, actually.
posted by vorfeed at 10:08 AM on September 12, 2007


These guys aren't just "very skilled" at the thing they do, they are the best of the best of the best. Hardly anybody can even get into sniper school, much less pass, much less set records in the field. The level of skill involved has nothing to do with electricians or mechanics, not even the very best electricians or mechanics. We're talking about something that only a handful of people on Earth are capable of doing, not something that anybody could be trained to do.

Yeah, I'm completely unconvinced. It isn't that I don't understand the level of skill involved here, it's just that there are plenty of areas in life where that level of skill is required and we don't call people "great men" or heroes just because they attain it. The reason this seems so fucking cool and so special is because it has to do with macho guns and shit. I don't say that too dismissively, I do think that this is pretty fucking cool (even if I'm generally pacific), but strip out the guns and there would be a lot less sturm and drang surrounding the whole thing. When famous neurosurgeons with comparable levels of hardwon skill in their difficult fields do their thing, significantly fewer people get a hard-on.
posted by OmieWise at 10:13 AM on September 12, 2007 [3 favorites]


Snipe hunts sound much more hazardous than I was led to believe.
posted by kirkaracha at 10:18 AM on September 12, 2007 [1 favorite]


I said that as a joke but apparently that's where the word "sniper" comes from.
posted by kirkaracha at 10:19 AM on September 12, 2007


The sooner that we can spread the truth about soldiering -- .i.e, theres no honor or glory in what you do, in fact, you're nothing more than a cog in a very dangerous and uncaring machine -- maybe we'll eventually wisen up and stop encouraging our young men to go killing for fun and profit.

War will always be with us for two reasons, one overt and one subtle:

1) Some people with power will do anything to maintain their position even if that costs other people their lives. The saying goes that "Violence is the last resort of the incompetent," in an effort to (rightfully) devalue violence. But you can also turn that statement around and say that yes, we are in fact seeing the incompetent and the desperate turn to violence.

2) There is something innate to the human condition - particularly and especially that of young males under the influence of testosterone - that causes us to go out and periodically kill members of the neighboring tribes. This has been with us for tens of thousands years; and for far longer than civilization has existed it was the winning breeding strategy for those who participated, and the biggest selection factor against those who did not.

My point is, the truth will never be spread to the point that this behavior voluntarily stops. Not in ten thousand years. It is linked to who and what we are as a species. No amount of sociological engineering will fix the fundamental problem, and as much as I would like to see it minimized, I wish people would stop thinking that there will ever be a cure for the human condition. Even as we attempt to improve ourselves as a species, we need to be honest about who and what we are.
posted by Ryvar at 10:39 AM on September 12, 2007 [1 favorite]


The reason this seems so fucking cool and so special is because it has to do with macho guns and shit.

I agree, to a point, but I think death has just as much, if not more, to do with it than guns or macho. Neurosurgeons deal with death, in that they're trying to save somebody from it, but snipers and other soldiers deal with death in a much more intimate way -- at any given moment, they may kill, and at any given moment they may be killed themselves. There's something visceral and immediate about that, something that gets beyond a lot of the detachment most of us (even neurosurgeons, probably) have about our jobs. I think jobs and other duties in which success means life or death for yourself tap into very old biological urges, just as Ryvar suggests, and that's reflected in the almost reverent way societies tend to treat these jobs.

Besides, speaking for myself, I think surgeons are pretty fucking cool, too.
posted by vorfeed at 11:17 AM on September 12, 2007


"It only takes one bad thing to erase every good thing you've ever done."

That's how it should be in that situation, considering the stakes. Fuck these guys.

I shot a magpie out of the air at 100 yards once.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 11:29 AM on September 12, 2007


I wanted to sort of clarify my comment a bit:

Sociologically it may no longer be acceptable to behave as if the human experience consisted of endless generations of casual village-on-village massacres, but the civilization that enforces this new and improved sociological structure has run far ahead of the biology.

Like it or not, the hormone balance coursing through the veins of young men hiding in bushes with pointy sticks 50,000 years ago is *precisely* the same as young men hiding in bushes with somewhat deadlier sticks today. That balance was the finely tuned culmination of literally tens, even hundreds of thousands of generations of casual intertribal slaughter.

