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May 12, 2007

If the Terrorists Didn’t Exist…
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 09:19 AM * 300 comments

… we’d have to invent them.

By now we’ve all heard how the FBI, at the conclusion of a year-long investigation, has thwarted a bunch of Islamic terrorists who were intent on machinegunning soldiers at Fort Dix, New Jersey.

CHERRY HILL, New Jersey (AP) — Six Muslim men suspected of plotting to massacre U.S. soldiers at Fort Dix were ordered held without bail Friday.

Prosecutors argued that the men, all born outside the United States, pose a flight risk. They are being held at a federal detention center in Philadelphia.

The men were arrested Monday night during what the FBI said was an attempt to buy AK-47 machine guns, M-16s and other weapons.

They targeted Fort Dix, a post 25 miles east of Philadelphia that is used primarily to train reservists, partly because one of them had delivered pizzas there and was familiar with the base, according to court filings. Their objective was to kill “as many American soldiers as possible,” the documents said.

The men have lived in and around Philadelphia for years, worshipped at moderate mosques and worked blue-collar jobs installing roofs, driving a cab, delivering pizzas and baking bread. Four are ethnic Albanians from the former Yugoslavia, one is from Jordan and one is from Turkey.

Much like the Seas of David group in Florida, who tried to scam $50,000 out of an undercover FBI man to buy al Qaeda uniforms, these guys seemed unclear on the concept. How unclear?

… one of the men, Tatar, called a Philadelphia police officer in November, saying that he had been approached by someone who was pressuring him to obtain a map of Fort Dix, and that he feared the incident was terrorist-related, according to court documents.

The “someone” he’d been approached by was one of the two paid informants who

…railed against the United States, helped scout out military installations for attack, offered to introduce his comrades to an arms dealer and gave them a list of weapons he could procure, including machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades.

That’s right, one of the alleged “terrorists” was so alarmed by what the FBI’s undercover man was saying that he called the cops.

About the earlier “Seas of David” group, the Washington Post editorialized:

Does it matter? Yes, it does. It matters because the Bush administration has already lost almost all credibility when it comes to terrorism. It said there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and there were none. It said al-Qaeda and Iraq were in cahoots and that was not the case. It has so exaggerated its domestic success in arresting or convicting terrorists that it simply cannot be believed on that score. About a year ago, for instance, President Bush (with Gonzales at his side) asserted that “federal terrorism investigations have resulted in charges against more than 400 suspects, and more than half of those charged have been convicted.” The Post looked into that and found that the total number of (broadly defined) “terrorism” convictions was 39.

Or, as Talking Points Memo says about the current crop:

Writing about these domestic terrorism busts is always a delicate task. Living in Manhattan terrorism is not an abstract issue to me. And so long as they are operating within the bounds of the law, I certainly hope the FBI and CIA have their ears and eyes on the look out for the next terror plotters. But the real jokers they actually bust turn out to be such hopeless goofs that it’s hard to know whether to feel reassured that if Islamic terrorism is catching on in the US that it’s only doing so among the deeply stupid or that these are the only ones our guys can catch.
Comments on If the Terrorists Didn't Exist...:
#1 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2007, 09:43 AM:

Did the FBI also have a pool going on how long these guys would have lasted if they had tried to attack Ft Dix? (I heard their training was going into the Poconos and firing paintball guns. Sure, they're real terrorists. Not.)

#2 ::: John Stanning ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2007, 10:14 AM:

These Fort Dix people sound like just amateur nutters - no connection to Al-Qaeda or any other group - and, as someone says, not the brightest bulbs. If this is all the War On Terror has to fight, it should be over pretty soon. But as Jim implies, the government needs some terrorists to pop up now and then, or the US' continued presence in Iraq - which GWB keeps saying is vital to keep Americans safe at home - would seem even more futile.

Disconnected thoughts:

If these guys had got into Fort Dix with weapons, they probably wouldn't have managed to shoot as many people as Cho Seung-hui did at West Virginia Tech.

Does the Army really let random pizza-deliverers into Fort Dix? Maybe it needs to reconsider its entry rules. But it's common at civilian sites too, to find serious security at the front door, with guards and electronic passes for the people in suits, while round the back the cleaners, delivery people, etc., walk in and out unchallenged, often carrying big cardboard boxes.

#3 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2007, 11:15 AM:

I've mentally dubbed them the Dix Six, or...in light of their incompetence...the Six Dicks.

#4 ::: eric ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2007, 11:16 AM:
Does the Army really let random pizza-deliverers into Fort Dix? Maybe it needs to reconsider its entry rules.

Dunno about Ft Dix, but I certainly delivered pizzas to places that one would not expect to be able to go on Ft Belvoir (VA) in the 93-94 time frame. (Home at the time to some research labs and a communication center) At the time I was joking about a Top Secret- Pizza Delivery clearance, though I probably wouldn't do that now. The closed the base a few years ago, after I stopped delivering.

#5 ::: eric ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2007, 11:17 AM:

Oh, closed base means that they don't let outsiders on, not that the base isn't there anymore.

#6 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2007, 11:21 AM:

eric 5: Thanks for that clarification; I read it the other way first.

#7 ::: Erik V. Olson ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2007, 02:13 PM:

Wait.

The plan was to go to Fort Dix and shoot soldiers, right? There's a term for that -- "assaulting a fortification." It happens in war. It's frequently a bad idea, and occasionally a very bad idea, but it happens.

But it is terrorism to attack the enemy base with conventional weaponry? If so, there is no such thing as legitimate warfare.

#8 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2007, 02:35 PM:

I have occasion to go to a huge military hospital to get new prescriptions filled about once a quarter; I have no decal on my car, so I have to go through a check at the entrance. It's done by private security guards, not US military personnel (OK, maybe that's not a good use of the Army, but...) and it consists of the rent-a-cop checking to see that I have the military ID of the person for whom the prescription was written and that I have a valid drivers license. I can see where the rooftop Pizza Hut light might substitute for the ID under that kind of criteria.

I was doing this immediately following September 11 at the same hospital; every car had a serious check by armed US Army personnel, and there were random inspections with trunk-openings and mirrors under the car.

#9 ::: Keith Kisser ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2007, 02:56 PM:

This reminds me of the story that Theresa wrote about a few years back, the hapless guy who wanted to collapse the Brooklyn bridge with a blow torch and pluck.

The bit about the FBI scaring the terrorist, causing him to call the cops is bothersome, though. It's becoming clear to me now that the people in our government tasked with fighting terrorists watch Die Hard movies and episodes of 24 as if they were documentaries rather than the fantasies they are intended to be.

#10 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2007, 03:32 PM:

My favorite comment on this so far comes from Akron Ohio cartoonist Chip Bok.

...Trojan what?

#11 ::: Robin Z ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2007, 03:54 PM:

Not to mention that the guys in Die Hard weren't even terrorists.

#12 ::: Chris Gerrib ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2007, 04:10 PM:

A couple of points. First, when I was still in the Navy (1989-1994) I lived off base. Every morning, there was a big traffic backup just outside the gate. These folks were all military and all unarmed. A few guys with guns could produce a real bloodbath.

Second, and more importantly, this is what happens when a police agency is in charge of intelligence. Police get promoted based on number of arrests, so the incentive is to arrest as soon as you can. An agency focused on intelligence would put out moles, but they'd still be active in the field.

Now, I'm not thrilled with the idea of the current administration creating a domestic spy agency for many reasons, not the least of which is I don't want Michael Brown in charge of it. However, as long as the pressure and organizational structure is on arrests, we'll keep seeing these kinds of incidents.

#13 ::: Jacob Davies ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2007, 04:29 PM:

I liked Jon Stewart on Wednesday: "Here was the plan: six Islamic radicals, apparently from the former Yugoslavia, were plotting to attack a military base called Fort Dix in New Jersey; seemingly unaware that in this country, that is where we keep most of our weapons and the people who understand how to use them."

#14 ::: Alma Alexander ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2007, 05:00 PM:

For those interested in antecedents, a significant majority of these guys are of Albanian origin. You know, those lovely folks from the KLA whom the US has been aiding with such alacrity in order to enable Albania to land-grab Kosovo from the heartland of Serbia.

Chickens coming home to roost. The KLA is on record as doing plenty of bad-ass stuff back "home", but when what-was-then-Yugoslavia tried to step on their tails there was a hue and cry and a general uproar of "these guys are being persecuted!" Well, here they are, in America. Let the fun commence.

#15 ::: FungiFromYuggoth ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2007, 05:26 PM:

Of the Albanians, three entered the US by overstaying their visa two decades ago. The fourth was resettled as a refugee - the one arraigned on the lesser aiding & abetting charge.

Alma @14, you may wish to re-evaluate your sources of information.

#16 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2007, 05:36 PM:

Apparently, not just overstaying their visas, but running a business. Not even lurking in any black economy of illegal-immigrant labour.

#17 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2007, 06:48 PM:

Keith, #9: The phrase which immediately springs to mind here is "agent provocateur". How convenient that protection against entrapment is one of the rights that the Torture Act denies to "suspected terrorists".

#18 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2007, 07:18 PM:

The eldest of those Albanians was eight years old when he overstayed his visa.

As far as suspected terrorists not being able to claim entrapment -- who is it who couldn't be "suspected" if it was convenient for someone, somewhere, to do so?

"Suspected" doesn't have a definition. It's short for "if we feel like it."

You want my suspicion? I suspect that if it weren't for the FBI's paid informants that those six guys would still be doing roofing and delivering pizza, without a single thought in their heads about Fort Dix (unless someone out there wanted a pepperoni).

#19 ::: Eleanor ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2007, 07:38 PM:

#2: Does the Army really let random pizza-deliverers into Fort Dix?

ObSF: in the first episode of Torchwood Gwen finds her way into the Torchwood base (which is supposed to be top secret) because they've been getting pizzas delivered.

#20 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2007, 07:49 PM:

Fungi, Alma is from that area originally and has her own perceptions about how things went.

#21 ::: FungiFromYuggoth ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2007, 08:21 PM:

I don't intend to disagree with her perceptions of what happened in Kosovo; I'm hardly an expert and it's not relevant to the topic at hand.

What I meant was that if she's being told that these Albanians were resettled KLA members, she should take a look at who is saying that and why.

#22 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2007, 09:01 PM:

I suspect that if it weren't for the FBI's paid informants that those six guys would still be doing roofing and delivering pizza.

Absolutely.

"Raising the terror alert" no longer works. Now it's necessary to have some real "terrorists" to keep everyone scared.

#23 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2007, 09:07 PM:

I doubt we can evaluate what's going on in this case from the media reports with any confidence, but each of these revealed cases makes me suspect that most of the would-be terrorists we can find in the US are just not too competent.

I mean, terrorism by mass-shooting isn't inherently that hard, right? The VA Tech wacko did it, and he was an obvious, non-functional nut. If he'd worn a turban and made a video about killing Americans on behalf of Osama, we'd still be hearing about VA Tech as the new 9/11, with more restrictive laws and more sweeping powers needed. Various other mass shooters have done the same, overwhelmingly because the little voices told them to or they went berzerk or whatever.

If the claim that one of the "terrorists" called the cops at one point is true, it sure seems to undermine the notion that they were planning a real attack. Though who knows? Like I said, even an obvious non-functional nut can kill a bunch of people.

#24 ::: Jon H ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2007, 09:35 PM:

"Fungi, Alma is from that area originally and has her own perceptions about how things went."

Which is fine. But we're not talking about what happened then, are we?

#25 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2007, 10:12 PM:

I have no problem with these guys getting arrested, even if all they did was make scary videos and stupid threats. But I want them charged with a crime, and I want a public trial so we can find out if there was a crime, and if they were entrapped into it. Sure sounds like it. I don't want them to disappear down some Gitmo-like rabbit hole for the next eighteen months.

#26 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2007, 10:16 PM:

most of the would-be terrorists we can find in the US are just not too competent

Why the FBI seems to feel that they need to do this kind of encouraging bothers me - if someone asks for information they shouldn't have, that's one thing; if the FBI is doing all the work it's another, and 'entrapment' is not sufficiently strong as a description.

As Jim says, there's really nothing stopping the current government from declaring anyone to be a terrorist for no reason or any reason, and they have the power to lock people up and lose the key, and the people, for as long as they feel like. (And there are far too many people who think that's a good idea.)

#27 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2007, 10:20 PM:

Yet more proof that Michael Chertoff is incompetent:

In Venice, Italy, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff told The Associated Press that the arrests were a "vivid example of" the terror threats facing the world. He declined to comment further on the case, saying it was ongoing.

#28 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2007, 01:09 AM:

one of the alleged “terrorists” was so alarmed by what the FBI’s undercover man was saying that he called the cops

This reminds me of the time Maxwell Smart infiltrated some evil organization's inner council. When the time came for him to bring the organization down, he used a karate chop on the first evil councilmember who stepped in after him. The guy turned out to be FBI. Next guy gets the chop. Scotland Yard. The it's the CIA. Then it goes on and on, until we've gone thru the whole spook alphabet and we realize that the whole council had been infiltrated.

#29 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2007, 03:19 AM:

P J Evans @ 26

This is the way the FBI has done things since at least the early '50s*. Read the stories of how they infiltrated the Communist Party of the USA**, or how they tried to infiltrate and entrap members of the SDS*** and Black Panthers in the 60s and 70s.

For some reason, every time the FBI screws up royally everyone thinks it's the first time. While I haven't done a detailed analysis from source documentation, based on the events I've heard of over my lifetime, the FBI has always been marginally competent at best, and often outright incompetent at law enforcement per se. They forte has always been using PR to convince people of their confidence. This includes carefully selecting the cases they are seen to be working on, from those they have the most chance of solving.


* I conjecture, with not a lot of hard data, that blowing cases out of proportion for PR was the FBI modus operandi from the very beginning. The "10 Most Wanted List" and the radio show "The FBI in Peace and War" are evidence for this.

** And ask yourself why the CP was worth the trouble, except insofar as they could be persuaded by agents provocateur to escalate from political action to violence and real espionage. Oh, certainly, keep an eye on them, but the actual level of surveillance was excessive.

*** Some of these operations were close to Keystone Kops level farce. The agents often had very little background, and stood out like sore thumbs. In some groups, I have been told, it became a game to see how much nonsense they could be fed. As time went on, the Feds realized what was happening and started using group members they'd turned with blackmail or other pressure instead of inserting their own agents.

#30 ::: Joe McMahon ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2007, 04:39 AM:

@12: Has the 1993 CIA shooting by Mir Amal Kanzi been completely forgotten now? He shot up the cars of folks waiting to get in at the gate.

#31 ::: Arthur D. Hlavaty ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2007, 06:39 AM:

Old story from sex & dope busts. There's a horrible true story in Laura Kipnis's Bound and Gagged about a guy doing 15 years for helping a couple of undercover agents fantasize about making a snuff movie.

#32 ::: Alan Braggins ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2007, 07:03 AM:

#7 "If so ... no such thing as legitimate warfare"

It's presumably still not terrorism if your attack is carried out in uniform by members of a formal armed force belonging to a recognised state which has declared war. No such thing as guerrilla warfare, perhaps.

#33 ::: Dave Langford ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2007, 07:24 AM:

#28 ... sounds as though the Maxwell Smart scriptwriters had been reading G.K. Chesterton's The Man Who Was Thursday. Or maybe the homage to this in Harry Harrison's Bill, the Galactic Hero.

#34 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2007, 07:30 AM:

Dave Langford @ 33... No matter where they got the inspiration, isn't it scary that we sometimes can't tell Reality from an episode of Get Smart? It's like reading about the latest antics or utterances from the White House and wondering if that's another spoof from the Onion.

Maybe KAOS won and we didn't notice.

#35 ::: JC ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2007, 08:12 AM:

Maybe I'd feel differently if I had actually seen the video in question. But, based on the description I heard on NPR of the video, there are a bunch of contexts where the video would be perfectly innocent. Perhaps this wasn't one of those contexts. But I'm not getting the impression that, as a society, we care about the difference. e.g., NPR called the guy at the video store "the unsung hero of the story." Well, maybe. But right now, it looks like they were a bunch of blowhards whom the FBI strung along.

There was a This American Life episode about a guy charged with a crime for essentially buying a weapon from the FBI (in disguise) to sell to the FBI (in a different disguise). It's as if the FBI's actual job is to conduct moral purity tests. Tempt people, then arrest those who succumb.

#36 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2007, 08:37 AM:

#23, Albatross, If he'd worn a turban and made a video about killing Americans on behalf of Osama, we'd still be hearing about VA Tech as the new 9/11, with more restrictive laws and more sweeping powers needed.

Not to pick nits or anything, but if he'd worn a turban we'd all be freaking right now about Sikh militants, not Al Qaida. (Who also have a track record of massacring North Americans ...)

Hint: there are many violent ideologies out there. If militant islam goes out of fashion, the FBI won't be hard up for replacements to fill the frame.

#37 ::: Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2007, 09:20 AM:

Charlie,

You can pick those nits, but the sort of people who write "PANIC! Terrorists!" headlines wouldn't: they don't seem to understand that there is a difference between Sikhism and Islam, let alone who wears what clothing.

#38 ::: A.R.Yngve ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2007, 09:25 AM:

A recent incident in Joliet, where a cop attacked a Sikh and verbally abused him as a supposed "Arab", inspired me to (very quickly) write a short story: "Bad Egg"

#39 ::: Bruce Cohen, SpeakerToManagers ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2007, 03:48 PM:

Alan Braggins @ 32

No such thing as guerrilla warfare, perhaps.

The line between terrorism and guerilla war has been somewhat blurry of late. At this point, I doubt they even refer to the same category of thing: "guerilla war" is a military term for a kind of conflict, and "terrorism" is a political term for the way your enemies fight.*

* Yes, there's a much more precise definition having to do with the use of highly destructive tactics against civilian populations in order to cause demoralization. But the way the term is used these days is much more elastic, and more than a little self-serving.

#40 ::: Howard Peirce ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2007, 04:27 PM:

The mention of Chesterton reminds me again of what a great novel Conrad's The Secret Agent is. Conrad really nailed the symbiotic relationship between terrorism and authoritarianism, and captured the rich stew of comical stupidity, vanity, hubris, and pure crazy that makes the whole system work with such tragic results.

I read The Secret Agent shortly after 9/11 as part of my grieving process, and Conrad hasn't let me down yet in terms of making sense of what's going on in the GWOT.

#41 ::: Steve Buchheit ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2007, 04:40 PM:

Well, considering that they were talking about a "map of the fort" I don't think attacking the car line going in crossed their minds. Given some of the other things about this case, I'm really, really, really not worried about these kind of terrorists wanna-bees. I'm more concerned about those who want me to be afraid of them.

"Silly jihadis, they brought guns to a tank fight."

#42 ::: BigAl ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2007, 05:49 PM:

Bruce @ 39
Alan @ 32
Erik @ 7

Thinking back and trying to summon up what Che Guerverra would have said in 'On Guerilla Warfare' I confess the gray hair is real and I can summon no direct quotes. But it seems to me back there in the mist of youth that:

1. By inference such warfare is warfare against occupation, i.e. it is an indigenous population taking on an occupier through popular uprising. The two folks that I can think of off hand (Vo Nguyen Giap and Gueverra) I think would both start from that premise.

So . . . Not that I think we should be satisifed with but two choices, in that case, attacking Fort Dix would not qualify as a guerilla engagement (frankly I would be more apt to consider it one of those 'very bad ideas' and leave it at that).

But is it terrorism?

Let's try something slightly different. Let's take a couple things that we know of and let's imagine that we interrupted each in the planning stage. Let's take say: The Twin Towers, the USS Cole and let's place them (as planned acts) against Fort Dix.

2. The guerilla warriors cited above went to great lengths to put civilians and targets containing large civilian populations out of bounds. Remember, your objective was to get folks on your side, to bring people to your arms. Now that, it seems to me heads you in the right direction.

The Twin Towers is a terrorist attack (with certainty). It couldn't possibly be considered a guerilla operation.
Fort Dix is probably not a terrorist attack (with some ambivalence). Like it or not, as Eric @ 7 points out Fort Dix is after all a military base full of what? Full of war fighters.
The USS Cole is not a terrorist attack (with certainty). A warship that contains nothing but military, coming into port is a legitimate military target. No?

But then you get stuck.

