Actors hired to heckle US troops in mock Arab town
November 13, 2002 5:15 PM   Subscribe

Actors hired to heckle US troops in mock Arab town The military is taking pains to prepare naive recruits for the reality of their dirty work, and at the same time diminish the regard for native populations. Oh, people whining about being attacked is so routine. Don't they know we're trying to liberate them?
posted by letterneversent (44 comments total)
Hmmm...a simulated environment where peacekeepers taught to be aware
of the local elements.

Perhaps the 14th Cavalry is taking notes from Uncle Sam's other training program.
posted by Smart Dalek at 5:45 PM on November 13, 2002

I hear Alec Baldwin might get a lead role.

Oh, people whining about being attacked is so routine

I believe Marines get similar training when being posted to embassy duty. so, yes, it is mostly likely routine. And "whining", I would venture this is what you are doing.
posted by clavdivs at 5:47 PM on November 13, 2002

It would be cheaper just to have each of them drag a frozen pig carcass through a Halal market.

Disclaimer: I'm not suggesting that somebody really do that unless they're videotaping it, and the proprietor is a badass with a bat behind the counter.
posted by Mayor Curley at 6:09 PM on November 13, 2002

diminish the regard for native populations

Um, what? Did you read your own article lns? Nowhere do those words appear. What would you prefer? That troops be purposefully unprepared for this kind of work?
posted by josh at 6:15 PM on November 13, 2002

Diminishing regard by reducing a civil population to shrill hogan's alley caricatures. Use your brain, josh. I can't spell everything out for you.
posted by letterneversent at 6:22 PM on November 13, 2002

Oh, great, a twit -- AND condescending. Welcome, letterneversent, you'll fit right in!
posted by dhartung at 6:51 PM on November 13, 2002

Let me try to imagine the resumé of an extra who played the role...

Extra - 2002 U.S. Army Southern California
• Rallied and led others in psychological efforts to undermine the determination and will of U.S. military personnel.
• Shouted Anti-American slogans at members of the U.S. Army, including Cavalry divisions, and created signs to heckle military troops.
• Met and exceeded expectations to demoralize U.S. military personnel.

... now, let's imagine the resumé is forwarded to a recruiter/agent who has a relative in the military...
posted by quam at 6:55 PM on November 13, 2002

Dhartung: Flattery will get you everywhere. Isn't there a famous quotation: "Condescension is the soul of wit" ? If not, there should be. Besides, he started it. I usually just ignore people I don't like unless they refer to me personally.
posted by letterneversent at 6:56 PM on November 13, 2002

Oh, great, a twit -- AND condescending. Welcome, letterneversent, you'll fit right in!

How polite of you to welcome one of your own.
posted by riviera at 7:04 PM on November 13, 2002

What is this, a hissy fit contest? What is each side defending, exactly? This is just a training exercise for chrissakes. Perhaps somebody can go get their panties in a twist at the fact that target practice dummies aren't representative of a multicultural society and are insensitive by over and / or underrepresenting certain races. I think I'm being driven to conservatism by whining idiots, this isn't good.
posted by Space Coyote at 7:09 PM on November 13, 2002

Psychological preparation?

Just send them to Metafilter!
posted by konolia at 7:16 PM on November 13, 2002

This is a great idea. No kidding. I don't agree with invading Iraq, but if we're going to do it, we might as well have our guys be prepared for the more peaceful kinds of adversity in addition to the physical gunfight sort. Seems like it might keep unnecessary fighting down.
posted by Samsonov14 at 7:51 PM on November 13, 2002

and at the same time diminish the regard for native populations

Wait. It sounds like the simulation goes against that crazy 'multicultural' thing the kids are talking about. Except the news article doesn't say that at all.
posted by hama7 at 8:05 PM on November 13, 2002

Oh, great, a twit -- AND condescending. Welcome, letterneversent, you'll fit right in!

that comment is beneath you, sir.
posted by donkeyschlong at 8:16 PM on November 13, 2002

Our friend letterneversent has a valid point about much of the training that takes place in the military. Let a former Marine sergeant provide his perspective:

