The Sandbox
October 10, 2006 3:21 AM   Subscribe

The Sandbox A Doonesbury driven non-partisan non-policy community blog on the details of being human in a global war on terror.
posted by srboisvert (22 comments total)
Can a Doonesbury-driven, Slate feature be non-partisan?
posted by three blind mice at 3:41 AM on October 10, 2006

global war on terror
I really wish people would stop using that phrase. It lends some sort of legitimacy to it. There's enough evidence out there to prove the global war on terror is a lie.

Thre's a bunch of pissed of people angry at a couple of nations that have been aggressors. That's it. Meddle in other peoples affairs and you are going to get people fighting back.

So stop calling it a war and stop calling it global. It's neither.
posted by twistedonion at 4:07 AM on October 10, 2006

I'll correct myself, it is a war. But only in the sense there is also a war against drugs.
posted by twistedonion at 4:09 AM on October 10, 2006

So when you say "global war on terror," don't forget the air-quotes.
posted by peeedro at 4:56 AM on October 10, 2006

"And contributors may rest assured that all content, no matter how robust, is currently secured by the First Amendment."

This is bullshit. Any military member can be punished extensively for anything they say. There is absolutely zero First Amendment protection for them since this is an employer-employee relationship, not a government-citizen relationship.

So. What does this mean? This means that the only information you will receive from a current military member is that the military is great, everything is going fine in Iraq, they love the military, they support George Bush, etc. Saying otherwise can and will get military members in trouble, including demotions, fines, and jail sentences. You will not get anything except mealy-mouthed pablum from current military people. If they were saying anything critical, they would be punished for it.

Here's article 134 of the UCMJ (military laws):

"Though not specifically mentioned in this chapter, all disorders and neglects to the prejudice of good order and discipline in the armed forces, all conduct of a nature to bring discredit upon the armed forces, and crimes and offenses not capital, of which persons subject to this chapter may be guilty, shall be taken cognizance of by a general, special or summary court-martial, according to the nature and degree of the offense, and shall be punished at the discretion of that court."

Nothing written by current military members can be non-partisan, because if they take an anti- side to anything, they will be punished. They can say anything they want, as long as it is pro-military and pro- current policies and pro- the current administration.
posted by jellicle at 5:46 AM on October 10, 2006

I always thought that the "Global" in "Global War on Terror" referred to the enemy being spread out across the globe, rather than a global wide effort of multiple nations fighting the enemy. Kind of like how the Pacific War was about a war in the Pacific.

Or have I been missing out on more Bush spin? :(
posted by Atreides at 6:05 AM on October 10, 2006

There is absolutely zero First Amendment protection for them since this is an employer-employee relationship, not a government-citizen relationship.

That's not true. Government employee speech is definitely protected against retalation by the First Amendment in some cases. Under the Pickering/Connick test, government employees commenting on matters of public concern might be protected. The court will "balance...the interests of the [employee], as a citizen, in commenting upon matters of public concern and the interest of the State, as an employer, in promoting the efficiency of the public services it performs through its employees."

(Of course, government employees aren't protected by the First Amendment at all if they make the comments in the course of their official job duties. Speech is only protected if it's made unofficially -- that's the odd outcome of Garcetti v. Ceballos, the most recent employee speech case.)
posted by footnote at 6:16 AM on October 10, 2006

It's the "Global War on Terror" because if you say "World War on Terror" it suddenly sounds like the bullshit it is.
posted by Hogshead at 6:41 AM on October 10, 2006 [2 favorites]

Just start calling it "The War Against Terror," or TWAT, for short.
posted by NoMich at 7:13 AM on October 10, 2006

"Total War Against Terror," so you don't drop the first T.
posted by hangashore at 7:17 AM on October 10, 2006

"Total War Against Terror," so you don't drop the first T.

Perfect... so who is going to write the biography : "George and his TWAT"

Or have I been missing out on more Bush spin? :(

The way I look at it is that using the word Global is totally spin. Global suggests to me that Terror is everywhere, turn the corner and you might find yourself at war.

Either the TWAT is so successful that there have been no major terrorist incidents in 99% of the worlds nation states in the past 5 years or it's all Newspeak bullshit. I'm guessing the latter.
posted by twistedonion at 7:36 AM on October 10, 2006

Don't forget what Garry Trudeau is doing for the wounded veterans through Fisher House.

Any military member can be punished extensively for anything they say.

Both true and not true. There are shades of gray here, since obviously operational details are verboten, while opinion is in principle protected.

Soldiers' online journals come under increased scrutiny:

Buzzell’s battalion commander ... lectured him on the inappropriateness of revealing operational details--how he loaded weapons, what kind of weapons his Stryker brigade used and specific combat locations. From now on, Buzzell’s platoon sergeant would read his entries before they were posted. After another troublesome post, a different commander confined Buzzell to the base and for a time he was forbidden to go on missions....

The Pentagon itself has no official blogging policies, leaving the determination of what’s suitable and what’s not to commanders in the field. That increased scrutiny has troubled some soldiers, who have accused superiors of using operational security violations as a blanket excuse to mask disagreement with a blog’s politics or sense of humor. In any case, the new atmosphere has caused soldiers to think twice before they post.

