Go to previous post:

Go to Electrolite's front page.

Go to next post:
Shorter Donald Rumsfeld.

Our Admirable Sponsors

May 6, 2004

Help wanted. Real job listing at CACI. (Emphasis ours.)
Interrogator/Intel Analyst Team Lead Asst.

(Requisition #BZSG308)
Clearance: TS

Assists the interrogation support program team lead to increase the effectiveness of dealing with Detainees, Persons of Interest, and Prisoners of War (POWs) that are in the custody of US/Coalition Forces in the CJTF 7 AOR, in terms of screening, interrogation, and debriefing of persons of intelligence value. Under minimal supervision, will assist the team lead in managing a multifaceted interrogation support cell consisting of database entry/intelligence research clerks, screeners, tactical/strategic interrogators, and intelligence analyst.

Isn’t it nice to know that “Detainees, Persons of Interest, and Prisoners of War (POWs) that are in the custody of US/Coalition forces” are being “dealt with” by private industry under only “minimal supervision”?

Away with that old-fashioned, intrusive supervision! Hooray for entrepreneurial self-starters!

(Via BoingBoing.) [06:06 PM]

Welcome to Electrolite's comments section.
Hard-Hitting Moderator: Teresa Nielsen Hayden.

Comments on Help wanted.:

pericat ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2004, 06:25 PM:

But, Patrick, privatization is good! It's how the West was won-- oh, wait. Lemme work on that.

bellatrys ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2004, 06:45 PM:

Does anyone know anything about the Independent's claims that there is film of wounded Iraqi combatants being machine-gunned by coalition troops? I don't have electronic funds (I know, hopelessly retrograde, no cell phone either) and can't subscribe, but I was wondering if anyone here has a subscription and has read this article yet?

It reminds me of the hideous story I read a couple years ago in a Christian magazine about how a soldier in Gulf War I was still troubled but not sorry for having buldozed surrendering Iraqi troops because they couln't be burdened with prisoners. The story was of course anecdotal, but what chilled me was that the author of the article was completely blase about it, "War is hell" style, and that his friend's humanity was well-indicated in that he felt badly, but his manly nobility in that he thought it was still dulce et decorum est pro patria neco, and the author clearly told the story as if it were true, merely a sobering reminder of what resolve, and what ugliness, were necessary parts of even a just war, and why you shouldn't rush into one.

I agree with that sentiment, but the anecdote all I could think was - isn't that a war crime? If that were done to US soldiers - would we nod serenely that War was, after all, hell? I wish I could remember the magazine, as there might be some way of verifying the story one way or the other thereby.

bellatrys ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2004, 06:51 PM:

Oh, I meant to say in the other post, there's a lot of reasons to think that the four contractors in Falluja were killed because of the deeds of people like Stepanovicz - someone on Democratic Veteran's blog finally nailed what was wierd about that from a tactical point of view.

Instead of hitting the convoy, head and tail, and then methodically taking out the slower supply trucks - which is what you'd expect if it were a strictly military operation - they cut out the fastest vehicle, the SUV driven by the contractors, and only targetted that car and its occupants.

Now, it seems to me that they could still be innocent. I don't know, does anyone here actually *know* what Blackwater does, in all the focus on CACI and Dyncorp and Titan? "Provide security," in war fiction at least, is often a euphemism for "kneebreaker." They could have just been the victims of "occupational profiling." But it also seems possible that they were led into a trap by people like Ryan's smuggler buddy, as a deliberate, specific retaliation for the torture/rape/civil rights violations they were involved in.

In either case, it is more explicable as a hit, a vengeance killing, than as any kind of military operation. And given what we know now, one does have to wonder what was the motivation (other than that the insurgents are terrorists and terrorists are Evil.)

Also, did any one here see today's Chicago Sun-Times cartoon on the scandal?

Kip Manley ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2004, 07:14 PM:

I've already sent off a nastygram to the editors on that one. (Atrios has it, natch.) --Something to the effect of, while there are some who excuse the torture as "abuse" and note that hey, at least we're better than the despots who used to rule the place, we now have a better standard to which to aspire: we can be better than a political cartoonist who seems to feel that abject fear excuses torture and degradation and murder.

It's truly an appalling cartoon. One of the cheaper 9/11 shots I've ever seen, horrifically tit-for-tat moral relativism, and an instant competitor for most egregious linkage of Iraq with Al Qaeda yet, all in one smarmy ink-stained package.

Scott Lynch ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2004, 07:52 PM:

In the future, the invisible hand of the marketplace will apparently be wearing nitrile exam gloves.

Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2004, 08:04 PM:

I don't think I'm going to apply for that job. :)

I've been thinking about this (go figure) and one of the things which appalls me is this very subcontracting.

We were told the need for KBR, et alia, to provide food (when they feel like it), and carry the mail (when it's not too dangerous... hrmn... someone called me bitter for slamming him for supporting Bush [by advocating the meme that Kerry is just as bad, and Nader is the man to root for] and I guess he's right... go figure) and all the other things they are being overpaid to do, is becuase that frees the services to keep the hard-skills in the ranks, and afford to pay for it.

But we're wrong. A couple of hundred thou a year for private interrogators seems to be reasonable, and they seem to be so much better than the $30,000 ones we train ourselves.