The at-best few hundred generations of civilization we've had aren't even going to be a dent in that.
posted by Ryvar at 11:32 AM on September 12, 2007


Ryvar, please go read up on game theory. Starting fights to the death is a horrible survival strategy, and the winning breeding strategy would be more accurately described as "bluff to scare off intruders, display superiority by challenging the weaker members of your own clan, collect enough food to sustain several other people."
posted by tylermoody at 11:44 AM on September 12, 2007 [1 favorite]


I suppose there's some code in not shooting a man when he is taking a shit. Beyond that, I don't see it.
posted by A189Nut at 11:49 AM on September 12, 2007


Reading the article I was getting the impression that while these guys got a bad deal, the gears of justice were turning slowly and that justice would be served eventually - they seem to have done their jobs and probably could not have any responsibility for those abuses pinned on them. This does represent a low point in their careers I am sure, but many of us have experienced this.

I don't believe soldiers, or cops are heros by default, which I think is one of the underlying assumptions of the article. At best they are enforcing Canadian government policy and protecting us, at worst they are killing in our names.

Finally, I can remember right-wing talk radio scoring a lot of points against the "stupid military adminstration" when these guys were denied American medals, it was never reported that they were under investigation any kind of human rights abuse or that they eventually received the medals. This is kind of a cautionary tale for anyone who takes those chatterboxes too seriously.
posted by Deep Dish at 11:56 AM on September 12, 2007


So, based on no physical evidence and no witnesses, how were they even investigated except via hearsay?

If the only proof you have that a person commited a crime is your deeply held belief that they are an asshole...then you may not understand justice at all.


Those who think that the war in Afghanistan was unfair and unjust must be reminded that They actualy did harbor the people that attacked the US. The Taliban only got what was coming to it for providing substantial support for Al Queda.
posted by Megafly at 12:19 PM on September 12, 2007


Ryvar, please go read up on game theory. Starting fights to the death is a horrible survival strategy, and the winning breeding strategy would be more accurately described as "bluff to scare off intruders, display superiority by challenging the weaker members of your own clan, collect enough food to sustain several other people."

Yes, that's the winning strategy, assuming everyone follows it. Just as the Pareto optimum strategy in the Prisoner's Dilemma is for everyone to cooperate. However, if one of the players is defecting, it had better be you... which leads to a situation in which everyone always defects, even though cooperation is the optimal strategy overall.

Surely you, Mr. Game Theory, can see the similarities here. If everyone in the valley is ceremonially bluffing and getting food, all except for one violently conquering tribe, things might still go well for the conquered, but they will probably go best for the conquerors. For example, an "optimal breeding strategy" becomes suddenly and violently sub-optimal if every male is wiped out and every woman stolen away by invaders. Peaceful bluffing is only the optimal strategy if everyone is certain to follow it... which, unfortunately, is not a certainty we have. Thus, everyone arms for and expects war. War preparedness, like defection in Prisoner's Dilemma, is sub-optimal for everyone, but still the best decision for each individual player.
posted by vorfeed at 12:22 PM on September 12, 2007 [1 favorite]


"I shot a magpie out of the air at 100 yards once."

You too? What kind of rubber band did you use?
posted by From Bklyn at 12:25 PM on September 12, 2007 [3 favorites]


The Taliban only got what was coming to it for providing substantial support for Al Queda.

The snipers shot someone who was lugging mortars up a hill. It sounds like they had positively identified someone intent on killing them, and they shot the person. Contrast that with the 3,000 civilian casualties from U.S. bombing. Even if that number is grossly exaggerated (http://www.cursor.org/stories/noncounters.htm), then even 1,500 is a lot of dead innocents.

My other random comment is that target shooting (not enemy combatants) can be really calming and meditative, especially if you are shooting at a distance and trying to do all those little things to still yourself while pulling the trigger. People that bristle at the thought of, say, shooting shotguns at old tv sets might be surprised at how fun and relaxing target shooting can be. And if you use a high quality air rifle there is little noise, smoke or odor. Plus, you get immediate feedback on how successful you were at finding inner stillness.

Ironically, according to the Beeman airgun people, "modern, silenced, 9mm PCP airguns are being used by U.S. Seals in Iraq to snipe at insurgents."