It does seem like most incidents involve inappropriate disclosure of sensitive details or graphic combat photos that could prove embarrassing out of context, rather than suppression of free speech. But keeping in mind that most soldiers are volunteers*, you're not actually going to find significant dissent here -- more on the order of confusion about mission or simple war-weariness.

* I'm carving an exception for stop-loss troops or reactivated IRRs and the like. It's not a draft, exactly, and it's not volunteering, exactly.
posted by dhartung at 7:48 AM on October 10, 2006

Oops. Forgot to say (NSFW).
posted by srboisvert at 7:50 AM on October 10, 2006

While I applaud Trudeau for this initiative, I'm pissed that he gave over an entire Sunday Doonesbury to serve as an ad for it. It's not like the man doesn't have access to different venues to advertise it. And if you're going to put it into the COMIC strip, there should be a comic payoff to it.
posted by soyjoy at 8:10 AM on October 10, 2006

Any military member can be punished extensively for anything they say. There is absolutely zero First Amendment protection for them since this is an employer-employee relationship, not a government-citizen relationship.

jellicle: I believe if you do a little digging (I'm too lazy today) you'll find that members of the military are legally more like U.S. Government property.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 8:27 AM on October 10, 2006

It's global in the sense that the world series is the World Series. The parochial war on terror, whilst perhaps more accurate, sounds a bit shite eh?
posted by econous at 8:52 AM on October 10, 2006

Minor response re: legal issues: when balancing the military's need for internal discipline vs. some supposed free speech protection, no court has ever held that the military was wrong. Ever. The Court in the Connick suit bends over backward to make sure that the regular government has free rein to combat any statements which might be seen as undermining the office administration - and the military is so far beyond that in its requirements for morale and discipline that no court will even consider touching it.

The courts have repeatedly held that discharging a soldier for saying these words (no actions whatsoever, just this speech) is legal: "I am gay." "Military necessity" trumps everything.

If you can be punished for saying "I am gay", think how much more clear it is that you can be punished for saying "The war in Iraq is wrong."

Nor is Joe Private going to see a court anyway. His Sergeant is going to tell him to shut down his blog and dig a latrine, and he's going to do both. End of debate.

While it is true that many of the U.S. military are volunteers, please continue to remember that most are volunteers on their first enlistment. By definition, they volunteered without any idea of what they were signing up for. (~75% of the military is on their first enlistment at any given time.) The 25% of the military that has re-enlisted at least once can reasonably be expected to be generally supportive of the military, but the 75% is made up of all sorts: pro-, anti-, whatever.

I merely point out that even in that 75%, you will not see any anti- opinions expressed publicly, because they can and will be punished for it.

(P.S. ZenmasterThis: I have seen military personnel punished for getting a bad sunburn. I do not recall the actual charge, but in general, rendering yourself unfit for duty is punishable. We, of course, considered it to be "damaging government property", in the droll, facetious way that enlisted personnel have and always will have.)
posted by jellicle at 9:12 AM on October 10, 2006

Jellicle - Just curious - do you know of any cases where the executive's commander in chief power trumps the 1st amend, or do all the cases stick to Connick/Pickering? Have you seen any cases where a soldier was punished for something along the lines of whistleblowing than political commentary -- e.g. complaining that they didn't have sufficient armor or of government contractor corruption?

As for the "I am gay" statement -- have those cases really been litigated on 1st Amendment grounds, or is it on the grounds of the act/condition of being gay rather than the speech?
posted by footnote at 9:23 AM on October 10, 2006

If you can be punished for saying "I am gay", think how much more clear it is that you can be punished for saying "The war in Iraq is wrong."

These are two completely different types of statements. The first is indicative of prior conduct - gay identity is considered evidence of a propensity toward homosexual behavior. Thanks, DADT! The second is a matter of personal opinion.

That said, the military isn't your typical employer, and it's very hard to stand on your rights in front of your 1st Sgt.
posted by me & my monkey at 1:20 PM on October 10, 2006

I am guessing two things here: one, that Slate's lawyers have been consulted, in depth, about freedom of speech protections; and two, that they are anticipating the day that one of their bloggers does get shut down in some fashion in order to make it a First Amendment issue. I have a feeling they'd welcome it.
posted by jokeefe at 7:17 PM on October 10, 2006

I guess this thread is pretty much over, but I just want to add that I enjoyed reading the blog and I felt really connected to our people who wrote their thoughts down. I can read all the news I want, but this is quite something else. Did anyone else actually read it? Clearly there is room for some 1st Amendment exercise if you actually look at what is already being posted--no, it is not everyone saying how great the Army is.
posted by Fisherkitty at 7:21 PM on October 10, 2006

Restrictions on political activity of active-duty soldiers have one fundamental purpose: to maintain the appearance and reality of civilian control over the military. If you don't like the idea of the military having to do what the President orders within the context of budgets appropriated by Congress, just think how much you would dislike if the military didn't have to wait for the President's orders and wasn't constrained by its Congressional budgets...
posted by MattD at 5:25 AM on October 11, 2006

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