It was Khadafi (not someone I find myself referring to often) who pointed out that the USS Nimitz off the shores of Tripoli represents the biggest terrorist threat he knew of. And given his experience with F-111's coming out of the night, attacking clearly civilian targets, with no formal declaration of war, simply a President's assertion that this represented retaliation, we would be forced to at least consider putting such an act in the terrorist category. And I don't know about you, but I find that more than a little unsettling.

At the bottom of the well I think it should probably work something like this. Terrorism is an act:

* Which is clearly random in nature;
* That targets almost exculsively civilian non-combatants who are demonstrably engaged in the peaceful pursuit of their ordinary everyday lives;
* By people who have communicated their intent prior to such an act;
* With weapons that include either unusual features or incredible fire power or both.

Is what we need. It's really important for me to say that I intend to hurt you, and to make it clear that I intend to act randomly that puts the 'T' in terror. And it is also critical that I do it in a way that gets your attention (a plane run into a sky scraper). At which point:

Twin Towers (still terrorist)
Fort Dix (just plain stupid, but more effectively seen as criminal behavior and more likely therefore to allow for considerations of entrapment)
USS Cole (still not).

But unfortunately I'd also have to admit: Khadafi while not exactly right, most certainly had an argument.

#43 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2007, 06:42 PM:

BigAl, I think it could be argued that terrorism is a form of guerilla warfare.

Terrorism, the guerillas terrorising those who supported the French, was a part of the original guerilla war in Spain. That blurs the difference between a guerilla and a terrorist, but there still remains a reason for the act.

Essentially, the terrorism is directed at an identifiable class of targets. What makes the terrorism of 9/11 not-war is that it was random. If war is a trial by combat, terrorism is a show-trial.

#44 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2007, 09:02 PM:

It's worth remembering that in addition to the military personnel on post, most sizeable military installations also have a fair number of dependents--that is, unarmed spouses and children--living on post, in addition to the civilian personnel* that provide a variety of services, from runnning the PX/BX and commissary, to working at the medical center. schools and mess halls and so on. All of these people would be pretty vulnerable to such an attack, since the housing section of a post is typically segregated from the business end of it.
Assuming they could get on post with their weapons (shall we all chant the verse about how "assume" makes an Ass out of U and Me?), attackers would be able to do a good bit of damage there, especially at night, before the people with serious weapons were able to show up and deal with them--probably with extreme prejudice, given the circumstances.

I still think their chances of getting weapons and ammunition on post in sufficient quantities without getting caught were covered by the Chance Brothers Actuarial Group and Betting Shop (call and ask for Slim or Fat); it's possible the plan was to make caches in advance--some posts have more unused and not regularly-checked places than others where things could be hidden, but that's another thing I'd consider a fool's hope.

Of course the FBI relies on agents provocateurs. (So does the ATF--Ruby Ridge, anyone?) It's so much easier than doing real intelligence work, and you can make up scripts that suit your fantasies (or publicity and budgetary needs) so much more easily that way. The bureau was run for a very long time by a man with a rich fantasy life who was unable to deal with the truth about himself and I think J. Edgar "There is no Mafia and I am not a homosexual" Hoover's preference for acceptable fantasy over unsettling truth is in their DNA by now.


*These usually don't live on post in the US--there's not enough housing available for the qualified military families most places.

#45 ::: Seth Breidbart ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2007, 09:11 PM:

JC@35, I don't know about the FBI, but there are many stories about the DEA doing precisely that (being both the supposed seller and buyer until their victim yielded to temptation; or even just told them to talk to each other and leave him alone).

#46 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2007, 09:53 PM:

fidelio

Add to that, I've heard that many military families (women and children) are also familiar with weapons and probably have them at home. This would make them not good targets of choice.

The networks are still trying to get us to believe that these guys were Serious Terrorists and that we should Be Very Afraid.

#47 ::: BigAl ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2007, 10:14 PM:

Dave Bell @ 43

You made me go look it up :)

"Acts of sabotage are very important. It is necessary to distinguish clearly between sabotage, a revolutionary and highly effective method of warfare, and terrorism, a measure that is generally ineffective and in-discriminate in its results, since it often makes victims of innocent people and destroys a large number of lives that would be valuable to the revolution."
Che Guevera, On Guerrila Warfare

When all's said and done his isn't the last word but most folks who ever had any skin in the game, that is, actually fought (and in his case died) agree with the above sentiment.

And no it's by no means easy and its always blurred so don't get me wrong. When you take off the uniform things get confusing (really confusing). Algeria, Rhodesia, we could write ourselves a long list.

What I was after initially was this:

An act of 'terrorism' has boundaries, probably a lot sharper than anything that one might consider guerilla. And we can do some good if we remember that terrorizing someone isn't always a matter of 'their crazies' running around throwing bombs or crashing airplanes. That reasonable men can conclude that sometimes its also attributable to 'our crazies' sending very sophisticated weapons of war into places on very thin pretexts. Seen from that end of the telescope I think its a lot easier to ferret out the propaganda (like the Dix Six, or as someone above suggested the Six Dicks) from real and present dangers.

There's no doubt there's some dangerous people out there willing to do some really scary things. And we should be wary and vigilent. And we should take care in really knowing what constitutes dangerous, cause a lot of those dangerous people willing to do some dangerous things wear suits, travel in motorcades and work in downtown Washington DC.

#48 ::: John ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2007, 07:35 AM:

Down here in NC, the pizza deliverers to Fort Bragg were the ones most upset at the Dix Six. They said on the local TV news that as a result of this concern, in order to get into the base it now takes them over 30 minutes just to get through the front gate.

#49 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2007, 08:02 AM:

#46--P.J. Evans--I have not found that to be consistently the case. Of the military families I have known, familiarity with and access to weapons, especially among children under 10 or 12 years of age, is about what you'd expect for the general population. Also, most posts tend to discourage having personal weapons in post housing--this may have changed since I lived near Ft. Campbell, but I rather doubt it. IIRC, friends who owned deer rifles, for example, either lived off-post or had to have them registered and locked up if they lived on post. It's been a while, though, and I am not entirely clear on the details. However, as a general rule, the people in charge do not like for there to be weapons on post that are not under official control, and they have the powers to make that rule stick, as far as military personnel and their families are concerned.

#50 ::: A.R.Yngve ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2007, 08:19 AM:

Cold pizza! WILL THE TERROR NEVER END??

#51 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2007, 08:26 AM:

1) Fools exist. (e.g. Michael Chertoff.)

2) Fools can do real damage. (e.g. George W. Bush.)

3) That doesn't mean it's okay to take a bunch of fools and mold them yourself into something they'd never be on their own just to give yourself a headline about your "success" in the War on Terrorism.

#52 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2007, 08:37 AM:

I've seen formal definitions of terrorism, but I think from the perspective of most governments, the critical feature is that they don't come directly from another government. That is, deterrence doesn't work.

Now, this is self-serving, since we have no qualms about launching cruise missiles at people who've annoyed us, because very few countries have a credible deterrent against us. But it's also an important functional definition, because it says something about what defenses are useful. Any moderately powerful government can manage an attack on us hundreds of times more powerful than the 9/11 attack, but we mostly don't worry about that. If we know the return address, and the people making the decision about the attack understand what will happen next, we have a fine defense available. On the other hand, that defense doesn't work against Al Qaida, or Tim McVeigh. When McVeigh blew up a building full of people, there was nobody to bomb. When AQ did the same with a bigger building, there still wasn't really anyone to bomb. We could go bomb and invade Afghanistan, but we were only marginally hitting AQ--mostly we were hitting people who supported AQ, if that. (And invading Iraq had even less connection with AQ.)

The FBI has a pretty mixed history with public prosecutions involving terrorism (go ask Richard Jewel), but I don't think it makes sense to be too critical of arresting a bunch of blowhards who are talking a big game, but probably weren't going to do anything about it. It's probably pretty hard to be sure they're really blowhards, and the FBI agents *really* don't want to be on the news, explaining how they'd investigated this group that just killed 20 people, but had decided that the group was just a bunch of harmless blowhards.

#53 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2007, 08:38 AM:

For unstoppable pizza delivery, there is always Hiro Protagonist, in Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash.

#54 ::: Pete Darby ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2007, 08:39 AM:

JC#35

Hang on... the function of the FBI is to tempt people to transgress, and then hand them over to another branch of government to punish?

Is it me or did it just get old testament in here?

!NATAS SI IBF EHT

#55 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2007, 08:45 AM:

Pete Darby #54: One way of seeing this is LeGuin's:

"To make a thief, make an owner; to create crime, create laws."

In a sense that's circular (you can't have theft without property, nor crime without prohibitions), but it makes a deeper point: agents of law enforcement are rewarded for catching criminals, if you catch criminals you look productive and you get promoted. It thus makes sense to create criminals.

#56 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2007, 09:14 AM:

Referring back to the short dialogue at #23/#36 between albatross and Charlie.
The first person to be killed in a hate crime related to September 11 was Balbir Singh Sodhi, a turban-wearing sikh shot in Mesa, Arizona on September 15th, 2001. So there are certainly North Americans who can't distinguish between different headwear and different religions, at least when the people involved are browner than them.
BTW, the 1985 Air India bombing, usually blamed on separatist Sikh militants, was, one suspects, more aimed at the ethnically Indian or Sikh passengers, rather than Canadian or USians, but possibly hoping to get more publicity by involving them too, and because some of the ethnically Indian or Sikhs were also North Americans.

#57 ::: JC ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2007, 09:24 AM:

#52:It's probably pretty hard to be sure they're really blowhards, and the FBI agents *really* don't want to be on the news, explaining how they'd investigated this group that just killed 20 people, but had decided that the group was just a bunch of harmless blowhards.

But this is the argument that causes people to spread nonsensical chain letters about people going a party, waking up in a bathtub to find their kidneys have been stolen. This is the argument that says we should treat everyone as guilty and make them prove their innocence because we value protective cover over justice. This is Dick Cheney's 1% Doctrine.

If the blowhards broke the law, they should be arrested and tried. But it's rather unseemly for the FBI to play this for any more than it is.

#58 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2007, 09:39 AM:

albatross, #52, I think your last paragraph misses the point.

It's not that the FBI have arrested some blowhards. It is that FBI seem to have been using undercover agents to provoke them into illegal acts.

Here in the UK we have some rumblings over the July bombings in London. It looks as though there was a cock-up in an earlier investigation, leading to a ringleader getting way without being investigated.

There looks to be a certain amount of bureaucratic CYA going on over that: did the security services and the police talk the same language?

I've not heard anyone suggesting entrapment should have been used.

#59 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2007, 10:35 AM:

fidelio

I'll take your word for it, since what I got was (at best) second hand information.

#60 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2007, 11:25 AM:

#59 P J Evans--There's a wide range of people in the US military, with a wide range of views on guns in the home and weapons training for their children, but by and large, we shouldn't mistake them for the Dorsai--and I refer you back to the gun use thread, and the remarks in it about the effort involved in training people to use guns effectively.

#61 ::: pat greene ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2007, 01:58 PM:

Joe McMahon @ 30 -- I certainly remember the CIA shootings. I lived in southern McLean at the time and had driven past that intersection some fifteen minutes earlier on my way to the GW Parkway to take my husband to work.

You know, there was a potential terrorist arrest last month. Six Alabama men were arrested with a significant cache of actual weapons and the intention of killing Mexican immigrants. Somehow, though, they doesn't seem to count as terrorists as far as the media is concerned. Maybe because they're not Muslim.

#62 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2007, 01:59 PM:

Serge 53: And that would be one of the stupidest character names in history, if NS hadn't had the excuse that the character called himself that. So it's just one of the stupidest main characters in history.

I hated that book. It's full of religious bigotry, chiefly in that the entire plot hinges on the ridiculous notion that ancient Pagan peoples were Pagan because their brains were inferior.

I've never read anything else by that author, and given how little time I have to read any more, I don't see why I should.

#63 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2007, 02:09 PM:

Xopher @ 62... I only brought up that book for the sake of the pizza joke. I personally didn't care for it at all. I seem to remember that he had come across a metaphor about information transmission and taken it too far into the Real World. I liked Cryptonomicon, but I felt it was going all over the place. And a bit too hip for me. (Which probably brands me as an old fart.)

#64 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2007, 02:12 PM:

#62 Xopher:

How did you get that from Snow Crash?

Spoiler text:
Gurer jnf fhccbfrqyl n ebbg ynathntr bs uhznaf, juvpu yrg lbh qb fbzrguvat unysjnl orgjrra tvivat pbzznaqf naq cebtenzzvat crbcyr. Gur ynathntr unq orra ybfg, naq gur vqrn (V gubhtug) jnf gung gur onq thl unq erqvfpbirerq/erpbafgehpgrq vg. Znlor V'z zvferzrzorevat, ohg V pna'g guvax bs nal ersrerapr gb cntnaf be crbcyr onpx va uvfgbel orvat vasrevbe, bgure guna va gur ynpx bs cevrfg-xvatf gb ercebtenz gurz orpnhfr gurl qba'g xabj gur ebbg ynathntr nalzber.

What am I missing? I don't recall anything about pagans being inferior.

#65 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2007, 02:14 PM:

#58:

Fair enough. I'm not trying to excuse entrapment, I'm just saying that it's probably sensible to keep an eye on people who you think are probably harmless blowhards, just in case they turn out to be more serious than you thought. And pathetic losers can still kill lots of people, as various mass shootings have demonstrated time and again.

#66 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2007, 02:18 PM:

Fort security: dependents and guests have to be credentialed and inspected to get in and out. Food deliveries coming through the gates are from approved vendors only, and confirmed with a phone call from the gate (and I think there are Domino's and Pizza Hut on base anyway). Nonresident dependents and deliveries from off-base can be forbidden without notice by orders of the Commanding General's office or by the ranking security officer.

Stick around the back country of Ft. Lewis or the Yakima Training Area and the MPs show up out of nowhere, locked and loaded; it's been that way since Jane Fonda and Stephanie Koontz invaded during the FTA Tour in 1970. The urban contact boundaries are a mass of electronic surveillance and human patrols which is apparently seamless and pretty much invisible.

Anyone choosing an American military base as a terrorism target is likely operating out of very partial and mostly wrong information, although what I'm hearing of current recruitment standards makes me suspect that the easy way in is through the recruiter's office. The big security breeches of the past couple decades have been by way of gang-associated soldiers or plain vanilla crooks in the ranks.

#67 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2007, 02:21 PM:

Charlie Stross and others:

What's the right term for the head-wrapping worn by some Muslims, such as Osama bin Laden?

#68 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2007, 02:23 PM:

I must say here that I know perfectly well that the run of members of the US Military are just people doing a hard job, and that the officer corps, although neither inerrant nor actually in touch with some source of mystical power, are on the whole competent beyond the run of the civilian manager class. My host in Montana is a Lt. Co. USA ret, and a generous and admirable human being.

#69 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2007, 02:40 PM:

it's probably sensible to keep an eye on people who you think are probably harmless blowhards,

keep an eye on, sure. Keystone cop an arrest, I'm not so sure about.

going a party, waking up in a bathtub to find their kidneys have been stolen

I know someone who had that happen to them. Well, I knew someone, who was really good friends with this guy, who worked with another guy, who's third cousin had heard in a high school cafeteria that this had really happened.

#70 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2007, 03:00 PM:

albatross, #65: There's a HUGE difference between "continuing to keep an eye on a group that you think are probably just blowhards" and "encouraging a group of blowhards to become more than that in order to score publicity points for Fearless Leader".

#71 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2007, 03:57 PM:

To touch on the question of arms in the home on post.

It's not happening. To have a firearm, on post, at every post I've been on (Fts.Bragg, Devens, Huachuca, Leonard Wood, Lewis, Ord, Hood, Hunter-Liggit; as well as Walter Reed and DLI , and Cps. SLO, Roberts, Williams, Parks as well as AFBs Edwards, Vandenberg and Travis) requires registering it, and then keeping it in an Arms Room. Checking it out is a pain (at DLI it required a phone call, and then sheduling both the pick up, and the drop off). It's discouraged.

A lot of posts have a rod and gun club, which is an acceptable alternative to the Arms Room, but still means the weapons are not in the home.

To violate that (which does happen) is a court martial offense. Keeping a firearm in the barracks is a career killer. There are stories (one comes from DLI) of NCOs who kept one, and had it used by suicidal soldiers when it was being shown off. This smacks of urban legend to me, (I don't hand off weapons I've not cleared; and if I were keeping an illicit one, I'd not be showing it to people).

In the barracks (as opposed to on post housing) most weapons are prohibited. Swords, knives (those get iffy. Some commanders demand that all knives larger than 'x' be kept in the company arms room, some don't care) bokken, etc., are usually addressed in policy letters.

About the only thing which is free and clear is sporting equipment, e.g. golf-clubs and softball bats (when I was at DLI the CQ had to do walk-arounds at East Eurpean Languages II. We weren't allowed weapons; and the post wasn't secure. I know this because the run team went out a hole in the fence to get to S.B. Morse Golf Course to train. We were required, by the First Sergeant, to carry a baseball bat).

And rifles aren't carried with ammo, apart from the range.

So an attack could be nasty.

Until the MPs show up. They have not only more firepower than any six guys are going to be packing, but they have what most people don't, training in fire and manuever.

Cops don't have that, which is why the Northridge Bank Heist Siege lasted so long.

Most crooks don't have it, which is why no cops got killed at the Northridge Bank Heist Siege (they watched Heat and took the wrong lessons; i.e. automatic weapons are all-powerfull, instead of, co-operative action, good training and a plan, will let people get past the shell of police encirclement).

They could have killed a number of people, but the end result would have been foregone, and the odds are people would react diffferently from a school shooting.

Training tells.

#72 ::: onceamarine ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2007, 04:17 PM:

Ammunition anywhere off the firing range is usually a military no-no. I recall way back when our platoon/barracks getting a surprise inspection in the middle of the night, with an emphasis on making sure all the weapons were locked and no spare cartridges were rolling around in anyone's footlockers.

Turned out the platoon sergeant had just seen "Full Metal Jacket" earlier that night...

#73 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2007, 04:22 PM:

Terry Karney says "Training tells." and is entirely right; I worry a great deal less about the military people doing their jobs right (although the time the guy miscomputed his targeting on the big guns and dropped a heavy artillary shell in the middle of Highway 510, narrow missing the Bonneville Power Administration distribution lines and the Nisqually Tribe's fireworks stands was proof that anybody can make a mistake) than, say, the power company or the railroad. And I include keeping people of ill intent from getting their stuff and using it against the civilian populace among all their jobs.

#74 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2007, 04:25 PM:

Terry - you mean the North Hollywood bank robbery? (just nitpicking here, moving right along...)

#75 ::: Alan Braggins ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2007, 04:35 PM:

#71: they watched Heat
Clearly the answer is to watch different movies - I once saw a very silly movie about Swedish ninjas, with the message that a room full of people with automatic weapons can empty their magazines without scratching the heroes. Of course this does require realising that you aren't the heroes (who then killed everyone in the room with one shot/blow/throwing star/blowgun dart per victim). (Then they took the atomic physicist they were rescuing back through the snow (in their black ninja costumes) to their waiting Volvos.)

#76 ::: Bruce Cohen, SpeakerToManagers ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2007, 05:24 PM:

Fragano @ 55

It thus makes sense to create criminals.

And conversely, it makes sense for criminals to want to create cops. Which is why the drug cartels are happy with the War on Drugs: it gives them more government with a stake in what they do, and more bureaucrats and cops to bribe.

#77 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2007, 05:26 PM:

Alan Braggins @ 75... There's got to be the germ of an idea in there for a Skiffy Channel movie. Maybe there's a secret robotics project going on inside the military base, and ED-209 automatically goes after the Swedish ninjas. And, after it chases them into a city, the robot wreaks havoc everywhere and its creator (a Beautiful Female Scientist) can't stop it, until the slacker pizza-delivery guy (played by Dean Cain) discovers that he is made of strong stuff after all. Maybe they gum up ED-209's guns and joints with a few well placed pizzas.

#78 ::: Chris Gerrib ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2007, 05:46 PM:

I don't know if the Dix Six were doing anything criminal or not. However, a couple of points.