And I was thinking that the four who's deaths were in the start of all this might have been being paid some of the coin CACi has been minting. Makes me wonder who will chastise Kos now (and gives me a self-righteous glow that I didn't).

As for the bulldozer... I'd have to read the details... but (and here is where the callous heart of a soldier comes to the fore) it might have been justifiable. Given the description you offer, I doubt it. Given the nature of the Guld War, I really doubt it. But there are times when one can't afford to keep prisoners, and have no way to send them to the rear.

On the other hand (more of that painful calculus) I accept that the same may be decided of me. Goes with the territory.


bellatrys ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2004, 10:05 PM:

Kathryn, thanks - about what I figured it would be. We haven't progressed from the world of the Narmer Palette at all, as a species, have we?

And now, tying this in with all the religion threads -

(aka Damn, with friends like this, Christianity doesn't *need* enemies)

the Independent does a background check on America's most famous couple

Mr Graner's neighbours said they were stunned by the revelation that he was apparently involved in abuse. Painted on a stone outside of his home is a verse from the Book of Hosea. It says: "Sow for yourselves righteousness, reap the fruit of unfailing love and break up your unplowed ground; for it is time to see the Lord, until he comes and showers righteousness on you."

A neighbour, Thomas Zavada, said he had seen pictures of Mr Graner, standing with a broad grin, in front of a pyramid of naked prisoners. "It's not the American way," Mr Zavada said. "We're not supposed to treat people like that."

But court records obtained by The Independent show this is not the first time Mr Graner was involved in abuse. His former wife, Staci, obtained three separate "temporary protection of abuse" orders against him. In a document passed to the court, she told of one occasion when he went to her house after their divorce.

"[He] yanked me out of ... bed by my hair, dragging me and all of the covers into the hall and tried to throw me down the steps," she wrote. "Both of the children witnessed this and were screaming at this point. He let go of me, turned around to the children and said, 'See what your Mommy is doing to us'."

The Independent has also learnt that Mr Graner, a former US Marine, was working at Greene Correctional Facility when the prison was at the centre of an abuse scandal. Officials there have declined to say whether Mr Graner was involved or disciplined.

Ms. Englund apparently sees it all as her being in the wrong place at the wrong time, and bad stuff happening to her, according to her relatives and friends, who see it likewise...

Arendt called it right.

Terry, I have been laying out that scenario in re the Falluja four for *days* now.

And yet, in charity, I still argue that they *could* have been innocent - collateral damage, collective punishment, not guilty themselves of what they died for. Maybe all they ever did was ride shotgun on supply convoys. We'll probably never know.

As for the bulldozer... I'd have to read the details... but (and here is where the callous heart of a soldier comes to the fore) it might have been justifiable. Given the description you offer, I doubt it. Given the nature of the Guld War, I really doubt it. But there are times when one can't afford to keep prisoners, and have no way to send them to the rear.

On the other hand (more of that painful calculus) I accept that the same may be decided of me. Goes with the territory.

When you say that, my heart sinks another notch. I am pushed further down the road that leads to the conviction that like the death penalty, the jus ad bella is not something that humans can be trusted to wield, because there is no hope of jus in bella.

I'm going to be blunt, and this is going to sound very harsh, but what you said sounds like what I've always suspected - that all our fine national principles and ethical standards are a sham, something for show, not meant for real use in the workaday world. They're great and we're proud of them - except when they're really necessary.

*We* don't shoot the wounded unless it's inconvenient to take prisoners...we don't invade people in wars of conquest, we "liberate" them (along with anything that isn't nailed down, and our country's common funds.) I think I've heard this song before, in crumbling old newspapers and magazines from the summer of '14... Particularly resonant in the wake of the unsigning of the various treaties and the "we don't need no Geneva Conventions" of the past few years (let alone the Tiger Force revelations.)

I can stomach anything except hypocrisy. I will argue to the bitter end over principles, but if someone is honest in their belief that say, nonwhites should be slaves, that there are natural slave, as per Aristotle, I have more respect for the intellectual and moral consistence and integrity of such a person than someone who tries to tell me that slavery wasn't really all that bad and besides it was because they wanted to save the souls of the poor heathens and since they were converted to Christianity that evened it out &c &c.

Ditto the Inquisition Apologists in my church.

I disagree utterly with the principle that Might Makes Right, but it is an *honest* stance. "We have the right to might because we're more virtuous than you heathens," *isn't*, particularly when the specific incidents of virtue aren't there. Say - We as a people want power, and we'll do anything to achieve it, including kinslaying, and be done with it. Be as openly proud of it as the Egyptians, rejoicing in smiting the heads of their enemies and laying their mutilated corpses out in daylight for all the army to glory over, paint symbolically the smashing of their houses and cities as the Bull of Heaven stamping them down, if you're going to do it at all. Just don't white the sepulchre with piety, to make an unanswerable rhetoric of justification.

And please don't dismiss me as an ungrateful-for-being-protected-civilian-woman. I haven't believed in the Air Force since I learned they told us comforting lies about civilian casualties and smart bombs, and even created a new euphemism for them. When I found out that "collateral damage" didn't mean destruction of bridges, airfields, etc, - for someone who grew up thinking that Wild Blue Yonder was the national Anthem, that *hurt* more than any other non-personal betrayal up to the Church sex scandal. The same realization that one had been defending selfish liars, protecting their own reputations and power, and claiming it done for *our* good.

