Friday, February 10, 2012

Marines, Symbols, And A Little Perspective Please


Other than a few smart Alec comments on Facebook and the occasional post here, I’ve been offline for most of the last couple of weeks.

Some of you noticed and wrote to wonder why.

No, I haven’t stopped writing. Nor have I lost interest in it. Nor have I been kidnapped by space aliens.

I’ve been ill.

It’s been ongoing for about a month and a half now.

Nothing life threatening, unless you count the possibility of drowning in my own mucus, but between feeling like absolute hammered crap from both the illness and the drugs they gave me to fix it, I haven’t had any energy left for writing. I thought I was better for a while, then it came back with a vengeance.  For the last two weeks, I’ve mostly spent all day in a fog feeling like I’m wearing cement shoes, then I come home from work and eat a dinner I can’t taste, and fall into bed.  I’m pretty sure I am singlehandedly responsible for putting every kid whose parents work on the Kleenex assembly line through grad school.

I seem to be getting over it now, thanks to Teh Eeevil Big Pharma, so yay for that. 

Over the last few weeks I let the email pile up.  So, if you wrote expecting some kind of answer and didn’t get one, well, it’s me not you.  What? Alright, it is a little you, when I’m sick I find you just irritating as all hell. Your voice is like a rusty razor blade grating on my spinal column. I actively hate you and between bouts of coughing I am plotting your demise.  (Ok, I’m not a good sick person, I know that).  Anyway, email. I’m going to be honest, I probably won’t read the older stuff, there’s just too much of it.  However, I have managed to read back over the last couple of days and a number of you asked what I thought of this:


My thoughts?


That picture has been floating around the internet for the last two years and recently came to light when a leading Jewish organization saw it and was predictably outraged. 

Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder of the Los Angles Simon Wiesenthal Center, among others (both Jewish and not) demanded an investigation and discipline of the Marines involved.

If you’re not sure what the hoopla is about, it’s the big blue flag with the double “s” that resembles stylized lightning bolts.

The Marines in the picture say that flag was intended to represent their profession, Scout Sniper.

However, many folks, including Rabbi Hier say those lightning bolts bear a distinct resemblance to the symbols of the dreaded Nazi Waffen SS, the Schutzstaffel, Hitler’s special military forces who were irrefutably responsible for horrifying atrocities before and during World War II – many of most infamous were carried out against Jews.

Yesterday the Marine Corps announced that the matter has been investigated, no malicious intent was found nor any violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice nor Military Regulations, and therefore the Marines involved will not be disciplined.

The Corps does however, regard the incident as regrettable and used it as a “teachable moment.”

Again, somewhat predictably, Rabbi Hier was not satisfied:

“That 70 years after the United States Armed Forces helped liberate Europe from Nazi Germany, to learn that a unit of the United States Marine Corps serving in Afghanistan adopted the SS insignia alongside the Stars and Stripes, desecrates the memory of some 200,000 Americans who gave up their lives to defend freedom against that infamous symbol”


If I wasn’t so damned tired from being ill, maybe I could work up some outrage.  If I was Jewish, maybe I’d be offended. If I was one of those who fought against the Nazi’s 70 years ago, or was related to one of the 200,000 dead Rabbi Hier mentioned, maybe I’d be mad as he apparently is.

But probably not.

I try to save my outrage for targets that actually matter. 

These are United States Marines.  Not only that, they are scout snipers.  They are an elite unit of an elite fighting force.  They are sworn to honor and to duty and to the Constitution of the United States.   I find it somewhat difficult to believe that these men, of all our military forces these men in particular, would deliberately associate themselves with Nazis.

Hier says he doesn’t believe it was an innocent mistake. 

He wants the Marines disciplined and he thinks the American public has a right to know what “really” happened – with the obvious implication being that something nefarious is happening.

“This shameful display of SS 'lightning bolts' by U.S. service personnel enrages our regional allies, emboldens the extremist Islamist forces with whom we are contending, and eviscerates good order, morale, and discipline within the U.S. Marine Corps”

The Rabbi offers no evidence, anecdotal or otherwise, to back up this claim.

I’m not saying he’s wrong per se, but I see no evidence to back up Rabbi Hier’s assertion that good order and discipline have been degraded in any fashion whatsoever within the Marine Corps as a result of this picture. Nor do I see any evidence that our allies are offended in any official or unofficial capacity (and by allies, I assume we mean Israel, since in this post Bush era they’re the only ally who actually counts or would possibly give a good goddamn). Nor do our enemies appear to be rallying around this picture for either good or ill.  Note, I do admit to bias here, as I am always supremely skeptical of any accusation that contains the vague and non-quantifiable word “embolden.”