1) Familiarity breeds contempt and is a good way to bypass security. I eat lunch every Tuesday at Argonne National Labs (nuclear weapons research facility). The first Tuesday, the gate guard checked my trunk. The 15th? I got a smile and a wave.

2) Terrorists aren't typically successful folks, at least by the standard of their society. If they were, they would have too much invested in the status quo to run around blowing stuff up. So in the US, terrorists, from the KKK to the radical anti-abortion groups, have a high percentage of folks from the margins of society. Unfortunately, it doesn't take a genius to pull a trigger.

None of this justifies arresting people who've done nothing wrong, of course.

#79 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2007, 05:48 PM:

ED-209

Funny how a just reading that can make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

#80 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2007, 05:51 PM:

Greg London @ 79... ED-209... Funny how a just reading that can make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

"Dick, I'm verydisappointed."
"It's just a glitch."

#81 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2007, 06:11 PM:

Dick, you're FIRED!

Thank you.

#82 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2007, 06:14 PM:

Pakistan is invading my border!

Nuke Em! Get them before they get you.

#83 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2007, 06:32 PM:

Chris Gerrib @ 78: Last I heard, terrorists are apt to be ordinary middle class people.

#84 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2007, 06:34 PM:

P.J. Yes, I had a memoray lapse. North Hollywood, North-ridge, what's a few miles between friends?

Which is, "amusing" because I was on my way to the bank (across the parking lot from that BofA) and stopped by the house to pick somehing up, and the news was on.

So I went to a different branch.

I also saw, pretty damned quick how I'd have done it differently. I don't know that I'd have been able to stay uncaught, but I could have gotten out of the immediate area.

A little bit of planning, and some prep work, with somone on the outside to spot for just the happenstance which took place (cops, at random, stopping by), and they'd have been on the lam. not ducks in a shooting gallery.

#85 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2007, 07:02 PM:

You know what I want to know? How come the media don't call this guy a terrorist.

I know why. I just get too angry when I think about it.

#86 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2007, 07:19 PM:

And btw "Army of God" == "Hezbollah"

#87 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2007, 07:20 PM:

A long time ago I was in a minibus with a bunch of wargamers, planning a riot.

One of the gamers was a cop, who had just been through riot training. British style. And he said they did the Zulu-style drumming on the shields to intimidate the opposition.

But the point was that criminals and rioters have no grasp of tactics. You have to keep an eye on the side streets, but most of the people who run that way are going to keep running.

A couple of weeks later I fielded a soviet-style force against his Americans, with hidden movement and such. So this was in the days when the Soviet Union still was the Soviet Union, and maybe the rules we were using werre a little optimistic on their equipment quality.

And I got good die rolls.

A flank attack that takes out 4 M1s also does bad things to a units morale. Maybe the rules underestimated the quality of US training, but the soviet-style force at the NTC was quite able to embarrass the rest of the US Army.

One difference between real bank robbers and the US Army is that bank robbers don't trust each other. So you end up with one vehicle loaded with robbers and loot. It's why the robbery in The Thomas Crown Affair wouldn't work.

#88 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2007, 07:28 PM:

Xopher, I'd rather they were called murderers. Serial killers. Criminals. Calling such people terrorists gives their cause a status it does not deserve.

But if we're going to call non-white foreigners "terrorists", white creeps like that should be allowed the same status.

All men are created equal. Right?

#89 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2007, 07:53 PM:

Dave Bell: Was that ASqL? I recall playing that as a Micro-armor game. I got the short straw (Russian T-55s).

I worked my way up the wooded flank (because my Plt. could see the M-1s, and there was no way in hell I was going toward that). The guy moving the M-60s in the woods didn't play the same level of "what does my Cdr) know, and was overcautious (if I got the drop on him, I might have come out all right; five to four for numbers... ) and ran away.

So I got to move up on the M-1s from the rear, while they were duking it out with hull-down T-72s and T-80s (this was back in '95).

It was a rout. The Amis had set up poorly, let us (the Soviets) get good ground, and then we got decent dice.

The T-72/80, wel fought, is at a disadvantage against the M1, well fought, but if they can get position, they aren't as ill as all that.

But there isn't anyone on the planet (who has them) who is spending the money to train the crews to be that good.

When I was in Iraq, I saw the remains of a lot of tank fights (we moved north five days behind the lead element). I also got to read the after action reports.

The Iraqis were textbook for placement. But they rarely hit the M1s, and never waited to get shots at the good target points (flank hull-turret seam).

So the best they got were mobility kills. The worst they got was a miss (the boresight was set in the heat of the day, and not re-set when the barrel cooled... the round goes high). Against the crews of the 3ID, they didn't get a second shot.

#90 ::: Bruce Cohen, SpeakerToManagers ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2007, 07:59 PM:

Dave Bell @ 88

All men are created equal. Right?

Nope. We're just obligated to let everybody prove whether they are or not before lowering the boom on the ones who aren't equal in the respect of simple human decency.

#91 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2007, 08:23 PM:

#85 Xopher:

I thought he was universally considered a terrorist. (WTF *else* would he have to do to be called a terrorist? Isn't blowing up random people to achieve political goals enough?) I wonder why they called him an "extremist" instead of a "terrorist." Is this some kind of editorial policy?

The other weird thing about the article was the apparent shock that this guy, who spent several years going around murdering and trying to murder people, is now writing letters with nasty things in them. What a shock! Wow, you know, maybe his willingness to say mean things about the nurse he maimed has something to do with his willingness to try to blow her up.

#92 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2007, 08:58 PM:

albatross 91, that editorial policy is the thing that makes me angry. And I think the shock is that he's allowed to write these things.

I don't believe in locking people away in Gitmo, but sooner Eric fucking RUDOLPH than a bunch of innocent Afghan farmers!

#93 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2007, 09:32 PM:

Dave, #88: Calling such people terrorists gives their cause a status it does not deserve.

Two thoughts:

1) Call them what you like, but when they resort to using terrorist tactics, then they become terrorists Q.E.D. It doesn't do the rest of us any good to whitewash it, which I believe is the point of Xopher's argument.

2) "Their cause" is a religious jihad, in support of which they use terrorism. The problem is that because it's a Christian religious jihad, it gets a free pass from too many people. A slight variation of IOKIYAR.

#94 ::: miriam beetle ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2007, 10:12 PM:

mostly people are not called "terrorists" when one supports their cause. in that case, they are "activists."

#95 ::: miriam beetle ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2007, 10:13 PM:

maybe "extremists" are when one could go either way on their cause.

#96 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2007, 10:35 PM:

Making Light has been quite clear: Eric Rudolph is a terrorist.

If Homeland Security wanted to get serious about terrorism in America they'd be coming down on middle-class white male conservatives.

Because that's who our terrorists have been.

#97 ::: Dawno ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2007, 11:04 PM:

albatross @ 67 - do you mean keffiyeh?

#98 ::: Bruce Cohen, SpeakerToManagers ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2007, 11:13 PM:

miriam beetle @ 94

mostly people are not called "terrorists" when one supports their cause. in that case, they are "activists."

Or, if they're Nicaraguan, "freedom fighters". This is why I said upthread '"terrorism" is a political term for the way your enemies fight'.

#99 ::: miriam beetle ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2007, 12:20 AM:

dawno,

do you mean keffiyeh?

i've never seen osama bin laden in a keffiyeh. yasser arafat wore a keffiyeh.

i don't know what the head wrap (not the woolen afghani hat) bin laden sometimes wears is called.

#100 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2007, 05:06 AM:

Out here, one night some bloke broke in and stole
A whole em one one three - the Aussie marque,
The thirty mill up top - out of the park
The local A res had. He used a pole
To jump the wire, soaring like a lark.
No battery, but he could simply bring
A generator. Made the engine bark,
And nobody could do a bloody thing.

He drove it through the gate. It made a hole
Of that, and of the fence. A splendid arc
Of blue, the live wire snapped. But just to cark
A fence was nothing. The base was not his sole
Objective. So he floored it. Being stark
Insane, he went to town. No bulldusting -
Drove down the highway in the midnight dark,
And nobody could do a bloody thing.

He reached the cee bee dee. By then, the whole
Police force was escorting him. But hark,
They couldn't stop him. What with? For a snark
He trashed a roadblock. Then he took his toll
On Treasury, and Law. Struck like a shark
And tore great lumps from them, demolishing
Their fine facades. They still display the mark,
And nobody could do a bloody thing.

Prince, what would you do? Would you embark
On calling tanks on to the streets? The sting
Is that we cannot tell what that might spark,
And nobody could do a bloody thing.

#101 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2007, 05:53 AM:

Lee (93): "[W]hen they resort to using terrorist tactics, then they become terrorists Q.E.D."

As I understand it, they become terrorists when they use terrorist tactics for terrorist reasons. It's an unwieldy and error-prone concept.

#102 ::: A.R.Yngve ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2007, 06:39 AM:

Now, please explain why the President shouldn't declare a Global War on Spammers. They fit (or could be made to fit) the definition of terrorists pretty well...
;-)

#103 ::: ChrisTheRed ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2007, 06:47 AM:

I think it's worth pointing out/mentioning that the FBI is a law enforcement (and not an intelligence) agency. I'd wager it'd be more useful if it were more like Britain's MI-5, and not the government's Keystone Kops.

#104 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2007, 06:58 AM:

ChrisTheRed @ 103

law enforcement (and not an intelligence) agency

Ever so true. AFICT their organizational culture has excluded both intelligence and initiative since the beginning (not that they're so great at law enforcement either; it's why they so often fish with dynamite).

#105 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2007, 08:31 AM:

Terry, the rules were "Challenger 2000".

If you made up a set af vehicle-specific file-cards, they weren't so intimidating, but there were details for everything. I once managed to field a tank regiment, advancing along an 18-feet-long table. Ground-scale was 2000:1, so the front was about 3.6km, and some of the artillery deployed on-table.

I don't claim to be another Rommel or Guderian, but I had a clear, simple, plan, pretty much straight out of the Soviet book. And the other guy never quitegot settled into fighting his battle.

I don't think the rules put enough friction into the tactical movement. Reduced movement was a morale result, and there wasn't much advantage in slowing down while advancing.

#106 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2007, 09:24 AM:

#92 Xopher:

I want rule of law more than I care about Rudolph, Kazinski, or any other terrorist. So the laws should be applied consistently, and if the laws don't allow denying him correspondence and visits to silence him, then he ought not to be denied correspondence and visits.

But it's bizzarre not to call him a terrorist in news footage. Similarly, it's nuts to call the guys who blow up 50 people in a crowded market in Iraq "insurgents" instead of "terrorists". What do they call Tim McVeigh? An unauthorized building demolitions expert?

#107 ::: JBWoodford ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2007, 09:56 AM:

Chris Gerrib (#78):

I eat lunch every Tuesday at Argonne National Labs (nuclear weapons research facility)

One correction: as it happens, I eat lunch every weekday at Argonne (usually in my office), and we're not a nuclear weapons research facility [1]. All of the nuke programs we have here are support for the civilian nuclear power industry, spent fuel reprocessing, nonproliferation, and like that.


[1] However, I was looking through the inventory for one of the storage areas here a couple of months ago, and was impressed to discover that we still have a few pieces of CP-1 on-site [2].

[2] Cue Bill Higgins singing "Fusion Girl."

#108 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2007, 10:01 AM:

JBWoodford @ 107... Cue Bill Higgins singing "Fusion Girl."

Is there a recording of that somewhere on the internet?

#109 ::: Dawno ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2007, 10:12 AM:

miriam @ 99 - I certainly can't attest to the accuracy of the Wikipedia article but it notes: "Some wearers wrap the keffiyeh into a turban, while others wear it loosely draped around the back and shoulders. Sometimes a skullcap is worn underneath the keffiyeh, and, in the past, it has also been wrapped around the rim of the fez. The keffiyeh is almost always of white cotton cloth, but many have a checkered pattern in red or black stitched into them. The plain, white keffiyeh is most popular in the Gulf states, almost excluding any other style in Kuwait and Bahrain. The black-and-white keffiyeh is most popular in the Levant."

So as bin Lauden is a Saudi, it's possible what he's wearing is a keffiyeh.

#110 ::: Chris Gerrib ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2007, 10:14 AM:

JBWoodford @ 107 - talk about a small world! You're welcome to drop by the Guesthouse on Tuesdays @ 12:15 - the Darien Rotary meets there.

All I (or most of the public) know about Argonne is that they do "nuclear stuff" there. My original point is that Argonne, like many military posts, is a "secured" area - however, once you get to a known routine going, security is less vigorous.

#111 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2007, 10:34 AM:

If the intent is to "terrorize" they are terrorists. The US gov't actually has a decent working definition of terrorism; they just choose not to use it on people like Rudolph, or the militia in Alabama, nor yet the people in Texas with the cyanide bombs.

Because, it seems, those were white, christian types. They were also, "lone wolves". Mcveigh wasn't being a "terrorist" he was "making a political statement."

Feh.

Dave Bell: re friction. ASqL does a decent job of it, but there's not really any way to model it (unit to unit tactical friction). In some ways the games have to play much as units do, the will of the commander to press on. The difficulty is to translate the effect of soliders being individual actors, as well as corporate bodies. Morale is what we call that.

I've yet to see a game (esp. with dice) which does a great job of that.

As for having a plan: If you have one, and can keep the other guy off of his (or better yet, if he figures he'll just deal with you as you come) you have a pretty good leg up on him.

Come at me with that soviet plan.... It's what I cut my teeth against. I've been the "red cell" in more than a few wargames (the guys in the Intel section of the Operations Center, who are responsible for guessing what the enemy is going to do), I have lots of practice at putting arty in the Assembly Area.

#112 ::: JBWoodford ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2007, 10:53 AM:

Serge (#108):

Is there a recording of that [Fusion Girl] somewhere on the internet?

Not that I know of, but you could ask him. The lyrics are out there, though.

#113 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2007, 10:59 AM:

Terry, if you ever get the chance, have a look at the "Striker" SF game from GDW. It's the only game I ever came across that had rukes tio distinguish troop quality by how quickly orders could be changed.

You could "train" even poor quality units to have standard procedures to deal with surprises, but if you had to give detailed instructions, you were fighting through molasses. It was one of the games added onto the Traveller RPG, and I think the role-playing aspect influenced the design.

The Grimsby Wargames Club had a way of setting up large multi-player games, and when we did the Waterloo campaign the "Duke of Wellington" ended up with three different dispatch riders, from Ligny, Quatre Bras, and a cavalry force blundering around to the west, all reporting that the Imperial Guard had been sighted.

I ran three different British General Officers at Quatre Bras--the French artillery were particularly ungentlemanly that day.

#114 ::: Pete Darby ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2007, 11:22 AM:

Talking of terrorists that haven't been stopped by DHS:


Apparently, blowing up a civillian airliner isn't an act of terrorism, if it's flying from Cuba

#115 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2007, 11:38 AM:

JBWoodford @ 112... I love it. That Bill Higgins, a person of many talents, eh?

#116 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2007, 11:40 AM:

Dave Bell... at Quatre Bras--the French artillery were particularly ungentlemanly that day.

Mind you, they'd be expected to be ungentlemanly if they need to wear four bras.

#117 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2007, 11:45 AM:

Serge @ 116

Boo hiss!

#118 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2007, 11:58 AM:

P J @ 117... You say that because you wish you had thought of it first.

#119 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2007, 11:59 AM:

I shudder to think what he would have said about the Duchess of Richmond's Ball.

#120 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2007, 12:04 PM:

Some balls are held for charity
And some for fancy dress
But when they're held for pleasure,
They're the balls that I like best.
And my balls are always bouncing,
To the left and to the right.
It's my belief that my big balls should be held every night.

#121 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2007, 12:15 PM:

Dave Bell and Greg London... I'm not going there. I'm not that brassy.

#122 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2007, 12:53 PM:

Dave, Greg, Serge:

"NUTS!"

Dave: I miss playing table top Napoleonics. It's stunning to ponder just how small, in modern terms, the battlefield was. Wellington was seen by everyone in the British lines, and often more than once. He wasn't in the thick of anything, but he wasn't out of risk.

And he was in "the rear" leading the battle from the POV of someone with a bigger picture.

The trouble with table-top games is the fog of war factor. In the armor game I was talking about I went into the woods to flank the M1s. They'd been reported to me/seen from cover, and I didn't want to go near them.

I knew the woods I was moving into had M60s, but the Plt. Ldr couldn't. Getting players to pay attention to that sort of split-brain reasoning is hard. It's why they created Kriegspiel.

#123 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2007, 01:30 PM:

Some wargamers are too clever for their own good. Like the time I ran a map game of the hunt for the Bismarck. The Royal Navy headed for Iceland the Denmark Strait, deploying everything that had wings over those duistant and cold waters.

OK, we forgot all the short range aircraft and the coastal convoy escorts and the lighthouse keepers and the coastguard stations.

Norway to Brest by way of the Irish Sea...

"And why have you painted big numbers on your bow?"

"So they'll think I'm an American cruiser."

As history, it wasn't a success, and some of the signal traffic was weird.

#124 ::: Mez ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2007, 01:33 PM:

Dave (#100) Nice.
The bit about "They still display the mark" reminds me a bit of the Dubliln GPO. I can remember the incident, too, tho' I haven't been able to find a report of it.

#125 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2007, 02:06 PM:

I'm not going there.

You seem a bit testes about the subject.

#126 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2007, 02:08 PM:

Dave Luckett #100: Very good.

#127 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2007, 02:09 PM:

albatross 106: I agree, and I think the same applies to the Gitmo detainees, most of whom are no worse than Eric Rudolph and many of whom, unlike him, are completely innocent.

I want the rule of law to apply to them too. I realize this is hopeless. But the ostensible reason for keeping them incommunicado certainly applies to Rudolph, too: he could be running his terrorist network from his prison cell.

I'm not saying they should cut him off from all outside communication. I'm saying that the reasoning is bullshit.

#128 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2007, 02:29 PM:

I think it's time to bring out that exchange between Thomas More and his future son-in-law, from A Man for All Seasons...

#129 ::: John ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2007, 02:32 PM:

Dave #123:

There used to be a Bismarck computer game for (I think) the Commodore or perhaps an old IBM system. If you took her right at Scapa Flow and then around the west coast of Britain and Ireland, you could avoid the Home Fleet (heading towards Iceland and the Strait.

It was tricky to avoid the air patrols, but if you timed your closest approach to Britain at night, you could find that valuable convoy HMS Rodney was escorting, and then head out into the Atlantic and go after yet more convoys.

#130 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2007, 06:59 PM:

John #129, there were several games of that era that were on Commodore, and TRS-80, and IBM--I thin they were written in MS BASIC, which made them pretty portable.


I'm beginning to think we ought to shift this discussion over to an Open Thread: we've gotten a long way from the tactical stupidity of crooks and terrorists.

#131 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2007, 09:55 PM:

Serge writes in #108:

JBWoodford @ 107... Cue Bill Higgins singing "Fusion Girl."

Is there a recording of that somewhere on the internet?

No.

(Unless you count this. Flip side here.)

I do have an MP3 somewhere. The 78 was mastered from it.

#132 ::: Steve Buchheit ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2007, 10:03 PM:

#87 Dave Bell "So this was in the days when the Soviet Union still was the Soviet Union, and maybe the rules we were using were a little optimistic on their equipment quality."

At a Dayton Air Show in the early 90s (I think 91) they had a MiG fighter. We had just finished touring the AWAC when we were ushered out so they could control the next part of the show, which had the MiG up first. So I stood there with a some Seargents and watched this MiG perform 3G turn after 3G turn after 3G turn, we saw it accelerate at a 80+ degree angle, and as it's second to final trick it pull a cobra, nearly standing on it's tail. All things we were told that absolutely, positively, these scraps of pig-iron couldn't do without flying to pieces. Several bugs were probably eaten that day, I was to busy taking it in to notice. Later, I found out why the Soviets don't do FOD scans of their airfields.

All of that, for me, just re-enforced the dictum, "Never underestimate your opponent."

#133 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2007, 02:11 AM:

Steve Buchheit @ 132

You know, it always bugged me that the party-line response to any Soviet success in aerospace technology was "Well of course it's robust, they have to build it big because they don't have our clever miniaturization capability." Which never explained why they were reliable, only why they were big.

