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April 6, 2010 5:08 PM   Subscribe

'The unemployment rate for veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars reached 14.7 percent in March, according to the latest government statistics.' It is particularly bad for the youngest veterans - with a jobless rate at 21.1% for ages 18 to 24, 'well above the national jobless rate of 16.6 percent for nonveterans in the same age group, 18 to 24.' 'Young veterans tell of futile job hunt' - and the situation keeps getting worse. It was 11.2% a year ago, but regardless of the accuracy of the statistics, 'veterans groups say the figures are unacceptable. "It's unforgivable that new veterans are bearing the brunt of the economic downturn," said Tom Tarantino, legislative associate for the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. "This is no way to welcome a new generation of heroes home."'

'Paul Sullivan, director of Veterans for Common Sense, said these veterans are having difficulty finding work for several reasons. "Sometimes the skills from the battlefield don't transfer directly to civilian jobs," he said. He added that the military has a "spotty record" of providing transition assistance for soldiers leaving the military and returning to the civilian work force.
Other veterans groups agree.'
posted by VikingSword (119 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
Why should being in the military give you priority for a job? I can't see the moral claim there.
posted by wilful at 5:15 PM on April 6, 2010 [14 favorites]


I really think it all goes back to making these wars in the middle east "too easy" for the American citizen. There was nothing required of us when we sent them overseas. We were told we were involved in a war of civilizations and that failure was not an option. But we were asked to pay for any of it? Was it even suggested that our sons and daughters might be the ones drafted to go overseas to fight in this mighty clash? NO! In fact, we were asked to shop! Seems to me like that kind of disconnect will inevitably lead to turning our backs on our heroes.

Heres an op-ed in the New York Times Today about this same problem.
posted by Glibpaxman at 5:18 PM on April 6, 2010 [6 favorites]


I hope you aren't imagining we can help them. That'd be socialism. Wait...do they have oil under their houses? Maybe we can "lose" $80 billion in their living rooms.
posted by DU at 5:26 PM on April 6, 2010


This totally sucks but is about as surprising as the sun rising in the morning. You're supposed to go to war guys, the coming back part wasn't really in the plans. At least, it wasn't in the US government's plans.
posted by GuyZero at 5:29 PM on April 6, 2010


Can anyone say Freikorps? Good!
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 5:29 PM on April 6, 2010 [3 favorites]


Why should being in the military give you priority for a job? I can't see the moral claim there.

Objectively it doesn't. But you're a bad liberal if you don't brood about the fate of veterans, and just helping Republicans paint the American left as anti-veteran. So you'd better start wringing your hands. Pointing out that people who enlist because they have otherwise weak employment prospects will face further weak employment prospects when they're discharged doesn't get our guys elected.
posted by Mayor Curley at 5:29 PM on April 6, 2010 [11 favorites]


If only there was a government service that would help them get training and jump to the front of the employment line. Oh wait.
posted by mullingitover at 5:29 PM on April 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


well above the national jobless rate of 16.6 percent for nonveterans in the same age group, 18 to 24.'

I'd be interested to see that adjusted for level of education. Many or most of those who weren't in the Army were in college.
posted by drjimmy11 at 5:32 PM on April 6, 2010 [3 favorites]


In Australia, the TV ads for the Yarmy , Navy, Air Force often ram home the fact that you get so many skills that will set you up once you return to civilian life.

'Paul Sullivan, director of Veterans for Common Sense, said these veterans are having difficulty finding work for several reasons.

I would hazard a guess that a lot of veterans are perceived as all "you don't know what it was like, you'll never know what it's like to be me" and always banging on how they went to war and how they're a little bit spesh, plus sick leave due to PTSD, and the chance of them goin' crazy and shootin' up the place.

And a lot of employers are risk averse so that resume quickly gets filed in the round file.

Let me repeat: perceived, not necessarily backed up by stats.

Then there's the employers and HR managers who were morally against the war - and I assume there's truckloads out there. That's not gonna help, either.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 5:32 PM on April 6, 2010


My best friend is a tri-lingual ex-army engineer who happens to have also been a roof gunner in non-uparmored humvees in the initial push to baghdad. He's also 5'11 and 300lbs and runs a 40 faster than you and carries around fridges for friends. He programs well in about 5 languages, including ASM.

When he came home, he tried for 3 years to get a job that didn't require carrying a gun. He's got a degree. He finally gave up and went back to college for his second and third respective degrees, and he's not eligible for more GI Bill, and financial aid is about to dump him because they aren't masters-degrees and he'll hit the 169-hours of allowed undergrad wall before he graduates again EVEN THOUGH his first degree gpa was 3.9 and now it's 4.0 (computer and electrical engineering.)

Anyway, he didn't do anything wrong. He's not a bad guy, and I pretty damn well respect him. I really, really, really, really don't care what anyone's opinions on any given war are, and I'm positive someone will come back and slap me in the face for saying it, but I will die believing that we as a country owe something to the men who fight in our name.
posted by TomMelee at 5:33 PM on April 6, 2010 [19 favorites]


people who enlist because they have otherwise weak employment prospects will face further weak employment prospects when they're discharged

Yep, that's a gimme. Well put.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 5:34 PM on April 6, 2010


Why should being in the military give you priority for a job? I can't see the moral claim there.

Really?
posted by MarshallPoe at 5:37 PM on April 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


In other words, about the same for other (civilian) young people of color without college degrees?

A receding tide grounds all boats. At least these young men and women potentially have the G.I. Bill to work with, and preferential treatment as a protected class in certain jobs, as mentioned above.
posted by availablelight at 5:38 PM on April 6, 2010


There seems to be a real persecution thread running through those articles.
While it's somewhat odd that veterans are unemployed at higher rates than civilians of the same age, I'd think it has more to do with the fact that, as far as a resume is concerned, they just haven't been working like their civilian counterparts.

"If you served in the military, you're disconnected from the civilian workforce, you don't have contacts that a civilian person has,"

I think that's the heart of it, not any sort of anti-veteran prejudice.
posted by madajb at 5:39 PM on April 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


Weird, given all the hiring incentives (tax breaks mostly) for veterans I've been reading about I would think large companies would be hiring them like crazy.
posted by mathowie at 5:39 PM on April 6, 2010


Also unhelpful has been the VA's apparent lack of preparation for veterans to actually use the post-9/11 GI Bill to go to college.
posted by lullaby at 5:40 PM on April 6, 2010



My best friend is a tri-lingual ex-army engineer who happens to have also been a roof gunner in non-uparmored humvees in the initial push to baghdad. He's also 5'11 and 300lbs and runs a 40 faster than you and carries around fridges for friends. He programs well in about 5 languages, including ASM.

When he came home, he tried for 3 years to get a job that didn't require carrying a gun.


Something doesn't compute here.
posted by availablelight at 5:41 PM on April 6, 2010 [3 favorites]


really. But then, I'm not a yank, so we're not quite so invested in the bullshit about Defending Freedom.

Maybe some Starship Troopers types could explain...
posted by wilful at 5:41 PM on April 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


wilful: I don't think it's about getting "priority" for a job, but rather that military service is sold to the American people as this great opportunity for individuals in return for putting their lives on the line to protect the US. The commercials on TV, for example, constantly talk about the discipline, special training, etc. etc. that you'll develop while you serve your country, but when it turns out to be a load of bullshit, well that's something that we as a civilian-run society are responsible for. I am so, so, SO against the current US military excursions, and to be honest, most ex-military I meet come off like douches, but I think they were sold a load of shit, and as citizens who are (theoretically) in charge of what our military does, we are somewhat responsible. We (the Royal/Editorial We) ask them to go through a lot of shit and give up a lot of their personal life and freedom, they should get something in return for it.
posted by Saxon Kane at 5:42 PM on April 6, 2010 [7 favorites]


But, Saxon Kane, does the US government do a reasonable job at any social service? This is surely just par for the course.
posted by wilful at 5:46 PM on April 6, 2010


I don't see how being in the army should give you priority over someone who wasn't. Unless the job requirements state you have to have been in the army.
posted by abbat at 5:49 PM on April 6, 2010


...bullshit about Defending Freedom.

Please explain.
posted by MarshallPoe at 5:51 PM on April 6, 2010


Yeah, way to compare apples and oranges. I recall reading in Freakonomics that unemployment amongst black youths aged 18-24 with less than Grade 12 was something along the lines of 50%.

I'm absolutely sure that, for the given individual, being a veteran increases your employability - probably along the lines of twice as likely to be hired as they would have if they'd not joined the military in the first place. Also, I'm sure they're applying for better jobs than they would have if they hadn't had that experience.
posted by jimmythefish at 5:53 PM on April 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


Anyone dumb enough...
posted by uncanny hengeman at 5:56 PM on April 6, 2010


abbat: It seems to me it's more about how being in the army shouldn't make you LESS competitive than someone who wasn't.

wilful: That's a fair question, but I don't think it's immediately appropriate to this discussion. The issue is really the tragic irony that the American people have been told for years to "Support the Troops!" by both ends of the political spectrum, yet we've failed to do so profoundly and no one seems to give a shit. And, if I may soapbox for a moment, the party that most touted the rhetoric and used it to terrorize the American people into 8 years of Human Centipede levels shit-eating government (reference from a recent thread) are the least likely to give a fuck about the troops or do anything for them because, well, that would be "socialism."
posted by Saxon Kane at 5:57 PM on April 6, 2010


If you haven't seen it, "The Ground Truth" is on google video...

