Archive for the ‘military’ category

[Letters to the Editor] Parsing Letters

August 11, 2008

The DH opinion page is really aflame today. What it is about Monday and LTEs?

Just finished reading the one-sided article written by Diaa Hadid, who appears concerned about the barrier separating Israel from Palestine.

When a nation lives next door to a country that fires not only rockets into its cities but also sends suicide bombers in to kill their civilian population, they are confronted with no other choice but to create a barrier between them.

Mmm…. funny how the Israeli military occupation and military bombings are not mentioned. Nor the fact that a wall will a) have all sorts of other consequences, like preventing people from getting to work and/or school, or separating families and b) won’t stop attacks.

Israel acquired their land through a World War II mandate from the British. Immediately upon occupying this land they were attacked by the surrounding Arab nations. Israel won that war and subsequent ones as well, thereby justifying its presence on the land.

I wonder if might would continue to make right if the US lost a parcel of land? For that matter, how is the original mandate from the British justified?

I believe that once the Palestinians learn to control the militants and permanently stop all this carnage, then not only will peace in that region ensue, but also, ultimately, some accord on the land issue as well.

It’s just…. ah, fuck it.

Another letter:

I am writing this in regard to low-income families. Years ago Goodwill was a place to help the low-income people. When I go there now, I cannot afford their things.

I have heard tons of complaints about their prices. It is not right. They get their things for free. People who cannot afford school clothes or other items are supposed to be able to turn to Goodwill and places like that for those reasons.

Well said. I attribute Goodwill’s increase in prices to a combination of things: College students who shop there but do not need to (especially in Corvallis, perhaps), rising gas prices, globalization/general economic strain, and the fact that the Goodwill CEO has made as much as $800,000/year. That latter has dropped (by a whole quarter!), but the fact that it was ever that high… yeah.

Oh, and don’t forget #5: Capitalism. It’s both a cause and consequence of the increased prices at Goodwill.

My favorite letter, at least when it comes to being delightfully short on reason, has to do with McCain and Obama:

McCain has a good idea on how to protect this country, having been in the military. His prisoner of war status gives him a good idea how our enemies think.

Wrong. Having been a POW does not automatically grant one insight into one’s captors. This is not Rambo. Similarly, being in the military does not grant one special knowledge about the big picture. I know too many current and former military folks to believe that for a second. This argument might not totally suck if we were talking about a former general, but McCain? Seriously?

Obama has no idea how to protect this country and will be elected our next president.

Funny, I always thought that’s what the Pentagon, Secretary of Defense, or possibly the National Security Adviser or National Security Council were for. Silly me. Not to mention that I’d argue with the claim as applied to Obama himself.

Over 60 percent of our population has no military experience and no idea of why the military even exists, other than it is traditional.

Even I don’t believe the latter part is true. Of course people know the point of a military: To blow shit up. What, has the author never played Gears of War?

With Obama’s lack of knowledge, our military will become weaker after he pulls them out of the Middle East, setting us up like we were before World War II.

This is nonsensical. Also, the implied comparison to anyone in the Middle East and Hitler is ludicrous.

At or near Obama’s end of term the terrorists will have united the Arab countries enough that the Arabs will invade Europe. Nuclear bombs — probably smuggled in — rather than missiles will decimate cities of the United States.

Basis of these claims in fact? None. Amount of amazement I have regarding the fact that this sort of statement is not laughed out of the room? A whole freakin’ lot. C’mon folks: “Obama as President = nuclear attacks on America” is just stupid, not to mention morally bankrupt. Of course “uniting the Arab countries” is about as likely as humans making to Alpha Centauri by tomorrow, but hey, when you’re in a fact-free zone…

The terrorists may have learned not to start terror activities while a Republican is in office. Do their damage while a Democrat is in office, or before the new president can get a handle on what is happening.

Nice save of Bush with that last clause. I wonder of the author could explain this? For that matter, how does the author reconcile this with the “we are fighting them over there so we don’t fight them here” claim, or the mere existence of the entire Iraq debacle?

To keep the U.S. out of the war as long as possible, hit U.S. cities before we can mobilize. While at the same time start the war in Europe, hoping to take Europe out before the sleeping tiger (the U.S.) can get on its feet.

Again, with what army? What nukes?

I am neither a Democrat nor Republican and spent 10 years in the U.S. Navy. I have never voted for a Democrat yet.

*sigh* Well, as far as I know, most people registered as independents consistently vote for the same party. At least this guy is not alone in that.

Whew. That last letter was amazing. It’s kind of funny how the DH opinion page can pull the most entertaining people out of the woodwork. These letters even give EW a run for their money, though not quite in the same way.

