Pharyngula

I think he’s due, but he’s not the only one. It’s like our entire army is being turned into a pocket theocracy.

When Specialist Jeremy Hall held a meeting last July for atheists and freethinkers at Camp Speicher in Iraq, he was excited, he said, to see an officer attending.

But minutes into the talk, the officer, Maj. Freddy J. Welborn, began to berate Specialist Hall and another soldier about atheism, Specialist Hall wrote in a sworn statement. “People like you are not holding up the Constitution and are going against what the founding fathers, who were Christians, wanted for America!” Major Welborn said, according to the statement.

Major Welborn told the soldiers he might bar them from re-enlistment and bring charges against them, according to the statement.

Ugh. Threats from a commanding officer over what our soldiers believe? Not that anyone will chastise him; the conversion of our military into a goon squad for the believers is coming along too far for that.

But Mikey Weinstein, a retired Air Force judge advocate general and founder of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, said the official statistics masked the great number of those who do not report violations for fear of retribution. Since the Air Force Academy scandal began in 2004, Mr. Weinstein said, he has been contacted by more than 5,500 service members and, occasionally, military families about incidents of religious discrimination. He said 96 percent of the complainants were Christians, and the majority of those were Protestants.

Complaints include prayers “in Jesus’ name” at mandatory functions, which violates military regulations, and officers proselytizing subordinates to be “born again.” After getting the complainants’ unit and command information, Mr. Weinstein said, he calls his contacts in the military to try to correct the situation.

“Religion is inextricably intertwined with their jobs,” Mr. Weinstein said. “You’re promoted by who you pray with.”

“Promoted by who you pray with”…that’s scary. We’ve got selection going on in the armed forces for uniformity of religious belief, and worst of all, it’s for the kind of religious belief endorsed by loud Christianist wackaloons.

Comments

  1. #1 Mozglubov
    April 26, 2008

    What I find most disturbing about all of these stories is the constant re-writing of history. Do these people even know anything about Jefferson or Washington or any of the other founding fathers?

  2. #2 Pierce R. Butler
    April 26, 2008

    Major Welborn told the soldiers he might bar them from re-enlistment…

    The Army is so desperate for people that they’re recruiting dropouts, felons, and the mentally-ill – and Major Freddy wants to block trained, experienced veterans from re-upping?

    Occasionally you hear about some soldier being given a discharge “for the good of the service.” Major Freddy clearly qualifies for same.

  3. #3 Kyle W.
    April 26, 2008

    “You do believe in the Virgin Mary, don’t you, Private Joker?”

  4. #4 dave
    April 26, 2008

    Onward Christian Soldiers.

  5. #5 Bill from Dover
    April 26, 2008

    And this is the finest military we ever had?< \em?>

  6. #6 Bob O'H
    April 26, 2008

    Finally! An explanation for why there are no atheists in foxholes.

  7. #7 andrew
    April 26, 2008

    damn that makes me angry…FUCK!

  8. #8 Jason
    April 26, 2008

    I thought you’d like this article – I wonder if how many other people tipped off PZ about the NYTimes article.

  9. #9 Lynnai
    April 26, 2008

    I think David Bowie wrote a song about this… “I’m Afraid of Americans”

  10. #10 Matt
    April 26, 2008

    It’s ironic that these are usually beefy, muscular types who go out to kill… then end the day kneeling in prayer together… which is such a sissy thing to do.

  11. #11 CalGeorge
    April 26, 2008

    If you are going to get killed in a senseless war, might as well pretend there’s a fantasy deity who will neutralize a little problem called DEATH.

    Join the Army – because if the IED gets you, heaven’s just around the corner.

    Fucking assholes.

  12. #12 Matt Platte
    April 26, 2008

    Does “Republican Guard” sound eerily familiar?

  13. #13 Kirk
    April 26, 2008

    I think this line from the story illustrates just how logic flies out the window when religious folks feel threatened by the non-religious:

    Another sergeant allegedly told Specialist Hall that as an atheist, he was not entitled to religious freedom because he had no religion.

  14. #14 Bob V
    April 26, 2008

    For whatever it’s worth, I’ve had some personal experience with this as a young airman in the USAF. My first supervisor was a ‘bornagain’ baptist and nearly everything he said was couched in terms of biblicality. He spent much of his time in his office reading the bible, chain smoking cigarettes. Being young and naive, I was heavily intimidated by this guy and had no idea of where to go for recourse (1-stripers then didn’t have a lot of recourse for anything). I ended up wasting many of my Saturday mornings down on Central Ave, passing out chic tracts with him to help “save” people.

    I’m not proud of this memory and it makes me angry as hell to read of this becoming evidently ever more common in the U.S. military today.

  15. #15 benjdm
    April 26, 2008

    Another sergeant allegedly told Specialist Hall that as an atheist, he was not entitled to religious freedom because he had no religion.

    That’s an official position that (at least) the Ohio National Guard Equal Opportunity office uses in their training.

    http://www.americanchronicle.com/articles/25659

  16. #16 Robster, FCD
    April 26, 2008

    An atheist friend who went into the navy officers training program was constantly berated that he did not have a bible in the proper place on his living space desk. He finally went out and bought a “Satanic Bible” and put it in the prescribed place. The complaints stopped.

  17. #17 redlegphi
    April 26, 2008

    I can’t speak for the Air Force or Navy, but the Army is so desperate for people of just about every rank and skill at this point that the idea of some religious jackass getting away with barring a re-enlistment for this nonsense is ridiculous. The same holds true for promotion in many MOSs. As long as you don’t seriously fuck up, you’re getting promoted with your peers. Happily, I haven’t seen too much of this religious BS in my time in the Army, though I’ll be sure to let you know if that changes.

  18. #18 The Science Pundit
    April 26, 2008

    Jason–not JASON– said

    I thought you’d like this article – I wonder if how many other people tipped off PZ about the NYTimes article.

    I remember the days when one could be pretty sure that you were the only one to tip PZ off to something. That was nice having a smaller community of readers and commenters but I also like that there’s so much more information here than before. It’s a fair trade-off, I guess.

  19. #19 Jorge666
    April 26, 2008

    #15

    The web page you cite has the story on it, but also has several ads for ‘Expectorate No Intelligence Whatsoever’ on it. I sm so sure the people who are interested in this article will immediately go out and buy a ticket.
    We have a turkey, but Thanksgiving is not till November.

  20. #20 craig
    April 26, 2008

    Well I’m pretty sure I’m the only one that told PZ about the Mars Trilobites. :)

  21. #21 tacitus
    April 26, 2008

    Major Welborn declined to comment beyond saying, “I’d love to tell my side of the story because it’s such a false story.”

    So much for “Stand up! Stand up for Jesus. Ye soldiers of the cross.”

    If there’s one consistent theme with stories like this, it’s that when they’re caught with their trousers down, they can be relied upon to lie, cover up, and run away as fast as possible.

  22. #22 Tolga K.
    April 26, 2008

    Every time I hear about situations like this, my desire to join the military deteriorates a little bit, as it probably does for most atheist high-school or college students with my intentions. However, I think it provides more of a motivation to join for those thinking about it.

    There are two ways to prevent discrimination by a government. Get the government to sympathize with the discriminated, or have the discriminated join the government and influence it from within as the fundies did, even though they weren’t discriminated against.

    A secularist Major (doesn’t have to be an atheist) in that base could have been at that meeting and stopped Welborn’s tirade. A secularist at a higher rank could easily have prescribed the appropriate punishment.

    I’m not saying we have to enlist in droves, I’m saying that this should not be a deterrent.

    The problem in this issue is that the military is a high risk organization, and having a discriminated against group refrain from joining in the face of fundies doesn’t make a statement for peace or against discrimination in their eyes. It looks to them as a sign of weakness, that it takes a belief in a god to have the confidence to risk your life for your country.

    They need appropriate punishment for their discrimination, and that requires that the “higher-ups” either sympathize with the non-Christian position, or ARE non-Christians; the latter being the better option for us.

  23. #23 madprophet
    April 26, 2008

    This is just another step along the ever-shortening road of turning the U.S. into a theocracy.

    Fanatics in power in government, supported by a fanatical military.

  24. #24 Kirk
    April 26, 2008

    When I was in the Air Force (1989-1994) I was forced to have “Christian” put on my Dog Tags as the clerk REFUSED to allow Atheist on the tag. Bitch. I was pissed of as I have ever been but in Basic Training you try not to rock the boat to much. Later on I beat the word out of the tags with a hammer.

  25. #25 Kirk
    April 26, 2008

    Actually, I was pissed OFF, not pissed OF. :)

  26. #26 Bob L
    April 26, 2008

    Considering the demographics are towards non-belief among young people, if not out right atheism, the military setting itself up for an interesting recruiting problem. One might predict the end result of all this harassment will be a generation of truly militant atheists that make PZ and Dawkins look like religious apologists.

  27. #27 Dan
    April 26, 2008

    So, we’ve pretty much become the enemy against which we are supposed to be fighting.

  28. #28 longstreet63
    April 26, 2008

    Well John Hamilton used to send PZ tips by telegram!

    That was back before PZ installed the world-spanning Atheist Monitoring Situation Room in his secret underground lair, and somewhat before it was replaced by an RSS-feed.

    I wish I had an underground lair.

    Steve “has to make do with a damp crawlspace.” James

  29. #29 Sleestak
    April 26, 2008

    I dealt with such things pretty much from Day One in my time in the service, including Supervisors who baldly stated (with support from above) that I could not receive highest marks on my evaluations unless I profess to be born again, a Christian, etc. Never mind that the military Xians and Godly are professional soldiers who must, when called, go to war and fight against all enemies foreign and domestic and most likely kill people. The promotion of religion was to me just another form of control of the GI’s.

    While I refused to participate in group prayers before being issued our weapons like the one commenter previously I witnessed many young service members go along with, participate and profess fealty to something they were uncomfortable about or did not believe in just to “get along”, due to lack of ego or out of fear of bad evaluations and poor daily duty assignments.

  30. #30 negentropyeater
    April 26, 2008

    For a thorough discussion of the founding father’s religious beliefs, I recommend Joseph Ellis and Brooke Allen on the Britannica blog :
    http://www.britannica.com/blogs/2007/03/the-us-founding-fathers-their-religious-beliefs-cont/
    http://www.britannica.com/blogs/2007/04/635/
    http://www.britannica.com/blogs/2007/05/founders-and-faith-forum-overview/

    summary
    Jefferson : atheist
    Franklin : deist
    Adams : congregationalist / unitarian, anti-evangelicalist
    Washington : pantheist/stoic
    Hamilton : agnostic / deist first, then lukewarm anglican

    “The common conviction that bound together most of the Founders was the belief in the complete separation of church and state. As products of the Enlightenment, they shared Diderot’s vision of a heavenly city on earth where the last priest would be strangled with the entrails of the last king.”

    “None of these men, with the exception of Hamilton towards the end of his life, could strictly be called a Christian.”

    And finally, some of my favourite words :

    “I never told my own religion, nor scrutinized that of another. I never attempted to make a convert, nor wished to change another’s creed.
    I have never judged the religion of others, and by this test, my dear Madame, I have been satisfied yours must be an excellent one
    to have produced a life of such exemplary virtue
    and correctness. For it is in our lives and not from our words that our religion must be read.”

    Thomas Jefferson (1816)

  31. #31 Notorious P.A.T.
    April 26, 2008

    “People like you are not holding up the Constitution!” Major Welborn said

    *Article. VI. – Debts, Supremacy, Oaths*

    no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.

    http://www.usconstitution.net/const.html#Article6

  32. #32 Steve Ulven
    April 26, 2008

    This is the ingroup/outgroup think that is innate in all of us. In this case, the military is obviously making this a religious war. Religious wars are just fucking stupid, but they work when it comes to wars. Religion is the ultimate seperation of groups. This story is a horseshit truth and it is sad only few people are raising their fists at the government against this. Even more sad, it doesn’t matter, because the government isn’t listening.

  33. #33 T.A.C.
    April 26, 2008

    Until recently I had been in the US Navy for about five and a half years and I’ve always felt the need to come to the defense of the armed forces on this subject. Since my first day in I was openly and unabashedly an Atheist and at every single command I was assigned to, including several training commands and two ships, I was not discriminated against once. Everywhere I have been in the Navy has always had a strong and well-enforced religious tolerance policy. When I was stationed on Naval Base Guam I was allowed to hold a Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers meeting at the base chapel, and the Chaplain was more than helpful and accommodating.
    What my personal experience has told me is that the areligious intolerance characterized by these stories is at the very least not ubiquitous. In the United States military as I experienced it, this Major would have been sent up and kicked out the second he was exposed. I urge you not to dismiss the entire organization as one big Christian indoctrination camp where you have to hide your beliefs or be subtly persecuted. That was not my experience, nor is it that of many others.

  34. #34 KevinBBG
    April 26, 2008

    When attempting to create a theocracy, a theocratic military is essential for demonstrating who’s in charge.

  35. #35 Kezaro
    April 26, 2008

    Maj. Welborn will be getting a Medal of Freedom soon, methinks…

  36. #36 Matt Penfold
    April 26, 2008

    I hate to think what officers like this would make of the British armed forces placing adverts in publications aimed at gay men and women, allowing serving personnel to march in gay pride events, and having recruitment stands at those events.

    Actually I hope someone does tell him. With any luck he will have a seizure.

  37. #37 Bob Munck
    April 26, 2008

    5500 unreported cases of superior officers shoving religion down the throats of their subordinates. What does that say about the number of sexual harassment — “rank rape” — cases that we’re also not hearing about? Yes, I choose the “down the throats” phrase on purpose.

    It’s probably many of the same officers. Does the Pentagon have a FLDS office?

  38. #38 Bad Albert
    April 26, 2008

    Maybe my logic is flawed but it seems to me if there really was a god, there wouldn’t be any wars.

  39. #39 Mooser
    April 26, 2008

    Listen folks, when we send our army to fight Israel’s battles, it better not have any Jews in it! That would be anti-semetic! Besides, why would a Jew join the American army when he could join the Israeli Defense Force! Only a self-hater would do that.

    It’s so obvious! Ever heard of a song: “Onward Jewish Soldiers”, let alone “Onward Atheist and Agnostic Soldiers”? Of course not!!

  40. #40 Thomas
    April 26, 2008

    Two things:

    Firstly we have from Tolga K
    I’m not saying we have to enlist in droves, I’m saying that this should not be a deterrent.

    The best way to fight the military machine is from the outside and to support the few unfortunate folks who are in and dealing with the B.S.. I have no question that Spec Hall’s life sucks right now; they control the horizontal and the vertical. Do not forget it. If they cannot get to you one way, they will figure out an appropriate non-sequitur and go that route. I came from the intelligence field which is generally loaded with above-average I.Q. cranks who aren’t content to accept Uncle Sam’s status quo in many cases, and even in an intel unit things can get nasty. I do not even want to think about what types of things those in a semi-brain dead MOS like military police could come up with (and just remember kids, you can’t have wimp without M.P.!).

    Secondly, from T.A.C.:

    Everywhere I have been in the Navy has always had a strong and well-enforced religious tolerance policy.

    Yes, I have no doubt that the navy and the air force are somewhat more civilized than the army (unless, of course, you’re talking about the morons at the Air Force Academy). I wouldn’t try it with the marine corps though.

    Having served six years in the army I had run into officers with degrees in music and industrial arts education who couldn’t lead to save their lives… or those of their troops. In many cases you have people with “less marketable” degrees (football majors) like poli-sci, english, and sociology who flat out couldn’t cut it on the outside and decided to join. There seems to be a higher number of .. uhm.. “religious types” in this group. C’est la vie.

  41. #41 marcia
    April 26, 2008

    this is front page story over at CNN.com this afternoon.
    Nice to see.

  42. #42 Mystyk
    April 26, 2008

    I was also one of the people who sent in this article as a link. To make my job easier, here’s a repost of what I said in another thread:

    As an atheist and an Army Officer, these stories hit close. Everywhere I go, the proselytizing is strong. I’ve had to file several complaints about things such as mandatory prayer, and they almost always stop at the first General-level command where someone tells me not to “blow it out of proportion.”

    I’ve had to defend against negative commentary on my evaluations because of my belief. I had other Officers try to sink my career more than once. I suppose I’m lucky that I haven’t had death threats…yet.

    Because of all of this, I usually tend not to discuss religion, just like I don’t discuss politics since they also go against the mainstream sounding-board. I keep my complaints formal, legal, and restricted to the bare minimum of personnel who need to know.

  43. #43 Mystyk
    April 26, 2008

    Oops. The rest of that comment was all supposed to be part of the quote. Oh well…

  44. #44 John Phillips, FCD
    April 26, 2008

    @T.A.C. by all accounts, at least from reading other blogs and the MSM, the US Navy is the one force where this type of behaviour is not generally the norm and what you describe is closer to the norm. The worst by far, appears to be the USAAF, where they are almost rabidly theocratic all the way to the top. The Army is a bit of a mixed bag and can vary from unit to unit or camp to camp. What I find strange is that back in the early 70s I served alongside different branches of the US armed forces at different times in a few hot spots, and while religion was visible, it wasn’t intrusive as it appears today. Most, both in our forces and yours regarding the average padre as a nice enough well meaning fellow but a bit of a joke and generally regarded religious services as a chance to sit down for a period to have a rest. It seems that certain areas of the US military has actually regressed, and drastically so, in regards to religion. Then again, considering how politicians have exploited the religious over the last twenty years or so, we perhaps shouldn’t be too surprised, however reprehesnible we consider it.

  45. #45 Hank Roberts
    April 26, 2008

    http://www.rand.org/pubs/conf_proceedings/CF179/

    Ready for Armageddon
    Proceedings of the 2001 RAND Arroyo- U.S. Army ACTD-CETO-USMC Non-Lethal and Urban Operations Program Urban Operations Conference

    On March 22-23, 2001, four organizations co-hosted the fourth annual Urban Operations Conference …. the training essential to success in environments where much is demanded of the most junior-level leaders.

    ….

  46. #46 Dahan
    April 26, 2008

    As a Marine, one of the things I had drilled into me from start to finish is their motto “Semper Fidelis” which, of course means “Always Faithful”. In order, the things you are told you must be faithful to are:

    1. God
    2. Country
    3. Corps

    That “God, Country, Corps” thing is still the unofficial motto of the Marines. You can even get the hat…

    http://military.usptgear.com/Page.asp?QID={}&nWebPage=ProductBulk&ProdID=hoovers771635&Branch=Marines&Prod=Headwear

  47. #47 Woozle
    April 26, 2008

    I’ve been collecting information about this issue for a little over a year now: http://issuepedia.org/Religious_control_of_the_US_military

    That’s a wiki-based site, so please feel free to add more.

  48. #48 Neon Vincent
    April 26, 2008

    This kind of behavior has been extensively blogged about at Talk to Action and is the subject of investigations and lawsuits by the Military Religious Freedom Foundation. The MRFF’s urgent issues page details the organization’s efforts. They are adamantly opposed to the “Christianization” of the U.S. military.

  49. #49 CalGeorge
    April 26, 2008

    #46, that should be:

    “God, Country, Corpses”

  50. #50 brokenSoldier
    April 26, 2008

    This politician in soldiers’ clothing makes me fucking sick. The play for Christian hegemony in this country by the current administration and its supporters apparently knows no bounds, and this does not surprise me in the least. Though I rarely ever came across any sort of religious persecution in the Army, that by no means indicates a representative experience. The reason for my not being surprised at this is that it shows the same characteristics of how merit and competency has been evaluated and rewarded in the Army officer corps for the last half of my career. Sadly, promotion is becoming less merit-based and more networking-based as time passes. (It’s a self-sufficient phenomenon after a while – just like some police officers have their “rabbi” who watches their back from the higher echelon, some privileged soldiers have the same – and the more it occurs, the more that the sycophants pervade the highest echelons of command.)

    Officers who think that their authority gives them the right to invade a soldier’s brain and force it to conform to external norms should be stripped of all rank, privilege, and freedom – and sent straight to Leavenworth. The idea that the Army “breaks down” a soldier to build them back up they way they want them is patently false. The idea that a soldier is supposed to be an automaton who parrots their officers’ philosophies and beliefs wholesale died a long time ago, and it is an insult to our entire nation that such a thing happened to this Specialist.

    It will be claimed that this is the rogue action of one misguided officer, but the threats Specialist Hall received from his fellow soldiers – and the fact that this Major was not immediately reprimanded for his conduct and removed from his duties – are testaments to the fact that this viewpoint is being advocated from somewhere. All that this religious persecution will do to the military is throw up a warning flag to those soldiers who choose not to follow any religious doctrine and prevent them from joining. And it will also throw the same “stay away” warning at citizens of non-Christian faiths. For a nation that depends upon an all-volunteer force, this quite directly jeopardizes our national security by drastically reducing the potential pool of recruits, and does so using a policy in direct opposition to our own Constitution.

    In short, this is not the kind of officer that deserves any modicum of respect at all. He is an ignorant, blindly loyal hack that gets a kick out of “playing Army,” not because it is a duty he cherishes, but instead because it is a place where he can put a uniform on, pin some metal to it, and automatically demand respect. This is the kind of person that can’t get respect anywhere on his own, so he has to subordinate himself to others – in body and mind, both – just so he can have a chance to bark down at the ones even lower on the pecking order. His actions reveal him to be the sycophantic, incompetent ass-kisser that he really is, and displays his lack of both patriotism, due to his lack of understanding of the history of our nation and its founding principles, and his overall intelligence. The fact that he is a Major does not impress me, because not only does it appear that he shows none of the requisite intelligence of a field-grade officer, it is also clear he embodies none of the tolerance and regard for soldiers that an officer of his rank is supposed to possess. Rank be damned – if this Captain ever saw him treating a soldier this way, much less an entire strata of them, he’d quickly find that I have no aversion to beating the holy shit out of a superior officer, when said officer is dead wrong. And if I got sent to Leavenworth because of it, that would be fine by me, because I would have been sent there for doing something I knew to be right. Just as I was fine with dying in defense of something I believed in, I’d be willing to sit in a cell for years for just the same thing. And at least I’d get to have the memory of beating this dick-bag into the dirt to keep me company in my confinement…

  51. #51 SEF
    April 26, 2008

    1. God
    2. Country
    3. Corps

    The Marine laws of robotics / despotics.

  52. #52 Bill the Cat
    April 26, 2008

    It’s worse than you think. Evangelism is taking over the upper ranks of metropolitan police departments across the country. Once they get in, they begin converting the others and purging the heretics. The LAPD went all-Jesus back when Daryl Gates was Chief Inquisitor.

  53. #53 thalarctos
    April 26, 2008

    …Major Freddy wants to block trained, experienced veterans from re-upping?

    Meh, it’s what they do, Pierce.

    Don’t forget that in a world where we’re supposedly facing international threats on many fronts, retaining highly-trained specialists who speak difficult-to-learn languages directly relevant to the war isn’t nearly as high a priority as getting rid of gay service personnel.

  54. #54 Nately
    April 26, 2008

    “Promoted by who you pray with” is a bit of an exaggeration. It’s possible in rare cases that religious issues might affect how strong of a promotion recommendation you get, but there are checks and balances to control for preferential treatment. And officer promotions are done by boards looking at hundreds of records, so no one on the board is likely to have a clue what your religious beliefs are.

    I personally keep my atheism to myself to avoid impacting my work environment, but in seven years of service, I haven’t seen many cases where I thought it would matter if I was more public about it. Some working relationships would probably be more uncomfortable, and I definitely know there are people out there who would hold it against me, but I’ve been lucky enough to work with some great people, so it’s not been a big deal.

    I’ve seen some things that irked me, like someone using work email to advertise a creationist talk at a local church (I complained to my boss about that one). In another case, our squadron chaplain prefaced every prayer given at official functions by saying his religion required him to say “in Jesus’s name” at the end of his prayer, but encouraged others to say whatever the wished in their heads when he got to that point. Apparently if he had just said “in Jesus’s name” to himself like everyone else, Jesus would have struck him down on the spot. But on the whole, as much as chaplains irk me, most of them adhere to the vanilla prayers that don’t favor a particular sect and they don’t bother you if you don’t want them around.

  55. #55 bill r
    April 26, 2008

    AS of 2:50 CST, its on CNN’s front page.

  56. #56 Nick Gotts
    April 26, 2008

    Well, the way things are in the world at present, anything that undermines the efficiency or morale of the US or UK armed forces is just fine by me.

  57. #57 BaldApe
    April 26, 2008

    That was nice having a smaller community of readers and commenters

    Yeah. 56 comments in about 3 hours. It’s hard to be sure you aren’t repeating someone else’s thoughts.

  58. #58 Kitty
    April 26, 2008

    Sorry to disagree with you Nick #56

    “anything that undermines the efficiency or morale of the US or UK armed forces is just fine by me.”

    The last thing we want, surely, is a bunch of fundamentalist loonies heading towards salvation with the largest nuclear arsenal on the planet at their command!

  59. #59 brokenSoldier
    April 26, 2008

    And officer promotions are done by boards looking at hundreds of records, so no one on the board is likely to have a clue what your religious beliefs are.

    Posted by: Nately | April 26, 2008 3:35 PM

    True, but these boards almost never see the soldier they are evaluating in person, and the only means they have of evaluating the individual soldier is through their DA photo, their bio, service jacket, and the evaluations of their performance written by their superiors. These evaluations are subjective documents in which your commander is urged to judge your potential as a leader, and if an officer’s faith influences his treatment of soldiers (as is obvious in this case), it is a logical impossibility to claim that such officers can keep those considerations separate when writing evaluations.

    The evaluations they write do not even have to directly address religious beliefs. If my commander doubts me because I’m an atheist, he can find any number of things to ding me on in my evaluation. And since officers today pump up their subordinates to a ridiculous level for merely performing their duties, even faint praise can damn your career, while an outright criticism in writing will stop it dead in its tracks. Some of these guys are made to sound like Superman for simply doing their jobs. For example, there was a general in Vietnam who got awarded a medal for his expert operation of the radio in the helicopter he sat in, while he directed his men on the ground who were doing the fighting. (This is in the book Platoon Leader by Col. (Ret.) Jim McDonough.)

    This same thing still continues today, so I can’t really muster enough faith in the Army’s promotion system to say I believe it isn’t being perverted by individuals with personal agendas. This story is one proof positive that such perversion of the system is going on, and Specialist Hall’s treatment is further proof that it isn’t as isolated as we’d all like to think.

  60. #60 Nick Gotts
    April 26, 2008

    Re #58 Good point. I retract the “anything”. However, the danger of nuclear war being launched comes from the high command, and specifically the POTUS, not junior officers. If they behave like idiots, it will make recruitment, retention and training of competent people, and hence aggressive use of the forces, more difficult. Currently, I see that as far more likely than a deliberate fundamentalist attempt to engineer Armageddon.

  61. #61 brokenSoldier
    April 26, 2008

    Well, the way things are in the world at present, anything that undermines the efficiency or morale of the US or UK armed forces is just fine by me.

    Posted by: Nick Gotts | April 26, 2008 3:53 PM

    Soldiers have no control over how they are utilized. They sign up for a great many reasons, but the reason I signed up at 17 was because I thought that it was something I needed to do to earn the right to live in our society. That said, I also believe that such a choice should be available to all – service should never be mandatory. If you choose not to support a government by not enlisting, then that is fine by me, but don’t blame the soldiers for the government’s misuse of them in wars and conflicts that so many of the soldiers would rather not be involved with in the first place.

