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Remembering Ricky
May 24, 2008 10:21 PM   Subscribe

A war widow at age 20. That is all.
posted by Kibbutz (175 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
Sadly, that is enough... more than enough.

.

!
posted by wendell at 10:34 PM on May 24, 2008


A fantastic photo-essay. (And the mawkish piano comes *this* close to ruining it.)
posted by Jofus at 10:38 PM on May 24, 2008


Goddamn goddamn goddamn goddamn goddamn.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 10:38 PM on May 24, 2008


I force myself to read every one of these "a soldier is dead" articles, and I read all of those sad little blurbs every day in the newspaper that say Private so-and-so of some small town died of injuries sustained in combat operations somewhere in Iraq or Afghanistan. Each one makes me cry, but I do it as a sort of private penance for a pointless and immoral war that no one has found a way to end.

When journalists and writers can someday work freely in Iraq, there will be another set of books, telling the personal story of the war from that perspective, and I will read those, too. It changes nothing, to read or to not read, but for me to avoid reading these personal accounts of the war's impact would feel like I was hiding from the consequences of something with which I am complicit. If they are conducting this immorality in my name, I feel that at least I should know the names of the people who are paying the price.
posted by Forktine at 10:39 PM on May 24, 2008 [13 favorites]


God that's sad. And enraging.
posted by delmoi at 10:43 PM on May 24, 2008


fuck
.
posted by brevator at 10:48 PM on May 24, 2008


Random thoughts:
This is a terrible, awful thing to have occurred, there's a special circle in hell for those who planned this war and there's another circle for those who went along with it. This, THIS, is why countries shouldn't rush off to war, because it's one of the most obscene acts imaginable: the old bury the young and futures are shot, burned, mutilated, destroyed, exploded, and made into mist and dust.

This war is wrong and it should stop, but it won't. I hope there's a God and a judgement day for the people who caused this.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:53 PM on May 24, 2008


So heartbreaking.
posted by mewithoutyou at 10:54 PM on May 24, 2008


It's moments like this — and then my mind takes the tragedy of this one scene and multiplies it by tens of thousands.

And it's at these moments — when my mind tries to wrap itself around the huge amount of tragedy, pain, and sorrow that is hundreds of thousands of times as sorrowful as this (because we can't leave out that large proportion of the deaths of Iraqi citizens who are innocent), and just balks because my circuits aren't equipped to imagine a sorrow that large and immense — that I think that George W. Bush needs to spend a very, very, very long time in jail. It will never happen, but were it to happen, that would make me very happy.

At the very least, he needs to be spat upon and shunned and eventually find himself so reviled that he can't go out in public. For the rest of his life. And he'd be getting off very easy.
posted by WCityMike at 10:54 PM on May 24, 2008 [3 favorites]


.

I hate that it's so hard to divorce my politics from my sympathies (meaning I can't feel sad for them without feeling rage at the government).

I hope she feels it was worth the price - I'd hate for him to be one of the soldiers that realized how all for naught this misadventure has been.
posted by maryn at 10:54 PM on May 24, 2008


I watched the slide-show with my speakers on mute.

the silence was enough.
posted by Sam.Burdick at 10:57 PM on May 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


shit.
posted by squorch at 10:59 PM on May 24, 2008


Heart-wrenching. Fantastic photography. A pity about the piano underscore, though. That poor girl's voice alone is the saddest instrument in the world.
posted by bicyclefish at 11:04 PM on May 24, 2008


> I watched the slide-show with my speakers on mute. the silence was enough.

I respect your own interpretation of the site, but for me, what really broke my heart was the difference in her voice. It just crushed me.

I don't know what my religious beliefs are; I know I believe that some deity exists, but I'm still not clear about how it all works. I don't know if there's a hell.

But for this brief moment, I know I want him, Cheney, Rice, etc. to burn in torment. For a period equal to the remaining years of pain each and every family of a dead soldier has to deal with. Served back-to-back, not concurrently.

BUT! I shouldn't be so down on Bush! In sympathy with our fallen soldiers, HE FUCKING GAVE UP PLAYING GOLF, after all.
posted by WCityMike at 11:06 PM on May 24, 2008 [2 favorites]


At the very least, he needs to be spat upon and shunned and eventually find himself so reviled that he can't go out in public. For the rest of his life. And he'd be getting off very easy.

Unfortunately I can imagine him enjoying being a martyr. In jail he'd probably have the same "they'll thank me later!" attitude he has now. Also, any attempt at fair retribution would be political suicide (pre-election at least) for Democrats due to both the enablers for this mess (Fox News and Talk Radio) and public gullibility.

What I'd like to see is honest, nearly cinematic ("WHAT HAVE I DONE!!"), regret and recognition of why his actions were wrong on a basic human level and the pain and suffering he has caused. (This is pathetically as basic as trying to explain to a child why their actions were wrong). Of course this will never happen and even if it did, no amount of suffering or remorse on his behalf will equal the suffering he has caused, personally, one widow to feel. No retribution any court or vigilante could exact would remotely approach "justice", which just makes the whole situation extremely sad and unfortunate. I'm not sure what the answer is, other than to enforce the layers of protection that should prevent this type of thing from happening (i.e., Congress) and hoping Americans can elect responsible leaders in the future.
posted by null terminated at 11:18 PM on May 24, 2008


this video represents just one of the thousands of stories that, to me, feel sympathetic and heart-mashing enough to awaken any person's mind to the horrors of this war. When I take that feeling into the realm of government and observe how these political theaters can so easily overwhelm and extinguish that sympathy, I begin to shudder. That shudder soon turns to worry, worry to fright, and then naturally fright to righteous indignation. Every citizen of the world who loathes this administration and its fundamental mechanics (from the cog of G.W. to the driving forces behind him), is simply being fucking human.

maryn, there's nothing wrong in letting your emotions and your politics touch on the same plate- it's the power that helps drive revolution, after all. I say: more power to you.

.
posted by self at 11:21 PM on May 24, 2008


I'm giving up golf, because "I feel I owe it to the families to be in solidarity as best as I can with them. And I think playing golf during a war just sends the wrong signal."

No one suffers more than George and Laura Bush.
posted by orthogonality at 11:23 PM on May 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


[this is sad]
posted by UbuRoivas at 11:28 PM on May 24, 2008


i was holding it in, until the end, when I saw that he was six months older than me.

.

posted by heeeraldo at 11:31 PM on May 24, 2008


.

The photos captured the banality of the surroundings in an emotional catastrophe.

Only the best to the family.
posted by OrangeDrink at 11:50 PM on May 24, 2008


Jesus, heeeraldo, I didn't even notice. He was only 4 months older than me. The first of my college friends got married last weekend. My best friend has been teaching high school for 2 years. Too fucking young. Too fucking early.
posted by jmhodges at 11:52 PM on May 24, 2008


What.... did.... they..... expect?!

He went out to kill other people who had never done him or any American any harm.

There are a million Iraqis dead. There are four million people who are either dead, seriously injured, or displaced from their homes.

We had 90 seconds of piano music for this man. There are, proportionally, 250 Iraqis who died for him: think of 6 hours of piano music.

I feel exactly the same way about this as if he'd gone out to rob a liquor store and been shot: "If you don't want to die, first start by avoiding killing others."

Life is really tough. I feel for each person. This movie made me very sad. No one deserves to die: death is the ultimate defeat we all face and it's a terrible terrible thing. But if anyone deserves to die, it's people who go out to kill other people who never did them any harm.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 11:57 PM on May 24, 2008 [29 favorites]


The saddest aspect of this story is that - in 2008 - this poor young woman didn't have to lose her husband. Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld et al deserve jail time for an evil and pointless war that's killed thousands and thousands, but this war was widely seen as a sham five years ago - around the time this couple would have been celebrating their sixteenth birthdays.

How could anyone today enlist, knowing that horrific death is a distinct possibility, and that this is an illegal, immoral and corrupt war which has done more to damage and endanger America than any terrorists ever have?

I know better than most the horror of war - but I see some distinction between truly accidental victims and victims were victims in part due to a choice to take the foolish, unnecessary and potentially deadly risk of signing up to fight this senseless war. My heart breaks for the girl in the video, and I'm sure her husband was as loving and swell as she indicates. But we're more than half a decade into this war, there's no draft, and a little research ought to dissuade anyone with sense from signing up.

Because this is what can happen, and it'll mostly be for naught.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 12:10 AM on May 25, 2008


And all this "I want Bush tortured in jail" crap -- please remember that tens of millions of Americans voted for him in 2004, after it should have been clear to even the most casual observer that we were in the middle of an atrocity.

You cannot commit mass murder and then slough off all your guilt on your leader (particularly when it's clear that that leader is completely beyond the reach of the law).

Ricky put himself voluntarily in harm's way. He volunteered to go to a foreign land to fight people over whom he had a massive, massive advantage. The proof of this advantage is the obscene kill ratios, ranging from 10 to 100 to 1 (speaking only of actual fighters - the 250::1 ratio includes of course civilians, women, children...)

It was only a fluke he was killed; nearly always it's the Iraqi who gets killed; but we don't see the pictorials with their weeping widows and piano music for the sand niggers, do we?
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 12:10 AM on May 25, 2008 [8 favorites]


Although I don't exactly share your feelings, lupus_yonderboy, I do feel something pretty close.

While there's a fair amount of US opposition to this war now that American kids are coming home in body bags by the thousands, I don't recall an awful lot of opposition at the time the war began. In fact, I recall those brave people who were opposed being vilified and victimized for nothing more than urging caution and stating the obvious.

It's been a long time since Vietnam. The US military has been able to have a string of minor adventures in which they go overseas, kill a bunch of dark people without any significant loss of US life, and get back out again, quickly and cleanly. I'm pretty sure that everyone who supported this war felt that this was just going to be another of those episodes.

Perhaps these kids have to die in order for America to re-learn the lesson that war isn't just about us killing the enemy -- that people on our side are going to die as well. And the spouses, parents, children, neighbours on either side mourn will mourn them in exactly the same way.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 12:20 AM on May 25, 2008


Oh, you beat me to it.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 12:23 AM on May 25, 2008


I came of age during a time when military recruiting was hotly and heavily directed toward a segment of the population that heavily concerned about paying for college. Potential reservists were being wooed with the promise that "one weekend a month, two weeks a year" would make them eligible for Army benefits. Army ads touted cash for school - upon completion of service, of course.

I've got fewer than ten years on Ricky. He and I are from different, though closely related generations. Geographically, we were separated by a little over two thousand miles.

What amazes me - and saddens me to the core - is that someone so relatively close to me, someone who might have readily been a peer, a contact, or even a tourist in my neighborhood had he made different choices - is dead, leaving a young widow, for no reason.

While I admire the conviction and the certainty of America's troops, I must admit that I have difficulty with their critical thinking: no WMDs. No Iraqi-based Al-Qaeda. No conscription! No clear enemy, and no clear threat. So, Why? Why thew rush to protect what hasn't been threatened? Why die for what's not at stake?
posted by Graygorey at 12:35 AM on May 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


It's been a long time since Vietnam.
posted by PeterMcDermott


Apocalypse Now is just finishing up on TV right now, and after Gulf War One and now Two, perhaps it hasn't been such a long time after all. Like no time at all.
"Saigon... shit; I'm still only in Saigon... Every time I think I'm gonna wake up back in the jungle."
posted by Zack_Replica at 12:37 AM on May 25, 2008


I've just gotten grimmer and grimmer as this war has gone on and I see more "patriotic" things like this.

It's not that I'm intrinsically anti-military, just came back from drinx with friend of mine who's retired Army; it's just that I'm 45 years old and for my whole life the United States has been continuously fighting in one place or another and almost every time for nothing.

When I was a kid growing up in England and later Canada, the United States was a magical place to me. The whole civil rights movement, the art, the environmental movement, all of these seemed to show to me that justice and logic and beauty could sometimes triumph against the machine and the marching morons.

The next 30+ years I spent watching all of these amazing achievements get flushed down the toilet; I watched while the rednecks crushed it all, laughed at us, took our money(*) and gave it to rich criminals, mocked learning, reason, art, even tolerance itself.

Watching yet another slideshow like this, where they act as though this guy Ricky died of cancer instead of being killed by some other poor local schlub fighting against a very-heavily-armed Ricky and an awful lot of his heavily-armed friends, makes me sick.

The fact that I deleted the next few sentences because I worry about the consequences of writing perfectly legal text that doesn't encourage any sorts of crime, because I'm a resident alient and I don't want it "on my record", should give you an indication of what I think this country has become.

(* -- millions of dollars have passed from me to the US government - I have a right to complain.)
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 12:46 AM on May 25, 2008 [7 favorites]


I've just gotten grimmer and grimmer as this war has gone on and I see more "patriotic" things like this.

Where are you getting the patriotic vibe? I saw it as the story of one woman's loss.
posted by Locative at 12:54 AM on May 25, 2008 [2 favorites]


i feel i need to rid the room of an elephant, if that's ok...

THAT LIFE-SIZED CARDBOARD CUTOUT WAS WEIRD-ASS CREEPY!


ah, that's better
posted by UbuRoivas at 1:19 AM on May 25, 2008 [7 favorites]


"One woman's loss" implies that there is no blame involved. It makes it a passive thing, like cancer.

In fact, her husband went out looking to kill people and in fact was killed himself.

If this were a write-up of someone who were gunned down in a botched gas station hold up, and ignored that fact to concentrate on "one woman's loss," you'd be justifiably furious. "Wait a second, what about the poor guy in the gas station who was shot?"

But in fact, this is far worse. Your average gas station stick-up thug doesn't kill anyone most of the time, or if he does, perhaps one or two or three. But there are 4,000 US dead and 500,000 to 1,000,000 Iraqi dead: Ricky is balanced by a couple of hundred Iraqis deaths (and many times that number of crippling injuries and people rendered homeless, of course).

This is at least the second such article we've had posted here, but I see these endlessly all over the place.

They're all the same; they dramatize the formal aspects of the loss, the widow, the military symbols while completely ignoring the fact that these deaths occurred during the commission of a million murders.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 1:26 AM on May 25, 2008 [12 favorites]


I cried a little, which was... unexpected. Because politically/intellectually, I agree with lupus_yonderboy. Every Bush voter- every "W '04" bumper sticker owner- should rot in the same prison; Bush is a sociopath for whom no amount of physical torture could ever amend for what he's done. That said, even if he were a staunch Kerry voter, no one held a gun to Ricky's head, and the risk of death is the price of enlisting.

But he is still human, and I cried.
posted by hincandenza at 1:33 AM on May 25, 2008 [4 favorites]


And if you don't see the "patriotic" aspects, look at the video again. I count seven American flags (and over two dozen patriotic symbols in total, but including of course military symbols so there are a lot...)

I'm sorry to be so harsh. But you must understand that your rulers have been brainwashing you since time immemorial with presentations like this so you will send your children out to kill and be killed, generally for reasons that are completely evil.

Until you understand the purpose of this propaganda, which is to convince you that training your kids to be killers is a noble thing to do, you're going to fall for it every time.

I'm not advocating allowing your country to be invaded, of course - simply to cease invading the countries of others. Surely this is not a difficult concept to understand, even for...?
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 1:46 AM on May 25, 2008 [5 favorites]


Of course I choked up over this guy! It's hard not to.

But I read an police report in Harper's this week about a fifteen year old kid.
While I was standing next to Hughstan, he started to cry. "Why did I do it?" he said, shaking his head back and forth. "Am I going to jail?" A few moments later Hughstan heard some officers talking about an investigation and said, "Dad came home. I shot him. What investigation? All I want to do is call my friends." Then he almost laughed and said, "Along with murder, you can put down truancy. I ditched today." Then he said, "Can we clean this up before my mom gets home? I don't want her to come home and see my dad dead." [...] As I shut the door, Hughstan started crying again. "I'd take it back if I could," he said. "I guess I'll never be an Eagle Scout now."
I really wept over this poor kid, not nearly as handsome as the dead soldier, a kid who deserves to go to jail for a long time, who did a terrible thing - because it was a terrible thing done in a moment of anger, because he so deeply regretted it, because it was so pathetic.

I wasn't able to get nearly as choked up over Ricky, because he set out to do it to himself through many months of diligent, strenuous training, because he was paid to do it, because he was a big, tough, highly-trained and armed solider, but mainly because no one seems to express the slightest remorse - the widow isn't saying, "Why did we do it?" but "I have suffered a loss."
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 2:00 AM on May 25, 2008 [2 favorites]


Jesus fuck. That actually made me tear up a bit.

lupus_yonderboy: they dramatize the formal aspects of the loss, the widow, the military symbols while completely ignoring the fact that these deaths occurred during the commission of a million murders.

True. But the comments here imply that some of us are able to make that connection ourselves, no?
posted by sveskemus at 2:04 AM on May 25, 2008 [2 favorites]


Apocalypse Now is just finishing up on TV right now

But I think that's part of the problem. Movies like Apolcalypse Now seem horrific for those of us who lived through that era, but for later generations, I can't help wondering if it's just another part of the American Myth -- no more real than Clint Eastwood movies or Half Life. I know that I've heard nihilistic British teenagers saying things like 'Wouldn't it be cool to get wasted, go out in the jungle with big guns and kill a few gooks, like they did in Apocalypse Now?' I don't hear many kids talking much about duty, responsibility and the need to prevent wars. And those kids who do talk like that tend to be marginalized as lefties or hippy geeks.