By the way, this is post #805, or thereabouts. If I remember, I’ll try and make note of posts #900 and 1000. I had intended to mark 800, but clearly I forgot =)


Whiskey Fire on the Connection Between Troops and Liberty

December 28, 2007

Hint: There is none, crazed howls from my gun-toting extended cousins notwithstanding.

Nothing the American military is currently doing abroad has any bearing whatsoever upon the degree of liberty enjoyed by any American citizen. To suggest otherwise is absurd. Had we not invaded Iraq, would any American be any less “free,” any less capable of dissent, free expression, the vote, fucking around on YouTube, whatever?


And it is no insult to the troops to suggest this. American liberty does not, practically, theoretically, or philosophically, depend upon American armed force. There are no foreign powers capable of threatening essential American liberties — yes, there are assorted maniacs and thugs, but, well, we are under no threat of invasion.

To be blunt. I owe to no member of the American armed forces any gratitude for the exercise of my liberties as an American citizen. I respect their service but I am not in their debt in any regard. In particular, this exercise of American armed intervention in Iraq is in fact anti-democratic and injurious to American liberty, and for that reason should never have been undertaken, and needs to end.

Mmm…. the sweet smell of angry blogger in the morning. It’s one I am quite familiar with.

Being Tough

November 21, 2007

Because everyone knows that men who ask for help are really just pansies:

LEXINGTON, Ky. – A soldier facing his second tour of duty in Iraq said in a jailhouse interview he was at a hospital seeking mental help when he was arrested in the middle of the night for allegedly being absent without leave.

Spc. Justin Faulkner insists his superior officers at Fort Campbell knew about his mental problems but refused to provide adequate treatment.

On Thursday, Faulkner checked into a Lexington VA hospital, where doctors told him they wanted to keep him until Monday for observation. Police showed up at the hospital shortly after 2 a.m. Saturday to take him to jail.

“It’s humiliating, degrading,” Faulkner, 22, of Stanton, said in an interview Monday with The Associated Press minutes before his release from the Fayette County Detention Center. “It’s made me lose respect for the military. To come and arrest me at the VA, it wasn’t like I was trying to hide, trying to run. I was getting help. I am being punished for getting help.”

Do you get it yet, America? There is no nobility in this. None.

Via Dohiyi Mir.

Having Your Cake and Stuffing Your Face With It Too

July 27, 2007

I hate the slogan “support the troops.” I think it’s meaningless tripe designed to stifle criticism and debate, and that it has no logical, moral, or philosophical basis whatsoever. And that it really fucks with how we relate to those human beings that are actually serving in the military, especially in Iraq.

A couple of recent posts and an article in The New Republic which consisted of observations regarding Iraq from an anonymous soldier made me think about this a bit more, and as usually happens when I think, I get angry. From the TNR article:

One private, infamous as a joker and troublemaker, found the top part of a human skull, which was almost perfectly preserved. It even had chunks of hair, which were stiff and matted down with dirt. He squealed as he placed it on his head like a crown. It was a perfect fit. As he marched around with the skull on his head, people dropped shovels and sandbags, folding in half with laughter. No one thought to tell him to stop. No one was disgusted. Me included.

I know another private who really only enjoyed driving Bradley Fighting Vehicles because it gave him the opportunity to run things over. He took out curbs, concrete barriers, corners of buildings, stands in the market, and his favorite target: dogs. Occasionally, the brave ones would chase the Bradleys, barking at them like they bark at trash trucks in America–providing him with the perfect opportunity to suddenly swerve and catch a leg or a tail in the vehicle’s tracks. He kept a tally of his kills in a little green notebook that sat on the dashboard of the driver’s hatch. One particular day, he killed three dogs. He slowed the Bradley down to lure the first kill in, and, as the diesel engine grew quieter, the dog walked close enough for him to jerk the machine hard to the right and snag its leg under the tracks. The leg caught, and he dragged the dog for a little while, until it disengaged and lay twitching in the road. A roar of laughter broke out over the radio. Another notch for the book. The second kill was a straight shot: A dog that was lying in the street and bathing in the sun didn’t have enough time to get up and run away from the speeding Bradley. Its front half was completely severed from its rear, which was twitching wildly, and its head was still raised and smiling at the sun as if nothing had happened at all.

I didn’t see the third kill, but I heard about it over the radio. Everyone was laughing, nearly rolling with laughter. I approached the private after the mission and asked him about it.
“So, you killed a few dogs today,” I said skeptically.
“Hell yeah, I did. It’s like hunting in Iraq!” he said, shaking with laughter.
“Did you run over dogs before the war, back in Indiana?” I asked him.
“No,” he replied, and looked at me curiously. Almost as if the question itself was in poor taste.

