Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Afghanistan: The Punch Line

What do you call sixteen dead Afghanis?

This morning an article entitled “Multiple combat tours linked to mental strain, disease” written by somebody named Liz Goodwin appeared on The Lookout.

The article begins with this paragraph:

“The Army sergeant accused of murdering 16 Afghan men, women and children on Sunday was reportedly on his fourth combat tour and suffered a traumatic brain injury when his vehicle rolled over in 2010. He served three deployments in Iraq and was currently on his fourth tour of duty, this time in Afghanistan.”

Then Goodwin says:

“There is no way of knowing if the sergeant’s brain injury, multiple deployments, and brutal crime are related. But…”



But, why don’t we just go right ahead and assume that they are anyway?

Goodwin continues with this non-sequitur:

“But, the incident highlights the enormous strain the country's beleaguered all-volunteer military force is under.”


How exactly does the incident in Afghanistan highlight that again?


Ah, hell, you know, never mind.

Personally, at this point, I’m having a hard time totaling up the number of logical fallacies Goodwin manages in less than two paragraphs, starting with how a crumbling US military manages to remain both “all-volunteer” and “beleaguered” and ending up with how the, as yet, unknown motivations of a man who is alleged to have committed an act that has barely begun to be investigated serves to highlight the supposed strain on anything other than himself.

Last I checked, the US military continues to meet its recruiting and retention goals without significant effort – certainly nothing like the recruiting effort required in previous conflicts, and certainly without resorting to conscription (typically the first sign of actual beleaguerment). The vast majority of troops, including myself, have so far managed multiple deployments without resorting to mass murder – or murder singular for that matter. For the last ten years, the United States’ military has managed to achieve every single objective set before it, no matter how difficult, and continues to do so. Morale is certainly battered, but it remains high – otherwise we wouldn’t be meeting those recruiting and retention goals and we’d being seeing desertions, fragging, and a mass exodus of military-aged men to the northern countries. 

Certainly there are problems, but incidents like this one and others such as the horrible tragedy at Fort Hood last year remain few and far between, notable for their rarity and not for their regularity – unlike in a certain previous conflict.

Having started with a heap of logical fallacies, Goodwin doesn’t bother to mention the murder of Afghan civilians or the alleged shooter again.  Instead she doubles down on this week’s common thread, i.e. after multiple combat tours and ten years of war, us military folks are going murderously nuts.

Goodwin quotes a few vague statistics about how multiple deployments make soldiers more susceptible to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (Really? Multiple tours in the meat grinder make you more likely to end up with PTSD? Who’d a thunk it?). But she doesn’t bother to break that statement down into deployment types, mission types, unit types, locations, casualty and injury counts, ranks, ages, education, personal experiences, or any of the dozen or so things that have a direct and measurable impact on the incidents of PTSD.  Instead she dredges up a somebody named Alejandro Villatoro, an army reservist and a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War, who offers an anecdotal opinion that soldiers who volunteer for multiple deployments do so for financial reasons.  Villatoro also opines that the military routinely brushes incidents of PTSD under the rug in order to “keep a clean record.” 

The obvious conclusion to be drawn here is that we military folks are too damned stupid and downtrodden to get real jobs in the real world so we must volunteer to kill people in a foreign land so that we can feed our families. As result, we go all John Rambo. Because that hoary old Vietnam-era stereotype hasn’t been jolly well entrenched into the public mind enough, right? 

Folks, let me clear something up for you once and for all – some of us may not be the sharpest knives in the drawer, but believe me when I say that even the butt-dumbest knuckle-dragging grunt could find many other ways to feed his kids without signing up for the Army.  Flipping burgers pays better, so does scrubbing toilets. Hell so does welfare – and people rarely shoot at you, and you’re generally home at night.  Sure, maybe a certain percentage of folks join the ranks for a paycheck, once.  But the alleged shooter in this incident is supposedly 38 years old. He’s a sergeant. He’s been in for more than a decade.  He’s done four deployments. If you’re re-upping and volunteering for multiple combat tours over ten years it’s because you like what you do, it’s because you believe in what you do, it’s because that’s who you are. It sure isn’t because you don’t have a choice. 

I can see some ignorant twit of a reporter not getting this, but a veteran should damned well know better.

Now, that said, certainly the military could do a much better job of diagnosing and supporting those with PTSD.

And don’t get me wrong here, it is most certainly a fact that the military has routinely under-diagnosed PTSD and other combat stress related mental health problems, including traumatic brain injuries. 


But, it’s also important to understand that they’ve done a reasonably decent job given the entire situation.

In most cases, the failure of the military to care for and repair those with mental illnesses is not due to malice aforethought on the part of the Brass.

Soldiers, Marines, Sailors, Airmen, Guardsmen, i.e. people, these are the military.  And to be coldly blunt about it, people are the most expensive and difficult part of the military, the hardest to replace, the hardest to train, to field, to equip, to motivate, to fix, to keep healthy.  People are the most expensive investment the military makes, believe me when I say that we want to keep them working in top form.

However, oh hell yes we could most certainly do a far better job of it. 

But it costs money.

A lot of money. 

And the military doesn’t get to decide what it spends money on.  Spending money on shiny brand new F-35 Joint Strike Fighters is sexy and keeps a lot of people employed – and those people vote for the folks who allocate the money.  Fixing broken soldiers isn’t sexy and doesn’t employ very many people or get you very many votes, one way or the other – especially when you can pass the blame for free on to “the military” or “the president” or “the government” or who the hell ever.  Both sides of the political spectrum are equally guilty of passing the buck on this. We can all lament the fact that the military and the VA haven’t done more for broken soldiers, that’s easy. But the real blame lies with those who pay for those fixes, or won’t pay for them rather, and those people are a ways up the hill from the Pentagon.

And it is important to remember that TBI is a relatively new issue for the military, especially in this volume.  

Just as the helicopter radically changed the survival rate for combat wounded troops on the battlefields of Vietnam by getting the injured into the operating room far faster and in far greater numbers than ever before, modern body armor and medical techniques have drastically increased the number of soldiers who survive what would have been fatal injuries just ten years ago – including TBI.  We’re just now learning how to deal with that.  Could we do better? Better as a military? Better as a government? Better as a nation? Better as a people?  Of course, and you’ll certainly get no argument from me there. But you have to look at it in perspective.

However, and here’s the thing so pay attention, none of that has anything whatsoever to do with the incident in question.

That’s right, none of it.

Goodwin, like far, far, far too many today has managed to make a connection without a single shred of evidence, with little or no information, without experience, and without having a damned clue as to what the hell she’s talking about.  Like other pundits, she’s managed to string together a bunch of non-sequiturs and logical fallacies in order to reach some unsupported nonsense position, i.e. the US military is full of broken people on the verge of their own homicidal rampage.

The simple truth of the matter is that we don’t actually know anything.

We don’t know what motivated this man to commit murder – if in fact that’s what actually happened.  Note that I am not attempting to claim, as others have, that this guy is a patsy for some greater conspiracy.  It’s quite likely that he did exactly what has been alleged, i.e. he walked out the gate of his base in the middle of the night and murdered sixteen people, most of them woman and children, all of them non-combatants, in cold blood. I am simply saying that at this point not one of us actually knows what happened. And we may never know.  The soldier may have been in the grip of uncontrolled rage brought on by the loss of comrades or war or impulse, he could have suffered a psychotic break and been operating under the influence of drugs, Zombie Jesus, or space aliens, or maybe he was just a an asshole, a sociopath.  I don’t know, my military experience gives me no special insight into his motivation.

What do I think should happen to this man? 