If the cause of war is justified, then why do we have to be put through boot camp? If you answer that we have to be trained in killing skills, well, then why is most of boot camp not focused on combat training? Why are privates shown videos of U.S. military massacres while playing Metallica in the background, thus causing us to scream with the joy of the killer instinct as brown bodies are obliterated? Why do privates answer every command with an enthusiastic, "kill!!" instead of, "yes, sir!!" like it is in the movies? Why do we sing cadences like these?:

"Throw some candy in the school yard, watch the children gather round. Load a belt in your M-60, mow them little bastards down!!" and "We're gonna rape, kill, pillage and burn, gonna rape, kill, pillage and burn!!"

These chants are meant to motivate the troops; they enjoy it, salivate from it, and get off on it. If one repeats these hundreds of times, one eventually begins to accept them as paradigmatically valid.

The demonization of the enemy is crucial to wartime planners, and the above examples of motivation techniques are relevant to the present. Before carrying out a security exercise in Qatar, my unit went through Muslim "indoctrination" classes. The level of racism was unbelievable. Muslims were referred to as "Ahmed," "towlheads," "ragheads," and "terrorists." We were told that most Muslim males were homosexual, and that their hygiene was so primitive that we shouldn't even shake their hands. The object was demonization through feminization and dehumanization, so as to make it easier for us to pull the trigger when ordered to. But Qatar is our ally, so imagine the language being used today in these indoctrination courses about Iraq and Afghanistan.

Think military training (including that mentioned in the thread reference) isn't at least partly designed to dehumanize? Then I suggest you've never experienced military training.

Oh, great, a twit -- AND condescending. Welcome, letterneversent, you'll fit right in!

The name-calling that passes for much of the debate on MetaFilter means you are the one who (hopefully temporarily) actually fits right in among a certain element here, dhartung. Many would have thought better of you. What's up with that?
posted by fold_and_mutilate at 8:17 PM on November 13, 2002

Lnc, this is a training exercise, and its purpose is to prepare troops for the actual situations they will encounter in Iraq. Given that there is going to be training, in what other fashin would you prepare troops for the civilian opposition and protest they will face? I understand being opposed to the war on Iraq -- I too am opposed -- but given that it is likely to happen, wouldn't you rather have troops prepared to encounter and manage those kinds of civilian protests? Aren't soldiers who are unprepared for encounters with civilians more likely to react badly to such encounters?

You don't have to 'spell everything out' -- you need to suggest a reasonable alternative to this practice. There are plenty of heinous things going on w/r/t to our policy in the Middle East, but I fail to see how this is one of them. Police officers are trained in crowd-control using mock-protests; emergency response teams are trained with mock-patients; I for one am relieved that soldiers are being trained with mock-civilians, instead of being sent into the field with unrealistic expectations and itchy trigger fingers. If soldiers were being trained to shoot at every passing turban, your 'hogan's alley' allegation would be justified. To me this seems like responsible military training.

(And I referred to you personally because you posted the thread -- which is completely reasonable).
posted by josh at 8:40 PM on November 13, 2002

josh: By portraying civilians as some group that can be portrayed by actors shouting 'America go home' you are reducing dissent and native opposition to the use of force to a cartoon. This does nothing to 'prepare' for reality. It is simply a way to further indoctrinate the mercenaries who might actually have a brain capable of critical thought. "Preparation" is all about controlling how a situation is perceived, not seeing things as they are.
posted by letterneversent at 8:50 PM on November 13, 2002

This is why soldiers need bullet proof minds.
posted by Neale at 9:15 PM on November 13, 2002

letterneversent: I would agree with you if we, the public, were watching those kinds of representations on television. That's propaganda, which is what I think you're equating this training to. Propaganda is a bad thing and no one -- not me, anyway -- disagrees with that. But this is not propaganda; it's training.