I also want to point out that there's a bit of cognitive dissonance caused by your earlier complaints that you were being vilified as part of a group you belong to, that not all soldiers should be tarred with the same brush, and the whole "few bad apples" implicit in that - and then you admitting that a) you *knew* the soldier*s* (which plural is more than the Taguba Report stated, you realize) charged with raping the female prisoner, and b) you could well believe it of them.

There's a disconnect there, similar to that which I hear many Sundays, about how unhappy it makes all the "good" priests to be lumped in with the few abusers...The point is that, not that all soldiers are demons, but that all soldiers are human beings, "sons of Adam and daughters of Eve," as Lewis says, capable of heights or depths same as all of us, or indeed homo sum-- It is the simultaneous insistince on reverence for a virtue particular to the military and superior to the rest of humanity, and the scorn for those civilians who hold that reverence as naive, (combined with sneering resentment for those who do not accept that uniforms:halos equation) that is frustrating.

At least you're willing to accept that "all's fair" in principle, against yourself, which is more than a lot of people I know, in and out of the service, who really do think on all levels that American lives are worth more than anyone else's, and I respect *that* very much. But you would know better than most of us how widespread that objectivity is, in today's army.

Myself, I have to deal with the fact that by virtue of being a Roman Catholic Christian, I am often assumed to be a bigoted, ignorant, arrogant, authoritarian, intellectually dishonest, anti-science, self-hating-woman, even by people I love and respect.

--We're not *all* like that, I try to convince them, really! --And then we get Scripture-quoting Orcs like Mr. Graner... How do I prove that *he* is the exception, the abberation, to Christians, and not me? Particularly when there are so many noisy Christian idiots trying to prove me wrong.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2004, 11:32 PM:

Actually, I think there are much worse things than hypocrisy.

"I disagree utterly with the principle that Might Makes Right, but it is an *honest* stance."

Yes, well, when the boot comes down on the neck, one doubts the owner of the neck is much comforted by the bracing rigorous "honesty" of the boot's owner.

As usual, La Rochefoucauld nailed it: hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue. And virtue can use that payment, quietly disbursing it in a hundred useful ways.

bryan ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2004, 12:10 AM:

isn't that cartoon blaming the victims?

I just had a horrible thought, probably due to having been raised by a gambling addict, are there any bookies out there offering odds on
1. next major terrorist act in the u.s
2. the level of world sympathy?

harv ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2004, 12:44 AM:

"In the future, the invisible hand of the marketplace will apparently be wearing nitrile exam gloves."

Very nice Scott. How about a category in the Kofax awards for best one line comment. Would like to be the first to nominate yours.

bellatrys ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2004, 01:43 AM:

The boot is implicit in the hypocrisy. Hypocrisy means the boot is okay, because it's a Good Boot.

On one level, it doesn't make an *objective* difference if it's Saddam's goons or our goons breaking people's jaws or raping them, right? Broken jaw, broken life, same thing.

But nobody ever defended Saddam as being a great liberator and defender of freedom and individual human rights. No one ever said, you can't criticize Saddam, because of all the wonderful things he's done for the rest of the world. No one ever said, you can trust Saddam to keep things to a humane level, because he's just not that kind of a person.

And if you argue against his human rights violations, you are against humanity.

All of which are going on, even now, with all the revelations, there are still columnists in e.g. the Boston Globe declaring that it's isolated abuses and the heirarchy will take care of it and we should just trust the PTB and the worst thing is the damage it's going to do to *our image* as the defender of liberty'n'justice for all.

e.e. cumming's Thanksgiving (1956) has been drumming through my mind in all this, particularly in light of how those "mass graves" came to be there in the time of George I:

a monstering horror swallows
this unworld me by you
as the god of our fathers' fathers bows
to a which that walks like a who

but the voice-with-a-smile of democracy
announces night & day
'all poor little peoples that want to be free
just trust in the usa'


so rah rah rah democracy
let's all be as thankful as hell
and bury the statue of liberty
(because it begins to smell)

Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2004, 04:23 AM:


I have yet to see a regular here whom I would condemn out of hand for an argument (though there have been some arguments I have so condemned).

As one reared Roman Catholic, I understand that as well.

I am sorry to have injured your faith in yuor fellow man, and I'm not sure I could have avoided it with more explication, but I'll try.

Prisoners, and the taking of them, is troublesome; always. So long as they are with one they are a threat to your well being, and life. It's no small part of why they are sent rearward as soon as possible.

Sometimes one can't take them with, and can't adequately secure them, at which point they get killed.

The equation works like this: the capturing unit doesn't want the prisoners to get loose, and subsequently kill them. The prisoners, who can't be secured, are still enemy soldier, and duty bound to escape and try to kill the soldiers of the capturing unit.

In older times (say, 1870 and before) one could demand a parole of them (in particular the officers, who could then offer that same parole for the, "other ranks," but that has gone by the boards. The Code of Conduct for US service-members, in fact, prohibits me from accepting any offer of parole). Modern wars are not so civil.

That said, there is (and I think I've told this story elsewhere) prisoners belong to the capturing unit, and if I hand you a prisoner, in good health, and you beat him up, or (heaven help you) kill him... I'm going to be pissed, at the very least. I took the risk of not killing him (and false surrender has always happened) and that was after he tried to kill me, so you (who didn't have any of that) have no right to do ANYTHING to him.