Again, I don’t know.  I guess it depends on why he did what he did. Ultimately, that will be up to his chain of command.  There are those in the popular press already speculating about the death sentence and pleas of insanity.   Those people are just as silly as the article quoted above, you don’t know enough to call for any outcome yet. 

What matters at this point is not what motivated this soldier or what his ultimate fate will be.

What matters are the consequences.

Not to the shooter personally, but to the rest of us, to our nation, and most especially to all the US and allied soldiers who must continue their mission in a country far more hostile and deadly today than it was last week.  Many of those soldiers will die as a result of the actions of this one man.  It has already begun. 

Once again, the murderous actions of a single man may very well change the course of history, change the course of nations, change the course of the world

Afghanistan has been at war with itself for longer than most of us have been alive. The consequences of this are global, as the events of September 11th, 2001 so brutally demonstrated.  Now, right now, today, for the first time in decades, centuries, there is a chance to change that. 

But, it requires the establishment of a functioning government in Afghanistan.

It requires the imposition of more than just order, it requires civilization.

It requires an orderly withdrawal of foreign forces. 

And it requires a sustained and dedicated effort by the rest of the world.

All of which is now imperiled.

This situation is so precarious, so fragile, so tenuous, that it can be jeopardized by the incomprehensible actions of one man. Likely that man is insane in one fashion or another, for one reason or another. But it’s not his insanity we should be concerned about at the moment. This man is no longer able to influence events.  What we should be concerned about right now is the raging madness that walks among us and purports to be reasonable:

The only good muslim is a dead muslim [sic]

How many times have you heard this or something similar in the last two days? Look in the comment forums under Yahoo, FoxNews, RedState, or other similar forum.

“What do you call sixteen dead Afghan kids?”

That’s what somebody I work with asked today in the hallway outside my office.

You know the punch line, don’t you?

Sure you do, it’s a good old racist joke dusted off and updated for today.

What do you call sixteen dead Afghanis?

A good start.

Yuk yuk. Funny.

I happen to know the guy who coined this little bit of hatred is a rabid right to lifer, a staunch conservative dead set against abortion and birth control, and a passionate defender of the unborn who wears evangelical Christianity like a thorny crown upon his fevered brow. As I passed him in the hall,  I asked what he thought Jesus would say about the murder of sixteen innocents. 

Fuck ‘em, an eye for an eye, he replied. 

Yes, of course. Christianity, the religion of peace and love.  How foolish of me.

I found the following comments under Yahoo and FoxNews forums, I didn’t have to look very hard or very far:

Obama put gen Petraous in charge over there and he attends communist bilderberg group meetings,makes you wonder how American military personel feels abotu that! But then we have to remember who Obama is and what he represents about tearing this nation down also!!! [sic]

Bilderbergs.  Birthers. Truthers.  Oh my.

What was that line from The Matrix? Boy oh boy, I sure wish I’d taken the blue pill.

Instead, we get to find out just how deep the rabbit hole goes.

Turn the #@$!hole into a glass astray.  We wont b safe until all muzzies our dead! READ THE BIBLE!! [sic]

We should nuke the place clean!!!!!! [sic]

We should nuke it (get the little kids out first) and then clean it up and help the ones that we know are not crap start over... [sic]

Sure. Why don’t we just nuke ‘em? Right?  Sixteen dead isn’t enough, let’s murder millions – well, minus the kids, I guess.  I’m not quite sure how that selective nuking thing works, maybe we round up all the children first and put them somewhere for safekeeping and Jesusification while we burn their parents to glowing ash. Then what?  We put the orphaned kids back to start over in the middle of a radioactive wasteland I guess. 

Boy, that ought to earn us their undying gratitude and a special place in the history books.

The magic of raw naked force, kill ‘em all and let God sort it out.  Hitler Jesus would be so proud, I’m sure.

The Taliban is the ones who did the shooting of . And Burned Body's ???? [sic]

How do you know it was not terrorist dressed in US uniform. we need facts before making jugdement [sic]

The Taliban did it.  Yes, of course they did. Probably under command of the CIA with Predator drones and black helicopters piloted by Bigfoot.

What the hell do we call this batch of conspiracy nuts? Shooters?

Very sad...but I hate how our media is so anxious to make our boys look bad. [sic ]

What the hell is wrong with you media!! how many times will tell this story??? And raise more hate!!!! how many times did you run the story on our americans that were shot in the back of the head!! Excuted by those we trained!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! [sic]

Right. Obviously this isn’t news.  It’s the media trying to make the military look bad.  It wasn’t the guy who killed sixteen civilians in cold blood. No not that guy. He’s a red-blooded true-blue flag-waving Jesus-loving patriot.  It was the damned liberal media elite. Damn them for making the military look bad. The media is going to railroad this poor soldier – just like they railroaded poor old Lieutenant Bill Calley, right?

just my opinion, but maybe these 16, were families of the people who shot those American soldiers in the head, in protest.. thats what ill write it off as.. [sic ]

They killed our solders! Which part of that don’t you understand! [sic]

Give him a metal! [sic]

Well, then I guess that makes murder OK. 

Because that’s what we want in our military. That’s the military of American Exceptionalism. Sure.  Mavericks, right? Rogue warriors. Coup counters. Death squads. Rambos.  Maybe we should reward troops for each kill. Five bucks a scalp sounds fair.  Two dollars per ear, maybe. Ten bucks for a scrotum.  Maybe we should ride into villages like the old days and smash their babies’ heads against a tree. They killed our boys, so we’ll kill their kids. That’s right, we’ll kill ‘em all.Damned right, Horah! It’s war, man! Women, kids, old men, dogs, goats, kill ‘em. Kill ‘em all. Burn it to the ground. You know what we need? Camps. Sure camps and gas chambers.  Exterminate the bastards.  Give this guy a medal and a full belt of ammo and send him back out.  Hearts and minds? Fuck ‘em, let’s splatter their hearts and brains all over the walls, because, yeah, we’re the good guys, the favored of God. USA! USA!

What do you call sixteen dead Afghanis?

The papers and the forums are full to bursting with ignorant bile. 

One American committed murder and many of us rightly call that crazy.

But tens of thousands think he did the right thing.

Tens of thousands of supposedly civilized Americans think the senseless slaughter of sixteen men, women, and children was a good start.

Their comments fill the halls of America and litter the airwaves and the internet and they don’t even have the common decency to be ashamed.  The murderous clamor of the ignorant and foolish and the brutally stupid fouls our national discourse and stains our national soul. 

I’ll say in complete honesty that I truly hope that their God does indeed exist and that one day these fuckers will stand before His righteous wrath and be judged.

Ten years of war have taken a toll on those of us who fight, we are battered and sore used and hardfought, and yet – and yet – in large part we remain unbowed and unbroken.

But ten years of war have driven a significant fraction of our countrymen mad.

One man committed an act of barbarity, but these sons of bitches are the true savages.


What do you call sixteen dead Afghanis?

I’ll tell you.

You call it murder.

You call it an atrocity.

You call it a national disgrace.

And you hang your head in shame.


Then you stop making excuses for it.

Then you take responsibility for it.

And then you do whatever it takes to make it right.


  1. Thank you. Very well said.

  2. Comments like the ones you quote simply confirm for me what Robert Heinlein once wrote - "Most people can't think, most of the remainder won't think, the small fraction who do think mostly can't do it very well."