    They have no option other than to do what they said they would do and follow orders, an sense of obligation shared on paper, but rarely in theory, by the Army. When it comes time to get out, they can stop-loss you to send you back over again. When you get hurt, they reserve the right to internally change the definition of medical terminology to decrease the number of soldiers who qualify for a certain rating. In my case, they changed the definition of prostrating – as in prostrating headache due to concussion injury – from its traditional definition to one meaning “stopping all action and seeking emergency medical care immediately” in the form of driving to the emergency room every time such a condition arises. Since the very definition of the word prostrating is in no way conducive to being able to get into a car and drive to the E.R., they effectively reduced the number of post-concussion trauma patients who would qualify for the most serious of the two ratings listed under that particular category. And this change of terminology involved nothing more than the Army publishing a Dept. of Defense Instruction memorandum to their Physician Evaluation Boards. (There is no requirement to tell soldiers any of this – I found out when they cited it as a reason for my low rating.)

    So do not blame the soldier for the crimes of the Commander-in-Chief and his henchmen. If the soldier does something to deserve contempt, like this Major Welborn, then criticize, slam, and belittle away. But wholesale inefficiency and bad morale gets soldiers killed, but it only gets politicians defeated in their next elections. As such, it’s not something I’d wish upon any soldier.

  62. #62 Mikey M
    April 26, 2008

    “People like you are not holding up the Constitution…”

    Perhaps the good major was using the term “hold up” in a different sense, as in “impeding the progress of.”

    Or maybe he meant “hold up” as in, “armed robbery:”

    “Ok, Constitution, be a nice fellow and hand over your Article VI and your First Amendment, and nobody gets hurt.”

  63. #63 Elf Eye
    April 26, 2008

    No atheists in foxholes? That’s because they’ve been EXPELLED!

  64. #64 Pierce R. Butler
    April 26, 2008

    It looks like Spec. Hall is not the only one who should be aware of the GI Rights Hotline at 800-394-9544 &/or http://girights.objector.org/.

    Phone calls to the Hotline are handled by an operator who takes the caller’s contact info and passes that along to the closest of the numerous small groups of trained counselors, one of whom then returns the call at an arranged time.

  65. #65 negentropyeater
    April 26, 2008

    I don’t know if this makes any sense but if I were a general and I had to select an army of soldiers for a potentially very harsh battle with the enemy, I’d probably favour the faithheads over the non believers. Maybe it’s a stupid prejudice but somehow it seems they are easier to command and send to their potential deaths.
    Is this stupid or not ?

  66. #66 brokenSoldier
    April 26, 2008

    Posted by: Nick Gotts | April 26, 2008 4:14 PM

    Re #58 Good point. I retract the “anything”.

    I was writing as you posted this, so I made my agrument before seeing your above statement.

    If they behave like idiots, it will make recruitment, retention and training of competent people, and hence aggressive use of the forces, more difficult. Currently, I see that as far more likely than a deliberate fundamentalist attempt to engineer Armageddon.

    I agree with the point of what you’re saying here. While junior officers aren’t ultimate in their ability to influence our current aggressive foreign policy, they are still definitely instrumental in creating the environment needed for such aggression, through conduct like you explain above. But then again, it seems like this is the exact purpose to all this. If you get all the free-thinkers out, then Left Behind: Eternal Forces ceases to be a video game and instead becomes a potential reality.

  67. #67 CalGeorge
    April 26, 2008

    “Soldiers have no control over how they are utilized. They sign up for a great many reasons, but the reason I signed up at 17 was because I thought that it was something I needed to do to earn the right to live in our society.”

    You thought you needed to go kill people to earn the right to live in America?

    That’s fucked up.

    “If you choose not to support a government by not enlisting, then that is fine by me, but don’t blame the soldiers for the government’s misuse of them in wars and conflicts that so many of the soldiers would rather not be involved with in the first place.”

    I blame you. If they didn’t have recruits, the whole thing would collapse. You make it all possible. You’re an enabler.

  68. #68 Chris Rodda
    April 26, 2008

    This story will be getting major TV coverage tomorrow morning. The schedule as of right now is:

    Good Morning America on ABC at about 7:00 A.M. EDT – Mikey will be on live

    CBS News Sunday Morning – the program runs from 9:00 to 10:30 A.M. EDT, and it’s supposed to be the second segment

  69. #69 Dahan
    April 26, 2008

    CalGeorge,

    ‘If they didn’t have recruits, the whole thing would collapse. You make it all possible. You’re an enabler.”

    Not true. You’re thinking with wishes instead of accepting realities. Talk to me about all the governments out there that don’t have a military.

    There will always be a military. If there aren’t enough recruits, here in America, joining will be made compulsory. We would join the likes of Israel, etc. Since there’s no way of getting rid of the military altogether in anything like the near future, it takes a little worry off my mind that some, less radical and less pious people are in attendance to try to keep the whole thing slightly less dangerous.

    The world is a bit more nuanced than you seem to think it is.

    Comments like “You thought you needed to go kill people to earn the right to live in America?” are not helpful and make you seem more obtuse than I know you are.

  70. #70 J
    April 26, 2008

    #68 Thank you, Chris Rodda, for your vigilance and hard work. I get frustrated by dealing with creationists, but I think historical revisionists are tougher opponents.

    And to more posters on this thread than I can keep track of, thank you for your military service, and sharing your stories. Your courage does not go unappreciated.

  71. #71 thalarctos
    April 26, 2008

    I blame you. If they didn’t have recruits, the whole thing would collapse. You make it all possible. You’re an enabler.

    When you have lots of economic, educational, and career opportunities to choose among, it can sometimes be easy to forget that that fact is not true for everyone.

    While it certainly has never been perfect, historically, the military has been a place where talented and disciplined people of different ethnic, national, and class backgrounds could build a future for themselves, often a much better future than the possibilities existing in the neighborhoods they grew up in.

    Many of the people in the military now joined pre-Bush for just those reasons (to get an education, gain a skill, get out of bad neighborhoods); it’s not their fault that the present government perverted their mission.

  72. #72 Nick Gotts
    April 26, 2008

    don’t blame the soldiers for the government’s misuse of them in wars and conflicts that so many of the soldiers would rather not be involved with in the first place.

    They have no option other than to do what they said they would do and follow orders – brokenSoldier@61

    Of course primary blame lies at the top, but there is always an option to disobey orders (though I admit, a very hard one to take, and not just because it may get you imprisoned or killed). Specifically, if a soldier believes the orders they are given are immoral there is a moral obligation to disobey, and if the orders are in violation of international law, obedience can make the soldier a war criminal.

    wholesale inefficiency and bad morale gets soldiers killed, but it only gets politicians defeated in their next elections. – brokenSoldier@61

    Efficiency and good morale also gets people killed – on the other side. Less directly, it can also lead to wars being launched, and hence to deaths of soldiers on both sides, and of civilians. To be more specific, the vast majority of those killed, maimed or displaced in Iraq and Afghanistan have been civilian residents of those countries. Their lives are no less valuable than those of the soldiers.

    If you get all the free-thinkers out, then Left Behind: Eternal Forces ceases to be a video game and instead becomes a potential reality. – brokenSoldier@66

    I guess (correct me if I’m wrong) that you’re thinking here of US forces being used to impose a theocracy in the US itself. I think that highly unlikely; it could only happen if the main centres of civilian power had already been captured, and in those circumstances, I think the armed forces would do as they were ordered even without a prior purge of freethinkers – not hard to manufacture a “threat to the nation’s existence” to get enough on board. What is not unlikely, and indeed is going on now, is the use of US forces and those of “jackal powers” like the UK, to serve the interests of the US political-corporate-military elite, which is not currently theocratic, primarily at the expense of ordinary people in other countries. The presence of freethinkers in the armed forces has been no obstacle to this, and it depends on those forces’ efficiency and morale.

    In the absence of very good reasons to do otherwise, I favour the defeat of aggressors in war. Afghanistan is an arguable case, but in that of Iraq, there is no genuine doubt about who the aggressors are – your country, and mine.

  73. #73 Tolga K.
    April 26, 2008

    “If you choose not to support a government by not enlisting,”

    I have a huge problem with this statement. The military minded often think the only way to be a patriot, the only way to support your country, is to go through the military.

    The best way to be a patriot is to do what you are able to do to the best of your ability. It doesn’t matter what career you have, as long as you work with at least some intention to benefit the country. Every job here is useful, be it garbage truck driving or practicing medicine, or joining the military.

    It’s sad to see that people who devote their lives to advance society are not respected nearly as much as people who risk their lives to defend it. The hard working civilian deserves as much respect as a soldier.

  74. #74 Pat Jones
    April 26, 2008

    Maybe it’s natural selection and Christianity is winning.

    Maybe we are just going to evolve into something much smarter and Christianity is the way to go.

  75. #75 Ichthyic
    April 26, 2008

    Major Welborn told the soldiers he might bar them from re-enlistment

    hmm. So atheism is a better out than shooting yourself in the foot.

    good to know.

    Is the Pentagon formulating a new “Don’t Ask – Don’t Tell” policy at this point?

  76. #76 Ichthyic
    April 26, 2008

    Maybe we are just going to evolve into something much smarter and Christianity is the way to go.

    historical evidence would suggest otherwise.

  77. #77 Steve T
    April 26, 2008

    Oh, this is just f***ing great. Now the right-wing Xtianazis have control of the weapons! This is really going to get ugly in the coming years, I can just see it.

  78. #78 brokenSoldier
    April 26, 2008

    Posted by: CalGeorge | April 26, 2008 4:41 PM

    You thought you needed to go kill people to earn the right to live in America?
    That’s fucked up.

    What’s fucked up, besides your reading comprehension, is the fact that you’re putting words in my mouth and making completely false and idiotic claims about my motives for joining the military. I’ll spell it out for you, since you made it clear that I need to do so. I joined the US Army because I felt a need to serve the country. My family has a long history of service in the Army, and as such I decided to continue that tradition and enlisted. I took an oath to defend the Constitution, from enemies both foreign and domestic. What that means is exactly what it says – that I protect the principles in the US Constitution from anyone who threatens them, or the society founded upon them. It says that I did that because I believe that if no one were there to sacrifice (time, money, safety, etc..) for the good of the society they live in, then there would be none of the protections and assurances that hold up our way of life. What it does not say is that I signed up “to go kill people.” Either you suggested that sincerely, in which case you’re just an idiot, or you suggested it as an insult, in which case you can go fuck yourself.

    I blame you. If they didn’t have recruits, the whole thing would collapse. You make it all possible. You’re an enabler.

    On second thought, you can just go fuck yourself. Your theory is not only flawed, but even points within itself as to why. If no one joined the military, we would have no military, in which case we have no defense. While the current administration has entirely perverted the meaning of that word, there is always a need for common defense. There always has been, and until we can figure out a way to assuredly eliminte the threat of violence from our fellow man, there always will be.

    You confuse the situation, either mistakenly or intentionally (which I doubt, considering such an insult’s requisite intellectual effort), by calling the soldier and enabler. You, by paying taxes, are also an enabler (financially) of the same military. You can choose to pay your taxes, or you can choose to not live in the country legally. Taxes are – and always have been – implicit in every citizen’s life, and the only difference between taxes and military service is that such service is only required of a certain percentage of the population. It is still a choice, but should everyone choose not to join, our system of government would eventually fail to support our society, just as it would do if everyone chose not to pay taxes. But of course that has no relevance to our current problems. In the context of the problem in Iraq, soldiers are not enablers, they’re soldiers. They do what they are told to do, unless it is an unlawful order. In the higher ranks and influence scale (on the national policy level), there is no doubt every kind of corruption and devious action that exists in civilian politics, but these are not the soldiers that you’ve decided to insult and blame for the crimes of their commanders.

    The exact problem in this equation lies not with the existence of an Army or with those who decide to join it, but instead it lies with the way it is being used by those who are charged with its application. The soldier signs away a great deal of his personal – and in some cases, even civil – liberties in order to serve in support of the country. One of those rights is the ability to disobey someone on the basis of difference of opinion. If you don’t agree with something your boss tells you to do, you can argue with him. If he won’t listen, you have every right to walk out the door. The soldier can do neither. If the order is lawful and the commander wants no discourse, the soldier simply moves out. The soldier has no recourse – he cannot quit. And many of these soldiers you blame have finished their obligation to the military, only to have been yanked back in due to a semantic maneuvering in policy that said they could be “stop-lossed” and compelled to continue to serve against their will. If you honestly can blame these people for the ridiculous clusterfuck our government has made in Iraq, then you don’t deserve their protection in the first damn place. And no matter how much you think you may not need it, I don’t care in the least – were it removed from you at a time you became threatened, my point would be made for me. I suggest you try to catch a few of the soldiers left who “enabled” the evil Army in the 1940’s, when the application of force was quite justified, unlike the situation we now face. In both situations, men and women made the decision to serve. And today, just as then, those young men and women can only trust that the officials elected into office by the nation’s citizens (the ‘non-enablers,’ I guess you’d call them) will apply the force we soldiers train for only when absolutely necessary to defend the Constitution of this country. And the funny thing is, the only reason I believe it is an institution worth joining is specifically because our Constitution embodies principles that I would fight for anyone, in any nation, to enjoy. (Which includes, incidentally, the right to choose as a society not to be a certain type of democracy, but that’s intelligent conversation meant for others, so disregard…)

    In short, fuck you, and enjoy your freedom.

  79. #79 dubiquiabs
    April 26, 2008

    How about new belt buckles to match? For the inscription just translate “GOTT MIT UNS” http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=%22gott+mit+uns%22&btnG=Google+Search

  80. #80 Blaine
    April 26, 2008

    #24 –

    Same thing happened to me when I got my dog tags. So I told the clerk that I was raised “protest”. He said, you mean Protestant, right? I said no, it was a small local church called The Protest Church. So protest it was. My own little victory. It was about the only one I ever got.

  81. #81 John Phillips, FCD
    April 26, 2008

    @BrokenSoldier, from a former ‘enabler’ of one of the ‘jackal powers’, as one of my fellow countrymen put it, well said sir.

  82. #82 Jon H
    April 26, 2008

    Welborn is on MySpace.

    Whoah, nelly, is his page a treat.

  83. #83 Chris Rodda
    April 26, 2008

    Posted by: J: “Thank you, Chris Rodda, for your vigilance and hard work. I get frustrated by dealing with creationists, but I think historical revisionists are tougher opponents.”

    Besides the history revisionist fight, I’m also the Senior Research Director for the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (my “day job”). You’d be surprised at how much the Christian nationalist history revisionism and the problem of religious coercion in the military overlap. And, very disturbingly, we’re now starting to uncover a push to force creationism into the military, too. I can’t talk about any of the details of what we’ve found yet, but you wouldn’t believe what’s going on. I can hardly believe some of what I’m looking at, and it takes a lot to surprise me at this point.

  84. #84 noncarborundum
    April 26, 2008

    I think this line from the story illustrates just how logic flies out the window when religious folks feel threatened by the non-religious:

    Another sergeant allegedly told Specialist Hall that as an atheist, he was not entitled to religious freedom because he had no religion.

    Let us not forget that this exact same logic was employed by the vice-presidential nominee of the Democratic Party just eight years ago:

    . . . the Constitution promises freedom of religion, not freedom from religion. We are after all not just another nation, but ‘one nation under God.’ – Joe Lieberman, August 27, 2000

    This country has a long way to go.

  85. #85 J
    April 26, 2008

    #83 Chris,

    Creationism in the military? The mind boggles, and if it surprises you that’s not encouraging. Is the Religious Right intent on destroying the scientific standing of the United States?

  86. #86 brokenSoldier
    April 26, 2008

    Posted by: Nick Gotts | April 26, 2008 5:24 PM

    Specifically, if a soldier believes the orders they are given are immoral there is a moral obligation to disobey, and if the orders are in violation of international law, obedience can make the soldier a war criminal.

    This is true, but not universally so. It applies in the case of Nazis executing a policy of genocide, just as it applies in the Abu Ghraib case in Iraq. But it does not apply to every soldier who joins, and the case I was making was for not blaming the soldiers who have participated in this war for the crimes of those who started it. There have been many a soldier who has gone to Iraq, performed their duties, broke no laws, followed no immoral orders, and come home. Still others have done all that and come home wounded, and the rest just haven’t come home. There are definitely criminals in uniform, but not all in the uniform are criminals. That is the point I was trying to make.

    To be more specific, the vast majority of those killed, maimed or displaced in Iraq and Afghanistan have been civilian residents of those countries. Their lives are no less valuable than those of the soldiers.

    And no one knows the truth of that last statement more than someone who has taken such a life inadvertently in the course of combat. The guilt is immeasurable, constant, and in no way can it be explained with mere words. And it is in no way lessened or lifted by mitigating circumstances such as the fact that enemy insurgents would use their own neighbors as shields while fighting, or the fact that some would draw soldiers into houses with calls for help, only to spring an ambush inside the building, with men, women, and children alike inside. By no means are these the only such circumstances, but none of them work to assuage any bit of the guilt.

    I’d rather live in a society that needed no armies, but we do not. I’d rather live in a society where no one ever fought, but we do not. Until we can reach that point, we will have to have armies. And, just like I said in the post, I wish nothing on any soldier that could result in death. I recognize the need for soldiers — I do not recognize the necessity of their death. And I certainly do not wish death on anyone else, either.

    I guess (correct me if I’m wrong) that you’re thinking here of US forces being used to impose a theocracy in the US itself.

    Actually, I was just referring to a government that could impose religious hegemony on its military. But as I think about it, that would not be necessary unless you also planned to have hegemony in the other areas of the nation. (Such as the branches of government, the states, the education system, the judiciary, etc…) The very definition of hegemony demands that it be complete within the whole society, so if there is an effort underway to impose it upon our armed forces, then it will necessarily turn towards the rest of us, if left unchecked.

    In the absence of very good reasons to do otherwise, I favour the defeat of aggressors in war. Afghanistan is an arguable case, but in that of Iraq, there is no genuine doubt about who the aggressors are – your country, and mine.

    I favor the end of the war – I favor the defeat of no one, exceppt those against the establishment of peace. Looking at the current situation, it seems that those objectors to peace are our governments and those running them, so I think we are making the same essential point, but I’d rather see everyone come out of it as well as possible, rather than having any of them defeated. And while I’m sure a good deal of that it based on the fact that I’d rather not have my country defeated, I’m also motivated by the fact that in today’s – and definitely tomorrow’s – economy, no one major part can be “defeated” in the traditional sense of the word without the situation declining across the board. Instead of winning and losing, we need to be figuring out ways to even things out and make the quality of life for everyone better.

    Posted by: Tolga K. | April 26, 2008 5:33 PM

    I have a huge problem with this statement. The military minded often think the only way to be a patriot, the only way to support your country, is to go through the military.
    The best way to be a patriot is to do what you are able to do to the best of your ability…The hard working civilian deserves as much respect as a soldier.

    I agree with you – I should have simply phrased it as “if you do not choose to enlist,” as I in no way think that military service – or any public service, for that matter – should determine your level of dedication to the principles and citizens of the nation. I only meant to say in that statement that if someone chooses not to join the military in support of the government, then that is fine by me. I realize that the way I phrased it earlier made the two mutually exclusive, and that is not the way I intended to portray the situation.

  87. #87 Etha Williams
    April 26, 2008

    @#38 Bad Albert

    Maybe my logic is flawed but it seems to me if there really was a god, there wouldn’t be any wars.

    So now as I’m leavin’
    I’m weary as Hell
    The confusion I’m feelin’
    Ain’t no tongue can tell
    The words fill my head
    And fall to the floor
    If God’s on our side
    He’ll stop the next war.

    –Bob Dylan, With God on Our Side

  88. #88 onkel bob
    April 26, 2008

    brokenSoldier, as another veteran (one who served on the honor guard for the Marines killed in the Beirut disaster) I second your opinion.
    Cal George, take Lincoln’s advice, it’s better to remain silent and be thought the fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt. You’re proving Kruger & Dunning’s thesis with every post.

  89. #89 Sili
    April 26, 2008

    Ah, but what does he think about the state of our “precious bodily fluids”? That’s what I wanna know.

  90. #90 CalGeorge
    April 26, 2008

    “Taxes are – and always have been – implicit in every citizen’s life, and the only difference between taxes and military service is that such service is only required of a certain percentage of the population.”

    Yeah. I’m seriously considering tax protest next year if this war continues.

    There is nothing honorable about soldiering. It’s professionalized murder.

  91. #91 CalGeorge
    April 26, 2008

    A Winter Soldier:

    “On April 18, 2006, I had my first confirmed kill. This man was innocent. I don’t know his name. I called him ‘the fat man.’ He was walking back to his house, and I shot him in front of his friend and his father. The first round didn’t kill him, after I had hit him up here in his neck area. And afterward he started screaming and looked right into my eyes. So I looked at my friend, who I was on post with, and I said, ‘Well, I can’t let that happen.’ So I took another shot and took him out. He was then carried away by the rest of his family. It took seven people to carry his body away.

    We were all congratulated after we had our first kills, and that happened to have been mine. My company commander personally congratulated me, as he did everyone else in our company. This is the same individual who had stated that whoever gets their first kill by stabbing them to death will get a four-day pass when we return from Iraq.”

    That is fucking sick. There is nothing honorable in it.

  92. #92 brokenSoldier
    April 26, 2008

    Yeah. I’m seriously considering tax protest next year if this war continues.

    There is nothing honorable about soldiering. It’s professionalized murder.

    Posted by: CalGeorge | April 26, 2008 7:14 PM

    If you were the sort of lofty paragon of integrity that stands against such heinous state-sponsored conduct that you make yourself out to be, you’d have protested paying your taxes for the first five years of this war. Or maybe you’d have protested paying your taxes during Desert Storm. Or since you put on such an extreme dissidence toward even the basis for the profession, you’d have protested paying taxes regardless of whether our military was at war or not. But since you indicate that you didn’t, then you’re just arguing from an imagined high ground, and you end up sounding like the exact hypocrite that you are.

  93. #93 brokenSoldier
    April 26, 2008

    That is fucking sick. There is nothing honorable in it.

    Posted by: CalGeorge | April 26, 2008 7:22 PM

    That is also a perfect description of a fucking war crime. If you had taken the time to read my post, you’d have understood the simple concept that I explained – that such acts are crimes whether committed at war in a foreign country or at home in the streets of America. That has nothing to do with the need for, maintenance of, and just application of armies in our civilization, and nothing to do with citizens’ choices to join the effort of their nation to defend itself from threats.

    But since such an argument requires truly immense density to misunderstand, it sounds like you’re merely trying to argue from some higher moral ideal than human society has yet to display at the national level. In that case, you can make your arguments all day — they’ll just continue to have no relevance to reality and the world we live in.

  94. #94 Jon H
    April 26, 2008

    “Yeah. I’m seriously considering tax protest next year if this war continues.”

    I bet you won’t be talking so brave when you’re at risk of being ass-raped in jail.

  95. #95 Peter Kemp .
    April 26, 2008

    brokenSoldier@ 78

    I took an oath to defend the Constitution, from enemies both foreign and domestic.

    Since Bush invaded Iraq it’s defacto defending the right of the Military Industrial Complex, Dick Cheney and his buddies in Halliburton et al to make obscene profits. Not to mention the crime of aggressive war that has put the US in the lowest esteem around the world, so unbecoming of a great nation which has contributed so much to the world.

    As Bush 2 is one of the greatest violators of the US constitution (torture, Gitmo, illegal aggressive wars by Nuremberg standards), the position of a soldier’s oath in relation to the Commander in Chief “Decider” in recent years must be an interesting one for some soldiers to contemplate.

    The excuse “orders are orders” in relation to Iraq and war crimes, hold no more water than they did at Nuremberg.

    If joining the US military since the invasion of Iraq is not enabling high crimes and slaughter of innocents, I’d like to know what is.

    There is also a point of view, among atheists like myself, that there is nothing morally wrong in defence forces per se, but look at those two words: I don’t read ‘licenced to wage illegal aggressive wars contrary to international law’ into ‘defence forces’

    (Our ex-prime minister John Howard, as an accessory, should be charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity for the Iraq affair BTW.)

    The fact that some idiot god bothering officer said such a thing assists a modified maxim “There are few atheists in foxholes.” And rightly so.

    There was another god botherer, Lt. General Boykin, that springs to mind:

    He went on CNN and he laughed at us, and he said, ‘They’ll never get me because Allah will protect me. Allah will protect me.’ Well, you know what? I knew that my God was bigger than his. I knew that my God was a real God and his was an idol.

    He should have been cashiered for that, but the fact that he wasn’t suggests the “problem” may be bigger than we thought.

  96. #96 Bride of Shrek
    April 26, 2008

    CalGeorge

    As a wife of an ex-soldier and the daughter of a Viet Vet I am at a loss as to why you suppose they are enablers. My huisband joined up at 16 (British Army) to escape a hideous childhood of poverty and domesic abuse, my father joined the RAN in 1970 as a doctor because of a genuine need to help the suffering of people in a time of war.

    Whether they be enlisted or officers, Navy, Airforce, Army or Marines I have the utmost respect for those in the services. Yes, I’m sure there are the dweebs in the services like in any other profession but for someone who has lived amongst it her entire life I can say, in general, they are people of integrity, valour and bravery.

  97. #97 Mark A. Siefert
    April 26, 2008

    “While I refused to participate in group prayers before being issued our weapons…”

    Whoa! Has our military become the Adeptus Astartes?

    Yeah, I’m a miniature wargmaming geek! Wanna fight about it?!

  98. #98 benjdm
    April 26, 2008

    Creationism in the military? The mind boggles, and if it surprises you that’s not encouraging.

    There are plenty of creationists in the military. I worked with at least 4 or 5 that I know of (and in Naval Nuclear Power, no less.)

    That said, I never had any atheism issues in my ten years.

  99. #99 Etha Williams
    April 26, 2008

    @#89 CalGeorge —

    Yeah. I’m seriously considering tax protest next year if this war continues.

    This is the most nonsensical stance on political activism I’ve ever heard.

    Do you really think that next year, if the government wants to, they’ll just be able to pull out of Iraq and say “oh, war’s over” with no consequence?! I agree that this entire war was wrong in the first place, but at this point were so far entrenched that I will be deeply surprised if our next president will be able to get us out of the war before April 15 ’09. If you wanted to protest the war with tax evasion, you should have done in the first year. Or the year before that, when the militaristic slant of our present administration and its attitudes towards the problems in the middle east were already becoming abundantly clear.

    (For that matter, given your attitudes towards the military intervention in general, you shouldn’t have been paying taxes during the Clinton administration…)

    You take what you perceive as the moral high ground without any regard for the practical consequences, and then you lord it all over everyone else with a holier-than-thou kind of vitriol. But you’re nothing more than a self-righteous hypocrite. Get over yourself already.

  100. #100 Mark A. Siefert
    April 26, 2008

    CalGeorge:

    I’ve never served in the military. I had neither the temperament or the physical prowess for it. I disagree with this country’s moronic “war on terror” and I have serious issues with the Executive Branch’s power to make war without an formal declaration from Congress. I cringe at every ex-military type lecturing me about “duty, honor, and country” (my own father, a retired Army reserves officer, comes to mind). You will not see me cheer on for Bush and I feel sorry for every kid who has been fed into the Iraqi meat-grinder and come home in a flag-draped casket.

    That said, I find your attitude about “soldiering” to be both naive and insulting. Even if the U.S. would learn to mind it’s own business and stopped trying to be the world’s policemen, it would be foolish not to have some for of military to defend our society from foreign powers who are less rational than us. True, I think the U.S. military should be much smaller and have far fewer ultra-expensive toys to play with (that money should be spent on giving soldiers decent pay and benefits for a change), but I don’t grudge anyone who has the balls (or ovaries) to put on a uniform, pick up a gun, and put their lives on the line for the society that I enjoy living in.

    Now it’s your right to be a pacifist if that is your will, but this “professionalized murder” bullshit went out with the SDS. I suggest to get to know some people in uniform–enlisted and officers alike–before you go impugning their character.

  101. #101 brokenSoldier
    April 26, 2008

    Posted by: Peter Kemp . | April 26, 2008 7:43 PM

    As Bush 2 is one of the greatest violators of the US constitution (torture, Gitmo, illegal aggressive wars by Nuremberg standards), the position of a soldier’s oath in relation to the Commander in Chief “Decider” in recent years must be an interesting one for some soldiers to contemplate.