Anyone who doesn't understand that we owe our returning troops some help and support, has their head in the sand.
posted by HuronBob at 5:58 PM on April 6, 2010 [4 favorites]


If serving in the army constitutes making a personal sacrifice for the benefit of the country, then it seems clear to me that they do deserve some kind of preferential treatment.
posted by oddman at 5:59 PM on April 6, 2010 [7 favorites]


Pointing out that people who enlist because they have otherwise weak employment prospects will face further weak employment prospects when they're discharged doesn't get our guys elected.

How about pointing out that military service is sold to working class and poor kids who have little other hope for advancement as a way to get ahead and become employable, when it looks like it's not doing any such thing? Are our guys more electable if we point out that the poor and working class are being played for suckers?
posted by dilettante at 6:09 PM on April 6, 2010 [3 favorites]


I don't believe the veterans deserve a job any more than the next person, I just thing we should make an extra effort to do keep them in an occupation (poor choice of words, I will concede).

Example:
Wayne Kramer did some time in prison with guys who were Vietnam veterans. The vets had used their strategic ops training to rob a few banks. And that really was the crux of the issue...

If you have spent 3-4 years of your life with very thorough training in anything at all, be it strategic ops or, let's say, knife throwing, you are going to have certain skills that not only are you hoping to utilize, but also are very difficult to put on the back burner. If you've been trained to throw knives, and you get a job with Cutco, trust me, you will be more than tempted to veer from the script and show your unsuspecting cold call "a REAL demonstration."

Now, to bring this back to veterans. They've been trained in the art of survival, and the art of combat. They come back and their benefits are running out. Once again, their training is in survival and combat, and if times are desperate they will look to capitalize on their limited skill set.

Yes, this is one of the reasons I give money to the ones with cardboard signs.
posted by Bathtub Bobsled at 6:13 PM on April 6, 2010


My advice to these returning Veterans is this:

Focus your job search efforts on the public sector. Veterans -- especially disabled Veterans -- get huge preferences in public-sector hiring, especially on the Federal level, and particularly at the Veterans Administration itself.
posted by jason's_planet at 6:20 PM on April 6, 2010 [3 favorites]


TomMelee: "My best friend is a tri-lingual ex-army engineer who happens to have also been a roof gunner in non-uparmored humvees in the initial push to baghdad. ... Anyway, he didn't do anything wrong."

Translated from American Exceptionalist into English: He was a voluntary, armed participant in a war crime that murdered hundreds of thousands of civilians.

Not that I wish lifetime unemployment on him for it. But this "new generation of heroes" talk is seriously sick-making.
posted by Joe Beese at 6:26 PM on April 6, 2010 [7 favorites]


Ancdata: One of my friends was a Nam vet. He ended up running a towing company. You know, one of those companies that have wreckers/tow trucks/flatbeds.

All of his employees were Nam vets. They would drink and do heroin and coke and drive tow rigs way above the speed limits. Some times for 24 or more hours at a time. Then they would come to my bar and drink for a while. And then they'd crash in their trucks, or the garage for a few hours and go out for another day.

I used to talk to them on their off day and ask them why they did it. One guy was a Huey (helicopter) pilot in Nam.

He said that he wanted the rush. He wanted the same adrenaline high that he got when he was in the chopper.

I said that I knew that they all were driving drunk and blasted on coke. He laughed and asked if I was going to turn them in. And I very carefully explained that I would do no such thing.

They were so fucked up when they came back from "in country" that they just didn't care.

More than one wished that they were back there. Killing people. Seriously.

They felt totally out of place back home.

And that was the fault of home. Their home. Here. The USA. We made them feel like shit when they came back.

They were trained to kill. And then let loose here. What the fuck were they supposed to do? Sell flowers? Work at McDonalds? The VA was worse than useless.

Fuck.
posted by Splunge at 6:33 PM on April 6, 2010 [7 favorites]


He programs well in about 5 languages, including ASM. When he came home, he tried for 3 years to get a job that didn't require carrying a gun.

He can program well in five languages? Then he needs to figure out how to job search, or interview. (I sympathize, I suck at job searching.)

(And ASM could mean one of many assembly languages, which are not particularly hard to code in. They're hard to code well in, but so is every language. Compared to HLLs, assembly is probably easier, overall, just more tedious.)
posted by orthogonality at 6:44 PM on April 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


Why should being in the military give you priority for a job? I can't see the moral claim there.

I don't understand the use of the word "priority" in this sentence: it seems like a cheap way of implying that there's not enough work to go around for everybody, so war vets should just suck it up. I would argue we have a clear moral obligation to ensure returning war veterans are re-trained for civilian life--and that includes working to help them find jobs. For further thought on this, see here.
posted by HP LaserJet P10006 at 6:47 PM on April 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


Joe , I think the dynamics of enlistment, combat, return are more complicated than you are aware of.... your position is a bit too general, philosophic, and simplistic.

I agree with you about the nature of the wars we are in... but, after having a stepson, students, and sons of friends who served in Iraq, and seeing the impact... we need to help them... we drew them into this conflict through a lot of deceit and lies... we need to help them return.
posted by HuronBob at 6:53 PM on April 6, 2010 [3 favorites]


I would wager that 50% of those in the military thought they couldn't get a better job when they enlisted. I'm also curious as to what skills an infantryman (the lions share of those overseas) can transpose into a job besides security guard these days: recce patrols? dismounted patrols? FIBUA, defensive position? Field medicine? Radio procedure? House clearing?
posted by furtive at 6:57 PM on April 6, 2010


I'd be interested to see that adjusted for level of education.

That, plus credit score and ethnicity
posted by hamida2242 at 7:01 PM on April 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


What % of the unemployed vets have college degrees? We can't really get to the crux of the issue unless we know the breakdown of WHO exactly is in the unemployed group.

I'd have to think that military service combined with a college education would be a huge asset in the work marketplace. If you return from service with no transferable skills, go to college. I thought that's why lots of people enlist in the military in the first place -- college assistance. At the same time, I know a bunch of people who enlisted to avoid college. It's those men/women that really need to make sure they pick up a transferable skill while in the military.

In the end it's definitely NOT ideal for these brave soldiers to come back and feel at a disadvantage because of their service. However I also think it's irresponsible for someone to enlist in the military and think they're going to be taken care of for the rest of their lives.
posted by thorny at 7:06 PM on April 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


I sometimes want to make On Killing required reading for war threads on Metafilter. It is far from perfect, and the author more than a few times goes completely off-reservation.

But it damn near should be required reading for anyone that wants to talk about this...
posted by Cathedral at 7:08 PM on April 6, 2010


How about pointing out that military service is sold to working class and poor kids ... as a way to get ahead and become employable, when it looks like it's not doing any such thing?

Kind of like how college is sold to whites?
posted by hamida2242 at 7:08 PM on April 6, 2010 [4 favorites]


However I also think it's irresponsible for someone to enlist in the military and think they're going to be taken care of for the rest of their lives.

Why shouldn't they think that? If you do your 20 you're guaranteed a pension + health care for life. And it's available for all races & women (sorry LGBT folks)- the military is basically the one effective social program America has.
posted by hamida2242 at 7:11 PM on April 6, 2010


And, if I may soapbox for a moment, the party that most touted the rhetoric and used it to terrorize the American people into 8 years of Human Centipede levels shit-eating government (reference from a recent thread) are the least likely to give a fuck about the troops or do anything for them because, well, that would be "socialism."

Yeah, we should vote them out of office. Then things will be better.
posted by Slap Factory at 7:18 PM on April 6, 2010


They were trained to kill. And then let loose here. What the fuck were they supposed to do?

What made them, and their experience in war, so different from Korean and WWII vets? I'm not being snarky. I know that the US was divided (understatement) about our involvement in Vietnam, and was not welcoming, culturally, in the way it was when vets came home from WWII.

But was combat experience in Vietnam so different from what it was in Guadalcanal, for instance? Did a similar percentage of vets coming home from WWII service have the kinds of reintegration problems that Vietnam-era vets did, or those returning now from Iraq and Afghanistan do?
posted by rtha at 7:19 PM on April 6, 2010


"Did a similar percentage of vets coming home from WWII service have the kinds of reintegration problems that Vietnam-era vets did, or those returning now from Iraq and Afghanistan do?"

They came back to a different situation.. The '50's were boom times, you could get a job in the auto plants with less than a HS degree, make good money, buy a house, etc.

Things are different now, the opportunities do NOT exist for the guys that are returning...and, as mentioned up-thread, the skills they come back with lead them to bad places.

I've spent years working with Military Families Speak Out, listening to the stories from vets and families, and attending a few events, you'll quickly understand why they are having such a difficult time finding their footing when they return.
posted by HuronBob at 7:39 PM on April 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


But was combat experience in Vietnam so different from what it was in Guadalcanal, for instance? Did a similar percentage of vets coming home from WWII service have the kinds of reintegration problems that Vietnam-era vets did, or those returning now from Iraq and Afghanistan do?