    When tragedies happen, pundits large and small begin punditing, because that's what pundits do. They're not paid to take a wait-and-see attitude until there are some actual facts available, because if they wait, someone else will bloviate without the facts and they'll lose readership/viewership/money. More, it's likely their loyal followers have a mindset that doesn't allow altering by anything as mundane as facts, so facts have no place in what they say anyway. Who needs facts when you can take what little you know mixed with bad logic and use it to demonstrate whatever it is you think needs demonstrating. And while the right has the most egregious purveyors of pandering punditry, the left certainly isn't free of them.

    Where I disagree with you is that, even if this hadn't happened, I doubt that there even a scintilla of chance of establishing a functioning government in Afghanistan, if by functioning government you mean one that exert reasonable control over the warlords, keep corruption to a minimum, is able (perhaps with help) to provide jobs, provide reasonable internal security, have a functional justice system, and provide at least some rights to women and children as the west understands them. And even if there was scintilla of a chance, it will never happen with with Hamid Karzai as president.

    1. If I remember my history correctly (and it is entirely possible that my deteriorating gray and white matter is messing things up here)... Afghanistan has never had what one would call a truly functioning government. Every time one has come up, it lasted for maybe, *maybe*, a generation before being toppled from within or without (often times from without). People have tried and failed over and over again to conquer it.

      Again, I might be mis-remembering.

  3. I was surprised to find no comments, as by the time I get the feed for your blog, it is already well read and responded to, but then I thought,"What is there to say, really?"
    .....I am now off to read a mindless book so I will be able to clear my brain to try and sleep (I will not lie, for the sake of my sanity, I have learned to turn off, how else does one survive knowing we walk among fellow humans that think this way?). Twon't be easy tonight....

  4. I am simply heartbroken for the Afghani People. Every time we have had a good chance to turn the fortunes of that nation around, some utterly boneheaded, idiotic action has scuttled it.

    First GWB got distracted by Iraq, then some idiot burns a bunch of Korans with the garbage, now even as Kharzai speaks about reconciliation, this terrible event unfolds.

    I can't help the feeling that maybe the best we can do now is just to get out and let the country fall into chaos, could it really be any worse? At least the people involved would all understand the culture of the others. I don't want to give up on these people, but somehow it seems like it might be more merciful.

    And I think you are completely right, the military is NOT the problem, so many have served, and so few have had real troubles, and those few (though they may number in the tens of thousands) deserve and should get every kind of help we can give them. People who have never seen a war zone also engage in unspeakable acts. I guess the only bright side to this is that the Afghans do understand random stupid violence, and they have not reacted as violently as they did when we negligently burned their holy books.

    Thank you for helping to make this clearer.

  5. I am simply heartbroken for the Afghani People. Every time we have had a good chance to turn the fortunes of that nation around, some utterly boneheaded, idiotic action has scuttled it.

    First GWB got distracted by Iraq, then some idiot burns a bunch of Korans with the garbage, now even as Kharzai speaks about reconciliation, this terrible event unfolds.

    I can't help the feeling that maybe the best we can do now is just to get out and let the country fall into chaos, could it really be any worse? At least the people involved would all understand the culture of the others. I don't want to give up on these people, but somehow it seems like it might be more merciful.

    And I think you are completely right, the military is NOT the problem, so many have served, and so few have had real troubles, and those few (though they may number in the tens of thousands) deserve and should get every kind of help we can give them. People who have never seen a war zone also engage in unspeakable acts. I guess the only bright side to this is that the Afghans do understand random stupid violence, and they have not reacted as violently as they did when we negligently burned their holy books.

    Thank you for helping to make this clearer.

    1. I swear I only sent this once. I certainly only typed it once. Apologies for the double post.

  6. But they (that amorphous "they" quoted so often) won't do a thing about it.

  7. This is a tragedy all the way around. The Afghanis who were killed, their families, the family of the sargent, and possibly the sargent himself. I say possibly because I have seen people with severe head injuries have complete personality changes. The brain is a complex organ and doesn't withstand abuse very well. I'm willing to withhold judgement on him until more info is available. The truth is that we will probably never know what drove him to commit this atrocity.

  8. Jim, You ignorant slut, You've gone too far this time. Some crazy motherfucker goes out and shoots a bunch of Afghans. Are we supposed to be suprised. War makes people crazy? Kony 2012 is sweeping America. Because most people haven't a fucking clue what the real world is like. Wow!!! You mean there's a crazy warlord in Africa that kills and rapes women and children? And you mean it's been going on for the past decade (or hundred years).

    I'm on your side, Jim. The fact that you use this incident to to degrade conservative values seems disingenuous. It takes a little license to get there from there to where you are. But it is crystal clear, Ron Paul has it completely right. I'm not here to campaign for Ron Paul or anybody else. But you know our foreign policy is a disaster. We should just get the hell out and let sovereign nations determine their own desitny.

    I just wish you could rise above spinning this as liberals versus conservatives. It doesn't have anything to do with that. It's sad that you spin it. I'm calling you out. Get serious, quit playing games. Call the world like it is, and quit towing the line.

    What he did was despicable. Our foreign policy is ridiculous. To think that continuing this policy it is insanity. To think that we can bomb Iran into submission is insanity. To think we can prevent the evil forces in the world from getting a nuclear weapon for eternity is insanity. We have to prove that our way, freedom is better. We can't beat freedom into someone. It's something they're going to have to come to on their own.

    1. "We should just get the hell out and let sovereign nations determine their own destiny."

      Anon, we tried that strategy in 1989 when the Soviets pulled out. How well did that work out for us? We shouldn't dictate policy to sovereign nations, but to disengage from the world ignores how the world actually works. At some point, the world will come knocking.

    2. You're calling me out, uh? Well, geez, anonymous, I guess I'd better quit degrading those conservative values, I mean as long as you're calling me out and all.

      Please point to and provide links to any comment by liberals, moderates, independents, any prominent democrat or their duly designated mouthpiece, or anybody not actually self-identifying as a conservative that blames a) the president, b) calls for the extermination of (Insert Muslims, Afghans, or the Arab people of your choice here), and/or c) or blames this atrocity on the victims.

      From where I sit, conservatives are doing a fine job of degrading their own "values," whatever the hell those are - aside from telling everybody else how to manage their sex lives, I mean.

      And Ron Paul, really? Ron Paul? He can't even convince his own party that's he's an actual candidate, how's he going to lead the nation? And save the "it's the media's fauuuuuult" for somebody who actually gives two shits for that idiotic nonsense.

      Here's the thing, anonymous, I write what I write, and I'll rise above or wallow in whatever gutter I please, and you don't get a vote. You can read it or you can go be disappointed in me elsewhere.

    3. Didn't you know, Anon? Jim runs a benevolent Dictatorship here. His page, his rules. But he's generally merciful.

      Unless you get stuck in the Comment Moderation... That place is a pit.

    4. I had hopes that Anonymous was being satirical. Part way through the first paragraph, I was sure of the opposite. It makes me sad that I can't tell the satirical from the utterly ignorant from the sociopaths from the mainstream conservatives any more.

    5. Generally, the satirists spell better.

    6. In general, the satirists tend to spell better?

  9. "Burn them all out." Let me see, seems to me some other country tried that strategy. It didn't go so well for them as I remember.

  10. When I read about this my heart sank simultaneouly for the families that had been killed and the loved ones left behind and for our soldiers serving over there that have to personally face the anger for someone elses action. As for the media I am totally disgusted. There were three different versions of the story in print Sunday evening. Does no one in journalism do research any more. Do they even care about the truth. It seems now days all the media cares about is being first and the most sensational.

    As far as the comments you have heard today, I'm not surprised, saddened and rather hopeless that he folks that say these things will ever see the light. These folks do not speak for my God or my Jesus. These are the folks that wanted to do a new translation of the Bible because it was too liberal.