Sorry for that pepsi blue promotion, now let's get back to game theory...
posted by craniac at 12:42 PM on September 12, 2007


Those who think that the war in Afghanistan was unfair and unjust must be reminded that They actualy did harbor the people that attacked the US.

Actually, the US never did provide any proof to Afghanistan that that was the case. IIRC, at the time Afghanistan offered to give up the criminals if the US provided evidence that they'd committed a crime; the US refused to do so.

It seems quite possible that the Taliban did attack the US; I'm willing to concede that for the purposes of the discussion; however, we the people never saw any evidence of this fact, we're simply trusting the government not to lie to us.

The Taliban only got what was coming to it for providing substantial support for Al Queda.

Sure, the Taliban are actually evil people and deserve what they get. However, the vast majority of the people killed in Afghanistan are not "the Taliban"; they're typically some poor schmuck who's been oppressed his whole life, first by the Soviets, then by the Taliban who set themselves up as their saviours from the Soviets, and then finally happened to be in the wrong village when the West carpet bombed it.

By the end of 2001, US forces had already killed more civilians than had died in the World Trade Center and we've had 5 continuous years of warfare after that.

I have no sympathy for the Taliban; for the people of Afghanistan and Iraq, I do.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 1:04 PM on September 12, 2007 [1 favorite]


I must have missed the part about a Military Draft in Canada. Wait -- there isn't one? These guys signed up voluntarily?

You do know what happens when people don't volunteer, right?

(Hint: It has something to do with that Selective Service card every US man signs when they turn eighteen.)
posted by Cyrano at 1:18 PM on September 12, 2007


You do know what happens when people don't volunteer, right?

This is way off base. No Canadian male signs a draft card, and if the Conservative government were to introduce a bill today to make it happen, we would be about six weeks from a new election.
posted by Deep Dish at 1:32 PM on September 12, 2007


By the end of 2001, US forces had already killed more civilians than had died in the World Trade Center and we've had 5 continuous years of warfare after that.

So? "We're going to invade Afghanistan to prevent it from continuing to attack us, but only until we kill 3000 civilians, then we're coming home."

Setting aside the morality and omg-war silliness, the sheer magnitude of that shot is enough to guarantee these guys free beer for the rest of their natural lives.
posted by Skorgu at 1:36 PM on September 12, 2007


Starting fights to the death is a horrible survival strategy, and the winning breeding strategy would be more accurately described as "bluff to scare off intruders, display superiority by challenging the weaker members of your own clan

Exactly -- cats, which have the tools to eviscerate one another, learned this eons ago, hence the yowling, spitting and fur-puffing. I guess the human version of that is professional wrestling.
posted by FelliniBlank at 2:39 PM on September 12, 2007


By the end of 2001, US forces had already killed more civilians than had died in the World Trade Center and we've had 5 continuous years of warfare after that.

But what has that to do with Canadian snipers accused of desecrating corpses?

I may sound really naive here, by the way, but I tend to think there are a lot worse things going on in these battles, on both sides, than a finger cut from a corpse. IF Perry did cut off the finger, it's wrong--but it's not exactly car bombing innocents or torturing prisoners, is it?

What are the rules for dealing with dead enemy combatants, btw? Seriously. Because I think there should be rules about treating them with respect. But do all the men and women fighting out there, from General down to grunt, know the rules?
posted by misha at 2:41 PM on September 12, 2007


Exactly -- cats, which have the tools to eviscerate one another, learned this eons ago, hence the yowling, spitting and fur-puffing.

I hate to be the one to break it to you, but occasionally they really do kill each other. Cats die from cat fights all the time, usually from abscesses, and I've seen quite a few that lost an eye or an ear. The "yowling, spitting, and fur-puffing" is display behavior, not fighting. When it doesn't work, (male) cats get into serious fights with serious injuries.

What are the rules for dealing with dead enemy combatants, btw?

This is part of the Geneva Convention. Also, most armies have it somewhere in their own rules as well. Generally, bodies are not to be mistreated or looted, must be treated with respect and properly buried, and any dog tags or other ID must be returned to the issuing country as proof of death. Here's a good overview.