In WW2, units served together, and those who survived or weren't invalidated out from wounds came home together. In the Vietnam War, individuals served for one year, and came home alone. After WW2, they came home heroes to a country that -- through defense jobs and meatless days and wheatless days and scrap drives and war bond sales -- had also experienced being at war. Vietnam veterans came home in dribs and drabs, to a country for which the war existed only on TV, where (until very late in the war) only those who couldn't or wouldn't get out of service actually served. (E.g, look at how few current politicians actually went to 'Nam, compared to the number of politicians in the '50s and '60s who saw combat in WW2.)

In WW2, substance abuse in combat was limited; in combat in Vietnam it was pervasive.

WW2 was largely a war with fronts, at which were fought nationalistic aggressors who had invaded and subjugated their neighbors; Vietnam was largely an occupation, of a countryside that saw the US and the US-backed South Vietnamese government as colonialist occupiers trampling down the nationalistic ambitions and religious freedom of the people. (The Diem government oppressed the Buddhists in favor of Catholicism, a religion associated with the French colonialist and the wealthier urban Vietnamese who backed the French and later the US.)

This occupation resulted in a static sort of war, in which the same troops took the same hills and hamlets week after week, ceding them back to the VC at night or to the NVA the next week. Little sense of purpose or accomplishment accrues in repeating this week after week for a corrupt puppet government, "saving" people who don't even want you there, certainly nothing like defeating Hitler and Tojo.
posted by orthogonality at 7:49 PM on April 6, 2010 [24 favorites]


orthogonality... well said
posted by HuronBob at 8:07 PM on April 6, 2010 [1 favorite]



But was combat experience in Vietnam so different from what it was in Guadalcanal, for instance? Did a similar percentage of vets coming home from WWII service have the kinds of reintegration problems that Vietnam-era vets did, or those returning now from Iraq and Afghanistan do?

YES! Prior to Nam U.S. forces were viewed as allies and saviours by the civilian populace. The enemy was well defined and easily discernible. Since Nam we are viewed by much of the in country populace as invaders, occupiers and worse. Consequently the military learns to distrust everyone and view people as less than human.
posted by notreally at 8:21 PM on April 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


However I also think it's irresponsible for someone to enlist in the military and think they're going to be taken care of for the rest of their lives.

Maybe so, but is it irresponsible for a kid to sign up and believe that he's not going to be shackled with unemployment after putting his or her life on the line for eight years or whatever?
posted by angrycat at 8:50 PM on April 6, 2010


Yes. Yes and yes. WWII vets were heroes. Nam vets came home to people spitting on them and calling the baby killers.

You might call that a slight difference.
posted by Splunge at 8:50 PM on April 6, 2010


Nam vets came home to people spitting on them and calling the baby killers.

You know that that's a right-wing lie, don't you?
posted by VikingSword at 8:55 PM on April 6, 2010 [6 favorites]


One of the hard bits of reintegration is the loyalty aspect; soldiers are used to working with, and presumably for, men and women who would die to protect them. Many of them know people that have. That forms a kind of kinship that nothing else ever quite replaces. And when you put men who are used to that kind of total commitment nto a normal workday world, with bosses that would practically cut their throats to make the quarter, they often don't cope well.

In way, you can argue that they're moving from a socialist mindset to a capitalist one, and when their personalities have literally been broken down and remade, it's really difficult for some of them to merge into a society with people who haven't been programmed that way.

Plus, it's worth pointing out that most armed services personnel aren't particularly noted for strong intellectual skills. You certainly get extremely intelligent soldiers, and I've known a number of them myself, but many just aren't suited for white-collar jobs, and the hollowing out of our manufacturing economy gives them nowhere to go. They'll probably do a very good job of HOLDING the jobs once they have them, but getting them in the first place is tough when there just aren't that many to be found.

Further, most jobs like that pay very poorly. They're used to being paid shit, but they also don't have to provide anything else for themselves; their paychecks in the Army could go almost completely to luxuries, where in civilian life they have to find housing and transportation and clothing and all the other necessary items for living. That means a lot of them will really be struggling; if they joined at 18, they're probably not going to have much training with money or budgeting.

It's not a shock, in other words, that they wouldn't necessarily do all that well. Their workplace environment is wildly different, their skill sets often aren't very transferable, and they may not have the raw potential for an office job. And they've seen and done horrific things that make it tough to ever completely relate to people that haven't.

We'll be paying for these wars for a long, long time.
posted by Malor at 8:57 PM on April 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


The thought comes to mind that maybe we need 'de-bootcamps', to try to retrain these guys with the skills they'll need to survive in civilian life. I think it might really help if they were explicitly reminded of the differences, and the dangers in trying to recapture the rush of combat in regular life. We take six months to get them ready for war, can't we take another six to get them ready for peace?
posted by Malor at 9:00 PM on April 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


Thanks, folks. I knew most of this, but hadn't put it together in this context, exactly, before.

In WW2, units served together, and those who survived or weren't invalidated out from wounds came home together. In the Vietnam War, individuals served for one year, and came home alone.

Has that changed - that is, is it still done the way it was done in Vietnam - in Iraq and Afghanistan? Seems like I read a lot about units etc. going together, now.

I was going through some of my grandmother's things a few years ago, and among other things, I came across one of her ration books, with ration slips still in it, and a scrap of paper noting what the others had been used for. She had such a different experience of war than we do now.
posted by rtha at 9:00 PM on April 6, 2010


This might help. I had both of my sons read it. It was as important to me as giving them instruction in Hiroshima and The Holocaust.

They have to know.
posted by Splunge at 9:00 PM on April 6, 2010


As press crimes go, the myth of the spitting protester ain't even a misdemeanor. Reporters can't be expected to fact-check every quotation. But it does teach us a journalistic lesson: Never lend somebody a sympathetic ear just because he's sympathetic.

Spitting on the Troops: Old Myth, New Rumors:

Stories of spat-upon Vietnam veterans are bogus. Born out of accusations made by the Nixon administration, they were enlivened in popular culture (recall Rambo saying he was spat on by those maggots at the airport) and enhanced in the imaginations of Vietnam-generation men — some veterans, some not. The stories besmirch the reputation of the anti-war movement and help construct an alibi for why we lost the war: had it not been for the betrayal by liberals in Washington and radicals in the street, we could have defeated the Vietnamese. The stories also erase from public memory the image, discomforting to some Americans, of Vietnam veterans who helped end the carnage they had been part of.
posted by VikingSword at 9:02 PM on April 6, 2010 [6 favorites]


VikingSword: "Nam vets came home to people spitting on them and calling the baby killers.

You know that that's a right-wing lie, don't you?
"

I hope you never meet my friend Frankie and tell him that. Unless it was (hamburger). At least I hope it was.
posted by Splunge at 9:03 PM on April 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


Okay, you got your info from your sources. I got my info from people that were there. I guess your sources trump mine. Sorry to make a big deal about it. It must have been a huge hallucination that those drugged out veterans made up.

You got me.

I'm so embarrassed right now.
posted by Splunge at 9:16 PM on April 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


I hope you never meet my friend Frankie and tell him that. Unless it was (hamburger). At least I hope it was.

As happens so often in life, we must take the available evidence and evaluate it - because rarely do we have direct knowledge of some historical events. I wasn't there, so I must try to form some kind of opinion based on what's available to me.

On the one hand, I have evidence gathered by someone whose research has not been impeached, with a lot of analysis from various sources. On the other hand, I have the evidence (second hand, through you), of your friend Frankie. Whom shall I believe more? Decisions, decisions.

Look, I've actually known - or better said, met - a handful of Nam vets. They were all over the map. Some were sane, normal folk. Some unhinged right-wingers who thought we were stabbed in the back, a la Germans in WWI. I wouldn't necessarily take any single Nam vet's opinion as reflecting reality. On the other hand, if you can come up with photographic or film evidence, I'd take my hat off. If it was such a common occurrence, and we know photographers and film and TV cameras tend to gather around returning troops, it shouldn't be so difficult to dig up one, just one, just a single one example of such a widespread phenomenon. I'm more than willing to change my mind - I merely ask for a bit of solid evidence.
posted by VikingSword at 9:17 PM on April 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


Hey, metafilter actually dealt with the spitting issue! Interesting.
posted by VikingSword at 9:26 PM on April 6, 2010


"You know that that's a right-wing lie, don't you?" I hope you never meet my friend Frankie and tell him that.

It's unfortunate that the straight-forward reading implies "because if you did, Frankie would go all PTSD-hair-trigger-crazy-Nam-Vet on your ass", as that just reinforces another baseless stereotype.

But if Frankie is an actual Vietnam veteran who actually was spit upon when he got back to "The World", historians of the 1960s would love to document his story, as all other such stories have turned out to be without foundation.

Seriously, mefi-mail me, and I'll put Frankie in contact with a professional historian who can investigate his testimony.

But I suspect Frankie merely heard the story from someone who heard the story, and that that probably originated in CREEP's (Nixon's Committee to Re-elect the President) agitprop.
posted by orthogonality at 9:36 PM on April 6, 2010 [3 favorites]


But if Frankie is an actual Vietnam veteran

PM sent. Let's take out of here.
posted by Splunge at 9:57 PM on April 6, 2010


You know that that's a right-wing lie, don't you?

He was a voluntary, armed participant in a war crime that murdered hundreds of thousands of civilians.