    At the risk of TMI, my therapist and I have dicussed these ignorant hate mongers at length. He says that they don' t want to think because its much easier to be a victim than to actually effect positve change.

    1. Unfortunately, since most of the major media outlets are owned by entertainment companies, the only thing they seem to understand is being first regardless of the facts. If you look closely, you'll also see that most of what is "reported" is shrouded in vague terms so that they don't have to issue a correction or retraction at a later date. Personally, I've found it kind of sad that I can get more facts and real news from the comments on a site like Fark than I can from any member of the MSM.

    2. The major media outlets, read television, have always been entertainment outlets selling eyeballs to advertisers. News is there only because the FCC thinks it enhances license renewal. Go read Paley and Murrow in the context of Harvest of Shame.

    3. I suppose that I really know this, but I'm old enough to remember Walter Cronkite and Chet Huntley and David Brinkley. Mr. Cronkite especially made me feel that he was interested in telling the truth and informing his audience. I guess the whole media thing just makes me really sad. The whole incivility of the opposite sides of todays media is just appalling.

  11. What do you call 16 dead Afghans? A long overdue goodbye card........as in "hey America...ya don't have to go home...but you can't stay here"....
    Osama and a significat number of all queda and Taliban have been eradicated.... vengeance and retribution .....check.
    Let's call it a day ...not only from ..... afghanistan and Iraq..... but from Europe and Korea as well....

    1. We tried isolationism once.

      First it led to World War I, then it led to World War II.

      I'd prefer we didn't have to fight World War III.

    2. I'm not 100% certain that withdrawing from Afghanistan would constitute 'isolationism.'

    3. afghanistan and Iraq..... but from Europe and Korea as well....

      And down below Anonymous says We need to get the hell out....of every where...

      Anonymous also says he/she is not an isolationist.

      OK, I stand corrected. Out of everywhere. What do you call that?

    4. Anon, do you know what kind of message that would send to the world? If the U.S. just pulled back within our borders and cut off any and all relations with the outside world? Because that's basically what you're suggesting.

      Isolationism is just the updated and polished cry of the six-year-old who doesn't want to share his toys and thinks that he doesn't have to. It's selfish and self-centered and completely ignores that sometimes you share your stuff so other people will too.

      Until one of the other kids gets a newer and shiner toy. Then it's all about making them share, isn't it? Suddenly it's not *fair* that they have the new Optimus Prime and you're stuck with the old crappy first-series Megatron. It's not *fair* that Billy got a Snickers bar and we only got carrot sticks.

      Pulling back into isolationism, in this day and age of globalism and Corporate interests, would last precisely as long as it took for someone else to develop something that America's citizens and politicians and military experts decided they really really needed, probably spun by the Right-Wing as "we NEED this thing to stay isolationist! Once we have that, we'll go right back to minding our own business!"

      Or what if someone starts picking on our girlfriend Israel? We've put a lot of time and effort into cultivating that relationship, are we just gonna sit back while mean ole Iran pulls her hair? Oh, but that's different, that's a *relationship*, that's basically like our stuff anyway, so helping Israel isn't *really* breaking our isolationism, it's just crashing at her house so she feels better and isn't as scared, right?

      No matter how "isolationist" we go, there will always be the rest of the world out there, either needing assistance for some reason (not even military assistance either, there's still that whole "import/export" trade thing that we're kind of involved in) or having something that we want.

      Isolationism leaves us sitting in the corner by ourselves, in a very lonely existence, playing Transformers with ourselves while everyone else is over at Billy's house, playing that sweet new Mario Kart game that just came out. But we don't get invited along, because we were greedy and kind of dickish about not wanting to share toys. And eventually, since we're NOT six-year-olds and we *do* have airplanes and bombs, someone's going to find an excuse to kick in Billy's door and take his goddamn Nintendo.

    5. I love it when I leave thought half-finished... >.<

      On the global trade thing: there are countries we trade with that get military assistance out of the deal, and not all of them are brutal corporate-sponsored dictators fighting to oppress the plucky band of rebels. Some of them are countries where the Government is fighting to protect their people against tyrants, warlords, and slavemongers. Isolationism means that not only do we lose those trade deals, the people we abandon are doubly-fucked. Isolationism is a greedy mentality because it's essentially telling the rest of the world that they just aren't worth our time anymore.

  12. PS I don' t think you are an ignorant s--- I think you are a very intelligent and insightful s--t. LOL

  13. P.s. not the same anon from several posts up. Paul may be nuts.. but he has that one thing right. We need to get the hell out....of every where...

  14. American isolationism didn't cause. Wwl or or 2......and american intervention has killed many more.

    1. and american intervention has killed many more.

      Don't shift the goal posts. And that's not what I said, though I can see how my comment could easily be read as such. Apologies, I'm watching the end of the Iditarod and I'm a little distracted.

      Allow me to rephrase: Our isolationism led to our being forced into both World Wars on somebody else's terms.

      Like it or not, the world is a much smaller place than it used to be and growing smaller every day. We are dependent for our way of life on resources outside of our borders and we are dependent on our allies and friends. Personally I think we also have a moral obligation to the less fortunate as well - but I suspect you would disagree with me on that. Isolationism is foolish and short sighted and will not work unless we intend to give up much of our modern life.

    2. "We are dependent for our way of life on resources outside of our borders ... "


      Maybe 'our way of life' needs to be called into question?

    3. Well, I think that's the crux of the current presidential debate, but I digress. I don't think our level of consumption is sustainable, not without massive new inputs of outside resources. Since we're unlikely to loft orbital solar power stations or start mining the asteroids anytime soon I suspect things will have to change.

      That said, I have no intention whatsoever of giving up easy transportation or my high tech lifestyle. No without a lot whining and teeth gnashing.

    4. I'm pretty sure the human race is doomed. (Very sure on the cosmic scale.) Maybe we're in the 'end game' already.

  15. "...volunteering for multiple combat tours over ten years..."

    ummmmmm...It's been a while since I was in ('73) and I wasn't Guard (I was 3 year active duty Reserve), but CAN you opt out of a deployment if you are National Guard? Can you volunteer for a tour independantly of your unit if you are National Guard? Or did I mis-read the articles I've read and he was Reserve instead of Nat'l Guard?

    I would think there was little or no chance that the man didn't re-up (I doubt you could be stop lossed for 4 years in a row) so in that sense, you are undoubtedly right, he volunteered to the possiblility of putting himself in harm's way multiple times. I'm not so sure you can definitively say, however, that he volunteered for 4 deployments.

    1. You are, of course, correct. But I will fudge a bit and say if you re-up in the middle of a war, you're volunteering for deployment.

      That statement was intended as a rebuttal to Villatoro's assertion that most veterans of multiple combat tours only do it because they have no other choice.

  16. 'Don't shift the goal posts. And that's not what I said, though I can see how my comment could easily be read as such. Apologies, I'm watching the end of the Iditarod and I'm a little distracted.'...
    Fair enough...and once again...I am not the anon who called you an "an ignorant slut"...I am the one who says it is time to get out...everywhere.
    ...and I am not an isolationist. I was in a supporter of the first gulf war. Allowing Hussein to hold the world hostage by controlling the strait was not acceptable..in fact that is when we should have taken him out entirely..but thats another story.
    ...and Afghanistan...damn right...good to go, but when the leadership fled to Pakistan...that was the time to go Isreali on them...not pour troopers in..but again another story.
    The broader historical point being: nation building at gunpoint has not and will not work for us...ever. and maintaining massive military concentrations in countries to fight a dead cold war not only bleeds our treasury dry, but provides an economic effect in those countries that hinders our ability to compete in a global economy: When Germany and Korea dont have to foot their own military bill, that money goes directly in to building their economies while draining ours.
    U.N. ..Nato...ok...but we can no longer afford to unilaterly foot the bill in developed countries..and we cant afford to bring bronze age countries in to the
    rst century..at the point of a gun.