Without the reality check of kids from the neighbourhood coming home in body bags, and children having their flesh burned off by napalm on the six o'clock news, I get the feeling that some kids see this stuff as being like a fucking video game -- where you get to kill others relentlessly, but whenever you take a hit yourself, you just hit replay and everything is back to normal again. I get the feeling that we're seeing a generation that's reeling in surprise because they've just found out that away from the computer those Demons actually shoot back, and the reset button doesn't work in real life.

I just can't think why else a kid would do something so completely irrational as joining the military.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 2:23 AM on May 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


Despite repeated attempts at viewing this, the site feed dies in Firefox with the young woman finishing packing her box to send to her husband. No problem in IE (.asp site). I'm sorry for the young woman's loss, but these kind of pieces increasingly leave me cold, partly because in trying to humanize one American casualty, they're so easily pulled into clumsy political discussions about the larger conflicts in which the service person died.

The intention of the families in offering these Web memorials may not be political, and most claim that it is not. But, they become so, easily. One wonders, for example, who in the world would be taking shots of the Marines sent to inform her of her husband's death, in her living room, and what the possible motivation of that photographer might have been, in that moment, if that shot was what the soundtrack seemed to imply, and not a similar one, from later in the process.

On preview:

"... I just can't think why else a kid would do something so completely irrational as joining the military."
posted by PeterMcDermott at 5:23 AM on May 25

Patriotism. Idealism. A desire to protect. A respect for the service ethic. Pride.

These are not "irrational" motivations. The world is not an Ayn Rand novel.
posted by paulsc at 2:43 AM on May 25, 2008 [4 favorites]


i was gonna leave this one alone...

You see lupus_yonderboy, you're missing one important thing. The good I wish for is not that all our young men and women should suddenly become cynical, and stop trusting their country, their leaders and their government. The sadness I feel is because the trust that these young men and women who give their lives for what they have been misled into believing is a just cause has been broken.

The sadness i feel when I see this is not because I'm ignorant to the causes and effects of war. It's not because I don't care about the many more Iraqis who also have died in this unjust war. The sadness has nothing to do with whether or not the war is just or unjust. If it was a just cause, and there was only one death, it would still be an occasion for grief.

But the bottom line still remains. This war has not been like any of our previous wars. There was no truth to this war. The American people were not asked to sacrifice, instead we have been fed a daily dose of distraction and misdirection. The images of this war are not coming home to remind us of the price being paid on both sides. The reality of this war has been hidden from the american people in an unprecedented fashion, and for that very reason, these kids keep going, and they keep losing their limbs and losing their lives because they're being lied to. The widows and these families are not prepared for that bad news, because they're not prepared for ANY news. How many flag draped coffins have you seen in the past 5 years? Nowhere close to 4000, that's for damn sure. And definitely not enough to make a young person think and question what they've been raised to believe.

And yes, they've been raised to believe that that man in uniform telling them they've made the right choice is a man of honor, and someone to be respected. They're deciding if if they're ready to enlist, or ready to mary their high school sweetheart before he ships out without enough truthful information to make that decision.

And that is a sad, sad thing.

Nobody trains their kids to be killers. Your hyperbole shows an astounding and dare I say juvenile lack of understanding of the world, and the people in it. People raise their children to believe in things outside of themselves. Family, community, country, tradition. People raise their children to believe in simple things like right and wrong, good and bad. and you know what? There is a great benefit to us all in people raising their children to believe in such things.

So sure, we could ask hundreds of thousands of young men and women to follow your lead, abandon their trust in their communities, their country and their traditions. We could raise our children to believe in noone but themselves. We could stop telling our kids that Being President is a noble aspiration, that the word "leader" is a word we reserve for the best and brightest.

We could stop teaching kids that they shouldn't take their privileges for granted, and that under no circumstances does freedom require sacrifice.

Or we could continue teaching them all of those things, and instead of cynicism, demand that the the few people we choose to lead us not shit on those beliefs, misrepresent that truth and send our kids off to kill and be killed for profit, politics and a misguided sense of personal glory.
posted by billyfleetwood at 2:46 AM on May 25, 2008 [97 favorites]


*stands*

*applauds*
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:51 AM on May 25, 2008


I wish I could favorite that comment more than once, billyfleetwood.
posted by brundlefly at 3:07 AM on May 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'm so sorry.

I'm so so sorry.

I wish I could have done more to stop this war.

I don't know. So many dead. So many orphans, so many windows.

I'm so, so sorry that this happened.
posted by empath at 3:12 AM on May 25, 2008 [2 favorites]


I could use the war widows of the world and point at them and go "See??? I told you so!!! Stop fuckin' killin' each other dammit!" but doing so makes my own stomach churn. I sicken myself. This whole war crap thing just leaves me empty and cold and hopeless. Mankind will continue to destroy itself and I'm powerless to prevent it.

Maryn: "I hate that it's so hard to divorce my politics from my sympathies"

I hate that too many people find it so easy. That's our problem, right there.

Brandon Blatcher: "...there's a special circle in hell for those who planned this war and there's another circle for those who went along with it."

*takes a swig of Pepto Bismol*

Uh boy. Here we go.

Ricky Nelson went along with it. He's in a special circle of hell now? Well, good for him. His wife went along with it too. She let him go. She coulda wrapped her arms around him and demanded he not get on that plane even tho it woulda meant the US government would prosecute him for desertion. At least now he wouldn't be dead. So she's gonna go to hell now too? Good thinking there, Brandon.

Hell, you and I are going along with it. We have no choice. We've been given no choice. I can't do a single thing to stop this war, but I'm not gonna just stop being an American. I love this country. I disagree about the war. I disagree about any war. But I went along with with one. We all did. No one stopped the Bush administration. We're all culpable.

Even Cindy Sheehan! Heck, she didn't do ANYTHING about the war until AFTER her son got killed. And then, for everything that she did? It wasn't enough. She didn't single handedly stop the war. Hell's waiting for her too.

Thanks, Brandon, for banishing everyone to hell.

Empath: "I wish I could have done more to stop this war."

I think maybe we're all already in a hell of our own making with regards to this war.
posted by ZachsMind at 3:49 AM on May 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


what a noble death for a young man.
you make me proud.
sleep well soldier, sleep well.
posted by billybobtoo at 3:50 AM on May 25, 2008


I picked up a hitchhiker on Maui recently, a beautiful 18 year old kid, into anime and peace in general. He told me that he wouldn't be surprised if he winds up in the service because it's the way out of rural America and into the future.

To kids like him, the army isn't about killing or dying, it's about opportunity. Like the kid in the Harpers article quoted above, there comes a time when most volunteers would like to "take it all back" but by then it's too late. Most can't admit or accept the mistake they made with there lives at that point. The Ricky's of America are not stone killers but mostly poor souls who fell for the recruiters bullshit. Cut them some slack.
posted by Xurando at 3:54 AM on May 25, 2008 [5 favorites]


PaulSc: "These are not 'irrational' motivations. The world is not an Ayn Rand novel."

Heh.

I keep trying to tell myself the bitch was wrong, too.

Then I look at shit like this war.

*shrugs*
posted by ZachsMind at 3:57 AM on May 25, 2008


I am continually surprised by the compartmentalization that occurs... by our leadership, by our citizens, by the widows.

What about the children of the soldiers? What about the children of the Iraqis? What about what Iraq was like when Saddam was in power? Where were these stories five years ago? Why do we tolerate the "expressions of remorse" from our leadership?
posted by ewkpates at 4:16 AM on May 25, 2008


Forktine @ 10:39... If you want to meet these men and women, go read the "I Got the News Today" series at Daily Kos. These tributes to the fallen are published almost every day and remember the people behind the numbers.
posted by MonkeyToes at 4:26 AM on May 25, 2008


(* -- millions of dollars have passed from me to the US government - I have a right to complain.)

I'm sure you knew that money wasn't all being spent to feed puppies in kittens. You could have said, "I'm not writing you the check" and taken the consequences. But you didn't and by your own logic your right to complain is somewhat diminished.

You helped pay for the machine (and anyone who doesn't go to jail for not paying their taxes explicitly because they don't want to fund the military does as well.) You're just drawing an arbitrary line of blame between yourself and the people who run the machine.
posted by Cyrano at 4:26 AM on May 25, 2008 [3 favorites]


billyfleetwood writes "Nobody trains their kids to be killers. Your hyperbole shows an astounding and dare I say juvenile lack of understanding of the world, and the people in it. People raise their children to believe in things outside of themselves. Family, community, country, tradition. People raise their children to believe in simple things like right and wrong, good and bad. and you know what? There is a great benefit to us all in people raising their children to believe in such things. "

Life isn't a comic book. There are few places in life where there is a bright line test that will allow one to delineate sides and pigeon hole people into good or bad. Along with faith, tradition and respect for elders we need to give our children the ability to think critically, to believe in themselves, and to have the fortitude to stand up for their beliefs rather than act like sheep. So that when tradition, faith, and respect for elders would lead them to burn the witch, lynch the nigger, deny women control of their bodies, stand watch over the bedrooms of the nation, or join up to bomb the life out of brown people minding their own business they can act against tradition, faith and tell the leaders that would throw them onto the sword to line their own pockets to go pound sand.

If anyone in the middle class is ignorant of the costs and risks of the war it's a wilful ignorance. It unlikely that Cpl. Nelson was a penniless, homeless, street kid without access to TV, newspapers and the internet before he enlisted to fight in an active war that has killed thousands of coalition forces (It's not just Americans dieing on the "good" side in this war) and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis.
posted by Mitheral at 4:30 AM on May 25, 2008 [4 favorites]


Patriotism. Idealism. A desire to protect. A respect for the service ethic. Pride.

Well, I suspect that we'll have to agree to differ as to whether patriotism and pride are rational things or not. Personally, I've never thought so myself. Patriotism seems to stem from a desire to insist that our particular tribe is superior to the other, and pride -- in this context at least -- is exactly the sort of irrational emotion that caused this stupid fucking war. Some sand-niggers took down our World Trade Center? Well we'll show them! Don't tread on us, right?

As for idealism and respect for the service ethos -- I can think of many, many more fruitful areas into which those impulses could be channelled. Which leaves us with the desire to protect, I suppose. It's actually not an impulse that I've seen very much of among young men, and I've seen even less of it among young men who go into the military -- who by and large seem to be fueled primarily by an excess of testosterone. I do think that the military does a pretty good job of inculcating it into the men and women that join up, but I'm not seeing how it's rational in this context.

How many military actions has the US (or the UK for that matter) been engaged in since 1945? And how many of those can be legitimately characterised as arising out of a desire to protect? Of course, if you continuously regard aggression against those who don't like you as a form of pre-emptive defence, then I suppose you might say 'all of them', but as far as I'm concerned, the idea that there's a continual threat out there that we need to protect ourselves against is exactly the sort of pernicious ideology that gives rise to irrational decisions like joining the military to fight a war like this one.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 4:55 AM on May 25, 2008 [8 favorites]


These tributes to the fallen are published almost every day and remember the people behind the numbers.

It's just as well that they're only tributes to the US fallen or we'd be here all year.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 5:07 AM on May 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


"... I just can't think why else a kid would do something so completely irrational as joining the military."

Patriotism...

Be careful with that one, paulsc. For what it's worth, the concept does not exist in Canada. From my viewpoint up here, it always seems to be used in America either to justify an otherwise indefensible action or to vilify those who would oppose same.
posted by Turtles all the way down at 5:20 AM on May 25, 2008 [2 favorites]


"...anyone who doesn't go to jail for not paying their taxes explicitly because they don't want to fund the military..."

Yeah yeah yeah Cyrano. Whatever. Thoreau spent a night in jail on principle. Didn't do him any good, and the world still rises and sets. He didn't make his world a better place by standing on principle. He didn't make a difference. Personally? I'm allergic to jail time.
posted by ZachsMind at 5:38 AM on May 25, 2008


THAT LIFE-SIZED CARDBOARD CUTOUT WAS WEIRD-ASS CREEPY!

America's cardboard army of Flat Daddies boosts families
"It is one of the hardest things about being a military family. How to cope when a husband and father, or wife and mother, is posted abroad, especially to combat zones such as Iraq or Afghanistan.
Now the United States army has come up with a bizarre solution: Flat Daddy and Flat Mommy.

Many military units can provide families with a life-size cardboard cutout of their overseas warrior. The family can then take that figure to parties, put it in the passenger seat of their car, take it to bed or do whatever it is that families want to with a replica of their loved one.

Named after Flat Stanley, a children's book character who was squashed flat, the cutouts have been a surprise hit since they were introduced. In Maine alone, the state's National Guard has given out more than 200 Flat Soldiers since January. The scheme began in North Dakota when one army wife, Cindy Sorenson, made up a life-size photograph of her former husband for their daughter, after he was sent to Iraq. The model helped the girl cope with missing her father and Sorenson mentioned it to a motivational speaker, Elaine Dumler, who included it in a book.

From there the idea took off and has been adopted by units across America. They can be found going on dates with their wives in Alaska and having dinner with their families in Colorado.

Experts believe the cutouts are a useful psychological device, especially for children, that helps cope with the stress of long absences. It allows the family to genuinely feel the missing person is still involved in day-to-day life."
posted by ericb at 5:42 AM on May 25, 2008


And if Daddy dies, Flat Daddy is Daddy!
posted by Turtles all the way down at 5:57 AM on May 25, 2008


Thanks for the post...

I know many of you will take these thoughts and this passion expressed here beyond the walls of metafilter and into the real world, thank you for that, I encourage everyone to follow that lead.

However y'all stand on the issues expressed above, take the emotion generated and use it in some way that will help end this or touch those effected by this war. This is Memorial Day weekend, an excellent opportunity to hold a silent vigil, march in a parade, visit a VA hospital, take a hot meal to a homeless vet, spend some time in a cemetery, maybe comfort someone who has experienced this kind of loss.

peace...
posted by HuronBob at 5:59 AM on May 25, 2008


Bush's Memorial Day radio message for 2008.

He hasn't been to a single Iraq casualty funeral, not even Ricky's.
posted by Xurando at 6:00 AM on May 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


I don't recall an awful lot of opposition at the time the war began.

I do. Some examples:
January 18, 2003 anti-war protest.

February 15, 2003 anti-war protest -- "...listed in the 2004 Guinness Book of World Records as the largest anti-war rally in history."

March 20/21, 2003 anti-war protest.
Summary:
Prior to the invasion of Iraq
September 12, 2002
October 26, 2002
October 31, 2002
November 9, 2002
January 16, 2003
January 18, 2003
February 15, 2003
March 8, 2003
March 15, 2003
March 16, 2003
March 19, 2003

Invasion to the fall of Baghdad
March 20, 2003
March 21, 2003
March 22–23, 2003
March 24, 2003
March 25, 2003
March 27, 2003
March 28, 2003
March 29, 2003
March 30, 2003
April 7, 2003

After the fall of Baghdad
April 12, 2003
October 25, 2003
June 4, 2004
June 5, 2004
June 27, 2004
August 29, 2004
October 2, 2004
October 17, 2004
November 30, 2004
January 20, 2005
March 19, 2005
June 21, 2005
August 6, 2005 to August 31, 2005
September 24, 2005
November 4–5, 2005
March 18 – March 20, 2006
April 1, 2006
April 29, 2006
May 22–31, 2006
August 9, 2006
September 21, 2006
September 23, 2006
October 5, 2006
November 3, 2006
January 4, 2007
January 10–11, 2007
January 27, 2007
March 11, 2007
March 16, 2007
March 17, 2007
May 21, 2007
September 15, 2007
September 29, 2007
March 19, 2008
Yeah, I guess those Americans (and friends around the world) just sat on their hands all these years.
posted by ericb at 6:02 AM on May 25, 2008 [5 favorites]


Patterns
by Amy Lowell

I walk down the garden paths,
And all the daffodils
Are blowing, and the bright blue squills.
I walk down the patterned garden-paths
In my stiff, brocaded gown.
With my powdered hair and jewelled fan,
I too am a rare
Pattern.As I wander down
The garden paths.

My dress is richly figured,
And the train
Makes a pink and silver stain
On the gravel, and the thrift
Of the borders.
Just a plate of current fashion,
Tripping by in high-heeled, ribboned shoes.
Not a softness anywhere about me,
Only whalebone and brocade.
And I sink on a seat in the shade
Of a lime tree.For my passion
Wars against the stiff brocade.
The daffodils and squills
Flutter in the breeze
As they please.
And I weep;
For the lime-tree is in blossom
And one small flower has dropped upon my bosom.

And the plashing of waterdrops
In the marble fountain
Comes down the garden-paths.
The dripping never stops.
Underneath my stiffened gown
Is the softness of a woman bathing in a marble basin,
A basin in the midst of hedges grown
So thick, she cannot see her lover hiding,
But she guesses he is near,
And the sliding of the water
Seems the stroking of a dear
Hand upon her.
What is Summer in a fine brocaded gown!
I should like to see it lying in a heap upon the ground.
All the pink and silver crumpled up on the ground.

I would be the pink and silver as I ran along the paths,
And he would stumble after,
Bewildered by my laughter.
I should see the sun flashing from his sword-hilt and the buckles
on his shoes.
I would choose
To lead him in a maze along the patterned paths,
A bright and laughing maze for my heavy-booted lover,
Till he caught me in the shade,
And the buttons of his waistcoat bruised my body as he clasped me,
Aching, melting, unafraid.
With the shadows of the leaves and the sundrops,
And the plopping of the waterdrops,
All about us in the open afternoon --
I am very like to swoon
With the weight of this brocade,
For the sun sifts through the shade.