It’s ironic, don’t you think? The Rabbi’s unsupported claim of insidious evil within the ranks?  A creeping fifth column agenda perpetrated by those who would topple freedom and liberty from within?  Ironic in that there was a time and a place where similar unsupported accusations against Jews led to their persecution at the hands of those who thought themselves righteous in the service of country.

Maybe it’s just me.

One has to wonder, however, if the good Rabbi has seen the logo displayed on the cover of the various KISS albums, but I digress.

One also has to wonder if those expressing outrage are familiar with military symbols in general.

Sure the SS displayed on the Scout Sniper’s flag resembles the Nazi SS logo. Maybe even deliberately so and with malice aforethought. So?  So do the skulls routinely displayed in military tattoos and painted on tanks and worn as decorations resemble the Nazi Deaths Head. Just as do the swords and daggers and various crosses of military heraldry. The Nazis didn’t invent this stuff you know, no more than they invented the Swastika or any other military iconology. 

Now, does that mean that the Marines in that picture above displayed the best judgment?  I think the answer to that is probably obvious.  At least I hope it is.

And I can certainly understand how the SS symbol could be perceived by Jews the same way the Stars and Bars are perceived by the descendants of American slaves.

However, context is everything.

These are young men, full of pride, full of piss and vinegar, the best of the best. They are bent to the horrible business of war.  It’s important to understand that they are not just surrounded by the symbols and tools of death, they are surrounded by death itself.  You’ve heard me say this before, context is everything. Everything.  And the context of this picture is not something that many folks experience – and that’s probably a good thing. These men are Marines, Scout Snipers, and they were proud of that.

Should you be outraged that their flag bears some passing resemblance to a hated Nazi symbol?

Outraged? Probably not.

Should you be concerned that they, as Marines, didn’t seem to know why others might be offended?

Maybe. The USMC thought so, and took corrective action.  Something Marines do very well indeed.

Should you be worried that these young men appear to be ignorant of history?


The young are often ignorant, and naïve, and blissfully unaware of the consequences of their own actions in the greater world (just one of the many reasons we tend not to send older folks to war, they are far too aware of the consequences. But I digress, again). These hard young men will have learned from this, the Marine Corp will make certain of that – you can count on it.  Thus will they gain a bit of wisdom. Or not. Such is being young and foolish and indestructible and alive

I was there once, long ago, and I suspect many of you were too.

Now, to be clear, I’m not going to be so crass as to tell Rabbi Hier not to be outraged, but it seems to me that there are plenty of cases of legitimate hate that he should be far more concerned about.  

And he doesn’t have to look any further than the comments his own outrage has generated:

and N korean, Iranian and chinese soldiers march like nazis, you yahoo libtard writers are waaay too sensitive, go bang a black chick and maybe you will see the light [sic]

I, um, what?

Just another example of trying to tear down our military. Media is behind it all- harming our country to make headlines!


Ah yes, the liberal media is responsible.  If only they wouldn’t report things, then the Rabbi wouldn’t have anything to be offended by.  If only it was like the old days, say 1938 or so, when Jews and other undesirables were being herded into camps in Europe, with Americans blissfully unaware. 

The New World Order has arrived.

Really? This is the New World Order? I was sort of expecting, I dunno, more.

Also, New World Order sounds like a punk metal band to me.  Four skinny white guys, shaved heads, makeup, leather, Nazi symbols, doing a Sex Pistols cover of God Save the Queen, she ain’t no human being!

hello wake up. i have friends who are white. OK the symbol is questionable. if it isn't then its OK to be white and proud of it. all people are proud of what they are born with soooooooo i guess these bunch of marine guys/girls are proud to be white and perhaps like to kill of their own mankind.........hellohellohello.................................carrying a symbol of what who knows..............may be like to scare.....BOO!!!!! [sic]

Boo, indeed. Wait, what?

I see this as an insult to anyone who has ever worn the uniform, and particularly insulting to WWII veterans and those who died to rid the world of the Nazi's including my grandfather, and the families of hundreds of thousands of their descendants.

Well, thank you for being insulted on behalf of all us veterans and our families and all of our descendents.  Big of you.

This pic is 2 years old? It is being dredged up because the 'big' story about Marines peeing on dead savages did not gin up the outrage the press was hoping for... throw this one out there now and see if it works...brought to you by the AP commitee to re-elect the president.

It always comes down to Obama, doesn’t it?  The man is nefarious. He probably ordered these Marines to make this picture. I bet they’re not even Marines! Why, they’re probably gay homosexual socialist Jewish actors on a sound stage!  Will he stop at nothing to get reelected? Ooooh, now I’m outraged. Outraged I tell you!