    We have no oath to the Commander-in-Chief, aside from swearing that we will follow the lawful orders of those appointed above us. Our oath is the the United States Constitution, and soldiers in general have no control – unless they are at the requisite level – over what they are ordered to do. And whether you like it or not, this administration – with the complicity of many, including some in uniform – has put the average soldier in this position regardless of their opinion about the policies and decisions that led up to and included the war we have today. It is, as you say, an interesting position for soldiers to contemplate, and the ones who do are generally pissed off about it. But we have no recourse but to follow the lawful orders we are given and keep our opinions to ourselves and among friends.

    The excuse “orders are orders” in relation to Iraq and war crimes, hold no more water than they did at Nuremberg.

    They most certainly don’t hold water – if used in defense of a soldier guilty of war crimes. As I said before, this applies to the situation so graphically laid out by CalGeorge, the incidents at Abu Ghraib, the terror interrogations that used the torturous “enhanced interrogation techniques,” and every other act against internationally established laws of conduct. But in the general sense of combat – one army fighting another, and casualties resulting – there are internationally established laws, also. If a soldier violates them, he cannot use his orders as a defense. If the order given was lawful and resulted in a death, then no war crime was committed. But if a soldier is brought up on charges for a war crime after following such a lawful order, the fact that he obeyed that order makes irrelevant whether he agreed with it or not. If it was lawful, its consequences lay with the leader that issued the order.

    If joining the US military since the invasion of Iraq is not enabling high crimes and slaughter of innocents, I’d like to know what is.

    Aside from the fact that I joined well before anyone knew who in the fuck Al Qaeda was, as did a good majority of our military, according to international law, the mere act of joining a military is most certainly not considered “enabling high crimes.” However, if you think it should be due to some innate immorality in the concept, I suggest you write your Congressman.

    There is also a point of view, among atheists like myself, that there is nothing morally wrong in defence forces per se, but look at those two words: I don’t read ‘licenced to wage illegal aggressive wars contrary to international law’ into ‘defence forces’

    No one reads such a thing into a mere defense force, and for you to suggest so is to create a textbook straw man to knock down. Defense forces are what war criminals use to unjustly apply force against contrived enemies for the financial benefit of a certain category of society. Defense forces are also what truly moral leaders of threatened nations apply to ensure that they survive past the unjust attacks of any enemy, internal or external. The first is criminal – the second is essential. And how many studies have you done to judge ‘general’ atheist opinions? If you meant you and the people you associate with, you should specify that, because classifying your point of view as representative of the whole – in the face of the fact that I’m disagreeing with you, and I’m and atheist – is arrogant, and in a way, suggestively dogmatic.

    The military exists for pure national defense, in my opinion. Whether it is being used that way or not, that is still a main function. I wanted to contribute to that function, so I joined, and so have millions of other humans throughout the many civilizations in history. The fact that someone has perverted the purpose for which I signed on does severely piss me off, but I can not use that as a basis for disobeying lawful orders at the ground level, where most soldiers spend their entire careers.

  102. #102 Angel Rose Young
    April 26, 2008

    I did my Army time from 1975 through 1977. I received an early ETS on a hardship that I see as having been “forced” out of service on discriminatory grounds (sexist biases); yet I was praised for my enthusiastic participation in bringing SIDPERS online under USAREUR. When I joined up, they wanted a religious preference. I told him that I didn’t believe in any gods. He said, “So there’s no preference?” I said, “Yes, there is a preference. Put down “Godless.” “Can’t do that.” “Atheist?” “That either.” Ever wonder how they get away with saying that there are not any atheists in foxholes? Tag the atheists with no preference, which is more like “unchurched” than unguided by God.

    Much of the time I spent at Baumholder, Germany we were on the defensive of the Baader-Meinhof/Red Army Faction’s terrorist tactics. I used to worry all the time. If I were in the right place, at the wrong time, and I were fatally injured, would I have to spend my last moments listening to some pious, delusional, catholic priest outlandishly absolving my soul of sin and satan? What a scary, nightmarish, creepy f**king thought! I had him put “Protestant” on the tag, since I was raised as such. I came to that consclusion because I figured that having some bible-packing Baptist preaching over my dying body would stimulate memories from my distant childhood past. That, in turn, would make the sweet repose of death an almost welcome companion. But I really would rather have a friend or two there reminding me of all the joyously sinful times we had -smiling, laughing, and crying together – even if those friendships were recent.

  103. #103 Etha Williams
    April 26, 2008

    @#101 Angel Rose Young —

    When I joined up, they wanted a religious preference. I told him that I didn’t believe in any gods. He said, “So there’s no preference?” I said, “Yes, there is a preference. Put down “Godless.” “Can’t do that.” “Atheist?” “That either.” Ever wonder how they get away with saying that there are not any atheists in foxholes? Tag the atheists with no preference, which is more like “unchurched” than unguided by God.

    You know, I wouldn’t believe that this kind of thing went on on a regular basis if it weren’t for the fact that several poster’s in this thread have independently mentioned such things. I think #63 Elf Eye put it best:

    No atheists in foxholes? That’s because they’ve been EXPELLED!

    Also, I hate the “unchurched” term. Though it does bring me some amusement as well, as it reminds me of the time missionaries came to my parents’ house and asked if we were “churched”. When they no, we don’t attend church regularly, the missionaries asked if they wanted to be salvaged. Not saved. Salvaged.

    I still laugh about that one from time to time.

  104. #105 Dahan
    April 26, 2008

    When I joined the Marines in 93 you could put “Atheist” on your tags. Sadly, I was too scared and went with the “NRP”.

  105. #107 sdej
    April 26, 2008

    re: everything by brokenSoldier

    Thanks for addressing CalGeorge’s comments so much more eloquently than I could. I’ve been wanting to do it since the first time I saw him post his “professional murderer” screed many months ago. However, I tend to get too incensed to argue coherently. I’m an expert field medic and work in medical research. Sounds vicious doesn’t it?

    re: #101
    My tags still say NO PREF since that was the closest option I was given. It bothers me every time it crosses my mind.

    Back on topic now,
    I haven’t had any significant problems with being openly atheist in the Army. I have to put up with the occasional vague and obligatory prayer but no one ever gives me any crap for not bowing my head. Then again, I work in research so my coworkers are a little more open-minded. At least a quarter of the enlisted personnel in my unit are atheist or agnostic. The closest I’ve had to being forced to participate in something religious was when my First Sergeant tapped me to say grace over lunch one day. I simply gestured at the plate and said something along the lines of, “Enjoy.” That was good enough apparently.

    I know a lot of other places in the military are more evangelical but I haven’t seen it yet. Hell, they even offered to make allowances for any Wiccans that might have been at basic training.

    CPL sdej

  106. #108 Anna Lemma
    April 26, 2008

    As a former USAF officer, I had only a few problems with overly religious types in the Air Force. But I was in the Air Force in the 80’sand 90’s and not now. It seems that I was in the Air Force at a good time in between the wacko’s attempts to control the military in the 70s and now. I had read about some of those attempts in the news and that was one of several reasons that I joined. I feel that every citizen should serve their country in one form or another, either in the military, or civil branches of the government. Even if only to get first hand experience of how this country operates. brokenSoldier is right on target with what he writes.

    When I was in Officer Training School, we had the option of attending church to get 5 merits to offset demerits towards getting off base for the weekend. I did not think that this was fair. I went to the church service and the preacher was initialing the slips of paper for the 5 merits. He asked how I enjoyed the service. I replied that it was nice but that I only attended for the merits as I was not a Christian. He seemed rather taken aback by that,and said that I did not have to show up for the service. He initialed the slip every week.

    So I received 5 merits weekly for not darkening the door of the chapel. I think he respected my honesty compared to those who went and did not say anything. I don’t think that this would happen in today’s Air Force with all of the ignorant Pentecostal chaplains in the chaplain service.

    When I was stationed at Peterson AFB, I was a junior officer working under Gen Herres,who commanded AFSPACECOM. He is on the board of MRFF. He is a great guy to work for. When I was there at Peterson,I heard rumors from some of the higher ranking enlisted folk that fundy wacko’s had infiltrated into the Strategic Air Command, all the way down into the silos. Once they were discovered, they were yanked out and reassigned. The officers were saying things like “I will follow what god wants over my orders”. Scary stuff. I’ve detailed the stories since last summer on my blog.

  107. #109 AnnaLemma
    April 26, 2008

    OOPS that last line should be that I’ve followed Jeremy Hall’s story on my blog since MAAF put out an email that he needed help and support after the meeting incident. I emailed him and said that if he really wanted to pursue the lawsuit, be prepared for threats and intimidation from fundy Christians, and no support from moderate Christians. The moderate Christians will simply pretend nothing has happened.

    Also the silo incidents happened in the late 70’s.

    This is what I get from accidentally hitting the post button early.

  108. #110 Notkieran
    April 26, 2008

    Pat Jones @ #74: Survival of the fittest doesn’t mean survival of the hardest. Joining a group of fluffies who stand around going “baa” and waiting to be fleeced at regular intervals by their self-appointed shepherd is a good way to stay alive too.

    Sheep get it better than mustangs, but which would you rather be?

    On a separate note which may or may not be relevant (you decide), my country (Singapore) has mandatory military service. In my time and the time of my father, it was two and a half years for anyone with the relevant education, although it’s now been cut down to two years for everyone.

    And the thing about military service is this: you think everyone in the army is a soldier with a rifle?

    Of course not. You can be a soldier without ever needing to kill another. You could be a medic. You could be an ambulance driver. You could be a signaller/ radioman (that was my job, although to be fair I’m classed as a combat signaller, which means that if I somehow survived being shot by a sniper who’d make me his first target, I’d be expected to be able to fire back). You could be a combat engineer, and if you wonder how that applies, I could be more specific and say that you could be a minelayer.

    When the Indonesian Christmas tsunami struck, Singapore sent aid. Who did it send? Our soldiers. When Katrina struck New Orleans, Singapore sent aid in the form of our air force heavy lift helicopters. In the evacuation of Timor Leste, our soldiers and air force were there too.

    Soldiers do not just kill. Soldiers have a variety of skills which they are expected to employ in the service of legitimate– not moral, just legitimate– orders from superiors in their chain of command, and one of those happens to be a professional ability to kill specifically defined combatants.

    The moment a soldier intentionally misuses his capacity to kill, he ceases to be a professional soldier and becomes a professional butcher. The trouble occurs when soldiers are dropped into a cauldron like Iraq or Vietnam with screwed-up orders and directives from a man who has no idea what is possible or not, and then left there to stew.

    At that point, soldiers do whatever they feel they need to survive (see the first paragraph about “survival”), and the first thing is to dehumanise the enemy, for reasons determined long ago by Tajfel, Zimbardo and others– the short form of it is that people under stressful situations seem to find it easier to be sheep than mustangs.

  109. #111 BlueIndependent
    April 26, 2008

    The Air Force is the worst where religion in the military is concerned. Perhaps it’s because they have a god complex about dropping bombs (“I am the hand of god” bullcrap) or something, I don’t know. But the other side of that coin is, so many military industrial complex projects affect the Air Force that it’s inevitable that the zealots that leave the military and take 6-figure defense contract jobs spread their garbage religious ideology like it’s, well, gospel. I will say that even my vaguely religious sister seemed to me much more religious while she was in that service. Haven’t heard her say much about it since completing her 6-year stint, but others she worked around seemed to be pretty crazy about religion.

    This country needs fixing so freakin’ bad…

  110. #112 Jon H
    April 26, 2008

    “When I joined the Marines in 93 you could put “Atheist” on your tags. ”

    There’s an Atheist headstone design for veterans, too. It’s sort of an atom model design.

    The whole assortment of headstone designs can be seen here.

  111. #113 DTdNav
    April 27, 2008

    Wow. Interesting stuff here.

    I am currently a USAF (Air National Guard) officer and have been serving since 1985. My rank is commensurate, and also irrelevant. The only thing allowed on my dogtags when I was first commisioned was “No Religious Preference.” They now say “Atheist.” The virtual military personnel flight website now allows many different religions, including some I nerver heard of, to be placed on dogtags. I have never personaly experienced any religious intolerence, but religion topics rarely come up in the course of a workday.

    I am keenly aware that my religious and political views are not shared by the vast majority of my peers. I am also very careful what I say and to whom I say it. I still have a family that depends on my salary and I still feel I have a duty to defend our constitution. Sometimes the good fight is not waged with guns, fists, or argument, but with cool-headed logic presented in a non-confrontational way. It may take a little longer, but I believe the race is a marathon and not a sprint.

  112. #114 Brownian, OM
    April 27, 2008

    I’m surprised that no one has yet linked to Atheists in Foxholes dot org.

    This has been an interesting thread to read so far. I wish I had something relevant to add, but I’m gonna have to lurk on this one.

  113. #115 Brownian, OM
    April 27, 2008

    I wish I had something relevant to add, but I’m gonna have to lurk on this one.

    Well, I suppose I might add that I’m pretty sure I’d frag an asshole like Freddy Wellborn the first chance I got.

    And it bothers me that my thinking tends more towards thoughts like this the more I hear about these evangelical latter-day Torquemadas.

  114. #116 Mystyk
    April 27, 2008

    # 110:

    And the thing about military service is this: you think everyone in the army is a soldier with a rifle?

    Of course not. You can be a soldier without ever needing to kill another. You could be a medic. You could be an ambulance driver. You could be a signaller/ radioman (that was my job, although to be fair I’m classed as a combat signaller, which means that if I somehow survived being shot by a sniper who’d make me his first target, I’d be expected to be able to fire back). You could be a combat engineer, and if you wonder how that applies, I could be more specific and say that you could be a minelayer.

    In the modern Army, every soldier sent to a combat zone is sent as a combatant. With a rifle or pistol in hand.

    The US Army’s creed has a line that says, “I stand ready to deploy, engage, and destroy the enemies of the United States of America in close combat.” The Military Intelligence (my branch) creed starts with, “I am a soldier first, but a Military Intelligence professional second to none.”

    While you could claim that creeds are just words on paper, they represent our philosophy. We are Soldiers before we are anything else. Every day a convoy goes out into dangerous territory, there’s only about a 50% chance of any one soldier in it being from a combat arms branch, such as Infantry.

    What you said is true in a certain context – it is possible for a soldier to have a career without ever aiming a weapon at an enemy combatant. Most soldiers, from all different branches and specialties, never get that lucky.

    Soldiers do not just kill. Soldiers have a variety of skills which they are expected to employ in the service of legitimate– not moral, just legitimate– orders from superiors in their chain of command, and one of those happens to be a professional ability to kill specifically defined combatants.

    This is akin to saying “Doctors do not just perform ER surgery.” Of course not, but it is the primary purpose of your training, and you’re sure expected to be capable of doing it whenever it becomes necessary. More often than we like, this is with support personnel.

    Also, in the US Military, a soldier may refuse a legitimate order if it is reasonably suspect as immoral, although he will likely have to defend that position in a Court Martial.

  115. #117 JohnnieCanuck, FCD
    April 27, 2008

    The NYT article also illustrates another aspect of church/state entanglement. The second page has a photograph of the chapel at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. Why they don’t just call it a cathedral and be done with it, I don’t know. Modest and inexpensive it’s not.

    Obviously the architect had something inspirational like ‘Reach for the sky!’ in mind for the cadets. Too bad the IRS has passed that message along to sinners and atheists alike.

    I hear the latest appropriations bill will be buying quite a few more such chapels on military bases, the better to console those who might otherwise have benefited from spending on medical care, et cetera.

  116. #118 Polyester Mather D.D.
    April 27, 2008

    Onward Godless soldiers
    In foxholes you will find
    Lots of Christian corpses
    Of every creed and kind

    Former Druze and Hebrews
    And Gnostics asinine
    Whatever your religion,
    Shrapnel doesn’t mind

  117. #119 brokenSoldier
    April 27, 2008

    Also, in the US Military, a soldier may refuse a legitimate order if it is reasonably suspect as immoral, although he will likely have to defend that position in a Court Martial.

    Posted by: Mystyk | April 27, 2008 12:46 AM

    And many of them do just that. When they think the force is being applied a little too much, they back off. When a soldier sees a child in his field of view, he becomes that much more cautious, and makes that little mental note to keep that kid out of whatever could happen. When a soldier refuses to fire back at an insurgent spraying suppressive fire at him to try to keep him in one spot, and elects instead to time an uncovered run for cover when the enemy reloads because the insurgent is holding a man or woman, or even sometimes a child, in front of them, he is showing that same judgement – being cautious and judicious in the use of force. I have seen each of these situations occur more than once, and countless more that show the true soldiers – the ones that know both how to fight and when to fight. If not for them, we’d have lost many more soldiers than we already have.

    But those are the soldiers you never hear about, and that’s the way it will always be. The situations that get the most exposure are the most horrific ones that involve gruesome crimes against humanity that deserve no defense, no matter what uniform the offender may be wearing. And this is the way it should be – the attention goes to where society needs to repair some aspect of itself. But just remember that for every one story you hear about a soldier who couldn’t rise to that occasion and committed a crime, there are literally thousands of other soldiers doing the best they can with a terrible situation, with some even improving the situation around them.

  118. #120 Eric Paulsen
    April 27, 2008

    First they infiltrated the schools to control the thoughts of our children, but since I wasn’t a child I stood by and did nothing. Then they packed the local pharmacies so they could interfere with womens reproductive rights, but since I’m not a woman I soon forgot about that. Then they enlisted in the military and were placed in key positions but the millions of under educated children who were indoctrinated into their faith weren’t interested in helping me when they came to put me in the work camp.

  119. #121 A J Gardner
    April 27, 2008

    I think the military should not be getting involved with what a person believes are. That is a personal matter.

    A J Gardner Google Me

  120. #122 amk
    April 27, 2008

    List of countries without armed forces. Not many, and mostly tiny.

    I’m seriously considering tax protest next year if this war continues.

    Emigrate. It’ll disrupt your life, but not as much as jail would.

  121. #123 John C. Randolph
    April 27, 2008

    My dad served his ROTC commitment in the USAF in the 1950s, and his dog tags said “none” for religion. Don’t know if he ever asked for them to say “atheist”.

    -jcr

  122. #124 John C. Randolph
    April 27, 2008

    5500 unreported cases of superior officers shoving religion down the throats of their subordinates.

    WTF? How do you count unreported cases of anything?

    -jcr

  123. #125 John C. Randolph
    April 27, 2008

    When I was there at Peterson,I heard rumors from some of the higher ranking enlisted folk that fundy wacko’s had infiltrated into the Strategic Air Command, all the way down into the silos.

    I once worked for a man who had discovered a pack of scientologits who had infiltrated his command to steal classified material to sell to the soviets. Seems they were doing this to get cash to spend on scientology “auditing”. He was completely disgusted with the FBI’s foot-dragging after Hubbard decided to go for the “religion” angle.

    -jcr

  124. #126 Kseniya
    April 27, 2008

    One of my friends, who just doesn’t get why I’m keeping my eye on the religious right and all its little encroachments, is an atheist from a military family. Maybe I’ll point her here…

  125. #127 Samos3
    April 27, 2008

    CalGeorge, flat out, you are a sack of pig shit. Give up. You’re having your ass kicked from one side of the blog to the other and then having it handed back to you for another kicking.

    This is the only level of response a mentally broken twit like you deserves.

  126. #128 Peter Kemp
    April 27, 2008

    brokenSoldier @ 101

    However, if you think it should be due to some innate immorality in the concept, I suggest you write your Congressman.

    I don’t think any Congressman would listen, considering I’m an Aussie and a lawyer to boot. :-)

    What I was saying perhaps not so clearly, is centred around the word “enabling”. This is not to suggest that new enlistees ipso facto are committing a war crime by enlisting, simply that by doing so, they are exposing themselves to a situation of exacerbated propensity to commit war crimes. Where the whole war is considered to be –by arguably a majority in the world, and by International law experts: an illegal aggressive war. Akin to enlistees in the Wehrmacht in 1944 knowing they were being sent to France to fight the French Resistance already branded terrorists and to be shot on sight and even murdered on capture. Or sent to the Gestapo (Abu Ghraib)for “interrogation.”

    Such enlistees “enabled” the Nazi government to prolong the ‘occupation”. Enlistees to Iraq likewise arguably prolong the “occupation” of Iraq, prolong the slaughter of innocents and prolong the propensity of the ever increasing numbers of Lt Calley type “bottom of the barrel” criminal and/or psychopathic enlistees to commit war crimes.

    Of course due to the appalling education standards of the lower socio economic “class” in the US, who are most susceptible to the steady job prospects of the military as an escape from poverty, moral or legal concepts of illegal wars escapes them.

    It’s not an innate morality: I’m saying it’s a morality that enlistees are not aware of, for the large part. Partly because they have been brainwashed in American exceptionalism and partly because they have been brainwashed into religious beliefs (by the asinine Xtian fundies of the calibre of Falwell and many others) which Weinberg says justifies any crime in the name of religion, ie “For ‘good’ people to do evil–that takes religion.” For the rest, an abysmal ignorance about the rest of the world, a failing of many Americans [with the notable exception of most here at La Maison PZM :-)] whose knowledge of other cultures is at best from assimilated migrants. Foreign policy and history? Even less.

    My comment on an atheist position that allows “defence forces” for the purpose of legitimate defence is not one that I imagine is outside the realm of most atheistic positions. I don’t think that that is an unreasonable proposition for atheists. (But I don’t claim to speak for a majority of atheists by any means.)

    Culpability always starts at the top and filters down. My impression so far is that some “flunkies” at the bottom are culpable for war crimes, and many have been whitewashed. When the heat gets too tough, some flunkies undoubtedly and inevitably become scapegoats. No culpability for higher ups re Abu Ghraib I notice, because they’d have to go after Rumsfeld if they were serious.

    In such an atmosphere, a climate of political chicanery; [ChiCheney?] of corruption; mass bloodshed; an insurgency of many players with many agendas; of unaccountable mercenaries, of unaccountable morons like Bremer setting the context for a massive clusterfuck, compounded at every level military and civilian (like the ‘rebuilding’) : I’d be interested in any further arguments that new enlistees are not enabling [granted innocent by ignorance initially] war crimes or, at the lesser end, crimes against humanity?

  127. #129 Etha Williams
    April 27, 2008

    @#128 Peter Kemp —

    I don’t think that that is an unreasonable proposition for atheists.

    I’m pretty sure the only unreasonable proposition for atheists would be the proposition that God/Goddess/gods/supernatural being(s) exists. Atheism doesn’t refer to a cohesive worldview, philosophical outlook, or system of morality. There are certain rational, naturalistic views common to *many* atheists, but this shouldn’t be confused with what atheism actually is: lack of belief in God — nothing more, nothing less. So to say that something isn’t an unreasonable proposition for atheists is somewhat meaningless.

  128. #130 Ian Gould
    April 27, 2008

    “Considering the demographics are towards non-belief among young people, if not out right atheism, the military setting itself up for an interesting recruiting problem. One might predict the end result of all this harassment will be a generation of truly militant atheists that make PZ and Dawkins look like religious apologists.”

    Mass conscript armies are no longer needed, so I suspect the objective of the Christofascists is probably to have a small elite military overwhelmingly made up of fanatical members of their particular sect of Christianity.

    If they can convert others to their religion that’s a bonus, but if they can largely exclude them from the military* and thereby gain a monopoly on military power within the US.

    *I don’t know how Catholics (either the largest or second largest Christian denomination is the US) are likely to react to being lectured on the need to be born again but I doubt it’s likely to be favorable.

  129. #131 negentropyeater
    April 27, 2008

    Do religious belief / afterlife have an influence on one’s capacity to wage war ?

  130. #132 Nick Gotts
    April 27, 2008

    Re #128 Peter, I agree with pretty much all of this. I’d also say that even before the invasion of Iraq, anyone joining the US or UK armed forces could and should have known (intelligence and education permitting):
    1) That there was a strong probability they would be ordered to take part in wars of aggression and/or repression.
    2) That their central role, whatever their oath might say, would be to maintain a fundamentally unjust, oppressive and environmentally destructive world-system.

    For an atheist, there should be an uncomfortable parallel between the theist’s “It is my duty to do what God tells me”, and the soldier’s “It is my duty to do what my superior officers tell me”. Neither absolves the individual of the duty to make their own moral judgements.

  131. #133 MarkW
    April 27, 2008

    Regarding points made about refusing orders, and perhaps o/t:

    Is there not a case (I can’t remember whether ongoing, or relatively recent) of a US soldier in Court Martial for refusing an order of posting in Iraq, on the grounds that it’s an illegal war, and therefore an illegal order?

  132. #134 Peter Kemp
    April 27, 2008

    Nick @ 132, agree wholeheartedly.

    Etha @ 129, meaningless if I’m trying to define atheism beyond non-belief in a deity, which I’m not. I was just trying to clarify a reply brokenSoldier made @101, I wasn’t claiming to speak for atheists or meaning to imply it was necessarily atheist territory. Simply that ‘defence forces’ are legitimate when it comes to genuine self defence nationally, a concept that springs naturally from the older concept (ie before nation states) of self-defence at the individual level.

    (There has to be a utilitarian argument for self defence BTW and with Kantian side-constraints as posited by Robert Nozick in a paper on general utilitarianism, it would prevent “self-defence” going overboard. I personally derive much pleasure from such philosophy as a basis of morality: makes much more sense than the invisible camera in the sky does it not? [rhetorical question :-)]

    But when I hear these days the words “Pentagon” and “Defence Department” and Iraq, it grates. That was my point.

  133. #135 benjdm
    April 27, 2008
  134. #136 David Marjanovi?, OM
    April 27, 2008

    Talk to me about all the governments out there that don’t have a military.

    Costa Rica abolished the military after the civil war and now only has a heavily armed police unit that patrols the borders or something.

    Besides, if you want a list of countries that have a military but don’t need one, I’ll be glad to oblige…

    Maybe it’s natural selection and Christianity is winning.

    Maybe we are just going to evolve into something much smarter and Christianity is the way to go.

    Artificial selection for people who don’t question will lead to a smarter population? How? And do soldiers have more children than other people? I bet they don’t…

    Three big errors in two sentences. Keep up the good work.

  135. #137 CalGeorge
    April 27, 2008

    I started reading Mark Twain’s anti-imperialist writings about four months ago and his ideas have altered they way I think about patriotism.

    Bush standing on the rubble in New York with a bullhorn counted on a certain response. He got in in spades. His popularity skyrocketed. That response guaranteed war. That response is what fuels war. It’s called knee-jerk patriotism. It is a disease. It turns people into sheep. It makes them play dress up, become automatons, and learn to be killing machines.

    I would rather start from a position of absolute intolerance for warmongering and American militarism and have to backpedal than accept the jingoistic status quo which means instant vilification for anyone who questions American aggression abroad (Jeremiah Wright) or damns our idiotic patriotic impulses or accords a special worthiness to military service.

    Patriotism is merely a religion–love of country, worship of country, devotion to the country’s flag and honor and welfare.

    In absolute monarchies it is furnished from the throne, cut and dried, to the subject; in England and America it is furnished, cut and dried, to the citizen by the politician and the newspaper.

    The newspaper-and-politician-manufactured Patriot often gags in private over his dose; but he takes it, and keeps it on his stomach the best he can. Blessed are the meek.

    Sometimes, in the beginning of an insane and shabby political upheaval, he is strongly moved to revolt, but he doesn’t do it–he knows better. He knows that his maker would find it out–the maker of his Patriotism, the windy and incoherent six-dollar sub-editor of his village newspaper–and would bray out in print and call him a traitor. And how dreadful that would be. It makes him tuck his tail between his legs and shiver. We all know–the reader knows it quite well–that two or three years ago nine-tenths of the human tails in England and America performed just that act. Which is to say, nine-tenths of the Patriots in England and America turned traitor to keep from being called traitor. Isn’t it true? You know it to be true. Isn’t it curious?