Underneath the fallen blossom
In my bosom,
Is a letter I have hid.
It was brought to me this morning by a rider from the Duke.
"Madam, we regret to inform you that Lord Hartwell
Died in action Thursday se'nnight."
As I read it in the white, morning sunlight,
The letters squirmed like snakes.
"Any answer, Madam," said my footman.
"No," I told him.
"See that the messenger takes some refreshment.
No, no answer."
And I walked into the garden,
Up and down the patterned paths,
In my stiff, correct brocade.
The blue and yellow flowers stood up proudly in the sun,
Each one.
I stood upright too,
Held rigid to the pattern
By the stiffness of my gown.
Up and down I walked,
Up and down.

In a month he would have been my husband.
In a month, here, underneath this lime,
We would have broke the pattern;
He for me, and I for him,
He as Colonel, I as Lady,
On this shady seat.
He had a whim
That sunlight carried blessing.
And I answered, "It shall be as you have said."
Now he is dead.

In Summer and in Winter I shall walk
Up and down
The patterned garden-paths
In my stiff, brocaded gown.
The squills and daffodils
Will give place to pillared roses, and to asters, and to snow.
I shall go
Up and down,
In my gown.
Gorgeously arrayed,
Boned and stayed.
And the softness of my body will be guarded from embrace
By each button, hook, and lace.
For the man who should loose me is dead,
Fighting with the Duke in Flanders,
In a pattern called a war.
Christ!What are patterns for?
posted by nax at 6:06 AM on May 25, 2008 [3 favorites]


i feel i need to rid the room of an elephant, if that's ok...
THAT LIFE-SIZED CARDBOARD CUTOUT WAS WEIRD-ASS CREEPY!
ah, that's better. – posted by UbuRoivas

yeah, it is. At least it was for an adult, not a child.

I just ranted a lot in preview, but deleted it.

Suffice it to say RESPECT, people.
You don't know what went through this man's head and motives when he signed up.
You may think you do, but that's your own arrogance.

This was a good story, and I'm glad it's out there.
The media management (banning pictures of coffins from the airwaves) in this conflict is a terrifying real-life example of controlling the message.
posted by Busithoth at 6:10 AM on May 25, 2008


Thanks, Brandon, for banishing everyone to hell.

Didn't banish everyone, just those who planned this war and those who went along with or agreed to this war. In case you've forgotten there was a sizable number of people who didn't go for it, who never bought the obvious lies.

No one stopped the Bush administration. We're all culpable.
No, some tried, some protested, etc, etc. That they didn't succeed doesn't matter, they at least tried. That counts for something.

She didn't single handedly stop the war. Hell's waiting for her too.
No, she had to bury her son. She's already in it.

As to Ricky and his wife, I'm sorry he's dead and that his wife is hurting so bad. But yeah, they went along with it and this is what sometimes happens to soldiers, they die and leave loved ones behind. This is not rocket science, this is not something new. Young men have been going off to war and dying for thousands of years.

To be clear, I don't think Ricky "deserved it" and I certainly don't wish harm on the soldiers fighting. But it is a war, and people die. quit fucking going to war and let the sons bury the fathers, as it should be.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:13 AM on May 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


I appreciate your rage, lupus_yonderboy's, and I feel it too, but I think it is misdirected and because of that, counterproductive.

Sure, if everyone thought critically, if everyone reached the age of 20 and really analyzed all the things their parents and communities had taught them, the world would be a very different place. There would be no such thing as religion, for example. No thinking adult hearing any given religious dogma for the first time would think, sure, that makes sense. People become involved in religion because of their families, because of tradition. Those are good things.

People join the military for similar reasons. Yes, people enlist for other reasons too: an escape from their lives, and I think a rare few join it for a chance to see some "action." But of all the military people I have known, the majority join for reasons of honor, tradition, community. They were raised to believe it is the honorable thing to do. And it is: I know few people who sacrifice as much in the course of their daily lives for what they see as the greater good than enlisted soldiers.

Obviously, this war is not part of the "greater good." It's an abomination, a holocaust of incompetence. But that isn't the fault of the soldiers. Hoping that soldiers will individually evaluate each engagement and decide whether they want to participate is neither realistic or desirable. Unrealistic, because it is hoping for millions of people to suddenly put aside everything they have been taught and behave a different way. It's like saying, if only the Israelis and the Palestinians would put aside their differences, think how much better things would be. It isn't going to happen. Undesirable because in spite of all the ways it goes horribly wrong, I think it is naive to wish for the total abolition of our military.

The evil of this war doesn't come from the soldiers, it comes from the leadership. Even the worst abuses we have seen so far--Abu Ghraib, for example--have come straight from the top, from Rumsfeld and Cheney, and so how much more enraging that even they tried to paint it as the fault of the soldiers, of the work of a "few bad apples." This war became inevitable the moment Bush took office; it was never a case of necessity, or of opposing nations, but rather of the agenda of a few specific people.

Would it be nice if everyone started thinking more critically when they voted? Absolutely. Is that going to happen? Probably not. The U.S. presidential election is going to swing toward good and away from evil this time around, but not because everyone has wised up, or because everyone has thought long and hard about the right thing to do. More because the wind is blowing that way.

It is going to be like that always. The electorate is comprised of three groups: people entrenched in dogma, independent thinkers, and sheep. The dogmatists won't be swayed, and independent thinkers are both rare and disorganized. Scary though it is, I think most elections are decided by sheep. People who don't follow politics but pull the lever based on their "vibe." Or whatever. And this is where I think it becomes unproductive to shout, fuck you, soldiers! Really, there would be no more efficient way to turn sheep and even some independent thinkers into red state dogmatists.

There were two causes to this war: The neocons, and an alarmist media who were asleep on the job throughout the runup. Soldiers didn't cause the war. They only made the mistake of trusting the leadership that we elected. And I say "we" because all of us here who are U.S. citizens had the opportunity to persuade our compatriots and to work to change the election in 2000 and then again in 2004. What did you do? What are you doing this time? If what you're doing is walking around talking about how our soldiers are all assholes who deserve to die, do us a favor and keep it to yourself.

Soldiers are awesome, and thank god for them. The Bush administration is evil, and hurry up November. And I wish there was some way to vote out the current media. We need to see more stories like this and more stories on the million Iraqis who were killed. They are not mutually exclusive.
posted by The Loch Ness Monster at 6:26 AM on May 25, 2008 [2 favorites]


The rest of the story.
posted by Kibbutz at 6:32 AM on May 25, 2008


If anyone watched the PBS special "Carrier" it was a really close look at why people join the service. Worth watching just for that. But the single most striking moment for me came when they started sailing toward the middle east. At their first port of call, the CO told the crew, "These people want to kill you." Not, "there's a war so there's shooting." Not, "be on the lookout for bad guys." Not, "we might engage the enemy." It was a blanket statement. "These people want to kill you." Was the port of call Iraq? No, It was Kuala Lumpur. This is what these young soldiers are indoctrinated with. "These people want to kill you."

.
posted by nax at 6:42 AM on May 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


The only reason the age of 20 is considered remarkable in the context, is because the last war that produced any significant number of widows was long enough ago that those widows are now old women. But when their husbands were killed, they were young too.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 6:44 AM on May 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


The good I wish for is not that all our young men and women should suddenly become cynical, and stop trusting their country, their leaders and their government

Oh, I wish for that. I wish for that with all my heart. If young men and women all over the world stopped believing in high-flown patriotic crap handed out to them from above, wars would become much, much harder to organize.

This war has not been like any of our previous wars.

Except World War 1, and Vietnam.

There was no truth to this war.

It was built on a tower of bullshit, and run primarily for the benefit of arms manufacturers, just like World War 1 and Vietnam.

The American people were not asked to sacrifice, instead we have been fed a daily dose of distraction and misdirection.

Just like World War 1 and Vietnam.

The images of this war are not coming home to remind us of the price being paid on both sides. The reality of this war has been hidden from the american people in an unprecedented fashion the usual way, and for that very reason, these kids keep going, and they keep losing their limbs and losing their lives because they're being lied to.

Fixed that for you.
posted by flabdablet at 6:52 AM on May 25, 2008


Richard would regularly make fun of himself in an attempt to get others to smile. On his MySpace page he describes himself this way, "I am happily married and I have a big head....literally it's big. Not like, I have a big ego. I actually have a big head."

PeterMcDermott: I just can't think why else a kid would do something so completely irrational as joining the military.

Here's a recent article on this subject from the New York Review of Books: Michael Massing, The Volunteer Army: Who Fights and Why?
That initial group of interviews at Bradley's would mirror those I had throughout my stay. In all, I would speak with about thirty soldiers, and roughly one of every four would tell me that he had joined the military mainly for idealistic reasons, for some larger cause. Often, in describing those reasons, these soldiers would sound vague—"I've wanted to be a soldier since I was young," they would say, or "my family has always served in the Army." (A family history in the military features strongly in the decision of many enlistees.)

... from the survey data, and from my interviews, it seems clear that the military does not consist of society's "dregs." Rather, it consists mainly of young men and women who, raised in working- and lower-middle-class families, yearn to make it into the middle class. Unable to achieve this in the hypercompetitive and expensive market economy, they have instead sought to achieve it in the Army. With its guarantees of housing, employment, health insurance, and educational assistance, the US military today seems the last outpost of the welfare state in America. (These comments apply mainly to the Army's enlisted ranks; officers tend to come from the middle class.)
lupus_yonderboy: In fact, her husband went out looking to kill people and in fact was killed himself.

I look at it a little differently. To me, the failing of the US in Iraq was that not just that it overthrew Saddam Hussein's government, but that it then failed to provide security and stability for Iraqis afterward. To me, the goal of the continuing occupation--to try to establish a stable government--isn't so dishonorable. It's not that different from the goal in Afghanistan, where the US and its allies overthrew the Taliban for better reasons.

(That said, it seems to me that in Iraq, after Abu Ghraib, this goal is impossible to achieve; and that rather than kill yet more people in pursuit of an impossible goal, the US should withdraw from Iraq, accepting the consequences--e.g. that Iraq is going to be part of the Iranian sphere of influence.)
posted by russilwvong at 6:53 AM on May 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


This thread is as disheartening as the post is sad.
posted by nola at 6:59 AM on May 25, 2008


what a noble death for a young man

If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,--
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.
posted by stargell at 7:00 AM on May 25, 2008 [5 favorites]


But when their husbands were killed, they were young too

The young are generally the ones who suffer most in wars. Full adult judgement doesn't really kick in until the age of 25 or so. Most people who join armies or militias are younger than that.

As for tradition being a wonderful thing: I'm all for tradition, except insofar as it's used to brainwash young people into thinking that mass killing is OK.

Afghanistan, where the US and its allies overthrew the Taliban for better reasons

Keep drinking the Kool-Aid. It's good for you.
posted by flabdablet at 7:01 AM on May 25, 2008


Memorial Day wind installation near Cayucos, California: Blowin' In The Wind.
posted by optovox at 7:11 AM on May 25, 2008


HuronBob: "However y'all stand on the issues expressed above, take the emotion generated and use it in some way that will help end this or touch those effected by this war. This is Memorial Day weekend, an excellent opportunity to hold a silent vigil, march in a parade, visit a VA hospital, take a hot meal to a homeless vet, spend some time in a cemetery, maybe comfort someone who has experienced this kind of loss."

There is nothing that can be done to help end this, or touch those affected in any way, that doesn't belittle their sacrifice. Those suggestions made are hollow acts; not even drops in a bucket.

I am spending Memorial Day WORKING. It's just another day.
posted by ZachsMind at 7:17 AM on May 25, 2008


I don't recall an awful lot of opposition at the time the war began.

I do. Some examples:


A better way to phrase that might have been "I don't recall an awful lot of effective opposition at the time the war began."

Yes, there were some large marches. There was nothing that actually produced any pressure on any politician to make any changes. It was all ceremony: the marchers got to feel that they were "protesting," the politicians (having learned a few lessons over the decades) made nice little speeches about how we respect freedom of speech in the US and Sadaam doesn't so the invasion is happening anyway, and the broader context, of course, was that many, many millions of Americans supported the war.

I keep seeing references here to the Vietnam War -- the mass protests of 1967 and 1968 (including the Moratorium and others) were impressive, but did not produce an immediate withdrawal -- they were met with an escalation, in fact. They had a political impact, but in the short term what they produced was an alienated and disenchanted group of people (many of whom gave up and quit protesting, a few went radical and set off bombs; many weren't all that political to begin with but were willing to walk in a protest march or two). In the short term, those tens and hundreds of thousands of protesters were effectively neutralized by things like Nixon's "silent majority" speech -- he got thousands of telegrams and letters thanking him for it, and was of course reelected by a sizable majority in the middle of the war.

I think it is easy to be a revisionist and remember the Vietnam war era as one of mass politicization and effective protest. More accurately, it was an era with a certain amount of mass mobilization that never reached very deeply, and with lots of protest that didn't achieve very much in terms of changing domestic or foreign policies. The lasting lesson, and one that perhaps we can relearn from the beginning of the Iraq war, is that mass protest can have an impact, but only if it is connected to mechanisms for producing political change. Mass protest plus an effective opposition party can work; mass protest plus an armed rebellion can work; mass protest plus broadly-supported civil disobedience can work. But mass protest on its own is merely pretty street pageantry (like those Promise Keepers rallies, or the Million Man March) -- impressive, but not politically effective.

There are other lessons of political protest from that era that have been learned very thoroughly, like "don't attack the individual soldier." Whether or not returning soldiers were indeed spit upon, in retrospect it is quite startling how thoroughly protesters of that era identified with the North Vietnamese and vilified the US military. NVA flags were common at demonstrations (including at least once when the flag in front of the Pentagon was switched for an NVA flag); some activists made trips to North Vietnam and met with NVA emissaries in neutral countries; etc. That was as shocking then as it would be now, to fly the flag of the nation's enemy at protests, and I'm quite happy to see that by and large the lesson that crude provocation doesn't really work has taken hold. Even if you are coming from the framework of radical pacifism, one has to understand the violence of the individual soldier arising from a context of violence, in which the individual soldier is far more of a victim than a perpetrator. The broader structure is what is truly violent -- by constructing relations between states to produce and nurture violence, by supporting the militia flavor of the day, by allowing an Iraqi state that can't provide basic services to its people and allows state security violence to be used for party political gain -- while the individual soldier is making choices from within a constrained palette of choices. Don't blame the soldier -- blame the people who sent him, and blame all of us for not finding a way to bring him home.

But saying 'the soldier is bad for participating' is dishonest -- it puts all the responsibility on the individual who was making a choice from a limited array of options, and creates a moral responsibility for individual soldiers to quit that has not proven true in any major conflict I can think of. It's unrealistic, and will never work as a mechanism for preventing or stopping conflict. And so, if it is guaranteed to not work, why pile that on the back of the individual soldier? Find a strategy that does work, please, instead.

(Finally, although the US has the moral responsibility for the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi dead, most of those dead were not personally killed by US soldiers -- they died from car bombs, and cholera, and worse. The responsibility for those deaths is shared by all of us, and does not rest in any way exclusively on the shoulders of individual soldiers who are or were there.)
posted by Forktine at 7:17 AM on May 25, 2008 [6 favorites]


Afghanistan, where the US and its allies overthrew the Taliban for better reasons...Keep drinking the Kool-Aid. It's good for you.

Exactly.

June 2, 2006 | Afghanistan: Taleban's second coming
"Why - five years after the Taleban and al-Qaeda were smashed by US forces - is Afghanistan facing a resurgent Taleban movement that is now threatening to overwhelm it?"
May 24, 2008 | Attacks surge in Afghanistan
The number of attacks on U.S. troops in eastern Afghanistan has increased significantly in April and May....Officials with the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force, or ISAF, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, said that attacks in eastern Afghanistan in the past three or four weeks have jumped to about 100 a week from 60 a week in March.

This was 'a very significant increase' in attacks, which include everything from minor indirect fire to suicide attacks, one ISAF official said last week.

ISAF has about 51,000 troops in Afghanistan, but the U.S. military provides almost all the 16,000 troops in the eastern region, which borders Pakistan's tribal areas, the remote and mostly lawless border region where Taliban and Al Qaeda militants have found shelter for years. Any increase in attacks in eastern Afghanistan therefore would be primarily against U.S. forces."
2006 - present | Resurgence of Taliban.
posted by ericb at 7:26 AM on May 25, 2008


They're all the same; they dramatize the formal aspects of the loss, the widow, the military symbols while completely ignoring the fact that these deaths occurred during the commission of a million murders.
Lupus It seems to me that you have a quite advance understanding of propaganda and spin, advanced when compared to the majority of western population, who doesn't know much about the subject. That's perhaps so sadly true as Peter points out:
Perhaps these kids have to die in order for America to re-learn the lesson that war isn't just about us killing the enemy -- that people on our side are going to die as well.
Indeed there's an huge hole in memory. In a parallel, a pretty famous (at least in Italy) italian journalist (Montanelli) recognized some "fascist" hints in the propaganda of our current government and attempt to warn about that, but he didn't have enough exposure and because of his advanced age he probably as well didn't learn how to be most effective in today media enviroment ; he worked in the age of printed newspaper and sadly his experience wasn't treasured, recognized , understood and repeated enough.