That leads me to a story told to me by a friend of mine who used to be an aerospace engineer (Shuttle SRB pyrotechnics, to be precise). He said that he had always been told that the reason ejection mechanisms for jet fighters had a 30% mortality rate* was that the problem was just too hard, and that the Soviets had done much worse. Then, shortly after the end of the Cold War, he saw a demonstration of the MiG-29 ejection seat. The pilot ejected at 500 feet, traveling at Mach 0.9 while flying upside down. The ejection capsule flipped over, fired its rocket downwards, and landed safely. Any pilot trying that in an F-16 would have been a smear on the runway.

* That is, 3 out of 10 ejectees are killed by the ejection mechanism.

#134 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2007, 02:59 AM:

I sometimes had the impression, in the Cold War, that Soviet technology was talked up to justify new, expensive, weapons projects.

I know of one or two "crude" features of Soviet designs that were quite elegant and simple answers to problems. For instance, T-34 track pins.

#135 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2007, 02:59 AM:

I sometimes had the impression, in the Cold War, that Soviet technology was talked up to justify new, expensive, weapons projects.

I know of one or two "crude" features of Soviet designs that were quite elegant and simple answers to problems. For instance, T-34 track pins.

#136 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2007, 09:30 AM:

#135: I know of one or two "crude" features of Soviet designs that were quite elegant and simple answers to problems. For instance, T-34 track pins.

Well, go on, don't leave us hanging here...

#137 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2007, 09:46 AM:

Why does this make me think about the famous contrast between our space programs:

a. The USA spent millions to develop a pressurized ballpoint pen, which could write in zero-G.

b. The USSR sent pencils.

(I don't know how accurate this is.)

#138 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2007, 10:02 AM:

I recall some account that when the first MIGs were available for study, the fact that their electronics were based on vacuum tubes was derided.

Someone else pointed out that vacuum tube electronics were much less vulnerable to the effects of EMP.

Not saying this was a canny design choice. But in the anticipated battle, it suggested strategies.

#139 ::: Jakob ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2007, 10:18 AM:

Albatross #137: It's an urban legend. The space pen was developed by the Fisher company, and they later managed to sell some to NASA.

As an aside, using a pencil in a spacecraft is a bad idea - the graphite dust produced is electrically conductive, and in zero-g can float into the electrics... I believe grease-pencils were the tools used.

#140 ::: Mez ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2007, 10:30 AM:

#137 "I believe grease-pencils were the tools"
ooh! Like the blue china pencils we used 20+ years ago in my early editing jobs? Were they used by Tor & the like?

Next, the retro counter-factual "Editors in Spaaace!"

#141 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2007, 10:36 AM:

#139 and #140

Grease pencils work nicely on whiteboard too, and they don't have the solvents that 'erasable' markers use.

#142 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2007, 12:00 PM:

Next, the retro counter-factual "Editors in Spaaace!"

"Stetpunk"?

#143 ::: John Houghton ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2007, 12:17 PM:

albatross: (137)
The space pen was developed by Fischer on their own dime, with a lot of the technology being developed before the space program. I believe that they gave the pens to NASA, (marketing, you know). The Russians started using them as soon as they could get them.
Amusingly, research shows that unpressurized pens work well in space.

#144 ::: Meg Thornton ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2007, 02:28 PM:

Terrorism: what we call "just revolution", "freedom fighting" or "guerilla warfare" when we're on the receiving end. Civilians killed in this kind of engagement are all martyrs, victims, and wonderful material for the latest propaganda exercise.

Just Revolution: An uprising against an Evil[1] Regime which has invaded/overthrown the current government/pissed off our side. Civilian casualties may occur, but these fall the categories of Glorious Martyrs for the Cause or Running Dogs of the Current Regime.

Freedom Fighting: An uprising against an Oppressive[1] Government which is denying natural justice to the people. Civilian causalties may occur, but these fall into the categories of either Brave Heroes or Insurrectionist Swine.

Guerilla Warfare: Tactics used against an Enemy[1] Force when they're much bigger and don't know the territory. Civilian casualties may occur, but these fall into the categories of Acceptable or Unfortunate.

[1] The right to define the terms Evil, Oppressive, and Enemy is retained solely by the military and political leaders of the United States of America.

PS: Dave Luckett (@100), I had no idea you were another West Coast Aussie. I can still remember the stories about that incident, and the headline about the "low speed chase" in the West the next morning. Given this happened at a time where the local boy racers were busy trying to get the coppers to try and break the land speed record on a regular basis, the headline was a nice little bit of cog-diss before the morning caffeine.

#145 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2007, 02:29 PM:

OK, the Russian T-34 tank was part of a chain of development that started from the American Christie design, also used by the British. It allowed the building of a fast tank, and was pretty simple. The actual track was made up of steel plates, joined by something very like a hinge. The "track pin" is the steel pin that holds the hinge together.

On something like the Holt track, used by Caterpillar, the pins are a couple of inches in diameter and are usually pressed into place. It's possible to get them out with enthusiastic use of a large hammer.

Very enthusiastic use.

There's a retaining clip as well. If these pins shift, they can be damaged, which also damages the track links. The track can even break.

The various track systems used for tanks were different from the Holt system. For one thing, they had to support weight. As things developed, better speed became an object. Most of the American tanks of WW2 used rubber blocks to link the track plates.

The T-34 used long pins the full width of the track. And the designers didn't bother with the cost of a retaining clip. Instead there was a striker plate on the side of the tanl's hull. And if a pin started to work loose (and they could only go one way) they got thumped back in.

And since the drive sprocket was at the rear of the tank, the track was at its slackest just in front of the sprocket as it was pushed back over the tops to the road-wheels to the front, and that was where the striker plate was put.

The Soviet Union made a lot of tanks. Some factories they had to move. It is said that some tanks came out of the factory in Stalingrad without being painted, and went straight into action.

Meanwhile, we Brits built tanks with armour plate that came from a new supplier and didn't meet specification. The USA built tanks with much more expensive tracks which were notorious for catching fire when they were hit. And the German tanks were superb, but too slow to build.

The T-34 went into service in 1940. The German Panther was their politically correct attempt to copy it. The British and American armies didn't have anything in service that could match it until the very end of the war.

Apparently, there's some place near Minneapolis where you can drive a T-34, and have a go with a machinegun.

#146 ::: Bruce Cohen, SpeakerToManagers ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2007, 04:07 PM:

Meg Thornton @ 144

Can either you or Dave Luckett please provide a link to a news story or other info about that incident? I'm coming up empty on google for some reason.

#147 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2007, 04:46 PM:

Steve @ 132

My curiosity is trying to eat me alive.
Why didn't the Soviets do FOD scans?

#148 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2007, 06:41 PM:

Steve Buchheit: I thought I posted this yesterday.

The plane which does the "Kurgachev Chop" is the Sukhoi 27, not the MiG 29.

I had an instructor (for Russian, in '94) who related seeing one of those at some perfectly ridiculous altitude, over the Bering Sea, when his plane (engaged in signals intercept recon) was being shadowed.

The pilot did one of these, and then a barrel roll around the plane and headed home.

The crew patched the scrapes on their chins from hitting the floor, and started writing it up.

#149 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2007, 08:42 PM:

Dave Bell writes a lucid account of the T-34's track retention pin in #145, and then says:

The T-34 went into service in 1940. The German Panther was their politically correct attempt to copy it. The British and American armies didn't have anything in service that could match it until the very end of the war.

I can see that the Panther's suspension is Christie-like, and can easily believe that the T-34 might have influenced its design. (I probably knew this once, but it was long ago and half a continent away that I read Ogorkiewicz.)

But it's hard to grasp the meaning of "politically correct" --a Stalinist term, no?-- here. Especially since in context, Nazis are getting design ideas from Stalinists.

Dave, I fear that if you don't unpack still further, I will be lost.

#150 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2007, 11:30 PM:

Bill Higgins: #149

I don't know what he means either.

What I do know is the Panther was designed to take out/cope with the T-34. The sloped armor, high-velocity 75mm gun (I think it probably the best tank gun of the war, the 88 had more punch, but it was more than was needed, and required heavier turrets, chassis, etc., while reducing the ammo available), christie style chassis, etc. were very well designed.

The problem was that it had no real field testing. It practically went straight from the factory to the line, and that meant the teething problems took place in a hostile environment.

That led to two things, which were bad for the Germans/good for the world.

The Panther wasn't really developed, and the Tiger/King Tiger were.

Those took more material which could have been used for more Panthers, arty, planes, etc. and created tanks which took more fuel, powder etc. thus making the logistical drain on the Wermacht even greater, without actually improving the abilty to fight the Russians (the American tanks were pretty much equaled by the Pz IV on up, so the Panther/Tigers didn't make a huge difference; esp. because we had the same advantage the Russians did... numbers).

#151 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2007, 11:36 PM:

P.J Evans (#1): I forgot to comment on this earlier.

Paintball has some very good training uses. It reduces buck fever, teaches people to accept that people will shoot at them (and the sound of a paintball is amazingly like a .22 cal bullet, don't ask me why) as well as making it more obvious that a high rate of fire won't make up for not aiming.

Mixed with some range time (to the recoil, noise and flying brass aren't strange) it's a pretty good way to get people past some of the things that aren't easy to train (like shooting at people/moving targets)

Which is why the LAPD, US Army and US Marine Corps all use it.

#153 ::: Alan Braggins ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2007, 05:39 AM:

#148: What is a "Kurgachev Chop"? Google doesn't help. Looking back at Steve's post, if it's the same thing as a Cobra, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pugachev%27s_Cobra says "German Luftwaffe have performed the maneuver with Cold-War era MiG-29s" (as well as saying the Sukhoi 27 does it).

#154 ::: Jakob ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2007, 06:40 AM:

Bill Higgins, Terry Karney: (#149, 150) There was at one time a serious suggestion that the T-34 be copied wholesale by German industry (One assumes that in practice they would have replaced the engine and the main gun), but this was felt to be politically unacceptable. I assume this is what Dave Bell was referring to.

PJ Evans #147 : The MiG-29 has doors that close over the main engine intakes on takeoff; the airflow comes through spring-loaded louvres on the top of the wing roots. This allows it to fly from rough un-FODed strips without ingesting debris. IIRC, the system provides enough airflow even for reheat.

#155 ::: John ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2007, 07:49 AM:

Actually, the T-34 was proposed to be copied by the Germans during the design of the Tiger, not the Panther. Two models were developed; one that had the sloped armor and diesel engine similar to the T-34. The other one had gasoline engine, vertical (and thick) armor, and a really big gun (the 88/L56 instead of the low velocity 75mm the T-34 had).

The sloped armor/diesel design was deemed "not invented here" by the Germans and the vertical armor, power steering/turret traverse, steering wheel, electric turbo drive, gas engine, big gunned Tiger was selected.

Needless to say, the Germans never made enough Tigers even though they were much better than the T-34/76 and still were better than the improved T-34/85 the Soviets introduced later in the war.

The Panther was an attempt to make a better medium tank than the current MkIV they had in service, and while it borrowed some ideas from the T-34 (mostly the sloped armor), it really wasn't a copy. The suspension was nothing like the T-34; the Panther has interleaved support wheels on torsion bars, the T-34 just has several large steel wheels in sequence.

The Panther also had a better 75mm gun but I wouldn't say it was the "best tank gun in the war". It had a tendency for wearing out too fast due to the high muzzle velocity, and while it killed tanks at a long range it rarely got that chance on a battlefield. The long gun barrel also caused the front suspension wheels to wear out faster, so much so that the Germans eventually made them all steel instead of rubber lined.

The T-34 was a b*tch to operate, though; it certainly wasn't a great tank. The 76mm gun had a very low muzzle velocity, just a bit better than the first M4 Sherman's in fact. The 4 man crew had nothing in the tank for their comfort; no padding, no shock absorbers, big hard pieces of steel in places designed to bounce off of, and no radio. The commander was a busy man, having to aim and fire the main gun while at the same time directing the tank and looking for targets, etc. T-34 crews usually were so injured from driving around cross country after a few hours that they were basically combat ineffective until they were rested. They were much better, however, than any German tank they met in 1941 and for the most part, in 1942.

#156 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2007, 10:43 AM:

Terry @ 151

What I heard, which may or may not be true (and I'm putting the source on my 'unreliable' list), was that that was the limit of the training these guys were getting. If they were doing actual range shooting (with serious firearms), I'd take them seriously. (As presented to me, the thing was, um, more like a LASFS business meeting proposing to take over the government. Theoretically it would work, but would you want to be around for it?)

Jakob, thanks for that explanation!

#157 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2007, 10:43 AM:

147:My curiosity is trying to eat me alive.
Why didn't the Soviets do FOD scans?

Because in Soviet Russia, foreign objects scan YOU!

#158 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2007, 10:55 AM:

PJ@147: FOD scans.

Dunno. you could possibly reduce damage from Foreign Object Debris by pointing your intake upward (or having vents that open/close to do that), maybe having the airflow go through a bend where the air will turn but the FOD won't (and therefore not go into the turbine blades), or maybe they built their blades out of infinitum and they're simply indestructible....

;)

#159 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2007, 11:16 AM:

Paintball is fun. I think that it's use as a training device requires that the person get some training in movement, and then go play paintball. I've seen guys play paintball who clearly got their movement training from Rambo (Stand up, autofire, scream, stationary target). The first time you get shot, though, you realize the stupidity of that approach. But then what you usually see is people find cover and don't move. Or they move, but they don't move together. You can see guys who want to be the star of the show and don't work with their team well. Or simply don't know how to work as a team.

If you took some random people and threw them into a paintball game, I'm not sure how much that would help them in a combat situation. But if you took some random civilians and threw them into a paintball game, then did a quick "try this" from someone who's a combat trainer, then another game, then more training, and so on, you could get a lot of benefit.

The other thing is that paintball has a pain-incentive that just isn't there with lasertag. (Or the MILES gear that the military uses). In laser tag, you care if you get shot because you lose. In paintball, you care if you get shot because HOLY CRAP DOES THAT HURT! Which I think makes for a more realistic scenario. In paintball, you move like you're gonna die if you get shot. In lasertag, you move like you're gonna lose if you get shot.

Going paintballing this weekend if the weather holds.

#160 ::: Clark E. Myers ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2007, 12:10 PM:

Lots of FOD issues vary with configuration.
FOD -> Concorde
One of the Andrews Air Base flight ran up the engines on a pad that wasn't clear and blasted the aft fuselage nicely

See also Simunitions for paintball: a reminder to get off the X.

#161 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2007, 12:35 PM:

Clark @ 160

Yeah, it was FOD that was responsible for that crash, wasn't it? Something that came off the DC-whatever ahead of it, IIRC. (reminder to airport maintenance: check runways frequently.)

#162 ::: Alan Braggins ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2007, 01:56 PM:

> In paintball, you care if you get shot because HOLY CRAP DOES THAT HURT!

I've only been paintballing once, but when someone attempted to use one side of a camoflage net for cover when I was already on the other side, I did feel compelled to shout "BANG!" at him rather than shoot him at 2 inch range.

#163 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2007, 02:22 PM:

[grouch]I hate freaking paintballers, at least the ones who are under the misapprehension that they can come into our pastures to play. I've lost one cow from an eye infection caused by a paintball wound, and many of my favorite photographic subjects are made unuasable by bright orange splashes on the trees.[/grouch]

#164 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2007, 05:22 PM:

Alan: If I get the drop on someone like that I shout "SURRENDER". If they so much as blink, I blast em. About half the time the guy will try to shoot me.

JESR: I've only gone on courses set up for paintballing. I try to keep the impact to a minimum.

#165 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2007, 05:43 PM:

Greg, I'm currently beset with a new crop of clueless suburbanites who move "to the country" and let their dogs and kids run wild on neighboring private land, since the paintball courses are all on the other side of town and the parks here are leash-only. Makes me bitter and cynical.

#166 ::: Mez ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2007, 06:44 PM:

Bruce #146, as I mentioned at #124, "I can remember the incident, too, tho' I haven't been able to find a report of it." Not just on Google, but on an Australian search engine. But even good coverage of our major 'terrorist incident', the Hilton bombing, is short online – tho' that was a while back, in February 1978, and this was more recent.

Over on the East Coast, the 'tank hijack' wasn't so big in local news, but still notable.

ajay #142, Stetpunk, I like. Dunno how many readers would understand. Don't the ER-style medical shows use 'stat' or 'stet' for something?

#167 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2007, 07:42 PM:

JESR, set traps!

#168 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2007, 08:21 PM:

Re the Panther's 75. I don't know as the Panther was the best platform for it (problems of trying to design a very complicated thing one needs right now).

The 88 wasn't smaller, and it's breeching was larger, as well as the shells.

I've been in a T-34. It's amazing they died in so small a ratio as they did. It's cramped, full of sharp corners and only had nine rounds of ready ammo. The rest was beneath the floor. Easy to get at, but it cluttered up the floor.

Add the gunner/commander of the models up to the 43, and that great honking manhole cover of a hatch; opening forward, and one is amazed they were able to survive at all.

In fact, they didn't really. The superiority of the tank meant they could, often, take a beating, while another T-34 did the killing. But even at that the Germans were killing them at ratios which were as heigh as eight to one.

But the Russians had more then eight tanks to one of the Germans.

Oddly enough, the reason the Germans went with the more "conventional" Panther design was one of pragmatism, a new turret didn't need to be designed. Hitler actually preferred the more radical design (which had the same problem as the early T-34, a two-man turret).

Re Kurgachev: He was the Soviet pilot who figured out how to do that maneuver. It requires cancelling some of the safeties. I was unaware that anyone had done it with a MiG 29.

re paintball: Yeah, having training makes a huge difference.

First time I ever played a bunch of us, from DLI, went to a place in Santa Cruz. Later in the day a couple of civilians were put into our field (we were all privates, we weren't spending the extra money to get auto-loaders. We were happy with pump guns).

Mischa and I were working as a fire team. One of the kids was in semi-cover. Neither he nor I had a good shot at the other.

I looked around, saw a piece of real cover, with the same sort of crappy shots at him.

I looked at Mischa, who had been standing there, not firing; for he had no shot, and not talking.

I jerked my head at the cover. He nodded.

I broke for it, the kid snapped a couple of shots, and when I was down, saw a place he would have cover and easy shooting at me.

He stepped out and Mischa plugged him.

Another game. Guy who had been in the army and I were a team. We'd hunker down and wait. When someone showed up, we hosed them.

For some reason no-one ever figured out we were a pair. They cap one of us, and then blithley walk into a hail of paint (we had auto-loaders).

Yet another game. I had a three people who were willing to take direction. I was, effectively, in charge of a four-man fire team.

Before rounds I would point to where one pair were going, and let them know where Jordan and I were going. They were places of supporting fire, dominating the middle of the field.

Communication was stressed.

We were about 25 percent of the team. We owned about 1/3rd of the field. That left 3/4s of the team to work the flanks. What seemed to be happening was 1/4 would take a flank (the flanks all had cover, and more importantly, a fair bit of concealment) and press forward to dig in and hold.

That left the other half to take the opposite flank and press to the flag. We had such dominance of the center that the other team never got past mid-field, and usually ended up penned in the rear; where we fired H&I rounds at them, or they skirted the middle, and ran into the guys on the flanks.

It was a hard day for that "team". We'd brought about ten people. They were just the ad-hoc sorts that one gets. They never figured out how to flank us (the four of us in the middle had some risky moments, when they managed to get past the weak flank. Communication saved our bacon. We just took a moment, and shifted all our fire on them, which pinned them. At that point someone wh was mobile either caused them to retreat, or took them out). Had they actually gotten to our rear, it would have been ugly, because the people penned at the other other end of the field could have moved to engagement distance.

Which would have put us in a cross-fire.

So yeah, it only takes a little training to be head and shoulders above raw troops. But that training can be done with paintball.

#169 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2007, 08:29 PM:

Marilee, almost all traps except have-a-heart ones are illegal here now. And I shudder to think what an itchy cow would do to one of those.

Also, a trap big enough for Golden Retrievers or armed teenagers would be big enough for a calf, and that's sort of counter-productive.

#170 ::: Bruce Cohen, SpeakerToManagers ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2007, 08:48 PM:

Mez @ 166

A lot of operating room personnel use 'stat' to mean 'do it right now, or better yet ten minutes ago'. I"ve always thought it was sort of an affectation, but see, I worked in a medical school for several years, so I don't have a real high opinion of doctors.