As for the guys I said I wasn't surprised about... I wouldn't have predicted it, but it was not a great shock. They were coarse, callous and had a casual attitude of disrespect to people they knew/were in their unit, which spoke of a certain lack of good morals.

This was a snap judgement. I saw them for only a few weeks, and that in trying conditions. I wasn't where they were when they did what got them arrested. I also think (looking at it now) that I am referring to things which happened outside this problem; when I was talking about it with a friend I suspect he conflated two incidents, but that's neither here nor there.

There was no lingering in the command that had them arrested. CPT Hopper (or MAJ Kozak, I am not sure who was attached to whom at that point) won't put up with that sort of crap.

War is ugly, foul and wretched, and the desire to not get killed leads to all sorts of things one would hope to never learn about one's capabilties, I would to God that I could be put out of work.

People ask me (it happened tonight, when I was beng asked what I thought about all of this) how someone like myself can be in the army. My response has always been, the Army needs people like me, lest it become peopled by nothing but those like the ones we are disgusted by now.


bellatrys ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2004, 05:57 AM:

Terry, I think that is a worthy motive - to mitigate an evil that cannot be ended. However, I have a friend who teaches at a school where many shady things go on, but a lot of good work is done, and that friend has (or believes in) the potential to reach many students who otherwise would not be exposed to rigorous training and new ideas. They know the risks, but still I fear for them, that at some point either the slope will be too steep, or else worse yet they will never realize that they've slid down it.

The problem is, that when there is a disjunct between principles and practice, there comes a point when one can't point to the principles in indignation when one is criticized for the practice.

I no longer *allow* myself to heat up in anger when I hear people saying "Christians" or negative things about the social consequences of my religion, because I have been compelled to recognize that I am part of the same organization that came up with the phrase, Kill them all, let God sort 'em out, in the process of saving souls by fire and sword. If I choose to self-identify with a group for the good, I must also do so for the bad, and if all I have done is make excuses for them - as I did for so long with the Church - then doubly so.

When protectors of sex abusers preach chastity, and are told to go stuff it, it isn't really fair to say that the rude persons are being ungrateful and don't understand all the sacrifices that have been made for them and all the good that has been done and all the unselfish people who have worked so hard in the Church. The disjunct between the ideal and the real, and particularly the use of the ideal as authority to "bind burdens" on others, is the cause.

Yes, it stings, when I hear people whom I respect dissing the faith or the Roman church. It's like a personal slap in the face. But I *am* wearing that uniform, so to speak, and until two years ago I did not speak out, or do anything, because that isn't my style and I didn't know what to do. I wandered around out of uniform, so to speak, too guilt-ridden to say "not Catholic" and too conflicted to go along peaceably in the pews. I couldn't go on saluting the uniform and ignoring the moral bankruptcy of the men in the vestments.

I too returned to practicing status in large part out of the sense that there *needed* to be voices contradicting from *within*, that there is a deafness to outsiders' criticism that is not rational but that I might be able in some small way to counter. That there shouldn't be only inarticulate sheep in the fold, and all the voices of sanity outside. But it has become clear to me that at some point, I may very well have to resign in protest, for good.

(--This current geopolitical crisis is interrupting the article I was working on, which is a long rant explaining why this particular prolife, antiabortion Catholic cannot in conscience vote for the present regime, and this time cannot in conscience *not vote* as before out obedience to the bishops, and how this is justifyable by classic theology. Sea-lawyer, that's me.)

I think we both can agree that we, as a species, need to get out of the "Kshatriyah Trap" - that glorification of the man who kills over all other castes, except the priest. It infects all of us, not of course limited to the Indo-European influence, but it's the "truth" of Rambo movies and Braveheart alike, of all those many many first-person shooter games. The idea of the *truly* reluctant, and remorseful, killer is lost from our storytelling now.

One thing which deeply, deeply disturbed me was the changing of that emphasis in the films LOTR - my views on it are very hostile, for many reasons, but most of all because they perverted the messages, such as the one that authority comes from being someone who can heal things, repair things, reunite people and has the wisdom not to engage in unnecessary wars - whose emblem is the Tree of Life, and who uses that to tame the power of Death at the Stone of Erech - changed it into one of brute force, the symbol of the King is now merely the sword, the same clash of force that all the contestants have, and love and growth and grace are merely dessert for the warrior. In the book, Barliman Butterburr is a far more admirable and courageous character than the Witch-king of Angmar, never mind that the former does "womens work" and is a money-handling merchant, and the latter a warrior who wields a sword. But you'd never guess it from the movies.

As far as the ugliness of war, and the army, - that question "Where are the eagles and the trumpets?" asked in the wake of WWI - I think that the Valhalla Factor *is* real - that just as the splitting of "Just War" from one indistinguishable lump, so that there is a sleight of hand that allows all manner of abuses in the waging of the war to be justified by the good of the casus belli, into jus in bella and jus ad bella allows for (in theory) a distinction between cause and conduct so that either may be redeemed without the other - so too it must always be acknowldged that there is that essentially-not-evil, thrill-of-competition and companionship aspect to it all, and to try to deny *that* is dangerous too.