The "cure" to Montanelli warnings were not so cleverly disguised ad-hominems, in which his warnings weren't argued against, but instead he was painted as a flip-flopper , a senile egotistic asshole, a person who flirted with whoever was in power. Ignoring him was sometimes enough, as his warnings never reached "critical mass".

Yet at his advanced age he had the presence of mind of realizing that he had nothing to lose anymore and sent up some red flares.

But if your send up a flare in the middle of the ocean and the the seaman wasn't trained to tell a flare from a firework, the effort will be a last minute desperate one, unlikely to be succesful.

Similarly when you state the following
But if anyone deserves to die, it's people who go out to kill other people who never did them any harm.
it doesn't go well with the audience, who hears "he wasn't a human being, he was an assassin, a towelhead, a nigger, younameit". It's too much. Technically you are correct, he was trained to kill, he maybe killed, he certainly hoped not to die and possibily had a completely twisted, unrealistic expectation of what was likely to happen to him, but that's not what's going to be perceived: he was momma boy's and his adorable wife loved husband, any other aspects are likely to be rationalized (he did it for the country, he defended our values, dulce et decorum est pro patria mori etc) and dismissed and you'll be the dirty liberal or what have you.

Similarly name calling him as a "redneck" wouldn't be that much far from calling him "dirty jew" thus dishumanizing him as another enemy of mankind, conveniently casting him into "yet another group of people we don't know shit about nor care to know about".

Now some would think that I'd rather "hate the sin, not the sinner" as if I excused the actions of the soldier(s) because of their being hopeless puppets in the hands of evil masterminds ; that'd imply dismissing the fact he wasn't forced to join the army and that he or his family can't just cry a river of complains that they were mislead, without remembering that they happily skipped historic classes.

Yet those who point out these facts usually, at least in my experience, do that just to pass the uncomfortable bucket that yes, bunches of people can be misled and that "innocents" have to bear the externalities of the insanity or cynism of others.
posted by elpapacito at 7:29 AM on May 25, 2008


Brandon Blatcher: "That they didn't succeed doesn't matter, they at least tried. That counts for something."

What? For what "something" could that possibly count?

Did the attempts to stop the war lessen the number of dead?

No.

Did the war never happen? Did the war get stopped? Have the cries for sanity lessened the number of years the war drags on? Are our men and women currently in harm's way instead today home and safe? Are we safer now then we were when it started? Have our inalienable rights to life, liberty, and happiness been properly defended? Are we more secure?

No. No. No. No. No. No. No.

Yoda said it best. You either succeed, or you fail. There is no "try."

"Young men have been going off to war and dying for thousands of years."

YES. Yes, young men have been dying in wars for thousands of years. Absolutely.

And don't you think, after thousands of years, someone would stand up and go, "wait a minute. We been doing this same thing over and over expecting a better result, and it's just not happening. Maybe we should try NOT KILLING EACH OTHER over stupid piddly reasons. Give that a try for a few thousand years and see if we get a better result."

No. Why? Cuz humanity is insane.
posted by ZachsMind at 7:33 AM on May 25, 2008


flabdablet: Keep drinking the Kool-Aid.

(shrug) Osama bin Laden was responsible for 9/11; Saddam Hussein wasn't. Seems pretty straightforward to me.

According to Peter Deaver, one third of Americans support all wars; that's the percentage that supported Vietnam right to the end, and about the same as the percentage that still think going to war with Iraq was the right thing to do. 10% of Americans oppose all wars; that's the percentage that opposed war with Afghanistan.

I agree that if it's impossible for the US and NATO to establish a stable government in Afghanistan, the same reasoning applies: we should withdraw rather than prolong the inevitable. A 2007 poll:
Overall, 42 percent of Afghans rate U.S. efforts in Afghanistan positively, down steeply from 68 percent in 2005, and 57 percent last year. For the first time, this national ABC News/BBC/ARD survey finds that more than half of Afghans disapprove of U.S. efforts.

Afghans' confidence in the ability of U.S. and NATO forces to provide security also has dropped, from two-thirds a year ago to just over half now. ...

Despite some deterioration, most Afghans continue to see the U.S.-led overthrow of the Taliban as a good thing -- 76 percent, although down from 88 percent last year -- and to support U.S. forces remaining in their country. And 65 percent of Afghans still view the United States favorably overall, down from a peak of 83 percent in 2005 but still remarkable compared with America's image in most other Muslim countries. ...

Overall, 63 percent of Afghans say reconstruction in their area has been effective (although that includes far fewer, 15 percent, who call it "very" effective). The contrast with attitudes in Iraq is remarkable; there just 23 percent call reconstruction effective.

It matters: Among Afghans who see reconstruction as very effective, 67 percent say their country's headed in the right direction overall; among those who say it's been ineffective, that drops to 40 percent. People who say reconstruction is going well, similarly, are 24 points more apt to rate the Afghan government positively and 24 points more apt to hold a favorable opinion of the United States. ...

There's been a decline in the number of Afghans who say U.S. forces should remain in their country either until security is restored, or permanently -- now 49 percent, down from 60 percent last year. Just 14 percent desire immediate withdrawal; most of the rest divide between a one- or two-year time frame.
posted by russilwvong at 7:35 AM on May 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


Afghanistan, where the US and its allies overthrew the Taliban for better reasons...Keep drinking the Kool-Aid. It's good for you.

Exactly.


flabdablet and ericb, do you seriously mean to say that the U.S. and its NATO allies did not have justifiable cause to invade Afghanistan and overthrow the regime that harbored the perpetrators of 9/11? Citing what has happened in that country after that military operation begs the question.
posted by stargell at 7:38 AM on May 25, 2008


Full adult judgement doesn't really kick in until the age of 25 or so. Most people who join armies or militias are younger than that.

This is not a coincidence. It's a business plan. Believe me, the last thing the military wants is an army of soldiers in full possession of their judgment.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 7:41 AM on May 25, 2008


Yoda said it best.

Oh, for Christ's sake. Can you leave the damned Muppet quotes out of this?
posted by Kirth Gerson at 7:43 AM on May 25, 2008


I believe the U.S. and NATO forces did indeed have a justifiable cause to invade Afghanistan. One which I support. I think the U.S. "took its eyes off the ball" by reducing troops there at the time of the invasion of Iraq. All sorts of problems have been the result: the opium trade is thriving and providing funding/financing for the enemy, the resurgence of the Taliban and the growing presence of Al Quaeda in eastern Afghanistan, etc.
posted by ericb at 7:44 AM on May 25, 2008


I've always been amazed that the very people forced to live in the worst parts of town, go to the worst schools, and who have it the hardest are always the first to step up, to defend us. They serve so that we don't have to. They offer to give up their lives so that we can be free. It is remarkably their gift to us. And all they ask for in return is that we never send them into harm's way unless it is absolutely necessary. Will they ever trust us again?
-- Michael Moore, Fahrenheit 9/11
Those weapons of mass destruction have gotta be somewhere.
-- President George W. Bush

Movies like Apolcalypse Now seem horrific for those of us who lived through that era, but for later generations, I can't help wondering if it's just another part of the American Myth -- no more real than Clint Eastwood movies or Half Life.

Anthony Swofford on war movies in Jarhead (p. 8):
There is talk that many Vietnam films are antiwar, that the message is war is inhumane and look what happens when you train young American men to fight and kill, they turn their fighting and killing everywhere, they ignore their targets and desecrate the entire country, shooting fully automatic, forgetting they were trained to aim. But actually, Vietnam movies are all pro-war, no matter what the supposed message, what Kubrick or Coppola or Stone intended. Mr. and Mrs. Johnson in Omaha or San Francisco or Manhattan will watch the films and weep and decide once and for all that war is inhumane and terrible, and they will tell their friends at church and their family this, but Corporal Johnson at Camp Pendleton and Sergeant Johnson at Travis Air Force Base and Seaman Johnson at Coronado Naval Station and Spec 4 Johnson at Fort Bragg and Lance Corporal Swofford at Twentynine Palms Marine Corps Base watch the same films and are excited by them, because the magic brutality of the films celebrates the terrible and despicable beauty of their fighting skills. Fight, rape, war, pillage, burn. Filmic images of death and carnage are pornography for the military man; with film you are stroking his cock, tickling his balls with the pink feather of history, getting him ready for his real First Fuck. It doesn't matter how many Mr. and Mrs. Johnsons are antiwar--the actual killers who know how to use the weapons are not.
posted by kirkaracha at 7:45 AM on May 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


Afghanistan Opium Crop Sets Record
"Opium production in Afghanistan, which provides more than 90 percent of the world's heroin, broke all records in 2006, reaching a historic high despite ongoing U.S.-sponsored eradication efforts, the Bush administration reported yesterday [December 1, 2006].

In addition to a 26 percent production increase over past year -- for a total of 5,644 metric tons -- the amount of land under cultivation in opium poppies grew by 61 percent. Cultivation in the two main production provinces, Helmand in the southwest and Oruzgan in central Afghanistan, was up by 132 percent.

...The administration has cited resurgent Taliban forces as the main impediment to stabilization and reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan, and the U.S. military investment has far exceeded anti-narcotic and development programs. But U.S. military and intelligence officials have increasingly described the drug trade as a problem that rivals and in some ways exceeds the Taliban, threatening to derail other aspects of U.S. policy.

'It is truly the Achilles' heel of Afghanistan,' Gen. James L. Jones, the supreme allied commander for NATO, said in a recent speech at the Council on Foreign Relations. Afghanistan is NATO's biggest operation, with more than 30,000 troops. Drug cartels with their own armies engage in regular combat with NATO forces deployed in Afghanistan, he said. 'It would be wrong to say that this is just the Taliban. I think I need to set that record straight,' he added.

'They have their own capability to inflict damage, to make sure that the roads and the passages stay open and they get to where they want to go, whether it's through Pakistan, Iran, up through Russia and all the known trade routes. So this is a very violent cartel,' Jones said. 'They are buying their protection by funding other organizations, from criminal gangs to tribes, to inciting any kind of resistance to keep the government off of their back.'"
posted by ericb at 7:52 AM on May 25, 2008


ericb, we are on the same page.
posted by stargell at 7:55 AM on May 25, 2008


What? For what "something" could that possibly count?

Are you really saying that trying to do right counts for nothing, unless you succeed? Really?


Yoda said it best. You either succeed, or you fail. There is no "try."

He's a puppet, ok? Besides you got it wrong. Here's the actual exchange:

Luke: All right, I'll give it a try.
Yoda: No. Try not. Do... or do not. There is no try.

Yoda's statement was a clear reference to Luke's attitude. He didn't believe he could lift the X-wing from the swamp and in not believing, he doomed himself. If you're going to do something, then believe that you can do it, that's the point of what the fictional character said.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:56 AM on May 25, 2008 [2 favorites]


Yoda said it best.

Off please fuck.
posted by Armitage Shanks at 7:57 AM on May 25, 2008 [3 favorites]


The Loch Ness Monster writes "Obviously, this war is not part of the 'greater good.' It's an abomination, a holocaust of incompetence. But that isn't the fault of the soldiers."

The soldiers who have enlisted in the last few years share at least a smidge of responsibility for the on going efforts in Iraq. They knew (or were so delusional that they probably shouldn't be given a gun) that there was an extremely good chance their career would start off 1) sign up, 2) training, 3) Iraq. If young Americans stopped enlisting this war would end.
posted by Mitheral at 8:30 AM on May 25, 2008


We will have fewer wars and fewer dead and mutilated soldiers as soon as we have fewer people signing up.

As far as I can tell from last Sunday, there will be a perpetual disconnect between enlisting and its potential consequences: to the enlistee, to their families, to the people (and their families) they engage in war. With all pity and respect due, there is a bewildering refusal to recognize cause and effect. When prompted, apparently no choice exists - socio-economic forces, the call of duty, and family tradition simply force enlistment. Patriotism washes clean the fundamentally unhygenic business of war. Serving isn't crazy, but in the next breath it can be mentioned that everyone agrees: the military is used repeatedly for the wrong things.

Definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results each time.

That disconnect will continue to kill and maim people regardless of geographic location. One night, in a hotel room, I flipped through some cable stations and came across a program on futuristic weapons. Someone was spouting off on how handy some new weapon will be when "the bad guys have got our guys pinned down and we need to get them out." It's as if the bad guys (great phrase, so much for one's "honorable" opponent in war) tricked a bunch of good-natured kids into flying a third of the way around the world, just to be shot at. Disconnect.

In the United States, we mostly get off tomorrow, 'cept for the guys who are missing legs. Those don't come back once a year. Instead of showing all of the films of crap blowing up, war movies should pretty much start with someone signing up, skip the explosions, and about ten minutes into it, show the guy with half a face who has to use a remote with oversize buttons because his fingers were melted together. He's watching CNN talk about the record profits for the oil business this year. His wife is in the background, making mac'n'cheese, again, with a bitter expression he can't see because the scar tissue makes it hard for him to turn his head that far around. Then fade to a shelled-out village, some years later, where a widow is tending to her permanently injured kids, who are, after all, collateral damage. Show some more of those films and the connections might be made. We might even see more choices arise.

And that Yoda bit is right - we've been spending too long patting ourselves on the back because we come home from one failed political/military intervention after another, saying, "Well, we did try to do the right thing, after all, and that's what counts!" And everyone involved just ... did what they had to do. No choices. Oh, maybe we'll scapegoat Bush (and don't get me wrong, the guy is not even remotely okay) and a few of his buddies, but don't kid yourself - it wasn't a dozen guys fighting a war. It's thousand and thousands, and millions behind them. Bush couldn't have that power if it wasn't given to him.
posted by adipocere at 8:31 AM on May 25, 2008 [4 favorites]


Nobody trains their kids to be killers.

That is very interesting. In 1955 I was told in no uncertain terms by a Marine Corps s/sgt. that I was I was being trained to be a killer. Every day of the week, week in and week out. That s/sgt. and his buddies must not have been on the government's payroll.
posted by notreally at 8:33 AM on May 25, 2008 [2 favorites]


If young Americans stopped enlisting this war would end.

More like: if fewer people enlist, recruitment bonuses will be increased and stop-loss programs set into motion. Sound familiar? And if recruitment numbers really fell, a draft could be set into motion relatively quickly. The disadvantage of the draft, from a political point of view, is that because it spreads the cost of the war much more broadly, it prevents sustaining such a long campaign. You can have the draft, or you can have a long war, but generally not both, although there have been exceptions.
posted by Forktine at 8:39 AM on May 25, 2008


Fight, rape, war, pillage, burn.

Nice catch, kirkaracha. Swofford articulates what I've always assumed to be true about war movies.

And presumably these impulses coexist with Patriotism. Idealism. A desire to protect. A respect for the service ethic. Pride. Or perhaps they're just a legitimation for them, in order to try and seperate ourselves from mere animals?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 8:39 AM on May 25, 2008


flabdablet and ericb, do you seriously mean to say that the U.S. and its NATO allies did not have justifiable cause to invade Afghanistan and overthrow the regime that harbored the perpetrators of 9/11?

Can't speak for ericb. But for me, yes: I do seriously mean to say that the US and its NATO allies did not have justifiable cause to go drop bombs on desperately poor Afghan villagers in order to Show the World that the US Won't Be Messed With.

I do seriously mean to say that the way to catch international criminals is with international police efforts, not spectacular application of high explosive.

I do seriously mean to say that studiously ignoring the fact that Osama bin Laden is a Saudi national as were all the 9/11 hijackers, and studiously ignoring the support that Al Quaeda got and continues to get from the state security apparatus in Pakistan, purportedly a US ally in the War on Terra, and instead running Worldwide Security Theatre in the skies of Afghanistan, is exactly the same kind of transparent, self-serving bullshit that got the US into Iraq when Afghanistan proved less than satisfactorily "target-rich".

I do seriously mean to suggest that there is no moral difference at all between terrorists who send footsoldiers to kill random Americans with jumbo jets and elected leaders who send footsoldiers to kill random Afghans with bombers and attack helicopters.

I do, further, seriously mean to suggest that killing random Afghans with bombs and bullets on the grounds that they have been "harboring" Osama bin Laden is every bit as morally repugnant as killing random Americans with jet fuel and collapsed buildings on the grounds that they have been "complicit" in Israel's oppression of the brothers and sisters in Palestine.

And I do seriously mean to say that any American who thinks that the invasion of Afghanistan was undertaken for any reason beyond making Bushco look Strong and Decisive has already consumed a near-fatal dose of the Kool-Aid.
posted by flabdablet at 8:39 AM on May 25, 2008 [17 favorites]


"He's a puppet, ok?"

"Can you leave the damned Muppet quotes out of this?"

Oh for Pete's sake, you expletives! George Lucas wrote it best, and then had it said verbally through Frank Oz who did so while manipulating a smelly gloved hand, alright? You satisfied now?!!

*has a conniption fit*

By just saying "Yoda" the rest of it shoulda been a given. Perhaps I didn't TRY hard enough to get you to get it.

"Are you really saying that trying to do right counts for nothing, unless you succeed? Really?"

Yes. That is exactly what I'm saying.

If I try to do the wrong thing and I succeed, well that's pretty bad.

If I try to do the right thing and I fail, that is the same as doing nothing.

you either do aka succeed (Yoda) or you do not aka fail (Luke) ...or you make stupid beep beep noises to amuse the kiddies (Artoo).

I either convey my thoughts to you and you get it, or I convey my thoughts to you and you do not get it. If you don't get it, my trying to get you to get it don't mean jack. You still don't get it. I still fail to get you to get it. My just trying doesn't amount to jack. You either do or you do not get it. There is no try.