Same sentiment sans bodily fluids.

(And, as much as it gives some people their anti-war-ons, let's not tee off on the "voluntary" thing here, OK? Because no voluntary military doesn't mean no wars, it means that if you're a male in the U.S. that form you were supposed to sign when you turned 18 comes into play.)
posted by Cyrano at 10:11 PM on April 6, 2010


This is my boat. I got hurt in 2003, deployed in 2004, returned in 2005, and was medically discharged in 2006. I can't get a job with the skills I was forced into in Iraq, knocking down doors with Blackwater or whoever, because I'm sane and I'm disabled. I can't get a job with my original MOS skills, doing avalanche control with the National Guard, because I'm disabled and the job sucks. I can't get a job flipping burgers, or any other manual labor, or anything more strenuous than sitting down, because I'm disabled. I can't get a job with my pre-Army computer/office skills because in every opening I'm competing against people with degrees. I'm applying to get my own degree with a combination of the GI bill and some programs the VA offers disabled vets, but I'm already so tired all the time from the odd jobs I'm doing to pay the bills I don't know how I'll manage a full time school load, too.

So yeah... the whole situation is a mess, and the "support the troops" refrain from the right over the past ten years is pretty fucking hollow by now.
posted by Evilspork at 10:12 PM on April 6, 2010 [4 favorites]


This thread is painful to read. If there's one All American Past-time that the left and the right both love, it's blaming the victim.
posted by serazin at 10:12 PM on April 6, 2010 [3 favorites]


This thread is painful to read. If there's one All American Past-time that the left and the right both love, it's blaming the victim.

No one's blaming the dead Iraqi civilians.
posted by Mayor Curley at 10:23 PM on April 6, 2010


Oh please. Do you really think the world is so simple as that?
posted by serazin at 10:33 PM on April 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


" 'But if Frankie is an actual Vietnam veteran' PM sent. Let's take out of here."

Just to clear up any confusion: while Splunge stands by his friends' accounts of being spat upon on return from Vietnam, he is no longer in contact with any of the veterans who claimed to have been spat upon. Further, Splunge only recalls the full name of one such veteran, a name too common to be further researched.

So while Splunge did mefi-mail me, I can't take it any further. We still know of "Vietnam veterans being spat upon" only from "friend of a friend" anecdotes.

Splunge has graciously given me permission to recount what he mefi-mailed to me, in order to post this follow-up.
posted by orthogonality at 10:37 PM on April 6, 2010 [4 favorites]


and the "support the troops" refrain from the right over the past ten years is pretty fucking hollow by now.

Well, I'm on what you would call "the left". And I fully support the troops, past and present, for what they do, for what they give. Their lives. Their bodies. Even their families.

I may not support the "why" they are there. But I want each and every one to know that I support them for the fact that they do it. If they are there, for whatever reason, I support THEM.
posted by Splunge at 10:41 PM on April 6, 2010


Well, I'm on what you would call "the left". And I fully support the troops, past and present, for what they do, for what they give. Their lives. Their bodies. Even their families.

Sorry, I meant when the right regularly shouted "SUPPORT THE TROOPS!!@#(_R" while starting wars, ignoring units' lack of armor, increasing deployments and deployment lengths, decreasing hazard pay, fighting servicemember wage raises, stuff like that. When the left says "support the troops", they usually mean it.
posted by Evilspork at 11:14 PM on April 6, 2010


Why should being in the military give you priority for a job? I can't see the moral claim there.

Because you put your life on the line for your country. Regardless of how you feel about the wars, the military, or even the US...you have to agree that when you go into the military, you are shortening your time on earth. I think thats a pretty good reason to give someone priority for a job.

If only there was a government service that would help them get training and jump to the front of the employment line. Oh wait.

So how many FEDERAL jobs are there for all the people coming back from war? Really...you think your little link would solve this problem. Wow.
posted by hal_c_on at 12:32 AM on April 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Because you put your life on the line for your country. Regardless of how you feel about the wars, the military, or even the US...you have to agree that when you go into the military, you are shortening your time on earth. I think thats a pretty good reason to give someone priority for a job.

This goes to the very heart of what the US military is. What it's looking like right now, is a resource protection force for a government that's flailing all over the place. What Viet Nam didn't make apparent, Iraq II has underlined and bolded. I understand that times are tough all over the country, and young people with no money or education have few if any options. But this one, brother, is not a good one. To be used as a tool in an unjust fashion does not put one in the front of the line in my world. If anything, it makes me question one's judgement, and it certainly doesn't make you a "hero."


Bottom line....you went and killed brown people for oil, and we were told it was to protect our freedom. You sold out, I'm not buying in.

That being said, I'm all but unemployed and not a business owner, so I'm just some guy on the internet.
posted by nevercalm at 5:19 AM on April 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


The military still pays soldiers, right? Sounds like they had a job, at least for a couple of years, doing precisely what they were trained for.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:52 AM on April 7, 2010


I agree, nevercalm. Being in the military isn't exactly a source of respect and admiration for most people; it certainly isn't for me. Let's say someone of intelligence graduated from college in 2002 and is now, at age 30 or 31, a hiring manager. Why would she look down a list of (many) applicants for an open position at her firm and pick the person who fell in line with the military propaganda machine? "Flew Predator drones in order to kill Afghans for six years" doesn't really compete well with "Went to two- and four-year colleges, completing degrees in computer science and information systems, followed by a two-year stint at an entry-level position in data management."

The only things the Military is good at training are useless in civilian life.
posted by sonic meat machine at 6:04 AM on April 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Bottom line....you went and killed brown people for oil, and we were told it was to protect our freedom. You sold out, I'm not buying in.

You know, especially as a veteran posted in this thread, this seems to me like an incredibly rude thing to say.

But I'm just some girl on the internet.
posted by angrycat at 6:58 AM on April 7, 2010


Bottom line....you went and killed brown people for oil.

I joined before it was about oil. It's funny, I was finishing basic in Oklahoma when they invaded, and our drill sergeants had a great time showing us news clippings, just pointing and cackling.
posted by Evilspork at 7:03 AM on April 7, 2010


You know, especially as a veteran posted in this thread, this seems to me like an incredibly rude thing to say.

Yeah, but rude and reality don't necessarily gibe. Sorry to all the vets, as I said, but the USA is seriously off course, and the spearhead is the military.

Additionally, I spent years in HR and my wife is currently a hiring manager. Military experience is not necessarily relevant to her business model, and the regular army walking-in-stride-not-questioning model definitely isn't relevant. At some point, reality has to intrude. This is reality.
posted by nevercalm at 7:17 AM on April 7, 2010




"Did a similar percentage of vets coming home from WWII service have the kinds of reintegration problems that Vietnam-era vets did, or those returning now from Iraq and Afghanistan do?"


I don't have time to hunt for the citations now, but research has shown a greater instance of homelessness, substance abuse, and mental illness in post-Vietnam (yes, you read that correctly) veterans. The key factor is not necessarily the nature of combat (though certainly the increased number of vets surviving with TBI, behind-the-lines soldiers still witnessing violence, etc. in this most recent conflict has an effect on the latest cohort of veterans). The real underlying is hypothesized to be the switch to an all-volunteer force. The UK also saw increased homelessness among veterans after ending universal conscription.

When you've got an all-volunteer force, particularly during peace time, you're increasing the proportion of enlistees who are poor, isolated, or troubled enough to view the military as a "hail mary pass" career opportunity. A history of trauma or child abuse (including prior rapes, violence witnessed, etc) makes one more likely to develop PTSD later in life.
posted by availablelight at 7:26 AM on April 7, 2010


...and the regular army walking-in-stride-not-questioning model definitely isn't relevant.

A lot of the people who get out early (i.e. didn't reenlist) are the exact kind of person who the walking-in-stride-not-questioning model didn't fit. They chose to legally leave the service instead of letting the career machine eat them. Either they were like me, they felt some kind of obligation to do their part, or they needed a job, or they needed health insurance and thousands of dollars of dental work, or maybe they were that kind of meathead follow-orders kind of guy, but the reality of the military's bullshit snapped them out of it and made them think about what the hell they were doing with their life.

I'm not going to pretend that most of the people in the service are saints, but they're not in the minority, either.
posted by Evilspork at 7:33 AM on April 7, 2010


this seems to me like an incredibly rude thing to say.

Yeah, we wouldn't wanna say anything rude. That's bad.
posted by Dumsnill at 7:46 AM on April 7, 2010


... we drew them into this conflict through a lot of deceit and lies...

As usual.


-------------------------

WRT to the "spitting myth" - calling it that and touting lack of photos, etc. is attempting to prove a negative. We know how that works. All it takes is one veteran to stand up and say, "Yes, it happened. I know because it happened to me." So here I am. It happened. I know because it happened to me. I have no photos or film or witnesses I can produce, but it galls me every time the conventional wisdom claims it could not have occurred because there's no film of it. I'm willing to stipulate that it never happened in front of a camera at a demonstration covered by news media. That's a pretty small subset of the large set of situations where it might have happened. To say that because it didn't happen in that small subset means it could not have ever happened is not good logic, and is personally insulting to me.