Acted out of ignorance? This story gets lamer and lamer. If elite snipers are ignorant, why do they have a .$50,000.00 rifle in their hands, they might shoot someone out of ignorance? I cant tell you how much this pi)sses me off.  This is how it starts everytime. [sic]

Oh yes, when fascism comes to America, it’ll be in the guise of a couple of Scout Snipers and their lightning bolt flag.

notice how the excited states habitually fails to punish troops who engage in despicable behaviour? [sic]

Where exactly are the “exited states?” Because here in America we do, in fact, punish troops who violate the Uniform Code of Military Justice, and you don’t have to go very far in this war to find numerous examples. Note that these Marines did not, in fact, actually violate any provision of the UCMJ.  Just saying.

Our military is rife with drugs and hate. It's like these men and women go to prison in these foreign countries. When they return there is no assimilation back to civvys. we need some sort of process to keep them in touch with reality. The hate does not have a switch, it's taught. What is learned can be unlearned...[sic]

I’m not really sure what “reality” the commenter is in touch with, but somebody has some serious unlearning to do.

The public school system is responsible for dumbing down our present generation. Symbolism and its importance is lost to kids flashing fake ghetto signs, their pants hanging below their buttocks, and tattoos that need to be financed like a house mortgage. How can we expect them to know the wickedness of SS lightning bolts styled flags from an upside-down five pointed star to a circled inverted cross with the arms broken. [sic]

Maybe we should make them join the military, that ought to straighten them out.  Ur, no, wait...

Well, they're not making any bones about it. I guess this is an official police state. Welcome to the homeland.

And welcome to you. Now, take off your shoes and put them on the belt.  Say, you’re not a Muslim or an illegal alien are you?

And if Rabbi Hier wants something to be truly concerned about, he should be concerned about the kind of mind that could pen this:

The rape of the republic: The Zionist Fascist Ameikan Empire and the Goyin wars. International Banksters with their puppets Mayor Schwartza Pinocchio Hussein (D SMack Daddy Super Fly), (immaculated to clean the white mess created by the white puppet Mayor War Criminal G. Bush), Lucifer Clinton (High Priestess of the Illuminati and sexual deviant) and the Swindlers list of Timothy Geithner (money changer and knee capper), Ben Shalom Bernake (money counterfeiter and ponzi schemer, head of the Federal Reserve, a private banking cartel that has been designed to systematically destroy the value of our currency, drain the wealth of the American public and enslave the federal government to perpetually expanding debt, bailing out whoever it wants to with no accountability like Citigroup $2.513 trillion, Morgan Stanley $2.041 t, Merrill Lynch $1.949 t, Bank of America $1.344 t, Barclays PLC $868 billion, Bear Sterns $853 b, Goldman Sachs $814 b, Royal Bank of Scotland $541 b, JP Morgan Chase $391 b, Deutsche Bank $354 b, UBS $287 b, Credit Suisse $262 b, Lehman Brothers $183 b, Bank of Scotland $181 b, BNP Paribas $175 b, Wells Fargo $159 b, Dexia $159 b, Wachovia $142 b, Dresdner Bank $135 b, Societe Generale $124 b, All Other Borrowers $2.639 trillion), Debbie Wasserman Schultz (Deli Land mouth piece) and a extreme surplus of terrorist Freemasons and self hating leftist jews douche bags replacing head of states, heads of Central Banks and its entire DEBT-based CRIMINAL SYSTEM enslaving present and future generations making the world safe for the international banking cabal and multinational corporations. Why another war? To cover-up evidence of economic crimes: A war would go many miles toward preventing thorough investigation of in-your-face-theft of money invested by Americans in such outfits as MF Global. To solve unemployment: Sending young people into battle means they must be supported by the folks back home who, because of kin in the trenches, will gladly pay higher tribute (taxes) and that, in turn, will fatten the purse of those who profit from the killing of humans with the War Industries. War causes the destruction of people and things.  This leads to massive opportunity at all levels for reconstruction to occur benefiting those companies that are part of the cabal. The love of money, the root of all evil. [sic]

I’m not saying that these Marines didn’t do something dumb.

But I think we can safely assume that they are not, in fact, Nazis, neo or otherwise.  And the last time I checked, dumb isn’t a hanging offense.

I think we can also safely assume that the chain of command has dealt with the situation as appropriate. 

Rabbi Hier seems to forget that engaging in witch hunts and self-righteous accusation is something the people he reviles (with good reason, certainly) indulged themselves in.

Should we be ever vigilant? Certainly.

But there is a fine line between vigilance and becoming the evil we guard against.

And Rabbi Hier would do well to remember that.

As would we all.


  1. Hard to believe it was an innocent mistake.
    On another note, you have the Martian Death Flu. Never heard of it? Google it with the name Dave Barry attached.