War is hell; it messes with people. Badly. There are mountains of evidence supporting this claim, and there is no fucking evidence that anyone with any institutional clout, DEMOCRATS INCLUDED, are doing a damn thing about it (to say nothing of dealing with the same effects as they pertain to Iraqi civilians). You want a crime against humanity? Try this one, and it absolutely pales in comparison to what people who live in the Middle East are going through.

“Support the troops” doesn’t really speak to the fact that war is hell, does it? It doesn’t acknowledge the humanity under the helmet, and it sure as hell doesn’t allow for “the troops” to behave like those noted above.

So how does this ideologically warped concept stay “pure”?

Through massive enforcement and pressure from those interested in its maintenance, that’s how.

Digby makes a good point – as usual – about the backlash against the publication that printed this piece and the soldier who wrote it:

There has been precious little good writing about the actual gritty experiences of average soldiers in these wars. Everything has been so packaged and marketed from the top that it’s very difficult to get a sense of what it’s like over there. I have no idea if this piece is accurate, but regardless it didn’t seem to me to be an indictment of the military in general, merely a description of the kind of gallows humor and garden variety cruelty that would be likely to escalate in violent circumstances. And so far, there has been nothing substantial brought forward to doubt his story — the shrieking nitpicking of the 101st keyboarders notwithstanding.

It certainly should not have have garnered this vicious right wing attack from everyone from Bill Kristol to the lowliest denizens of the right blogosphere. They want to destroy this soldier for describing things that have been described in war reporting since Homer so they can worship “the troops” without having to admit that the whole endeavor is a bloody, horrible mess that only briefly, and rarely, offers opportunity for heroic battlefield courage (which, of course, it sometimes does as well.)

It appears that what’s truly important is maintaining the narrative surrounding “support the troops” rather than providing any meaningful acknowledgment of the clusterfuck that is Iraq. Which makes perfect sense, given the context. But it’s still repulsive, and I don’t think people who have those damned yellow flags on their vehicles are really thinking about this when they slap ’em on.

Or maybe they are, and they’re just being exploited for fucked-up political reasons. I could go either way on that one.

I just don’t want to be accused of not “supporting the troops” ever again. If “supporting the troops” means supporting the shit that Private Scott Thomas Beauchamp wrote about, then fuck that. If it means supporting human beings in their quest to remain human beings, then yeah, I think we’ve reached a starting point. Just don’t tell me that “supporting the troops” requires supporting immoral, barbaric behavior. That’s a dangerous place to be, especially on accident.

Burnout Fast Approaching

July 13, 2007

Will someone please a) show this to anyone who thinks it’s a good idea to sign up for the military; b) run this in papers and magazines in America that aren’t The Nation; c) impeach the fuckers?

“I’ll tell you the point where I really turned… [there was] this little, you know, pudgy little two-year-old child with the cute little pudgy legs and she has a bullet through her leg… An IED [improvised explosive device] went off, the gun-happy soldiers just started shooting anywhere and the baby got hit. And this baby looked at me… like asking me why. You know, ‘Why do I have a bullet in my leg?’… I was just like, ‘This is, this is it. This is ridiculous’.”

Specialist Michael Harmon, 24, of Brooklyn, 167th Armour Regiment, 4th Infantry Division. In Al-Rashidiya on 13-month tour beginning in April 2003″

I guess while I was there, the general attitude was, ‘A dead Iraqi is just another dead Iraqi… You know, so what?’… [Only when we got home] in… meeting other veterans, it seems like the guilt really takes place, takes root, then.”

Specialist Jeff Englehart, 26, of Grand Junction, Colorado, 3rd Brigade, 1st Infantry. In Baquba for a year beginning February 2004

“The frustration that resulted from our inability to get back at those who were attacking us led to tactics that seemed designed simply to punish the local population…”

Sergeant Camilo Mejía, 31, from Miami, National Guardsman, 1-124 Infantry Battalion, 53rd Infantry Brigade. Six-month tour beginning April 2003

“A lot of guys really supported that whole concept that if they don’t speak English and they have darker skin, they’re not as human as us, so we can do what we want.” [emphasis mine]

Specialist Josh Middleton, 23, of New York City, 2nd Battalion, 82nd Airborne Division. Four-month tour in Baghdad and Mosul beginning December 2004

“I felt like there was this enormous reduction in my compassion for people. The only thing that wound up mattering is myself and the guys that I was with, and everybody else be damned.” [emphasis mine]

Sergeant Ben Flanders, 28, National Guardsman from Concord, New Hampshire, 172nd Mountain Infantry. In Balad for 11 months beginning March 2004

This is going to affect the world for a very, very long time.

UPDATE: So, an occupation like this results in the dehumanization of the occupied, which in this case leads to massive amounts of racism, all while creating a bunch of sociopaths who can’t empathize with the people around them because the people around them are civilians – an effect that persists once they get back to the US. Just sayin’.