    Yet it was not a thing to be very seriously ashamed of. A man can seldom–very, very seldom–fight a winning fight against his training; the odds are too heavy. For many a year–perhaps always–the training of the two nations had been dead against independence in political thought, persistently inhospitable toward Patriotism manufactured on a man’s own premises, Patriotism reasoned out in the man’s own head and fire-assayed and tested and proved in his own conscience. The resulting Patriotism was a shop-worn product procured at second hand. The Patriot did not know just how or when or where he got his opinions, neither did he care, so long as he was with what seemed the majority–which was the main thing, the safe thing, the comfortable thing. Does the reader believe he knows three men who have actual reasons for their pattern of Patriotism–and can furnish them? Let him not examine, unless he wants to be disappointed. He will be likely to find that his men got their Patriotism at the public trough, and had no hand in their preparation themselves. – Mark Twain, ca. 1901.

  136. #138 Nick Gotts
    April 27, 2008

    Do you really think that next year, if the government wants to, they’ll just be able to pull out of Iraq and say “oh, war’s over” with no consequence?! I agree that this entire war was wrong in the first place, but at this point were so far entrenched that I will be deeply surprised if our next president will be able to get us out of the war before April 15 ’09. – Etha Williams

    Of course they would be able to withdraw. If the next President announces the date, and looks like (s)he means it, both the Sadrists and most Sunni nationalists would probably be happy to let the invaders go quietly, saving their powder for the tussles to come. Of course there would be consequences: most certainly, a large decrease in US power and prestige. There would probably be considerable fighting between Iraqis in the aftermath, unless the Sadrists were invited into government, and felt they could not be confident of winning an all-out war. Iraqi Kurdistan would retain its de facto independence. Neighbouring states might intervene, but probably not. Longer term, who knows? But that is true anyway. The fundamental point is that a clear majority of Iraqis wants the occupiers out – every poll I’m aware of shows this – so they should leave. Of course the next President is very unlikely to withdraw, unless it’s a Democrat with landslide majorities in popular vote and Congress following a campaign in which Iraq was a major issue, or unless the economy goes right down the tubes: the elite is overwhelmingly in favour of continued occupation, and will continue to be so unless the costs rise too high.

  137. #139 Michael Crichton
    April 27, 2008

    Obligatory anecdotal ‘evidence': When I was enlisted, I was always open about my godlessness, and no one ever oppressed _me_. Not that I doubt the original story, but I find it both annoying and amusing the way some commentators seem to think the entire Army is like that.

  138. #140 Mike Crichton
    April 27, 2008

    redlegphi I can’t speak for the Air Force or Navy, but the Army is so desperate for people of just about every rank and skill at this point that the idea of some religious jackass getting away with barring a re-enlistment for this nonsense is ridiculous.

    But not completely implausible. You can bet that if he had tried to get them barred, Major Fuckhead wouldn’t have given the real reason, he would have made some shit up. If you’ve been lucky enough to never run into a shitbag officer like that yet, well, let’s hope your luck holds :-/

    negentropyeater wrote:
    I don’t know if this makes any sense but if I were a general and I had to select an army of soldiers for a potentially very harsh battle with the enemy, I’d probably favour the faithheads over the non believers. Maybe it’s a stupid prejudice but somehow it seems they are easier to command and send to their potential deaths.
    Is this stupid or not ?

    Yes, but you’d hardly be alone in that stupidity.

    CalGeorge wrote:
    There is nothing honorable about soldiering. It’s professionalized murder.

    If you really believe that, then it’s incredibly stupid for you to continue antagonizing us “murderers”. :-P

  139. #141 Nick Gotts
    April 27, 2008

    I favor the end of the war – I favor the defeat of no one, exceppt those against the establishment of peace. Looking at the current situation, it seems that those objectors to peace are our governments and those running them, so I think we are making the same essential point, but I’d rather see everyone come out of it as well as possible, rather than having any of them defeated. And while I’m sure a good deal of that it based on the fact that I’d rather not have my country defeated, I’m also motivated by the fact that in today’s – and definitely tomorrow’s – economy, no one major part can be “defeated” in the traditional sense of the word without the situation declining across the board. Instead of winning and losing, we need to be figuring out ways to even things out and make the quality of life for everyone better. – brokenSoldier

    I certainly don’t want the neocons and their foreign sycophants to come out of the Iraq war well – I want them politically destroyed, and their leaders tried for planning and waging aggressive war and sentenced to long terms of imprisonment. While I agree that we are certainly not in a zero-sum game, I do think a sharp defeat for the US and UK would be salutary.

  140. #142 John Phillips, FCD
    April 27, 2008

    Nick Gotts: Actually, between the first and second gulf war, for UK troops anyway, the average conflict type situation that the average UK soldier got involved with was either humanitarian or peacekeeping roles, think the Balkans and Kosovo, Sierra Leone etc. But hey, after all they are not Brits so who cares how they get treated, not our responsibility, right!

    Similarly, even in more active combat roles such as Afghanistan, it could arguably be justified on a self defence basis, as the Taleban gave Al Qaeda a safe haven to train. The other active role was patrolling the no fly zones in Iraq were meant to be a combination of humanitarian, i.e. protecting some Iraqis from air strikes by Saddam’s forces and to maintain a UN embargo. Of course, you can argue about the effectiveness of the latter and the fact that we took our eye off the ball in Afghanistan by getting involved in Iraq. But that is a political rather than a military issue.

    Additionally, when I was in special forces back in the 70s the majority of the work we did in various hot spots around the world was to protect and enable civilian nationals to do their work. Work such as basic civil engineering, health work, education, etc. Overall, I would say that 90% of the time we actually fired, quite rare in reality, on anyone was either in response to direct incoming at us or at civilian workers, such as the aforementioned health workers. Much like what many of our forces are doing in Afghanistan. The other 10% were us initiating action to take out a base that was been used to attack those we were protecting or simply patrolling to deny ground to the attackers.

    In fact, if you look at the number of times UK forces have been involved over the last thirty or forty years, you will find that the majority of times they have either been involved in humanitarian or peacekeeping rather than out and out combat. Of course at times, combat ability has been an important aspect, if only to enable the humanitarian or peacekeeping work to continue.

    Being pro or anti military forces and their use is rarely as black and white as you think it is. Unless of course you believe we live in a totally isolated world and we should ignore everything that goes on outside our borders. An argument I have heard many make, but not one I subscribe to in today massively interconnected world. However, I will agree that how our government use our armed forces is and should be a very valid concern for ever citizen. But, the fact that they can be misused doesn’t take way from their value when used correctly, neither does it automatically make those who join up some kind of sub human as is implied by some on here.

    Part of the reason my health is such a major problem nowadays is due to the injuries I received at those times doing the evil humanitarian support. Yet I don’t begrudge those my worked helped, only glad to have been of some service when it mattered. But hey what do I know, as obviously I am just some mindless government automaton who enables their evil plans, so you can safely ignore the validity of anything I have to say.

  141. #143 Chris Rodda
    April 27, 2008

    Posted by: Ian Gould: “I don’t know how Catholics (either the largest or second largest Christian denomination is the US) are likely to react to being lectured on the need to be born again but I doubt it’s likely to be favorable.”

    I can answer that. Of the 7,700 requests for assistance received by MRFF, 96% have been from Christians who aren’t the “right kind” of Christians, and over 1,800 of these have been Catholics. This is why it was so ludicrous for us to be attacked by Bill Donohue and his Catholic League a few weeks ago.

    The rebuttal I wrote of the Catholic League’s press releases is on the MRFF website. Here’s the link:

    http://militaryreligiousfreedom.org/press-releases/catholic_league_pr.html

  142. #144 Notkieran
    April 27, 2008

    Mystyk at #116: You’re right, of course in that all soldiers in combat zones are technically combatants. I’m merely pointing out that a lot of those soldiers are as combatants in the same way that the perennial benchwarmer at a college team is, technically, a member of the football team, albeit for different reasons.

    The capacity to kill is what makes them technically combat-capable, although I’d like to point out that learning to field-strip and fire a rifle on-target was always the easiest part of my army duties. The hard part was the technical aspect, which was what I was earning my meagre pay for.

    As a result, when a medic or signaller or ambulance driver is firing his weapon, he is not being utilised properly, and thus is either under an incompetent officer or is under personal threat, at which point anyone he or she is firing it is a legitimate threat.

    What about the morality of an order? Let me put a scenario forward to you: You’re told that the settlement ahead houses rebels, and you’re ordered to attack. You rush in there, and then someone fires a gun, and all of you are firing in the dark because you think you’re under threat, and when the smoke clears and the sun rises, you find that the entire settlement didn’t have a peashooter between them, and the first round was fired by some sierra-for-brains who fired at the first shadow he saw, which was a cat.

    Have the solders in this example behaved immorally? No, because morality cannot be established in the absence of knowledge, which the foot soldier lacks in sufficient detail before the rounds start flying, and is in no psychological shape to gauge after they do. I would recommend Malcolm Gladwell’s “Blink” as an easily accessible study of what happens to people in high-stakes, high-fear situations where it is difficult to tell neutrals from enemies, which is the conditions most of these massacres occur.

    Let me repeat an important point: Morality cannot exist in the absence of knowledge. If I fire a shotgun into a bush and accidentally blow away somebody’s child who was playing hide and seek, I am only an idiot; I am not a monster.

    Therefore, although one could make a case that a soldier _should_ refuse an immoral order, most of the time the soldier is:

    a. not in possession of the knowledge required to make a moral judgement

    b. in a position where he trusts the superior– usually his sergeant or officer– to have the knowledge required to ensure that this is a morally appropriate order.

    Under such circumstances, a foot soldier will tend to follow orders that look even mildly legitimate. If you don’t believe that, a quick read of Milgram’s experiment might enlighten you.

    Soldiers are not monsters by default; if you stopped to think about it, a lot of soldiers are there because the army gave them the best or even only chance to make something of themselves, and they want to pay it back, which suggests a sense of debt and decency.

    Also, and this is possibly a Freudian slip, when I said mineLAYER I meant mineSWEEPER.

  143. #145 brokenSoldier
    April 27, 2008

    Posted by: Peter Kemp | April 27, 2008 5:13 AM

    I don’t think any Congressman would listen, considering I’m an Aussie and a lawyer to boot. :-)

    Maybe you could write one of ours anyway? Who knows, they might actually listen to someone outside the country – they sure do seem to have an aversion to listening to us.

    What I was saying perhaps not so clearly, is centred around the word “enabling”… Where the whole war is considered to be –by arguably a majority in the world, and by International law experts: an illegal aggressive war. Akin to enlistees in the Wehrmacht in 1944 knowing they were being sent to France to fight the French Resistance already branded terrorists and to be shot on sight and even murdered on capture.

    I can assure you that the general disposition of young men who felt like joining the military after the most horrific attack on American soil in our history is in no way akin to the disposition of the specific kind of hate it takes to murder a prisoner of war. Many of our soldiers have felt the human urge to do so, but only a small number of our soldiers do commit that crime, and they should stand trial for their actions. But simply joining and “exposing yourself” to the possibility that you might commit a war crime is not analogous to “enabling high crimes.” That is akin to saying that by signing up to be a police officer, you are “enabling high crimes” such as murder, illegal seizure of property, money laundering, extortion, bribery – all are crimes committed by bad cops, but those crimes in no way diminish the service of those who had the compassion and the restraint to obey the law they are sworn to uphold. An example of the ones that actually do enable the high crimes you spoke about are the commanders that order, or ignore, them when they are committed.

    Or sent to the Gestapo (Abu Ghraib)for “interrogation.”

    This is not even a valid comparison. The Gestapo were a secret state police that were used primarily on German society itself – the German Army had another branch to deal with external threats to their dominance. The soldiers at Abu Ghraib are a poor example of such. They were soldiers who took delight in the humiliation of the prisoners they were charged with guarding (which means feeding, clothing, protecting, and observing), and while high command did have culpability in that situation (which was ignored), the individual soldiers there were brutally inconsiderate and cruel – but even then they are not a sufficient analog to a secret state police bent on hegemonic domination of a country. A better example would be the CIA. Their secret prisons, system of rendition, and enhanced interrogation techniques are all too reminiscent of the Gestapo.

    Such enlistees “enabled” the Nazi government to prolong the ‘occupation”. Enlistees to Iraq likewise arguably prolong the “occupation” of Iraq, prolong the slaughter of innocents and prolong the propensity of the ever increasing numbers of Lt Calley type “bottom of the barrel” criminal and/or psychopathic enlistees to commit war crimes.

    Enlistees to Iraq? No soldier enlists to go to any country, as I’ve told you before. Your argument might hold water if it were true that every soldier in the Army had been to Iraq. But, of course, that is not true. There are soldiers that have never been to Iraq, while others have already been three, four, and even five times. It is another example of the fact that the Army is being grossly misused in this war, and simply joining the Army in no way denotes a singular desire to go fight in Iraq.

    But – as far as I take your argument to mean that enlisting since the Iraq war began is somehow agreeing with the entire thing – your claim is still basically incorrect. If military recruits simply failed to join due to the public opinion about this war, then you would very soon see draft cards at the doorstep again. The nation will not simply do without a military, and if no one does it willingly, it will be compulsory. But, since you don’t live here, I’m sure that’s not a concern you worry about too much – you have the freedom to make that argument without having to worry about its requisite consequences.

    I’ve said it before, but I’ll state it clearly. I joined the military because I believe that a certain number of the citizens of the nation have to do so for the nation to exist. I made the choice to be one of those citizens, and I take pride in the fact that my decision to do so allowed at least one, and probably many, of my fellow citizens the choice not to do so. If we all turned our nose up – like you so indignantly do – at the idea of military service, it wouldn’t simply disappear – we just wouldn’t be the ones making the choices for ourselves anymore as to whether or not to serve.

    Of course due to the appalling education standards of the lower socio economic “class” in the US, who are most susceptible to the steady job prospects of the military as an escape from poverty, moral or legal concepts of illegal wars escapes them.

    This is an extremely arrogant statement to make, especially considering the fact that you don’t live here, and therefore do not have the requisite amount of exposure to these people that you just intellectually insulted that would allow you to accurately make such a claim. It is true that many in the poorer sections of our society end up being the grunts on the ground (yours truly being one of that category), but their financial situation in no way makes them ignorant to the illegality of this war. In fact, a lot of them have to make the decision to join despite the fact that they already disagree with the war. It boils down to a simple decision between two possibilities:

    1 – Do not join the Army, and worry about not feeding, housing, or clothing their families, OR

    2 – Join the Army, follow their training, and make sure that what they do is right and just over there if they are sent.

    I’m glad I joined – if I hadn’t, there would be someone else in my place who might not be as dedicated, proficient, or moral as I consider myself to be. Officers – the good ones – have the mindset that if they were not there leading their soldiers, then some other opfficer – who may be less proficient – would be there, and could get soldiers killed that didn’t need to die, and could kill innocents that had no quarrel with them. The better the soldier, the better the outcome of the shitty situation in which they’re so unjustly stuck.

    It’s not an innate morality: I’m saying it’s a morality that enlistees are not aware of, for the large part. Partly because they have been brainwashed in American exceptionalism and partly because they have been brainwashed into religious beliefs (by the asinine Xtian fundies of the calibre of Falwell and many others) which Weinberg says justifies any crime in the name of religion, ie “For ‘good’ people to do evil–that takes religion.” For the rest, an abysmal ignorance about the rest of the world, a failing of many Americans [with the notable exception of most here at La Maison PZM :-)] whose knowledge of other cultures is at best from assimilated migrants. Foreign policy and history? Even less.

    You apparently are guilty of your own accusations – your statements, while true in some sense, are irreconcilably wrong in their generalizing tone. “American exceptionalism” is a broad term that I take to mean that you think recruits are brainwashed to think that their country is somehow better than the rest of the world, when that is a feeling held by some citizens who then decide to join the military in support of that nation. Soldiers are definitely taught that they are part of the strongest military in the world, but that hardly equates to the Army teaching the wholesale form of general American solipsism that you suggest. Wearing the uniform is not a hard and fast indicator of nationalistic narcissism. Read my earlier posts to see how much my reasons for joining differ from your assumption of why enlistees sign up for the service. And the same goes for the ones you claim are brainwashed by religion. The Army existed before such brainwashing, and it will exist should such manipulation of citizens ever end. The two have nothing to do with each other, save for the fact that the Army is populated by a number of people who believe such things. The Army is also populated with a great many who do not believe such things, and your suggestion that enlistees as a whole are part of one or both groups is entirely wrong. And while some definitely do not have the training in history, foreign policy, and the use of both in current events in no way means that they are somehow unfit citizens and “brainwashed” servants to the military. Many have never been offered such education, as they are coming straight out of high school systems that are inadequate in providing that sort of education and into the service where they can better their lives and the lives of their families. Your accusations are applied in such a general sense that they betray your complicity in succumbing to the same unsubstantiated generalization of opinion that you accuse Americans of having. Your assumptions are based off opinions about my fellow citizens that you simply do not know to be true on the scale to which you applied them.

    My comment on an atheist position that allows “defence forces” for the purpose of legitimate defence is not one that I imagine is outside the realm of most atheistic positions. I don’t think that that is an unreasonable proposition for atheists. (But I don’t claim to speak for a majority of atheists by any means.)

    Your original statement definitely did claim to speak for all atheists – you stated that there was a “point of view among atheists,” without bothering to qualify the statement as you have done here. The fact that a point of view is “not unreasonable for atheists” is no indication that atheists actually hold that belief on a wide scale.

    No culpability for higher ups re Abu Ghraib I notice, because they’d have to go after Rumsfeld if they were serious.

    You’ll find no argument against that point here – Rumsfeld is the criminal in this equation, along with all the others that were respponsible for this unjust war. That in no way places blame on the soldiers they so unjustly and arrogantly used in their sinister endeavor. This is precisely because this administration and its cronies have manipulated our citizens and our governmental policies in order to give their war technical legality. The fact that our Congress gave the President authorization to invade Iraq took away – immediately – all of the soldiers’ abilities to stay out of such an illegal war. And if you think that somehow invalidates the timeless need for citizens to sacrifice their time, and possibly their lives, for the maintenance of an Army we always need for just reasons of just defense, then your opinion is dead wrong in my view, and we can agree to disagree on that one.

    There is an old soldier’s cliche that says “Ours is not to reason why, ours is but to do and die.” This is the predicament a soldier is put in – except that my interpretation of that, in my own service, is more like “Ours is not to reason why, but mine (as a leader of men) is but to do and keep my men and women alive while doing it.” Not as catchy, but it winds up being much better off for the soldier.

    I’d be interested in any further arguments that new enlistees are not enabling [granted innocent by ignorance initially] war crimes or, at the lesser end, crimes against humanity?

    I’d posit that you are not, in fact, open to such arguments, since I’ve clearly and repeatedly stated the difference between the act of joining a nation’s defense forces and the unjust application of such forces by corrupt national officials. But, in the spirit of good discourse, I’ll offer another point. It takes immense courage to join in a time of generally agreed danger to the nation, as in WWI and WWII, and millions of Americans answered those calls to service. In times of war like today, where the legality of such conflict is so contrived, it also takes an immense amount of courage to join, in a slightly different sense. This is solely because the situation we have been put into over there makes the job extremely more difficult than simply finding and fighting the enemy in open, mutual combat. We’re sent there to fight, and we have to wait until the enemy feels like making themselves known before we can do so. We end up in a perpetual state of waiting to be attacked, since the enemy wears civilian clothes to conceal their identity. You’ll never know the fear, rage, paranoia, and pure uncertainty that combines within the mind of a soldier performing the simple duty of a traffic checkpoint, and I hope you never do. Along with those emotions, true soldiers are also – at the same time – holding in their mind the apprehension of the possibility of getting someone hurt that has no involvement in their fight. These emotions are extremely hard to contain while calmly performing your duties, and some soldiers succumb to them and act outside their duties and retaliate. The soldiers that do not succumb to the perversion of their duties by personal rage or any other extant emotion created by that untenable situation they’re ordered into are testaments to the profession, and they serve honorably despite the fact that they are in a war they shouldn’t be fighting in the first place. You immediately equate soldiering with killing, when such an equation is simply ignorant of the fact that a great deal of our soldiers’ time on Iraq is spent trying to protect the civilians around them from the violence that erupts in their cities. The soldier has no choice in the matter of being there or not – and the great majority of them are compassionate enough to recognize that the civilians thrown into the middle of this war are done so through no fault of their own. As such, they deserve as much protection as we would give our own citizens, and soldiers fight and die everyday to ensure that they have such protection. These soldiers are not enabling war crimes. These soldiers are trying to prevent their commission, whether the offender is wearing a flag or a mask. The suggestion that their act of joining is a direct enabler of such crimes is an insult to the soldiers that have stood against such crimes, even when their own fellow soldiers are the ones committing the crimes. I have seen many a soldier and leader restrain their troops – at their own peril – to ensure that no innocent civilians are harmed. Your generalized assumptions are a quite callous insult to those soldiers and the principles they defend.

  144. #146 brokenSoldier
    April 27, 2008

    Therefore, although one could make a case that a soldier _should_ refuse an immoral order, most of the time the soldier is:
    a. not in possession of the knowledge required to make a moral judgement
    b. in a position where he trusts the superior– usually his sergeant or officer– to have the knowledge required to ensure that this is a morally appropriate order.
    Under such circumstances, a foot soldier will tend to follow orders that look even mildly legitimate. If you don’t believe that, a quick read of Milgram’s experiment might enlighten you.

    Posted by: Notkieran | April 27, 2008 11:45 AM

    Thank you, Notikerian. Yours is the perfect explanation of why it isn’t so black and white when speaking of soldiers following “immoral” orders.

  145. #147 Notkieran
    April 27, 2008

    Oh, as an addendum:

    If you put people under pressure from a not-easily-defined foe– what I refer to as a “cauldron”, then, statistically, people are more likely to revert to the most simple of solutions: kill anyone that might be an enemy, and see what happens next.

    I’m aware of counterexamples, of course, but the simplest fact of the matter is that this thing could have been avoided if Dubya had, you know, actually _listened_ to his commanders.

  146. #148 Dahan
    April 27, 2008

    David,

    “Costa Rica abolished the military after the civil war and now only has a heavily armed police unit that patrols the borders or something.”

    I’m actually aware of that, and think it’s great. There are a couple small countries that have done similar.

    However, a “heavily armed police” force that patrols borders etc. brings to mind the “A rose by any other name…” saying. If Costa Rica were invaded, that Police Force would use the same tactics and weapons as if they were called Soldiers. Likewise, If you had an idiot in control of them, using the power of fear to control the country, they could be sent into other countries to wage “police actions”.

  147. #149 brokenSoldier
    April 27, 2008

    While I agree that we are certainly not in a zero-sum game, I do think a sharp defeat for the US and UK would be salutary.
    Posted by: Nick Gotts | April 27, 2008 11:13 AM

    A sharp defeat of a policial ideology has nothng to do with the military defeat of a nation. One involves an internal chnage of policy, while the other involves the destruction of infrastructure, both internal and external, with the external infrastructure in this case being our military. If we (US and UK) come out of this militarily defeated, your wishes will come true, and your life will definitely be worse for it – I agree with your overall point, but such moral integrity in calling for defeat will not keep you safe when your country’s military no longer has the means to resist threat, which is the textbook definition of defeat.

    I want the neo-cons gone. I do not want to see any military or country defeated. Sadly, Iraq is beyond that point, but there are soldiers there now trying to rebuild and fix the problems started by this administration’s jump to war. When they go to towns to coordinate the construction of critical infrastructure, dodging IED’s and bullets along the way, they are trying to make the area around them better. Go ahead and accuse them of enabling war crimes if you want – that makes the accusation no less abhorrent or untrue.

  148. #150 Nick Gotts
    April 27, 2008

    John Phillips,

    Your poor health, and the reasons for it, are not an argument. I hope it improves.

    Being pro or anti military forces and their use is rarely as black and white as you think it is.

    I don’t think you are interested in what I think. You certainly give no evidence to support you assertions about it. I did not say, and do not believe, that all the uses of US or UK forces have been wrong. Try rereading what I wrote, and thinking before you post.

    I consider that the use of British troops in Sierra Leone was both legal and right.

    I would question how far UK involvement in the Balkans was motivated by humanitarian concern; a desire to see Yugoslavia disintegrate, and ensure that foreign companies could invest profitably in the fragments were likely the main motive. While Milosevic and his cronies were certainly a thoroughly nasty bunch, there were many lies told about the extent of their crimes, and those of the KLA on the other side, in the run-up to and course of the bombing of Serbia. What is certain is that that bombing was illegal under international law. I am not saying such a breach of international law could never be justified morally; I do doubt whether this was such a case, particularly given the way the Kosovo intervention has subsequently been used as a precedent to justify the invasion of Iraq.

    You make no mention of the largest deployment of UK forces in the last 30-40 years: northern Ireland. I remember “Bloody Sunday” in 1972, when members of the Parachute Regiment murdered 13 unarmed demonstrators (14 if you count one who died of their injuries some months later), and were never brought to book for it. Not only a hideous crime in itself, but a major contribution to ensuring that decades of violence followed.

    Even the Falklands War, while justified in terms of self-defence, included the war crime of sinking the General Belgrano when it was headed away from the islands – apparently done to ensure that the chance of a compromise peace that would have cost Thatcher politically was scuppered.

    In Afghanistan, raids to destroy al-Qaeda bases would certainly have been justified; prolonged occupation of the country is another matter, and has a good deal to do with a useful strategic base from which to attack Iran, and a planned gas pipeline from Turkmenistan to the Pakistani coast. If you look at the troop deployments, you’ll find they are mostly near the route this pipeline would take. Certainly the welfare of the Afghan people has not been uppermost in the occupiers’ minds. You mention:

    the fact that we took our eye off the ball in Afghanistan by getting involved in Iraq.

    That should tell you something: when the chance of a richer prize – control of Iraq’s oil and more strategically sited military bases – seemed to be on offer, Iraq was invaded and Afghanistan put on the back burner.

    But that is a political rather than a military issue.

    and:

    Unless of course you believe we live in a totally isolated world and we should ignore everything that goes on outside our borders.

    If you would care to pay some attention to what I wrote, you will notice that it is precisely the global political context I say those thinking of joining the armed forces should consider. In brief, I do not consider that the US and UK forces are, in that global context, the “Good Guys”: their central role, whatever humanitarian activities may be undertaken when they are not needed for that role, is to maintain the current highly unequal global distribution of wealth and power. That does not mean I consider these forces’ members to be “subhuman”, nor have I said anything that could reasonably be interpreted as implying this.

  149. #151 Chris Rodda
    April 27, 2008

    The transcript of the CBS Sunday Morning segment on this story is up on the CBS News website:

    http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2008/04/27/sunday/main4048492.shtml

  150. #152 Nick Gotts
    April 27, 2008

    If military recruits simply failed to join due to the public opinion about this war, then you would very soon see draft cards at the doorstep again. – brokenSoldier

    Good. That would ignite real resistance to the war, and end it faster than anything else.

    If we (US and UK) come out of this militarily defeated, your wishes will come true, and your life will definitely be worse for it – I agree with your overall point, but such moral integrity in calling for defeat will not keep you safe when your country’s military no longer has the means to resist threat, which is the textbook definition of defeat. – brokenSoldier

    If an invader or occupier is forced to abandon the invasion or occupation, that is defeat. The USA was defeated in Vietnam. The UK was defeated in Kenya and in Yemen. If the USA and UK are defeated in Iraq and Afghanistan, neither will be in the slightest danger of invasion, while the danger of terrorist attack may well fall.

  151. #153 Todd
    April 27, 2008

    If you really want to see just how much of a loud Christianist wackaloon Freddy Wellborn is (and I know you all do) check out his Myspace page.

    http://www.myspace.com/freddywelborn

  152. #154 Kseniya
    April 27, 2008

    If you put people under pressure from a not-easily-defined foe– what I refer to as a “cauldron”, then, statistically, people are more likely to revert to the most simple of solutions: kill anyone that might be an enemy, and see what happens next.