#171 ::: Clark E. Myers ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2007, 09:21 PM:

#163, #167, 169# I can't vouch for what I suspect is Washington State but around here I could borrow any number of appropriately sized and constructed live traps from state agencies and I'd expect an informal request, from/through D.O.T. contacts if necessary, would work in Washington state.

I'd ask Animal Control to return any dogs with a concurrent summons. With luck a calf will ignore bait for dogs - usually easy to live trap - and for paintball gunners. Paintball gunners are harder to live trap but the game trail photography tools will usually work - and again can often be borrowed from Fish and Game.

We do have issues with otherwise decently behaved pets forming packs on our family land because it's the neutral ground amongst all the ranchettes (where people don't even have water rights for their dogs outside but they don't know that!?). Oddly enough one of the neighbor's working dogs would act positively Farley Mowat/Albert Payson Terhune - he'd know the difference between his own ground where he was territorial and my ground where he would acknowledge I was alpha and he was just passing through - everything but the wish me luck wink depending on where he was going.

Timber cruisers around Yelm use paint markers?

#172 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2007, 09:44 PM:

Clark, I'm imbedded in the suburbs of Lacey now (moved from Yelm when I was in high school) on Dad's family place. Very little timber cruising about, what with the current habit of putting houses everywhere.

I had an interesting conversation with our host in Montana about wolves. I pointed out that over the years we've more calves to dogs- not feral dogs: collared, licensed, and chipped pets- than they have to all predation, even though they've got five times the cattle and ten times the land we do. The thing that's helped most on this place is that the subdivision next door has written a ban on letting dogs run into their covenants; we're considering getting a guard llama for the other place.

The paint ball problem is not as amenable to solution, as the population of adolescents is fluid and there's no institutional memory of visits from the sheriff.

#173 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2007, 11:27 PM:

JESR

The problem of the folks who buy a place 'in the country' and get a dog (or two), usually large, then let dog(s) and kids run wild isn't limited to areas like yours. My parents had a cabin halfway between Sacramento and Tahoe, a mile off the old highway. They saw this with the people who were moving into the area in the 70s. You couldn't get through to them that this was bad manners then, either.

They moved to West Texas after that, and there, if a dog or dogs became a problem, especially if they started taking down livestock, the farmers felt within their rights to shoot the dogs. This was well out into the country, where loose dogs usually had been dumped by non-residents. (Solution not recommended for teenagers, although it's certainly tempting. Maybe just licensing and chipping the kids would be enough.)

#174 ::: Clark E. Myers ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2007, 11:56 PM:

#172 - Lacey struck me as a pleasant place 10 years ago - likely less so now. The rules are a little bit contradictory but it's surely true that the choice of animal traps is severely restricted:
Thurston County 9.10.050 Regulations and violations relating to pet animals

Any person who harbors, keeps, possesses, maintains or has temporary custody of a pet animal shall be responsible for the behavior of such animal whether the owner knowingly permits the behavior or not. Such person shall violate the terms of this chapter if:

A. Pet Animal at Large. Such person’s pet animal is at large as defined in Section 9.10.030 [“At large” means any pet animal that is not in the physical presence or control of an owner or keeper or is under the following circumstances: 1. When a dog, licensed or not, is found off the premises or outside the vehicle of the owner and not under control of a person by means of a leash, carrier or demonstrated voice command;...] within the unincorporated areas of Thurston County; provided, however, this section shall not prohibit the owner and pet animal from participating in an organized show or training, exercise or hunting session in locations designated and authorized for that purpose. A first violation of pet animal at large is a Class 4 infraction. A second and any subsequent violation shall be a Class 3 infraction.
.......
9.10.054 Confinement or restraint of a pet animal.

A pet animal shall not be trapped in any manner that subjects the animal to injury inherent in the mechanism of the trap. A humane box trap may be set on a complainant’s property for the purpose of trapping nuisance pet animals. Animals which are caught in such a trap must be returned to their owners or taken to the animal services shelter. Injurious confinement or restraint of a pet animal is a misdemeanor. (Ord. 12989 § 6, 2003: Ord. 11198 § 2 (part), 1996)

R.C.W. might be read to flat require the killing of any dog running loose without a tag -

16.08.030
Marauding dog — Duty of owner to kill.
It shall be the duty of any person owning or keeping any dog or dogs which shall be found killing any domestic animal to kill such dog or dogs within forty-eight hours after being notified of that fact, and any person failing or neglecting to comply with the provisions of this section shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor, and it shall be the duty of the sheriff or any deputy sheriff to kill any dog found running at large (after the first day of August of any year and before the first day of March in the following year) without a metal identification tag.
emphasis added
[1929 c 198 § 7; RRS § 3108. Prior: 1919 c 6 § 7; 1917 c 161 § 7; RCS § 3108.]

My experience - in a more rural setting - has been that borrowing the traps is easy and Animal Control takes great pleasure in returning the animal along with the citation. In Washington as most places dogs killing domestic animals may be killed.

Again from the R.C.W. 16.08.020
Dogs injuring stock may be killed.
It shall be lawful for any person who shall see any dog or dogs chasing, biting, injuring or killing any sheep, swine or other domestic animal, including poultry, belonging to such person, on any real property owned or leased by, or under the control of, such person, or on any public highway, to kill such dog or dogs,
and where I've lived it has been considered just as proper to kill a dog running wild game. Not always polite but always acceptable. The wild game issue is really why Animal Control has been helpful

obs SF - plausible alt history in which a pilot in NVA uniform set out to bomb a California town from a commercial airplane during that war -IIRC in the story as published he was torn to death by a mob rather than granted honorable POW status.

#175 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2007, 01:40 AM:

Interesting synthesis from the paintball and dogpack threads: Alan, do you ever actually see the dogs on your property? If so, you could shoot them with paintball guns, then send Animal Control to pick up the marked ones!

#176 ::: Alan Braggins ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2007, 03:45 AM:

> Alan, do you ever actually see the dogs

I think you mean JESR. I'm the guy who played paintball once (at a properly organised place, not on someone's farm with livestock - I'd hate people who did that too).

#177 ::: Doug Burbidge ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2007, 08:20 AM:

Bruce @ 146:

For details of the stolen APC in Perth, try this. Starts on page 20. (I, too, am Western Australian, which is how I was able to dimly recall appropriate terms to feed Google.)

There was a transcript in the paper the following day of the police radio: the despatcher who was coordinating the police efforts watched the APC roll into the secure car park of his police station, run over his motor bike, and roll out again. He was quite indignant.

#178 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2007, 12:55 PM:

Clark, we're actually up on the RCW and local ordinances, but... my brother-in-law had to shoot a dog last year, I think a Rotweiler, which had a calf down and hamstrung. When he approached with his rifle, the dog let the calf go and walked up wagging its tail and grinning. Made it pretty traumatic to take the shot, but the damned thing had run the whole group of pregnant cows and very young calves out onto the highway the day before, through three barbed wire fences.

#179 ::: PublicRadioVet ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2007, 02:27 PM:

oceanmarine @ #72,

I would think any live ammunition found unsecured or otherwise not kept in a designated safe area would be grounds for an Article 15, at the very least. Even spent cartridge casings can get you major heat, at least in the Army. I'm always annoyed coming off the firing line at Ft. Lewis because I have to spend ten minutes dumping my entire battle rattle and upending everything during pat-down, just so Top and the range cadre can walk by and be reasonably certain that none of us is taking home a souvenir.

#180 ::: PublicRadioVet ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2007, 02:47 PM:

Regarding the unwieldy definition of "terrorist", here is something I wrote up awhile back, and wanted to print here, simply because I think it helps us recognize the difference between a real terrorist, and a "freedom fighter" as Michael Moore likes to call 'em...

YOU MIGHT BE A FREEDOM FIGHTER, IF.....
- You're fighting for the rights of others to disagree, even with your own views.
- You believe lethal 'revenge' on the unarmed citizens of your enemy is not acceptable.
- You ultimately want to live in peace with your enemy, even after you win the war.
- You think avoiding civilian deaths of any kind is a good thing to strive for.
- You think victory should not be achieved at all costs, especially morally.
- You don't see the "guerilla lifestyle" as your occupation of choice after the war is over.
- Your station of power does not depend on perpetual violence between your side and theirs.
- You have sworn an oath to protect and defend a series of laws, ethics, or ideals that are founded on concepts of liberal justice, equal opportunity, and individual liberty.

conversely...

YOU MIGHT BE A TERRORIST, IF......
- You avoid military and government targets in favor of buses, malls, and skyscrapers.
- You prefer attacking unarmed civilians instead of an enemy who fights back with bullets.
- Your position of social or political power does depend on continued violence and warfare with the enemy.
- You're at war for control within your own faction(s), not just with the enemy.
- You can get other people's children to blow themselves up for your own ambitions.
- Your greatest weapon by far is the international media.
- You see your enemy not as eventual friends, but as sub-human dogs that need to all be destroyed.
- You don't believe in separation of church and state, or believe your religion should run the universe.
- You have sworn no oath of service to any nation, and instead serve a single individual or a cabal of individuals orchestrating The Movement.
- You believe taking another human's life is the ultimate expression of faith towards your God(s).

That's an evolving list. But I think it's important. Especially since too many people, IMHO, run around calling U.S. troops "the real terrorists".

#181 ::: Bruce Cohen, SpeakerToManagers ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2007, 03:49 PM:

PublicRadioVet @ 180

Of course US troops are not terrorists. But looking at one item in your terrorist list, - You have sworn no oath of service to any nation, and instead serve a single individual or a cabal of individuals orchestrating The Movement., I, at least, have to say that it applies to some high-level members of the current US administration. It's very clear that whatever oaths they may have taken there are a lot of people up there who have no loyalty to any system or nation, but only to their friends. Does that make them terrorists?

#182 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2007, 04:07 PM:

I'd like to add, if our troops are supporting Iraqis (who are trained by us) when they trash a hospital because gunmen (not trained by us, except indirectly) were treated there, what does that make our troops?

#183 ::: Bruce Cohen, SpeakerToManagers ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2007, 04:07 PM:

Doug Burbidge @ 177

Thanks for the link. I was particularly bemused by the way the police so carefully used it as an illustration of their preparedness and resourcefulness. Unless I miss my bet, the actual reaction on the spot was:

Police Officer 1: WTF! That's a bloody tank!

P.O. 2: No way I'm rushing that thing.

Sergeant: All right, you lot, let's go get him!

P.O. 1: And where are you going to be, Sarge?

#184 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2007, 04:49 PM:

Has it occurred to anyone that terrorists have replaced nuclear attack as the likely cause of unexpected succession to power?

Tom Clancy, if you count the Debt of Honour scenaria, but it's a pretty simple succession...

And US Presidential succession is all about ranking politicians.

Under the British system, you could get somebody young and not particularly prepated. And some of the younger and more distant candidats could be imagined as a typical British teenager. But dropping them in it would need some serious death and destruction.

And I understand that the succession in the British system isn't automatic--if I remember this right, there's an Accession Council, with roots going back to Saxin England as well as the turmoil of the 17th Century.

So it's unlikely that you'd see a goth chick taking centre stage in Westminster Abbey.

Fortunately, the various little kingdoms and principalities of Central and Eastern Europe are emerging from the collapse of the Soviet Union, and it doesn't seem impossible that the Ruritanean heir is somewhere in America.

Possibly with one of those odd American names.

#185 ::: Neil Willcox ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2007, 05:22 PM:

Dave Bell - Exactly how the Succession of the British Crown is part of our constitution. You know, in the unwritten bit.

(Actually it is written; without going too much into it the most important thing is to be a descendant of Electress Sophia of Hannover, and not a catholic. A moment or two found me a page with the first 934 heirs.)

#186 ::: Neil Willcox ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2007, 05:34 PM:

(Sadly the bit about catholics disallows Charles Napoléon Bonaparte from the throne)

#187 ::: y ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2007, 05:45 PM:

Actually, "stat" and "stet" probably are related, but only far back in Latin, in the verb sto/stare/steti/status, meaning "stand". Stet is a subjunctive form, "let it stand". Stat is a modern abbreviation for Latin statim, an adverb whose main meaning is "immediately". Statim seems to come from sto, but the semantic chain is a bit hard to follow. Perseus has an online version of Lewis & Short, that gives (a) an earlier meaning "steadfastly" for statim, and (b) an explanation for the main meaning as being something like "on the spot", which may help make the connection.

#188 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2007, 05:47 PM:

Dave Bell @ 184... it's unlikely that you'd see a goth chick taking centre stage in Westminster Abbey.

And no Nightmare Abi either, I suppose. Drat.

#189 ::: JBWoodford ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2007, 06:04 PM:

y (#187):
Stat is a modern abbreviation for Latin statim...

I used to work with a bunch of med techs who'd spent time in hospital labs, and they told me that "stat" was an acronym for soonest turn-around time. It sounds like that's a backronym, though.

#190 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2007, 08:00 PM:

So there's abi Rassendyll, scandalously drunk in a bar, when there's a newsflash about a terrorist attack on the Ruritanian Royal Family...

And then her mobile phone rings.

I think I might have led too sheltered a life to write the opening scene.

#191 ::: Mez ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2007, 08:46 PM:

Thanks to Doug Burbidge for finding that information. I had little distinctive possibilities to search for, tho' had run into a bunch of strange, sometimes interesting pages, none pertinent, alas.

Also thanx 2 y <g> Not being a viewer, I was unsure of how 'stat' was used. In the last year I spent quite a few days & nights in my local Accident & Emergency Department (and weeks in the wards), but never heard it.

#192 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2007, 10:30 PM:

JESR, #169, yeah, traps like that are illegal here, too, but sometimes I wish they weren't.

#193 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2007, 02:17 AM:

Dave Bell @ 190

Let's see now ... the voice on abi's phone is that of Major Fritz von Tarlenheim IV the great-grandson of the man who assisted her own ancestor in his adventure. And the terrorists have announced their intention to bring down the monarchy in favor of a revolutionary government to be run by Rupert the Pretender of Hentzau.

Yes, this could work, although I must say I liked the Doctor Who version better.

#194 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2007, 02:54 AM:

PublicRadioVet, #180: That's an interesting list. Let's see where the Law of Unintended Consequences takes us...

- You avoid military and government targets in favor of buses, malls, and skyscrapers.
How much Iraqi infrastructure have we targeted, anyhow?

- You prefer attacking unarmed civilians instead of an enemy who fights back with bullets.
Civilian casualties, of course, are "collateral damage" or "breaking eggs".

- Your position of social or political power does depend on continued violence and warfare with the enemy.
Welcome to the entire current Administration.

- You're at war for control within your own faction(s), not just with the enemy.
So-called "partisan politics," and the efforts to stifle dissent within the Republican party by any means up to and including painting those who do as "traitors"...

- You can get other people's children to blow themselves up for your own ambitions.
Okay, I'll give you that one. We haven't reached this point yet, unless you count Stupid Frat Tricks like those kids in Alabama who torched a black church, and then 2 or 3 more plus a white church just to prove they weren't racist... OTOH, I will also call your attention to the "Quiverfull" movement; we may be less than 20 years from there right now.

- Your greatest weapon by far is the international media.
On the international stage, you may have a point. Here at home, control of the domestic media is one of the top assets of the Administration. What the people never hear about can't upset them.

- You see your enemy not as eventual friends, but as sub-human dogs that need to all be destroyed.
Listen again to those Falwell quotes. For that matter, listen to any selection of Hate Radio talkshow hosts about the Iraqis.

- You don't believe in separation of church and state, or believe your religion should run the universe.
Bush at the very least, and I think a significant proportion of his appointees as well. And isn't that exactly what the current Justice Department scandal is about -- kicking competent jurists off the bench in favor of religious and political activists who will rubber-stamp the Dominionist takeover?

- You have sworn no oath of service to any nation, and instead serve a single individual or a cabal of individuals orchestrating The Movement.
Bruce already nailed this one. It's painfully obvious that whatever oaths those people swore, they have long since abandoned in favor of "The Movement" of keeping themselves, or other people like themselves, permanently in power.

- You believe taking another human's life is the ultimate expression of faith towards your God(s).
Perhaps not the ultimate expression, but certainly an expression -- if the other human happens to be gay, or pagan, or an "abortionist" (in quotes because the term is so loosely slung around these days). This one isn't applicable to the troops in Iraq, but it sure as hell is to the rank-and-file right-wingers here at home. Or did you miss that thread?

You keep using that word. I do not believe it means (only) what you think it means.

#195 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2007, 07:01 AM:

In the war on terror, there has been a lot of talk about ways of identifying people that somehow see past disguises.

For instance, gait analysis.

Would Wolverine get past airport metal detectors.

In a world of mobile phones, can Superman find a phone box?

And all those skin-tight costumes make gait analysis much easier (Hiya, Spidey!).

#196 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2007, 01:12 PM:

PRV#180:

How does this list relate to terrorism, as opposed to the pretty easy to buy claim that western liberal values are superior to Islamic fundamentalist ones? How would you use this list to decide between Russia and the Chechen separatists--which side tried to avoid civilian casualties, again? Which side was in favor of free expression of disagreeing ideas?

Since the US and UK in WW2 didn't avoid civilian casualties in all cases (think Dresden), and were plainly willing to do anything to win (think becoming allies with Stalin), I guess we were terrorists? And in the US civil war, the North was a terrorist power for burning Atlanta?

Even narrowing down to the US in Iraq, there's a problem here. The various terrorists in Iraq target civilians, but don't really have that much firepower. We have scary firepower, but try not to kill civilians unnecessarily. We could easily end up killing more people than the terrorists, certainly more than any one faction.

#197 ::: onceamarine ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2007, 02:27 PM:

PublicRadioVet#179 I would think any live ammunition found unsecured ...

Yes. That was just Marine Corps humor on his part. He saw "Full Metal Jacket", saw the Private Pyle sneak some cartridges into the squadbay, shoot the Sergeant, then shoot himself, and decided it was time for a three AM inspection and dumping of footlockers.

Nothing was found, of course. Nor was anything expected to be found. It was just his idea of funny.

For his birthday present, he had the whole platoon doing calesthenics in one of the tiny concrete bunkers at the end of the firing range. For a couple of hours.

He had quite a sense of humor.

#198 ::: FungiFromYuggoth ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2007, 04:01 PM:

Dave Bell @195 - It was established pretty early in the X-men comic that Wolverine has a card attesting he's had reconstructive surgery that left a lot of metal in his body. I think Berkeley Breathed has similar issues with metal detectors (and joked about wearing an "I [heart] Qaddafi" button through airports, in gentler times).

As for gait analysis... it's not a bad idea, but wouldn't the tight outfits alter their walk? (Not to mention voices for the male wearers... hey, maybe that's what the deal with costumes is?)

#199 ::: Chris ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2007, 07:03 PM:

#194, quoting #180:

- You're at war for control within your own faction(s), not just with the enemy.
So-called "partisan politics," and the efforts to stifle dissent within the Republican party by any means up to and including painting those who do as "traitors"...

Hold on, I call hyperbole. It's not a war without casualties. As long as the Neoconservative Death Squads haven't taken out Michael Moore and Noam Chomsky, I think we need to distinguish between a rhetorical war for political control and the real thing.

This is not intended to condone smear campaigns and Swift Boat type lies, merely to point out that there is an important difference between slander and murder.

You've got most of the rest of the list nailed, though - and I had the same thought on reading it, but thought that it was probably the original poster's intent.

#200 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2007, 08:56 PM:

Dave Bell @195: In the war on terror, there has been a lot of talk about ways of identifying people that somehow see past disguises.

For instance, gait analysis.

Don't have the book in front of me, but I'm reminded of a scene from Robert Heinlein's Double Star. The agent who has recruited Lawrence Smith (aka Lorenzo Smythe) immediately asks for assistance in avoiding his enemies, suggesting that Smith could do a little stage makeup on him. Smith tells him that wouldn't work; anyone who knew him would think "why is my friend wearing a putty nose?" Instead, he puts a pebble in his shoe (altering his gait), telling him the same person would then think "there goes a fellow who resembles my friend".

#201 ::: PublicRadioVet ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2007, 12:59 AM:

Lee @ #194,

Speaking as someone still in uniform, I think it's quite important to note that U.S troops in current times go out of their way to avoid "collateral" anything.