I have not said this here before, because I didn't want to deal with the ensuing pile-on, but as I said, it galls when my experience is labeled myth. If you're thinking I am a right-wing apologist for warmongery, you do not know me and have not been paying attention to my comment and posting history.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 8:02 AM on April 7, 2010 [4 favorites]


Weird, given all the hiring incentives (tax breaks mostly) for veterans I've been reading about I would think large companies would be hiring them like crazy.

I'm not sure which programs you might be referring to but I know there have been similar initiatives for ex-offenders returning the community from prison and companies typically balk at hiring them when they read the program's small print. They go in thinking the policy is "hire one ex-offender, get a HUGE tax break" and then realize the program is actually "get a nominal tax break once you've hired 10 ex-offenders." Basically, to get the tax break you have to hire enough ex-offenders that you're essentially running an employment program for ex-offenders within your company, which a lot of companies get nervous about. These are potential employees that are going to be hard to train, may have behavioral problems, may have little to no work history, substance abuse or mental health problems, etc. Most companies decide the tax break won't cover what they assume will be long term headaches and hidden costs. The program in Philly that made this offer got a ton of press when it was first unveiled and was discovered after its implementation to be basically unused by the companies that initially expressed interest in it.

Of course, I'm not implying that combat veteran's are equivalent to ex-offenders, but I think the comparison sheds some light on why large companies aren't hiring recently returned combat vets in droves.
posted by The Straightener at 8:33 AM on April 7, 2010


Yeah, we wouldn't wanna say anything rude. That's bad.

It's total bullshit and offensive. Yeah, I'm sure some people really did join the military because they're violent racists who wanted to "go kill brown people". However, I remember what military recruiting was like when I was in high school. They never mention war, or killing anyone. They show you all the cool gadgets you get to play with and tell you all the awesome skills you'll have to use later in life (a particularly cruel joke). For someone without a hell of a lot of prospects, it seems like a pretty sweet deal. The people that joined weren't complicit or dumb gullible marks. They were tricked by a sophisticated recruiting and propaganda machine that's been constantly improving itself since long before they were even thought about. The guy in this thread fucking cleared avalanches, for Christ's sake, and joined before the war. How the fuck can you say that someone like that is a "war criminal" who wanted to "kill brown people"? Way to be the right's straw-man left wing bozo for them. Try having some empathy, try looking at the world in less simplistic terms, try growing. the. fuck. up.
posted by DecemberBoy at 9:20 AM on April 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


How the fuck can you say that someone like that is a "war criminal" who wanted to "kill brown people"?

I'm pretty sure I didn't. (You quoted me, so it seems like you are arguing with me.)
posted by Dumsnill at 9:30 AM on April 7, 2010


For those who believe that American soldiers have no part in anti-war efforts, or for anyone interested in a history of a GI and vet centered anti-war movement, I highly, highly recommend the wonderful documentary Sir! No Sir!. You can watch some of it online, or buy the whole video for only 15 bucks.
posted by serazin at 9:47 AM on April 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


To be generous, I think anyone who joined the military before the Iraq II invasion is off the hook, morally - even though I think you have some obligation to think about the overall picture... the U.S. military has been a force for oppression since at least Vietnam - you wanna join that? Still, let's be generous.

However, I remember what military recruiting was like when I was in high school. They never mention war, or killing anyone.

Please. This won't wash. If you are capable of breathing, you are fully aware that a soldier in the military is called to kill, and is in danger of being killed him/herself. It is in the very concept of "military", just as it is in the concept of "police" - no 18 year old - scratch that, no 6 year old doesn't understand that "military" means "potential war", and war means death and killing.

They show you all the cool gadgets you get to play with and tell you all the awesome skills you'll have to use later in life (a particularly cruel joke). For someone without a hell of a lot of prospects, it seems like a pretty sweet deal.

So they join the mafia? That's how they recruit people into criminal gangs - happened to all disadvantaged groups, rejected by the mainstream society, with few prospects - the Irish, Italians, Jews, Mexicans, Guatemalans etc., etc., etc. Yes, we understand. But the majority of Irish, Italians, Jews, Mexicans etc., didn't go for it. There is no excuse "hey, you may have to kill people, but look at all the loot you'll get!". You are 18 years old. Old enough to vote, for fucks sake - which means, you have been judged to be mature enough to make political choices. It was your choice. You are fully responsible, and that's how society judges you. I remember when I was 15. I knew perfectly well that there are unjust wars, and I would not join any gang, officially sanctioned or not, that engaged in killing, whether they let me play "cool games" or not. And no, I was not some special snowflake - the same went for my peers. And, the same goes for most people out there - most choose not to join vicious organizations.

The people that joined weren't complicit or dumb gullible marks. They were tricked by a sophisticated recruiting and propaganda machine that's been constantly improving itself since long before they were even thought about.

It was your choice - you were 18. Most people are not tricked. Most people don't join the military. Most people don't smoke. You are responsible. Are tobacco companies reprehensible as they market to teens? Yes. But you are 18 - you are fully responsible in the eyes of the law. And frankly, it is your responsibility to research what you're getting into. You joined a murderous praetorian guard after 2003. You are responsible, full stop.

Now, unemployment is a different kettle of fish. Whether a vet or not, our economic system is seriously distorted. It should not be the case that people feel the need to join a gang/military in order to have enough to eat.
posted by VikingSword at 10:04 AM on April 7, 2010


VikingSword, do you know anyone who is or has been in the military? Do you know or have you spent any significant time with people from working class communities where the military recruits most actively? Have you read any memoirs written by soldiers? Do you have special knowledge about US or international military history? I'm curious what makes you so confident in your perspective.
posted by serazin at 10:23 AM on April 7, 2010


Yes, I do know some military people. A close friend of mine is (at this point) a lieutenant colonel in the marines - and I've known him since 1993. Through him, I've met and hung out with many, many, many folks in the military. He's a right wing nut. And he's the best friend you could ever ask for - intensely loyal. When I was in a hospital for several months, he came to visit - driving out for many hours, and actually took a motel room nearby for three weeks... now, many friends visited me, but this guy was something else. As you can imagine, we don't see eye to eye on politics, but I never forget for a second, that he's an outstanding human being (and yes, all his chain email right wing nutso stuff gets the delete button). Being friends with him has been invaluable to me - it colors my view of the human beings on the right, even extreme right (he denounces Fox News as too lefty... yes, he's off the charts) - I don't hate them, even if I hate their politics. When I'm tempted to see the right as an undifferentiated mass of nastiness, I think of my friend, and am brought back to the essential truth that we are all individuals in the end.

But I do stand strongly by my views of the military and folks who sign up after 2003. You are 18. You have the right to vote, society judged you as capable of choosing the president and the political direction of the country. The president you choose is the Commander in Chief of the military you sign up for. You thought Bush was a good commander and took us into a good war in Iraq? Then why did you sign up? You are 18, you can vote for your commander, and you can vote with your feet when it comes to the organization he heads - the military. You know, the Germans didn't have the choice (later on) to vote for their leader, and didn't have the choice to even sign up for their war machine - we do, we have a voluntary force - this is more akin to signing up for the SS. I condemn it unreservedly. My friend strongly supported the war. I strongly disagree. Still, I was always very worried about his well-being in conflict. But I have no illusions about the cause, or his ultimate responsibility for his own actions.
posted by VikingSword at 11:02 AM on April 7, 2010


I know tons of people who are/were in the military. I was heavily recruited in HS. I've read a wide variety of memoirs by soldiers. I don't know about special knowledge, but I'm fairly well-read in US and international military history, both the usual gung-ho as well as the anti- side as well.

And there's no doubt, to me, that the military relies on how bad the national as well as local economies are/might be, and that they exploit people of lesser education. This is what militaries do, I think, almost by definition. They are machines made to suck in humans and spit out destruction.

Keeping all that in mind, I am still not convinced that signing up and going to foreign places to kill people is something that should be rewarded and/or put you in a favorable position for employment. Especially seeing as how many of the most recent memoirs written by soldiers really aren't flattering in the very least to anyone in the service, other than in praising their loyalty. I've heard one too many stories about tattooed guys in gun turrets drinking Mountain Dew and chewing tobacco talking about blowing away "hajis" while equating 9/11 and Saddam Hussein to think of our modern-day military as an ideal employment training facility. I'm sure there are members of US forces in harm's way who perform "heroic" deeds every day, but it seems there are just as many, if not more who do just the opposite. Which side you choose to paint with the brush of the other is up to you.

For me, I choose to have no illusions. War is hell. I imagine being a warrior is hell. Hiring you afterwards? Do the math.
posted by nevercalm at 11:12 AM on April 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


For those who believe that American soldiers have no part in anti-war efforts, or for anyone interested in a history of a GI and vet centered anti-war movement, I highly, highly recommend the wonderful documentary Sir! No Sir!. You can watch some of it online, or buy the whole video for only 15 bucks.

It looks like Sir! No Sir! is going to be on LinkTV next Monday.
posted by homunculus at 11:18 AM on April 7, 2010


VikingSword, you could very easily make the same damn post about the working life. If you really think that you -- yes, you, Mr. Too Smart For A Vicious Organization -- are not a tiny part of a vast criminal gang which is slaughtering people all over the globe on your behalf, you're either naive or foolish. Or living off the grid in a shack on somebody else's land, posting to metafilter using your amazing mind-powers.