    Sounds like Vietnam, to me.

  153. #155 brokenSoldier
    April 27, 2008

    In brief, I do not consider that the US and UK forces are, in that global context, the “Good Guys”: their central role, whatever humanitarian activities may be undertaken when they are not needed for that role, is to maintain the current highly unequal global distribution of wealth and power. That does not mean I consider these forces’ members to be “subhuman”, nor have I said anything that could reasonably be interpreted as implying this.

    Posted by: Nick Gotts | April 27, 2008 12:24 PM

    The central role of these armies is to defend the nation. Your description of their central role of defenders of wealth and position ignores the fact that – as it has been stated by many on this thread – the way the Bush administration and its supporters in the UK’s government is not the correct and just way to use a standing army. You continue to equate the way these criminals are currently using our military to what their central role as a military actually is in current human society, but it will continue to be a quite fallacious equation. And while you do not call soldiers “subhuman,” you have definitely stated that by joining, they are complicit in the crimes that are committed in Iraq – a claim that is so entirely faulty that it borders on sinister in its characterization of those who make such sacrifices.

    I’d also say that even before the invasion of Iraq, anyone joining the US or UK armed forces could and should have known (intelligence and education permitting):
    1) That there was a strong probability they would be ordered to take part in wars of aggression and/or repression.
    2) That their central role, whatever their oath might say, would be to maintain a fundamentally unjust, oppressive and environmentally destructive world-system.
    For an atheist, there should be an uncomfortable parallel between the theist’s “It is my duty to do what God tells me”, and the soldier’s “It is my duty to do what my superior officers tell me”. Neither absolves the individual of the duty to make their own moral judgements.

    Posted by: Nick Gotts | April 27, 2008 7:11 AM

    Both of the above numbered statements are completely wrong in both their stated intent and also their implications. Firstly, a soldier can only trust that the force he or she is joining will be used justly. If you cannot trust your government in that way, then do not join. But do not accuse those who choose to join of being criminals for that choice. It is ridiculously false and quite unfair to a great many selfless, brave, and compassionate individuals to make such an accusation.

    As for your silly comparison between following officers’ order and following directives from a deity, I can’t believe that you seriously see a connection between the two. For one, the officer giving the order actually exists, and his or her orders carry only the authority given their rank and position. The soldier can, and they often do, object to certain orders based on the fact that they do not believe the order is morally prudent. The good officers out there recognize when such an objection is correct, and do not pursue their previously desired path. I do not know where you get the insinuation that because some soldiers commit war crimes, all soldiers have a penchant for the same sort of bloodlust, but it is utterly and viciously spurious to make such a generalization. Just because you hear of the cases in which such crimes do occur does not mean that judicious use of force and compassionate actions are not performed by our soldiers on a daily basis in that situation, because they definitely do.

  154. #156 Katrina
    April 27, 2008

    @Todd:
    That was really disturbing.

    I’m glad I never ran across anything like this during my time in the Navy. But, looking back, I can see that the potential was there.

  155. #157 Ian Gould
    April 27, 2008

    148: “However, a “heavily armed police” force that patrols borders etc. brings to mind the “A rose by any other name…” saying. If Costa Rica were invaded, that Police Force would use the same tactics and weapons as if they were called Soldiers.”

    Not really.

    The Public Force as it’s called has a total of 6,000 members but only 750 actually serve as border patrols. The rest really are police.

    Their weapons are limited to M16s and submachine guns and they have no combat aircraft or naval vessels.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Military_of_Costa_Rica

    It’s worth noting that since the military was abolished in 1949, Cota Rica has had just about the longest period of uninterrupted democracy in Latin America combined with high economic growth and one of the highest standards of living in the region.

    Compare that with neighbours such as El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.

  156. #158 Notkieran
    April 27, 2008

    Kseniya @#154:

    Good point. I think I wouldn’t have really processed that thought if not for Barry Eisler’s “Rain Fall”, where his narrator John Rain tells about how he ended up being involved in a massacre in Vietnam.

    Nobody wants to do it. It’s just that each action builds on the previous action in a catastrophe chain, and every single action follows logically from the one before it…

    Next thing you know… boom.

    It’s easy to demonise people, but that gets you exactly nowhere in understanding why they do the things they do.

    Likewise, to understand why some soldiers commit atrocities, the most efficient way is to ask “what would lead me to commit these atrocities?”, to which the answer is “by being given bad orders when I’m already half out of what people would consider to be my normal state of mind.

    The reason why people like to demonise soldiers is very simple: Not demonising them would mean that soldiers are like, you know, normal people, and that would mean that normal people would kill. And killing is instinctively seen as immoral, although I have my own views on that.

  157. #159 Todd
    April 27, 2008

    Katrina – That was really disturbing.

    Yep, it sure is. I once had one of my Air Force ROTC instructors take the last 15 minutes of a 20 minute mandatory feedback session to try and sell Jebus to cadets. All the cadets knew it was wrong and pretty much just ignored him. Fortunately that’s the only time I ever encountered flagrant proselytizing after 20 years in the Air Force.

  158. #160 brokenSoldier
    April 27, 2008

    Posted by: Nick Gotts | April 27, 2008 12:39 PM

    Good. That would ignite real resistance to the war, and end it faster than anything else.

    Wrong. It would conscript hundreds of thousands of unwilling citizens into a war that you so vigorously (and justly, inmy opinion) oppose. Your above statement assumes that such resistance would end the war before those drafted individuals crossed the pond and died against their will. This is simply silly of you to suggest, because democracy does not work that fast. Citizens will be forced into service regardless of their objections, and I hardly think all (or even a minor majority) of citizens share your unrealistic idealism and would elect jail instead of service, which means that these men would feed the war effort instead of stopping it. Your argument, while it does have a basis in pure idealistic morality, has no relevance and offers no solutions to problems in the reality we inhabit.

    If an invader or occupier is forced to abandon the invasion or occupation, that is defeat. The USA was defeated in Vietnam. The UK was defeated in Kenya and in Yemen. If the USA and UK are defeated in Iraq and Afghanistan, neither will be in the slightest danger of invasion, while the danger of terrorist attack may well fall.

    This post shows the fact that you are ignorant of the term you throw around so much. Defeat, in the military sense, is destruction of the enemy and all means of resistance. The US Military was withdrawn from Iraq, and while it did take heavy casualties (58,000+ in ten years), the military as a while was in no way defeated. The fact that the US still had an army willing and able to defend the nation is proof that the US was not defeated. The US left Vietnam under circumstances that did not play out well in context of the (faulty) reasons we went in the first place – which I am sure will be the case in Iraq – but this in no way indicates defeat. If anyone was defeated in that sense, it was the politicians who were defeated in their attempts to “contain” Communism and keep it out of South Vietnam.

    In the sense that you use the word defeat, I can see, and even agree with, your main point, even though you are incorrectly using that term. But defeat, when speaking of militaries abroad, has a very specific and final definition, and it involves a fate for my countrymen – and the citizens of Iraq and the UK – that I will not wish upon any human.

    Sounds like Vietnam, to me.

    Posted by: Kseniya | April 27, 2008 1:00 PM

    I’m with you on this one, because that is exactly the way the war is being run. No militarily definable objective, mixed with political fallibility on a negligent, and possibly criminal, scale, always equals a military that is caught in between the politicians on each side. The only difference in this case is that instead of being caught between Communism and Democracy, we – as soldiers – were and still are stuck in between the politicians of this country and those in Iraq which our politicians have so fruitlessly tried to control and manipulate in order to set up a “friendly democratic government.” So really, we’re caught between the current administration and their desire to have control of something valuable – whether it be oil, a puppet government, or some other entity that can be manipulated for profit.

  159. #161 brokenSoldier
    April 27, 2008

    @ Ian Gould in # 157:

    Your argument evades the argument made by Dahan that – in the case of an invasion of Costa Rica – the nation would inevitably rise up an army to defend itself. And, as they are already equipped with the necessary training and weapons to resist, these police and border guards would be the spearhead in that force.

    Unless, of course, you truly think that in the event of foreign aggression, Costa Rica would stand by their moral decision to not have a standing army in the current sense of the concept, instead allowing the aggressors to run roughshod over them and do with them what they please. The ridiculous nature of such an idea points to the obvious fact that their lack of a standing army has nothing to do with moral inhibitions – it has to do with situational necessity and lacking the resources to maintain such a force.

  160. #162 George Cauldron
    April 27, 2008

    Another sergeant allegedly told Specialist Hall that as an atheist, he was not entitled to religious freedom because he had no religion.

    How does this jibe with the fact that fundies are always claiming atheism ‘is a religion’?

  161. #163 Nick Gotts
    April 27, 2008

    Firstly, a soldier can only trust that the force he or she is joining will be used justly. If you cannot trust your government in that way, then do not join. – brokenSoldier

    I consider that anyone with the necessary intelligence and education to assess how US and UK forces have been used over the past few decades, and the roles those states play in the world-system, would, if impartial, recognise that those states’ governments could not be trusted to use force justly. You have given no counterargument to this.

    But do not accuse those who choose to join of being criminals for that choice. – brokenSoldier

    I do not believe I have not done so. Kindly point out where you think I have, in which case I will certainly apologise if I agree my words can reasonably bear that interpretation; or apologise yourself for claiming that I have.

    As for your silly comparison between following officers’ order and following directives from a deity, I can’t believe that you seriously see a connection between the two. – brokenSoldier

    You have repeatedly stated that a soldier “has no option” but to obey a legal order, even if they consider it immoral. This is not so; they have the option not to obey it. The comparison is a simple one: in both cases, moral responsibility is evaded by ascribing it to some outside force which has a right to the person’s obedience.

    I do not know where you get the insinuation that because some soldiers commit war crimes, all soldiers have a penchant for the same sort of bloodlust, but it is utterly and viciously spurious to make such a generalization.

    I have not intentionally made such an insinuation. I do not know where you have got the idea that I have done so. Kindly point out where you think I have, in which case I will certainly apologise if I consider my words can reasonably bear that interpretation; or apologise yourself for claiming that I have.

  162. #164 Dahan
    April 27, 2008

    brokenSoldier beat me to my problems with your argument Ian. Costa Rica has been either fortunate or smart enough to set themselves up politically to need only this small force to this point, but that could and would change quite quickly were there a need. Except for size, how is this different from our military? CalGeorge, I’m sure would tell you that the people signing up for these positions in Costa Rica are also “enablers”.

  163. #165 Nick Gotts
    April 27, 2008

    Wrong. It would conscript hundreds of thousands of unwilling citizens into a war that you so vigorously (and justly, inmy opinion) oppose. Your above statement assumes that such resistance would end the war before those drafted individuals crossed the pond and died against their will.

    Yes, I believe it would. Conscription would take time to implement, training would be required – and training unwilling conscripts can’t be easy – politicians would be bombarded with objections from members of the elite who risk seeing their own children conscripted.

    This post shows the fact that you are ignorant of the term you throw around so much. Defeat, in the military sense, is destruction of the enemy and all means of resistance.

    You are simply trying to define words to suit yourself. Russia was defeated in the Crimean War. Britain was defeated in the American War of Independence. France was defeated in the War of the Spanish Succession. These, as well as the cases I mentioned earlier, are all referred to in history texts using that term. It is obvious that I could not have been using the term in the sense you want to impose, since there is not the slightest possibility of the USA or UK suffering a defeat of that kind in the current wars.

  164. #166 Ian Gould
    April 27, 2008

    Brokensoldier,

    Firstly, the Costa Rican Public Force is indeed charged with national defence in the event of an invasion – which doesn’t alter the fact that it’s tint and and entirely lacks heavy weapons.

    Guatemala and Honduras, which are both much poorer than Costa Rica, maintain much larger militaries so its not the base that Costa Rica can’t afford an army – many much, much poorer countries have much larger militaries.

    At a quick guess, Costa Rica’s situation boils down to the fact that none of its neighbours have the military capacity to attack it (or to occupy it successfully) and the only country outside the region that has the capacity to attack it is the United States.

    Not only is it incredibly unlikely that the US would attack, it’s even more unlikely that any conceivable Costa Rican defence force could prevent any such attack.

    Costa Rica demonstrates that for many smaller countries, standing armies are at best wasteful and at worst an active threat to democracy.

  165. #167 brokenSoldier
    April 27, 2008

    Kindly point out where you think I have, in which case I will certainly apologise if I consider my words can reasonably bear that interpretation; or apologise yourself for claiming that I have.

    Posted by: Nick Gotts | April 27, 2008 1:38 PM

    Gladly.

    I’d also say that even before the invasion of Iraq, anyone joining the US or UK armed forces could and should have known (intelligence and education permitting):
    1) That there was a strong probability they would be ordered to take part in wars of aggression and/or repression.
    2) That their central role, whatever their oath might say, would be to maintain a fundamentally unjust, oppressive and environmentally destructive world-system.
    For an atheist, there should be an uncomfortable parallel between the theist’s “It is my duty to do what God tells me”, and the soldier’s “It is my duty to do what my superior officers tell me”. Neither absolves the individual of the duty to make their own moral judgements.

    Posted by: Nick Gotts | April 27, 2008 7:11 AM

    The parts of your post I put in bold clearly state your opinion that anyone joining the military – and trusting their government to use them justly – somehow makes them complicit. Your – quite arrogant – tap dance out of that argument by saying “intelligence and education permitting” is ridiculous as well. Along with weapons and tactics training, soldiers also receive training in how a war should be fought on the ground, which includes what constitutes a moral and legal order. You foisting your own morals onto the Army and disagreeing with their actions on that basis is futile, because the Army gives each soldier a clear moral code they are to embody in their individual duties, regardless of their personal moral convictions, and that code is in no way imperialistic, oppressive, or otherwise evil. If it were, the soldier could object to its application, but it is not. The moral problems you have with this war are on a national level, because you simply do not have the necessary knowledge of the ground-level situation to object morally to what orders soldiers do and do not follow. At best, you know of a select group of incidents filtered through the government and the media, which I’d hardly recognize as a wide-ranging knowledge of the situation on the ground – and certainly not one that supports your condemnation of soldiers there following or refusing orders you know nothing about.

  166. #168 CalGeorge
    April 27, 2008

    Joan Baez:

    The problem is consensus. There’s a consensus out there that it’s OK to kill when your government decides who to kill. If you kill inside the country, you get in trouble. If you kill outside the country, right time, right season, latest enemy, you get a medal. There are about 130 nation-states, and each of them thinks it’s a swell idea to bump off all the rest because he is more important. The pacifist thinks there is only one tribe. Three billion members. They come first. We think killing any member of the family is a dumb idea. We think there are more decent and intelligent ways of settling differences. And man had better start investigating these other possibilities because if he doesn’t, then by mistake or by design, he will probably kill off the whole damn race.

    http://salsa.net/peace/conv/8weekconv7-4.html

  167. #169 brokenSoldier
    April 27, 2008

    Costa Rica demonstrates that for many smaller countries, standing armies are at best wasteful and at worst an active threat to democracy.

    Posted by: Ian Gould | April 27, 2008 1:57 PM

    (I put the above in bold for emphasis)

    That may be a fact for “smaller nations,” but – even if it is true, which is extremely debatable – that fact has not a damn thing to do with the argument you jumped into the middle of – the argument against soldiering in general, and the argument that joining an army makes a soldier complicit in crimes committed by those in charge of the military’s application.

  168. #170 brokenSoldier
    April 27, 2008

    CalGeorge,

    The minute you realize that quoting famous individuals from the past only supports your argument when you make an argument for those quotes to support, you’ll realize that you’re simply cutting and pasting, and in that process you’re making absolutely no valid contribution to the discussion on this board.

    That is beside the fact that the argument you ripped from Joan Baez and posted here still projects an idealistic desire for society – which I wholly hope will come true – and not an argument dealing with anything connected to our current situation.

    In the future, please let Wikiquote work its magic, and if you have something to add, by all means, add away.

  169. #171 Robbo
    April 27, 2008

    Not everyone in uniform is religious wacky, but it seems like the Army is worse than the Marines. I’ve been in uniform since 1986, and I’ve seen all kinds, but nothing like this article.
    I had a Wiccan in my unit once, and a young Marine who kept some kind of Satanist shrine in his barracks room. No one got harrassed. One day in a group of 8-10 officers, 2 or 3 of us said we were atheist/agnostic. The reaction: shrugged shoulders.

  170. #172 Gingerbaker
    April 27, 2008

    broken soldier:

    “Sadly, Iraq is beyond that point, but there are soldiers there now trying to rebuild and fix the problems started by this administration’s jump to war”

    Now? I thought this effort has been ongoing for many years?

  171. #173 Nick Gotts
    April 27, 2008

    Re #167. BrokenSoldier, you said that I accused those who join the US or UK forces of being criminals by that act. I did not, and the words of mine that you put in bold do not support any such interpretation. I do consider them – if they have the intelligence and education to understand the role these states play in the world – to bear some moral responsibility for their subsequent involvement in illegal and/or immoral wars. If you don’t understand the difference between criminal and moral responsibility, that is not my fault.

    I also consider that no-one, at any time, can avoid moral responsibility for their actions simply by saying “X told me to, and I had to obey.” Of course, the consequences of not obeying are morally relevant, but I do not and will not concede a blanket claim that “It is always right to obey a legal order”.

    I notice you do not even try to support your accusation that I have made an “insinuation that because some soldiers commit war crimes, all soldiers have a penchant for the same sort of bloodlust”.

    Much of the content of your last two posts has implicitly taken the line that: “I was a soldier, so you have no right to argue with me about military matters.” It won’t wash.

  172. #174 CalGeorge
    April 27, 2008

    “I was a soldier, so you have no right to argue with me about military matters.” It won’t wash.

    He has admitted that soldiers are cogs in a machine that is controlled by politicians.

    What a nightmare situation to put oneself in!

  173. #175 SC
    April 27, 2008

    “The central role of these armies is to defend the nation. Your description of their central role of defenders of wealth and position ignores the fact that – as it has been stated by many on this thread – the way the Bush administration and its supporters in the UK’s government is not the correct and just way to use a standing army. You continue to equate the way these criminals are currently using our military to what their central role as a military actually is in current human society, but it will continue to be a quite fallacious equation.”

    No one here is talking about some abstract “correct and just way to use a standing army.” What is under discussion are the US and the UK militaries in the context of the past two centuries of violent imperialism. If the list I linked to above at #104 – which itself is sanitized – shows a history of military defense, I would hate to see military offense.

    The issue of the existence of standing armies in the abstract is not of immediate concern to me. Nor is this a question of demonstrating our concern about the rest of the world through military intervention vs. not caring about anyone but ourselves, as some here have suggested. The “caring” demonstrated by the US government is what I object to. Stop sponsoring coups in Venezuela against the democratically-elected leader of that country. Stop fomenting right-wing actions in Bolivia against that country’s democratically elected leadership and enlisting scholars as spies there. Stop propping up dictators. Stop funding and advising paramilitaries and “security forces” who murder journalists and labor leaders. Stop intervening to enforce the theft and exploitation practiced by US corporations when people in other countries try to regain control over their natural resources. Stop fighting wars for oil. Stop doing things like spinning a ridiculous pretext to kidnap the democratically-elected president of Haiti and transport him against his will to Africa. And while we’re at it, get and stay the hell out of Haitian politics to begin with, and take your corporations with you.

    Nor is there the clear distinction between military and humanitarian intervention that has been suggested here, Samantha Powers’ blustering notwithstanding. The fact that the Iraq invasion was often put forth as a large-scale humanitarian intervention should give anyone pause on that score. As should the increasing subjugation of agencies like the UNHCR to NATO. But more broadly, all of these humanitarian-military interventions must be understood in the context of past and continuing – decidedly non-humanitarian – actions in the same countries and regions. This tendency to treat every episode of intervention as if it emerged in a political vacuum is disingenuous and frustrating.

    I was blocks from the WTC on 9-11. I was also with thousands of other New Yorkers who marched later against the war with the slogan “Not in our name!” We were tired of being used as a mute justification for a criminal military intervention. I can’t even imagine how Afghani women must have felt to see themselves used as a pretext for an invasion of their country, only to see themselves thrust aside as soon as they were no longer politically useful.

    The best way to promote peace is through efforts at cross-cultural undertanding and active solidarity with the people and organizations that are genuinely working for freedom and justice in other countries (and I don’t mean those the US government deems “freedom fighters” because they are believed to further its or its domestic business interests’ causes). I’ve tried to do this as best I can, but this work of building real bridges of solidarity is made extremely difficult by the fact that I am a citizen of a country that acts as it does, covertly and overtly. I am not safer because of these interventions, and even if I were the price in terms of the deaths and suffering of others would be too high.

    It is true, brokenSoldier, that the one giving the orders actually exists, but that person is not obeyed as an individual, but because he or she is seen as representing an entity worthy of serving in this manner: the nation, the Constitution, the cause of freedom, etc. That this is the case is, given the historical and social realities, something about which skeptical people should be, well, skeptical. It is pointless to throw off the shackles of religious superstition only to replace them with shackles of secular superstition. (And a good case can be made for the US Constitution’s being an archaic and anemic document that is entirely out of step with contemporary global understandings of human rights. That the promise for improvement offered by the Ninth Amendment has not remotely been realized is unfortunate, but it is in any case unworthy of democratic citizens to treat this document as having biblical authority. But that’s for another discussion.)

    I’m not attacking all soldiers here, especially because if some are villains, many more are victims. I do think that any situation in which it is not possible to make real moral choices, as many have described on this thread, is by its nature montrous, and that the growth of institutions that create such a situation should be fought, individually and collectively. So I am very much against the militarization of this country and the noxious effect this has on any semblance of democracy. And what someone said above is right: We all have blood on our hands. I’ve protested and worked against this war and other vile policies prior to and during this time, and against militarization in general, but I haven’t done as much as I could have, and for that I am ashamed.

  174. #176 CalGeorge
    April 27, 2008

    Michael Mandel, Common Dreams, August 2005:

    Nuremberg Lesson for Iraq War: It’s Murder

    This month marks the 60th anniversary of the London Charter of the International Military Tribunal, the basic legal document for the trial of the major Nazi war criminals that commenced in November 1945.

    One of the great innovations of that charter was the charge of “Crimes Against Peace,” defined as the “planning, preparation, initiation or waging of a war of aggression, or a war in violation of international treaties, agreements or assurances.”

    In a famous passage from their judgment of the following year, the four judges of the tribunal (American, British, French and Russian) declared the crime of aggressive war to be “the supreme international crime, differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.”

    The innovation of the crime of aggressive war was in fact denounced by the Nazi defendants as “ex post facto law,” but Justice Robert Jackson, America’s prosecutor at Nuremberg, had an answer for this: Illegal wars were nothing more than mass murder, and there was nothing ex post facto about the crime of murder. Here’s what Jackson said to the tribunal in his opening statement on Nov. 21, 1945:

    Any resort to war – any kind of war – is a resort to means that are inherently criminal. War inevitably is a course of killings, assaults, deprivations of liberty and destruction of property. An honestly defensive war is, of course, legal and saves those lawfully conducting it from criminality. But inherently criminal acts cannot be defended by showing that those who committed them were engaged in a war, when war itself is illegal. The very minimum legal consequence of the treaties making aggressive war illegal is to strip those who incite or wage them of every defense the law ever gave, and to leave the war-makers subject to judgment by the usually accepted principles of the law of crimes.

    The crime of aggression is nowhere to be seen in modern international criminal codes, and leading the charge against including it has been the United States itself. It’s easy to see why. The war in Iraq, for one example, constitutes the quintessential war of aggression, falling very far short, rhetoric apart, of any justification in self-defense or authorization by the Security Council of the United Nations, the only two accepted legal grounds for war in international law. The U.N. Charter is one of those “international treaties” mentioned in the London Charter of 1945. And with the best estimates of the cost in Iraqi civilian lives ranging between 25,000 (Iraq body count) and 100,000 (Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, Baltimore), all well within prewar predictions, it seems perverse to keep on insisting that this was a “humanitarian intervention,” itself a dubious legal ground for war. In fact, it amounts to rather a lot of counts of murder on Jackson’s definition.
    [...]

  175. #177 maureen
    April 27, 2008

    Guy, guys! Are you trying to start World War III?

    All the above attempts to hold the individual soldier uniquely culpable for war founder and I’ll tell you exactly why. They assume that the person enlisting – volunteer or draftee – has perfect information and it is clear that he or she does not – any more than my Dad did when he lied about his age to sign up for the Western Front in 1915.

    It was Eisenhower, when President, who first drew attention to the dangers inherent in the military-industrial complex – his phrase – coming to dominate policy. Did anyone listen? Has it got better or worse since the 1950s?

    There are plenty of things we could all do to halt this sequence of wars whose costs far outweigh their benefits – where there are benefits. If anyone can predict a single benefit beyond wealth for a few coming out of Iraq then I hope they’ll share that happy thought with us.

    I’ll keep doing what I’ve been doing for decades but I hope that as an opinionated old bag from across the pond I hope I’m allowed to offer my friends – yes, I mean friends – in the US a couple of pointers.

    * Get over yourselves – you are homo sapiens sapiens just like the rest of us and chosen by neither history nor the Flying Spaghetti Monster to determine how everything should be.

    * Train your military in how international law applies to them, give them refreshers on the eve of battle. The other industrialised nations do this yet they do not face Total Testosterone Failure. Nothing will prevent all war crimes, while we’re still having wars, but this would help – especially if your courts are onside and unwilling to scapegoat one group while whitewashing another.

    * Stop electing idiots. Stop running your entire country for the benefit of the greedy few.

    I’m sure that he and I could argue about many things but on this one brokenSoldier speaks from experience. And isn’t experience another form of evidence?

  176. #178 CalGeorge
    April 27, 2008

    Given that Bush believes this:

    …the President has the authority for the United States to interpret the meaning and application of the Geneva Conventions…

    I don’t believe that anyone prudent should be signing up for military service anymore.

  177. #179 brokenSoldier
    April 27, 2008

    I don’t believe that anyone prudent should be signing up for military service anymore.

    Posted by: CalGeorge | April 27, 2008 3:53 PM

    Then don’t sign up. And should that time ever come – and I sincerely hope for you that it doesn’t – that the Army is being applied in defense of the nation somewhere near your general area, battle erupts, and soldiers come near, I have some advice for you. Kindly tap one on the shoulder and tell him that you don’t need his protection. Tell him that he’s a professional murderer, and you object to his choice to serve. When one of the professional murderers employed by the enemy’s government threatens you, tell our soldier that you don’t need his immoral profession to protect you. I’m sure he’ll oblige, because he still has plenty of others he has to worry about protecting.

  178. #180 Kseniya
    April 27, 2008

    Notkieran: (#158) – I strongly agree.

    brokenSoldier: (#160)

    [A draft] would conscript hundreds of thousands of unwilling citizens into a war. [*snip*] Citizens will be forced into service regardless of their objections, and I hardly think all (or even a minor majority) of citizens share your unrealistic idealism and would elect jail instead of service, which means that these men would feed the war effort instead of stopping it.

    Again, this sounds just like the USA during the Vietnam War era. I think in this specific case, though, Nick may be right: an attempt to implement a draft now, in the interest of perpetuating an already unpopular war/occupation, may succeed only in driving a stake through the heart of the war effort.

    In the Vietnam era, while the existence of the draft did feed opposition to the war, the effects of that opposition were the results of a long, slow, painful process that took years to reach a resolution, and that resolution was neither simple nor, in the minds of many who were affected by the outcome, remotely satisfactory.

    However, it seems to me that while the immediate fallout in the region was horrific, withdrawing was the right choice. The worst fears of communophobic western leadership did not come to pass and, IIRC, Vietnam is now one of our economic allies. Maybe there’s a lesson to be learned here. Bushites and other intransigent supporters of the war may object to the notion that Iraq and Vietnam are comparable, but they’re missing the point by focusing, for example, on the rather obvious differences between a desert and a jungle.