  2. Note I didn't say it was an innocent mistake. An ignorant mistake, more likely.

    Scout Snipers are bad assed snake eating motherfuckers, they're heart breakers and life takers. That's what they do for a living, kill people, and they're damned good at it. Units like this often adopt symbols to indicate the grisly business of their profession. In the days before WWII, that might have been wild animals or avenging angels. Nowadays? What symbolizes death incarnate better than the Waffen SS?

    This is the same reason military men get skulls tattooed on their arms, and daggers, and demons.

    Offensive? Sure, in the right context, but within the culture we military folks live in, it is simply a symbol of our grisly profession. Nothing more.

  3. If you've never read the comic before, you might get a kick out of this, Jim:


  4. I yield to you, Jim, on matters of military bad-assery, with which I have no experience.

    I am, however, willing to believe that it was an innocent mistake. I wasn't, at first, but when I first read the news story, I read the first 20 or 30 comments beneath it, and WAY too many of them came from people who hadn't read the article all that closely, and thought that the Rabbi was making a big fuss over nothing because them-there angular S-thingies don't look anything like a swastika.

    Now, me, I immediately thought SS when I saw it, but maybe that was something I picked up in Hebrew School. But reading the random comments convinced me that a lot of people -- way more than I would have thought -- honestly didn't know who the SS was and what their symbol looked like.

    I think the Corps was right to use this as a "teachable moment." Indeed, I think that perhaps Rabbi Hier and the others who are still outraged might want to do the same. Clearly, there's a shitload of ignorance going around.

  5. @David Klecha, I love Terminal Lance. Great comic.

    @NZforme, Clearly, there's a shitload of ignorance going around. My point, exactly.

  6. Considering how many of my teenage students, past and present, know exactly what the SS stands for, especially when they are drawn as lightening bolts, I still find it hard to believe that they didn't know the significance of it.

    Seriously, Google Martian Death Flu. It will cheer you up.

  7. It is unlikely that these guys were unfamiliar with the origins of the SS symbol. http://gbgm-umc.org/umw/anti-hate/images/symbol14.jpg

    I recall in college in the early '70s, when an ROTC cadet tried to get an SA emblem used as the Student Association logo.

    He claimed it was an innocent mistake but I knew for a fact he attended the beer party on Hitler's birthday that another student held every year. I knew him from the games club I help start at the university.
    So, I wouldn't find it feasible to say they were ignorant. It is a matter of culture. People don't want to know how the sausage is made. We need the draft back, to get a broader cross section of citizens in the service. Or else, the rift will grow.

  8. Check these out SS Schutzstaffel: http://tinyurl.com/7v6mvud

  9. Lee, I get it. Really. Note my previous comment above.

  10. I don't know anyone who's ever been in the military so basically if you say something regarding military matters is fact I take it as so because you seem to be someone that I can trust when it comes to things that I have no firsthand knowledge of. Thank you for all of your fabulous writing and sharing and I do certainly hope that you get to feeling better soon!

  11. I could get really really upset about this, but: "White House aides have acknowledged that the Bitburg visit is probably the biggest fiasco of Mr. Reagan's Presidency. The visit, which was made at the insistence of Mr. Kohl, was overwhelmingly opposed by both houses of Congress, Jewish organizations, veterans' groups and others."


    I'm very well read on the military in WWII, starting with both the Navy and Army official histories, Shirer, Eisenhower, Bradley and even Mein Kampf (very badly written). I thought the symbol from the Kiss logo until somebody mentioned the SS, yes the flag does resemble a mock up of an SS flag, but I couldn't find a picture of a real one in that design, only more recently manufactured.

    And for those still having hysterics about the men urinating on dead bodies, go read Leon Uris's Battle Cry.

    Yes it was wrong and they should be disciplined but it doesn't reach the level of Abu Ghraib

    Anyway hope you are feeling better.

  12. Sometimes I get a little tired of WWII comparisons to everything, especially when I, personally, had family members liquidated by the event and I'm here as a direct result of people fleeing from various pogroms and general wartime events. These people who are outraged always seem to be, as Jim points out, the ones who start a witch hunt so they can kill or punish others who wronged them. That seems to perpetuate the cycle of violence to me. Personally I wish we'd just talk about what happens when a minority group infiltrates society and starts to crush other minority groups rights, but that might hit too close to home in a lot of certain States and in a certain party. So instead we make up "outrage" at this.

    Frankly it's been 70 and more years since the days of the SS. I'd be surprised that, since we can't actually get it right when it comes to what happened under Reagan, we can teach what happened and led up to the Nazis taking power in Germany right. And I doubt whether these kids had any real idea of what the SS was other than a "badass elite unit of the German army in WWII" because I'm sure none of them got the lecture about what they were exactly doing and why, just as they don't know about Reagan's visit to Bitburg and why it was a great controversy. Now everyone would be like "meh" because none of us were actually alive during WWII and if you mention the Gestapo we think of old Hogan's Heroes reruns where they were funny.