Either the war is stopped or it continues. Our whining about it ain't gonna make a difference. Our trying to stop it ain't gonna change the fact it's happened and continuing to happen. The attempts to stop it only matters if it succeeds.

Would the Civil Rights Movement be remembered today if it had failed? No.

Do we remember all the mathematical equations that Albert Einstein tried to make work? No. We remember E=mc squared. We remember his successes, but ignore his failures.

Would the Suffrage Movement be remembered today if women still couldn't vote? No.

Do we remember all the failed experiments and inventions that Thomas Edison made? No. We only remember the lightbulb and the phonograph. He tried a bunch of other stuff too, but not much of it amounted to anything.

Would Pearl Harbor be remembered today if the Allied forces lost in World War Two? No.

Would Jefferson's Declaration of Independence be remembered today if the British beat the colonists? No.

Do we remember all the communities and societies that the Romans conquered? No. Only that they were absorbed by the Roman Empire, which succeeded in conquering them.

For all we know, the dinosaurs did try not to become extinct. Didn't do them a bit of good.

Had The Creator (insert your choice of god here) tried to make the universe and failed... See what I mean?
posted by ZachsMind at 8:58 AM on May 25, 2008


Got it. You are wrong.
posted by stargell at 9:00 AM on May 25, 2008


I should add this: some people hold the mistaken belief that it is impossible to simultaneously feed bad (sympathy/pity/empathy, pick your terms) for someone and recognize that they might have screwed up at the same time.

This leads some to whitewash the object of their sorrow - they simply have no responsibility. They had no choices, at all, in whatever led to their unfortunate situation. Others take it in a different direction - hoarding their sympathy, they blame each individual for their own misfortunes. It's easier not to care, after all, when they had it coming, right?

In one of the more palatable parts of the Christian Bible, there's a bit goes roughly like "love the sinner, hate the sin." It is recognition that someone has screwed up, but you can still care for them. It allows you to look at a panhandler and realize that not all of them are either suffering from severe mental illness or were victims of unscrupulous corporate layoffs, badly timed ... and still give them five bucks. I can have a friend who had made a truly dumbass financial decision, take him out for dinner, and still give him a rap on the noggin and say, "Dude, that was stupid."

I can feel sorry for the war dead on both sides. I can feel sorry for a widow of a dead soldier. I can feel sorry for a living but maimed (physically or mentally) soldier. And I can still say, at the same time, "Do not join; really bad shit could happen to you. Or you can be the really bad shit happening to someone else."

And should the numbers of enlistees dwindle, we could have stop-losses, or a draft, I can tell you that a draft would probably make the country just a bit more cautious about its engagements. Which is fine by me, as it would still lead to less dead and maimed soldiers and civilians.
posted by adipocere at 9:01 AM on May 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


Forktine writes "More like: if fewer people enlist, recruitment bonuses will be increased and stop-loss programs set into motion. Sound familiar? And if recruitment numbers really fell, a draft could be set into motion relatively quickly."

Aren't the forces stop-lossed to the point that no one healthy comes home already?

As to a draft; they won't even permit images of coffins coming home, I'd bet against a draft being implemented.

ZachsMind writes "Would the Civil Rights Movement be remembered today if it had failed? No. "

On the flip side we remember Custard's Little Bighorn and Napoleon's Waterloo but in neither case because of who the victors were. What are the chances the average person, jay leno style, even knows who won those conflicts?
posted by Mitheral at 9:24 AM on May 25, 2008


Stargell: "Got it. You are wrong."

This izzint an argument!

Yes i tizz!

This iz contradiction!

No i tizzint!

lol
posted by ZachsMind at 9:31 AM on May 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


Mitheral: "On the flip side..."

We don't remember Custer or Napoleon because they tried. We remember them because they failed. Not only did they fail, they failed glamorously. They failed in that way that makes people watch skiiers slamming into trees on America's Funniest Home Videos.
posted by ZachsMind at 9:37 AM on May 25, 2008


Do we remember all the failed experiments and inventions that Thomas Edison made? No

Thomas Edison Quotes:
I am not discouraged, because every wrong attempt discarded is another step forward.

I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work.

Many of life's failures are men who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.

Nearly every man who develops an idea works at it up to the point where it looks impossible, and then gets discouraged.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:38 AM on May 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


flabdablet: I do, further, seriously mean to suggest that killing random Afghans with bombs and bullets on the grounds that they have been "harboring" Osama bin Laden is every bit as morally repugnant as killing random Americans with jet fuel and collapsed buildings on the grounds that they have been "complicit" in Israel's oppression of the brothers and sisters in Palestine.

Thanks for the clarification. Given how far apart we are, I'm not sure there's much basis for discussion.

The laws of war require protecting non-combatants, including civilians as well as prisoners. They can't be tortured, raped, summarily executed, starved, or worked to death.

Attacks on military targets may endanger non-combatants. The laws of war recognize this, and require proportionality: the risk to non-combatants must be proportional to the military benefit of the action.

Arguing that because war will inevitably result in the deaths of some non-combatants, no matter what precautions are taken, it is just as evil as deliberately attacking civilians, is an example of what Hans Morgenthau described (in 1944) as the destruction of the faculty of distinguishing between lesser and greater evils:
There is no escape from the evil of power, regardless of what one does. Whenever we act with reference to our fellow men, we must sin, and we must still sin when we refuse to act; for the refusal to be involved in the evil of action carries with it the breach of the obligation to do one's duty. No ivory tower is remote enough to offer protection against the guilt in which the actor and the bystander, the oppressor and the oppressed, the murderer and his victim are inextricably enmeshed. Political ethics is indeed the ethics of doing evil. While it condemns politics as the domain of evil par excellence, it must reconcile itself to the enduring presence of evil in all political action. Its last resort, then, is the endeavor to choose, since evil there must be, among several possible actions the one that is least evil.

It is indeed trivial, in the face of so tragic a choice, to invoke justice against expediency and to condemn whatever political action is chosen because of its lack of justice. Such an attitude is but another example of the superficiality of a civilization which, blind to the tragic complexities of human existence, contents itself with an unreal and hypocritical solution of the problem of political ethics. In fact, the invocation of justice pure and simple against a political action makes of justice a mockery; for, since all political actions needs must fall short of justice, the argument against one political action holds true for all. By avoiding a political action because it is unjust, the perfectionist does nothing but exchange blindly one injustice for another which might even be worse than the former. He shrinks from the lesser evil because he does not want to do evil at all. Yet his personal abstention from evil, which is actually a subtle form of egotism with a good conscience, does not at all affect the existence of evil in the world but only destroys the faculty of discriminating between different evils.
I do seriously mean to say that the way to catch international criminals is with international police efforts, not spectacular application of high explosive.

If it were possible to persuade the Taliban to hand over bin Laden without going to war, then of course that would have been far preferable. The US did attempt this numerous times after the August 1998 bombings in Kenya and Tanzania, but without success.

Richard Falk, Appraising the War against Afghanistan.
posted by russilwvong at 9:44 AM on May 25, 2008


"Thomas Edison Quotes"

My dear sweet Brandon, that only proves that Mr. Edison recalled all the times when he attempted and failed. History remembers the times he succeeded.

There are no tries in history. The closest we have to a try in history is one successful failure.
posted by ZachsMind at 9:47 AM on May 25, 2008


Brandon Blatcher: Are you really saying that trying to do right counts for nothing, unless you succeed? Really?

When it comes to politics, consequences matter much more than motives. Stanley Hoffmann:
... often the greatest threat to moderation and peace, and certainly the most insidious, comes from objectives that are couched in terms of fine principles in which the policy-maker fervently believes, yet that turn out to have no relation to political realities and can therefore be applied only by tortuous or brutal methods which broaden ad infinitum the gap between motives and effects. What matters in international affairs, alas, far more than intentions and objectives, is behavior and results. ...

What Vietnam proves, in my opinion, is not the wickedness of our intentions or objectives but the wickedness that results from irrelevant objectives and disembodied intentions, applied by hideous and massive means. It has its roots, intellectual and emotional, in elements of the American style that I have been at pains to analyze in detail. The Americans' very conviction that their goals are good blinds them to the consequences of their acts.
posted by russilwvong at 9:53 AM on May 25, 2008


If it were possible to persuade the Taliban to hand over bin Laden without going to war, then of course that would have been far preferable.

I remember having an argument (with an American tourist, as it happened) just days after Bushco went into Afghanistan, on precisely this topic. It was my considered opinion then, and it remains my opinion now, that the US had pretty much zero chance of capturing Osama bin Laden via a military adventure in Afghanistan. After all, the US had pretty much zero reliable intelligence on his precise whereabouts, pretty much zero chance of acquiring such intelligence without the aid of sympathetic locals, and pretty much zero chance of gaining local sympathy, given the typically heavy handed bomb-first-and-ask-questions-later tactics that were, in fact, used.

So it seems to me then, as it still seems to me today, that the choice was between not sending in the bombers and failing to persuade the Taliban to hand him over, or sending in the bombers and failing to find him. Of those ineffective choices, sending in the bombers is the one that makes the US responsible for the highest number of predictable civilian deaths. Which clearly makes it the greater of two evils.

Bin Laden has plenty of money, lots and lots of local connections, plenty of local sympathy, and can nip in and out of Afghanistan via Pakistan pretty much any time he likes. Bushco must have been aware of this. Therefore, the only reasonable explanation for bombing the crap out of Afghanistan was that it needed to be Seen to be Doing Something.

All that talk at the time, about how you were either With Us or Against Us? Unadulterated, rabble-rousing, transparent, populist bullshit.

Bushco caused thousands of civilian deaths in Afghanistan for no better reason than to make a political point.

Just like bin Laden did with the WTC.

Neither of them gives a fuck.

Bin Laden is the more convincing liar.

The Americans' very conviction that their goals are good blinds them to the consequences of their acts

Damn straight. That's some good Kool-Aid.
posted by flabdablet at 10:08 AM on May 25, 2008 [2 favorites]


He was born the week I went to college.

When I was a kid, around 10, we did some traveling in Europe, mostly in France. I remember my mom crying at one of the big cemeteries near Normandy, a big - huge - field with white crosses in every direction. I remember her praying in a small chapel in....Notre Dame de Paris, I think, where there was a memorial to those killed in World War II. She wasn't a religious person, really, but she got down on her knees and prayed.

I didn't really understand what she was doing, or why these things made her cry. I think I was about 25 when I began to understand. My understanding is even deeper now, and I wish it weren't.

Shit.
posted by rtha at 10:33 AM on May 25, 2008


flabdablet, you corrected me upstream about my claim that this war was different.

I'm not entirely sure about WW1, I'll check into it. But I am fully aware that Vietnam was an unjust war. However, there was a draft... Which is the #1 way of way of saying to the country at large, "we're asking you to sacrifice your children" And when the pictures of that war came home, and the flag draped coffins were unloaded off of the planes, a lot of people woke up to the true nature of the sacrifice they had been asked to make.

The lesson learned from the vietnam war by those who would wage war? We need to hide our wars better. Not only are the rules of reporting this war much tighter tah in the past, I believe that a lot of the press who initially supported the war, don't want to now admit just how wrong they were.

Either way it's a crime. I'm not trying to argue against anyone's anti-war sentiment. I just don't see the usefulness of letting an all war is bad mindset blind you the the unique situation that set up this war. This war wouldn't have been possible 5 years earlier. In 2003 This country was like a drunk tourist stumbling down a dark alley. Our leaders, instead of guiding us to safety whispered encouraging words in our ear and led us down an even darker alley, beat the shit out of us an emptied our pockets. Should we not have been drunk in that alley in the first place? Maybe.

Our Ignorance doesn't excuse those who would take advantage of our ignorance.
posted by billyfleetwood at 10:36 AM on May 25, 2008


The closest we have to a try in history is one successful failure.

Not just one.
posted by stargell at 10:36 AM on May 25, 2008


what a noble death for a young man.
you make me proud.
sleep well soldier, sleep well.


No doubt German war widows in WWII felt the same way about their soldier-husbands when they died defending the Third Reich.

I'm not even gonna try to debate why young men and women go off to fight and die in a war like this. But right now, our soldiers, the U.S. Armed forces in Iraq, are the bad guys.

And every time I hear U.S. politicians blame Iraqi politicians (and that includes you too, Barack) for the failures in Iraq, after the U.S. armed forces killed up to one million people, displaced millions, and destroyed their infrastructure, it makes me sick to my stomach.
posted by cjets at 10:38 AM on May 25, 2008 [3 favorites]



I should add this: some people hold the mistaken belief that it is impossible to simultaneously feed bad (sympathy/pity/empathy, pick your terms) for someone and recognize that they might have screwed up at the same time.

This leads some to whitewash the object of their sorrow - they simply have no responsibility.


posted by adipocere at 9:01 AM on May 25

Or, as the comments on this page show, this leads some to vilification - they simply have no sympathy.
posted by Benjy at 10:39 AM on May 25, 2008


.

Brought me to tears.
posted by arnicae at 10:43 AM on May 25, 2008


Can we just make it a policy to just point and laugh at anyone who uses the phrase "drinking the Kool Aid"? I can't think of a phrase that infuriates me more now, as it is one designed to squelch disagreement by suggesting that those who disagree are simply sheepish followers who unthinkingly swallow poison.

It's a bad metaphor. It references an ugly historic incident, but gets almost every fact wrong. Firstly, because the people at Jonestown who drank the poison knew it to be poison, and many had to be forced to drink it at gun point. And secondly, because it was freaking Flavor Aid, not Kool Aid, that they drank.

But I suppose if people think they can win arguments by simply throwing out the names of popular beverages, so be it. Perhaps we should respond by naming a candy bar.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:47 AM on May 25, 2008 [2 favorites]


billyfleetwood, there's a contradiction in what you're saying. On the one hand, The reality of this war has been hidden from the american people in an unprecedented fashion, and for that very reason, these kids keep going, and they keep losing their limbs and losing their lives because they're being lied to. and yet it would a bad thing if thousands of young men and women [were] to follow your lead, abandon their trust in their communities, their country and their traditions. If someone lies to you, it's rational and healthy to stop trusting them. The more frequently and egregiously, they lie to you, the less you should trust them. If one of your beliefs obscures reality, it makes sense to examine that belief closely, and all the related ones that were taught to you by the same people or institutions.

Also, you're conflating community, tradition, and country. I think it's pretty indisputable that it's good for people to trust and value their neighbors, but it's dangerous to think of "tradition" as intrinsically valuable. Some traditions are helpful, and some are harmful. Questioning or rejecting traditions is often labeled as unpatriotic, and by listing the three concepts together, (their communities, their countries, and their traditions) you're implying that people who dissent or hold unpopular positions are unpatriotic, which is a common pro-war meme. I'm not saying that you're pro-war, or that you think people who are against the war in Iraq are traitors, I'm just pointing out how your argument resonates with a tactic often used to silence dissent.

You also pose a false dilemma. Teaching children to question the authorities of the media, the military, and the government (who have historically, lied over and over again, covered up corruption, justified oppression and violence against minority groups) is not the same thing as teaching them to think only of themselves, or be cynical and without values. It's teaching them a different set of values.
posted by overglow at 10:51 AM on May 25, 2008


This was really sad and moved me. The widow here didn't have a sophisticated political stance on what the death of her husband meant, she was just explaining the sense of loss she felt. However we feel about the war, these losses are our responsibility; that's where our votes and our paranoia after 9/11 took us. It's a good reminder that we should be very careful with our votes, and make certain that we are completely intellectually comfortable with the politicians we use them to elect, rather than voting for folks that we have a good feeling about and blind trust in. We did this. Votes have consequences.
posted by onlyconnect at 10:56 AM on May 25, 2008


after the U.S. armed forces killed up to one million people

This is the kind of sloppy and dishonest argument that I really, really wish anti-war people wouldn't stoop to. Even if we take the high end of the Iraqi death estimates, which is heading towards one million, only a minority of those were directly caused by US troops. The rest were (arguably, which is one reason the estimates vary over such a wide range) caused by post-invasion violence and break down in every form of physical and social infrastructure. That includes deaths from hunger and cholera, being tortured to death by Iraqi security forces, car-, bicycle-, and suicide-bombs, people dying because the ambulance couldn't get through a checkpoint, and on and on and on.

The moral responsibility is on the US as a whole, and on the "deciders" and implementers who tried to run this operation in the most half-witted manner possible. Reducing it all to "they were killed by the US military" is, to be blunt, both stupid and counter-productive. It's not that simple, and even if it were, saying it in that way doesn't help the cause.
posted by Forktine at 11:13 AM on May 25, 2008 [2 favorites]


Well, I suspect that we'll have to agree to differ as to whether patriotism and pride are rational things or not. Personally, I've never thought so myself. Patriotism seems to stem from a desire to insist that our particular tribe is superior to the other, and pride -- in this context at least -- is exactly the sort of irrational emotion that caused this stupid fucking war.