As for whether or not soldiers know about these rules -- they do, but as with many of the rules of war, they are not always taken as seriously as they should be. Mutilation of the dead has always been a problem in war. This book, Soldier Dead, has some specific examples.
posted by vorfeed at 3:21 PM on September 12, 2007


Hey man, dope shot.

“Did his big mouth and hard head bring everyone down with him?”

That’d be typical. Sounded like a good, fair investigation to me. Acrimony aside - which sounds like it might have been self-inflicted.

“but right now they're supporting the US war effort which is rotten to the very core, so they're working on the side of the bad guys” - posted by lupus_yonderboy

Yeah, why do these soldiers keep voting themselves to go off to war?

---
So, drop bombs during a war which kills innocents (in the case of Iraq, the ‘war’ bombing is better than the ‘peace’ bombing through the no-fly zone ‘cos y’know, a democrat was in office, those innocents were...um...evil) and that’s wrong, but surgically strike people who are identified killers of innocents and on a battlefield actively taking arms against your fellows - you’re a scumbag killer too.
Is this war bullshit? Yeah. But we should stick our thumbs up our asses when enemies kill our innocents because, what, we’re just wrong politically?
Oh gee Smedley, please don’t take great pains, sacrifice and determination in building a skill set so you can shoot someone before they cut some stewardess’ throat or detonate a bomb which would kill thousands of people - because killing is wrong.

Bombing innocents is one of the most horrific aspects of war.
Sniping is perhaps the cleanest form of warfare there is. There is no collateral damage. And there’s often research involved so you hit exactly what you intend to hit. You kill exactly who you intend to kill.

But what, we’re not supposed to train in warfighting because killing is so icky. Well, that’s the fucking sacrifice. You put in that time, you take those measures, you apply that dedication so you have the skill so you don’t have to fuck up a whole village just so maybe you think you might have got some guy who will otherwise definately be coming at you again.
Is the methodology in the large scale fighting going on all wrong? Yes.

But either you need determined, skilled men to kill people who - right now - would kill you, break your stuff, take your shit, or you don’t.
Becoming one of those men is making a great sacrifice. You miss time with your family, you often risk your life, the stress is unparalleled in any other field of human endeavor. It is, at heart, an unselfish act.

The magnitude of it and relative value of military service is debatable. The term “hero”could apply to nearly anyone who isn’t sitting on their ass making money just for themselves.
Folks involved in charities (overseas or otherwise), paramedics, doctors, teachers, people working for their community, their country, anyone doing something other than just getting their own back.

But as far as I’m concerned the reverse is also true, anyone who is only out for themselves is just another selfish fuck just like crime lords, drug dealers, corrupt politicians and the terrorists. Just paying lip service to whatever cause puts more money in their pocket or serves their interests.

The unselfish aren’t the problem, even if they do happen to kill people for a living. They’re not the ones that create the lies or manipulate the media and they sure as hell aren’t the ones profiting from the rackets. They just kill people.
And even where that is selfishly motivated, I’ll take the deaths and damage caused by 10 Sammy “The Bull” Gravanos over the social destruction, financial havoc and lives destroyed from one Enron or Savings and Loan scandal. A few hundred wiseguys in their graves I don’t shed a tear over.
My sympathy lies with grandma eating dog food because her life savings was stolen out from under her and freezing to death because her energy company was looted.

And that’s what’s wrong in Iraq. Joe Mudfoot isn’t the guy fucking those people up. Hell, the bullet festivals are the least of their worries, that country has been and is being looted. And so is ours.
I’d rather die than have my future and my child’s future stolen. And you can’t produce that from the barrel of a gun no matter what Mao says.

...And something else for y’all stuck on ‘fair.’ If humans fought ‘fair’ we’d all have been devoured by animal predators long ago.
posted by Smedleyman at 4:18 PM on September 12, 2007 [2 favorites]


(nuances there, hopefully the meaning is clear - Joe Mudfoot might be killing people, but he signs up to defend his country, not kick over someone else's hot dog stand to put money in some corporation and their political cronies pockets. If that's how it works out, he doesn't - and can't - have any choice in the matter after he signs up. I have no problem advocating that folks shouldn't sign up right now, given the reality of the situation)
posted by Smedleyman at 4:26 PM on September 12, 2007


All other arguments and discussions about what may or may not have happened aside, their skill is astonishing.