This is one of the aspects of the growing divide between civilian and military that just grates on me to no end in the U.S. Some people seem to think we're all just a bunch of loose cannons out there, obliterating everything we want, without thought or care, and if people get hurt and die, oh well, whatever.

It doesn't work that way. Not in 2007 anyhow. Yeah, during WW2 the U.S. took a scorched Earth view of things, especially in Japan, and by our current standards the U.S. did untold damage to innocent lives with the firebombings and nukings and whatnot. But then again if we had to fight WW2 in 2007 you'd never see firebombings or nukings or anything of the sort, because the entire mentality of what is and is not acceptable during war has changed quite a bit in this country. So it's really not fair (in my mind) to blame U.S. troops in 2007 for what U.S. generals did in 1944-1945.

Anyway, my original list was an attempt to contrast and compare the differences between me, a currently serving Sergeant of the U.S. Army Reserve, and Joe Bob al-Qaeda. Put me in the war zone and I am going to do as much as I can to avoid hurting innocent people. What about Joe Bob al-Qaeda? What does he care about the innocent? Jack nothing, if the suicide and car bombings are any indicator. In fact, the more innocent people Joe Bob kills, the better. At least in his mind and the minds of his fellow travelers in the jihad.

You can hang Bush out to dry all day long. I'm not interested in defending politicians. I am interested in making sure that people opposed to Bush and the war don't rack up some "collateral" casualties of their own; namely, U.S. servicemen and women just doing their jobs, and at no fault for the orders they get from above.

IMPORTANT NOTE: I am not saying anyone here specifically has compared U.S. troops to terrorists. But troop-blaming and moral equivalency between Private Fuzzy and Joe Bob al-Qaeda are both specious memes that have emerged in the broad anti-war sector. Hence people trash recruiting and ROTC offices, and all that other nonsense. Hell, I had a fellow college student call me a killer to my face in class last year when she found out I was Reserve; and I've never fired a weapon at another human being in my life. So it seems pretty obvious to me that if we in uniform don't start speaking up in our own defense, nobody else is going to do it for us.

ONE MORE NOTE: If I have gotten too far off track from the original intent of this thread, my apologies. I'm probably overly sensitive on this subject, given the rhetoric and hyperbole that gets flung around regarding the GWOT, and the role of the average U.S. troop in the GWOT. Most of us who are currently serving really are just trying to do the best we can, for ourselves and our country and for the Afghanis and Iraqis. And it sucks when someone like Michael Moore compares al-Qaeda in Iraq to Washington and the Continental Army.

Chris @ #199: yes, my thoughts exactly, regarding the differences between a rhetorical war and bona fide bloodshed.

#202 ::: PublicRadioVet ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2007, 01:16 AM:

albatross @ #196: As I stated to Lee, I think my list is simply my attempt to point out some of the differences between someone who is truly just defending his home or his tribe or his country against tyranny and/or aggression, and someone who is fighting for the pure blood-sport and chaos of the affair; someone who has little interest in shaking hands with the children or grandchildren of his current foe.

Regarding the Chechens, man, that is a sticky, sticky issue. Both sides have so completely crossed the line at different times, it's difficult to declare either one of them free from blemish because each in its own way has behaved very "terroristic" towards the other. I think it's easier for us in the West to side with Russians when things like the theater hostage crisis or the shool hostage crisis happen. We look at the Chechens and we remember 9/11 and we get that jaded little voice down inside saying, "Yes, of course, why did we expect anything better from these people?" But to look at how the Russians have quashed various religious and ethnic groups throughout the years, dating back many decades and even centuries, it's tough to see them in any kind of positive light.

Anyway, as I noted in my post to Lee, I think it's probably incorrect to judge past wars by our current moral and ethical standards, because clearly the wars of the past cannot and do not hold up by our current criteria. WW2 and the firebombings and nuking of Japan? Sherman's march to the sea? WHOA! The rules have changed. Mentalities have changed. And I am not trying to say that our current moral and ethical lens can successfully be used to examine history.

oceanmarine @ #197: was this in garrison?? Or was this in basic training? If in garrison, I just have to let my jaw hang, and be glad that the NCO's I work with in the Army Reserve are not nearly so sadistic! (he he he he)

#203 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2007, 03:05 AM:

Chris, #199: Fair cop. I got on a roll, and got careless with that one.

PublicRadioVet, #201: Anyway, my original list was an attempt to contrast and compare the differences between me, a currently serving Sergeant of the U.S. Army Reserve, and Joe Bob al-Qaeda.

Ah. I thought you were taking a rather broader approach, hence my response. I will agree with you that the average American soldier on the ground in Iraq is not a terrorist. I just don't think it can any longer be said that our Armed Forces are not under the command of one, and that's terrifying. (Play on words intentional.) And I'm not so sure I'd agree with you about anyone who took a hand in the atrocities at Abu Ghraib, or anything similar.

OTOH, you say at #202: my list is simply my attempt to point out some of the differences between someone who is truly just defending his home or his tribe or his country against tyranny and/or aggression, and someone who is fighting for the pure blood-sport and chaos of the affair

If you mean the first half of that statement to apply to the American troops in Iraq, it is also BLATANTLY WRONG -- as wrong as you say attempts to characterize them as "terrorists" are. Iraq was no threat to us pre-invasion, although they damn sure are now. That's what Bush's War has gotten us.

Also, there is no doubt in my mind that a great many of the Iraqis see themselves as "defending their tribe or country against tyranny and/or aggression". Insofar as they are attacking us, the occupying forces, then by your own definitions they are freedom fighters.

#204 ::: Ursula L ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2007, 10:05 AM:

Lee @203 said: Also, there is no doubt in my mind that a great many of the Iraqis see themselves as "defending their tribe or country against tyranny and/or aggression". Insofar as they are attacking us, the occupying forces, then by your own definitions they are freedom fighters.

Wasn't there a peace plan proposed by the Iraqi government a few years ago which would have given amnesty to those who attacked US and other occupying troops, but would have held those who attacked Iraqis as liable under their criminal law? And the US nixed the plan?

Makes sense to me, as something that might have worked before the revenge attack cycle got so out of control.

I'm not sure that the terrorist/soldier distinction can be clear when "soldier" includes occupying a foreign country simply because your leader wants you to, and lied to justify the attack and occupation. Or when "terrorist" includes attacking soldiers who are occupying your country under the orders of a lying madman. Or, at the very least, you can't take the soldier/terrorist distinction to be the same as soldier=good, terrorist=bad.

#205 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2007, 11:55 AM:

Lee@203: you shouldn't have backed down to Chris@199. While it's true we haven't seen assassinations of top figures yet, the current administration has condoned or excused violence, up to and including murder, by the anti-choice forces.

PRV@201: You describe an ideal; a poll published earlier this week (late last week?) suggests that ~half of the troops on the ground don't support that ideal.

wrt your earlier list, Al-Qaeda is not about perpetual violence but does have a clear endpoint: the re-establishment of the Caliphate. (There have even been overtures from them on the order of "Get out of our territory and we'll leave your territory alone.") I don't say this is a good thing, but it's another hole in your attempt at drawing a sharp line. You might also compare the Caliphate with the intended effect of the Project for a New American Century.

wrt your disliking being called a killer. A bullet is a made thing, with no choice or conscience; we cannot say bullets are at fault for being stockpiled in large numbers. What, however, can we say about human beings who voluntarily join the armed forces in peacetime? Their motives may be impeccable, but enough of them were on hand for the neocons to launch the Iraq insanity; they surrendered their consciences to the nutjobs-in-charge. (cf children/madmen, not giving a loaded firearm to.) You have more right to be upset at this label than, say, Scar Gordon -- but until such time as the Constitution forbids the National Guard from serving outside the U.S., you have put yourself in a morally ambiguous position.

#206 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2007, 12:19 PM:

A correction on #205: the poll in question was published over 2 weeks ago. See this reference dated 6 May.

#207 ::: PublicRadioVet ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2007, 01:41 PM:

Lee @ #203: Abu Ghraib was a great shame for every Army Reservist. Not only were Lindy England and the others in gross dereliction of duty, they just added fuel to the existing fire among some Active Component circles that Reservists are not professional and cannot be given front-line tasks or responsibilities. I personally wanted to take every troop indicted in the Abu Ghraib scandal and kick them in the privates; pun totally intended. There was no excuse for it, and it greatly ruined American credibility in Iraq.

And no, I am not saying America's activities in Iraq right now are directly defensive. I'm more concerned with stamping out the moral equivalency that creeps up in troops/terrorists conversations. The motives of a true freedom fighter differ greatly from a true terrorist. And in the case of Iraq, we have a strange brew with Sunni and Shiite and Kurd factions all waging battles to try and dictate the outcome of the occupation. They seem to be killing each other at a far faster rate than they kill U.S. troops, and they seem to be bled through with foreign fighters and other jihadis; and it's the foreigners and jihadis come for the carnage whom I believe are 100% terrorist, to the bone. They don't care if Iraqis die. They just want to kill and go to heaven and get their 72 virgins.

CHip @ #205: I don't think there is anything morally ambiguous about being a volunteer U.S. soldier. Let's consider the oath I took in 2002, line by line...

"I, _____, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same;

This firmly establishes that the U.S. armed forces are not, nor will they ever be, beholden to a single person. The U.S. Army was arguably the first land army in history ever sworn to protect and defend a set of principles, as opposed to a monarch or oligarchy or some other central power structure unrestrained by rule of law. This allows for the seamless transition of power from Presidency to Presidency, from congres to congress, Senate to Senate, Democrats to Republicans and back again, yadda yadda. As long as the U.S. armed forces hold to their oath to protect and defend that document, there shall be no true tyranny in the United States.

and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God."

Now, one might argue that the U.S. armed forces cannot serve the Constitution when a "criminal" is in the White house. But the President takes an oath, too. If (s)he is found in violation of that oath, then it's up to the other two branches of the Federal government to bring that President to task. Impeachment and/or imprisonment being the outcome. If what Bush is doing with the U.S. military is wrong and criminal, then it's up to the legislative and/or judicial branches to put a stop to it. Again, the onus does NOT fall onto the heads of individual soldiers. They cannot be faulted for going to war for a bad President. This is why no Vietnam vet can EVER be faulted for having served in Southeast Asia from 1960 to 1975. Maybe there were individual troops who violated UCMJ or otherwise disgraced themselves, but simply serving in Vietnam can NEVER be called wrong. So it is with those serving in Iraq. Call the war whatever you want. Call Bush whatever you want. It's not the job of the troops to decide if Iraq is right or wrong. That's for the politicians and, ultimately, voters to decide. There is no stain on the conscience of ANY servicemember who has gone to Iraq and kept his or her oath and maintained military bearing and not violated UCMJ.

Now, your idea about amending the Constitution so as to forbid the National Guard from serving beyond U.S. territory is an interesting idea. But again, this is an issue for the politicians and the voters to hash out. Guardsmen and women sent overseas should not be expected to carry any blame for the fact that the war they fight is unpopular or immoral. They are duty and honor-bound to follow their orders, and the blame falls absolutely to the policy-makers in D.C. for the rightness or wrongness of the war they fight.

#208 ::: Ursula L ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2007, 02:08 PM:

They are duty and honor-bound to follow their orders...

Isn't that a moral cop-out? "Just following orders" isn't an excuse for immoral or illegal behavior. It isn't an excuse the US will accept blindly from fighters from other nations, and there is no reason for it to somehow work if the military you happen to be with happens to be the US one.

And even if the law requires one to do something, that doesn't make it right if it would otherwise be wrong. A persons morality remains their own, whatever their job may be. If someone's job requires things that are often morally wrong (such as killing) that increases one's moral responsibility, it doesn't excuse one from it.

The policy makers are morally responsible for creating this disastrous and immoral policy. But those who carry out an immoral policy are also morally responsible for their own actions. Blame can't be shifted entirely to one or the other - the policy makers could not have put their policy into action without the affirmative acts of those who carry it out.

#209 ::: PublicRadioVet ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2007, 02:44 PM:

Usrula, I respectfully disagree, in that soldiers can only be held accountable for their individual behavior. They cannot be held accountable for policy. If policy becomes morally wrong then it falls to the legislators and voters to correct the error, and it's the blame of the policy-makers themselves for committing the "crimes" in question. No soldier can be blamed for what the person in the Oval Office does wrong. But they can be blamed when they personally violate UCMJ. Happens all the time, and it's why we have a military legal system to process and punish soldiers who do wrong.

One note on that: if an officer or non-commissioned officer gives an order that a subordinate knows for a fact is in violation of UCMJ or which contradicts a standing order from a higher authority in the chain of command, there are avenues that this subordinate can take which will not require him to follow said illegal order. This applies at the battlefield level, and is an altogether different argument when compared to troops deploying en masse in support of policy decisions made in Washington D.C.

#210 ::: Ursula L ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2007, 03:04 PM:

Why the distinction between "battlefield level" and "deploying en masse"? An illegal order would be an illegal order, in either context.

I have moral concerns about the entire concept of "following orders." It seems to be far too weighted toward acting without knowing to be morally responsible. An illegal or immoral order isn't going to be baldly illegal most of the time. It will be ambiguous, hidden by "it's classified" or the pressure of time, to "act now." If one can't stop and say "wait, this doesn't seem right, I will not act until I know my acts are moral," then one is, already, acting immorally.

And the UCMJ is something different from morality. An order can be within the UCMJ, and still be immoral. "But the UCMJ says its okay" can't make the immoral moral.

Individual behavior includes everything an individual does. That includes things done in support of immoral or illegal policy. Actions can't be broken up so that you are morally responsible for some but not all of the things you do.

"I committed this act, but I am not morally responsible for its consequences" just doesn't happen. Whether the act was done because you like the idea, or it's your job, or because you were ordered to do it, you still own your action, and its responsibility.

#211 ::: PublicRadioVet ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2007, 03:47 PM:

Ursula, military and battlefield ethics is one of those areas of debate that never seems to run out of steam. It's also one of the reasons why I think going back to a "draft" is a terrible idea. The military does not need to force into its ranks people who have moral and ethical problems with chain-of-command. Better for civilians and military both if we just don't try to shove that kind of square peg in that kind of round hole.

But again, I am going to have to respectfully disagree with your stance.

Consider it this way. The military is a well-trained dog. It has no directives of its own, in regards to foreign policy. It goes where Washington D.C. tells it to go, does what Washington D.C. tells it to do. If the owner of a well-trained dog sics that dog on an innocent victim, is it the dog's fault? The dog is just doing what it has been bred and trained to do. It's not the dog's fault if the owner is making poor decisions or is an asshole.

Now, if in the midst of performing a task the dog breaks discipline and decides to go off and hurt someone or damage something or do something it knows its not supposed to do without its masters' direction or consent, then that's on the dog.

Soldiers invading Iraq? That's on the President, the Congress, and the Senate.

Soldier(s) raping an Iraqi girl or randomly shooting up a village? That's on the soldier(s) themselves.

Does this make sense?

#212 ::: onceamarine ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2007, 03:51 PM:

War will exist until that distant day when the conscientious objector enjoys the same reputation and prestige that the warrior does today.

~John F. Kennedy

#213 ::: onceamarine ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2007, 03:59 PM:

The pioneers of a warless world are the [youth] who refuse military service. ~Albert Einstein

#214 ::: PublicRadioVet ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2007, 04:41 PM:

Great quotes, Marine.

In a world where we could count on the other side to be as disinterested in violence as we are, then we'd have no more need for a military.

Alas....

"War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself."

-- John Stuart Mill

#215 ::: onceamarine ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2007, 05:16 PM:

PRV Great quotes, Marine.

The problem is that I don't quite believe your enthusiastic endorsement of the sentiment communicated. You do of course realize that the youths who "refuse military service" would be civilians who "never darkened the door of a recruiter" and who "never earned a uniform". And your opinion expressed over on the Falwell thread seems to indicate that you do NOT hold such individuals with the "same reputation and prestige" that you give to the military folks.

So I hope you understand my skepticism.

In a world where we could count on the other side to be as disinterested in violence as we are

Can we claim such disinterest in violence when the administration lied with such vigor to invade Iraq with such reckless abandon?

As for your quote from Mill, I must ask whether you think that all who protest this senseless bloodbath and endless quagmire do so because they are cowards. Do the protesters think "nothing is worth war" or do they think "something is far more important than war"?

You may not agree with their arguments of politics, but I do not believe you can dismiss them as cowards too afraid to fight for what they believe in.

#216 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2007, 05:31 PM:

I'm going to ask you this again, PRV: where and when did you serve?

#217 ::: PublicRadioVet ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2007, 06:13 PM:

Teresa, in case you missed the other thread. I am a currently serving Sergeant, U.S. Army Reserve. I am based out of Ft. Lewis, WA. My regular job is in Seattle.

oceanmarine: if you've read the other thread then I think I've covered my bases. I only get angry with civilians when civilians feel it is their place to abuse, speak down to, harrass, or otherwise treat badly any uniformed U.S. servicemember because they are a servicemember.

And I do think there is a subset within the larger anti-war body which is absolutely of the "no war at all costs" mindset. These are the people who protested military response to 9/11, the invasion of Afghanistan, and who protest any military response at all to any international crisis. For them, nothing is ever worth war. Ever. And it is at them that my Mill quote is directed. Because I believe there are far worse things than war. And I believe that the refusal to fight at all costs is its own form of moral cowardice.

I know plenty of people who think Bush is a dick and that the invasion of Iraq is a disaster. Some of them are in my Reserve unit. One of them happens to be my wife. But even she (and they) can find times when the only response to a threat, is the use of force.

Again, I am not grinding an axe at the anti-war movement as a whole. I am peeved at the badly-behaving students and at the peace-at-any-cost peaceniks who think war is the worst possible outcome and that war can never be justified and that war can never be anything but morally wrong.

I think there are many historical precedents which illustrate that war, while terrible, is often necessary. And I really don't understand people who adhere to the no-war-ever ideology and then, on top of it, call men and women in uniform "warmongers" or "killers" simply for serving.

NOTE: Just so I am crystal clear, I am not saying the above describes anybody on this thread. I am speaking rhetorically!

#218 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2007, 06:45 PM:

I am peeved at the badly-behaving students and at the peace-at-any-cost peaceniks who think war is the worst possible outcome and that war can never be justified and that war can never be anything but morally wrong.

I regret that the students behaved badly, but as has been noted elsewhere, students do that. It is unfortunate if you, personally, have been attacked for serving your country. It would be best, certainly, if people who disagreed with each other about such vital issues as war and peace could remain respectful and courteous to one another.

But the point of view which you ascribe to "peaceniks" (a bit of contempt, there?) is a legitimate moral view, which has been held by some extremely courageous and honorable people. Some of them served under fire, as medics in those wars, or went to jail because they refused to serve in the armed forces. Some served -- and came away from the war in which they served with the view you describe. You are free to argue with this point of view and to disagree strongly with it, but your disagreement does not justify contempt, any more than their rejection of your point of view would justify theirs.

#219 ::: onceamarine ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2007, 07:25 PM:

peace-at-any-cost peaceniks who think war is the worst possible outcome and that war can never be justified and that war can never be anything but morally wrong.

I've never met anyone like that. My guess is that you haven't either.

People that I have met are people who are opposed to the kinds of military operations we're conducting now and in recent years. There was a general who opposed invading Iraq with anything less than half a million troops and a three year plan. There is the guy who opposed the war because he didn't think Iraq had anything to do with 9-11. There is the guy who opposed the war because he didn't believe Iraq had WMD's.

Now, whether these people are peaceniks who think war can never be justified and think war is always morally wrong, is an irrelevant hypothetical exercise. What matters is the wars we are fighting now, today, this very moment. And without fail, people who oppose these real wars have real reasons for opposing them.

Whether you agree with their reasons or not, is a different matter. But you can't ignore their real world reasons for opposing a real world war, and simply dismiss them as non-thinking peaceniks, moral cowards, and such simply because they didn't pass your "hypothetical war at any hypothetical cost" test.

#220 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2007, 07:34 PM:

PRV:

I have never darkened a recruiter's door, et'c et'c and by your explicit terms do therefore know nothing.

#221 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2007, 07:38 PM:

onceamarine @219
I've never met anyone like that. My guess is that you haven't either.