    There’s some fascinating recollections and conclusions made by Robert McNamara in Errol Morris’s The Fog of War. One thing he discussed that really stuck with me was how our inability to understand our enemy was a serious impediment to waging an effective campaign. The methods and motives of our opponent were unclear to us, and were therefore difficult to predict and difficult to counter on a strategic and psychological levels. We thought we were combating global communism – but the Vietnamese thought they were conducting a civil war and a struggle for self-determination against the forces of western colonialism, and not, as we’d concluded, for the right to be a pawn in a some superpower’s march towards world domination. Vietnam had been resisting Chinese influence for centuries…

    These misconceptions, on our part anyways, were the result of a serious knowlege gap in the State Department. And get this:

  179. Worse, our government lacked experts for us to consult to compensate for our ignorance. When the Berlin crisis occurred in 1961 and during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, President Kennedy was able to turn to senior people like Llewellyn Thompson, Charles Bohlen, and George Kennan, who knew the Soviets intimately. There were no senior officials in the Pentagon or State Department with comparable knowledge about Southeast Asia….
  180. The irony of this gap was that it existed largely because the top East Asian and China experts in the State Department–John Paton Davies, Jr., John Stewart Service, and John Carter Vincent–had been purged during the McCarthy hysteria of the 1950s. Without men like these to provide sophisticated, nuanced insights, we–certainly I–badly misread China’s objectives and mistook its bellicose rhetoric to imply a drive for regional hegemony. We also totally underestimated the nationalist aspect of Ho Chi Minh’s movement. We saw him first as a Communist and only second as a Vietnamese nationalist….” ~ McNamara in In Retrospect: The Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam
  181. Ironic, indeed.

    McNamara’s “lessons” are very interesting, but one that particularly caught my eye was one of his “lessons of Vietnam”, which, when applied to the current situation in Iraq, both absolves the Bush regime for its inherent fallibility, and damns it for arrogance and myopia:

    9. We did not recognize that neither our people nor our leaders are omniscient. Our judgment of what is in another people’s or country’s best interest should be put to the test of open discussion in international forums. We do not have the God-given right to shape every nation in our image or as we choose.

    Another interesting (to me) thing about the movie was my seeing how McNamara’s psychological defenses struck a balance with his very human understanding of what had transpired on his watch. Sometimes I got the feeling that when he spoke of the human costs of war, of the number of lives lost in the wars he’d fought in or overseen, that he was one undistanced thought away from hours of bitter and inconsolable weeping. I have quite a bit respect – and compassion – for the man.

  182. #181 John Phillips, FCD
    April 27, 2008

    Nick Gotts: my mentioning my injuries and the effect on my health nowadays were not meant as an argument as such, simply a reflection on what it cost me personally and a possible cost I was more than made aware of during my training and happy, so to speak, to pay for the benefit it gained others. Note I don’t regret a minute of the experience or the pain then or now as there are many people alive today who wouldn’t have been without our intervention in those places.

    By the way, while I am the first to acknowledge we did a lot badly wrong and even possibly evil things in NI, most of what our troops did there was simply to try and allow the average civilian to try and live relatively normal lives. Yes I realise that term is a bit of a non sequitor and the UK government should have put far more pressure on the protestant majority to make civil rights concession to the catholics. But again, it was the politicians job and they failed, the soldier once again the filling in the sandwich between the Brits out and the never surrender sides. For any who did wrong, they should have had the book thrwon at them and I would be happy to do so myself as they alwasy make the job of the professional soldier orders of magnitude harder.

    As to whether you said that the use of all UK/US force had been wrong, you implied as such with your statement about anyone now joining. Even today there are many UK forces still in use in peacekeeping and humanitarian work in many parts of the world. Some of those same soldiers will probably have served in Iraq before moving on to the work they are now doing, hence my point about it not being black and white.

    As to what happened in Afghanistan, I thought my point with our (i.e. the politicians) taking the eye off the ball was obvious. I.e. if we hadn’t taken our eye off the ball with Iraq we might have managed to finish what we originally intended in Afghanistan instead of still struggling to do so today. Note, that it is not the military that has failed in Afghanistan but their political masters, as the military had been vocal all along about what was needed to succeed. I.e. one of the main reasons we are still struggling in Afghanistan is that many of the resources needed were diverted to Iraq. So again, don’t blame the soldier, lay the blame where it really belongs, the politicians. For mainly, the soldier can only do the job they are allowed to do by their political masters. Even then, they often manage to succeed well beyond their capabilities simply because of the dedication many soldiers bring to their roles.

    P.s. You make a comment at one point in your post about me not being interested in your POV and then go on a rant about the Balkans being about opening up possibilities for foreign companies. Interesting POV, especially when you consider that Clinton and the US public originally didn’t want to have anything to do with it and that if it hadn’t been for media coverage raising public awareness it might well have been ignored by the West. So I don’t think it is me that is not open to other arguments, especially when I have already stated that the use of the military in such situations is largely a political rather than a military question.

    And finally, no, and I say this as someone with many reason for having no love for Thatcher, sinking the Belgrano was not a war crime. Neither would it have been if we actually sunk it in an Argentinian port, for we were at war. Thatchers problem over the Belgrano was her obfuscation over the decision and the largely irrelevant point, from a military perspective, about whether it was moving into or out of the exclusion zone and in which exact direction it was headed. If she had simply said, yes we sank it as we considered a significant threat to our forces and hence took her out while we could, I doubt if the average Brit would have thought about it twice.

  183. #182 brokenSoldier
    April 27, 2008

    Much of the content of your last two posts has implicitly taken the line that: “I was a soldier, so you have no right to argue with me about military matters.” It won’t wash.

    Posted by: Nick Gotts | April 27, 2008 2:28 PM

    No, I based my argument on your lack of knowledge about the orders and the conduct of war at the ground soldier’s level. I in no way used my experience as a basis for insisting that you that you have no right to argue with me – I just pointed out that your conclusions are based on knowledge that is far from sufficient to support your argument.

  184. #183 Kseniya
    April 27, 2008

    …whether it [the Belgrano] was moving into or out of the exclusion zone and in which exact direction it was headed…

    Ah! That situation was tailor-made for video instant-replay and review… but I don’t suppose the referees had that at their disposal back then.

  185. #184 John Phillips, FCD
    April 27, 2008

    Kseniya: actually, we have very good information about where exactly the Belgrano was when we sunk it and the direction it was moving in. In fact, it was moving out of the exclusion zone and away from the area. However, it is largely an academic distinction, as we were at war with Argentina and missing such an opportunity to take out what was a considerable threat to the task force would have been nonsensical militarily. Many people might be surprised how difficult and close to failure a number of times the Falklands campaign was. Once we had decided to send the task force it would have made no sense to miss a perfect opportunity to take out one of their major naval assets. One that could have caused major problems to our support ships if not the main task force, however callous that may sound in the cold light of day.

  186. #185 Kseniya
    April 27, 2008

    Ah. So those facts weren’t in dispute. Now I understand.

  187. #186 John Phillips, FCD
    April 27, 2008

    Kseniya: No, the real problem or controversy arose when Thatcher, rather than simply saying, we took it out when we could as it was a real danger to the task force, obfuscated about the position and the direction it was actually travelling in at the time of the sinking. When she was shown to have been less that honest about this it gave her political enemies ammunition to attack her. Ironically, as I said in another post up thread, if she had been honest about it from the off, it would probably never have become much of an issue with the average Brit considering it was war.

  188. #187 John Phillips, FCD
    April 27, 2008

    Kseniya: BTW, good post about Vietnam. Ironically, if you look at the history of Vietnam starting during WWII, Britain could possibly have prevented the situation that developed into the civil war and fight for sovereignty it became. Though the French wouldn’t have approved, but when is that new between the two countries.

  189. #188 Nick Gotts
    April 27, 2008

    SC @175 – well said!

    Kseniya @180 on MacNamara. Seeing him interviewed recently, he gave me the creeps; I was not at all convinced by his protestations that he and the rest of the USA’s political elite meant well. I think they knew very well what they were doing and why – basically, trying to free Vietnam from the deadly grip of the Vietnamese.

    John Phillips @181 Nick Gotts: my mentioning my injuries and the effect on my health nowadays were not meant as an argument as such, simply a reflection on what it cost me personally and a possible cost I was more than made aware of during my training and happy, so to speak, to pay for the benefit it gained others.

    No it wasn’t – it was an attempt at moral blackmail, as your immediately following:

    But hey what do I know, as obviously I am just some mindless government automaton who enables their evil plans, so you can safely ignore the validity of anything I have to say..

    makes abundantly clear.

    As to whether you said that the use of all UK/US force had been wrong, you implied as such with your statement about anyone now joining.

    No, I did not. I consider that the overall role of the UK armed forces in the world, which is to defend power and privilege, and the significant likelihood of being forced into illegal and/or immoral wars, outweighs the likelihood you will also join in justifiable wars and/or do humanitarian work.

    Concerning Yugoslavia, I suggest you look at the Rambouillet Agreement, which NATO wanted to impose on Serbia as the price of not bombing it. This includes the provisions;

    Ch.4, Article I:1:
    “The economy of Kosovo shall function in accordance with free market principles.”

    Appendix B., Article 6a
    “NATO shall be immune from all legal process, whether civil, administrative, or criminal.”

    Appendix B., Article 6b. NATO personnel, under all circumstances and at all times, shall be immune from the Parties’ jurisdiction in respect of any civil, administrative, criminal, or disciplinary offenses which may be committed by them in the FRY. The Parties shall assist States participating in the Operation in the exercise of their jurisdiction over their own nationals.”

    Appendix B., Article 8:
    “NATO personnel shall enjoy, together with their vehicles, vessels, aircraft, and equipment, free and unrestricted passage and unimpeded access throughout the FRY including associated airspace and territorial waters. This shall include, but not be limited to, the right of bivouac, maneuver, billet, and utilization of any areas or facilities as required for support, training, and operations.”

    Exactly why was it for NATO to determine how the economy of Kosovo was to function, rather than – say – the inhabitants? Do not the articles of Appendix B cited in effect demand the right to occupy the whole of Serbia?

    On the General Belgrano, I concede that sinking it was within the laws of war, and apologise for wrongly saying otherwise. However, having reviewed Thatcher’s confrontation with Mrs. Gould, (http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Diana_Gould), I think it is clear Thatcher had something to hide, and my belief is that the sinking was indeed done at a point when negotiations might have succeeded, saving many lives.

    brokenSoldier@167 You foisting your own morals onto the Army and disagreeing with their actions on that basis is futile, because the Army gives each soldier a clear moral code they are to embody in their individual duties, regardless of their personal moral convictions

    You make my point exactly: “the Army gives each soldier a clear moral code… regardless of their personal moral convictions”. I deny that anyone or anything has the right to do: impose an external moral code on an individual, nor does any individual have the moral right to cede their responsibilities in that way. Doing so leads you very easily into the kinds of situation found in the Milgram and Zimbardo experiments.

    brokenSoldier @182: Nonsense. My points are:
    1) That US and UK forces are systematically (although not invariably) used for unjust purposes.
    2) In the light of this, those considering joining have a moral duty not to do so, if they have the requisite intelligence and education to make such a decision. (By the way, in the UK at least, many do not, being 17, not particularly bright, and very poorly educated. There is nothing arrogant about recognising this fact.)
    3) No-one has a right to cede moral judgement to an outside agency, individual, collective, or imaginary.
    None of these points require first-hand experience of war.

  190. #189 Kseniya
    April 27, 2008

    John:

    Britain could possibly have prevented the situation that developed into the civil war and fight for sovereignty it became.

    You mean… somebody hiccupped? :-)

    Nick:

    I think they knew very well what they were doing and why – basically, trying to free Vietnam from the deadly grip of the Vietnamese.

    What are you getting at, exactly? If they knew “what they were doing and why,” and that is the “what”, then what is the “why”?

    They were trying to free the South Vietnamese from the “deadly grip” of Communism. Do you mean to say that McNamara’s admission that his government — including himself, in no small part — was wrong about a lot of things, for a lot of bad reasons, with a lot of bad consequences, is a cover-up for their failure to accomplish their actual, hidden aims? Which would be… what? Control of the global pot-bellied pig market? ;-)

  191. #190 John Phillips, FCD
    April 27, 2008

    Nick Gotts, actually the last paragraph wasn’t meant as ‘moral blackmail’ related to the previous paragraph, but simply a sarcastic aside. But it appears your prescience means that you know better than I do what I meant when I wrote it so I’ll concede the floor to you. As obviously anything I say will mean something else to what I actually meant. By the way, that was sarcasm as well, not very good sarcasm perhaps, but sarcasm all the same and a suitable place to end wasting my time with sleep beckoning.

  192. #191 John Phillips, FCD
    April 27, 2008

    Kseniya: Not so much hiccupped, but Britain didn’t want to upset the French. So, we gave them back their colony rather than hold the open elections the commnunist resitance actually fighting the Japanese wanted and we had promised. Thats very simplistic and glosses over a lot of other issues, but that is the basics.

    It has been a pleasure as always, really, so goodnight until another time, as I must go to bed before I pass out :)

  193. #192 Aquaria
    April 27, 2008

    For the most part, I didn’t experience too much religious intolerance in the USAF enlisted forces, back in the late 80s.

    When performance review time came, I did have a reporting official who asked if I went to church, as a filler for community service (something taken into consideration on evaluations). He was part of a little cabal of “Christians” who did the church thing together, not even the fundie kind (I think they were all Methodists–can’t remember now), who were pretty much the alpha group thanks to one of them being shop chief, so the dipshit RO got away with giving me a not-so-glowing review. You knew a cabal was in place, because my RO was the lowest ranking NCO in the shop, while others, of higher rank(!) didn’t have reportees. And they all went to lunch together everyday. Anyway, if you weren’t in with that cabal, you couldn’t do anything right. You got dumped on, all the time, with all the crap work. If you were 1 nanometer out of regs, then you were called on it–in front of everybody, while someone clearly in violation of it (female with her ponytail halfway down her back in one classic case) would be sitting right there, watching the whole thing. Not a peep about her hair, no sirree!

    Even worse, the Christian cabal (and nearly everyone else) would disappear from the shop while I was always left there, day after day. I wasn’t even the lowest ranking person. Close, but still not the lowest ranking. However the lower ranking who were in the Christian cabal could do as they pleased. I was always the one dumped on. So, one day, I said I had business to take care of downtown, and took off. I went shopping and enjoyed a nice afternoon with my infant son, away from a place I hated. My superiors wanted to write me up for it, but when I went over their head to the section chief and pulled out my little notebook of all the days and times everyone else in the shop had been gone–months’ worth of this crap, when the swing shift supervisor confirmed that he’d come in and found only me there, time after time, suddenly, the higher-ups shut up about dinging me for it. And we got a new shop chief.

    The new guy hadn’t been there 10 minutes when I asked for a new reporting official, citing my suspicion that my lack of church attendance, plus being out of the Christian cabal, as reasons for my low review. He agreed that it would be best for me to have another RO. A few hours later, he called in my current RO. Ten minutes after that, my old RO came stomping out, clearly pissed, and muttering, “Well, she got her way!” and then calling me some not-so-Christian epithets–little realizing I was nearby. I laughed and called out to him, “Very Christian of you, Sergeant!”

    You know, I never knew anyone’s face could really turn purple from fury until that day.

    Anyway, the Christian cabal was shipped off to other parts of the squadron, and good riddance to them. We got new people, less uptight and clannish. Morale in our shop improved dramatically, within weeks.

  194. #193 Etha Williams
    April 27, 2008

    @#138 Nick Gotts —

    I agree that this entire war was wrong in the first place, but at this point were so far entrenched that I will be deeply surprised if our next president will be able to get us out of the war before April 15 ’09. – Etha Williams

    Of course they would be able to withdraw.

    Having researched the situation further, I concede that you may be right that the political consequences would not be as dire as I previously thought. However, even a “quick” withdrawal will take quite a while, if only for logistical reasons. This article in the Boston Globe describes the logistics of a “quick withdrawal” — and it still takes 10-12 months, and still presents significant (though surmountable) logistical difficulties.

    My point still stands — even if we do try to withdraw at the beginning of the next presidency (and, as you said, this is somewhat dubious in and of itself), we probably won’t manage to get out anywhere near tax time. I’ll be curious to know if CalGeorge will really boycott taxes as a consequence. I hope he comes back here to inform us.

  195. #194 Nick Gotts
    April 27, 2008

    Re #189. The Geneva agreement of 1954, which ended the French attempt to recolonise Vietnam after WWII, provided for all-Vietnam elections. The USA, alone among the great powers, refused to sign it – because they knew very well the Communists, who had led the anti-colonial struggles against both the Japanese and the French, would win. The USA set up a puppet dictatorship in the South (the north, while it was a dictatorship, was no-one’s puppet). This was part of the Cold War against Communist China and the USSR, in which the USA was at least as aggressive and anti-democratic as its opponents. What I don’t believe is that Eisenhower, Kennedy, McNamara, etc. did not know perfectly well that Ho Chi Minh took orders from nobody: they had extensive contacts with Ho during WWII, and could call on the best academic and intelligence communities in the world for political and historical information. They wanted military bases in mainland south-east Asia, just as the US elite now wants – along with control of the Iraqi oil industry – military bases in the Gulf. In both cases, the strength of resistance was badly underestimated, but the aims were and are quite rational in power-political terms.

  196. #195 Nick Gotts
    April 27, 2008

    Etha Williams @193
    Thanks, interesting article. Of course if they really, really wanted to get out fast, they could resort to destroying rather than removing the “critical and sensitive equipment” referred to, but I concede that this is very unlikely in any forseeable circumstances, and 1 year looks a better estimate.

  197. #196 CalGeorge
    April 27, 2008

    Etha, it’s not that big of a deal. The IRS will simply garnish my wages, so I’m not sure it would be all that effective as protest.

    Some long-time tax protesters were on Democracy Now! recently:

    AMY GOODMAN: How does the IRS go after you?

    JOHN SCHWIEBERT: Well, they’ve gone after bank accounts. They’ve taken money out of bank accounts. We don’t have money in bank accounts now. They’ve gone after wages, gone to our employers. Most recently, they went to the General Board of Pension and Health Benefits of the United Methodist Church, and this has been a real difficulty for us, because the United Methodist denomination has in its social principles a statement of opposition to war as an instrument of social policy and also a directive that churches should support their members who engage in conscientious civil disobedience. And yet, the General Board of Pensions, when they got a notice of levy from the IRS, actually paid over $8,000 of money that we had refused to pay, took it out of our monthly pension checks and sent it directly to the IRS. So we have a bone to pick with them. We’re going to the General Conference of the United Methodist Church next week, and we’re going to ask them to make it a policy that the General Board of Pensions may refuse to cooperate with the IRS. In other words, the Church has to be a civil disobedience, too, if it’s opposed to the war.

  198. #197 SC
    April 27, 2008

    Nick Gotts – thanks! Right back at ya, many times over.

  199. #198 Nick Gotts
    April 27, 2008

    Etha Williams @193
    Thanks, interesting article. Of course if they really, really wanted to get out fast, they could resort to destroying rather than removing the “critical and sensitive equipment” referred to, but I concede that this is very unlikely in any forseeable circumstances, and 1 year looks a better estimate. I was relying on my memory of British withdrawal from Aden in 1968, which if I remember rightly took 6 weeks from announcement of the decision to the last troops leaving, in the middle of a civil war – but with far fewer troops and far less equipment involved.

  200. #199 Tina Rhea
    April 27, 2008

    Some years ago a guy who’d been in Vietnam told me that he got in trouble for walking out of a prayer meeting. The chaplain was praying that their mission would be successful, when the mission consisted of extracting a North Vietnamese officer who was defecting, and killing anyone who witnessed the operation and would be able to testify that the officer left voluntarily and wasn’t captured. This soldier just had trouble with the idea of praying that they’d be able to kill whomever they had to, to complete the mission. When he was reported for walking out, he explained his reasons to his superior, and at least he was let off without punishment.

    Anybody ever read Mark Twain’s “The War Prayer”? Something like, “Let us blow our enemies to fragments and leave their widows and orphans howling with grief and starvation….” As long as we’re praying, let’s be honest about it.

  201. #200 Chris Rodda
    April 27, 2008

    I like this little ditty by Mark Twain. He wrote it during the Philippine-American War as a statement against American imperialism, but I think its even more relevant today. Its sung to the tune of The Battle Hymn of the Republic:

    Mine eyes have seen the orgy of the launching of the Sword;
    He is searching out the hoardings where the stranger’s wealth is stored;
    He hath loosed his fateful lightnings, and with woe and death has scored;
    His lust is marching on.

    I have seen him in the watch-fires of a hundred circling camps;
    They have builded him an altar in the Eastern dews and damps;
    I have read his doomful mission by the dim and flaring lamps —
    His night is marching on.

    I have read his bandit gospel writ in burnished rows of steel:
    “As ye deal with my pretensions, so with you my wrath shall deal;
    Let the faithless son of Freedom crush the patriot with his heel;
    Lo, Greed is marching on!”

    We have legalized the strumpet and are guarding her retreat;
    Greed is seeking out commercial souls before his judgement seat;
    O, be swift, ye clods, to answer him! be jubilant my feet!
    Our god is marching on!

    In a sordid slime harmonious Greed was born in yonder ditch,
    With a longing in his bosom — and for others’ goods an itch.
    As Christ died to make men holy, let men die to make us rich —
    Our god is marching on.

  202. #201 Ian Gould
    April 27, 2008

    “That may be a fact for “smaller nations,” but – even if it is true, which is extremely debatable – that fact has not a damn thing to do with the argument you jumped into the middle of – the argument against soldiering in general, and the argument that joining an army makes a soldier complicit in crimes committed by those in charge of the military’s application.”

    In other words you were pissed off at another poster and decided to jump down my throat for no good reason.

    The issue of costa Rica wasn’t raised first be me. I was simply correcting the assertion that the Costa Rican Public Force was an army by another name.

    It isn’t.

  203. #202 Jim Lippard
    April 27, 2008

    #30: “Jefferson : atheist”

    Your cited blog entry says Jefferson was *regarded* as an atheist. I believe his own writings indicate that he was a deist, not an atheist.

  204. #203 brokenSoldier
    April 27, 2008

    I deny that anyone or anything has the right to do: impose an external moral code on an individual, nor does any individual have the moral right to cede their responsibilities in that way.

    No-one has a right to cede moral judgement to an outside agency, individual, collective, or imaginary.

    Posted by: Nick Gotts | April 27, 2008 6:02 PM

    You may think no one has that right, but that is exactly the right every citizen has when they are given the right to serve in the military. The military is not the only profession to stipulate a morals code, but it is the only one that is designed to deal with the problems created by armed conflict. Any athlete or celebrity that signs a contract with a morals clause has ceded that they will observe a certain standard of morality while working for that employer. In this sense, it says what the individual cannot do – the military is the only profession, aside from police and other enforcement officers, that has to deal with the morality in the conduct of organized combat, telling a soldier what they can and cannot do.

    They don’t ‘cede’ moral authority – they pledge to abide by the Army’s moral code. And just because they have been used unjustly does not make the choice to serve immoral. You can argue all day that joining the military is an immoral choice, but it doesn’t change the fact that the society we live in disagrees with such a conclusion, even when they are misused in such a negligent or criminal way.

    The correct response to such criminality, rather than blaming the citizen for joining, is to remove the officials who are causing the problem. Whether that occurs by defeat in an election or by impeachment for elected officials, and firing for military members complicit in and responsible for such unjust application of force. It is a much quicker and more effective means, because simple refusal to join will only incite the draft. And the draft – while it might sway public opinion drastically – will work much faster than the democratic process to stop it, and will thus result in more unnecessary deaths on both sides.

    Since we have the need for an army, the preferable soldier is – especially in this urban, obscurant type of fighting – one who will exercise caution over aggression. We have those soldiers over there doing just that. The soldiers who were the problems were the ones at the national level that did not stand up and stop the invasion before it started. This did happen, but only a very few resigned over the disagreement. If they would have followed the correct moral guidelines, they would have all protested, and that level of protest would have slammed the door on the invasion. But these men did not, and it put their subordinates in the situation of having to fight in a place we have no business fighting. We share the same anger over the war, but classifying the simple act of joining the military as immoral would (if widely accepted) only reduce the end strength of the military and speed along a draft. And while that may be the spark that ends the war, it also might not. The institution of a draft would flood the military with unwilling participants, destroying the NCO corps – just as it did as a result of the Vietnam draft years – and reducing the overall proficiency of the force, which would result in only more death, due to the drop in tactical competence, experience, and motivation in the soldiers. The draft would also remove the burden of unit and strength management from the Executive by supplying a source of guaranteed replacement soldiers, just as it did during the Vietnam years. So instead of ending the Vietnam war, the draft allowed it to limp on longer than it would have without conscription.

    The way to stop abuses like this is to repeal the War Powers Act, removing the ability of the President to conduct war. Before the Gulf of Tonkin and the War Powers Act, the military went nowhere until a declaration of war was made, or in support of international forces. If the military was needed, Congress decided if its use was just, and then declared war or did not. This is the only way, and until that piece of legislation is gone, the possibility exists for corruption of that process. But to insist that because the system is open to such corruption, then no citizens should join is to suggest a very destructive solution for the nation as a whole.

  205. #204 Dahan
    April 27, 2008

    Heya brokenDoldier,

    Just wanted to say you’re doing an admirable job trying to explain this to some who seem a bit confused. Thanks for your service and for being more eloquent than I often am. I’m gonna tip a glass to you and all my other fellow vets here tonight.

  206. #205 Dahan
    April 27, 2008

    BrokenSoldier… sigh, I really got to check things before I post sometime. Lol!

  207. #206 Nick Gotts
    April 28, 2008

    Re #204 Dahan – I am not in the least confused. You might like to reflect that unless a statement is analytic (one that logically must be true given the meaning of the terms used), it is possible to both understand and disagree with it. I invite you to point out my claimed “confusion”, if indeed this claim is more than a rhetorical device; I will then do my best to clarify my position for you.

    Re #203 brokenSoldier
    I think we’re getting to where we can pin down the points we disagree on, and either decide further argument would serve no purpose at present, or what types of rational enquiry might resolve them.

    I said earlier: No-one has a right to cede moral judgement to an outside agency, individual, collective, or imaginary.

    In your response, you seem to me to contradict yourself, at least superficially. First, you say:
    You may think no one has that right, but that is exactly the right every citizen has when they are given the right to serve in the military.
    A few lines later you say:
    They don’t ‘cede’ moral authority – they pledge to abide by the Army’s moral code.

    Could you clarify for me what you mean by denying that they cede moral authority?

    I will try to clarify what I mean by that phrase. Easiest to start with what I don’t mean: I don’t deny that they can legally make such a pledge, or that they could (in some circumstances) morally make such a pledge. I do deny that such a pledge can be absolutely morally binding – something they should not in any circumstances break. They still, in my view, sometimes have the moral responsibility to consider whether what the army’s moral code prescribes in some situation is right or not. I’ll give you a real-life example, recounted by Harry Patch, a 109-year-old British WWI veteran. A German soldier was running toward him (to bayonet him, I think); he had time to decide whether to shoot to kill (as King’s Regulations and all his training demanded), or to wound. He did the latter, shooting the enemy in the calf and ankle – clearly a less certain way to stop him than aiming for the torso, and so risking not only his own, but potentially his comrades’ lives. He undoubtedly broke the explicit promise he had made on joining the army to obey King’s Regulations, and surely that part of the soldier’s moral code (whether explicit or not) which says “Look after your mates by putting an enemy who has not surrendered out of action as quickly and surely as possible.” If he had ceded his moral responsibility to the army, he would have shot to kill. How do you view his action (not just what he actually did, but that he felt he had the moral right and duty to make his own decision)?