That sounds more like nationalism to me, at least as Orwell defined it:
By ‘nationalism’ I mean first of all the habit of assuming that human beings can be classified like insects and that whole blocks of millions or tens of millions of people can be confidently labelled ‘good’ or ‘bad’(1). But secondly — and this is much more important — I mean the habit of identifying oneself with a single nation or other unit, placing it beyond good and evil and recognising no other duty than that of advancing its interests. Nationalism is not to be confused with patriotism. Both words are normally used in so vague a way that any definition is liable to be challenged, but one must draw a distinction between them, since two different and even opposing ideas are involved. By ‘patriotism’ I mean devotion to a particular place and a particular way of life, which one believes to be the best in the world but has no wish to force on other people. Patriotism is of its nature defensive, both militarily and culturally. Nationalism, on the other hand, is inseparable from the desire for power. The abiding purpose of every nationalist is to secure more power and more prestige, not for himself but for the nation or other unit in which he has chosen to sink his own individuality.
posted by homunculus at 11:18 AM on May 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


Nobody trains their kids to be killers. Your hyperbole shows an astounding and dare I say juvenile lack of understanding of the world, and the people in it. People raise their children to believe in things outside of themselves. Family, community, country, tradition. People raise their children to believe in simple things like right and wrong, good and bad. and you know what? There is a great benefit to us all in people raising their children to believe in such things.

So sure, we could ask hundreds of thousands of young men and women to follow your lead, abandon their trust in their communities, their country and their traditions. We could raise our children to believe in noone but themselves. We could stop telling our kids that Being President is a noble aspiration, that the word "leader" is a word we reserve for the best and brightest.


Oh would you please cut this bullshit off. They don't train kids to be killers in the boot camp? Really? What do they do there, cuddle with little kittens?
We shouldn't raise kids to believe in things. Because we're humans, not sheep. And humans have these wonderful capacities called judgment and critical thinking. And the thing we need to do the most is to teach them how to exercises these things so that they don't have to rely on trust and empty overused buzzwords to figure out what is right and what is wrong.
posted by c13 at 11:19 AM on May 25, 2008


Even if we take the high end of the Iraqi death estimates, which is heading towards one million, only a minority of those were directly caused by US troops. The rest were (arguably, which is one reason the estimates vary over such a wide range) caused by post-invasion violence and break down in every form of physical and social infrastructure. That includes deaths from hunger and cholera, being tortured to death by Iraqi security forces, car-, bicycle-, and suicide-bombs, people dying because the ambulance couldn't get through a checkpoint, and on and on and on.

Heh. It wasn't the hijakers that caused all those people to die on 9/11, it was all that burning fuel, crashing concrete and melting steel. Oh, and gravity. Gravity did it too.
posted by c13 at 11:23 AM on May 25, 2008 [2 favorites]


How about "the U.S. govt is responsible for the deaths of up to one million people"?

Aaanyways, what I'd like to know is if anyone is going to end up being held responsible for their actions. Ie Bush & his cronies. Vincent Bugliosi has just finished a book outlining the legal case for murder charges against Bush, but I think that is the wrong track, focusing on his culpability for the death's of US troops only. On the question of whether Bush can be held to account for violating international law, I found this kitty helpful.

Sadly, it may end up being easier getting Blair in the dock.
posted by dydecker at 11:34 AM on May 25, 2008


BillyFleetwood: "I'm not entirely sure about WW1, I'll check into it."

This is the SuperBoffoCondensed version and terribly simplifed for my purposes. No doubt others will find something about this to disagree with me. That's fine. In a nutshell though this is how it went down.

Prior to WWI, Germany and Britain (and to a lesser extent other countries) were having what we'd perhaps call today a Cold War... Lukewarm. Whatever. Essentially, opposing sides were Keeping Up With The Joneses.

Country X has Y number of Z, so Country A needs to buy B number of C in order to compensate.

On June 28th 1914, a guy from Serbia killed a guy from Hungary. Hundary responded to this death by pulling their strings and calling in their favors, then declared war on Serbia. Serbia responded to that by pulling their strings and calling in theri favors, then declared war on anyone who sided with Hungary. Hungary's friends declared war on people who sided with Serbia, and so on.

Germany and England had both been looking for an excuse to use all the weapons they'd been amassing. War profiteers don't need a reason themselves, but they need to find a way to convince the masses that it's okay to profit from war. It didn't start with WWI. Profiteering has been going on since the Dawn of Man. It is perhaps the second oldest profession.

"I've hired you to help me start a war. It's a prestigious line of work with a long and glorious tradition." - Vizzini, The Princess Bride
posted by ZachsMind at 11:40 AM on May 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


that only proves that Mr. Edison recalled all the times when he attempted and failed. History remembers the times he succeeded.

Nah, off the top of my head, his failure at licensing music via the phonograph was also remembered and cited as an example of why RIAA is doomed to failure. I suppose if you want to argue that history in general only remembers Edison as a great inventer, ok. That's a broad brush being painted, as any who actually studied him would realize what failure meant to him.

We're probably arguing differences of scale. On personal, individual level the failure of the anti-war movement to stop the Iraq had many benefits in terms of bringing people together, networking and building various alliances which could be applied in other ways. Yet the overall goal failed. You seem to see that a failure and that they shouldn't have even tried. I see it as lost skirmish between peace and war, while the battle continues.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:57 AM on May 25, 2008


Brandon Blatcher: "You seem to see that a failure and that they shouldn't have even tried."

That would be putting words in my mouth. This is getting tiresome.

If one attempts and succeeds, history registers that as a success.

If one attempts and fails, history registers that as a failure.

History does not register a try as ...well, anything.

It is the outcome that is remembered, not the effort that leads up to the outcome.

If one fails, one might as well have not tried, because the outcome is the same.

That's a 'do not.'

However, in order to succeed, one must first attempt to succeed. Then one succeeds. That's a success.

That's a 'do.'

Close only counts in horseshoes. There. Is. No. Try.
posted by ZachsMind at 12:14 PM on May 25, 2008


By the way, I'd like to compliment MeFi on a mostly very civilized discussion here...

Nobody trains their kids to be killers.

I beg to differ. I have known such people myself, people who literally trained their kids to use weapons at a fairly early age with the correct expectation that they would use these skills to join the military and go off and kill people in foreign lands.

Frankly, I do not have a television and when I see prime-time TV, it's hard not to see this material as "training kids to be killers". Violence is endlessly presented as a good solution to problems.

When you have shows like 24 and Dexter whose premise is that torturing people to death is fine, as long as you know they are bad people, you're training your kids as killers.


I'm sure you knew that money wasn't all being spent to feed puppies in kittens. You could have said, "I'm not writing you the check" and taken the consequences. But you didn't and by your own logic your right to complain is somewhat diminished.

I absolutely agree. This makes me feel sick at night. Were I better organized and a stronger person I'd have left years ago.


It's funny that I wasn't a pacifist when I was young. Now I believe that no country has the right to an army, that we need a strong international police force and no armies whatsoever, and this opinion has changed as I've watched the various military organizations screw up over and over and over again and kill millions of people for no coherent reason whatsoever.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 12:18 PM on May 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


May George Bush burn in hell.
posted by zzazazz at 12:21 PM on May 25, 2008


Now, please, ZachsMind, there's a perfectly good category for "trying hard and failing" in a positive way: "This operation had a 50% chance of saving your child's life. We tried as hard as we could but she died."

But military operations are more akin to slitting the throat of your daughter who has a hangnail and then blaming you for not staunching the bleeding fast enough. They aren't done in good faith, there's no real attempt to protect the innocent a lot of the time, they're just butchery, not surgery. You can't discard blame by saying, "Well, we tried."
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 12:22 PM on May 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


If one attempts and fails, history registers that as a failure.

History does not register a try as ...well, anything.


nah. England tried to keep the colonies in check, but failed. America tried to escape English rule and succeeded. Those various tries amounted to something.

It is the outcome that is remembered, not the effort that leads up to the outcome.

I dunno, I've read various history texts where the loser of said battle is described as putting up a valiant effort or of the costs it took to win a battle.

If one fails, one might as well have not tried, because the outcome is the same.


No, if a military unit attempts to take over hill X and doesn't succeed but weakens the enemy so much that they can't effectively hold the hill against reinforcements that isn't the black and white (failure or success) mode you seem to be pushing.

I think you're ascribing way too much to a puppet with generally messed up values.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:54 PM on May 25, 2008


This is the kind of sloppy and dishonest argument that I really, really wish anti-war people wouldn't stoop to. Even if we take the high end of the Iraqi death estimates, which is heading towards one million, only a minority of those were directly caused by US troops.

Sloppy? Maybe. I should have said that the U.S. military is responsible for the deaths up of to one million Iraqi civilians, rather than that they killed one million civilians.

But dishonest? Here's your description for the rest of the deaths of Iraqi civilians:

The rest were (arguably, which is one reason the estimates vary over such a wide range) caused by post-invasion violence and break down in every form of physical and social infrastructure. That includes deaths from hunger and cholera, being tortured to death by Iraqi security forces, car-, bicycle-, and suicide-bombs, people dying because the ambulance couldn't get through a checkpoint, and on and on and on.

These deaths were caused by the illegal and immoral invasion of Iraq by the U.S. Government in the form of the U.S. military. How much of a distinction do you want to draw between the civilians actually killed by the U.S. military and the civilians killed as a result of the actions of the U.S. military?

And by the way, how many Iraqi civilians do you think were directly killed by the U.S. military? 50,000? 100,000? Are either of those numbers acceptable to you? We shouldn't have gone. We shouldn't be there now.

Every person (U.S., Iraqi or other) killed in Iraq is a waste of life that could have been avoided.

How about "the U.S. govt is responsible for the deaths of up to one million people"?

Thanks Dydecker. I'd certainly accept that description.
posted by cjets at 1:59 PM on May 25, 2008


flabdablet writes "Of those ineffective choices, sending in the bombers is the one that makes the US responsible for the highest number of predictable civilian deaths. Which clearly makes it the greater of two evils."

Deaths which will continue for decades thanks to the use of fricken' cluster bombs resulting in sub munition bomblets that effectively turn target areas into mine fields. Geez, I can't see why support for the US is declining in Afghanistan.

Forktine writes "This is the kind of sloppy and dishonest argument that I really, really wish anti-war people wouldn't stoop to. Even if we take the high end of the Iraqi death estimates, which is heading towards one million, only a minority of those were directly caused by US troops. The rest were (arguably, which is one reason the estimates vary over such a wide range) caused by post-invasion violence and break down in every form of physical and social infrastructure. That includes deaths from hunger and cholera, being tortured to death by Iraqi security forces, car-, bicycle-, and suicide-bombs, people dying because the ambulance couldn't get through a checkpoint, and on and on and on."

If you're the get away driver in a bank robbery and someone gets shot, even if you didn't know your partners had guns, your held equally responsible for their death. Same if you torch a building and a squatter dies. Deaths from failures of infrastructure are predicable results of the US death from above manner of making war that targets that infrastructure.

ZachsMind writes "History does not register a try as ...well, anything. "It is the outcome that is remembered, not the effort that leads up to the outcome.

"If one fails, one might as well have not tried, because the outcome is the same.


Where does some one like Anne Frank fit in this boolean point of view? Is she remembered for trying or for failing?
posted by Mitheral at 2:45 PM on May 25, 2008 [2 favorites]


That last shot, with a new row of fresh graves and stones ....

.
posted by olecranon at 3:11 PM on May 25, 2008


Where does some one like Anne Frank fit in this boolean point of view? Is she remembered for trying or for failing

The force was strong with her.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:54 PM on May 25, 2008


flabdablet: Of those ineffective choices [doing nothing and going to war], sending in the bombers is the one that makes the US responsible for the highest number of predictable civilian deaths. Which clearly makes it the greater of two evils.

As I noted earlier, as of the most recent poll, 76% of Afghans disagree--they regard the overthrow of the Taliban as a good thing. Given all the violence and instability since then, that's pretty remarkable.

You're not considering the possibility of further attacks on US civilians by al-Qaeda. If the US response to the 9/11 attacks--some kind of measures short of war, like sanctions--had left bin Laden and al-Qaeda in place, presumably they would have continued their campaign.

I'd also disagree with your contention that the US didn't have a good chance of capturing bin Laden by going to war. They knew he was likely to go to Tora Bora (as he did). They failed to capture him, but it's not that they had zero chance of doing so. How bin Laden got away. U.S. Concludes Bin Laden Escaped at Tora Bora Fight.
posted by russilwvong at 5:03 PM on May 25, 2008


Isn't Anne Frank remembered now for her erotic fantasies about Nazi soldiers?
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:33 PM on May 25, 2008


Since we're talking about Iraq....

Thomas Powers, Iraq: Will We Ever Get Out?
Getting out of Iraq will require just as much resolution as it took to get in—and the same kind of resolution: a willingness to ignore the consequences. The consequence hardest to ignore will be the growing power and influence of Iran, which Bush has described as one of the two great security threats to the US. Israel shares this view of Iran. No new president will want to run the risk of being thought soft on Iran. This is where the military error exacts a terrible price. A political conflict transformed into a military conflict requires a military resolution, and those, famously, come in two forms—victory or defeat. Getting out means admitting defeat.

Is it possible that the new president will have that kind of resolution? I think not; to my ear Clinton and Obama don't sound drained of hope or bright ideas, determined to cut losses and end the agony. Why should they? They're coming in fresh from the sidelines. Getting out, giving up, admitting defeat are not what we expect from the psychology of newly elected presidents who have just overcome all odds and battled through to personal victory. They've managed the impossible once; why not again? Planning for withdrawals might begin on Day One, but the plans will be hostage to events.

At first, perhaps, all runs smoothly. Then things begin to happen. The situation on the first day has altered by the tenth. Some faction of Iraqis joins or drops out of the fight. A troublesome law is passed, or left standing. A helicopter goes down with casualties in two digits. The Green Zone is hit by a new wave of rockets or mortars from Sadr City in Baghdad. The US Army protests that the rockets or mortars were provided by Iran. The new president warns Iran to stay out of the fight. The government in Tehran dismisses the warning. This is already a long-established pattern. Why should we expect it to change? So it goes. At an unmarked moment somewhere between the third and the sixth month a sea change occurs: Bush's war becomes the new president's war, and getting out means failure, means defeat, means rising opposition at home, means no second term. It's not hard to see where this is going.
posted by russilwvong at 5:58 PM on May 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


"He was so giftedly bad that he backed unwittingly into genius."
posted by Kirth Gerson at 5:58 PM on May 25, 2008


her husband went out looking to kill people

Libel's a lot easier when your victim can't fight back.
posted by oaf at 8:08 PM on May 25, 2008


Regarding "This operation had a 50% chance of saving your child's life. We tried as hard as we could but she died..."

In this scenario, they failed to save the child. Ooh. Ahh. They tried for several hours. Big deal. That is not something the father can take back to his home and tuck into bed at night. Whether they tried or not is immaterial. They failed. That's what matters. That's what will be remembered.

Regarding Anne Frank; did she TRY to write in her diary? That's immaterial. The fact is, she did. The diary itself is proof of that. Anne Frank sought to write her diary. In that, she succeeded. Anne Frank is remembered for her writing, and so long as people remember her, she lives in their hearts. I'd say that's a success.

Pretty much everyone who has tried, has failed. The trying means a lot to the person trying, but it means nothing to the rest of us. There is nothing special about trying. There is nothing special about failing, unless one fails spectacularly. Everyone fails. Every once in awhile, someone succeeds.

We remember the successes. We laud them. We praise them. We shout them from the rooftops.

This war is a failure. Perhaps there'll be a footnote in the history books about how hard Rumsfeld tried or how hard Bush tried. No one will care. It's a failure. That is how it will be remembered, generations from now.

Corporal Ricky Nelson is remembered in the heart of the woman who loves him. Does she love him? Does she not love him? There is no try. She doesn't have to try. She just does.

And with that, I'm done with this.

If you still don't get it, then I have failed.

If you do get it, then I have succeeded.

The fact that I tried to get you to understand is immaterial. There is no try.

...

May the God that Kristen Nelson believes in bless her with the insight both to look back fondly, and to look forward brightly.
posted by ZachsMind at 9:01 PM on May 25, 2008


lupus_yonderboy: I absolutely agree. This makes me feel sick at night. Were I better organized and a stronger person I'd have left years ago.

As far as I can tell, Cpl. Ricky Nelson put his money where his mouth was -- he lived and died by his ideals.

You, on the other hand, have chosen to pay for the war he died fighting, and you have made a voluntary choice to continue to live as a guest in the country that ordered his sacrifice, yet you haven't even got the scrap of decency it takes to acknowledge that, stow the polemics, and show some respect for one weekend a year. It's not enough for you to drag your politics into one memorial thread; no, you have to do it again, on Memorial Day weekend. Hey everybody, look at how progressive lupus is! Look at him, look at him, look at him!

Let me be the first to join in your regret; would that you had been better organized and were a stronger person, so that the rest of us would not have to admit that anyone in America could ever act as shamefully as you have acted here.
posted by vorfeed at 1:12 AM on May 26, 2008 [3 favorites]


The widow here didn't have a sophisticated political stance on what the death of her husband meant
Too bad for her, maybe she'll rethink that republican registration. Or, if democrats are reaaally just-like-republicans-tm, that american citizenship.
posted by vivelame at 1:19 AM on May 26, 2008


This war has not been like any of our previous wars. There was no truth to this war.

The fact that US citizens can say this without calling to mind the Spanish-American war ("You furnish the pictures, I'll furnish the war.") and the atrocities inflicted on the Phillipines is depressing. You aren't going to knock this shit off until you can remember your own history and stop falling into line with a national mythos of manifest destiny.
posted by rodgerd at 2:32 AM on May 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


The fact that US citizens can say this without calling to mind the Spanish-American war ("You furnish the pictures, I'll furnish the war.") and the atrocities inflicted on the Phillipines is depressing.