  17. All I can say is that I have several family members who would call it a good start, and should know better (I hope) than to say such bullshit around me. It's a horrible event, and I hope it doesn't prove to ignite a heretofore unknown cache of plastique in regards to world events (think the assassination of Ferdinand.)

    I am shamed to share a nationality with people who leave comments like those you provided.

  18. Once again, nice article, Jim. I liked the Conan reference too...

  19. I don't believe we should be isolationist (assuming such a thing were even possible, anymore) but we need to be more measured in our responses to aggression and we need to engage other countries to bear some of the cost of the interventions that we do deem necessary.

    If we could accept that most of the people in the world want the same things that we want and admit that we have no more right to the world's resources than anyone else and figure out that peace is a worthier goal than wealth then we might have a chance.

    Do you know anything about Aikido and its underlying philosophy?

    1. That should be the foundation of U.S. foreign policy.

    2. Interesting: Aikido is derived from Aikijujitsu, which is assuredly NOT a pacifistic martial art.

      And Aikido is a blending art, where the defender uses the attacker's movements to redirect and manipulate the action with only as much effort as is needful. It assumes that the attacker is willing to stop when it is clear the attacks become futile.

      Unfortunately, it is not terribly effective when one is talking about governments... or people who do not understand when to stop (or that the word stop even exists).

    3. Aikido derives from Kendo, Judo and Ju-jitsu, with some 'stops' along the way, such as Aikibudo and Aikijitsu. O'Sensei continued to evolve and he continued to evolve his art.

      The underlying philosophy, referenced above, is to seek harmony. A fight is disharmony (as is war). A fight can only be won or lost, fifty-fifty, as my Sensei used to say (quoting his Sensei). Fifty-fifty isn't good enough. Of course we can always practice and train and become skilled and tip the odds in our favor, 60-40, maybe 70-30. we also discover, as we win these fights, that always a new opponent steps up. So what do we ever win except survival, one more time?

      O'Sensei figured out that he could accomplish more without fighting, by blending with the attack and directing the energy into a neutral place (initially back into the attacker but as I say, he evolved). Both parties 'win' in this scenario, or at least nobody dies/loses.

      Or, in English, just because some low-life wants a fight I don't have to give it to him. We don't fight fire with fire, we 'fight' fire with water. Or by smothering it.

      In the example of 9/11, instead of initiating a 'Global War On Terror' we could have mourned our dead, gone after bin Laden and other perpetrators, and showed the world that we really do believe in peace and justice, not war and revenge.

      It's a thought, anyway.

  20. A suggestion for all of the Anonymouses (?) here... just from a regular reader who is following the thread. I know it's a novel concept, but you could try actually using a NAME or a moniker or something that identifies you as a different individual as opposed to "not the one who called Jim a slut." After all, you ARE a guest here and I think that if your opinion is actually valid enough for you to take the time to argue with your host, you shouldn't have to hide behind anonymity while doing so. If you believe in what you are saying, then stand up and take credit for it. Otherwise all you are doing is ringing the bell and running.

  21. Well said, Jim, once again.

    And your point about judgement resonated with me. Judgement is a scary prospect - a Total Perspective Vortex...

    And a larger question - how the hell does one bring about a situation where national policy isn't decided by venomous id-monsters, but instead means time and money is actually put into the important, non-vote winning, unsexy stuff like mending broken soldiers and so on?

    (small quibble: could you capitalise Traumatic Brain Injury the first time you use it (like you did for PTSD) - I saw the acronym and had to hunt around for ages to work out what it meant. I am slow. Ta).

  22. I don't understand the isolationist people at all. Do you realize that every company, even small ones now, have people and a presence elsewhere? How many companies employ people in India, Pakistan, China, Ukraine, or Kazakhstan? The world is incredibly interlinked now. What happens over there, affects what happens here whether you like it or not. Outsourcing, global branch offices, and remote work forces were all brought to you courtesy of the Internet.

    Just having this POV means you don't understand the modern world or even modern business (which is why these rich Republicans who DO understand irk me more than anyone. You think Romney doesn't know this after being at Bain?). We can't be isolationist. Let's take the Israel example. We're just going to let Iran mine the Strait? Sit back and do nothing if Israel bombs Iran? You think that won't affect us adversely and that we won't have to use our military? What if Pakistan erupted in a fight with India? Again, all I see are the opinions of old angry white people, and not thoughtful up-to-date ones who at least realize that the advent of the internet (thank you Al Gore :) changed everything global in a big way. And, btw, I'm not exactly a whippersnapper. But I do keep up with the world.

  23. For those of you who may have missed the reference. Back in the seventies, Sixty Minutes used to do Point-Counterpoint where two reporters would heatedly debate an issue. Jane Curtain and Dan Aykroyd repeatedly spoofed it on SNL. Jane would always go first, and Dan would always begin his counterpoint with: "Jane, you ignorant slut". I can't imagine Jim being offended by this.

    Jim, I certainly agree with you that there is a lunatic fringe on the right, but not everyone who is to the right of you resides on the fringe.

    Just because Rush says something stupid and insensitive doesn't mean everyone on the right can be painted with the same brush. Just because there are a lot of idiots who would post the kind of ignorant comments you found on Yahoo doesn't mean that's how most people to the right of you feel. To quote Rodney King "Why can't we all just get along". The people of this country who live in between the fringes need to come together in the center and start solving the myriad of problems our country is facing. Things are just so polarized right now that I'm starting to lose hope that we can accomplish anything.

    1. You're right in that I did miss the SNL ref. It's been more than 30 years now, forgive me.

      As to painting all conservatives with the same brush, please reread the post and point to the part where I used the words "conservatives" or "republicans" in such a manner. I did not, in fact, use the word "republican" at all. I did use "conservative" once, to describe a single individual. When talking about taking care of the military, I said, in point of fact, this, "Both sides of the political spectrum are equally guilty of passing the buck on this." Note, the part where I said "both."

      I posted comments from Yahoo and FoxNews, I talked about warmongers and religious extremists, and you assumed I was talking about all conservatives.

      Now, why is that?

  24. Jim said "Certainly there are problems, but incidents like this one and others such as the horrible tragedy at Fort Hood last year remain few and far between"

    Apart from the obvious insanity defense, I wonder at the motivation behind these attacks, and have difficulty differentiating them from some civilian attacks that appear to relate to the heightened level of hatred in the political discourse since President Obama was nominated/elected.

    The madness in the responses from many who think they belong to a "civilized" society, heightens my view that those who cast doubt on the President's religion, place of birth and legal right to be in the White House - and use such objectionable items in political pondering - are a large part of the problem.

    The knowledge of many (including an unnamed ex politician) of anything outside of the USA is abysmal - it may have been interesting to survey the crowd at the Dayton game yesterday as to who was the man with President Obama. To me, most talk of instant withdrawal or isolation policy highlights the lack of any type of a world view.

    Jim, as usual has brilliantly defined the issues and what should be the responses - the only responses the GOP appears to have, to any major issue including this one, is to put it to death, bomb it or withdraw funding from it.