    But if there's a teachable moment here, maybe we ought to start with how the Nazis convinced the general public to confiscate unpopular minority's possessions, herd them into boxcars and ship them off and make them not want to know what happened to them. You know gays, gypsies, Jews, Poles, and Slav really, the handicapped, mentally ill...anyone not white and delightsome. Look that last jab up. That was intentional, unlike the backstory to this flag, in case there is any question.

  13. I'm not sure how you can NOT know that's the SS symbol. If they didn't know, they're stupid. And if they didn't know why others would be offended, they're even stupider.

    But sure, ignorant mistake, maybe.

  14. Good health to you Jim -

    To the folks all riled up about Marines with an "official Junior Nazi, Waffen SS flag"....get a grip. Scout Snipers (S + S) displaying a flag with a stylized "SS" means nothing more than they thought it was cool. Most Marines are into cool when they are not training to kill someone, or deployed and actively killing someone.

    As Jim said, Scout Snipers are highly trained members of Surveillance and Target Acquisition (STA) Platoons. They have a much larger mission set than just reaching out and sending bad people to Allah. But, they are NOT (generally) warrior poets.

    Your Combat Arms Marines are the salt of the Earth, basic American kids. High school athletes, average or honor students, rural or urban products of good quality who want to be one of the Few. Once they earn the title of Marine, most will immerse themselves in the history and skills of their craft (and a few will immerse themselves in beer and Darwinian acts on Youtube).

    From my USMC experience, the highly trained Marine in Recon or STA spends so much time and energy maintaining skills and preparing for the mission, that they often don't give much thought to social niceties. They are arrogantly proud of their station in life, and they have little time for outsiders and negative waves. So let them display their flag and worry about shit that matters.

    Going back to the part where Marines can be insensitive fucks...here goes. Why is it that whenever some little faux pas comes up with slim or no connection to real anti-Semitic hatred and bigotry are we bombarded with screeching and howling from some anti defamation asshole demanding ACTION and PUNISHMENT for the probably clueless offenders? (In this case USMC STA) Rabbi Hier can take a chill pill and talk to the hand.

    The MSM and intertubes are loaded with truly racist venom and spew promulgated by genetically challenged, ignorant, anti-American assholes and organizations. These people have the leisure time and freedom to broadcast their festering hate speech and second guess the guy on the ground precisely because Marines and other service members VOLUNTEERED to go to war and defend the "right" to sit back here and second guess the guy on the ground.

    Marines are NOT goodwill ambassadors. They kill people and destroy their stuff in the name of the USA. They are often uncultured and ignorant of much outside of taking care of their brothers. They are rough and insensitive warriors, and thank the War God for that. We need them.

  15. Anon said: "Scout Snipers (S + S) displaying a flag with a stylized "SS" means nothing more than they thought it was cool "

    They knew they were being "bad little boys" using a Nazi symbol. That's the whole point of using it. They knew it was a danger. If there were no consequences, what would the point have been?

    "Marines are NOT goodwill ambassadors. They kill people and destroy their stuff in the name of the USA. "
    They aren't trained to think about the USA's image in the world. That's the civilian's job. So no need whining about public reaction. They weren't becoming little Nazi's, just bad boys, and now they take their lumps. I am not surprised at the mentality of snipers or at the public at large reaction. But, that's the real world.

  16. "I find it somewhat difficult to believe that these men, of all our military forces these men in particular, would deliberately associate themselves with Nazis."

    Wow. I find your comment startling. The military is rife with those kinds of people. I saw it myself, including in so-called 'elite' units.

    As a vet in my 50s, when I saw this picture, my first thought was that these young people were never taught history and the power of symbols.

    You could be right. It was interesting, as always, to read your take. But, I still have my doubts about the motivations.

    As for your advice to 'pick one's battles' - if people wait until the offense is considered egregious by those unconcerned, then it is already way to late to have an impact.

    If the perpetrators never hear from the offended, then they have no reason to believe they have offended.

    Young, uninformed, and wearing the uniform of this country - yeah, it was, at the minimum, a teachable moment.

  17. I personally had never seen this symbol before and I was born in '47.
    I do have a friend that I grew up with whose parents were part of the Hitler Youth Group. My friends father was 18 fighting the Russians during Winter campaign, captured thrown into gulag.

    What I am trying to say is many people other than Jews were touched by Hitler. These marines do not look like 18 year old kids to me and I do remember from my hubby's draft days fighting in VietNam, that these guys are the best and brightest. I am hoping in my gut that "White Power" wasn't anywhere being projected.

  18. yeah, Jim, you pretty much got it right. So did the guy who said that if there weren't potential consequences, it wouldn't be worth doing.