Yes. First thing that came to mind. I agree with the rest of your comment, too.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 7:12 AM on May 26, 2008


Billy Fleetwood: "This war has not been like any of our previous wars. There is no truth to this war."

There. Fixed that for you.
posted by ZachsMind at 10:20 AM on May 26, 2008


As far as I can tell, Cpl. Ricky Nelson put his money where his mouth was -- he lived and died by his ideals.

You can say as much of any warrior, be he WWII Allied hero or Janjaweed horror. My whole point is that this is not necessarily a good thing: if your ideals lead you to be involved in a mass murder than following them is wrong!

I spend a great deal of time fighting for my ideals - I rally, write, contribute money, there are limits as to what I can do as a non-citizen here. If I refused to pay taxes, it would literally destroy my life; I'd lose my home, my freedom, my job, and almost certainly my adoptive country. You think that not going to jail by becoming a tax resister shows "shameful" behaviour, so what are you doing?


Let me be the first to join in your regret; would that you had been better organized and were a stronger person, so that the rest of us would not have to admit that anyone in America could ever act as shamefully as you have acted here.

"Help maintain a healthy, respectful discussion by focusing comments on the issues, topics, and facts at hand—not at other members of the site."

Please don't tell me I'm acting "shamefully" for thoughtfully expressing heartfelt opinions on this site, thank you. If you feel that something I've said is objectionable, please use some sort of reasoning or facts to refute or comment on it.

I understand that you experience a visceral reaction when I say, "What the troops are doing is not right," but unless such speech is allowed in public, we will never resolve these issues.


Ricky participated in a great crime. Hundreds of thousands are dead. I feel very sorry for Ricky and his poor wife, but all these articles glorifying the very people who actually executed the war simply ignore the point that they died doing something that was terribly, terribly wrong, something that they had when it comes down to it they had volunteered and trained to do.

"Imagine they gave a war and no one came." Without the tens of thousands of willing volunteers like Ricky, hundreds of thousands of people who never offered the US any harm would still be alive.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 12:02 PM on May 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


If I refused to pay taxes, it would literally destroy my life;

Literally? No, it wouldn't.

You think that not going to jail by becoming a tax resister shows "shameful" behaviour, so what are you doing?

I think vorfeed thinks your self-aggrandizing behavior in this thread is shameful, and I'm inclined to agree.

Ricky participated in a great crime.

As did you. As did I. As did a great many other people, in the U.S. and abroad.

"Imagine they gave a war and no one came." Without the tens of thousands of willing volunteers like Ricky, hundreds of thousands of people who never offered the US any harm would still be alive.

Imagine if they gave a war and nobody payed. Without the "leadership" that lied and pulled this country into this war, without the people offering token resistance or, even embracing the war itself, then those hundreds of thousands would also still be alive. You may believe that there is no need for any military for any nation (something where we disagree,) but you cannot ignore the responsibility of the civilian leadership (the most important point,) and the responsibility of the citizens and residents of the country.
posted by Snyder at 12:30 PM on May 26, 2008


If I refused to pay taxes, it would literally destroy my life; I'd lose my home, my freedom, my job, and almost certainly my adoptive country.

So.

What motivates you FROM putting your high ideals into action is the same thing that motivates people to JOIN the military. Money. Why are you so special? Your lack of action may contribute to this monstrous war almost as much as their direct action. But BOTH your motives are very similar.

Why do you give yourself a bye on sacrifice but demand it of a soldier? Yes they are volunteers. However to many people joining the military provides them with many more options than, say, working at WalMart. They are volunteers in their situation to a large extent, true. But so are you. You're a volunteer to have a house, to live here. you could live in another country and have a job that pays less and NOT own a house and your hands would be almost completely clean of blood, right?

Why do you ask them to sacrifice many of the same things they need or want but you don't?

As son and grandson of a "killer", brother of a "killer", brother-in-law to a "killer" and nearly a "killer" my self I find your attitude understandable but utterly naive and ignorant. My family has been touched by the horror of up close and personal. For Fuck sake I was conceived in a war zone. We have NO romantic notions about what war is.

The fact is it's a dangerous world out there. We NEED killers. Maybe one day we won't. I believe one day we won't. For now we sure as hell do.

And we need them to believe in things you so cynically dismiss. Honor. Service. Sacrifice.

That 's what defines them separately from mere common killers into warriors and soldiers. When the warrior class doesn't have those things it becomes killers of the absolute worst kind. Unimaginally worse than they can be NOW. Those things matter.

The dogs of war will not stay on leashes if we can't convince them of a greater good and train them to adhere to ideals that embrace honor and sacrifice.

This war and other of choice like it are NOT the fault of the dogs of war. They are my fault. They are your fault. That's right. We decide where these guys go. We elect the officials. We prop up this sham of a system.

Because we want a house. A car. A job.
posted by tkchrist at 12:36 PM on May 26, 2008


Remembering the widows of war
posted by homunculus at 1:19 PM on May 26, 2008


Went to a Memorial Day parade today because my kid and her high school marching band had to participate. The retired Aif Force guy, a Korea veteran, who was emceeing the parade twice referred to the "more than 3,000" soldiers killed in fighting since Sept.11 (Out here on LI, everything seems dated to Sept.11 since about every fifth street is now named for someone killed that day). But I would have thought that at least a military guy could have gotten the figures right.
posted by etaoin at 1:22 PM on May 26, 2008


"Why do you give yourself a bye on sacrifice but demand it of a soldier?"

I'm demanding nothing of a soldier! In fact, I'm suggesting they give it up and go home.

He shouldn't go to war, I shouldn't go to war, you shouldn't go to war, no one should die in foreign wars!

Look, I'd go to war to defend my home; I'd have fought willingly in World War II; but the United States military hasn't been about "defending their home" for generations now, it's all about wars of foreign aggression.

This war and other of choice like it are NOT the fault of the dogs of war. They are my fault. They are your fault. That's right. We decide where these guys go. We elect the officials. We prop up this sham of a system.

A small group of extremely rich and immoral people have taken over the system of government for their own profit. It seems to me and a heck of a lot of other people that we are rendered powerless and have no voice whatsoever in the system, that rationality and competence and honesty are issues that don't seem to even be allowed to be discussed any more.

Certainly, we have failed *so far* to fight back the forces of evil but they are extremely strong. Your suggestion that we fall upon our swords because we haven't triumphed doesn't seem to be very constructive.

Correct me if I'm wrong. You're suggesting that I stop paying taxes and go to jail for a long time in order to.... what?
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 3:18 PM on May 26, 2008


I'm not seeing any self-aggrandizement at all from lupus_yonderboy. I'm seeing a clear statement of a position opposing voluntary military service.

You may believe that there is no need for any military for any nation

It's perfectly reasonable to believe that something most people believe is necessary is undesirable and repugnant, while still having no idea how to change the majority mindset.

There's a parallel here between the majority belief that the military is necessary, and a majority belief held in earlier times that slavery was necessary.

Bad things don't magically become less bad just because most people agree that they're necessary. We're supposed to be the smartest species on the planet. It ought to be possible to work out some way to organize ourselves that doesn't involve regular episodes of mass butchery.

but you cannot ignore the responsibility of the civilian leadership (the most important point,) and the responsibility of the citizens and residents of the country.

This line of argument, it seems to me, proceeds directly from the same kind of failure to recognize degrees of evil that was kindly drawn to my attention upthread.

It seems to me that freely choosing to put oneself in a position where one's subsequent choices are likely to reduce to "kill those people, or face disgrace and imprisonment and/or death" involves assuming a far greater degree of responsibility for the deaths involved than simply continuing to pay one's taxes.

It seems to me that the "complicit in war by virtue of being a taxpayer" argument is no more attractive coming from people in this thread than it is coming from Osama bin Laden.
posted by flabdablet at 3:33 PM on May 26, 2008


I'm demanding nothing of a soldier! In fact, I'm suggesting they give it up and go home.

Yes. You demand they give up pay and a job and then face criminal prosecution. It's called desertion.

You demand of THEM that which you will not do.


Correct me if I'm wrong. You're suggesting that I stop paying taxes and go to jail for a long time in order to.... what?


No. I am suggestion that you are ignorant and foolish and understand next to nothing of what it means to be a soldier. And even seems less to be a consciencious citizen.

I'm suggesting that your hate and anger towards soldiers is woefully misplaced.

You ask of them, you demand of them, a standard that is impossible and one you don't pass or even attempt your self. If you won't face prosecution and or jail.... why should they? If you won't give up a nice home or a car or a job why should they? If you won't ruin YOUR life for a principle, why should they?

They may pull the trigger but your participation in this system supplies the bullets.

So. Since you, too, are utterly human like them and are still part of the same machine (though on different ends) you can hardly both blame THEM for the war and then not your self.

So that leaves only one very logical place for you blame and anger to fall. And that is to the people in charge.

And I'm suggesting this blame yo have whipped up is entirely futile. It's exactly what powerful people want is for the most powerless people in a society to turn on each other. Let me tell you something. You NEED these so-called killers to be on your side. Trust me. If not for only practical reasons.

We sign a social contract every time we pay a tax. We know that money goes to many things we want and to some things we don't. We loan power to our leaders to represent our interests and our principles. We loan them this power. When they abuse it it is our reprehensibility to seek justice.

We know that sometimes our interests and our principles come at a cost. We need, very , very rarely, to kill people. Every dime you pay the government it is a tacit endorsement of this reality. That means, if you being a moral person, the onus is on you dear citizen to make sure we use that power rarely and make sure we kill the right people. If you fail you can't blame the soldiers who we all agreed to train with every dime we sent Uncle Sam. So it's either your failure or...

In this case it's the failure of our leadership. Clearly. No military man would propose the strategy this administration did in Iraq. Everybody saw how idiotic it was. A full 50% of this country had severe misgivings about this war. Now that is somewhere around 70-75%. But they lied. They lied and lied.

The ugly truth is we AND our soldiers were lied to. But we can't leave it to the soldiers to just quit the war knowing this reality. What if they decide to quit a war we actually NEED them to fight?

Our leaders are loaned the power. They abused it. They need to face the noose.
posted by tkchrist at 4:14 PM on May 26, 2008


flabdabet and lupus both of you are essentially like the "Let The Market Forces" decide people. You cede your responsibilities and moral obligations on to other people or other forces so you don't have to do anything.
posted by tkchrist at 4:17 PM on May 26, 2008


It seems to me that freely choosing to put oneself in a position where one's subsequent choices are likely to reduce to "kill those people, or face disgrace and imprisonment and/or death" involves assuming a far greater degree of responsibility for the deaths involved than simply continuing to pay one's taxes.

You don't have to live in the US. You don't have to be here. Every argument you can drum up as to why a US taxpayer has such complicated obligations is just as true with a soldier.

You guys have no idea the types of economic options many poor people in this country face. The military offers a way out. And once they sign up pretty much that's it. They either desert or go to jail for dereliction of duty or they go fight.

Lupus CHOSE to come here knowing full well our history and what the Military Industrial complex is... he CHOSE to come here. He can choose to leave and not pay US taxes again. And wow. He won't go to jail.

Why is does his choice get more leeway than a Soldier? In fact he will face much fewer repercussions than a deserting soldier would.

Sure. He's saying nobody should join the military in the first place. Well. That is an obvious sign he doesn't understand the nature of poverty in this country.

I'm saying if we are gong to be so absolutist about it then he shouldn't have "joined" the US, either. Knowing full well the shit that we have done over the years. He did. For money. Most soldiers join the military for money.

But we can't be absolutist. This world is not so black and white.
posted by tkchrist at 4:34 PM on May 26, 2008


Taxes don't just pay the military. If half the population stopped paying taxes, do you really think the so-called defense budget would be slashed, or would social security, education, and medicare take the bullet?
posted by Pyry at 4:39 PM on May 26, 2008


You cede your responsibilities and moral obligations on to other people or other forces so you don't have to do anything

No, I don't think I do.

As far as I can tell, the biggest single driver of most of what's wrong with humanity is population growth. The more of us there are, the more room we need, and the harder we will fight each other and the rest of the biosphere to get it. It has long seemed to me that if we're going to organize a long term peace, the first thing we need to do is organize a long term ecologically sustainable population.

I only know two ways to limit population growth. We can deliberately kill each other, or we can slow our reproduction rate to match the natural death rate. The second is clearly the only morally acceptable choice.

So, I went and got myself sterilized before I could make any more people, and now I raise other people's kids. To my way of thinking, that makes my personal contribution to solving the most pressing problem of our age rather larger than, but still reasonably proportionate to, my personal existence's contribution to that problem. Voluntary non-reproduction strikes me as a good example of "think globally, act locally" which is a pretty good slogan as slogans go.

So I feel no inclination at all to take your bloviation personally.

I'm suggesting that your hate and anger towards soldiers is woefully misplaced

Perhaps you simply need to read more carefully. Especially this para:

Ricky participated in a great crime. Hundreds of thousands are dead. I feel very sorry for Ricky and his poor wife, but all these articles glorifying the very people who actually executed the war simply ignore the point that they died doing something that was terribly, terribly wrong, something that they had when it comes down to it they had volunteered and trained to do.

(emphasis mine)

I'm seeing no hate and anger there. I'm seeing the same despair I feel myself at the glorification of an organizational form that causes such a vast amount of suffering.
posted by flabdablet at 5:46 PM on May 26, 2008


tkchrist: So that leaves only one very logical place for your blame and anger to fall. And that is to the people in charge.

Agreed.

Soldiers are responsible for refusing to carry out war crimes, e.g. torturing prisoners or targeting civilians. But they're not responsible for the decision to go to war in the first place, or to end the war. That's the responsibility of US political leaders, including both the White House and Congress.

Blaming individual soldiers or individual taxpayers isn't helpful, because any individual soldier or taxpayer isn't able to either prevent a war or end it. The people who can end the war are US political leaders, who are in turn elected by American voters. Hence the importance of voting in November.

lupus_yonderboy, if you can vote, I'd encourage you to stay in the US.
posted by russilwvong at 5:47 PM on May 26, 2008


flabdablet: We're supposed to be the smartest species on the planet. It ought to be possible to work out some way to organize ourselves that doesn't involve regular episodes of mass butchery.

Unfortunately that doesn't appear to be the case. See Schmookler's Parable of the Tribes.

Abolishing your military only works if everyone else does it. Otherwise it's like that Dilbert cartoon:
Dogbert: I wish everyone in the world could learn to live in peace and harmony, giving up violence completely.
Dilbert: That's a beautiful sentiment, Dogbert.
Dogbert: That way, I could take over the entire world with a butter knife.
John Randolph: "You may cover whole skins of parchment with limitations, but power alone can limit power."
posted by russilwvong at 5:54 PM on May 26, 2008


Snyder writes "Imagine if they gave a war and nobody payed. "

Well, as I understand it, the US isn't really paying for a lot of this war. They've put that onto future generations.
posted by Mitheral at 6:08 PM on May 26, 2008


I can't think of a stronger or more effective vote against war than a personal refusal to join the military, and I can't think of a more effective way to increase the size of this vote than employing reasoned argument in public places.

Hence the importance of voting in November

No matter who you vote for in November, a leader always gets in.

If we can slowly chip away at the idea of leaders as people it's axiomatically right to follow, I think we're doing the right thing. That's the way I'm raising my foster kids, and I hope it's the way you're raising yours.

I am not aware of any branch of society that makes such a virtue of following the leader as does the military. I think glorifying the miltary with words like "nobility" and "sacrifice" and "service" does a great deal of social damage, because it holds the military up as an organizational form that it's good and right to emulate in other spheres.

I don't understand why soldiers ought to get more kudos than garbage collectors. The fact that we have yet to organize ourselves in a way that makes filthy, stinking, dangerous jobs unnecessary doesn't make the jobs themselves somehow glorious.

And no, I don't spit on garbage collectors either.

On preview:

Abolishing your military only works if everyone else does it

Let's keep on working toward that as a goal, then. Let's see what we can do about making a military career a less appealing choice for anybody, worldwide. Let's get solidly behind promoting the idea that the most likely outcome of choosing a military career is that you will be covered not in glory, but in mud and shit and blood and flies.

You may cover whole skins of parchment with limitations, but power alone can limit power

And the ultimate power that each of us has is the power to refuse. To say No. No, I will not join your organization for as long as that involves being required to kill people I don't know on pain of my own death.

The point made above that this is not a reasonable power for the poor to exercise, when confronted with a chance to escape poverty by joining up, is not an argument in support of military service. It's an argument in support of alleviating poverty.

If the US spent a tenth of the amount it currently devotes to killing people overseas on socializing medicine at home, everybody involved would be better off.