Most soldiers engage the enemy at less than 300 meters because it's the distance that people feel that they are most likely to hit a target. Skilled soldiers have to get used to shooting out to about 600 meters, and a hit at 1000 meters is a good shot by any metric.

These guys are shooting at two and a half times that. At those distances you have to start worrying about things like the differences in air pressure and humidity between here and there. It's absolutely amazing.
posted by quin at 4:56 PM on September 12, 2007


By the end of 2001, US forces had already killed more civilians [in Afghanistan] than had died in the World Trade Center and we've had 5 continuous years of warfare after that.
But what has that to do with Canadian snipers accused of desecrating corpses?


Because these snipers are fighting in exactly that same war in Afghanistan and desecrating Afghani corpses (of which there have been tens of thousands in the last 5 years)?


But we should stick our thumbs up our asses when enemies kill our innocents because, what, we’re just wrong politically?

I hate to break it to you -- we are doing just that. Not one Afghani bombed the World Trade Center, flew a plane into the World Trade Center, blew up the Cole, blew up the Marines, etc etc -- these were all done by Saudis.

The Afghani people are not our enemies; in fact, they were our friends for many years until the US terminally fucked them over after using them as a tool against the Soviet Union. Take a look at Rambo II -- those brave freedom fighters you see there are the Taliban.

Let me repeat: the Afghanis have NEVER attacked the United States. The Saudis have, repeatedly -- and we've done nothing but reward them for it.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 5:14 PM on September 12, 2007


Joe Mudfoot isn’t the guy fucking those people up.

Who is, then? The boots on the ground ARE killing innocent civilians at an astonishing rate (though probably second to the civil war).

"I was only following orders" is not a justification for war crimes.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 5:17 PM on September 12, 2007


I hate to be the one to break it to you, but occasionally they really do kill each other. Cats die from cat fights all the time, usually from abscesses, and I've seen quite a few that lost an eye or an ear. The "yowling, spitting, and fur-puffing" is display behavior, not fighting. When it doesn't work, (male) cats get into serious fights with serious injuries.

Well, uh, yeah. I wasn't suggesting that felines (females as well as males, in my house) never fight or never injure/kill each other, just that the display behaviors evolved so as to help the species survive without lethal infighting, as much as is realistically possible among territorial predators. When you are as efficient a killer as a cat, you simply must develop such "bluff" behaviors for the sake of the species as a whole.
posted by FelliniBlank at 5:51 PM on September 12, 2007


lupus_yonderboy, on the basis of your comments in this thread, I have to conclude that you are one thoughtless jerk.

I'm sure you'll say you don't care, and that's okay. Just so long as you know that your words do leave an impression, y'know.

That's all.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:17 PM on September 12, 2007


tylermoody:
That would be the case if you had unlimited amounts of energy, or weren't removing the competition for the game from your actions, or if any of a number of factors that divorce the reality of natural selection for early hominids from game theory did not exist. But they do.

For any aspiring young male in a pre-agricultural situation, the best chance he has for multiple children *that themselves survive to breeding age* is to head over to the next village with his friends, kill off their immediate competition (and despite the advantage of surprise maybe have their own numbers thinned a little too), spend the night raping, then come home to a hero's welcome where more reproduction ensues. There is no better scenario for that young male than to breed with every female within a reasonable distance while reducing his genetic competition before he dies at some point between age 25 and 30.

My point has been this: people seem to forget that we are all, themselves and myself included, the end product of tens of thousands of generations of humans that continually engaged in behavior all but unthinkable in any modern context. The final evolutionary optimization tweaks to our neurohormonal balances were made with an eye towards maximum performance *in that setting of wholesale rape and slaughter*. There is therefore no point in bemoaning our inability to produce a non-violent society, only gaping in astonishment that we've made it this far at all.
posted by Ryvar at 10:27 PM on September 12, 2007


lupus_yonderboy, on the basis of your comments in this thread, I have to conclude that you are one thoughtless jerk.

I believe you are utterly wrong. I might be a jerk, though I hope not, but I definitely think too much, if anything.