Soldiers in combat are not charged with thinking about native dissent. The voting public is charged with doing that, and with coming to an informed decision. They've decided that force is what they want, and now our troops have to follow through on that, simultaneously working not to get themselves killed, and to preserve civilian life as much as possible. The military has a job and this is them doing their job. You may feel that we have not done our job as citizens, and that's fine, but now that we've made the decision to send our soldiers off to fight they have to deal with that as best as possible).
posted by josh at 9:24 PM on November 13, 2002

if that article f_and_m linked to is accurate, not only am i sickened, but the tactics employed -- mtv-style glamorization of senseless violence -- seem an awful lot like those AQ vids we've all seen.
posted by donkeyschlong at 9:30 PM on November 13, 2002

What a shame, what a damned shame...Letterneversent/Dhartung bitterness... Fact is: Pentagon planners are anticipating that indigenous majorities in US occupied nations will hate US occupying forces. The flaming vitriol of this thread clouds the real question: WHY?
posted by troutfishing at 9:38 PM on November 13, 2002

you've got to be kidding. they're not "diminishing regard for native population" or "reducing dissent and native opposition to the use of force to a cartoon".

they're trying to train the soldiers to fight in urban environments and do quick threat analysis so that some kid who hasn't seen action before doesn't have twitchy fingers and shoot some civilian who's heckling them without being a physical threat.

they do the same sort of thing when they're training cops. duh.
posted by wrffr at 9:40 PM on November 13, 2002

letterneversent: Your bias is clearly showing in the misapplied and condescending language you use, so I'm not sure that it's worthwhile to respond, but in case you're simply overzealous, I posit a thought. I think your angry at the Army for not training U.S. soldiers in exactly the way you want them, because you fail to understand the reasons for the soldiers having to deal with angry civilians in the first place. I don't mean the over-arching political/economic reasons, but the smaller, (but no less relevant to the solider on the ground,) purpose for the deployment, in other words, the mission. In the exercise, the mission was to "...keep peace and purge a terrorist cell."

In other words, find a small group of people among a larger, very angry, and potentially (but not yet) violent group, while keeping soldiers and civilians from getting hurt as well as preventing property damage. They are not there to understand or discuss the use of force in a philosophical or practical context, or to learn about the culture of this country and be goodwill ambassadors for the U.S. There are other missions for that, this one, as said, is to find a terrorist cell.

Soldiers should be trained to fulfill an objective as quickly as possible with minimal loss of life. Sure, when faced with potentially hostile civilians, they could simply mow them all down, but you don't need special training for that, the Infantry already knows how to kill people. They could, as you seem to suggest, is start an impromptu debate session, or organize a teach-in, with the soldiers as students. However, the first one would serve no purpose in fulfilling their mission, and uselessly enrage the native population against the U.S. even moreso, not to mention killing lots of innocent people. To sit around and be lectured by the angry crowd, (which, in case you haven't noticed, aren't all that good at presenting a cogent argument about anything,) would cause their mission to fail. However, if the soldiers can calm them down, or at least prevent the crowd from becoming violent for the time being, the soldiers can fulfill their mission, and no innocent people get hurt. Seems like the most equitable situation for everybody, right? I mean if, your totally opposed to any situation where U.S. soldiers might have to interact with angry civilians, then I can see it not being right, but pretend for a minute that in some cases, you won't have personal control over what happens to the U.S. military, and
this situation arises. Do you think soldiers should be as ill-equipped as possible?

As to your statement that "Preparation is all about controlling how a situation is perceived, not seeing things as they are," you're half right. Preparation is about being able to perceive a situation in calm and controlled manner, (especially when most people would respond to it in a panic,) and deal with it rationally and thoughtfully, and as things are, not as you would imagine or hope them to be. I purpose you avail yourself of some training in Emergency Medicine, (unless, of course, you have some ideological bias against being prepared for things,) and you would see how much a little preparation can go when dealing with immensely stressful situations, where many people would be unable to cope. Much like dealing with a crowd of angry, irrational people, I suppose.
posted by Snyder at 9:40 PM on November 13, 2002

and i'd say that they don't expect that the majority of the native population will hate US forces, but that they're preparing for every possibility.