The entirety of the American political and economic system is built on oppression, exploitation, and death. All of it. Just like every other political system on Earth, in fact. And the sad part is, you think you're better than other people because they don't get to pretend otherwise -- because they actually do some of the dirty work you're too goddamn "responsible" to own up to. Hey, congratulations on your total non-involvement in American war!

Personally, I think this kind of divisive rhetoric is exactly why the system continues to get away with for-profit warmongering. As long as somebody else is always "responsible", none of us are. This country badly needs universal service, so we can once again do away with the ridiculous notion that the military is a separate, innately-aberrant realm which citizens can simply "vote" against.
posted by vorfeed at 11:18 AM on April 7, 2010 [3 favorites]


Well, I applaud your willingness to judge an individual on his own terms and befriend someone who doesn't share your exact values.

Personally, though I agree it's important in my own life to take responsibility for my actions, I also note that we live in a world where agency is constantly taken from us. The random chance of where we were born, what economic class, color, gender, family etc we happen to have born into, enormously impacts the directions we go in this world. A significant proportion of people who join the military have few options. Maybe they grew up in families where the military was venerated, or maybe they simply had no other economic options. Of course some people join because they support the ideology of war. And everyone who joins has choice. But let's be real about the context in which people join.

But even if you totally ignore context, and focus exclusively on the power of choice that every human being does possess, surely you must acknowledge that your own actions have detrimental effects that you don't intend: Do you drive a car? Do you pay taxes? Do you consume products that are detrimental to the natural environment or that are constructed in sweat shops on the other side of the world from you? What is the possible value of sitting in judgment on the actions of a common soldier instead of focusing on how you can change your own impact? Or instead of on changing the people who are making the foreign policy calls that send 18 year olds to war? The same people who, when those 18 year olds come home with injuries to body and mind, do little to nothing to help them transition back into civilian life?

All our actions have an impact, we are all responsible. Sure, let's take responsibility, but let's also show compassion and generosity in order to create a world that is more fair for everyone.
posted by serazin at 11:26 AM on April 7, 2010


Keeping all that in mind, I am still not convinced that signing up and going to foreign places to kill people is something that should be rewarded[...].

I'm not a pacifist. I believe that - unfortunately - the military are a necessary part of society and that the society has a right to defend itself. I long for a day when there are no soldiers anywhere in the world, but for now, it is a necessary evil. And if it is necessary, then it would be wrong and hypocritical to condemn people who sign up to serve. I do agree that they deserve our gratitude.

But I think this is all conditional. The only way in which we will ever get rid of the evil of war, is if we unwaveringly adhere to the principle of non-aggression. I am for the military - as a purely defensive organization. No pre-emptive war bullshit. When your political system is so broken that pre-emptive wars, or wars of aggression are possible, you have an ethical obligation to deprive them of manpower. Don't sign up. I would not sign up for the military given the political system here - Bush, Obama, whoever is in charge doesn't matter (unless we are directly attacked militarily). The day we make it constitutionally and practically impossible to start wars of aggression, is the day I will fully support the military (until such a time as the world is on the same "defense only" posture, at which point we can all simultaneously disband our militaries). If all citizens all over the world demanded militaries that are only defensive, wars would stop. No first strike - period. You don't have that guaranteed, I don't sign up, and I think nobody should sign up.
posted by VikingSword at 11:29 AM on April 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


For me, I choose to have no illusions. War is hell. I imagine being a warrior is hell. Hiring you afterwards? Do the math.

Wow, that's being under "no illusions"? Tell me: if the fact that "war is hell" renders people unable to work afterward, then how did we get here? How'd we get through thousands of millennia of on-and-off war if, during the "off" part, everyone from the "on" part wasn't worthy of re-joining society?

You'd think the hundreds and hundreds of years in which many of the leaders of our society were soldiers -- including the present day -- would be enough to refute this idea, but I guess not. No, not only are soldiers unfit for society, "reality" obligates us to make no effort to employ them... as opposed to college graduates, for instance, for whom "the math" comes out positive despite the fact that they typically have close to zero experience in anything outside the classroom.

IMHO, this attitude merely contributes to the same problems with the military it's ostensibly meant to counter. I wish more people would read Achilles in Vietnam and Odysseus in America -- these books make the case that our current "war is hell and no one should ever do it" outlook toward the military, including modern inventions like individual rotation, volunteer-only service, and post-service non-integration, is helping to cause widespread PTSD.
posted by vorfeed at 11:40 AM on April 7, 2010


vorfeed: "you could very easily make the same damn post about the working life. If you really think that you -- yes, you, Mr. Too Smart For A Vicious Organization -- are not a tiny part of a vast criminal gang which is slaughtering people all over the globe on your behalf, you're either naive or foolish."

serazin: "But even if you totally ignore context, and focus exclusively on the power of choice that every human being does possess, surely you must acknowledge that your own actions have detrimental effects that you don't intend: Do you drive a car? Do you pay taxes? Do you consume products that are detrimental to the natural environment or that are constructed in sweat shops on the other side of the world from you?"

I had that dilemma when I was about 12, but since then I grew up - I assume we all did. Folks, we're all adults here. We understand the silliness of such arguments, the "slippery slope" fallacy, the "you breathe the same air as Hitler and part of the ecosystem and therefore are in some sense responsible for everything", "everything in the universe is connected" blah, blah. And now, back to reality - none of these arguments wash when you join the mafia and murder, no matter what your background and how deprived you were, and how naive, and how jobless and how social conditions enmeshed you in an inextricable web of dependency and co-responsibility. Think about it - these arguments have been trotted out, ultimately by philosophers who were adherents of strict determinism, already centuries ago. How can anybody be held responsible for anything given that we are all merely machines responding to unbendable laws of physics-->chemsitry-->biology--->psychology--->sociology--->your actions/crimes/kindness. And it's still bullshit. Because we have room for agency (setting aside all flaws with actual strict determinism on purely theoretical grounds - not enough room to deal with it here) - and insofar as we can, we attempt to affect it. I cannot control the actions of the U.S., but I can choose to not join the military - innocent people will still be killed, but I won't pull the trigger - yes, I paid for it through taxes, but I exercised all my power by voting against the leaders who led us to war - yes, I was overridden, but I didn't stop agitating against the war, and yes my taxes still pay for the war etc.

Same with being part of the economic system - yes, I am part of it, but insofar as my agency allows - I do my part (vote, recycle, don't work unethical jobs etc. times a thousand). It doesn't mean I have the power to singlehandedly change society - I can only be responsible for the powers I have. The same powers the soldier has. It is not about changing the world by yourself. It is about doing what is in YOUR power. As it is in the power of every 18 year old to sign up or not in a volunteer based system.
posted by VikingSword at 11:48 AM on April 7, 2010


Personally, I think this kind of divisive rhetoric is exactly why the system continues to get away with for-profit warmongering. As long as somebody else is always "responsible", none of us are.

Funny, I would say almost the exact opposite. The reason the system is able to get away with for-profit warmongering is precisely because it deems us all "responsible"--the soldiers are heroes fighting on our behalf, defending our freedom, sacrificing themselves for our greater good, etc. Doubts about wars are easily quashed with "support the troops" rhetoric. How dare we oppose the war--they're doing it for us!
posted by equalpants at 11:54 AM on April 7, 2010


It's as if people never even heard of conscientious objectors. You can make a difference. One day at a time. You will not by yourself right all the world's wrongs, but insofar as you can you should - and the more people do, the better it gets. If you think about it, positions such as vorfeed's imply that no change should be possible - that we should still be in caves, just as those inexorable forces hold us forever in thrall. Talk about naive. Political systems evolve precisely because individuals choose to exercise their agency... even if all change doesn't happen at once, because you cannot convince or compel all people to act.
posted by VikingSword at 11:59 AM on April 7, 2010


Do you believe this war in Iraq is unjust? Do you think it is for oil not against terrorism or whatever bullshit explanation we're being fed now? Then let me ask you a again if you drive a car or pay taxes.

I'm not making any kind of slippery slope argument. I'm saying that this war is happening so people like you and me can drive our fucking cars and it's happening because people like you and me pay for it with our taxes. This isn't about butterflies flapping their wings on the other side of the globe, this is a direct connection between US foreign policy that kills both Iraqi kids and American teens who fight there and us. You and me.

But go ahead and spend your energy attacking the people who are being destroyed there and deny your own culpability. I'm sure that all those kids who can't get into college because they grew up in neighborhoods with shitty schools and they can't afford it even if they could get in and there are no god-damned jobs anyway will be moved. And that's sure to stop the war, right?
posted by serazin at 12:12 PM on April 7, 2010


Then let me ask you a again if you drive a car or pay taxes.

deny your own culpability

serazin, I say this without rancor, or snark: you really have not thought through the issues. I have answered your questions in the above posts - comprehensively. If you see flaws in my arguments, address those, and I'll respond, but your last post seems not to understand the answers and there you'll have to do the work yourself (and it isn't hard).
posted by VikingSword at 12:28 PM on April 7, 2010


I had that dilemma when I was about 12, but since then I grew up

You mean "sold out" -- or, in your terms, "failed to choose to not join the capitalist economy". You also had a choice as to which system to enter, yet you're more than willing to pretend otherwise, while simultaneously holding others responsible for their own choices. You are part of the system, "but insofar as your agency allows, you do your part"... yet you are unwilling to extend the same excuses to members of the armed forces, many of whom never take any more direct part in the killing than you do, and many of whom are involved in trying to change the system as far as their agency allows.

