yadda yadda yadda
April 3, 2003 10:17 PM   Subscribe

Defending America. I really don't know what to say about this site. Except that I didn't even know a .mil domain extension existed until now. The link comes from a letter to the editor of my hometown, small-town Indiana newspaper (also see "Operation Dear Abby"), where people are generally in support of the war. A boy from my hometown was killed. He was a really good kid; I knew his family, who are just the kind of people you think of when you think of small town John Couger-style, pink-housed, middle class America. I am against this war in principle, but how can you say this really decent kid's life was wasted? All questions, no answers, probably a bad post. Apologies all around.
posted by _sirmissalot_ (23 comments total)
Uh yeah, there's the Air Force, the Army, the Navy, the Marine Corps, and the Coast Guard, to name just a few .mil sites. (Every military installation with a website uses the .mil address with it's services prefix)
posted by insomnyuk at 10:24 PM on April 3, 2003

Boy, you're in for a shock when you discover .int
posted by jammer at 10:30 PM on April 3, 2003

You don't need to apologise. Do you remember the episode of the Simpsons where Homer is sent off to traffic school after being caught for drunk driving, and Homer's laughing at the film of real car crash fatalities and he says: It's funny 'cause I don't know him.

It's far too easy for some people to treat the current war in the same way. It's far too easy for people to call for someone's death when they know they will never have to pull the trigger themselves. The reality is so much different.

That David Fribley fought for his country is an honourable thing, and that he died is a waste. That he died in what many people would consider an unjust war is...whatever it is.

That you posted about it and expressed your ambivalence and confusion is not something you should apologise for. It's your sincere response to a horrible occurence.

I wish all concerned the best.
posted by chrisgregory at 11:09 PM on April 3, 2003

Maybe the better question is what makes a wasted life.

It may well be a different question then whether or not the policies that drives the current military action are ill-concieved. I'm not happy that those policies seem more like an ambitious, costly gamble than a straight line to a more stable peace, and if they turn out to be futile that's all the more of a bitter pill to swallow.

But as far as doing good living while he was alive, _sirmissalot_ this kid from your town sounds like he did pretty well.
posted by weston at 11:17 PM on April 3, 2003

The DoD did create TCP/IP after all..you'd think they'd at least get a domain for their trouble.
posted by tetsuo at 12:06 AM on April 4, 2003

_sirmissalot_, I just want to extend warm thoughts to you and the friends and family of that young man...
posted by scottymac at 12:26 AM on April 4, 2003

I saw Steve Earle in concert on Wednesday. He had "No War In Iraq" banners on stage, and his anti-war stance is well known. He seems to have escaped the Dixie Chick backlash (because he's less mainstream? Or less 'cute'?)

Anyway, he summed up how I feel about this war by saying: "I can pray for the safety and well-being of the men and women out there and hope they return home to their loved ones whilst continuing to oppose this war with every fucking fibre of my being."

posted by essexjan at 12:36 AM on April 4, 2003

Why me?
Why him?
Why us?
Why them?
Why not?
What for?
What if?


posted by Opus Dark at 1:05 AM on April 4, 2003

A sad death. My condolences to the family of this young soldier. My heart goes out to anyone with a family member overseas and involved in this conflict util they all come safely home.

[nitpick] ARPANET was invented by BBN for the military. They won the contract, over Honeywell, to network the first few ARPANET nodes on what would later come to be called the Internet.

You can read all about it in this book.
    From the Kirkus Review: ARPA quickly acquired several advanced computers; when several scientists (notably J.C.R. Licklider and Robert G. Taylor) began to wonder why none of the computers could ``talk'' to the others, the seeds of the Internet were sown. Believing that advanced computing capacity was vital to the national defense, ARPA proposed connecting a number of computers through the phone system. A small Massachusetts company, Bolt Beranek and Newman, managed to win the bid; within a year, inventing almost everything from the ground up, they had managed to connect several college campuses on the West coast. Gradually, the ARPANET became the focus of an intensive development effort among computer scientists; but their goals were far different from the defense projects its creators had envisioned. Far-reaching decisions were made by the first person who happened to tackle the problem at hand. E-mail quickly took center stage, followed by newsgroups in which scientists with a common interest could exchange information and views. By the time the Defense Department decided to try to regain control, it was obvious that they had inadvertently created an entity no single authority could control. Within 25 years, the Internet had grown from an impossible dream to an indispensable scientific tool. A clear and comprehensive, though often flat, account of an important bit of scientific history.
posted by Dunvegan at 2:15 AM on April 4, 2003