    I admit that my view that he was right at least to consider the question is not something susceptible of proof: it is a moral stance, which can be judged:
    (a) By its consistency with other moral stances I take.
    (b) By the consequences of adopting it, in comparison to those of adopting an alternative stance. (Which here might be “As a soldier, he had an absolute moral duty to be the most effective soldier he could be, within the laws of war, by putting this man out of action as quickly and surely as possible.”)

    I’m on my lunch hour, which is now ending, so I’ll come back to what I take to be our other main point of disagreement later.

  208. #207 CalGeorge
    April 28, 2008

    War is a Racket by Major General Smedley Butler, USMC (at his death in 1940, the most decorated Marine in U.S. history).

    WAR is a racket. It always has been.

    It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives.

    A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of the people. Only a small “inside” group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many. Out of war a few people make huge fortunes.

    In the World War [I] a mere handful garnered the profits of the conflict. At least 21,000 new millionaires and billionaires were made in the United States during the World War. That many admitted their huge blood gains in their income tax returns. How many other war millionaires falsified their tax returns no one knows.

    How many of these war millionaires shouldered a rifle? How many of them dug a trench? How many of them knew what it meant to go hungry in a rat-infested dug-out? How many of them spent sleepless, frightened nights, ducking shells and shrapnel and machine gun bullets? How many of them parried a bayonet thrust of an enemy? How many of them were wounded or killed in battle?

    Out of war nations acquire additional territory, if they are victorious. They just take it. This newly acquired territory promptly is exploited by the few – the selfsame few who wrung dollars out of blood in the war. The general public shoulders the bill.

    And what is this bill?

    This bill renders a horrible accounting. Newly placed gravestones. Mangled bodies. Shattered minds. Broken hearts and homes. Economic instability. Depression and all its attendant miseries. Back-breaking taxation for generations and generations.

    [...]

    In the World War, we used propaganda to make the boys accept conscription. They were made to feel ashamed if they didn’t join the army.

    So vicious was this war propaganda that even God was brought into it. With few exceptions our clergymen joined in the clamor to kill, kill, kill. To kill the Germans. God is on our side . . . it is His will that the Germans be killed.

    And in Germany, the good pastors called upon the Germans to kill the allies . . . to please the same God. That was a part of the general propaganda, built up to make people war conscious and murder conscious.

    Beautiful ideals were painted for our boys who were sent out to die. This was the “war to end all wars.” This was the “war to make the world safe for democracy.” No one mentioned to them, as they marched away, that their going and their dying would mean huge war profits. No one told these American soldiers that they might be shot down by bullets made by their own brothers here. No one told them that the ships on which they were going to cross might be torpedoed by submarines built with United States patents. They were just told it was to be a “glorious adventure.”

    [...]

  209. #208 JJR
    April 28, 2008

    More and more, I’m starting to think the Founding Fathers were just as correct about the danger to Liberty of Standing Armies as they were about separation of Church and State.

  210. #209 Pierce R. Butler
    April 28, 2008

    Chris Rodda has been too modest to toot her own horn, but all Americans should be aware that she has posted a series of clear, thoughtful, and well-researched rebuttals to the new fundie “Christian America” false history propaganda campaign at Talk To Action (where updates on all sorts of hyperchristian antics are frequently posted).

  211. #210 brokenSoldier
    April 28, 2008

    Nick:

    Could you clarify for me what you mean by denying that they cede moral authority?

    Those two statements I made did sound a bit paradoxical, but that was not my intent. With the first point I meant to state that adhering to externally stipulated moral codes is a concept widely accepted in our society, while in the second I tried to point out that the soldier’s duty to the Army code is less one of complete submission, and more of a duty to adhere to a common denominator of morality. This is necessitated by the wide range of individuals in the military and the wide range of thought and personality that comes with such diversity. Some soldiers definitely do have a morality construct within them that strays well past the military’s, and these are the ones that actually commit the crimes at war that make our situation worse, but these are in no way representative of the average soldier’s conduct or the Army’s core values. Most soldiers’ base morality is in line with the established organizational moral code (manifest in the published Army values, in the Army’s case), which goes towards my point that joining within itself is not immoral.

    If he had ceded his moral responsibility to the army, he would have shot to kill. How do you view his action (not just what he actually did, but that he felt he had the moral right and duty to make his own decision)?

    I can see now that we don’t differ all that much in what we are both trying to get to – the soldier’s individual decisions on the ground as they apply to that sort of specific situation. As for me, I celebrate what Harry Patch did as an act that displayed both the caution and compassion for life that each soldier should have, along with maintaining a protective stance to ensure his and his unit’s safety. I can tell you that in my experience, this exact situation has played out many times in Iraq, and unlike the King’s regulations, it is completely within the US Army’s moral code to take the course of action Patch chose.

    As an officer, I was charged with giving the orders in situations like this, and the Army’s guidance in combat is to oppose the enemy until he has no means to resist. To me, this is no way necessitates the death of the enemy in question, only the elimination of his means to resist. This can be accomplished in a number of ways that elevate in the level of force used, and this concept is the birth of our current, urban warfare form of ROE (Rules of Engagement). The big problem with our operations over there speak to this, in that our soldiers are restricted – justly – to rules of engagement that clearly instruct the soldier that the only level of force that is justified is the lowest level of force that will neutralize the threat. The problem I mentioned is not in these rules, but in the fact that an Army is trained for open combat – not police actions – where the enemy is apparent and the rules of engagement do not place the soldier in a disadvantaged position concerning survival. This is why I am so adamant about placing blame on those who applied our military so terribly unjustly. In a declared war, the ROE exists to channel the use of violence toward the enemy, but in a police action it exists solely to restrict the capabilities of soldiers to defend themselves in order to prevent civilian casualties that result from the insurgent’s proclivity to hide amongst them.

    To sum that up, the main point I am making is that the Army values guiding our soldiers’ actions do not necessitate the death of the enemy unless the enemy makes such an act imperative to the survival of the soldiers he is fighting. There is every chance for the soldier to use his own moral judgement in the situation, and after he takes his action he must be able to justify them to his superiors or face charges. If the soldier’s actions stray from the Army’s moral standard, he should be – and usually is – found guilty of dereliction of duty, along with any other charges his actions demand. This is why I think we disagree on the morality of the act of joining – I hope that I have pointed out well enough why I believe that the Army’s values system (or moral code) is not inherently immoral, and by proxy, why I believe joining is not an immoral choice. It is simply because the Army does allow soldiers to make decisions based on their own personal moral constructs, but also holds them accountable after the fact to the tenets of the overall Army code.

    “As a soldier, he had an absolute moral duty to be the most effective soldier he could be, within the laws of war, by putting this man out of action as quickly and surely as possible.”

    I agree 100% with this, and so does the majority of our armed forces. I take the phrase “putting this man out of action” to mean halting his effort to fight me – which does not necessitate killing him. And as a soldier, the Army definitely lets me make that choice. (And I did so, more than once. If you’re interested, I do have an account I could relate if you want to hear about it, but I won’t lengthen this already lengthy post with it…) Conversely, if I use deadly force before it is justified by the rules of engagement (scared though I might have been), I am held accountable for acting outside the rules and moral values of the Army.

    I think we’re getting to where we can pin down the points we disagree on, and either decide further argument would serve no purpose at present, or what types of rational enquiry might resolve them.

    I agree, and I hope it’s the latter of the two.

  212. #211 brokenSoldier
    April 28, 2008

    WAR is a racket. It always has been.

    Posted by: CalGeorge | April 28, 2008 9:43 AM

    The General’s statements are definitely true, but only in the sense that disagreements between nations that escalate into war are manipulated by politicians and governments to feed their intentions. This statement doesn’t remove the necessity for the societal defense provided by armies – it instead implores society to improve our methods of the application of force to block such corruption of the process.

    But this is a truth widely known – did you have anything to add to the argument, or have you just inserted someone else’s statement again without adding any views of your own that the statement is supposed to support?

  213. #212 Jay Hovah
    April 28, 2008

    #24
    “I was forced to have “Christian” put on my Dog Tags as the clerk REFUSED to allow Atheist on the tag. Bitch.”

    I had to fight to get ‘NO REL PREF’ on mine. At Fort Jackson (South Carolina) they kept insisting that I choose a religion and gave me dirty looks when I said I didn’t have one.

    I did go to the first Sunday morning Prot service after I found out non-church goers had to spend the morning doing work (Basic Training). What a freakshow, it was Pentecostal in style…speaking in tongues and writhing in the aisles.

  214. #213 Alex Gerten
    April 28, 2008

    Here is an idea…

    How about we send all the xtian fundies to Iraq to kill all the muslim fundies and vice-versa. We could possibly rid the world of idiots.

  215. #214 phantomreader42
    April 28, 2008

    So which charge should the court-martial start with?

    884. ART. 84. UNLAWFUL ENLISTMENT, APPOINTMENT, OR SEPARATION
    Any person subject to this chapter who effects an enlistment or appointment in or a separation from the armed forces of any person who is known to him to be ineligible for that enlistment, appointment, or separation because it is prohibited by law, regulation, or order shall be punished as a court-martial may direct.

    892. ART. 92. FAILURE TO OBEY ORDER OR REGULATION
    Any person subject to this chapter who–
    (1) violates or fails to obey any lawful general order or regulation;
    (2) having knowledge of any other lawful order issued by any member of the armed forces, which it is his duty to obey, fails to obey the order; or
    (3) is derelict in the performance of his duties;
    shall be punished as a court-martial may direct.

    893. ART. 93. CRUELTY AND MALTREATMENT
    Any person subject to this chapter who is guilty of cruelty toward, or oppression or maltreatment of, any person subject to his orders shall be punished as a court-martial may direct.

    907. ART. 107. FALSE STATEMENTS
    Any person subject to this chapter who, with intent to deceive, signs any false record, return, regulation, order, or other official document, knowing it to be false, or makes any other false official statement knowing it to be false, shall be punished as a court-martial may direct.

    927. ART. 127. EXTORTION
    Any person subject to this chapter who communicates threats to another person with the intention thereby to obtain anything of value or any acquittance, advantage, or immunity is guilty of extortion and shall be punished as a court-martial may direct.

    933. ART. 133. CONDUCT UNBECOMING AN OFFICER AND A GENTLEMAN
    Any commissioned officer, cadet, or midshipman who is convicted of conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman shall be punished as a court-martial may direct.

    Those look like a good start. Found the UCMJ here

  216. #215 CalGeorge
    April 28, 2008

    But this is a truth widely known – did you have anything to add to the argument, or have you just inserted someone else’s statement again without adding any views of your own that the statement is supposed to support?

    I’m sorry. I’ve probably been way too harsh on this thread. The older I become, the more upset I seem to get about all things to do with war. It’s all so appalling.

    Something has to change in our society. I’m not sure how that change can be effected.

    I support the limited use of military forces for purposes of defense. A military will have to exist until we can figure out a way to stop men from settling their difference violently, and I’m glad that the military is being filled by brave men (and women) like yourself.

    My rhetorical excess was unnecessary.

  217. #216 Don
    April 28, 2008

    ‘How about we send all the xtian fundies to Iraq to kill all the muslim fundies and vice-versa.’

    Because they’d pass each other half-way?

  218. #217 Nick Gotts
    April 28, 2008

    brokenSoldier – I’ve been working until 22.30, so too tired to continue our discussion tonight, but I’ve found the source of the account from Harry Patch, which is slightly more complicated and extensive than I remembered, and which it might interest you to have verbatim. It’s from a book called “Last Post: The Final Word From Our First World War Soldiers” by Max Arthur (2005). Patch was a conscript, and was at this point “Number Two” (loader) on a Lewis Gun:

    A couple of weeks after that we moved to Pilckem Ridge. I can still see the bewilderment and fear on the men’s faces as we went over the top…

    We got as far as their second line and four Germans stood up. They didn’t get up to run away, they got up to fight. One of them came running towards me. He couldn’t have had any ammunition or he would have shot me, but he came towards me with his bayonet pointing at my chest. I fired and hit him in the shoulder. He dropped his rifle, but still came stumbling on. I can only suppose that he wanted to kick our Lewis Gun into the mud, which would have made it useless. I had three live rounds left in my revolver and could have killed him with the first. What should I do? I had seconds to make my mind up. I gave him his life. I didn’t kill him. I shot him above the ankle and above the knee and brought him down. I knew he would be picked up, passed back to a POW camp, and at the end of the war he would rejoin his family. Six weeks later, a countryman of his killed my three mates. If that had happened before I met that German, I would have damn well killed him. But we never fired to kill. My Number One, Bob, used to keep the gun low and wound them in the legs – bring them down. Never fired to kill them. As far as I know he never killed a German. I never did either. Always kept it low.”

    So if Patch’s recollection is accurate, he and at least some others systematically avoided killing the enemy – which the officers certainly would not have liked (it was a very class-divided army). You may also have heard of the “Christmas Truce” of 1914, when British and German soldiers fraternised until forced back into the trenches by the officers. There were also much longer-lasting tacit truces or semi-truces between units, when they would fire deliberately high or only at certain times of day, for example. Trench warfare made these feasible: specific units would be opposite each other for months at a time, so once such an unofficial arrangement got started, it could be fairly stable until lines or units moved.

  219. #218 brokenSoldier
    April 28, 2008

    You may also have heard of the “Christmas Truce” of 1914, when British and German soldiers fraternised until forced back into the trenches by the officers.

    Posted by: Nick Gotts | April 28, 2008 6:13 PM

    Indeed I have – it is the situational basis for one of my favorite Faulkner novels, A Fable.

  220. #219 Kseniya
    April 28, 2008

    My name is Frances Tolliver…

    That incident inspired a folksinger named John McCutcheon to compose and record the song, “Christmas In The Trenches”, that I find very moving and love very much.

  221. #220 Sven DiMIlo
    April 28, 2008

    K, me too. Can’t play that one while driving.

  222. #221 Kseniya
    April 28, 2008

    Sven… I know exactly what you mean.

  223. #222 Nick Gotts
    April 29, 2008

    Sigh – if only the British and German conscripts had had the gumption to conspire together to turn round and shoot their officers, the history of the 20th century could have been much less bloody.

  224. #223 Nick Gotts
    April 29, 2008

    brokenSoldier –

    I still think there may be some difference between us on when it is right for a soldier in a combat situation to disobey a lawful order, but I don’t at present have any more to say on that.

    The other main issue, I think, is on when it is right to join the armed forces of a state voluntarily. Before I state what I think the disagreement is, I’ll say explicitly (as I’d have been wise to do earlier, given the emotional charge these issues are bound to have for you) that I fully accept that people can disagree with me on moral or political issues without being either wicked or stupid.

    As I understand it (correct me if I’m wrong), you consider that because the military is supposed to be used for defence (and, presumably disaster relief and other commendable functions), those who join cannot be blamed if they are subsequently ordered to take part in an immoral or illegal war, and follow those orders. I disagree: I consider that if a person judges that there is a non-negligible chance of being given such orders, they should either not join voluntarily, or be prepared to disobey such orders if they receive them – unless some more immediate duty forces their hand, e.g. this is the only way they can feed their children, or fight an ongoing attack by an aggressor. I would also say that they have a moral duty to consider the matter before they join, assuming they have sufficient intelligence and education to do so. Finally, I’d say that an impartial and reasonably informed person, with judgement undistorted by nationalist propaganda, would at any time in the past half-century have judged they might well be sent into an immoral or illegal war if they joined the US or UK forces – or, for that matter, those of most other significant military powers. More specifically, I contest your view that the way the Bush administration has used the US armed forces is an aberration; I consider it an intensification of a quest for global dominance which has been pretty much a constant theme of US state policy since WWII.

  225. #224 SC
    April 29, 2008

    Some words of wisdom from the inimitable C. Wright Mills:

    “To What, Then, Do We Belong?” (1954)

    I

    “You and I are among those who are asking serious questions and by that very fact I know that there is something to which you and I do belong. We belong to that minority that has carried on the big discourse of the rational mind; to the big discourse that has been going on – or off and on – since the Western society began some two thousand years ago in the small communities of Athens and Jerusalem. Maybe you think that is a pretty vague thing to which to belong; if you do think that, you are mistaken. It is quite a thing to belong to the big discourse – even if as lesser participants – and, as I hope presently to make clear, it is the beginning of any ‘sense of belonging’ that is worthwhile. It is the key to the only kind of belonging that free people in our time might have. and I think that to belong to it requires that we try to live up to what it demands of us.

    What it demands of us, first of all, is that we maintain our sense of it. and, just now, at this point in human history, that is quite difficult. For we belong not only to the big discourse of the rational mind; we also belong – although we do not always feel that we do – to our own epoch; accordingly, since we are live people and not detached minds, we are trying to live in and with a certain set of feelings: the feelings of political people trying to be rational in an epoch of enormous irrationality.

    II

    What is the dominant mood of people like us, who try to think up questions and answer them for ourselves? What is the tang and feel of our experience as we examine the world about us today? It is clear that these feelings are shaping the way we ask and the way we answer all the questions of this conference: it is also clear – let us admit it – that our mood is not buoyant, not calm, not steady, and not sure. It is true that we do not panic, but it is also true that we possess the crisis mentality, and none of us can be up to the demands of our time unless we share something of this kind of mind, for it is rooted in an adequate sense of history and of our place in history.

    We are often stunned and we are often distracted, and we are bewildered almost all of the time. And the only weapon we have – as individuals and as a scatter of grouplets – is the delicate brain now so perilously balanced in the struggle for public sanity. We feel that common political sense is no longer a sound basis of judgment, for the common sense of the twentieth century is based largely upon an eighteenth- and a nineteenth-century experience, which is outmoded by new facts of public life with which we have had little to do, except as victims. The more we understand what is happening in the world, the more frustrated we often become, for our knowledge leads to feelings of powerlessness.

    We feel that we are living in a world in which the citizen has become a mere spectator or a forced actor, and that our personal experience is politically useless and our political will a minor illusion. Very often the fear of total, permanent war paralyzes the kind of morally oriented politics which might engage our interests and our passions. We sense the cultural mediocrity around us – and in us – and we know that ours is a time when, within and between all the nations of the world, the levels of public sensibility have sunk below sight; atrocity on a mass scale has become impersonal and official; moral indignation as a public fact has become extinct or made trivial.

    We feel that distrust has become nearly universal among men of affairs, and that the spread of public anxiety is poisoning human relations and drying up the roots of private freedom. We see that the people at the top often identify rational dissent with political mutiny, loyalty with blind conformity, and freedom of judgment with treason.

    We feel that irresponsibility has become organized in high places and that clearly those in charge of the historic decisions of our time are not up to them. But what is more damaging to us is that we feel that those on the bottom – the forced actors who take the consequences – are also without leaders, without ideas of opposition, and that they make no real demands upon those in power.

    III

    We do not, of course, feel all of this all of the time, but we often feel some of it, and in the dark of the night, when we are really alone and really awake, we suspect that this might very well be an honest articulation of our deepest political feelings. And if we are justified – even in half of these feelings – then we have at hand a second answer to the question of whether we are losing our sense of belonging. Our first answer, you will remember, was a general Yes, except in the sense that we belong to the big discourse. Our second answer reflects our feelings about the sort of world we are living in, and may be put in this way: I don’t know whether or not you are losing your political sense of belonging, but I should certainly hope so.

    The point is that we are among those who cannot get their mouths around all the little Yeses that add up to tacit acceptance of a world run by crackpot realists and subject to blind drift. And that, you see, is something to which we do belong; we belong to those who are still capable of personally rejecting. Our minds are not yet captive. I believe that, just now, in the kind of political world we are in, rejection is more important than acceptance. For, in such a world, to accept freely requires, first of all, the personal capacity and the social chance to reject the official myths and the unofficial distractions. [...]

    IV

    I hope I have made it clear that the question of losing our sense of political belonging cannot be answered with moral sensibility unless we also ask: To what is it that we ought to belong? Mere loyalty alone is less a virtue than an escape from freely thought-out choices among the many values that now compete for our loyalties.

    My own answer to this question, which may well be different from yours, can be put very simply: If we are human, what we ought to belong to first of all is ourselves. We ought to belong to ourselves as individuals. Once upon a time that answer would have seemed clear, for it used to be called ‘the appeal to conscience’, but we now know that this is much too simple an answer, for we now know that there are people whose conscience is perfectly clear and perfectly sincere – and perfectly corrupt in its consequences for themselves and for others.

    So we must add to this answer one further point: to the extent that we are truly human, we should try seriously to participate in that rational discourse of which I have spoken. And to the extent that we do so, our sensibilities will have been shaped by the highpoints of mankind’s heritage of conduct and character and thought. Accordingly, we shall belong, and we ought to belong, to mankind, and it is to mankind that we ought most freely to give our loyalties.

    All other loyalties, it seems to me, ought to be qualified by these two: loyalty to ourselves and loyalty to the cultural heritage of mankind that we allow to shape us as individuals. This answer is more a beginning than an end; we ought to use it to judge all principles and organizations that demand our loyalties. No corporation, no church, no nation, no labor union, no political party – no organization or creed – is worthy of our loyalties if it does not facilitate the growth of loyalties to ourselves and to the heritage that mankind has produced in its best moments.

    Moreover, we ought not to be committed absolutely to any organization. Our loyalty is conditional. Otherwise, it is not loyalty. It is not the belonging of free people; it is a compelled obedience. Let us not confuse the loyalties of free people with mere obedience to authority. When organizations or nations sell out the values of free people, free people withdraw their loyalties. Not with a ‘Yes, But’ or a ‘Maybe Yes, Maybe No’ but with a big, plain, flat ‘No’.

    V

    The positive question for us is not so much whether we are losing our sense of belonging as whether we can help build something that is worth belonging to. Perhaps that has always been the major social question for men and women shaped by the big discourse. For just as freedom that has not been fought for is lightly cast off, so belonging that does not require the building and the maintaining of organizations worth belonging to is often merely a yearning for a new bondage.

    To really belong, we have got, first, to get it clear with ourselves that we do not belong and do not want to belong to an unfree world. As free men and women we have got to reject much of it and to know why we are rejecting it.

    We have got, second, to get it clear within ourselves that we can truly only belong to organizations which we have a real part in building or maintaining, directly and openly and all of the time.

    And we have got, third, to realize that it is only in the struggle for what we really believe, as individuals and as members of economic, political, and social groups, that the sense of belonging befitting a free person in an unfree world can exist. In such a world, only the comradeship of such a struggle is worthy of our loyalty; and only to such truly human associations as we might create do we, as rational people, wish to belong.”

  226. #225 brokenSoldier
    April 29, 2008

    Posted by: Nick Gotts | April 29, 2008 2:49 PM

    As I understand it (correct me if I’m wrong), you consider that because the military is supposed to be used for defence (and, presumably disaster relief and other commendable functions), those who join cannot be blamed if they are subsequently ordered to take part in an immoral or illegal war, and follow those orders.

    Yes, solely because a soldier cannot refuse to be deployed. In the contract, if the government approves the orders to deploy, there is no grounds for objection for soldiers, save going to jail. If this happened wholesale, the damage done to the military would reach far past whatever resolution of our current situation occurs. If the citizens of either country simply stopped signing up each time they thought they might be misused, the military would disappear. And once such an action brought an end to our current conflict, we would be left with no force to oppose any action, even justified action – taken against the nation. The decision to serve is a necessary decision for a percentage of any civilization, no matter the situation, because refusal to serve would effectively remove one of the main pedestals – national defense – which allows for democratic society.

    I disagree: I consider that if a person judges that there is a non-negligible chance of being given such orders, they should either not join voluntarily, or be prepared to disobey such orders if they receive them – unless some more immediate duty forces their hand, e.g. this is the only way they can feed their children, or fight an ongoing attack by an aggressor.

    I can see your logic, but I’m thinking about the situation from a bit different angle. If you take away the soldiers, the agents of corruption that got the country into this situation will turn to other means. (Blackwater – an armed “security contractor” runs around Iraq performing missions exact in every way to the combat missions run by our soldiers, except they are exempt from both Iraqi and American criminal law, via mandate from the President. He requested the permission from Congress not too long ago for authorization to hire mercenary forces, was denied, and simply used them anyway, this time classified as contractors.

    It is my position that if a person is willing to join the military in a time when such unjust policy is not in effect, then that same person should still join even when that is not the case. This is because the problem that needs to be fixed – the Commander-in-Chief and his administration – will exist even if the recruit pool starts going dry. If, however, these citizens who still choose to join can do so and serve as honorably as they can until the situation’s main problem is removed, all the while trying to help the Iraqi citizens around them improve their situations, then the damage done on the national level can in some way be mitigated by soldiers doing their jobs effectively, admirably, and with the requisite amount of caution and compassion required by the sticky situation they’ve been put into by this administration. Either situation is untenable, but I’d rather have justly motivated soldiers who serve willingly over there making the situation as tenable as is humanly possible until the individuals running this fiasco are removed.

    as I’d have been wise to do earlier, given the emotional charge these issues are bound to have for you…

    I allowed a part of my anger at another poster’s remarks spill over into my responses to yours. There was no need for it, and I do apologize. Regrettably, I do get aggressively defensive of my choice to serve, mainly because my choice wasn’t made for nationalist reasons or violent inclinations, but rather I chose to serve because I recognize that it is a necessity for some citizens to do so. Had I been born in another nation, with similar freedoms, and given the same choice, I’d make that choice again. I do love America, but based on its principles – not simply the name. If this nation legislated – irreparably – itself in a direction contrary to those principles, I’d no longer feel the desire to serve. I realize that many join for other reasons, but any immorality in the reasoning behind their choice has nothing to do with the choice in and of itself.

    And I, like more than half of the soldiers in Iraq today, did not join the standing Army – we joined the National Guard. Joining the Guard has even closer connections to the desire to serve society, because the part of society you almost always support is the one in which you live. The fact that we have been pulled away from our main mission for seemingly unending use in this war – a mission we are neither intended for or designed to fulfill on a continuous cycle like today’s deployment schedule – is something that deeply pisses off a lot of soldiers, families, and communities alike. A great many of our soldiers lost homes in Katrina while sitting over in Iraq, unable to come to the aid of our host communities. This is disturbing to a lot of us, but the fact we have been so misused still does not overshadow the benefit these soldiers have provided over the courses of their individual careers. And in my mind, this is why the choice to serve is not innately immoral, regardless of the situation. Refusing to serve is definitely a valid and noble individual protest, and I consider it one of the rights I am proudest to protect, but it is not a form of protest that would be ultimately beneficial to our situation as a nation and member of the international community. As corrupt as our current leaders are, our country as a whole can rid the demons of their administration with time.

    I think we are similar in intention and conclusion about the way the current situation came to pass – in that, I mean the illegality and immorality of the entire war in Iraq in the first place – for both of our governments. And because I am a retired soldier, I am by no means a champion of the government. (Hell, the way they’re treating their wounded, I’m closer to the other extreme.) But I do have a deep disagreement with the concept that joining the military in a time of unjust war is immoral, and I admit that I have a personal bias in that disagreement. The uniform has been the entirety of my adult life, with college (2 years at a military academy, though…) sprinkled in, so while I have come to be disgusted with certain facets of and idiots in my former profession, I still see the choice alone as a necessary choice for some, and not an immoral one.

  227. #226 Nick Gotts
    April 30, 2008

    brokenSoldier – I’m going to need to consider your latest carefully, so I’ll respond at the weekend.

  228. #227 jheiser
    May 1, 2008

    This “wonderful” military officer should be asked…..
    “So, if you think you will try to barr re-enlistment for these atheists..then can you explain to me how you received a DUI IN A MILITARY VEHICLE in Topeka, Kansas, while being assigned to Troop Command in the Kansas Army National Guard while a lieutenant?” There are some that think you should have been barred from re-enlistment then !! You are a hypocrite.