    I did my time in the Marines from '70-'73 and I assure you that most of the people my age that I served with would have done something equally stupid if given the chance (we won't mention the chandalier from the Cleveland Hilton that mysteriously ended up in the barracks at 8th & I; ...)

    I have no doubt that one or two of these guys knew what they were doing. The rest were just hamming it up and blowing off steam.

    If these guys should check out the tattoos from the 9th Marines ... "The Walking Dead"

  19. A mistake was made, an apology was made, and some folks learned something from the mistake. In my opinion, that is a good thing.

    Although he is a fictional character, a quote from John Rambo comes to mind: "Let it go."

  20. I saw that photo for the first time yesterday when this apparently resurfaced, and the very first thing I thought was "Someone's screwed the pooch something fierce! In public!" Our schools quite comprehensively covers (or at least they used to, back in the 80's and 90's) the period between 1930-1945, including the symbols of the Wehrmacht and Schutzstaffel. In fact, displaying certain of those symbols in a non-educational context is banned by law here, which is why seeing US troops pose with that particular symbol gave me a rather unpleasant surprise. To get an idea of how my gut reaction on seeing that photo, imagine that the soldiers had posed in Klan robes in front of the Stars and Bars instead.

    That said I'm not going to ascribe to malice what is more easily explained by stupidity (or ignorance), so I'm going to take the official word for what happened. However, while context is indeed everything, it does occur to me that the USMC might wish to talk to any future members of the force as to how certain symbols will be perceived by others. As a sort of preventative thing, you see. Because while KISS using the stylized lightning-bolt 'S' in their logo is equivalent in one sense, they're a band. They're not, say, an active military unit operating in the field, whose actions will reflect on anyone in the service they're ostensibly proud to be a part of. Perhaps I'm being oversensitive due to the events of the 22. of July last year, but to me at least, a symbol like that -especially in a military setting- is evoking a historical context that no army unit, no matter how elite, should ever wish be associated with except in the fiercest opposition.

    No matter how you slice it, someone in that unit showed absolutely appalling judgement by picking that particular symbol to display. In my personal opinion, a stern talking-to is the least the person or persons responsible for that choice of symbol should expect or face.

  21. "Clearly, there's a shitload of ignorance going around."
    Definitely in the running for Quote of the Year.

  22. I suspect the ignorance was not about the nature of the flag, but why using that particular symbol was not a good idea. It looks like the place it came from sells lots of WWII flags-swastikas, rising suns, etc. On the other hand, I agree that those involved have probably learned their lesson and there are other more important things to get upset about.

  23. You can be dumb, and a marine, you can't be stupid, and a scout sniper.
    Half a life ago I was a black hat at J.O.T.C. , and we trained some STA/SS grunts. Half of them had pictures of Carlos Hathcock in their footlocker, the other half had some Nazi sniper whose name escapes me. After hours,they'd immerse themselves in being a sniper, most read about sniping, histories of sniping, and the people who snipe.
    In all that studying they had to have learned what that flag was ,they had to know what those double S's looked like, and they had to know it would piss people off, but "Fuck 'em! what are they gonna do ? Shave my head,and send me to Afghanistan !" is an attitude most grunts have.
    They probably didn't have that flag as a symbol of hate, they didn't fly it over FOB whatever. That flag wasn't ment to be seen by anyone outside the sniping club, and that is the mistake they made. Dumb? No doubt, stupid? Not really.

  24. "FNG" gets it absolutely right. Marines don't give a crap what anyone else thinks. And what are you gonna do to make their situation worse.

    If you want to see a strong, consistent, racist statement, what about the CSA flag flown outside the South Carolina statehouse.

  25. My husband and I were just discussing this post and debating whether the Marines knew that the flag might be offensive. As we were talking, our 17 year old son walked in the door. I showed him the photo and asked him what he thought the lightning bolts looked like. "SS symbol. Absolutely. Haven't you seen Inglorious Basterds?"

  26. I saw snipers tattooed with the the words "Scout Sniper" (with the stylized lightning bolts) all the time while teaching at SERE twelve years ago. This is nothing new. I just wished they would think twice before etching that into their skin-kinda hard to claim you're NOT a sniper (if captured)when it's emblazoned on your chest. Hell, we used THAT as a teachable moment! Same for SEALs, Aircrew and anyone else who tatted their badge on themselves.
    Dumb, yeah. Criminal, no.

  27. We send these guys in extreme harm's way to kill those who they are told are our enemies. I don't object to even questionable imagery.

    Teachable moment, yes; condemnation, go fuck yourself. Try doing the job these guys do for 6 months and get back to us.