But the sick thing to me is, that is how they sell war, that is how they recruit, with both the Kshatriyah imagery of the Noble Savage (never showing the actual thing, the hell of war) mighty and fearsome in warpaint and iron chariot, and with the Valhalla imagery of playful contests, trials of strenght and fitness, the band of brothers - even more than "Travel the world and meet beautiful women," that's how the military is sold.

They don't hand out, say, to every cadet, a copy of Up Front, and say read this for starters, and see if you still want to enlist. I've heard people say, Well, if you really showed kids what it was like, at all, and shattered their illusions - then *no one* would enlist, which seems to me to be not simply fatuous and plainly false (since people reup in wartime, and escape from hospital to rejoin their units) but insulting beyond words - that the only way to recruit is with lies and tricks.

I think, and have thought for years, that there would be far less trouble holding on to people if they didn't deceive them at the beginning: if you start something with few illusions, you don't become disillusioned and bitter. Yes, this is *normal*, is better if you find out before you say "I do."

--Though of course Bush may well have solved retention rates by declaring a Forever War. I have suspected this from the beginning, and now that he (and his supporters) are saying that you should not change administrations in a crisis, on the small level or the large, it seems to me that with the nebulousness of The War On Terra™ (as Democratic Veteran puts it) this could be managed into a continuous crisis for the foreseeable future, just like in Things To Come. And in another four years, and another four years, and another - there will *always* be more enemies, if you work it right.

dave heasman ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2004, 06:06 AM:

"a soldier in Gulf War I was still troubled but not sorry for having buldozed surrendering Iraqi troops because they couln't be burdened with prisoners..."

It was reported at the time, in UK papers at least. And there was a very good story in F & SF a couple of years ago referring to it, and to its repercussions.

Stephan Wehner ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2004, 09:12 AM:

So I am told the US is in some kind of collective crisis over this torture case. Meaning, people are questioning their nation or so.

I get this from Der Spiegel, I don't live in the US (I think there was a reason for that..)

Is this true?? How come dropping cluster bombs in civilian areas was acceptable but this is not?? What's the difference? That's how the war in Iraq started just about a year ago. It wasn't hard to find out it goes against the Geneva Conventions
to drop cluster bombs over cities. (This is why George Bush is rightly referred to as a war criminal)

C.E.Petit ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2004, 09:56 AM:

Just one clarification, proving that the government really can't communicate in writing:

"Under minimal supervision" has little to do with actual supervision. It is instead government personnel-speak meaning roughly "is fully qualified to work on tasks without substantial additional training for a position that does not rely upon other positions for basic technical expertise." For example, a simple translator is never "under minimal supervision," because the translator must rely upon interrogators, etc. to obtain source material.

Of course, that doesn't excuse the moron who passed this job description for public consumption without thinking about the implications for those who are not saddled with government-personnel-speak-as-a-second-language.

James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2004, 10:38 AM:

On the "bulldozing prisoners" thing:

I recall the stories from Gulf War I, but as I recall, the story at the time was that bulldozers were used on the first day to break through anti-tank ditches by filling them in, and that the ditches may have been occupied at the time.

I'm not 100% certain that I buy the story about bulldozering a group of soldiers who had already surrendered.

Arlen ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2004, 10:40 AM:

Anybody else note how many of the bad eggs in this psychodrama are reservists, as opposed to "real" military?

Now, I'll admit that my observations on the subject are not derived from a systematic study of the subject, just personal experience (my military career was spent in a place where the motto was "Nuke 'em 'til they glow, then shoot 'em in the dark") but reservists were people you could count on to do the job passably well, but had no real loyalty to the service at all. They were in it for themselves, mainly, and not because of any concept of duty or honor. They wanted to acquire all the bennies they could from the system, while accepting the least possible burden on their personal lives. The time they spent was more like a paid vacation that they would look forward to leaving behind, not something they lived with day in and day out. I've been holding my breath since seeing all the reserve units being rotated in to Iraq and Afganistan, knowing something like this was coming.

Partly it *is* a matter of training, though indeed I agree with those who have said you don't need training to know what was done isn't right. But you *do* need training to resist the temptation to follow stupid orders, and to know when (and how) to fight the battles with your superiors over them. Even the regular military has problems with those concepts, and they deal with them 24/7, instead of 14 days a year.

You also need full-time officers in the chain above you, officers who have the good of the corps at heart, and are not new to the concept that their every word could cost lives. Most folks don't live with that; it's easy in theory to deal with it but when the rubber hits the road, the power is more addicting than *any* computer game they've ever played.

I'm not saying this would *never* happen under the regular military. No, I've know some nincompo-op (remove hyphen to read; interesting that this word triggers a filter) non-coms and officers in my time as well. But their population density is far higher among the reservists than among the regulars.

I'm not meaning this to read like a global indictment of reservists. They aren't Innately Evil; in fact they are usually filled with the best of intentions. They just have a couple of serious stumbling blocks that will get in their way.

For one, promotion comes faster in many reserve units than among the regular military. It's one more bone they toss to the weekend warriors, to keep them coming back. So their officers don't have the time for the full realization of the responsibility to sink in, and power unaccompanied by a sense of responsibility is trouble waiting to happen.