And you're wrong again, I do care about being called a "thoughtless jerk" -- I don't like it. Just FYI, you know. Most people think of me as "a pushover," "far too lenient," "a sweetheart," or even, "a sucker." I put a lot of time and money into helping people: is this something you can say about yourself?

I'm curious -- going to give me a reason? Generally, I find that when people resort to simply naked insults with no justification, it's because they don't actually have any logical reason to back up their arguments.

I made three points: dedicated professional killers with a lifetime commitment to their work are creepy people; the war in Afghanistan is a massive fuckup whose biggest victim is the Afghanis; the Canadian army exhibits a lot of professionalism and is one of the best in the world.

I stand by these statements.

If you consider me a thoughtless jerk because I am less sympathetic to a handful of highly-trained killers from an affluent society, because people are saying bad things about them, than for millions of people in an astonishingly poor country getting killed by soldiers from over a dozen nations marching back and forth through their little pit of poverty for over a hundred years, this says more about you than about me.

(Just for the record, I'm a Canadian citizen myself, not a USAian...)
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 8:55 AM on September 13, 2007


“I hate to break it to you -- we are doing just that.”

That’d be ‘method.’ I ceded that point.

“"I was only following orders" is not a justification for war crimes.”

By what criteria is what is going on a war crime - I mean legally? I haven’t seen much condemnation - other than lip service - in the international community. Indeed some (albeit few) joined us in fighting. Some have split, but no one’s really boycotted the U.S. over this and no one (creditable) is pressing charges against the U.S. overall for prosecuting the war.
Whether you or I or anyone else think they should, or whether we think the war is not legitimate doesn’t make it so*. Much less a war crime. If it is, by your criteria, every member of congress and the administration is also a war criminal.
Since y’know, if “I was only following orders” isn’t an excuse (and it isn’t) what then of those who are giving the orders? Just let them slide? And of course, who elected those folks? And who - still - is giving them tacit approval by paying taxes, fuding the war, not pressing to end it, etc. etc. etc.
Philosphically, it might be really swell to feel you’re the sole arbiter of what is moral action, but realistically - who bells the cat? And how? And then you’re back to the moral paradox of the use of force, because what gives you the right to impose your thing on everyone else and how far are you going to go to do it?

And beyond the rediculousness of ever bringing every member of the entire United States government to trial - even if you can where does that end?
Gonna kill every German because of what happened in WWII? Just every political German? Just all the Nazi party members? All the men who fought?
The troops didn’t, can’t (and shouldn’t ever) decide whether or not to go to war. Otherwise you are most certainly living in a military dictatorship. The civilian leadership must always have the final word on war powers. The troops shut up and do what they’re told.

They are indeed fully responsible for any atrocity or crime they might commit and indeed, I favor the investigation in question here.
But the investigation here found that there wasn’t enough evidence to convict any of the men.
Which is perhaps where our disagreement originates. I prefer evidence to convict someone of a ‘war crime’, not just my political stance or feelings about it.

*And I do consider the war in Iraq illegitimate from first principles and the war in Afghanistan as improperly executed, shouldn’t be a war, per se, although I do think given the basing of terrorist organizations there, action against those bases was warrented.


“dedicated professional killers with a lifetime commitment to their work are creepy people”

So...what? I don’t much care for Muzak. I think it’s pretty creepy myself. I’d be one of those ‘dedicated’ folks. Perhaps that’s why I don’t like Muzak?

“the war in Afghanistan is a massive fuckup whose biggest victim is the Afghanis”

No disagreement. (Other than the aformentioned particulars)

“the Canadian army exhibits a lot of professionalism and is one of the best in the world.”

But they’re not creepy ‘cos they don’t kill anybody? Or they don’t have any dedicated killers with a lifetime commitment to their work?
Or ‘cos *cough* Canada isn’t an affluent society?
Hell, the Americans troops are there because elements of the organization that attacked us are there* and we want to shut them down.
WTF are the Canadians doing there?