  25. Jim, I think you've failed to see the forest for one particular tree, or perhaps two.

    The first is, I think you took offense at Villatoro hypothesizing that soldiers are signing up for multiple deployments because they can't get jobs at home, which you took as some sort of insult to soldiers personal ability. I think, with unemployment rates only recently dropping below 9% nationally and still floating around low double digits in parts of the country, Villatoro is making a reasonable inference. In the same paragraph, Goodwin links to an article she wrote regurgitating a 2010 WaPo story about veterans having a higher unemployment rate, possibly because of stigmatization. (I don't know if those numbers are still valid; it's an old news item.) In any case, the point is that it's a hard employment climate for everybody: to dig into my own professional backyard, everybody is talking about how recent law school graduates aren't able to find work and/or are having to settle for jobs that are beneath their qualifications, but nobody is treating that as an implication that lawyers are dumb. If somebody says that soldiers are reenlisting because that's a bird-in-the-hand versus a whole lot of empty bushes they've been beating in their hometown, I don't see how anyone could reasonably take that as a criticism of the soldiers as opposed to criticism of the economy, or possibly of hometown employers, or perhaps (and this is where Goodwin was going with it) as a criticism of the government (i.e., us) for not taking better care of our own after already asking a lot from them.

    Incidentally, this is where you commit a fallacy of your own, Jim: "Morale is certainly battered, but it remains high – otherwise we wouldn’t be meeting those recruiting and retention goals...." Well, maybe. Anecdotally, I see a lot of young folks who are looking at the armed forces because the local job opportunities mostly consist of going back to doing the kinds of things that bring them into contact with me in the first place. It may be regrettable that the armed forces are often seen as a last resort for people who can't find civilian jobs in the private sector, but it is what it is and there's no disparagement intended in the observation; it does seem to me--and perhaps this is a misunderstanding on my part--that recruiters were having a much harder time filling quotas before the economy tanked.

    The second thing I think is getting in your way, Jim, is that you're apparently unwilling to forgive Goodwin her undeniably lousy lead-in. Okay, she's trying to be all relevant by tying a recent tragedy into what might be a pet issue for her (this isn't the first piece about whether returning veterans are getting the treatment they deserve). She is, as you point out, full of shit speculating about whatever could have caused a sergeant in Afghanistan to murder a bunch of people. That said, it wasn't really her point, was it? It's clumsy, it's awkward, it's lousy writing, but the bulk of her post is a link-heavy piece on whether mental health services are being made available to veterans, whether soldiers' physical injuries and psychological issues are being adequately diagnosed, and whether current procedures (i.e. the way soldiers are rotated through their tours of duty) might be exacerbating the previously-mentioned possible inadequacies.


    1. (cont.)

      Which is where we get to the forest: I'd call it a sympathetic piece, Jim, however poorly it may be structured. She's not criticizing veterans, she's attempting to lay out the argument for the points you yourself make in the middle of this post. I.e. I think she'd agree with you that it costs a lot of money to deal with veterans' medical and psychological issues (and these are interwoven, obviously, when one of the issues we're discussing is traumatic brain injury), but rather than writing a straight-up advocacy piece, she's writing an "objective" piece (from an obvious subjective POV) laying out the facts as she sees them; if one accepts the news items she presents--including a Pew study, an NPR report, the previously mentioned WaPo item, a Wired article, et al.--then it seems hard to evade the conclusion we aren't doing enough for our veterans. Unless you're just a rat bastard.

      Of course, the Internet is full of trolls and idiots, so for every person who read Goodwin's piece and wrote their congressperson to ask what the hell is going on with the VA, about twenty people wrote some kind of stupid comment like the ones you single out for derision. And I agree with you that these people are trolls and morons and we should all be ashamed of ourselves. But where Goodwin and I--and I think, you--agree is that part of that shame ought to be asking if something like what happened to those sixteen villagers could have been avoided if we changed our policies, increased our funding, and got serious about our responsibility towards those we ask to risk their lives and minds serving their nation.

      It may well be that the sergeant who is accused of killing sixteen people is an abomination, a monster, a human aberration with no conscience, no soul, no moral center, no empathy; and it may be that he was just born that way, or raised that way, or whatever it is that results in a psychopathic predator lurking in the tribe. But it is conceivable he's an ordinary guy whose brain was damaged in the course of his service.

      Which wouldn't be an excuse, but it would be a tragedy.

      And if we could have done something--if we could have diagnosed him, offered him treatment, pulled him off the path that led to him murdering sixteen people--if we could have done something, but we didn't....

      Then he's our victim.

    2. I agree with you Eric. The true tragedy here lies on both sides of the fence: the Afghani civilians (mostly children) who were killed and the soldier who may have desperately needed help and didn't get it for whatever political and budgetary reasons that currently exist. And who bears much of the responsibility for that? We do for electing people who claim all kinds of support for "the military" but who truly only support the military-industrial complex and couldn't give a damn about the actual people who serve. This individual should have been given a thorough psych eval before being sent back into combat and clearly that didn't happen. As a veteran, I know both how good and how bad military medicine can be. They perform physical miracles but seem to fail abysmally, on a regular basis, on the psychological and emotional well-being scale. It has been past time to address this abomination since the Korean and Viet Nam wars. I won't point further back because we were barely aware of the emotional and psychological costs in a scientific manner prior to the Korean and Viet Nam wars but we have since been LONG familiar with those costs now, thanks in large part to Viet Nam Vets. We have failed as a nation on this one for sending someone who should never have been exposed again to those kinds of stresses into such a difficult atmosphere and for failing to address these types of issues. It is sad and tragic but, as Jim has also rightly pointed out, we DO need to await evidence to truly say what happened, if we ever will truly know. Was this guy a monster? The evidence from the fact that he was a 38 year old sergeant would seem to preclude that but would seem to point to the as yet unknown factor of his TBI that happened more recently but that is not definitive and is only a factor of whatever small shreds of evidence that we currently possess. One thing that I hope will not happen (but may nevertheless) is that this soldier is not crucified due to politics. I'd rather await the evidence and see at that point. Regardless of all of that, the only thing that can be truly said at this point is that this is a monumental tragedy.

  26. I am currently reading a book called Book of Days and it is a journal from the Crusades. During one battle when they take the one town, the French nobleman narrator witnesses several English soldiers raping the woman of the town. He tries to stop them shouting verbal commands, to no avail. When he then goes to the English commander and tells him about the incident, to which the English commander replies, "Did they not line up properly before the women?" As in the raping part was not the problem, the did they take their turns in a proper formation? The Frenchman tried to explain that wasn't the problem, to no avail.

    What is my point here? I think we need to define the word civilized and what it could mean to outsiders perspective. Can you really go into Afghanistan as a nation and say see don't you want to be like us, stop with the killing and be civilized? There is a warning here from Jesus I think, something about not casting the first stone. So the Afghan replies, all I've seen of your nation is killing, and he could say that rightly so. Even within our borders it occurs. And you can say it's way less, but come on. Now it becomes why would we want what you have, it's not exactly perfect either.

    Hmm... I hope I'm making my point clear enough, while I agree with the famous saying, "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere", so I support women's rights and other basic rights, I do not feel we should force our form of government or what we considered civilized on others. By the way my point not being that the Frenchman should not have convinced the Englishmen to not rape, but that they were fighting a holy war against what they considered the "barbaric Turks", and how ironic it was.

    Isn't there a non-violent, non-strong arm way of creating places in our image? Look at India, they decided they wanted modern things, we gave them jobs they work, they're getting things while preserving their rape-free culture, again just making a point there.