For another, they have less experience in the military environment to learn from. Living in it 24/7 for years gives one a far better "feel" for what the job means than a few weeks every year. A good soldier will put his life on the line when his commander gives the word. It takes time and training for a commander to be able to properly handle that authority, and reservists, though they mean well and are, for the most part, honorable men, just don't have either.

I ended my career after witnessing a particularly obnoxious (to me) miscarriage of military justice. (The end was voluntary, and unlike my president, *my* DD214 carried a re-enlistment code that said I was welcome to come back any time I wanted.) It happened because the special investigations office (plainclothes and civilian) took advantage of a rookie First Sergeant (mere weeks in the job) and an Acting Squadron Commander who was in his first command-level post. Both were unaccustomed to their authority, and abused it, and their troops. (The *real* commander, upon his return, torched few derrieres over it, but for me it was too little, too late, and I was gone. Still, it *was* fun watching him in action.)

It really isn't surprising to see trouble brewing; Rumsfeld's disrepect for the professional military is well-known. The fact he'd not be able to perceive the difference between regular military and reservists or civilian contractors is a given. Military folks live in a world of death and destruction; professional military folks (at least most of them) have a grasp of how to handle that kind of responsibility. Unfortunately, George II and his cronies have declared today to be Amateur Hour.

LauraJMixon ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2004, 11:27 AM:

Terry and bellatrys, I find interesting resonances between what each of you is describing in your own ways, and my own situation.

I'm an environmental engineer working for industry, and I struggle often with the moral complexities of my work. I have no interest in helping companies get out of complying with environmental laws; I got into this business to try to make a contribution to the good. To help improve companies' environmental posture and reduce their "footprint."

But when you work for a company in an environmental compliance role, you're a cost center, not a profit center, and it is very difficult to move the organization toward any sort of long-term forward-thinking behaviors, except when the company is in a crisis or if you're very lucky, senior management cares and is knowledgeable enough to give a damn about anything beyond quarterly profitability. And when you're a consultant you have little or no ability to influence company policy.

It's wearing, after a while, to be always rolling that rock uphill.

It helps me to know there are others within the system, doing what they can to withstand the pressures of caving in to contingency. It's a daily struggle, to do what's right instead of what's easy. None of us is going to have 100% success, all the time. There are too many battles, and we only have so much time, energy, focus, and influence.

I think we can "lock elbows" in a sense, and support and encourage each other to each do the best we can, in our own ways, to hold the line. We can help each other remember to keep our eyes on the horizon, and hew to the humane, the long view, the right thing to do.

I often think of it as navigating in a sailboat toward the new land. We can't always head straight there; the cross winds can be very powerful. But if we don't lose track of where we are trying to get to, and if we keep our eyes on the stars and our navigational instruments, it keeps us coming back to where we need to be.

But I'll tell you, I'm getting really pissed off, and small gains aren't enough for me anymore. I want change. I want big change. I want this administration out. And I want the next one to have a much clearer vision of what needs to be done to protect the founding principles this country is based on, and the leadership and political courage to make that happen.


Avram ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2004, 11:27 AM:

Filter? There's an automatic filter here? And it's triggered by the word "nincompoop"?

Hm. Apparently there is. I had to use secret Jedi master HTML-coding tricks to get past it. (View the source, Luke.)

sennoma ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2004, 01:25 PM:

I gotta try this: nincompοοp

Well shit, it won't let me post "pοοp" without jedi html. How fucking odd.

Jo Walton ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2004, 01:35 PM:

"An illusion can become a half-truth, a mask can alter the expression of a face ... You do not arrive at the polling booth to find men with revolvers telling you which way to vote, nor are the votes miscounted, nor is there any direct bribery. Even hypocrisy is a powerful safeguard."

George Orwell, _The Lion and the Unicorn_, 1940, on the democratic virtues of hypocrisy.

sennoma ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2004, 05:07 PM:

nor are the votes miscounted, nor is there any direct bribery

I am certain that the former was not true in the US in 2002, and fear that it will not be true in 2004 (though there are ways to reduce that risk). I suspect that the latter has never been true of any large scale political process, and the relationship between special interest campaign contributors and the current dysadministration comes pretty close to direct bribery IMO.

That's not to disagree with Orwell's main point. I'm just sayin', is all.

Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2004, 06:37 PM:

I've noticed a strange convergence of arguments from the far left and from the right, that this is just how the system works and us wimpy liberals ought ot face facts. It seems to me that whatever the "realities" of warfare, we have to just keep insisting that our military and our elected and appointed officials may not behave this way. They failed to stop this mess, though some tried. And so it falls to the general public to do General So-and-so's job. We have to say NO; not cave in like some bad parent when confronted with the argument that "everyone's doing it." So, no matter how naive it sounds, I'm going to just keep saying that our people can't behave this way. If we don't set limits, who will?

(By the way, our cable modem is down, so no grand research projects from me today.)

bellatrys ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2004, 07:37 PM:

(apologies if this is well known to everyone here already, but this sums up my position with more clarity and eloquence:)

Why I am a democrat

I am a democrat because I believe that no man or group of men is good enough to be trusted with uncontrolled power over others. And the higher the pretensions of such power, the more dangerous I think it both to the rulers and to the subjects.