The US would get better foreign policy results by dropping the cost of the bombs in $1 notes than it currently gets by dropping the actual bombs.
posted by flabdablet at 6:43 PM on May 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


But poverty doesn't explain all the enlistments, or the (voluntary) re-upping in suburban reservist units, both of which continue. I have a nephew who just went back into the service to learn to fly medical evacuation helicopters. (he'd previously served in a Navy before Sept.11). I've tried asking him what he's thinking and from what I can get from him--beyond the "they're killing our brothers and I have to help" is a deep sense that someone hasto defend the country. That Iraq may not be the place but that the country needs the military and he wants to be part of it. I think it's a mistake to see all military service as part of the Iraq mess, even though that's where so many of them are headed.
posted by etaoin at 7:43 PM on May 26, 2008


Making money for the rich always costs the poor.
posted by tarvuz at 7:55 PM on May 26, 2008


At least garbage collectors have a clue about what they're doing and why, instead of a head full of empty, deadly abstractions.
posted by flabdablet at 11:23 PM on May 26, 2008


As long as you continue to believe that the reasons like sacrifice or service are empty abstractions, you will be unable to understand why people join anything that places danger or hardship on them, including military service. Your naivety about showering people with money or universal refusal to use force will continue, as long as you and lupus continue to myopically blame the wrong people for this war, especially as you do not inculde yourselves in your own moral calculus.
posted by Snyder at 1:16 AM on May 27, 2008


That's our Bush.
posted by dasheekeejones at 3:27 AM on May 27, 2008


"Fighting for peace is like fucking for virginity" is another slogan that's not too bad as slogans go.

you will be unable to understand why people join anything that places danger or hardship on them, including military service

I understand why people join volunteer fire brigades, or bust a gut sandbagging other people's houses against floods, or commit to spending twenty years looking after other people's kids. I've done those things myself. But you've lumped military service in with all the other, more worthwhile forms of service. If the fire brigade required me to drop bombs on children under orders, I wouldn't have joined the fire brigade.

Before you bother asking me who I expect to save my miserable arse when the vicious Huns come screaming over the ridge to burn my house and rape my children: may I simply point out the obvious fact that these actions are morally repugnant, regardless of which leader is giving the orders, and that my objections to the military are not limited to the military where I live. I also note in passing that if I happened to have been born in Fallujah, those Huns would wear the Stars and Bars; in Rwanda, Bosnia or Zimbabwe, they could have been my neighbours.

And before you dismiss that as a pissweak refusal to consider the real needs of the defence of my country, let me remind you that "my country," at least in the sense of something needing to be defended by force of arms, is a cloudy abstraction, and a despicable one at that. "My country" is a mental sleight of hand: a trick for drawing an arbitrary line around a group of people and defining those inside as Us and those outside as Them, with the implicit understanding that one of Us is worth hundreds of Them.

We need to get better at thinking beyond the boundaries of our own neighbourhoods and ethnicities if we're going to figure out how to get along without killing each other.

"My country" is not a thing it is worthy to serve, because truly, on Spaceship Earth, there is only Us. A sustainable peace, on the other hand, is a worthy condition to aspire to and a worthwhile thing to argue for.

as long as you and lupus continue to myopically blame the wrong people for this war

That's a misreading of my position and, I suspect, of lupus_yonderboy's.

Somebody killed Ricky with an IED, and for Ricky's widow, that's truly a tragedy. But it's not a different order of tragedy from the deaths of the people Ricky volunteered to be ordered to kill. Each of those people had a life and a history as well. We're just not seeing them written up in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Pointing out that it's unreasonable to condemn the man who killed Ricky without condemning Ricky as well is not the same thing as blaming the soldiers for the war.

I don't blame the soldiers for this war. There was no reason for this war to start other than that Bushco wanted it to. Same goes for the invasion of Afghanistan. So, does Ricky's widow feel better now that we all know who to blame? What about the widows of the next million Rickies?

I don't even blame young men for joining the military. I blame old men for suckering them into it with flowery rhetoric about "sacrifice" and "service." It has to be said, though, that eight years of Bushco makes continuing to buy that bill of goods require an almost heroic degree of wilful ignorance.
posted by flabdablet at 6:29 AM on May 27, 2008 [2 favorites]


A powerful infatuation
posted by homunculus at 11:16 AM on May 27, 2008


flabdablet: Before you bother asking me who I expect to save my miserable arse when the vicious Huns come screaming over the ridge to burn my house and rape my children: may I simply point out the obvious fact that these actions are morally repugnant, regardless of which leader is giving the orders, and that my objections to the military are not limited to the military where I live.

But the question still stands. If I understand correctly, you're advocating universal pacifism. (My apologies if I misunderstand your position.) But if you and your community are pacifist, while others are not, how can it defend itself? Encyclopaedia of New Zealand:
In 1835, 24 generations after the Moriori chief Nunuku had forbidden war, Moriori welcomed about 900 people from two Māori tribes, Ngāti Mutunga and Ngāti Tama. Originally from Taranaki on New Zealand’s North Island, they had voyaged from Wellington on an overcrowded European vessel, the Rodney. They arrived severely weakened, but were nursed back to health by their Moriori hosts. However, they soon revealed hostile intentions and embarked on a reign of terror.

Stunned, Moriori called a council of 1,000 men at Te Awapātiki to debate their response. The younger men were keen to repel the invaders and argued that even though they had not fought for many centuries, they outnumbered the newcomers two to one and were a strong people. But the elders argued that Nunuku’s Law was a sacred covenant with their gods and could not be broken. The consequences for Moriori were devastating.

Although the total number of Moriori first slaughtered was said to be around 300, hundreds more were enslaved and later died. Some were killed by their captors. Others, horrified by the desecration of their beliefs, died of ‘kongenge’ or despair. According to records made by elders, 1,561 Moriori died between 1835 and 1863, when they were released from slavery. Many succumbed to diseases introduced by Europeans, but large numbers died at the hands of Ngāti Mutunga and Ngāti Tama. In 1862 only 101 remained. When the last known full-blooded Moriori died in 1933, many thought this marked the extinction of a race.
The basic problem is one of asymmetry. As Andrew Schmookler puts it: no one is free to choose peace, but anyone can impose upon all the necessity for power.
Imagine a group of tribes living within reach of one another. If all choose the way of peace, then all may live in peace. But what if all but one choose peace, and that one is ambitious for expansion and conquest? What can happen to the others when confronted by an ambitious and potent neighbor? Perhaps one tribe is attacked and defeated, its people destroyed and its lands seized for the use of the victors. Another is defeated, but this one is not exterminated; rather, it is subjugated and transformed to serve the conqueror. A third seeking to avoid such disaster flees from the area into some inaccessible (and undesirable) place, and its former homeland becomes part of the growing empire of the power-seeking tribe. Let us suppose that others observing these developments decide to defend themselves in order to preserve themselves and their autonomy. But the irony is that successful defense against a power-maximizing aggressor requires a society to become more like the society that threatens it. Power can be stopped only by power, and if the threatening society has discovered ways to magnify its power through innovations in organization or technology (or whatever), the defensive society will have to transform itself into something more like its foe in order to resist the external force.

I have just outlined four possible outcomes for the threatened tribes: destruction, absorption and transformation, withdrawal, and imitation. In every one of these outcomes the ways of power are spread throughout the system. This is the parable of the tribes.
Unfortunately, because of this basic asymmetry, a sustainable peace cannot be achieved by simply rejecting war.

If pacifism isn't a solution, what is?

To simplify drastically, two sides fight a war when one side wants to take something which the other side doesn't want to give up; they're unable to negotiate a compromise; and so one side or the other resorts to force.

In this situation, the traditional solution is the balance of power. If both sides are about equal in strength, and neither side can easily defeat the other, then they're motivated to negotiate their differences through diplomacy, rather than resort to war.

In some ways, war is only a symptom. The real problem is political: there's a fundamental conflict between those who seek to maintain the status quo (to hold onto what they have), and those who oppose it. E. H. Carr:
... as Lenin observed long ago, peace in itself is a meaningless aim. "Absolutely everybody is in favor of peace in general," he wrote in 1915, "including Kitchener, Joffre, Hindenburg and Nicholas the Bloody, for everyone of them wishes to end the war." The common interest in peace masks the fact that some nations desire to maintain the status quo without having to fight for it, and others to change the status quo without having to fight in order to do so. The statement that it is in the interest of the world as a whole either that the status quo should be maintained, or that it should be changed, would be contrary to the facts. The statement that it is in the interest of the world as a whole that the conclusion eventually reached, whether maintenance or change, should be reached by peaceful means, would command general assent, but seems a rather meaningless platitude. The utopian assumption that there is a world interest in peace which is identifiable with the interest of each individual nation helped politicians and political writers everywhere to evade the unpalatable fact of a fundamental divergence of interest between nations desirous of maintaining the status quo and nations desirous of changing it.
As you noted earlier, in a world of scarce resources, conflicts are likely to continue. (Although of course resource scarcity isn't the only source of conflict; historical grievances are another major one.)

... let me remind you that "my country," at least in the sense of something needing to be defended by force of arms, is a cloudy abstraction, and a despicable one at that. "My country" is a mental sleight of hand: a trick for drawing an arbitrary line around a group of people and defining those inside as Us and those outside as Them....

Sure, nationalism is bad. Nevertheless, states are real--they have governments, bureaucracies, territories, populations, and yes, armies. And because states are quite different, the outcomes of wars matter: consider the Korean War, and the divide between North Korea and South Korea. Where the frontier ended up had a huge impact on people's lives, quite separate from the suffering caused by the war itself.
posted by russilwvong at 5:46 PM on May 27, 2008 [3 favorites]


Hey, tkchrist, you're so very very critical of me because I won't go to jail for my beliefs. I'm curious as to where you're coming from. Are you a jailed war resister or a tax protester yourself? If so, my hat is very much off to you.

Yes. You demand they give up pay and a job and then face criminal prosecution. It's called desertion.

No, I'm suggesting they not join in the first place. Once the people have joined the Army gang, of course the Army gang will punish them if they leave.

The argument, "People need money so they join a gang," (advanced later in the argument) is incredibly weak. You wouldn't accept that as an argument for robbing a gas station, why do you accept this as an argument for mass murder in an Army?

You join a criminal gang, they threaten you with terrible things if you leave, and you stay with them and commit crimes. You bear some of the responsibility for the crimes you committed as part of the gang. You joined them of your own free will; all the information is right there in front of you as to what they're like.


As long as you continue to believe that the reasons like sacrifice or service are empty abstractions,

The reason a lot of smart people believe this (which I do not) is that almost every time people talk about "service" and "sacrifice", in fact they are trying to convince young people to go off and kill people in foreign countries who've never offered them any harm.

This is certainly true of the United States for the last fifty years; if you joined the military and fought overseas, you were almost certainly killing people who offered no threat to the United States whatsoever. For fifty years.


I am not advocating universal pacifism; I'm simply advocating that the United States cease to invade foreign countries. Is this truly so difficult to understand?

Clearly countries need to defend themselves. The US military is no sense a defensive force, however. Consider that in 2001 the US was attacked on its own soil, and the military failed 4 in 4 times; 100% failure. Consider that no one lost their jobs, no one was courts martialed, the system was not changed, there was no analysis of its failure modes and in fact, shockingly enough, everyone involved in the utter failure from start to finish that was the US response to 9/11 was promoted!

Again, Ricky was not killed defending his country, he was killed during a massively destructively invasion of a country that had not offered any harm to the United States, one that was pulled off only because you fucking Americans are too God-damned stupid to be able to tell one Arab country from another or too immoral to care.


you and lupus continue to myopically blame the wrong people for this war

Oh, please. I've been very clear that the Bush administration has huge huge blame here. In a sane world, they'd get a fair trial and be hung by the neck until dead: I'm generally against the death penalty but not for mass murder.

But the people who actually carried out the deed also share in the responsibility.


flabdabet and lupus both of you are essentially like the "Let The Market Forces" decide people. You cede your responsibilities and moral obligations on to other people or other forces so you don't have to do anything.

I do not see how you get this from what I wrote, not at all. I've fought long and hard against the forces of evil; the one thing I'm not going to do is commit crimes that will put me in jail.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 9:33 PM on May 27, 2008


The points you raise are by and large valid, but none of them constitutes a good reason for the status of the military remaining higher than the status of garbage collectors in the public mind. Both groups are doing dirty work which, given our present organizational modes, we'd be worse off if they didn't do.

I am not attempting to defend the position that a universal peace will spontaneously break out tomorrow, to general rejoicing and cries of Kum Bai Ya. As you point out, that's unlikely to be the case.

You point to the "balance of power" as the traditional solution to maintaining some degree of peace. But the trouble with the balance of power is that it's demonstrably not sustainable. Power accumulates power, and we're living in an age where the US has accumulated most of it, at least in military terms.

But China is on the rise economically, and the world has never been so richly connected by trade as it is now. There's an opportunity here to nudge us all along toward something more like the EU and less like World War II. What's mainly required is political will.

And since I believe that continued glorification of the military makes that will less likely to develop, I will continue to argue against it.

Soldiering is not glorious. It's filthy, disgusting work, and the less of it we need, the better off we are.
posted by flabdablet at 10:27 PM on May 27, 2008


Iraq Soldier Discusses His "Kills" (VIDEO)
posted by homunculus at 11:13 PM on May 27, 2008


Ron Kovic encourages confronting military recruiters
If only someone had warned us, if only someone had had the courage to speak out against the madness that we were being led into, if only someone could have protected us from the recruiters whose only wish was to make their quota, send us to boot camp and hide from us the dark secret of the nightmare which awaited us all.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 9:22 AM on May 28, 2008


Perhaps this could be slipped into each recruiting pamphlet.
posted by flabdablet at 8:30 PM on May 28, 2008


flabdablet: And since I believe that continued glorification of the military makes that will less likely to develop, I will continue to argue against it.

The point of Memorial Day (and Remembrance Day elsewhere) is not to glorify war. It's to remember the dead.

Why should the war dead be singled out for remembrance? Because there's so many of them; and because they're nearly all young, their lives cut short. George F. Kennan, writing in 1984:
Sixty-six years ago, on the 11th of November 1918, there ended that four-year orgy of carnage known as the First World War. When the shooting ceased, some 8.5 million young men lay dead and buried either in Flanders Fields or near the other great battlefields of the war. Over 20 million more had been injured--many of them maimed for life. Nearly 8 million were listed as missing or as having been taken prisoner. Of those who survived, countless thousands were to return to their homelands shattered ("shell-shocked" was then the word), confused, and desperate, to face the problems of daily life in a society impoverished morally and materially by the enormous wastage the war had involved. And for every one of those who had died, there were now others, loved and loving, including outstandingly the parents, for whom a large part of the meaning of life had evaporated with the news of the particular death in question. Europe, in short (and with it, in far smaller degree, the United States), had perpetrated a vast injury on its own substance: the sacrifice of the greatest capital it possessed, a flesh-and-blood capital--the cream of its young male manpower of the day, besides which the tremendous economic wastage of the struggle pales to insignificance.

No human mind will ever be capable of apprehending the magnitude of this tragedy. The numbers exceed the individual capacity for imagination. The computer would not know what to make of them. The tragedy of each individual young soldier, cut off in the flower of his years, deprived of the privilege of leading a life through, carrying away with him into the agony and squalor of his battlefield death all that he thought he had been living for and all the hopes and love invested in him by others, was in itself immeasurable--infinite in its way. And then--8 million of them?
lupus_yonderboy: This is certainly true of the United States for the last fifty years; if you joined the military and fought overseas, you were almost certainly killing people who offered no threat to the United States whatsoever. For fifty years.

If you're going to argue that war is only justified against an enemy who threatens you directly, why limit it to the last fifty years? Why did the US fight Nazi Germany in World War II? ("They were evil" is not a good answer.) Why did it fight Germany in World War I?

George Kennan again, writing in American Diplomacy 1900-1950:
Today, standing at the end rather than the beginning of this half-century, some of us see certain fundamental elements on which we suspect that American security has rested. We can see that our security has been dependent throughout much of our history on the position of Britain; that Canada, in particular, has been a useful and indispensable hostage to good relations between our country and British Empire; and that Britain's position, in turn, has depended on the maintenance of a balance of power on the European Continent. Thus it was essential to us, as it was to Britain, that no single Continental land power should come to dominate the entire Eurasian land mass.

Our interest has lain rather in the maintenance of some sort of stable balance among the powers of the interior, in order that none of them should effect the subjugation of the others, conquer the seafaring fringes of the land mass, become a great sea power as well as land power, shatter the position of England, and enter—as in these circumstances it certainly would—on an overseas expansion hostile to ourselves and supported by the immense resources of the interior of Europe and Asia.
Or, as Jefferson put it more succinctly: the US would be endangered if the whole force of Europe were to be wielded by a single hand.

The US joined World War I and World War II because Germany threatened to overthrow the balance of power and dominate Europe. The same was true of the Cold War: the US sought to contain Soviet expansion, both into Europe (through NATO) and into Asia.

The major wars which the US fought during the Cold War were the Korean War and the Vietnam War. In both cases the US was attempting to stop the expansion of what it regarded as Soviet power; it succeeded in Korea, and failed in Vietnam.

To me, the Bush administration's foreign policy--basically, attempting to use force to make the Middle East into a US sphere of influence--marks a decisive (and reckless) break with past US foreign policy, not a continuation of it.
posted by russilwvong at 11:11 PM on May 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


you fucking Americans are too God-damned stupid to be able to tell one Arab country from another or too immoral to care.

I invite you to return to where you come from to discover that the people there are equally stupid. Don't let the door hit you on the way out.
posted by oaf at 12:43 AM on May 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


Jon Stewart Calls Out McCain for Hypocrisy on Supporting Veterans
posted by homunculus at 2:23 PM on May 30, 2008


Mia Farrow on her nephew's death in Iraq: What for?
posted by homunculus at 10:23 AM on June 1, 2008


Collateral Damage: What It Really Means When America Goes to War
posted by homunculus at 2:19 PM on June 4, 2008


Marines Punished Over 'Puppy Torture' Video
posted by homunculus at 3:11 PM on June 12, 2008


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