*(AQ on 9/11 - but a good number of other times - hell, Clinton fired a bunch cruise missles at their camps in Afghanistan (Operation Infinite Reach) but that’s just fine? It’s not like we didn’t know AQ was in Afghanistan. We found and killed Mohammed Atef there. It’s a failed state with limited government powers. Like Lebannon but with a huge backyard. Of course, with the Taliban in power since ‘96 systematically violating the rights of women and human rights in general things were just y’know peachy. Forbidding women to leave the house, work, attend school, or be publically beaten. Being forced to cover themselves head to toe in body length burqas or be tortured. For the men of course, either you have a beard the length of a clenched fist under your chin or they amputate bits of you (dealer’s choice). Gang rapes of young boys by the ‘police,’ ironically - stoning of homosexuals, pretty sweet place before those lousy Americans and their international forces showed up to stabilize the place. But don’t take my word for it.
Of course bombing doesn’t help - but again, that’s method.
I think we should have been there to do that (sans bombings) after the place went to shit, maybe prevent extremists from getting a foothold but y’know, under Clinton I was a conservative warhawk nutjob, under Bush of course, I was a throwback idealist/isolationist dove)

“killed by soldiers from over a dozen nations marching back and forth through their little pit of poverty for over a hundred years”

I’m not going to argue that the troops aren’t violently executing poor political policy. But violence is their job. So is executing any order by their superiors that is not manifestly illegal.
Since, IMHO, the methodology in the global war against terror is completely fucked, I happen to agree with folks like Lt. Watada from Hawaii who refused to go to Iraq. By the same token (he said) he would have gone to Afghanistan. The point is there are differing views of these conflicts.
In the same way - many of us disagree how to fight the war(s) going on now.

In my estimation, deriding the troops service in order to limit recruitment is a similar flaw in methodology since (IMHO) the fundimental problem is in policy.
Want to eliminate human conflict? Nice dream, but I’ll do what I can by not shooting folks that piss me off.
Want to have only a standing army? I’m interested- how.
Want to advise people not to join? That’s good advice.
Want to make military service an inglorious form of service? Great. Too many fuckups in the military and more people should be in AmeriCorp or the Peace Corp or some other form of constructive community service.

But all that only attacks the symptom. Only goes after the resources to make war, not the apparatus itself, not the business and defense industries which drive war nor the policies which facilitate it.

Sympathize with the Iraqis and Afghanis all you want and stay away from the “creepy” troops if you will. But your actions should focus on doing something more useful than retaining the moral high ground.
(Disclaimer: I don’t know how committed you are to whatever cause - I can’t comment on any level of dedication you - or anyone - might have, just on, as I’ve said, the methodology)
posted by Smedleyman at 11:12 AM on September 13, 2007


“the Canadian army exhibits a lot of professionalism and is one of the best in the world.”

But they’re not creepy ‘cos they don’t kill anybody?
I was very clear: those snipers are creepy -- even though they belong to a good army -- even though they might be necessary -- in exactly the same way that an executioner is creepy.

Just because the leaders take a huge dose of the responsibility for the terrible warlike violence of the west does not mean that the individuals actually committing those acts don't share some of that responsibility.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 1:47 PM on September 13, 2007


“in exactly the same way that an executioner is creepy.”

And I thought my point was clear. They’re creepy - to you. And that’s fine. And I don’t dispute the professionalism of the Canadian military. I disagree with the exclusion from society inherent in that argument. You can’t ask someone to train for and do a dirty job and then cast them out because you don’t want them in your society. They’re human beings. You weren’t asserting that extrapolation from your comment but that’s where that road leads. I am not arguing against your personal dislike for people who kill and abhorance for killing in general despite it’s occasional necessity.
I would in fact say it’s healthy, and indeed, looking upon killing as not a normal thing to do is something I’ve had to reclaim in myself.

(I disagree with the executioner analogy but that’s not a point of contention, just a fine point on killing for punishment or deterrance versus killing out of dire necessity when there are no other courses of action. I disagree strongly with the former. The latter of course a (non-nested) society chooses or dies)

“does not mean that the individuals actually committing those acts don't share some of that responsibility”

Fair enough but given that criteria the society that sent them to war, in my estimation, shares more of that responsibility.
The U.S. military has no say in when, where or how they fight. And can’t. Once you sign the paper you’re on board for whatever your leaders tell you to do within established legal parameters.