Your refusal to apply your own logic equally shows just how valid your argument is. You speak of continual responsibility and personal agency, yet shrink morality down to one single decision... but only for those who chose "incorrectly", of course. And then you accuse others of ignoring reality and denying the power of personal choice? Give me a break.

If you think about it, positions such as vorfeed's imply that no change should be possible - that we should still be in caves, just as those inexorable forces hold us forever in thrall. Talk about naive.

What's naive is the idea that the only change that's possible comes from a total refusal to take part (funny how this does not apply to you, though, as you are permitted to "do your part" from the inside!), and/or that the only change that's positive comes from choices which fit your ideology.

Even the slightest glance at the history of the US military (or of anything else, for that matter) suggests that change has always come from within as well as without. Deal with that -- deal with the actual implications of your own free-will, room-for-agency rhetoric -- and I think you'll see that it's not so easy to draw bright lines around some choices, but not around others.
posted by vorfeed at 1:20 PM on April 7, 2010


You mean "sold out" -- or, in your terms, "failed to choose to not join the capitalist economy".

No. It means I attained the intellectual maturity that allowed me to see the logical fallacy of the slippery slope argument.

You are part of the system, "but insofar as your agency allows, you do your part"... yet you are unwilling to extend the same excuses to members of the armed forces, many of whom never take any more direct part in the killing than you do, and many of whom are involved in trying to change the system as far as their agency allows.

Completely unconvincing. Please explain to me the meaning behind Conscientious Objector. The CO pays taxes, is part of the machinery of state, drives a car etc. ... oooh, contradiction! Not. We understand perfectly well that a CO doesn't joint the military because the military is *directly* involved in killing. You are part of society and as such, you are part of what allows the society to act - yet your responsibility is only equal to your power. If you are opposed to capital punishment - or any policy - you do what you can, you vote, you agitate, you participate in opposition - yet you pay taxes that allow the executioner to pull the trigger. But you don't sign up to become the executioner. It's the same naive reasoning - really elementary school reasoning - where a guy says "why should I recycle - if I recycle will the whole world go green? Am I not part of society that wastes, and therefore why try to limit waste?" Insofar as you have agency. That's your responsibility. And joining the military to change it from within? Have you given even 5 seconds of thought to this BS, or are you just spouting the "change from within" line without bothering to think it through, all for the sake of argument? As happens, the military is a vary bad example - perhaps the worst - of "change from within" given its structure of order taking and ethos. A president has to give a direct order to desegregate, it doesn't come from "within", or congress has to pass a law for DADT to be repealed, it doesn't come from "within", and certainly decisions about going to war don't come from within the military - it comes from the political leadership, and the military is merely an obedient tool. Signing up as a soldier to change the military from within away from war is about as asinine an idea as any and no serious person would make such a suggestion - seems to me, you are not arguing in good faith, or have no ability to reason. I'm done.
posted by VikingSword at 1:58 PM on April 7, 2010


WRT to the "spitting myth" - calling it that and touting lack of photos, etc. is attempting to prove a negative. We know how that works. All it takes is one veteran to stand up and say, "Yes, it happened. I know because it happened to me." So here I am. It happened. I know because it happened to me. I have no photos or film or witnesses I can produce, but it galls me every time the conventional wisdom claims it could not have occurred because there's no film of it. I'm willing to stipulate that it never happened in front of a camera at a demonstration covered by news media. That's a pretty small subset of the large set of situations where it might have happened. To say that because it didn't happen in that small subset means it could not have ever happened is not good logic, and is personally insulting to me.

I have not said this here before, because I didn't want to deal with the ensuing pile-on, but as I said, it galls when my experience is labeled myth. If you're thinking I am a right-wing apologist for warmongery, you do not know me and have not been paying attention to my comment and posting history.


Here's the problem. The "spitting" was brought up as part of an explanation of how Vietnam vets were different in that they received different treatment from the population. For that explanation to wash, it would have to be a widespread phenomenon, otherwise something that happens extremely rarely and sporadically to this individual or that individual would not have the social power to affect such a huge change in treatment.

Therefore we are left with the problem - if it happened so frequently that it actually affected how Vietnam vets were reintegrated into society - there must be some kind of absolute documentation on film or photo or multiple credible witnesses to a given event etc. And yet we have none.

Does that mean it never, ever, ever, not even once, ever happened? No. And I don't think even the myth debunker author claims that - after all as you point out and as does he and everybody involved - you can't prove a negative. But that is very different from saying it was so frequent as to affect how Vietnam vets adjusted to society after returning. And despite extensive research we have no positive proof of any such instance. We don't have proof X doesn't exist - and all is needed to say is "I got X under my bed", but it's different if you say "X is widespread" at that point we'd expect with so many beds we'd see X at some point.

And that's why it's called a myth. As in a myth about Vietnam vets unable to adjust to society because they were spit upon return. No evidence of that - so the myth is debunked.

That doesn't mean I don't believe that it happened to you. I am in no position to disbelieve you. I take your word for it.
posted by VikingSword at 2:20 PM on April 7, 2010


A president has to give a direct order to desegregate, it doesn't come from "within", or congress has to pass a law for DADT to be repealed, it doesn't come from "within", and certainly decisions about going to war don't come from within the military - it comes from the political leadership, and the military is merely an obedient tool.

"Merely an obedient tool" which is made up of individuals who choose how and whether to fulfill those orders, you mean. Again, you want to pretend as though individual choice is always king, and as though the responsibility which comes with group membership can always be waved away on that basis... for civilians. But never for the military.

Sorry, but you can't have it both ways. Soliders aren't robots, any more than your own participation in the economy makes you a robot incapable of making choices as to what to do and what to buy. If you can work within the system -- even within a system so powerful that it has you denying the existence of your own so-called free choice -- then so can others. And if you really think that "signing up as a soldier to change the military from within away from war is about as asinine an idea as any and no serious person would make such a suggestion", then you have no understanding of military history.

The US military has been changed from within throughout its history -- not every reform comes via congressional order. And as others have pointed out, many of the loudest anti-war voices of the 20th century and before went to war... and I doubt many of them would have agreed with your simplistic portrayal of war or the men and women who fight it.

The idea that one can't change the military from within away from war is a lot like the idea that one can't change capitalism from within away from profit, or religion from within away from the god(s) -- it seems reasonable in theory, but history suggests otherwise.
posted by vorfeed at 2:57 PM on April 7, 2010


I'm quite surprised at the hate here against soldiers. It's not like they decided to start a war. They're largely poor people without many career alternatives, which is why they decided to sign up for something that probably really sucks. Some are doing it in order to become US citizens. I would have to guess that the majority of grunts in the army are doing their best to do what they're told in the worst job on earth. Like Lenny Bruce said, "That's another big problem. People can't separate the authority and the people who have the authority vested in them. I think you see that a lot in the demonstrations. Cause actually the people are demonstrating not against Vietnam -- they're demonstrating against the police department. Actually, against policemen. Because they have that concept -- that the law and the law enforcement are one."
posted by snofoam at 3:21 PM on April 7, 2010


vorfeed, you are tying yourself into knots, making far-fetched analogies with religion and capitalism, but none of this obfuscates the central absurdity of your thesis that a young soldier, such as these we discussed here, at 18-21 are signing up - even theoretically - to change the military from within in order to prevent unjust wars. It's a stupid position to take, and completely indefensible. If the military is being used in any given period of time - as in Iraq II - as a tool of unjust war, you are signing up for that and not in order to change the military "from within" to stop the war. Therefore you should not sign up for the military under such conditions - period. And if you are conscripted, you become a Conscientious Objector (a notion you don't seem able to address). Anyhow, these things are so obvious, that you are now resorting to nonsensical diversionary tactics "soldiers are not robots" and the discussion lacks merit. I'm sad that you would do so, and I'm not going to participate in this until there is a real argument, so you can have the last word.
posted by VikingSword at 3:23 PM on April 7, 2010


none of this obfuscates the central absurdity of your thesis that a young soldier, such as these we discussed here, at 18-21 are signing up - even theoretically - to change the military from within in order to prevent unjust wars.

Again, when you say this you are ignoring reality. Of course it's absurd -- war is absurd, as is life itself. That doesn't change the fact that it goes right the hell on, whether or not it fits our neat little categories.

There are many people who signed up in recent years partly because they wanted to change things. They wanted to be part of the Army of their fathers, not of Bush; they wanted to put themselves where they could have an immediate impact on what was going on. Maybe that's foolish or naive, but to argue that it doesn't exist as a motivation? Uh-uh. This country is a big place, full of people who do not always play by your rules.
posted by vorfeed at 4:10 PM on April 7, 2010


Vikingsword, you keep saying things like "I'm done" yet you keep spouting nonsense.
posted by angrycat at 4:25 PM on April 7, 2010


Henry David Thoreau let himself be jailed rather than pay taxes to support the Mexican War of his time. Was his problem that he just hadn't attained the intellectual maturity that allowed [him] to see the logical fallacy of the slippery slope argument?