  229. #228 Nick Gotts
    May 5, 2008

    As I understand it (correct me if I’m wrong), you consider that because the military is supposed to be used for defence (and, presumably disaster relief and other commendable functions), those who join cannot be blamed if they are subsequently ordered to take part in an immoral or illegal war, and follow those orders.

    Yes, solely because a soldier cannot refuse to be deployed. In the contract, if the government approves the orders to deploy, there is no grounds for objection for soldiers, save going to jail. If this happened wholesale, the damage done to the military would reach far past whatever resolution of our current situation occurs. If the citizens of either country simply stopped signing up each time they thought they might be misused, the military would disappear. And once such an action brought an end to our current conflict, we would be left with no force to oppose any action, even justified action – taken against the nation. The decision to serve is a necessary decision for a percentage of any civilization, no matter the situation, because refusal to serve would effectively remove one of the main pedestals – national defense – which allows for democratic society.

    It’s not easy in this sort of issue to distinguish points that are relevant to the specific situation we are in now – most obviously, the occupation of Iraq – and those that are of more general application.
    I’ll try starting with the most general, and working toward the specific.

    You say the decision to serve “is a necessary decision for a percentage of any civilization, no matter the situation,” (emphasis mine). This is too broad. First, consider the situation where no-one, in any society, was willing to join armed forces that might take part in an aggressive war. Clearly, there would be no need for anyone to join the armed forces of their own society in order to defend it. Now you can say this is an implausible situation, but your argument is implicitly of the type that asks: “What if everyone took [decision x]?”; such arguments can only have any force if it is clear who “everyone” should cover; or if it makes no difference.

    A less implausible situation is one where your own society is far more likely than any other to launch aggressive wars. In this case, it is surely wrong to join the armed forces voluntarily.
    We surely know of historical situations where a state clearly intended to use its armed forces aggressively at the first opportunity. I’ll risk Godwin’s law, since Nazi Germany in the 1930s produces perhaps the clearest example. Under the Versailles Treaty, Germany was forbidden to introduce conscription, and Hitler did not defy this clause until March 1935. The initial stages of Hitler’s military build-up therefore depended entirely on volunteers, even after the point where any reasonable person could have seen he was establishing a dictatorship, and was highly likely to launch aggressive war. Do you consider it right for anti-Nazis to join the German forces, or voluntarily remain in them if they were already members, during that period? If so, I’d be interested to hear your reasoning.

    You go on to say: “refusal to serve would effectively remove one of the main pedestals – national defence – which allows for democratic society”. So, suppose we restrict what you’ve said to democratic societies. I’ll define these for convenience as those where there is broad freedom of speech and the press, and broadly honest universal suffrage elections which can lead to the government losing power. (I’ll have more to say about democracy below.) Unfortunately, democratic societies so defined are not necessarily non-aggressive in their foreign policy, nor do they always promote democracy abroad. Leaving aside the USA, which I’ll return to below, the clearest case is that of the UK during the 20th century. The UK had universal suffrage from 1928, but remained determined to keep its overseas empire until after WWII – when it simply could not afford the economic and political costs any longer, first in India, then more generally. Would it have been right to volunteer to join in colonial oppression during those periods, as voluntarily joining the forces would have implied? (If we extend “democratic” to cover societies which appear in retrospect to have been on the way to universal suffrage, the period concerned becomes considerably longer.) I’d accept that there was, after 1933, an external threat from a more aggressive power; but the question still should have been asked by anyone considering joining up.

    I disagree: I consider that if a person judges that there is a non-negligible chance of being given such orders, they should either not join voluntarily, or be prepared to disobey such orders if they receive them – unless some more immediate duty forces their hand, e.g. this is the only way they can feed their children, or fight an ongoing attack by an aggressor.

    I can see your logic, but I’m thinking about the situation from a bit different angle. If you take away the soldiers, the agents of corruption that got the country into this situation will turn to other means. (Blackwater – an armed “security contractor” runs around Iraq performing missions exact in every way to the combat missions run by our soldiers, except they are exempt from both Iraqi and American criminal law, via mandate from the President. He requested the permission from Congress not too long ago for authorization to hire mercenary forces, was denied, and simply used them anyway, this time classified as contractors.

    It is my position that if a person is willing to join the military in a time when such unjust policy is not in effect, then that same person should still join even when that is not the case. This is because the problem that needs to be fixed – the Commander-in-Chief and his administration – will exist even if the recruit pool starts going dry. If, however, these citizens who still choose to join can do so and serve as honorably as they can until the situation’s main problem is removed, all the while trying to help the Iraqi citizens around them improve their situations, then the damage done on the national level can in some way be mitigated by soldiers doing their jobs effectively, admirably, and with the requisite amount of caution and compassion required by the sticky situation they’ve been put into by this administration. Either situation is untenable, but I’d rather have justly motivated soldiers who serve willingly over there making the situation as tenable as is humanly possible until the individuals running this fiasco are removed.

    OK, now we’re down to more specific circumstances: the US and UK forces since the invasion of Iraq (the most clearly aggressive of current US/UK deployments). First, I would challenge your view that if large numbers of soldiers started refusing to serve in Iraqthe result would be the disappearance of the military. That is practically impossible, without a prior revolution or state collapse, because the elites simply would not countenance it. They would have at least options in the short term if numbers prepared to serve fell further below the desired levels than they have already: (1) increased reliance on mercenaries, (2) increased reliance on foreign troops, (3) conscription, (4) partial withdrawal, or (5) complete withdrawal. If they chose (5), I’d consider that a clear positive result. If they chose (3), as I’ve argued before, I think it would be politically untenable, and would swiftly be abandoned. As it is, they have already implemented a shifting combination of (1), (2) and (4) – in the case of (2), mostly by pushing allies into sending troops to Afghanistan, so more US troops are available for Iraq, but it seems unlikely this could be pushed much further. So far as (1) is concerned, you claim that Blackwater is undertaking the full range of combat missions. Well, they are surely not carrying out bombing from aircraft, which is responsible for a lot of civilian casualites? That aside, would they really be capable of taking on (say) the current aggressive actions in Basra and Sadr City? Unlike regular forces, their people presumably have to be paid according to risk, so it would at least be much more expensive to fight a war this way. As for (4), recent events in Basra indicate that the “Iraqi army” (a.k.a. al-Maliki’s militia) is not capable of defeating the Sadrists in their strongholds; nor is it likely to be capable of defeating Sunni forces in Sunni areas; so (4) would risk defeat of the puppet government, and would still leave US forces vulnerable to attack – as the recent attacks on the Green Zone show. So my view is that falling enlistment and/or rising refusal to serve in Iraq by existing troops would raise the likelihood of full withdrawal.

    as I’d have been wise to do earlier, given the emotional charge these issues are bound to have for you…

    I allowed a part of my anger at another poster’s remarks spill over into my responses to yours. There was no need for it, and I do apologize.

    Accepted unreservedly.

    Regrettably, I do get aggressively defensive of my choice to serve, mainly because my choice wasn’t made for nationalist reasons or violent inclinations, but rather I chose to serve because I recognize that it is a necessity for some citizens to do so. Had I been born in another nation, with similar freedoms, and given the same choice, I’d make that choice again. I do love America, but based on its principles – not simply the name. If this nation legislated – irreparably – itself in a direction contrary to those principles, I’d no longer feel the desire to serve. I realize that many join for other reasons, but any immorality in the reasoning behind their choice has nothing to do with the choice in and of itself.

    And I, like more than half of the soldiers in Iraq today, did not join the standing Army – we joined the National Guard. Joining the Guard has even closer connections to the desire to serve society, because the part of society you almost always support is the one in which you live. The fact that we have been pulled away from our main mission for seemingly unending use in this war – a mission we are neither intended for or designed to fulfill on a continuous cycle like today’s deployment schedule – is something that deeply pisses off a lot of soldiers, families, and communities alike. A great many of our soldiers lost homes in Katrina while sitting over in Iraq, unable to come to the aid of our host communities. This is disturbing to a lot of us, but the fact we have been so misused still does not overshadow the benefit these soldiers have provided over the courses of their individual careers. And in my mind, this is why the choice to serve is not innately immoral, regardless of the situation. Refusing to serve is definitely a valid and noble individual protest, and I consider it one of the rights I am proudest to protect, but it is not a form of protest that would be ultimately beneficial to our situation as a nation and member of the international community. As corrupt as our current leaders are, our country as a whole can rid the demons of their administration with time.

    I think we are similar in intention and conclusion about the way the current situation came to pass – in that, I mean the illegality and immorality of the entire war in Iraq in the first place – for both of our governments.

    I think you’re wrong in considering Iraq an aberration. It is certainly an unusually blatant case of aggression, but I see it as part of a pattern of the elite in the USA attempting to extend its power over the world, without any obvious limits, which has been consistent since 1945. This pattern can be seen to run through the bombing of Hiroshima and particularly Nagasaki, the “X article” by George Kennan in Foreign Affairs in 1947, the formation of NATO in 1949, the NSC-68 report of 1950, the coup against Mossadeq in Iran in 1953, interventions including those in Guatemala (1954), Vietnam (1955 onwards), Congo (1960), the Dominican Republic (1965), Indonesia (1967), Chile (1973), and Nicaragua (1981-1990) among others, diplomatic support for the Khmer Rouge against the Vietnamese communists long after it became clear they were a genocidal gang, prolonged support for rightist dictatorships in Spain, Greece, Portugal, much of Latin America, South Korea, Taiwan, Pakistan, Thailand, Indonesia (to name those that come to mind), and support for apartheid South Africa as long as this remained politically feasible. All these occurred during the Cold War, and of course the USSR was a real rival and itself an oppressive power. However, the pattern of seeking to extend US power has continued since the collapse of the USSR, with the expansion of NATO, military bases in central Asian dictatorships and in the Balkans, the doctrine of “Full Spectrum Dominance” laid out in the DoD document “Joint Vision 2020″ published on 30 May 2000 (under Clinton), and the ramping up of US military spending until it approaches that of the rest of the world put together. Throughout the period since 1945 (and indeed, before WWII), apart from the height of the Vietnam War, foreign policy has remained beyond the reach of the mass of American citizens to affect: it is determined by and for a highly restricted elite.

    In the above, I’m not arguing that the USA has behaved in an exceptional way: it has behaved as great powers have historically behaved, attempting to consolidate and extend their power. Nor is the restriction of influence over foreign policy to a narrow elite unusual; this is one of the systemic limitations on capitalist democracy. Precisely because it is so crucial to their continued power, the elites of democratic capitalist states reserve it to themselves. Currently, whatever may be said, the central function of the US armed forces (and indeed, the UK armed forces) is to consolidate and extend US power, not to defend the homeland; and if you voluntarily join the armed forces of those states, that is what you will be used for. Neither the USA nor the UK is currently, or in the forseeable future, under any threat of invasion. There are real terrorist threats, but occupying Muslim countries increases rather than diminishes these. Those aside, the real and forseeable threats we face are from environmental damage, particularly but by no means only climate change, and resource shortages. While grabbing control of as many resources as possible is one possible response to shortages, it is not one I consider either morally acceptable, or likely to be successful; and there is no role for military coercion in mitigating environmental threats. Rather, we need to move beyond power politics and inter-state rivalry; and the USA, as by far the world’s most powerful (and indeed, most environmentally destructive) state, has the most crucial role to play. This will require change far deeper than replacing Bush with the likes of Clinton or Obama.

  230. #229 Nick Gotts
    May 5, 2008

    Sorry – in the last post I completely screwed up the formatting.


    As I understand it (correct me if I’m wrong), you consider that because the military is supposed to be used for defence (and, presumably disaster relief and other commendable functions), those who join cannot be blamed if they are subsequently ordered to take part in an immoral or illegal war, and follow those orders.

    Yes, solely because a soldier cannot refuse to be deployed. In the contract, if the government approves the orders to deploy, there is no grounds for objection for soldiers, save going to jail. If this happened wholesale, the damage done to the military would reach far past whatever resolution of our current situation occurs. If the citizens of either country simply stopped signing up each time they thought they might be misused, the military would disappear. And once such an action brought an end to our current conflict, we would be left with no force to oppose any action, even justified action – taken against the nation. The decision to serve is a necessary decision for a percentage of any civilization, no matter the situation, because refusal to serve would effectively remove one of the main pedestals – national defense – which allows for democratic society.

    It’s not easy in this sort of issue to distinguish points that are relevant to the specific situation we are in now – most obviously, the occupation of Iraq – and those that are of more general application. I’ll try starting with the most general, and working toward the specific.

    You say the decision to serve “is a necessary decision for a percentage of any civilization, no matter the situation,” (emphasis mine). This is too broad. First, consider the situation where no-one, in any society, was willing to join armed forces that might take part in an aggressive war. Clearly, there would be no need for anyone to join the armed forces of their own society in order to defend it. Now you can say this is an implausible situation, but your argument is implicitly of the type that asks: “What if everyone took [decision x]?”; such arguments can only have any force if it is clear who “everyone” should cover; or if it makes no difference.

    A less implausible situation is one where your own society is far more likely than any other to launch aggressive wars. In this case, it is surely wrong to join the armed forces voluntarily. We surely know of historical situations where a state clearly intended to use its armed forces aggressively at the first opportunity. I’ll risk Godwin’s law, since Nazi Germany in the 1930s produces perhaps the clearest example. Under the Versailles Treaty, Germany was forbidden to introduce conscription, and Hitler did not defy this clause until March 1935. The initial stages of Hitler’s military build-up therefore depended entirely on volunteers, even after the point where any reasonable person could have seen he was establishing a dictatorship, and was highly likely to launch aggressive war. Do you consider it right for anti-Nazis to join the German forces, or voluntarily remain in them if they were already members, during that period? If so, I’d be interested to hear your reasoning.

    You go on to say: “refusal to serve would effectively remove one of the main pedestals – national defence – which allows for democratic society”. So, suppose we restrict what you’ve said to democratic societies. I’ll define these for convenience as those where there is broad freedom of speech and the press, and broadly honest universal suffrage elections which can lead to the government losing power. (I’ll have more to say about democracy below.) Unfortunately, democratic societies so defined are not necessarily non-aggressive in their foreign policy, nor do they always promote democracy abroad. Leaving aside the USA, which I’ll return to below, the clearest case is that of the UK during the 20th century. The UK had universal suffrage from 1928, but remained determined to keep its overseas empire until after WWII – when it simply could not afford the economic and political costs any longer, first in India, then more generally. Would it have been right to volunteer to join in colonial oppression during those periods, as voluntarily joining the forces would have implied? (If we extend “democratic” to cover societies which appear in retrospect to have been on the way to universal suffrage, the period concerned becomes considerably longer.) I’d accept that there was, after 1933, an external threat from a more aggressive power; but the question still should have been asked by anyone considering joining up.


    I disagree: I consider that if a person judges that there is a non-negligible chance of being given such orders, they should either not join voluntarily, or be prepared to disobey such orders if they receive them – unless some more immediate duty forces their hand, e.g. this is the only way they can feed their children, or fight an ongoing attack by an aggressor.

    I can see your logic, but I’m thinking about the situation from a bit different angle. If you take away the soldiers, the agents of corruption that got the country into this situation will turn to other means. (Blackwater – an armed “security contractor” runs around Iraq performing missions exact in every way to the combat missions run by our soldiers, except they are exempt from both Iraqi and American criminal law, via mandate from the President. He requested the permission from Congress not too long ago for authorization to hire mercenary forces, was denied, and simply used them anyway, this time classified as contractors.

    It is my position that if a person is willing to join the military in a time when such unjust policy is not in effect, then that same person should still join even when that is not the case. This is because the problem that needs to be fixed – the Commander-in-Chief and his administration – will exist even if the recruit pool starts going dry. If, however, these citizens who still choose to join can do so and serve as honorably as they can until the situation’s main problem is removed, all the while trying to help the Iraqi citizens around them improve their situations, then the damage done on the national level can in some way be mitigated by soldiers doing their jobs effectively, admirably, and with the requisite amount of caution and compassion required by the sticky situation they’ve been put into by this administration. Either situation is untenable, but I’d rather have justly motivated soldiers who serve willingly over there making the situation as tenable as is humanly possible until the individuals running this fiasco are removed.

    OK, now we’re down to more specific circumstances: the US and UK forces since the invasion of Iraq (the most clearly aggressive of current US/UK deployments). First, I would challenge your view that if large numbers of soldiers started refusing to serve in Iraq the result would be the disappearance of the military. That is practically impossible, without a prior revolution or state collapse, because the elites simply would not countenance it. They would have at least options in the short term if numbers prepared to serve fell further below the desired levels than they have already: (1) increased reliance on mercenaries, (2) increased reliance on foreign troops, (3) conscription, (4) partial withdrawal, or (5) complete withdrawal. If they chose (5), I’d consider that a clear positive result. If they chose (3), as I’ve argued before, I think it would be politically untenable, and would swiftly be abandoned. As it is, they have already implemented a shifting combination of (1), (2) and (4) – in the case of (2), mostly by pushing allies into sending troops to Afghanistan, so more US troops are available for Iraq, but it seems unlikely this could be pushed much further. So far as (1) is concerned, you claim that Blackwater is undertaking the full range of combat missions. Well, they are surely not carrying out bombing from aircraft, which is responsible for a lot of civilian casualites? That aside, would they really be capable of taking on (say) the current aggressive actions in Basra and Sadr City? Unlike regular forces, their people presumably have to be paid according to risk, so it would at least be much more expensive to fight a war this way. As for (4), recent events in Basra indicate that the “Iraqi army” (a.k.a. al-Maliki’s militia) is not capable of defeating the Sadrists in their strongholds; nor is it likely to be capable of defeating Sunni forces in Sunni areas; so (4) would risk defeat of the puppet government, and would still leave US forces vulnerable to attack – as the recent attacks on the Green Zone show. So my view is that falling enlistment and/or rising refusal to serve in Iraq by existing troops would raise the likelihood of full withdrawal.


    as I’d have been wise to do earlier, given the emotional charge these issues are bound to have for you…

    I allowed a part of my anger at another poster’s remarks spill over into my responses to yours. There was no need for it, and I do apologize.

    Accepted unreservedly.

    Regrettably, I do get aggressively defensive of my choice to serve, mainly because my choice wasn’t made for nationalist reasons or violent inclinations, but rather I chose to serve because I recognize that it is a necessity for some citizens to do so. Had I been born in another nation, with similar freedoms, and given the same choice, I’d make that choice again. I do love America, but based on its principles – not simply the name. If this nation legislated – irreparably – itself in a direction contrary to those principles, I’d no longer feel the desire to serve. I realize that many join for other reasons, but any immorality in the reasoning behind their choice has nothing to do with the choice in and of itself.

    And I, like more than half of the soldiers in Iraq today, did not join the standing Army – we joined the National Guard. Joining the Guard has even closer connections to the desire to serve society, because the part of society you almost always support is the one in which you live. The fact that we have been pulled away from our main mission for seemingly unending use in this war – a mission we are neither intended for or designed to fulfill on a continuous cycle like today’s deployment schedule – is something that deeply pisses off a lot of soldiers, families, and communities alike. A great many of our soldiers lost homes in Katrina while sitting over in Iraq, unable to come to the aid of our host communities. This is disturbing to a lot of us, but the fact we have been so misused still does not overshadow the benefit these soldiers have provided over the courses of their individual careers. And in my mind, this is why the choice to serve is not innately immoral, regardless of the situation. Refusing to serve is definitely a valid and noble individual protest, and I consider it one of the rights I am proudest to protect, but it is not a form of protest that would be ultimately beneficial to our situation as a nation and member of the international community. As corrupt as our current leaders are, our country as a whole can rid the demons of their administration with time.

    I think we are similar in intention and conclusion about the way the current situation came to pass – in that, I mean the illegality and immorality of the entire war in Iraq in the first place – for both of our governments.

    I think you’re wrong in considering Iraq an aberration. It is certainly an unusually blatant case of aggression, but I see it as part of a pattern of the elite in the USA attempting to extend its power over the world, without any obvious limits, which has been consistent since 1945. This pattern can be seen to run through the bombing of Hiroshima and particularly Nagasaki, the “X article” by George Kennan in Foreign Affairs in 1947, the formation of NATO in 1949, the NSC-68 report of 1950, the coup against Mossadeq in Iran in 1953, interventions including those in Guatemala (1954), Vietnam (1955 onwards), Congo (1960), the Dominican Republic (1965), Indonesia (1967), Chile (1973), and Nicaragua (1981-1990) among others, diplomatic support for the Khmer Rouge against the Vietnamese communists long after it became clear they were a genocidal gang, prolonged support for rightist dictatorships in Spain, Greece, Portugal, much of Latin America, South Korea, Taiwan, Pakistan, Thailand, Indonesia (to name those that come to mind), and support for apartheid South Africa as long as this remained politically feasible. All these occurred during the Cold War, and of course the USSR was a real rival and itself an oppressive power. However, the pattern of seeking to extend US power has continued since the collapse of the USSR, with the expansion of NATO, military bases in central Asian dictatorships and in the Balkans, the doctrine of “Full Spectrum Dominance” laid out in the DoD document “Joint Vision 2020″ published on 30 May 2000 (under Clinton), and the ramping up of US military spending until it approaches that of the rest of the world put together. Throughout the period since 1945 (and indeed, before WWII), apart from the height of the Vietnam War, foreign policy has remained beyond the reach of the mass of American citizens to affect: it is determined by and for a highly restricted elite.

    In the above, I’m not arguing that the USA has behaved in an exceptional way: it has behaved as great powers have historically behaved, attempting to consolidate and extend their power. Nor is the restriction of influence over foreign policy to a narrow elite unusual; this is one of the systemic limitations on capitalist democracy. Precisely because it is so crucial to their continued power, the elites of democratic capitalist states reserve it to themselves. Currently, whatever may be said, the central function of the US armed forces (and indeed, the UK armed forces) is to consolidate and extend US power, not to defend the homeland; and if you voluntarily join the armed forces of those states, that is what you will be used for. Neither the USA nor the UK is currently, or in the forseeable future, under any threat of invasion. There are real terrorist threats, but occupying Muslim countries increases rather than diminishes these. Those aside, the real and forseeable threats we face are from environmental damage, particularly but by no means only climate change, and resource shortages. While grabbing control of as many resources as possible is one possible response to shortages, it is not one I consider either morally acceptable, or likely to be successful; and there is no role for military coercion in mitigating environmental threats. Rather, we need to move beyond power politics and inter-state rivalry; and the USA, as by far the world’s most powerful (and indeed, most environmentally destructive) state, has the most crucial role to play. This will require change far deeper than replacing Bush with the likes of Clinton or Obama.

  231. #230 brokenSoldier
    May 6, 2008

    Posted by: Nick Gotts | May 5, 2008 2:12 PM

    Do you consider it right for anti-Nazis to join the German forces, or voluntarily remain in them if they were already members, during that period? If so, I’d be interested to hear your reasoning.

    I agree that once a nation’s leadership has taken the government past its ability to correct itself, then the choice to join its armed forces would be an immoral one. And I’d agree with your point – in that case, even the moral choice to serve would be clouded by those joining and using the military for such ends. I think the only point we differ on is that I don’t believe either of our nations has reached such a place in their governance where the aggression cannot be reined back in promptly from within.

    So, suppose we restrict what you’ve said to democratic societies.

    I again agree with much of what you wrote below the above quote, but I cited this specific one because the crux of what I was trying to say lies in the basic concept of our style of governance. I meant to point out that if no one joins, the current leaders of our government – if left unchecked by its democratic processes – would simply instill conscription (they have already quite famously started compelling service for soldiers scheduled to get out of the military). Once military service has become compulsory, the slide away from democracy can easily begin and our society has the potential to be perverted into some other form of national leadership. I believe that there will always – in free society – be a need for those who will join the military, and I’d rather have an armed forces manned with free-thinking and intelligent soldiers that value the principles they defend rather than a force full of both unwilling participants and those who join for the exact wrong – i.e. immoral – reasons.

    Rather, we need to move beyond power politics and inter-state rivalry; and the USA, as by far the world’s most powerful (and indeed, most environmentally destructive) state, has the most crucial role to play.

    This move away from current and historical natinalistic and governmental trends is not far away from our grasp at all, but the removal of the military, especially from a large power, would be counter-productive – it is the actual administration (this time not referring to Bush, but rather the practice in general) of our national affairs and foreign policy that needs to change. If we, as global powers, can’t alter the repetitive cycle of freedom and tyranny that has created the world we live in today, then we’re doomed to repeat the fall from grace experienced by antiquity’s dominant nations.

    Nick, man, I agree with you completely about the US/ UK’s attempt for global hegemony and its utter arrogance and inevitable destabilization of the global political arena. I agree that we need to remove ourselves from many different parts of the globe, and we need to act more like the compassionate humanitarian nations we like to portray ourselves to be, but we disagree on the choice to join the military being an immoral one in today’s situation.

    This may sound a little strange, but if I had never been a soldier, my views would probably be even more in line with your own. But having been in the uniform, knowing that the reason I joined is – to me – morally defensible, and seeing the good we did in Iraq in between the fighting, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to look at the choices our current soldiers made as immoral on a basic level. You’ve made your points very well, and admittedly you’ve pulled me away from a couple of my earlier stances with your arguments, but the basic choice to be a soldier – in today’s situation – is one I could never renounce. When our governments are acting so irresponsibly, I think the need for an intelligent, competent, and compassionate military is greater than ever.

  232. #231 Nick Gotts
    May 7, 2008

    brokenSoldier,

    Just to let you know I have read your last. Despite some continuing disagreement between us, I recognise and respect your compassion, intelligence and sincerity. Thanks for an illuminating argument – and as far as possible (I don’t know exactly how you’re broken), I hope you get mended!

  233. #232 brokenSoldier
    May 7, 2008

    Thanks for an illuminating argument – and as far as possible (I don’t know exactly how you’re broken), I hope you get mended!

    Posted by: Nick Gotts | May 7, 2008 4:52 PM

    I appreciate the well wishes and the discourse – I’d be lying if I told you my viewpoint on what we’ve been talking about hasn’t changed through our discussion. (I guess that’s what all of this communication stuff is for, after all!)

    And it has only been a couple of years since I was wounded, so my doctors are optimistic about the next few and the ways I can adapt. Without getting into too much detail, a great deal of my conditions involve concussion injuries and nerve damage, so it is a slow process. (And also the reason for my disappearances from the boards for a few days every couple of weeks…) But, c’est la vie, right?

  234. #233 Ichthyic
    May 7, 2008

    I see it as part of a pattern of the elite in the USA attempting to extend its power over the world,

    not for nothing, as they say:

    http://www.newamericancentury.org/statementofprinciples.htm

  235. #234 Ichthyic
    May 7, 2008

    When our governments are acting so irresponsibly, I think the need for an intelligent, competent, and compassionate military is greater than ever.

    has it ever happened before?

    serious question.

    anyone know?

  236. #235 brokenSoldier
    May 7, 2008

    has it ever happened before?

    serious question.

    anyone know?

    it you’re referring to – when the last time our govt’s acted like this?

  237. #236 Ichthyic
    May 7, 2008

    an intelligent, competent, and compassionate military

    that.

  238. #237 brokenSoldier
    May 8, 2008

    It took a great deal of compassion, competence, and intelligence for our soldiers to sweep through Germany, fighting the enemy while at the same time finding and evacuating the prisoners from the concentration camps. It took an immense amount of compassion for a soldier to put himself in between children and mortar impacts in Vietnam, or to go out of his way to make sure they stay clear of the entire thing. It takes a ridiculous amount of competence to move an army from Kuwait into Baghdad in 21 days, minimizing urban casualties by bypassing cities when possible (even though it left huge pockets of insurgents behind the military), even after the Secretary of Defense had cut 1/4 of the invasion force by demobilizing the 1st Cavalry Division just before the invasion.

    So while the politicians may deserve this kind of insult, the average soldier in our military is – and has been for a while – competent, compassionate, and intelligent.

  239. #238 Kseniya
    May 8, 2008

    Welcome back, Soldier.

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