Hence Theocracy is the worst of all governments. If we must have a tyrant, a robber baron is far better than an inquisitor. The baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity at some point be sated; and since he dimly knows he is doing wrong he may possibly repent. But the inquisitor who mistakes his own cruelty and lust of power and fear for the voice of Heaven will torment us infinitely because he torments us with the approval of his conscience and his better impulses appear to him as temptations.

And since Theocracy is the worst, the nearer any government approaches to Theocracy the worse it will be. A metaphysic, held by the rulers with the force of a religion, is a bad sign. It forbids them, like the inquisitor, to admit any grain of truth or good in their opponents, it abrogates the ordinary rules of morality, and it gives a seemingly high, super-personal sanction to all the very ordinary human passions by which, like other men, the rulers will frequently be actuated. In a word, it forbids wholesome doubt.

A political program can never in reality be fore than probably right. We never know all the facts about the present and we can only guess the future. To attach to a party program - whose highest real claim is to reasonable prudence - the sort of assent which we should reserve for demonstrable theorems, is a kind of intoxication.

--C.S. Lewis, 1946, from "A Reply To Professor Haldane"

Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2004, 10:14 PM:

I'm not 100% certain that I buy the story about bulldozering a group of soldiers who had already surrendered.

Maggie O'Kane reports eyewitness testimony that it happened in Riding the Storm: How To Tell Lies And Win Wars.

Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2004, 11:49 PM:

bellatrys: Maybe that's part of why I can be an idealist with a cynical streak. I knew what I was getting into. I was 25 when I enlisted, and had managed (by circumstance) to try the army on for size, without having to commit.

And I'd read. Up Front, and Gwynne Dyer's "War" and, Lyn MacDonald's, "The Somme" and the works of Wilfred Owends, and Sigfried Sassoon, and "Only Generals Die in Bed (great novel from Canada, on the Great War) and All Quiet on the Western Front, and Johnny Got His Gun, and The Red Badge of Courage.

And I'd heard the tales of my Grandfather's reaction to his time in the trenches, and the nature of the few stories my stepfather's father told of WW2 (he didn't talk about Korea, save that he had been there, and never mentioned Viet-nam at all).

On the other hand, I have often said I was civilised, not nice.

Arlen: Poppycock.

I served with three MP units in Iraq. Two reserve, one RA. I far preferred the reserve. They treated the prisoners better, didn't try to prove they were the boss, and took direction.

It was a regular army MP unit that caused a huge political crises, that I got to be around in the solving of, because they lacked judgement.

In the main, in more than 11 years of duty, both active and reserve, with units; both pure and mixed, the reserves do better, with less, and have a greater sense of duty, responsiblity and loyalty to the service and the nation.

They don't have to do this. They signed up for the hassles Active Reserve Duty entails, (the screwed up weekends {there was period of six months where I had regular drill, and taught two classes, which meant with my work schedule I got my first day off; each month, on the third Sunday) the loss of real vacation time, the sudden trips (yes, that is more because of the line of work I, and those I know are in, but hey... it's what I saw) the short pay, the delayed retirement, the lack of respect; from the Army, the Active soldiers and from the predjudices of people who make the arguements you are making here... "Weekend Warriors, Part-Time Soldiers).

They do this, knowing that in event of long call-up they will lose money, maybe lose livelihoods, houses, spouses, everything.

They don't have the support network the RA has. They can't just pack a duffle, strap the wall-locker shut and close the door. They have put all the myriad of daily life on hold, and often on very short notice (pity the single soldier, with 48 hours to non-op the car, change the insurance, stop the gas and the phone and the water, sublet the house, kennel the dog, get the plants to the neighbors, forward the mail...)(pity the married soldier who has to explain it all to the SO, and hope the strain doesn't kill the relationship).

As for promotion... it varies. In a good unit, the Active Soldier is not likely to promote any slower (and often faster, and certainly with a greater chance of E-7 and beyond) than the RC soldier, because the Army promotes regardless of unit... the RC promotes only when the Roster has a slot with that rank, and the soldier meets the requirements. No slot, no stripes. I know of an E-4 with 23 years in service. The only way to get a promotion is to move to another job, or to a unit 200 miles away, and he doesn't want to leave his tank.

That's why the RC has kicked the RA's ass for the past decade in Artillery competition, the crews have been together for far longer than the RA.

No, any unit in this situation would have been prone to it. The problem was systemic (and exacerbated by that unit's weak command structure). It is telling that the worst offenders (from what we've been shown) were less than 25 years old. Given the youth of the RA, compared to the RC, I suspect an RA unit in this situation would've had more offenders.

"For another, they have less experience in the military environment to learn from. Living in it 24/7 for years gives one a far better "feel" for what the job means than a few weeks every year. A good soldier will put his life on the line when his commander gives the word. It takes time and training for a commander to be able to properly handle that authority, and reservists, though they mean well and are, for the most part, honorable men, just don't have either."

The average reservist has six years active duty, before he joins the Reserve Component. The average RA troop has five years. The lower ranks in the reserves tend to have far more than that (becase we have a lot of Officers, who come in with nothing but ROTC).

Partly it *is* a matter of training, though indeed I agree with those who have said you don't need training to know what was done isn't right. But you *do* need training to resist the temptation to follow stupid orders, and to know when (and how) to fight the battles with your superiors over them. Even the regular military has problems with those concepts, and they deal with them 24/7, instead of 14 days a year.