So how far do your rules for this stretch, Vikingsword? Would a military contractor manufacturing arms for use in Iraq get to say "Well I didn't join the military itself, I'm just a businessman doing business. And if I was drafted I'd be a conscientious objector. So I'm one of the responsible ones." Or what if it wasn't arms, but some other essential supply being provided to the military - would that make the cut?

Or how about a businessman benefitting from the occupation itself - someone who went over and set up shop and bought Iraqi petroleum and sold it to you to put in your car? Does he get condemned as a profiteer, but your purchase of the gas from him is too slippery-slope-distant to count?

Your methods of bright-line absolving yourself of responsibility, while condemning others, don't really seem that intellectually mature to me.
posted by XMLicious at 5:14 PM on April 7, 2010


Would a military contractor manufacturing arms for use in Iraq get to say "Well I didn't join the military itself, I'm just a businessman doing business."

Is it within his power to not make stuff for the war? If yes, then he's responsible.

Or how about a businessman benefitting from the occupation itself - someone who went over and set up shop and bought Iraqi petroleum and sold it to you to put in your car? Does he get condemned as a profiteer

Is it within his power to not set up shop in Iraq? If yes, then he is responsible.

but your purchase of the gas from him is too slippery-slope-distant to count?

Can I avoid his gasoline? If yes, then I'm responsible. How much choice you have is critical. And by that I mean real choice, not of the "you bought a flower in Nigeria, and that dollar went to the bank, and that bank financed a weapons deal, and those weapons killed a mass of people, you are now a mass murderer, therefore there is no use in your decrying the soldiers who used those weapons to murder these people, you are just like them". A bit childish no? Yet that is precisely what you are arguing.

Really, it's absurd to claim that no matter what you do, just by existing on planet earth, you are responsible for everything that happens.

Take the Conscientious Objector. He pays taxes which make the war machine operate. Is he therefore responsible for the war machine just as is the guy who signs up for the military? I guess that kind of renders his CO status null and void, right? Hey, we reached an interesting conclusion: the very concept of a "Conscientious Objector" is utterly meaningless!

Meanwhile, back on planet earth it's simply a childish rhetorical device devoid of any merit. I look forward to anyone decrying racism being shouted at "how high and mighty that you call yourself anti-racist and denigrate that poor person who joined the KKK - what about your white privilege? And if you're black, what about the taxes you pay that perpetrate white privilege! Shush your mouth about the KKK!". Yeah, it sounds stupid, because it is stupid. Thanks anyway.
posted by VikingSword at 5:43 PM on April 7, 2010


Can I avoid his gasoline? If yes, then I'm responsible. How much choice you have is critical. And by that I mean real choice...

Er, okay... so we have it established that you're responsible. I don't get why you admitted that you share responsibility, then went off with all kinds of rhetorical theatrics about it being "absurd" and "childish" to follow this line of reasoning. (Like Thoreau and people like Noam Chomsky did, I mean ha what intellectual lightweights! How intellectually immature of them, genuine "elementary school reasoning" as you say.)

You know that the taxes you pay go to fund the war. How is this not a "real choice"? It's not like your flower example at all, where you don't know what the merchant is going to do with their money, and even if you knew which bank they were going to put it in you'd probably have no way of know that the bank in question funds arms deals. I don't see how you paying taxes to the government, and knowing for certain that x% of the resulting budget will immediately go to pay for a war, is less of a "real" choice than a defense contractor manufacturing something and knowing that x% of his product is going off to the front instead of staying in reserve on some domestic military base or warehouse.

there is no use in your decrying the soldiers who used those weapons to murder these people, you are just like them

No one has said you're just like them. What I'm saying and what I think other people here are saying is that we all have a shared responsibility and whatever degree of shared responsibility the soldiers have taken, they took up the part - both the part of the responsibility for the war and the part of the responsibility for national defense - where they had to actually get their hands dirty and put themselves at risk of death, while the rest of us are shouldering the portions of responsibility that don't bear quite the same downsides, and they deserve credit for that distinction at least.

(And I'm also saying that sorry, I don't buy your claims that you haven't been given "real choices" to avoid supporting the war, and that you're therefore 100% squeaky clean ethically in respect to it. Sure, you get credit for opposing it, just not the complete absolution you seem to be bestowing upon yourself in appropriating moral high ground from which to denigrate any member of the military (or any member who joined after 2003, if that's what you're saying) as someone who "sold out".)
posted by XMLicious at 7:08 PM on April 7, 2010


XMLicious, I would be merely repeating my arguments, so I'll say this, and then refrain from further repetition: you didn't answer any of my examples - the anti-racist vs KKK joiner or the Conscientious Objector etc. Instead, you keep flogging the "we are all part of the universe and so nobody can pass judgement on anybody" absurd line. You can have the last word.
posted by VikingSword at 7:17 PM on April 7, 2010


We've gotten away from the original article here, but let's revisit for a moment. This post is about how vets have a hard time getting work after service. Who fucking cares if you and I oppose the war - these are people who worked for the US government, and in fact, their work was life-threatening, and in many cases, permanently disabling. Do you really think our government has no obligation to help their former employees re-integrate when they return?
posted by serazin at 7:24 PM on April 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think, as I said from the beginning that it's a problem with the way our economy is structured - so whether you are a vet or not, you should be able to work if you have the desire to do so. I don't believe - contra some here - that vets are inherently worse employees. I think sometimes they may have special skills that are useful (famously we got a ton of commercial pilots and helicopter operators from Vietnam), but it's not about that - it's about the human right to work. Sorry, but the fact that the "right to work" is seen as a communist idea is an indictment of our system and the prevailing ideology - even Democrats would shy away from such a formulation. Of course, I don't approve of signing up for the military, but I don't approve of smoking - I still think you should have access to healthcare, even if you smoke. It's not being "noble" or "generous" - it's in the the interest of society.
posted by VikingSword at 7:39 PM on April 7, 2010


To add: I guess my ultimate point being that I feel this is a giant piece of hypocrisy. First they set up a lie about noble service in the military, while sending them on wars of aggression. Then they scream about our "heroes", and then fuck 'em over when it comes to re-integrating them into society, employment and so on. It is finally the evil liberals who insist on these folks being able to have employment - just as employment should be accessible to everyone. Of course, come voting time, the vet is more often then not going to vote for the fucks who screwed him over, while he'll fulminate about the degenerate unpatriotic liberals... or so the statistics tell me.
posted by VikingSword at 7:48 PM on April 7, 2010


Well I wrote a big angry response, but erased it. All I'm saying is that I think we all (as American citizens) have responsibility for this war (which I think never should have been started) and that soldiers deserve credit for taking the getting-their-hands-dirty, risking-their-lives part of the shared responsibility. Reviewing your other comments chances are that we aren't that far apart in our overall views, you're definitely right about the hypocrisy.
posted by XMLicious at 8:39 PM on April 7, 2010


Wow. I've never seen so many MeFites act like such immature, narrowminded cocks as I have in this particular thread.

Those of you bashing those who have served in the military, and in these conflicts in particular, are showing far more ignorance than you are attributing to the vets.

But then, actually exploring things from their angle would screw up your world view, and that would hurt just a little, wouldn't it?

The soldiers didn't fail the country. The country failed them by allowing the Iraq war to happen at all. You do not want an American military that will refuse orders based on its own conscience.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 10:04 PM on April 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


Additionally -- and it occurs to me that perhaps it was already mentioned in this thread -- but I find it ironic that, in a thread stuffed with "vets were never spit upon," I find people pretty much spitting on the vets.

Stay classy, Metafilter.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 10:12 PM on April 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


And if you are conscripted, you become a Conscientious Objector (a notion you don't seem able to address).

It's not as simple as that. You can't just say "I'm a conscientious objector!" and boom, you're done. It's a process, in the US at least. You fill out forms. You write essays. You're interviewed several times. You're examined by psychiatrists to ensure you're, if not sane, then at least the military's type of crazy. You explain your position dozens of times. Months and months go by, the entire time your unit thinking you're a traitor, and then at the end the guy at the top looking at your application can decide "he's faking it" and throw it all out. Then if you disobey they can bring you up on charges.

Which do you think happens more: a CO app goes through, or it's denied? Which is easier for the rubberstampers with gold on their collars?
posted by Evilspork at 10:29 PM on April 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


You can't just say "I'm a conscientious objector!" and boom, you're done. It's a process, in the US at least. You fill out forms. You write essays. You're interviewed several times. You're examined by psychiatrists to ensure you're, if not sane, then at least the military's type of crazy. You explain your position dozens of times. Months and months go by, the entire time your unit thinking you're a traitor, and then at the end the guy at the top looking at your application can decide "he's faking it" and throw it all out. Then if you disobey they can bring you up on charges.

This is truth. When I got to Vietnam, there was a private (E-1) named Cook who'd been there for months already. He applied for CO status either before or not long after being shipped over, I'm not sure which. He spent much longer than the normal 12-month tour of duty in Vietnam, on permanent KP and doing every other crap job that the NCOs and officers could dream up. Eventually, just before my own tour was over, he was granted a discharge. It is never easy to make the military let go of you once you are in their possession. They are most reluctant to do it for those who deny the worth of the military's function.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 6:43 AM on April 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Disposable Soldiers: How the Pentagon is cheating wounded vets.
posted by homunculus at 6:42 PM on April 14, 2010


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