    Do you remember anyone storming into your neighborhood/home and convincing you or your family that they should want a job, buy a tv, buy a computer, or not beat your mother? I am a heavy sleeper, maybe I missed this. :)

    1. Note that I did not, in fact, say "democracy just like us." Nor did I say democracy at all. I said "civilization" as in order, law, safety, food, shelter, service - all of which have not existed in Afghanistan for a long long time. It doesn't matter to me what form that civilization takes.

    2. stormcloud96,
      I mostly agree with you, but you have one big problem in this line:
      "while preserving their rape-free culture". No culture is free of rape. They are strongly biased against admitting some culturally approved types of rape are definable as rape. Arranged child marriage is sanctioned rape, for example. India is a wonderful huge democracy, but it's not perfect by any means.

    3. Jim: Sorry I said our form of government (which is a Republic not a Democracy), and what we considered civlized, which others might not consider. My point being what you consider law, order, etc may not be civilized at all, as in my example, where they lawfully (as in formation) raped women. Law is not universal neither is order. As far as safety, some may not wish to choose security over freedom. And there are plenty of Americans who have no food and no shelter. My point being we are in no way perfect, so until we are we should not force our ideals on others (not cast the first stone). And service we literally have Americans dying because they cannot afford medical care or their insurance refuses to pay for it. I think we have a lot of self-improvemnt to do before we should go out in the world and push our failing system on others. That was my point. I do love my country, but theres things I'd like to see an improvements in our infrastructure like public transport, election day should definitely be a national holiday, etc.
      Sorry sarcasm is a hard thing to put across in type. I meant India is one of those developing/up in coming countries that we did not invade that is just becoming "civilized" on its own, British occupation probably helped, but my point is that no civilization on this earth is perfect and therefore should not force itself on any other. My other point being that example is conceivably a better way to influence others rather than violence. Reward for good work always is better than fear of poor performance. A close to home example, goto a restaurant where servers are often given praise for jobs well done and tips, then goto a restaurant and get served by servers who are just doing enough to not get in trouble, or avoid getting fired.

  27. [Not the Anonymous who called Jim names]

    We are trying to get out of Afghanistan. The only legitimate reason for being there in the first place was to go after OBL. Bush the Younger blew it, but it's been done now. In the meantime, we've wrecked the place, and the Taliban is resurgent. I'm not trying to put words in anyone's mouth or ideas in anyone's head or make excuses, but I can see a basis for the attitude "F*** 'em all" developing based on the frustration and seeming pointlessness.

  28. And again I have to say, AMEN!

    I got an e-mail from my mother the other day - she is the forwarding queen BTW - that aggravated me so badly I had to shut down my computer and take some deep breaths. It was a completely bogus story about a flight that had to be delayed because "a bunch of muslims" created a disturbance and the flight crew "stood up for themselves and the passengers" and refused to fly until they were removed. The entire story was filled with offensive acts attributed to the "muslims." The moral of the story? We can't let "those people" endanger us because every last one of "them" is out to get us. Of course, a quick check on Snopes verified this story as crap.

    Once I'd calmed down a bit, I turned my computer back on, pulled up the e-mail, and hit REPLY ALL. (A button that should not be used lightly.) I pointed out that the story was fiction, and that people who sent it out without even verifying whether it was true or not were doing nothing more than trying to justify their own bigotry. Contributing to the dissemination of that sort of lie born out of hatred does nothing more than increase hatred all the way around, something we have too much of in the world already.

    And that Christian thing about and eye for an eye? Well, aside from the general blindness that would result - since none of us are exactly pure in action or intent - I would like reply with, "Turn the other cheek." In doing so, I would also like to point out that the cheek spoken of here is NOT the one you sit on...so you might want to stop showing your butt.

    And yes, my mother is still speaking to me, but she has stopped forwarded stuff to my e-mail.

  29. We put the orphaned kids back to start over in the middle of a radioactive wasteland I guess.

    Do we really need to bother? These kids are already born and therefore fair game. Sigh.

  30. I've heard people say "These things happen in war."

    They use it as an argument for accepting shit like this. As though it's inevitable. And the thing is they're right. These things DO inevitably happen in war.

    But instead of using this fact as a justification for atrocities, it should be our reason to not go to war in the first place.

  31. Just curious Jim, why respond to the insane posts by the fringe so often? I realize it helps to spotlight those A-holes who actually do think that way, but aren't you catering to the idiot element a little too much? The story of the lunatic in your office who made that comment was relevant, but were the multiple quotes of the ravings of those who can't even spell or construct a sentence a worthy use of your time?

    1. My answer to you question,Wez, is here. And thanks for asking.

  32. Jim: I would to thank you for the incite into military duty that unless you have served you have no idea of what really happens in a war zone. Having served in the "Brown Water Navy" in Viet Nam experience is the best truth. I just wish you would have been around during that time to set straight the people who spit on us and called us baby killers.Keep good work

  33. Damn, you are one of the most articulate sob's on the web (not always right/correct/accurate but close enough).
    You get a gold star for not punching out the bozo in the hall(imagine the the paperwork and court time you saved!) but it is frightening how many had that response first....including, I'm ashamed to say, me.
    Then it came out that it was kids and women and old men NOT a sleeping platoon of Taliban.
    oh fuck
    This damn fool just made life hell for the rest of us...dicking enemy combatants while they snooze is allowed but fuck...kids and women?
    They now say this E-6 was having marital problems, he had TBI etc etc and what worries me is that he came out of Lewis/Mchord and news is coming out of Madigan that the shrinks there have been down playing PTSD claims to "save the military money" (WTF!!!).
    Did 16 innocents die because some O4 wanted to 'save' a few bucks?
    More needs to be learned.
    Jim Bailey
    Cripple Creek CO
    (Qui Nhon VN 68-69)

    1. "dicking enemy combatants while they snooze is allowed..."

      Is that really U.S. Military standard procedure?

    2. I'm not being snarky, I'm actually curious. I've known a lot of people in the military, but haven't studied up on actual rules of engagement nearly as much as I wish. :-/

    3. 'dicking' verb, archaic term for fucking over, fucking up, sneaking by, whacking, ie; "the guard fell asleep and the VC dicked the whole squad".
      The genesis of the term is probably drawn from an attempt to reduce the number of times you said fuck in a given sentence which was so often inserted between syllables (eg; beu'fucking'coup, V'fucking'C, ET'fucking'S etc etc etc.
      No doubt the GI's of today are coining terms of their own.
      Jim Bailey
      Cripple Creek CO
      (Qui Nhon VN 68-69)

    4. I know what the term 'dicking' means. What I meant was, is it actually part of the Military's standard practices to shoot sleeping enemy combatants rather than try to take prisoners? Perhaps my Hippie is showing, but that seems... I don't know, dishonorable? Distasteful?

      I'm fully aware that war is an ugly business. I'm asking what's the *actual* protocol supposed to be, with whatever caveats and/or exceptions that may exist? Does the U.S. Military actually have a "shoot first" policy?

  34. I comment with some trepidation about posting given your rules but I take exception with one of your statements and I could be missing sarcasm.
    "Last I checked, the US military continues to meet its recruiting and retention goals without significant effort – certainly nothing like the recruiting effort required in previous conflicts, and certainly without resorting to conscription (typically the first sign of actual beleaguerment)"
    This bothers me. It may or may not be true (I will not be too upset about being corrected) but I read somewhere (around the time that soldier raped the 14 year old and killed her family in Iraq) that standards of recruitment have been significantly been reduced in terms of education, criminal deeds, and psych tests. That can explain the success of recruitment. In addition, there is usually no lack of people who feel the armed forces are the only way to get out of bad situations when the economy sucks. That being said, I really think the guy snapped. There were most likely signs that were ignored.