The unstated contract with the military is we won’t send them off to die for no good reason or exploit them to line our pockets but to defend our lives and our society from dire harm and they pledge to give their lives in that cause if need be and - since we grant them the right to kill - not to turn that power against us or quit on us when we’re in peril (which ostensibly is the only time we’d use them).
That’s the deal.

Seems to me they’re holding up their end of the deal (to fight and die), we’re not. And it’s we who choose whether they fight or not in the first place, not them. Which is the point.

If they chose not to fight, that would certainly suit us right, but once that compact is broken, they could then choose TO fight. And where. And against whom. And that would be the end of our society.

Ach, it’s beer o’clock.
posted by Smedleyman at 5:21 PM on September 13, 2007


You can’t ask someone to train for and do a dirty job and then cast them out because you don’t want them in your society.

No one asked me. If I were asked, I'd have a completely different military, based on strange concepts like "justice" and "mercy," "honesty" and "fairness".

As it is, I feel free to condemn these people who are taking my money and doing terrible things with it since the people in power are perfectly willing to take a few hundred k from me in taxes but would never ever even consider taking any ideas seriously from a pacifist atheist such as myself, no matter how rational or well presented my ideas might be.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 10:40 PM on September 13, 2007


“If I were asked, I'd have a completely different military, based on strange concepts like "justice" and "mercy," "honesty" and "fairness".”

In theory that’s exactly what the design is. Much like police departments. But my comment was the universal “you” not you personally.

“I feel free to condemn these people who are taking my money and doing terrible things with it”

Which is exactly my point. But it isn’t the rank and file doing that. And, by design, they can’t do that.

“would never ever even consider taking any ideas seriously from a pacifist atheist such as myself, no matter how rational or well presented my ideas might be.”

I myself oppose excluding anyone from contribution on policy.
Unfortunately reason, wisdom, objectivity are often trumped by wealth and power. But that’s a flaw in the system, not the objective. And I suspect we’re both talking remedy, albeit in different language and on different terms.
But as you’ve brought up reason - you might want to exclude more emotionally charged words such as “creepy” when arguing for a more cogent foreign policy.
This is not to, as I’ve said, deny the validity of your emotional reaction, but rather create a clearer picture of your position and not color the argument.
F’rinstance, I haven’t said I find pacifists or atheists creepy (of course, I don’t, but purely for example).
I’m not saying ‘your doing it wrong,’ but rather that if you look at our respective arguments we agree on many broader points and our disagreements seem to be at least in part on the emotional level.

I myself don’t care if you’re a homosexual vegetarian hippe communist, so long as you present a cogent argument I’ll entertain your ideas.
My attempt has been to bring the benefit of my empirical observation on most of these matters rather than contest over relative concepts such as “hero.”

But insofar as your idealism and ideas as to what should constitute standing military policy and practice, I wholeheartedly agree.
The problem is how to put those ideas into solid practice in the face of selfish and competative interests pushing an opposing agenda*.
That gets down to the system and policy, not the trigger pullers. Once they’re on the ground, that die has been cast.


(Not to appeal to your atheism, because this is simple fact, but I’m sure the dominionists and christian wacko nutjobs pouring energy into subverting recruits (mostly in the Air Force) think they’re doing a good thing. I actually got into trouble because I pointed out some b.s. going on, and told a senator to fuck off because senators are not in the chain of command. But of course a lot of people are looking to line their own pockets when they get out of service or maybe run for office themselves.
Arguing against the troops is, to me, like blaming the homeless for being out on the street too much. I say this devoid of acrimony - I’m asserting similarity in form, not castigating the motives of folks (like say, Avenger) which appear in earnest despite our differences on method of execution for peace.
There are large systemic and social forces which contribute to homelessness long before someone finds themselves out on the street. Similarly - there are vast systemic and policy moves made long before any troops find themselves in combat. If we act to mitigate those forces before any war breaks out and curtail, say for starters, the collusion between defense contractors and policy makers, I suspect we wouldn’t find ourselves having to grieve over war dead (of whatever side) and have such pent up fury (valid or not) at the current violence. We should, and can, make systemic changes rather than attempting to moralize when the violence is already upon us.)
posted by Smedleyman at 12:34 PM on September 14, 2007


« Older It’s a young man’s game, innit   |   It's gonna be multiple choice, right? Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments



Post