He talks to college students. I'm sure he's met people claiming every imaginable stripe of belief, none of them well thought out. Unfortunately, mistaking adolescent proclamations for considered belief is a lot like taking my six year old's statements that he's "not my friend" at face value.

PRV, sometimes you have to be the grownup in the relationship. The college students you persuade with your reasonableness won't see soldiers as jerks. The ones you treat with contempt will.

And I opposed an immediate military response to 9/11. I thought we'd end up in a pointless quagmire of a war, probably against the wrong opponents, in our rush to be doing something to make ourselves feel better. I dreaded that we'd even make things worse. (I was wrong, of course. We're in two pointless quagmires.)

#222 ::: Chris ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2007, 07:54 PM:
I have moral concerns about the entire concept of "following orders." It seems to be far too weighted toward acting without knowing to be morally responsible.
Yes, yes it is.

However, history suggests that any society that doesn't have a group of armed people trained to follow orders, even when those orders are to kill someone, and even when they are not sure whether the orders are right or wrong, is a society that won't be around for very long.

On the other hand, many societies have been subverted or tyrannized by their own militaries that supposedly existed to protect them.

So, although having a military is dangerous, not having one can be even more dangerous. You just have to do the best you can to make sure the military never turns into a military dictatorship. Most of the time, most people in the military will be good and decent and loyal to, at least, what they see as the interests of society. But the few exceptions can be utter disasters.

#223 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2007, 08:56 PM:

PRV: you completely miss my point -- and even make it indirectly. A dog has minimal choice of owner, and more hardwiring than a human being; if brutalized, it \may/ run away -- IFF it can stand the loneliness and the difficulty getting food. Someone who enlists in peacetime -- or worse, enlists in the Big Stick of the armed forces in response to 9/11, when what was clearly needed were scalpels -- is making a choice to subordinate all their judgment to whoever holds the White House. (As you point out, they take an oath to do this.) If enough people had refused the blandishments of the volunteer army, Iraq would not have been possible; Rumsfeld's "You go to war with the army you have" would have gotten a mass refusal from the generals, not the outspokenness of the few he could cashier. \That/, not the generally-hypothetical misconduct of any given soldier, is what almost every person in uniform can be criticized for. This is particularly true when it was clear six years ago that the inmates were in charge of the asylum; the careerists who would train new enlistees in the event of the threat the military could actually be useful against may be a necessary evil in this world, but the people who walked into a recruiter's office any time after 20 Jan 2001 have no excuse.

And note how the "volunteer" force involves all sorts of scrapings, e.g.:
- previous threads here about the increasing numbers of gang members enlisted, and gang affiliations carried into the army;
- the reservists you slam for misconduct at Abu Ghraib (who IIRC were mostly prison guards in civilian life, which can be argued to be a stroke against them).

I'll give you another side view of this. A common description in the Western press of the troubles that began in 1992 in Algieria involved an Islamist party (the FIS) that essentially said "Vote for us and you'll never have to worry about voting again." I won't argue the accuracy of this portrayal; I just suggest that it is analogous to enlistment -- which suggests the care with which enlistment should be approached.

You talk about the duties of politicians as if Gresham's Law didn't apply to them; I say anyone can take a step to starve the beast.

#224 ::: onceamarine ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2007, 08:57 PM:

abi: He talks to college students. I'm sure he's met people claiming every imaginable stripe of belief, none of them well thought out.

If PRV takes such issue with young college students because they have half baked ideas that aren't well thought out and end up making stupid remarks and insulting military people, I can only imagine the unmitigated rage that he must hold for someone who is an older, Ivy league graduate, who has half baked ideas that aren't well thought out that end up making stupid decisions that cause the needless deaths of thousands of military people and hundreds of thousands of civilians.

Unless of course, the problem isn't with half baked ideas at all, but something else.

#225 ::: Ursula L ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2007, 10:14 PM:

Consider it this way. The military is a well-trained dog. It has no directives of its own, in regards to foreign policy. It goes where Washington D.C. tells it to go, does what Washington D.C. tells it to do. If the owner of a well-trained dog sics that dog on an innocent victim, is it the dog's fault? The dog is just doing what it has been bred and trained to do. It's not the dog's fault if the owner is making poor decisions or is an asshole.

So you have people with no more moral agency than dogs?

My mind boggles. And cringes at the thought.

And if that is what our military is - a group people who have the moral agency of animals - I'm even more scared of it than I was before.

And if someone in the military has no more moral agency than a dog, why do they deserve any more respect than a dog? If anything, they'd deserve less. A dog can't help but be a dog, but any human with any decency should be better than that.

#226 ::: Ursula L ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2007, 10:52 PM:

Soldiers invading Iraq? That's on the President, the Congress, and the Senate.

Soldier(s) raping an Iraqi girl or randomly shooting up a village? That's on the soldier(s) themselves.

Does this make sense?

No, that doesn't make sense.

In both cases, the soldiers, as individuals, are choosing to act.

If, in the first case, one chooses to obey without first asking if what they are being asked to do is right, then they've adopted for themselves the errors and moral failings of the President, the Congress and the Senate.

If they are doing it because they've taken an oath to do so, then the oath itself is morally wrong. A nation needs soldiers that are willing to fight when doing so is right. But a soldier that fights when doing so is wrong only pulls the nation and the world further down.

Some wars need to be lost, and many more need not to have been fought at all. I doubt that more than a handful of wars that have been fought have actually been needed to be fought for moral reasons. And even then, that is only true for one side - the other side is morally wrong to fight. (I can think of only two offhand - the US Civil war, for the Union side, after the Emancipation Proclamation, and WWII, the allied side. Possibly Korea. And if one side is fighting the war for the right reasons, the other is fighting a war that needs to be lost.)

If one is asked by one's nation to fight, odds are, it is for a morally wrong reason. And the decision of whether to fight or not needs to be made with that in mind - that any nation is far more likely to have leaders order troops to fight for the wrong reasons than for the right ones.

And even if a war, in a particular case, is the right one to fight, there is the necessary follow up question of whether the way that the war is being fought is a way that is is likely to achieve the stated and necessary goals. Because even a well-intentioned war can go horribly wrong if carried out badly, and someone who thinks about it in advance can often see that whatever is being done probably won't work. Starting a war for the right reasons doesn't excuse bringing the horror of war down on others with little or no hope of creating a better system to replace the one your are out to destroy.

A human doesn't get a free ride, morally, for actions they choose to commit.

#227 ::: Seth Breidbart ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2007, 11:11 PM:

Soldiers are required to obey orders unless the order is unlawful.

"Pick up your stuff and get your ass on that ship NOW" isn't unlawful.

"Shoot everybody in that village, including babies" is unlawful.

#228 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2007, 11:22 PM:

PublicRadioVet:

Speaking as a SSG, CA ARNG, OIF-1, OBNCO for the V Corps Cage, Interrogation Instructor and a whole bunch of other stuff which doesn't apply.

We, as soldiers are in a more difficult position than you paint (which is largely that the cause of the king washes the stain from us, and any unjustness to his cause is on him, not us... see Henry V for Shakespeare's eloquent explication of the argument), but it's not true.

Nuremburg (and subsequent trials of lesser lights in the Nazi atrocities) said that "orders from the state" don't justify crimes against humanity. We are responsible for our actions, though the degree of culpability is attenuated, the further one gets from the giver of the orders.

No matter how much policy might have sanctioned My Lai (nor how much it may be proved to have affected Abu Ghraib; and I know some of the players in that mess, on the intel side) that doesn't excuse Calley for his actual orders on the ground; regardless of the level of accord with that policy, nor does it do more than mitigate the actions of those whom he ordered (though honesty requires me to confess that I know the poor sod who was assigned his defense by JAG)

There's a reason the only medal given out for My Lai (though years late and dollars short) was to the American who threatened to shoot any troop who approached the rescue birds.

""War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself."

-- John Stuart Mill

is a splendid sentiment, but utterly useless in discussing any specific conflict. The person who believes Iraq was a bad idea may have things for which he is willing to struggle, fight, and; if needs be, die.

I have friends who are Friends. They oppose the war. They have been arrested, placed on no-fly lists, spied on, shot at with rubber bullets, beaten by cops, tasered and pepper-sprayed.

They did this precisely because they are against war, and they are willing to take all sorts of abuse to protest it.

I have other friends, some of them in this forum, who are merely against this war. I know that some of them are more than willing to get my back in a brawl, and (if they think the cause just) would be willing to man the barricades.

So they don't fail Mill's test, they merely fail the test of those who think this war justifies it.

And, in case you missed it, Teresa noticed your claim to service. She asked for detail (what we would call corroboration). You say you are in the reserves, and do your drills at Ft. Lewis. Fine, give us your MOS, DOR, ETS, End Date of Obligation, and/or Unit of Assingment.

Now, to make this clear (though there are those here who know me personally, and can vouch for my assertions).

My unit is headquarted in San Francisco, MOS 97E30LRUH, I have passed my End Date of Obligation with a PEBD of 29JAN93. I am in C Co, 223rd MI Bn (L).

You can find my account, typos and all, of my time in the Box here. You will have to go the "calendar view" to skip ahead, as there are lots of gaps, when I couldn't/didn't write.

#229 ::: PublicRadioVet ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2007, 01:49 AM:

CHip @ #248 (on the other thread): One thing that surprised me when I joined the Army Reserve is that recruiters can be "plucked" for their jobs, just like Drill Sergeants. So while some recruiters do operate like snake oil salesmen, I think it's worth noting that not all recruiters seek that job out. Many (probably too many) get stuck with that work, and hate it, and seek to escape it at the nearest opportunity. Me? I'd probably be a rotten recruiter, just as I am a rotten proselytizer for my church. I'm just not a "seller" in any sense of the word.

Lee @ #249 (on the other thread): I suppose my "darkened doorway" hyperbole was over the top? Yes, I obviously am treading some unusual ground (for me) when I post to this forum. I was not quite prepared for some of the responses I have gotten, but live and learn I guess. Yes, wording does seem to be everything around here. As Obi Wan might say, "We must be cautious..."

Now, regarding your elitism comment.... It would be dishonest to say that the military is not somewhat set apart from any other organization I am familiar with in American life. Mostly because the entry "fee" for membership is so high. Basic training sucks. AIT sucks. In all branches, the life of a trainee is miserable. And can last for many months, or even a year or more, depending on MOS. Lots of people wash out, all the time. When you emerge on the other side having earned a uniform there is definitely an undeniable sense that you have done things and accomplished goals which are extraordinary. And the more training you get and the more things you go through in uniform, the greater this sense becomes. So you will often hear or read a sentiment among servicemembers that civilians don't "get it", and this translates (naturally) as elitism. Because, well, it is elitist. Guilty on all counts. And I am sorry that it's causing me a lot of hoof-in-mouth around here. I will try to tone it down.

Lizzy @ #218: I would not count conscientious objectors among the "peace at all costs" camp. Unless I am mistaken as to the historical use of the phrase "conscientious objector", this was used to describe anyone, who through religious or moral conviction, could not bring themselves to use a weapon on another human in combat. It did not prevent them from serving, and in some cases, displaying terrific valor and heroism. No, the "peace at all costs" folks I am referring to are the current-day crop of idealists who have totally digested the idea that war is the worst possible outcome and that nothing (and I mean nothing) can ever, ever justify it. These people have not served, nor will they ever serve, and they too often treat those who do serve with unearned contempt.

oncearmarine @ #219: Actually, I have met my share of "peace at all costs" people. One of them used to be a good friend of my wife's. This friend and I used to argue heatedly and eventually we just had to not discuss the issue because I pissed her off to the point of glaring silence. Believe it or not, I understand the viewpoint of the peacenik. I used to adhere to it myself from about age 17 to age 28. Then September 11 happened in 2001, and I found my peacenik theory didn't have any answers for an event like 9/11. I have since abandoned it. Which is not to say I think all people who protest the Iraq war are wrong. I just happen to disagree with the absolutist subset of war protester who is against all wars entirely. Sometimes, war is the evil that is necessary to avert an even greater evil.

JESR @ #220: I still didn't name you specifically, but if you're bound and determined to take offense... Well, that's your call.

abi @ #221: I've had my share of reasonable conversations with college kids who are against the war. I only get my blood up when they start in with the spoon-fed military bashing stuff. That's when my bullshit-o-meter starts pinging and sometimes, I just can't be a Nice Guy about it. Not with people almost half my age who have done zilch in their short lives to show that they even have half a clue as to what they're talking about.

Chris @ #222: great points, about the military being a less-than-palatable necessity. I agree with them.

CHip @ #223: I don't think I missed your point, I just didn't agree with it? Speaking as someone who signed up after 9/11/2001 and before Iraq was invaded, I certainly object to anyone denigrating my decision as if it's default-supportive of a single President. Because I'm in the Reserve until I retire or die, whichever comes first, and this means I'll see several Presidencies and potentially several wars. If I am suddenly going to be to "blame" every time I don't crumple up my orders and pull a Lt. Watada.... Well, I am not sure there is much else to talk about.

Ursula @ #225: we're talking past each other at this point. I guess we're just not going to agree.

Ursula @ #226: unfortunatley the enlistment periods of the soldiery do not allow them to have 20/20 historical hindsight on the rightness or wrongess of this or that military conflict. And again, for those so absolutely opposed to chain-of-command and the differences between top-down blame and bottom-up blame, service is neither required nor expected. Not anymore.

Seth @ #227: exactly!!!!

Terry @ #228: as I have outlined above, I am not opposed to war protests and protesters et al. I too have friends who have also been involved in anti-war activities of one sort or another. And I have not at any point tried to say that an individual is not responsible for his individual violations under UCMJ. My Lai being a textbook example. Abu Ghraib being another example. I expect accountability amongst servicemembers and I am not saying all servicemembers get a pass on conduct because Bush is fucking up. They do not. I am saying, however, that strategic policy-level decisions cannot be laid at the feet of PV1 Fuzzy, who has zero control over policy and cannot be expected to betray his oath as a Soldier simply because a war is unpopular or lots of people are convinced the war is wrong.

As for me revealing much more than my rank and station of assignment, I hope you will understand if I am hesitant to give out specifics on a public forum like this. All the shit guys have been getting lately for their internet antics has me thinking it's better to conduct such a conversation in a more secure manner. Hit me with your AKO at my e-mail I use here, then I will hit you back from my AKO.

#230 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2007, 01:55 AM:

Terry Karney @ 228

Thank you for a passionate, reasoned exposition of why soldiers don't get to drop the burden of moral decision on their superiors, any more or less than anyone else does. In the thick of it, where "it" is any hard and hazardous task, combat or otherwise, it's very easy for tunnel vision to set in, so that all that matters is getting you, and your buddies, and your unit through. But that's not enough; being human is about making the best choices you can, when it's hard and when it's easy. And it's about being willing to pay the price for those choices, when the bill comes due.

None of those things are the province of any one class of people: soldiers, sailors, tinkers, or tailors. And no one should be judged on any basis but how they choose, and what they do for those choices.

This forum is an especially good place to see the minds and hearts of people of good will and moral firmness; people who ask themselves what choices they should make, and try to make them with the best will they can.

Bruce Cohen, SP/5, MOS 32G40
US Army Signal Corps. 1966-1969
1st Signal Brigade, MACV, 1968

#231 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2007, 05:19 AM:

PRV @229:
Thank you for staying, and for sticking with the discussion. I'm still worried about the elitism thing, both in form and substance.

See, many of us have done difficult things in our lives, which has earned us membership in exclusive clubs, some formal (Benedictine oblates, like two of the people I've met here), some not (Classics, four years of which can be as hard, intellectually, as boot camp is physically). Many of us serve our country in many ways (Being an expat turns out to mean being an ambassador without portfolio, 24/7.) That doesn't buy us a free pass to be elitist, either in speech or in unspoken attitude.

The difference is that we have the humility to realise that, just because we belong to our particular club, we're not better than anyone else overall. We're just, in that area, different.

I don't know whether this cultivation of the "separate, and frankly, better" attitude in the military is a recent thing, but I think it's pernicious to the health of the democracy. It leads military people to behave the way you did on the other thread, and the reaction of the civvies you unintentionally insult and belittle (even when agreeing with them) builds that sense of isolation.

#232 ::: Ursula L ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2007, 09:53 AM:

unfortunatley the enlistment periods of the soldiery do not allow them to have 20/20 historical hindsight on the rightness or wrongess of this or that military conflict. And again, for those so absolutely opposed to chain-of-command and the differences between top-down blame and bottom-up blame, service is neither required nor expected. Not anymore.

Perhaps not 20/20 hindsight.

But if someone stops and thinks, they can generally see the likely consequences of their actions. Perhaps it will be 20/40, or 20/100, or 20/200. But the ability is always there, in some way, and must be used for one to act morally. The fact that foresight isn't perfect is not a reason not to use it, any more than the fact that one needs glasses is a reason to put on a blindfold and get into the car to drive.

Whether one is legally liable based on a bottom-up or top-down concept of blame doesn't, from what I can see, make any difference in terms of moral liability. The law, where it relates to the military, seems more interested in making people do what is wrong, than with making, or even letting, people do what is right. Which makes whatever it justifies be something other than a standard of morality.

Just "not having to serve" if you disagree with the morality of the concept of orders doesn't really satisfy, morally. "Following orders" is legally privileged, which is wrong, and leads to great wrongs. And having a huge portion of the nation's resources devoted to a system which actively tries to separate individuals from their moral agency is deeply problematic. When it comes to decisions to kill "if you don't like it, don't join" doesn't address the problem that people are being given guns and taught not to take responsibility for their own actions.

#233 ::: onceamarine ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2007, 10:20 AM:

Now, regarding your elitism comment.... It would be dishonest to say that the military is not somewhat set apart from any other organization I am familiar with in American life. Mostly because the entry "fee" for membership is so high. Basic training sucks. AIT sucks. In all branches, the life of a trainee is miserable. And can last for many months, or even a year or more, depending on MOS. Lots of people wash out, all the time. When you emerge on the other side having earned a uniform there is definitely an undeniable sense that you have done things and accomplished goals which are extraordinary. And the more training you get and the more things you go through in uniform, the greater this sense becomes. So you will often hear or read a sentiment among servicemembers that civilians don't "get it",

So, when you said "good quotes" to Kennedy's bit giving peaceniks the same reputation and prestige as those in uniform, you were blowing smoke up my ass?

People don't have to "get it" to be your equal. And nothing you've done makes them less equal.

#234 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2007, 10:36 AM:

Dear PRV: thanks for sticking with this a little while longer. Some conscientious objectors were in fact "peaceniks" who held exactly the view you excoriate as follows... current-day crop of idealists who have totally digested the idea that war is the worst possible outcome and that nothing (and I mean nothing) can ever, ever justify it. These people have not served, nor will they ever serve, and they too often treat those who do serve with unearned contempt. Some Quakers believe that war is the worst possible outcome and will not serve, though they do not treat people who serve with contempt. Some Buddhists also believe this. So do some Christians. Expressing contempt toward people because they sincerely make other moral choices is unfortunate and damaging to one's cause -- also very rude. I don't defend it.

But just because you saw military service as the appropriate moral choice for you after 9/11 doesn't mean that it was the only appropriate moral choice.

Can you acknowledge that complete pacifists -- people who believe that war is Always Wrong -- may also be making a sincere moral choice, even if it's one that you would not make?

#235 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2007, 11:59 AM:

PRV: With the understanding you may be offended, but your absolute reticenceto reveal anything; other than an assertion of service, makes me less than willing to give you my AKO address, esp. as I have been more than open with you.

Apart from unit (which is far less sensitive than people think) I didn't ask for anything (nor, in fact would you have had to give all of it to establish bona fides) which was all that identifying. Someone who wanted to comb the data might be able to narrow it down to a couple of people, and a small bit of shading on your part would have been enough to make it plain you were what you claim, and still be opaque to anyone who wanted to come after you.

But since the line you are giving us is the "party line" and better, in many regards than they official commentary, I don't really see your explanation of fear of repercussion for saying the services are a cut above, those who protest anythig they do are in no position to make comment, and we will police our own is at any risk of action.

Further, per AR 600-20, para 5-3(1)(a) you are entitled to make political comment, of any sort, in your personal and private capacity.

To go on, you say you are in the Reserve, which means that you aren't subject to UCMJ sanction for things you say when you aren't on orders (for which drill counts) so you can't really be punished for anything you say here unless you are AGR, on duty this moment, or for some reason making use of Army equipment to post here (and that doesn't include the EdCenter, nor the post library computers, even if they are lobotomized by DOIM).