Not to mention the ever-popular Defenselink, with a grindingly slow search engine that gives up information as reluctantly as Rumsfeld.

On the death of fine young men in war, Wilfrid Owen:
What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?
Only the monstrous anger of the guns.
Only the stuttering rifles' rapid rattle
Can patter out their hasty orisons.
No mockeries for them; no prayers nor bells,
Nor any voice of mourning save the choirs,—
The shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells;
And bugles calling for them from sad shires.

What candles may be held to speed them all?
Not in the hands of boys, but in their eyes
Shall shine the holy glimmers of goodbyes.
The pallor of girls' brows shall be their pall;
Their flowers the tenderness of patient minds,
And each slow dusk a drawing-down of blinds.
posted by hairyeyeball at 5:25 AM on April 4, 2003

Local organizations, youth clubs and families of servicemen and -women have been collecting, packing and sending care packages to friends and relatives stationed in Iraq. But are the troops getting the packages?
According to the mother of a local soldier, they are not. She said she was told the packages are being held in Kuwait for distribution after the war.

Hoping this is an oversight. Meaning; the men out in the field will not have packages delivered to them. But once they get back to base camp in Kuwait, they will receive their mail. Mail is mail, a letter or a package.

Now care packages to a non-specific soldier, this may be the case.
Plus the military at the start of the war said to the families not to send any mail, unless it was addressed to your soldier. If you wanted to send a letter or other articles to the soldiers of your soldier's unit, address it to your soldier who then would distribute it.
posted by thomcatspike at 5:31 AM on April 4, 2003

The "Defending America" site reads like Pravda from the days of the old Soviet Empire.

[from the site]
"B-52 Crews Use 'Smart-Guided' Cluster Bomb
   WASHINGTON — Air Force B-52 Stratofortress crews made history April 2 when they dropped six sensor-fused cluster bombs on a column of Iraqi tanks headed south out of Baghdad.
   The bombing runs resulted in the destruction of the tanks and marked the first time in history that CBU-105 Wind Corrected Munitions Dispensers have been used in combat, officials from the Combined Forces Air Component Command said."

There's a cute picture of an Iraqi girl eating a candy bar directly over this little story about cluster bombs. You would never guess from the story that the use of cluster bombs has been condemned by international human rights groups - because they are rather indiscriminate and also for the fact that they have a high failure rate and lay around for many years, like land mines, randomnly exploding and killing civilians - often children. The latest generation of cluster bombs currently in use by the US in Iraq was developed as a "low cost" bombing solution. Cluster bombs are highly effective against both armor and human beings. They tend to leave property more or less intact - or so I have read.

Here is an authoritative account of cluster bombs, and their use - from Vietnam to the present (heavily footnoted with sources)

"A favorite U.S. weapon used in Afghanistan has been the 1,000 lb CBU-87 cluster bomb with its 202 BLU-97 bomblets. The BLU-97 cluster bomblet is one of the cheapest air-delivered weapons available, costing only ~$60 per unit. Unlike most American mines, cluster bomblets are not designed to break down over time as this would raise their low cost. A single BLU-97 bomblet kills anyone within a 50 meter radius and severely injures a person within 100 meters. It is considered more dangerous than a conventional land mine. Peter Le Sueur, technical adviser to the UN's Mine Action Program Afghanistan [MAPA] describes this weapon,

"the BLU 97 had three purposes -- to destroy armoured vehicles, kill people with shrapnel fragments and ignite fires in military targets such as munition dumps or oil depots."