it's better to go through this kind of training and be prepared even if it only means saving one life when one group of natives is annoyed at the US.
posted by wrffr at 9:42 PM on November 13, 2002

posted by delmoi at 9:54 PM on November 13, 2002

Upon further reflection:
  • naive recruits are probably bad.
  • dirty work is also probably bad.
  • regard for native populations is good unless it's bad, in which case it should be diminished.
  • whining about being attacked is routine and boring and should be stopped, although I would condone strong, stiff-upper-lip declarative statements.
  • trying to liberate them is probably either good or bad.
I'm sorry, what were we talking about? I think I got hung up on the FPP. Uhhh, go good guys!
posted by subgenius at 10:07 PM on November 13, 2002

Are the soldiers also individuals, in and of themselves? Then perhaps some soldiers will recognize, as they trudge on, the absurdity in thinking these little villages/towns etcetera built in different regions of their brain are actually not at all built from different segments of the gene pool of different species. Perhaps they will not recognize as important the phenotypic and cultural differences between them and the mock or real townsperson.

We treat our lower middle class young as though they are not smart enough to recognize a video simulation when they see one. That the case, in all reality this war is but a simulation itself fought for the simulated freedoms of these seething natives as well as these soldiers who will more than likely have to do without freedom for the rest of their days. Is global capitalistic tyranny going to end just because of a simulated Iraqi liberation? Are the soldiers going to return with Gulf War Syndrome-like symptoms complete with experiences etched onto their essences for the rest of their days causing ever more dysfunction in Amerian families and society as a whole? Doesn't that still return us right where "they" want us once it's "over"? Who dictates when its over? The native townsperson? The soldier? The citizen?

Would Beverly Hills aprove of a scorched Earth campaign in their neighborhood to rid it of a career wall street criminal who'd bilked millions out of their billions? Terrorism? You bet. Would it happen? Hell no. We see the actors, the celebrities everyday, everywhere. The whole world does. We know exactly what the celebrated townsperson would do should he be invaded. They've got us all convinced that "this too could be yours, if the price is right", if you work hard enough, if you follow the rules but break out of your shell with some naughty chocolate, daring new cars, sexy beverages, edgy, rebellious sugar water. Yeah. I'd say we know how to rebel.
posted by crasspastor at 10:54 PM on November 13, 2002

We know how to work, die and kill for them too.
posted by crasspastor at 10:57 PM on November 13, 2002

sad to say, it is the true personification of foreign stereotypes acted out in real life.

Maybe these extras should show the true nature of war, or the real impact the United States has had on foreign lands as a whole. As one who spent years in the military, I am aware that it is the job of the military to prime soldiers to war, and that includes having them believe that their cause is true and noble, and that of the enemies nothing but malevolent.

The real world is far from this. There is a bitter taste in my mouth as the leaders of this country fool us into the naivete of a one-sided argument of "good vs evil".
posted by Electrin at 12:13 AM on November 14, 2002

Subgenius: What is FPP?
posted by letterneversent at 1:21 AM on November 14, 2002

FPP = front page post
posted by gatorae at 2:02 AM on November 14, 2002


Diminishing regard by reducing a civil population to shrill hogan's alley caricatures.

So you're saying that this type of protesting wouldn't happen?

Oh, people whining about being attacked is so routine.

So you're saying this would happen? What are you saying?
posted by Summer at 2:02 AM on November 14, 2002

Letterneversent is trolling, and Matt will delete this FPP when he wakes up, and once again Matt will consider shutting down Metafilter because it's such a hassle.
posted by Holden at 3:00 AM on November 14, 2002

Think military training (including that mentioned in the thread reference) isn't at least partly designed to dehumanize? Then I suggest you've never experienced military training.

I don't know, f&m, my boot camp experience was more having very little sleep, having my head shaved, memorizing military protocol for my branch, marching around, folding my clothes right, going to classes trying to give you information on military hardware, instilling disipline, and doing push-ups.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 3:08 AM on November 14, 2002

Letterneversent is trolling

I agree. It's an Ananova link for feck's sake.
posted by Summer at 3:10 AM on November 14, 2002

Oh. Trolling my ass. That someone should write snarkily on behalf of others less fortunate than us MeFi posters on MeFi is nothing new. Letterneversent is just fine. MeFi, if anything, has become the place of internecine struggles more than anything of substance. Quit trying to determine what should be censored and what shouldn't.