The Regular Army set the baseline. I got a good look at the timeline today, in the hearing at the House. BG Miller made his recommendations, (to make the BCCP more like Gitmo) in Sep.. The troubles started in Oct. Draw your own conclusions.

BG Miller's reccomendations are in direct contravention of the Field Manual which is supposed to be the guideline for interrogations. Following orders is a limited defense for enlisted troops, but the fact of the matter is that the orders were given, and by the RA.


Arlen ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2004, 10:06 AM:


Our experiences point in different directions, perhaps not surprising as we seem to be separated by time and as I noted, my observations, like yours, were subjective and not from a statistically rigorous sample. Further details:

"I served with three MP units in Iraq. Two reserve, one RA. I far preferred the reserve. They treated the prisoners better, didn't try to prove they were the boss, and took direction."

OK, your experience in this trumps mine, as it's been some years since I served, and, if I understand you aright, you were a part of this particular operation. But I stand by my observation of the reservists I interacted with. Most had no knowledge of how to deal with a bad order, and their attitude was "I'll just do whatever I'm told, 'cause I'm leaving soon anyway. I'll let the regulars deal with it after I'm gone." The differing attitude may spring from the fact that, in this case, they weren't sure when they were going home. This is welcome news, if true. At least it gives me hope.

"The average reservist has six years active duty, before he joins the Reserve Component. The average RA troop has five years. The lower ranks in the reserves tend to have far more than that (becase we have a lot of Officers, who come in with nothing but ROTC)."

Where's this statistic come from? It was nearly the opposite in my experience. The average reservist had less than 6 months, if you don't count boot/basic (choose your term, you sound Army, but that's just a guess). Agree with your implied assessment of ROTC officers, BTW. The ones we had the most trouble with came from that program. Made me wonder just what they were teaching in it.

As for time in grade, I guess experience varies. I know guys who stepped off active duty into the reserve, and were soon one or two extra grades over the guys they left behind.

" Following orders is a limited defense for enlisted troops, but the fact of the matter is that the orders were given, and by the RA."

I hold the one issuing the orders to be as culpable as the ones following them, but from what I've read on this, most of the specific "orders" (perhaps they should be more properly termed "suggestions") originated outside of the chain, and that's what I was responding to. What I'd like to get ahold of is the standing orders and related message traffic surrounding this. I'm seeing comments that so-and-so didn't like what was going on, but what *I* want to know is what so-and-so's standing orders actually were, and what so-and-so *did* upon receiving those orders/suggestions that were so upsetting. If the SO didn't include the suggestions, and they didn't do anything about it, let 'em twist in the wind. If, as I've heard whispers of, they asked for guidance/clarification from their superiors, and didn't get it, put the superiors up there twisting with 'em. We're the Good Guys; we don't do things like that.

What really burns me up is how long now it's going to take to recover our honor. It took 20 years for My Lai to subside, and even then it didn't go away completely. Now there's going to be whole 'nother generation growing up abusing the military. I'll stop now, before I start quoting Kipling.

Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2004, 06:28 PM:

The stat on time in service is from lots of travelling to and from in the Army, and I confess my association with the Reserves is mostly with Guard troops, I only see much in the way of the USAR in relation to missions.

I have worked with the Operations Staff of the 40ID, eight, or nine (or two or three, depends on how one measures such things) MOS schools, and a number of Guard units, as well as time on missions to Korea, Ukraine, San Fransico, and Iraq.

I was at Ft. Lewis, in a medical holding company for six months, after two months in an out-patient company at Walter Reed (my inpatient time is pretty much irrelevant).

Most (that is to say about 70 percent) of the troops I worked with did not come to the Guard off the street. They did at least one tour of active duty time, and the NCOs who came in had at least two.

The MPs I was working with, well a lot of them were some sort of cop on the outside, which makes a big difference when it came to judgement calls (for those who have not been in the Army {and I assume the same to be true of the other services} MPs are not really cops. They get instruction in the basics of police work, but they don't usually get to do much. Security guards and writers of traffic tickets is about it. When it comes to real police work, the CID is recruited from the entire Army).

As for the implied criticism, it wasn't meant to be critical. The point was that we officers (be the OCS, Service Academy, State Academy, or ROTC) come in wet behind the ears. The State Academy types are the best, generally, because they are all mustangs, but even they suffer from the trials of being at the bottom of one pecking order, and the top of another... with damn all respect (other than what the butter bar gifts them) to do the work required.

When one adds the attitudes the schools give (and the work requires) with the youth of most of them {my pet LT in Iraq was 23, going on 13) and it can make for interesting times.

I agree, the giver of the orders are the one culpable, which is why orders are a limited defense, for enlisted troops.

The problem with these orders is that they were given as policy, and the policy was bad.

One of the interesting indictments of the system is between the lines in the Taguba Report: a Navy E-7 refused to perform an unlawful order... good on him, but I don't see any indication he did anything more than that.

I am not so much reminded of Kipling, but rather Sassoon.

12. The General

‘GOOD-MORNING; good-morning!’ the General said
When we met him last week on our way to the line.
Now the soldiers he smiled at are most of ’em dead,
And we’re cursing his staff for incompetent swine.
‘He’s a cheery old card,’ grunted Harry to Jack
As they slogged up to Arras with rifle and pack.

. . . .
But he did for them both by his plan of attack.