According to Le Sueur, one of its most savage features is its six-millimetre diamond-patterned steel jacket. "When the bomb explodes, the steel splits so you get hundreds of high-velocity steel fragments travelling at the speed of a rifle bullet. "They can kill or injure people from over 100 metres (330 feet) from the point of detonation".

On New Year's Day, 2002, the United Nations' UNIC Director Eric Falt disclosed that U.S. planes had dropped cluster bombs in 103 cities of Afghanistan and possibly in another 25".......Nazeer Ahmad, de-miner for the Organization for Mine Clearance and Afghan Rehabilitation [OMAR] based in Jalalabad, says,

"We completely forgot about the Russian bombs and mines when we saw American cluster bombs. They are horrible things. Nobody knows how to detect them and nobody knows how to destroy them. In Herat when Americans dropped cluster bombs, there were little bomblets that were yellow color. Children thought they might be food. Thirty have been killed and 25 wounded by cluster bombs."

Suzanne Goldenberg reports from Herat that at least 41 persons have been killed and 46 injured by cluster bombs in the area since the bombing ceased.12 Farnaz Fassihi reported for the Newhouse News Service in late December how "at the Wazir Akbar Khan Hospital in Kabul, all the beds in the children's ward are occupied by youngsters injured by cluster bomblets."

BBC - "US ground forces in Iraq are using cluster munitions with a very high failure rate that create immediate and long-term dangers for civilians and soldiers, according to a human rights group. .....New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) said that, when such munitions failed to explode on impact as designed, they became like volatile, indiscriminate anti-personnel landmines. "

Contrast this piece with ABC's recent glowing, bragging, almost hagiographic account of the use of cluster bombs by US forces in Iraq,

and also with these reported incidents of the accidental bombing of civilians with cluster bombs in Iraq.

"Reuters reporters on the scene confirmed the deaths of at least nine children, two other civilians and two Iraqi fighters at Hilla in a bombardment on Monday night and early yesterday morning.

An Iraqi hospital official said the death toll stood at 33 civilians, with more than 300 wounded."

There are many reported incidents such as this.

This is straying, I suppose, from the purpose of the post -- except that the "Defend America" site WAS the showcase link.

_sirmissalot_ - Who is saying the David Fribley's life was wasted? And think of the overall emotional dynamic at work here: Isn't the case that whenever the US (or any country) commits it's troops to a war and then some of those men or women die, that many - or even the majority (and especially within the military) will call criticism of that war "unpatriotic" simply because "our boys" (or girls) have died?

So the, aren't ALL wars inherently self-justifying (in the minds and hearts of a people at war), especially during the war, regardless of the official justifications for war or the number of civilian casualities?

Isn't the response of "how dare you criticize the war. Our troops are fighting and dying over there." a basic human instinctual, tribal response? Imagine the mirror image of this US tribalism - which is going on right now in much of the Middle East- among Muslims who are feeling a similar sort of tribal defensiveness and solidarity in the face of a perceived "US attack":

"How DARE you support the war! Muslim women and children are being indiscriminately killed by US bombing. Don't you understand that this is a colonial war of conquest and that the Americans have said they will invade Syria and Iran next? This is a Christian Crusade! So...By what right do you call yourself a Muslim?"

You can imagine how an individual countering this line with a response of "well, wasn't Saddam Hussein responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths"? would be roundly criticized, condemned, ostracized, beaten up, or even killed.

At least one American who took a stand against the US invasion of Iraq has been killed for his beliefs (a Russian emigre' bar manager in Florida shot during a debate over the war). And just this morning, I have heard a news report of an incident at the U/Mass Boston campus in which a National Guard recruiter advocating that Americans opposed to the war should be shot in the head provoked a fight with a U/Mass Boston professor (who was arrested although the Guard recruiter was not). There are quite a few calls circulating on the internet for death to US citizens protesting the war.

I imagine that there are incidents analogous to this one sporadically breaking out in the Middle East.