    1. That's incorrect, a call to your local recruiter or a visit to any of the military recruiting websites would have corrected your misconception, though I suspect you didn't check because you don't want to and because you wouldn't believe it anyway.

      Recruiting standards were not lowered. Certain restrictions were relaxed, such as allowing in recruits with GEDs instead of a high school diploma - and only for certain services and for certain jobs and they still have to meet all the same educational requirements of any other recruit. And the military does a credible job of educating and training folks - which is of why they join, since by your logic they can't do much of anything else anyway.

      Criminal records, drug abuse, failed education will prevent you from joining the services. We don't take rapists, murderers, felons, arsonists, thugs, mugs, goons or poltroons. Or others of similar nature.

      This is exactly the kind of perception that I was talking about in the post. And it's common in the US, that we're dumb-assed thugs who couldn't get a job anywhere else, so we kill people in foreign countries for a paycheck and because it gets our rocks off. I joined the military and I served for more than 20 years because that was my chosen profession. I could have gotten out and gotten a dozen high paying jobs anywhere along the way. I didn't because I loved being in the military, I love the life, the adventure, the men and women that I served with. I loved the respect, respect for the position that I fucking earned, the place I carved out for myself by my own effort and actions. I hated war, but I was good at it and somebody had to go, if it wasn't me it would have been somebody else's kid - maybe even my own, so I guess it had better be me. I'm an American, my country is at war, it's my responsibility. What you do is your business, I don't care.

    2. You're operating on a woefully outdated worldview. People might join the military when the economy sucks during peacetime, but they goddamned well don't join the military ten years in to a fucking war just because they can't find a job. Do you even watch the news? Were you alive during Vietnam? Holy hell, the economy sucked and we had to draft people to get enough soldiers, they sure weren't joining up a paycheck. You're telling me why I'm wrong, hey, news flash, I'm one of the people who joined the military during a shitty economy in Michigan at the end of the Carter era. I served with thousands of folks from similar backgrounds. We didn't join because there weren't any jobs, even though it was peacetime, we joined because that's what we wanted to do. Now? In the middle of a war? The kids who join today and go to war go because they think they are doing the right thing, because they want to serve their country, because they want to be soldiers, because they see others serving and they think it might be their duty to do so too, because they want to be part of something bigger than themselves. They join for a hundred different reasons and sure some of those reasons might be a shot at a better life, but that better life comes on the other side of a combat deployment and don't think they don't know that. We make damned sure they know before they sign the articles of enlistment. And your assertion doesn't explain why somebody would reenlist after two tours in combat. They sure as hell don't do that because they don't have options. They do it because it's who they are.

      Jesus Christ the arrogance of you people and your fucking stereotypes.

      I'm trying very hard not to be viciously angry here, but this is my pet irritation with the American public. They call us heroes out of one side of their mouths and drool contempt out of the other. It instantly pisses me off. And there's not one goddamned thing I can say to convince them otherwise. They know more about why I joined than I do and they're going to stick to that cliche no matter what.

    3. Thank you Jim!

      My son is joining the Navy (heading out in November, if they can't get him in sooner). He's a brilliant kid, with more options than a lot of kids his age.

      He's not doing this because he has to. Or because he doesn't have any better options. Or because he's too stupid to do anything else. He's certainly NOT unaware of the possible consequences of serving.

      He's doing it because they're offering him an awesome opportunity, and he's excited about serving. And I will cheerfully eviscerate anyone who dares suggest that my son (or anyone else's child) is anything less than amazing for making that choice.

    4. Also, I realize that acrannymint was not specifically suggesting that my son was allowed into the military due to relaxed standards...but statements like that paint ALL potential applicants with the same brush. You can't say, "excepting your kid, of course," that's what makes them so damaging and infuriating.

    5. I have to call bullshit. I said I didn't mind being corrected so please don't call me arrogant.

      BTW - A simple google search found this - http://abcnews.go.com/Blotter/afghan-massacre-suspect-staff-sgt-robert-bales-criminal/story?id=15948211#.T2ZDYh2yqvI, this http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2006/07/11/MNG03JT3ER1.DTL&ao=all, and this http://www.military-network.com/articles/new-recruits-face-softer-standards.html among others. Sorry for the non-embedded links but when I did preview HTML didn't seem to work.

      As to NC Narrator - I'm only saying the the military isn't being as picky as it used to be. I have a friend who's kid joined the army and went through Ranger training and is now in Afghanistan. He is in no way a criminal, does have better options, and doesn't have lower intelligence (although his mom disagrees on the last one). I admire him for wanting to serve his county.

      BTW, No I didn't join the military, but I did work at an army research facility for 10 years helping to develop the Patriot proximity fuse. Our facility also did work on developing GPS and developing hardened systems to be used in battlefield command and control which I still feel are essential innovations in technology.

      I have been a federal employee for my entire career and I chose to do so because I wanted to be of service to the public. I am now working for the agency that administers Medicare/Medicaid supporting some of Affordable Care Act initiatives. I hear that government workers are lazy shit all the time and pisses me off.

  35. Thanks for saying it all, Jim, and saying it well.
    It is such a sad commentary on our country that there are so many who make comments akin to the ones you cite. Although I do regain some hope reading some of the comments here that the inmates are not (currently) in charge.
    Keep up the good work.

  36. Ah, yes. The type of 'punch line' that's called that because you should have the right to punch anyone who seriously thinks the line is funny.

    Great post as always, Jim. Just what we needed - /another/ bloody awful mess to add fuel to the fire in Afghanistan...

  37. Jim, this may be the best thing you've published so far. I'm basing that opinion solely on how it affected me, of course. You just seem to be able to take a scalpel and systematically pare the bullshit away until you reveal the little nugget that is really important in a story.
    I've been following Stonekettle for about 4 months now. You do a fantastic job with the humor and politics. The stuff you write about the military is consistently great, though. In my opinion it's just a touch better than the stuff you write on other topics. Just sayin'.
    Live long and prosper, Jim, and please don't stop writing.

  38. Fred Reed's take on the incident: "When you have trained men to behave in a certain way, don't be surprised when they do." Which ignores the fact that hundred's of thousands have the same training and don't kill children, nonetheless, some always will.

    "Pissing on Afghan dead, kicking their doors in at three in the morning, kill teams sportively murdering civilians, all the things that boot camp makes inevitable—they all mean you are not going to win your war." Losing the war isn't going to make America safe from another 9-11 anymore than not fighting it would, but the war will be (probably already is) lost. Too bad for all the dead soldiers and civilians who died in the futile fighting.

    You said, "And then you do whatever it takes to make it right." So what can you do to make it right?

    1. I've enjoyed Fred Reed's writing since he was a columnist in the Navy times. He's everything Hunter S. Thompson should have been, and wasn't.

      He does occasionally write things I vehemently disagree with, such as his position on honor. However, I have yet to read anything by Reed and not walk away thinking furiously. He does that, makes you think. I admire that.

      Should I ever get back to Mexico, I'd happily buy him a drink.

  39. "Hitler Jesus"? Oh Jim, that was Nobel-Prize-worthy! Best variation of "Dummy says what" ever! "How DARE you call my God that! One day my God will SMITE you and everyone like you!"

  40. I enjoy your posts tremendously, and always find humor in them, but... this one touched me differently, bringing tears to my eyes. Tragic, all the way around.


Comments on this blog are moderated. Each will be reviewed before being allowed to post. This may take a while. I don't allow personal attacks, trolling, or obnoxious stupidity. If you post anonymously and hide behind an IP blocker, I'm a lot more likely to consider you a troll. Be sure to read the commenting rules before you start typing. Really.