  28. Ignorance and youth. I teach a class that deals with symbols and am finally getting used to the fact that my students (at least 90% of them) have no knowledge of what the lightning strikes stand for. (They do know how Hitler used the Swastika.) So, I'm not surprised that these young marines didn't make the association.
    I wonder though, where they got the flag? Because, if they got it from one of the Nazi paraphernalia sites, then they have to cry idiocy and hubris rather than ignorance. They made a choice in using it that ignores meaning which I find a bit arrogant.

  29. and the major said, "Fix that so as not to embarass the general. Now get your asses out there and kill some bad guys!"
    And they did.
    Thank God!

  30. One major bit of contention with your article: it doesn't just bear "some resemblance" to the Nazi SS runes. That EXACT FLAG is for sale on Nazi memorabilia sites, which may well be where these Marines obtained it.

    This isn't a handmade logo that some ignorant sap came up with on his own- somebody went through the effort to buy that thing. The idea that an entire platoon of military professionals and their superiors were ignorant of its meaning strains plausibility.

  31. MY DH Happy Hussein tells me that when he was in basic training (Army, 1974-ish), they got several whole day's training about the Geneva Convention with repeated warnings that some things just aren't done(pissing on corpses, say), are never acceptable, and will land your @$$ in the brig because we are Americans and we are supposed to be Better Than That, even if we are "bad assed snake eating motherfuckers, ... heart breakers and life takers."

    Ignorant, not innocent. Could be. I am a Jewess, and am willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. I am also a librarian, and was once a history teacher, so maybe I have a longer memory than some folks about war and codes of conduct. I'm a firm believer in the power of the Teachable Moment, and life puts many of them in our paths every day, eh?

    Good luck with your battle against the evil germy invaders. Wish I could send you some of my friend Phoebe's hot'n'sour soup. It might not cure what ails you, but it always makes me feel more better.

    best regards,

  32. thatcrowwoman @ 12:44:
    As usual, I am with you, be it on mudflats or here...
    Jim, keep going!

  33. Well, whadyaknow, here's another 'oops, just a coincidence' for you...


    sometimes, I just so ashamed of my tribe.

  34. Before jumping all over the men posing with this flag, exactly where were their commanding officers when these Marines came up with this flag?

    Several weeks ago I watched an excellent show on Military Channel about the last tank battle in the first war against Iraq. Several of the tanks had a photo of General Rommel and most mentioned him as father of tank warfare. No one seems to be bent out of shape of his influence.

    Sadly we focus on Nazis as an entity with little knowledge of its basis beliefs or philosophies besides murdering Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals, etc.

  35. "Sadly we focus on Nazis as an entity with little knowledge of its basis beliefs or philosophies besides murdering Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals, etc."

    I don't know about 'sadly' but maybe the focus is on the murderous elements of the Nazi regime because, oh, I don't know, it was such a major part of the movement?

    I'll say it again. Sometimes, I'm just so ashamed of my fellow humans.

  36. I'll let Lee address his comment in detail, however I read that as individual members of German military and society, albeit those that were indeed Nazis themselves, weren't necessarily the evil that Nazism itself was. I think that was America's official position as well, vis a vis Werner Von Braun and the other members of the Peenemunde crowd. Note, I don't necessarily subscribe to this regarding Von Braun himself, Von Braun was certainly aware of what was going on in the Mittelwerk complex where POWs and Jews were worked to death in order to build his rockets. Something he was never called to account for.

    However noting that individuals maybe should be regarded separately from an ideology some of them (including men professional german military men) had imposed upon them isn't anything that I feel requires you, Anonymous, to be ashamed of the rest of us for. Just saying.

  37. It is sad that we ONLY focus on the holocaust and tend to ignore that Nazism promoted political violence, militarism, the elimination of employees' rights, exclusion of women from government by limiting their legal rights, assuming controlling the media, promoting racism - that a specific segment of society is the cause of all misfortune - and putting the state above the rights of ALL the people.

    Maybe it is easier just to focus on the Holocaust and ignore the rest of Nazism.

    Now back to Jim's blog:

    Earlier, I read the article on Nazsism on Wikipedoa, there was a picture of Schutzstaffel insignia: white Sig Runes on a black background. So this may be far more widely known than many thought.

  38. At least Rommel was known as a brilliant tank commander (who handed the Americans their asses at Kasserine pass, and then died because of his possible involvement in an assasination attempt on Hitler). There is a reasonable justification for a tanker to have a picture of Rommel as a reminder of past battles that is different than using Nazi symbology that just happens to match the initials of scout snipers. I think there is a significant difference between the two incidents. One is a reminder of a tough and skilled enemy, the other, not so much.

  39. well, err, hi
    I've been reading this blog for a month now, and, well, I might as well introduce myself with a comment and a question...