Human reason and rational discourse evaporate during war as humans begin to think less with their cerebral cortexes: they retreat into an instinctual, feeling-world of fight or flight responses associated with the mid-brain. They devolve into an instinctual tribalism in which it is perfectly obvious that the war is a struggle between Us" and "Them".
posted by troutfishing at 6:40 AM on April 4, 2003

natsukusa ya
tsuwamonodomo no
yume no ato
posted by moonbiter at 7:24 AM on April 4, 2003

Ohhhhh....kay.... Getting back to that "Defend America" site, here's a quick quiz (2nd item) to see if you can guess which headlines come from it, and which come from The Onion. (Answers at bottom of page.)
posted by soyjoy at 7:27 AM on April 4, 2003

The haiku is from Basho's Oku no hosomichi, The Narrow Passage (1694). There are several translations for it, such as "Summer grasses/all that is left of the dreams of soldiers."

It strikes me that _sirmissalot_'s decent kid led a valuable life wasted by a needless war.
posted by moonbiter at 7:53 AM on April 4, 2003

From the Defending site, quotes from the Prez speaking to Marines:

"Marines are in the thick of the battle. And what we have begun, we will finish."

"The course is set; we're on the advance. Our destination is Baghdad, and we will accept nothing less than complete and final victory."

I am reminded of the Seinfeld routine about sports fans: When a team wins, why do people always say, "We won, we won." No, THEY won. You watched.

Kind of the same with Junior. No, W., THEY killed and got killed. You watched.
posted by NorthernLite at 8:16 AM on April 4, 2003

Shouldn't it be: af.mil.us, etc?
posted by blue_beetle at 8:32 AM on April 4, 2003

I am against this war in principle, but how can you say this really decent kid's life was wasted?

sirmissalot: with all due respect, it's wasted because everything that made him a really decent kid was rendered meaningless by the arbitrary destruction that is part of war. If he'd been a mediocre student who didn't work so hard in all those sports, or who didn't have so many friends, he would have died just the same, simply because he either chose or allowed himself to be put in that situation.

I suspect he worked as hard as he did because he wanted to do something meaningful with his life. Perhaps he thought that joining the Marines was part of that meaningful work. It turns out he was wrong, because he ended up dying a meaningless death before he ever got a chance to do anything worthwhile with his life. Some may say, "ahh, but to die for one's country is...", but of course he didn't die for his country, he just died. As cannon fodder. No particular function served, just snuffed out.

This is not to insult the guy, of course.. the point is just that death in war is almost always pointless, and when soldiers die they aren't martyrs, they're just dead, dead, dead. Someone clips an obituary out of the paper, someone keeps his room just the way he left it, but that's it. And we have to accept this as not only a philosophical point but a practical one, or we're going to keep forgetting what we mean when we say wars are terrible, like we seem to do every generation or so.
posted by Hildago at 3:21 PM on April 4, 2003

To explain for sirmiss and beetle, the .mil top-level domain dates from 1984 when DNS was introduced. The .us top-level domain was primarily used for muncipal applications and limited individual and commercial use prior to the opening up of the internet to commercial use in the 1990s (via the bill that Al Gore introduced, by which he made his claim to "helping develop the internet"). Today, of course, it would make more sense, but this is mainly an artifact of the internet's history as a US military-academic collaboration.

I'm not going to touch the hot air in this thread, except to say that it's distinctly disappointing. But then this was an Ask Metafilter? type of FPP.
posted by dhartung at 5:07 PM on April 4, 2003

Despite your recent moderation, you are hardly one to talk about hot air, dhartung. You've had your spells. Condescension does not become you. You could left it out along with the gratuitous shot at Al Gore and just given us the dispassionate facts, as is your intent... in theory.
posted by y2karl at 9:34 PM on April 4, 2003

On second reading, my apologies for reading a little too much into what you wrote and harshing out. I don't disagree with some of your observations but still... we should all cut each other a bit more slack.
posted by y2karl at 9:45 PM on April 4, 2003

I'm not going to touch the hot air in this thread, except to say that it's distinctly disappointing.

Since we do everything to please you, dhartung, this comes as quite a blow.
posted by Hildago at 1:45 PM on April 6, 2003

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