Why don't you all shuddup about what will be pulled and won't and just live your lives. Post when you must. But for christ's sake, fucking leave threads alone if that's all you have to offer and quit trying to be Matt's eyes and ears.

Herd-like hatefulness is what seems to go for discussion any longer.

Holden: Unless Matt's been asleep since 5:15PM PST, he probably already saw the thread.

Good lord what am I saying? I'm helping to destroy metafilter now.
posted by crasspastor at 3:58 AM on November 14, 2002

(with loud booming voice, pancake make up and exagerrated gestures)

"is this a marine i see before me ?"

(younger man with leather jacket )

"you talkin to me ? you talkin to me ? well i dont see anyone else round here ?"

maybe the yanks should send in the hams instead of tanks,
the iraqis would be on there knees by about the second overemotional melodramatic speech.
perhap they could bombard the iraqis with oscar acceptance speeches 24/7 !
can i have a job mr bush?
posted by sgt.serenity at 6:40 AM on November 14, 2002

Crasspastor, Fold & Mutilate, et al : you wouldn't be defending letterneversent's posts just because you agree with his politics would you, hmmm? I mean you're above that kind of shallow partisanship, right?
posted by dhoyt at 7:55 AM on November 14, 2002

Yes, dhoyt, they are. They truly care about those less fortunate than themselves. How about you, hmmm?

A modest proposal: Let's send Rambo over to the Middle East and let him kick their ass. I mean, if we're gonna hire actors for war efforts....
posted by nofundy at 8:18 AM on November 14, 2002

Nofundy if I had a nickel for every time you've so thoroughly missed the point in a know we've been on this merry-go-round before, right?

My point was that defending a (shitty-toned, trolling) post because you side with the poster's politics is beyond immature, and ridiculously partisan, the kind of thing a dumb, angry college kid of limited political understanding would do. Face it: if letterneversent's comments had leaned politically to the right, he would've been absolutely crucified here, if the thread wasn't already deleted by now.

And how does *any* of this reflect on my "truly caring about those less fortunate"?

If you hear a whistle coming down the track, that would be the Cluetrain coming to whisk you away.
posted by dhoyt at 9:19 AM on November 14, 2002

im the only person in this thread thats posted on topic,
i feel so special.
posted by sgt.serenity at 9:29 AM on November 14, 2002

f&m, I did a tour and I have no idea what that Marine was talking about. Granted, my tour was in the Army but I seem to remember the psychological basis for boot camp is to bring everyone down to a common level. Recruits are marched day and night, put in situations with no "right" answer, and humiliated in front of their peers so at the end, no man feels he is better than any other man in his unit. You could be the richest man in the world or eating our of garbage cans but in the military you are a Private, equal to all other Privates.

And I never heard that cadence. Never even heard anything near that.

Lastly, most of the men and women on the ground during modern combat have been in police like situations. Rangers, SF, Delta, SEALs, and the airforce do the main work and the regular army comes in as a police force. It is a good thing to train these men and women to deal with angry crowds just as it's a good thing that police have crowd control training when riots or massive public demonstrations occur. It allows them to remain calm under the pressure and you have less people mowing down crowds because they lost it. Being surrounded by hundreds if not thousands of people hostile to you is scary as all sh*t. Being scared causes mistakes. Mistakes by people with automatic weapons usually sucks for the people without weapons.
posted by billman at 12:30 PM on November 14, 2002

billman, don't destroy fold_and_mutilate's bloodthirsty fantasies about what soldiers are really like with ... reality. For god's sake, it's the only thing keeping him going.

And only a troll, or an obtuse twit, would confuse an exercise designed to teach soldiers to distinguish between combatants and non-combatants as "diminishing regard for native populations". Clearly, letterneversent supports untrained soldiers being in chaotic situations and consequently shooting civilians; there really isn't any other logical outcome.
posted by dhartung at 2:15 PM on November 14, 2002

One glance at letterneversent's website should pretty much clear up any doubts about his agenda.
posted by Zulujines at 2:11 AM on November 16, 2002

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