    I see why soldiers will-and have a right to-appropriate hardcore-death-dealer symbols. being "bad assed snake eating motherfuckers," well, I do see how that makes sense.
    I have to follow those, however, who disagree (at least some) on the specific SS runes. I guess that's because I'm Austrian, but for me, this symbol is in its own category of just so very wrong. While many of the Waffen SS members were not volunteers (at least after 43) or necessarily fanatics, the Waffen SS as such was more than just a fighting organization. They were political, part of the special insanity that the SS was within an insane system and their use of the runes a much more "exclusive" thing than that of a skull. That doesn't make the Scout Snipers Nazis, or anything, but it makes the symbolism of this ignorant mistake a lot more problematic, at least to Europeans.

    Whether Europeans and their perceptions matter, well, that's a different issue. I like to believe, however, that NATO cooperation is a good thing; and the willingness of voters to support the U.S. does also depend on symbolic perception, as a certain German would-be chancellor learned in 2002. But I'd be interested in your opinion on that (or on NATO operations in general)

    Anyhow, I just wondered whether the Marines' history matters too -- unless I'm wrong, the Marines didn't see combat in Europe. Would members of a U.S. unit that has a proud history of fighting the Waffen SS strike such a pose? Or am I massively overthinking this?

  40. This happened 2 years ago. The USMC has rectified the situation.

    Personally, I believe that this was neither innocent nor ignorance, but I wasn't there and I wasn't part of the investigation.

    Unlike some portions of the U.S. Government, the military doesn't slide too much under the carpet. It happens ON the carpet and the person with the bad judgement (intentional or otherwise) pays a price. It may not be the price others think need be paid, but there is a consequence for actions.

    One final point: it is not illegal to be a Nazi in the US. Dumb as rocks and in desperate need of having a can of whoop-ass opened on their heads, but it is not illegal. The First Amendment is clear on this.

    Just like the First Amendment protects the Rabbi.

  41. Teachable moment, indeed. Instruction might begin with reviewing David M. Shoup's cautionary essay, "The New American Militarism," or the expanded book with the same title. It is, of course, no coincidence that Commandant of the Corps Shoup's title was re-used more recently by Col. Andrew Bacevich.

    That section would be followed with James Pontolillo's _The Murderous Elite: The Waffen SS and Its Record of Atrocities_. While confirming that the ShutzStaffel symbolizes inflicting death, it will certainly disabuse anyone but the hard core of the SS being any sort of honorable military organization worth emulating.

    Final reference would be Orwell's _Animal Farm_, beginning with chapter 5, where Napoleon reveals his purpose in sequestering the puppies.

  42. Jim, as much as I respect your opinion on all matters military, I have all kinds of problems with this one. The fact is, the Marines involved DID violate the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
    Article 134 states "Though not specifically mentioned in this chapter, all disorders and neglects to the prejudice of good order and discipline in the armed forces, all conduct of a nature to bring discredit upon the armed forces, and crimes and offenses not capital, of which persons subject to this chapter may be guilty, shall be taken cognizance of by a general, special, or summary court-martial, according to the nature and degree of the offense, and shall be punished at the discretion of that court."
    There are also pictures floating around of Marine Scout Snipers with that logo emblazoned on their rifles. I don't for one second believe that no one in that unit, which had to have a Commanding Officer and at least a few Staff NCO's, knew what the symbol represented. The lack of judgment displayed is appalling, and a deficiency of judgment is not a quality that should be fostered in any combat unit, especially an elite one where crucial decisions are made at a much lower level of rank that is normal in a typical line unit.
    I also realize that the "teaching opportunity" comment may mean a lot more than most would think. To put it simply, the perception may be that, since none of the Marines involved were subjected Courts Martial and we have no real word on whether or not non-judicial punishment was used, they got off scott free. This seems to be generating a lot of angst and hair pulling from folks who think this means that nothing whatever was done by way of punishment. I have heard Non-judicial Punishment (NJP) described as the military's "most lenient form of punishment," which is a bit misleading. NJP is simply a formal disciplinary hearing and sentence that does not rise to the level of seriousness of a Court Martial (the determination of whether or not to refer the proceeding to the general court martial convening authority is usually made, subject to certain guidelines, by the unit commanding officer after the results of a formal investigation are complete). Were an Officer or Staff NCO to receive NJP, it would invariably be a career ending event. Even if the Marines involved were not given NJP, there are plenty of ways to "punish" the behavior in question: low marks on their fitness reports, transfer out of the elite unit in question, etc. Any of these would likely spell an end to promotion and a separation from service for the offender. My guess is that at least some of the Marines involved, especially the Officers and Staff NCO's, have suffered some form of the above mentioned "punishment" and deservedly so.
    My other big problem is the "malicious intent" angle. Since when does that matter? Is it then ok to be stupid and dangerous as long as I mean well? Slippery slope, that.


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