To be honest, the only piece of lingo/turns of phrase which rang true to me, was your making use of AKO, but that's not enough to make me say, absolutely, that you are in the service.

If you are, well that's the way it goes, I've missed that call a couple of times, and I may miss it again, but your comments sound, just this side of, "I can't talk about that, it's classified" and opsec (unless you are idendifiably running around the web saying Gen Pace is a dolt and moron, The SecDef can't find his ass with two-hands, a map and a ground guide, etc., and you are merely playing devil's advocate here) doesn't really come into play.

To be honest, in almost fifteen years, I've only felt uncomfortable in uniform a couple of times, and those almost 12 years ago.

When I go places in uniform, I've been well treated by pretty much everyone. Some have looked away, but no one has visited me with scorn, derision, or mockery. I've never had anyone come up to me and call me a killer, or anything of the sort.

I've had people approach me to ask what I thought about things (and in Seattle, I was at MAMC for seven months in 2003/2004). I've had them buy me appetizers, drinks and even a meal. Some of those were the same people who adamantly opposed the war.

In fact, to be honest, the only abuse I've gotten has been from people who, "support the troops" who disagree with me on subjects running from interrogation; and some of them publically, in print here in the internets, because I don't agree with them.

I've had people who've never seen the elephant tell me I, "don't know how it is" when I decry war crimes (specifically the shooting of the wounded in a mosque, and I think that Marine got away with murder).

And I've had those who want desperately to believe there is some scrap of hope for a legitimate justification for the war yell and scream at me when I tell them the things they believe are wrong.

So, the people who have most offended me aren't the "peaceniks" but rather those who "support the troops" by telling them they ought to become animals (viz David Brooks saying we will have to commit, and forgive, atrocities to win the war in Iraq). Or being told, "We don't need more troops, we just need the ones we have to buckle down and do the job (and that's what extending tours to 15 months is, and what removing the 2 in 5 limits on RC troops is).

Those people who tell me this is the existential crisis of the age, and I should be proud to get live in squalor, get shot at; phsyically damaged, mentally scarred, lose my friends, and become slightly alien to my loved ones, but they aren't; even when more than fit, and younger than I, going to enlist to carry out, in person; boots on the ground, where they say the crunch is, the policies they propose (and yes, I am talking about Jonah Golberg, and Fred Kagan).

If that's the support I get, they can keep it, I'll hang with the "peaceniks" thanks. They at least seem to have the moral clarity to stick to the purpos of their convictions.

#236 ::: Bruce Cohen, SpeakerToManagers ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2007, 12:26 PM:

And speaking of "support for our troops" (and pardon me if I'm repeating things you've already heard), it would seem that, having pretty much destroyed the readiness of the Army and the Marines, the DOD has started in on the Air Force and Navy. Sailors and airmen are being trained for infantry support jobs like convoy operation, armed reconnaissance, etc, and readied for mobilization to Iraq. They already have some Coast Guard doing oil platform security and shallow water interdiction work; guess they need to boost that number too.

I think what angers me most about this from a military standpoint, forgetting about the waste of life, limb, and property for a moment, is just how horribly long and hard the job of putting the US armed forces back together is going to be. And after the way the troops have been jerked around, recruitment will be low for quite awhile, making it even harder.

#237 ::: PublicRadioVet ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2007, 01:57 PM:

Terry @ #235: I don't know what kind of yearly briefings you get in the ANG but we in my USAR unit have had to sit through one half-day session per fiscal year dedicated entirely to info securty as it pertains to the internet. As the PSNCO who handles MPRJ's and medical/dental records, and who advises the younger soldiers on how to keep and protect their records and paperwork and information at home, I pay attention to that security stuff. So on the internet, unless I am talking to a fellow Soldier through an official channel (like AKO) I am not terribly comfortable giving out PEBD or unit identification or other specifics. It's just a precaution I take based on the best advice given me by minds both higher ranking and better paid than my own. If you truly think I am a faker, then oh well. I've offered you a reasonable avenue of confirmation that we both have access to. If that's not good enough for you, it's not my problem.

SPECIAL NOTE: if Teresa or someone else wants to ping the IP on this post, and sleuth the geographic location and/or zip code for that IP, it should tell them where I am posting from, and that ought to be enough to end this pointless "show me yours" conversation.

Now....

Like you, I get lots of pats on the back; especially from current and prior service. Just this morning I was offered a ride by an ANG E-4 who saw me waiting at the bus stop in ACUs. I'm doing ADSW in support of my unit and he was nice enough to offer me a ride, even though he didn't know me and this was not a duty day for him. I've had people shake my hand, tell me thanks for my service, etc. On the balance, the public response is quite positive.

Which is why it's always a shock when someone has the affrontery to dog me for being in the USAR. It hasn't happened often, but it's happened enough for me in the Pacific Northwest to have a bad taste in my mouth about it.

Concerning the recruiter-bashing at SCCC, I took some students to task with the following logic: how do you know those recruiters didn't vote for John Kerry? How do you know whether or not they "like" the war in Iraq? How do you know anything at all about these recruiters and what gives you the right to shout them down and kick them out of the schools? We need our armed forces regardless of who is in the white house. And were any of the students of faculty getting off on kicking out recruiters, doing the same thing when Clinton was sending the U.S. abroad to Somalia or Kosovo? Usually that shuts them down and makes them think a little harder, which is all I ask of the younger set.

And I will repeat again: I am not excusing bona fide war crimes. I have not said any such thing. All I have said is that your basic line troop cannot be held responsible for decisions being made in the White House, or the Pentagon. This is why street troop-bashing and recruiter-bashing strikes me as specious, and why I speak out against it so adamantly.

Is this the "party line" you accuse me of? That I get angry when civilians give uniformed servicemembers shit for being uniformed servicemembers?

Bruce @ #236: I think we've had rotten decision-making, in regards to military readiness, since at least 1994. Downsize, downsize, downsize, and then, wham, 9/11 happens and suddenly we realize, hey, we need a military again; a military of warm bodies, not just smart bombs and B-2's. Maybe the next President can muster enough support in Congress to start making some common sense decisions about overall armed forces morale, readiness, logistics, equipment wear and replacement, etc. Because right now, it 'aint happening. And yes, it'll probably take years to recoup the damage.

#238 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2007, 02:10 PM:

abi, #231: I would also wonder how healthy that is for the military itself. Isolation feeds on itself, and it's not such a far stretch from "the military are separate from, and frankly, better than, the civilians" to "no civilian is fit to give us orders" to "the military really ought to be running things" a la Starship Troopers (the book, not the movie).

Bruce, #236: It's tinfoil-hat time! I've heard a hypothesis floated that the slagging of the Armed Forces is deliberate Dominionist policy, with the ultimate goal of removing military resistance from the picture when the coup comes. When you combine that thought with the documented problem of fundamentalist proselytization pressure both at West Point and among the troops, it becomes scarily plausible.

#239 ::: PublicRadioVet ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2007, 02:10 PM:

oceanmarine, I really do think those are good quotes. They speak to the ideal that when all men lay down arms, then we shall have real peace. I used to love that sentiment and espoused it in my early 20's, because it was close to my heart. I think 9/11 really knocked the wind out of my sails in regards to pursuing such an ideal. 9/11 made me realize that even if everyone in the U.S. dumped every rifle and bullet and tank and plane and bomb into the sea, there would still be maniacs out there trying to kill us; and that the only moral response to such savagery, is to take up arms and defend ourselves.

NOTE: I am not talking about Iraq at all right now. So anyone who is revving up for another post wherein they take me to taske for "supporting Iraq" when I have in fact done no such thing, save yourself the effort.

As to the elitism thing, I don't think I wear that sentiment on my cuff unless I am in an environment where several or more civilians start speaking a) ill of the military and/or b) like they know more than I do about what the military is like, how it functions, what its role is, what its "moral" role is, etc, etc. Otherwise, I don't think I am any better (or worse) than anyone else I know. So really this whole elitism thing, while genuine in sentiment, can't go anywhere, because it's not like I walk around town with my CAC card taped to my forehead, daring people to say something.

Lizzy: The only peaceniks I have a true problem with are the "peace at all costs" people who look down their noses at servicemembers or who try to tell servicemembers they are immoral for being in the service. I think this is as succinctly as I can express my sentiment.

Yes, people can and do make a very sincere moral choice regarding absolute opposition to war. I am married to just such a person. So I know all about it. I also used to believe similarly, but have a different POV now that is more worldly and less idealic.

One final question for oceanmarine: what would you say to a sports fan who thinks he/she knows more about the game than, say, a professional player? Are the fan and the player truly "equal" in terms of knowledge and experience?

#240 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2007, 02:37 PM:

PRV, for the less passive-aggressive among us, receiving offended reactions from unnamed parties who fall well within the parameters of extensive lists of characteristics but who have not been singled out by name is considered a normal part of online dialog.

If I had gone off on Army recruiters who call my offspring at home and leave the impression that they are calling from the college registrar's office or my kids' places of employment, or use other deceptive means to get them to the telephone, and implied while doing so that it is the prime and perhaps only tactic recruiters use for contacting high-achieving students, would you have taken offense?

#241 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2007, 02:37 PM:

PRV, for the less passive-aggressive among us, receiving offended reactions from unnamed parties who fall well within the parameters of extensive lists of characteristics but who have not been singled out by name is considered a normal part of online dialog.

If I had gone off on Army recruiters who call my offspring at home and leave the impression that they are calling from the college registrar's office or my kids' places of employment, or use other deceptive means to get them to the telephone, and implied while doing so that it is the prime and perhaps only tactic recruiters use for contacting high-achieving students, would you have taken offense?

#242 ::: Bruce Cohen, SpeakerToManagers ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2007, 02:57 PM:

Lee @ 238

I would also wonder how healthy that is for the military itself. Isolation feeds on itself

Not in the slightest healthy. The goal for the military in the US is to keep it tied to the populace both top down and bottom up. Top down, civilians are in ultimate authority, no ifs, ands or buts (though we have a few butt-heads at the moment). Bottom-up, citizens are encouraged to join the military, if only as Reserves or in the Guard, so they understand what it is, and so not all the troops are career soldiers.

It's tinfoil-hat time!

Yeah, I've heard this theory. David Brin is especially enthusiastic (?) about it on his blog. He makes a scarily persuasive case for it.

#243 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2007, 03:04 PM:

PRV @239:
...I don't think I wear that sentiment on my cuff unless I am in an environment where several or more civilians start speaking a) ill of the military and/or b) like they know more than I do about what the military is like, how it functions, what its role is, what its "moral" role is, etc, etc.

And what a fantastic way it's been to convince us to share your point of view. I wonder if it's as irresistibly persuasive the other times you've deployed it?

Or maybe it might be better PR (and therefore a better service to you and your fellow servicemen and women) to not do that?

So really this whole elitism thing, while genuine in sentiment, can't go anywhere, because it's not like I walk around town with my CAC card taped to my forehead, daring people to say something.

I bet it infects many ways you deal with the rest of your fellow citizens. It's poison.

#244 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2007, 03:10 PM:

PRV, I think you dislexed onceamarine's name (once a marine, not ocean marine).

#245 ::: onceamarine ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2007, 03:21 PM:

As to the elitism thing, I don't think I wear that sentiment on my cuff

But you wear it. That was my point of questioning the quotes. The Kennedy quote especially, isn't about "there will be peace when everyone lays down their arms". It doesn't say that. It says there will be peace when the peacenik and the warrior get equal respect. And you don't give them equal respect.

When you emerge on the other side having earned a uniform there is definitely an undeniable sense that you have done things and accomplished goals which are extraordinary.

The internal yardstick with which you measure your self worth is completely up to you. But it is elite snobbery to pick your measure as the sole measure for who "gets it" and who is a clueless poser, who is extraordinary and who deserves your contempt.

what would you say to a sports fan who thinks he/she knows more about the game than, say, a professional player?

That's perfectly fine if you're the professional player and they are the amateur. The thing that I have not seen anywhere in your posts is the idea that maybe there are some people working hard for peace who know more about peace than you. i.e. They know as much about peace as you know about war.

But when all you have is a hammer, everything starts looking like nails.

Sure, the people who throw water at recruiters are assholes. But they represent the whole of the peace activists as much as the sadistic bastards who tortured inmates at Abu Grab represent the whole of the military.

Not all of the "peaceniks" throw water and disrespect military people. Someone pointed out to you that there are Quakers, Buddists, and Christians who sincerely believe war is not an option, yet respect people in the military.

Can you do the same for them?

#246 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2007, 03:39 PM:

Lizzy: The only peaceniks I have a true problem with are the "peace at all costs" people who look down their noses at servicemembers or who try to tell servicemembers they are immoral for being in the service. I think this is as succinctly as I can express my sentiment.

Is it their point of view you object to, or their rudeness?

By calling them "peaceniks," you belittle even the most sincere and courteous pacifists. Are you saying that pacifism seems to you to be so clueless, especially in light of 9/11, that you think people who hold that point of view are not entitled to respect, even when they are not rude to people in the military?

I don't personally know anyone who says, "Peace at all costs." It strikes me as a non-serious and ultimately trivial way to approach a serious human issue. I know and deeply respect those who hold to a moral position of non-violence.

It is human nature to defend and justify that which we believe and that which we do. Our emotional requirement that we feel good about our own choices does not, in fact, make the choices good, for all values of "good." Reasonable people can and do differ about what is good.

I think I'm out of here now. God bless.

#247 ::: PublicRadioVet ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2007, 06:31 PM:

ALL: as for the elitism thing, well, all I can say is that I am a much nicer dude in person than I can be through my keyboard. I'd dare wager this is true for just about everyone here. But yes, the comments about poor ambassadorial example are well noted and well heeded. I shall cogitate. And I'm sorry to have urinated in the community cheerios. My anger is really with the people I've met at school and on the street, not with people on this board. Maybe if I'd made that more explicit at the beginning, things would have gone better.

Lizzy @ #246: I think what gets me is the smugness. As mentioned before, my wife had a friend who was totally about the whole "peace at all costs" thing. A former Peace Corps volunteer with a Masters in social work, she was absolutely convinced of the moral and ethical untouchableness of her stance, and she thought I was horrible for being someone who used to be a peacenik in a lot of ways, but who had "fallen" in the wake of 9/11. Apparently, I was morally unbearable for her, and it was her distancing from me (and my wife by association) which left a pretty bad taste in my mouth. It was like I wasn't good enough for her anymore since I decided to join the USAR. That left a pretty big mark, since this was a person my wife and I both cared about quite a bit. We introduced her to a mutual friend who became her fiance and then her husband. They have since cut us off, in spite of the fact that my wife and she are still very much aligned on the peacenik thing. But apparently I'm just too terrible to associate with.

Just to recap:

I do not dislike all peace activists.
I do not dislike all peace activists.
I do not dislike all peace activists.

I only dislike certain kinds of peace activists. (see below)

onceamarine: who works and prays and hopes for peace more than a Soldier, Sailor, Airman, or Marine? It's our butts on the line, after all. I think most of us would happily see war ended forever.

What grates on me are the "bandwagon" peaceniks. The people who don't do jack shizzle about real peace. They attend a rally or a march once in awhile, put a "FUCK BUSH!" or a "WAR IS TERRORISM" bumper sticker on their car, and then parade around as if they've done something meaningful for the cause. IMHO unless these people are deeply engaged with getting out the vote, it's a lot of self-congratulatory hot air. Because the only thing that will bring peace and bring the troops home are votes. Lots and lots of votes. Election after election.

For those peace activists who are voting and getting out the vote and making a real difference, hey, my daughter probably says thank you, because maybe Daddy won't have to go die in the desert.

For the bandwagon peaceniks.... Eh. I'd better stop before I spout off more on this. The peacenik bandwagon is essentially a mirror inverse of the chickenhawk bandwagon. They just have different goals. Neither of these groups is serious about putting their butts on the line for anything meaningful. It's like it's a game for them. A social club. A party. When the excitement dies down and it's not fashionable anymore, they'll move on to something else.

#248 ::: PublicRadioVet ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2007, 06:35 PM:

Having re-read my last post, I suddenly see a shitstorm forming over the chickenhawk/bandwagon analogy.

Must... Stop.... Typing....

#249 ::: PublicRadioVet ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2007, 06:35 PM:

Having re-read my last post, I suddenly see a shitstorm forming over the chickenhawk/bandwagon analogy.

Must... Stop.... Typing....

#250 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2007, 07:07 PM:

PRV -- no, you're good. You make sense. You are pissed off at someone who you thought was a friend, but turned out to be an asshole. We've all been there. And you are pissed off at people who think that it is enough to just talk lovingly about "peace" without making an effort to create it, or who talk lovingly about "war" while never considering that they might have to enlist.

Thank you for sticking with it.

And in case I haven't said it, I respect the choice that you and many -- here and elsewhere -- have made to serve in the military. (I didn't always. I was young, and stupid, rather like those students in Seattle whom you find so objectionable, I expect.) My respect for that choice does not negate my revulsion for war nor my fury at the current situation.

#251 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2007, 07:30 PM:

Lee #238: One of the reasons why Latin American militaries have historically been very willing to take state power has been the cultural isolation of the officer corps. Officers' children attend military schools, marry other officers' children and, in general, have little social contact with civilians.

The result has been a tendency in some Latin American countries for the military to see itself as superior to the civilian population, and to see civilian politics as an obstacle to order and discipline.

#252 ::: onceamarine ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2007, 07:31 PM:

PRV, I don't think anyone is doubting the existence of asshole peaceniks, anymore than they doubt the existence of asshole chickenhawks, and other extremists.

I suppose the first step is determining whether or not you believe in the existence of a sincere but not asshole war is not an option human being, or whether you put all such instances in the asshole bin, the bandwagon bin, and so on. Quakers, I believe, can't be placed in the bandwagon bin because they've been around long before the bandwagon existed. But maybe you think they're assholes? Insincere? Stupid? Something else?

So, do you believe such a war is not an option but they're not an asshole/idiot/subhuman creature exists?

I'm not saying I agree with such a view, but I think folks can sincerely hold that view with a fully thought out, moral consistency. And I can respect it. From what I've read just on this thread, I think a number of such people are posting here.

Does such a category exist for you?


#253 ::: PublicRadioVet ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2007, 07:46 PM:

Thanks Lizzy.

I was afraid I'd crossed the line. Yet you summed up my feelings precisely. Thanks.

Xopher: whoops! I just noticed that myself. Isdlexyic indeed. (he he)

#254 ::: PublicRadioVet ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2007, 07:50 PM:

onceamarine:

Good points. I will have to consider and get back to you. My time on ADSW is near an end and the commute awaits.

Everyone: good food for thought. One of the reasons I lurked here for awhile, and have decided to risk the conversation.

#255 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2007, 08:46 PM:

PRV, #247: What grates on me are the "bandwagon" peaceniks. The people who don't do jack shizzle about real peace. They attend a rally or a march once in awhile, put a "FUCK BUSH!" or a "WAR IS TERRORISM" bumper sticker on their car, and then parade around as if they've done something meaningful for the cause.

Now when you put it that way, I can see where you're coming from (with the same caveat that onceamarine mentions). Because that's very much how I feel about "yellow ribbon troop-supporters" -- the folks who think that putting a yellow magnetic ribbon on their SUVs and then defending every half-assed move Bush makes turns them into "patriots who support the troops" and the rest of us into "cowards who hate the troops and hate America". (I'll bet you don't like those people much either.) And I've been known to go off on a tear about people like that from time to time.

So... peace? ;-)

#256 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2007, 11:50 PM:

PRV: I think your briefer is either overdoing it, or you are taking it too much to heart. Intel is what I do, and we do a lot of open source. While I'm not going to toss my AKO out there, the way you responded answers my questions.

Now, back to the meat of the matter.

I think the problem is that you've, more from passion than intent, done to those who advocate peace, the same thing you feel is being done to the services; painted all with the offenses of the few.

I happen to get more grief than you do, I can practically guarantee it, because not only was my job besmirched; but I belonged to one of the units named, and people I spent time with are now in jail, or much reduced in rank because of it.

I, in other words, am acquainted with war criminals, and do the job they did.

But that doesn't change the fact that civilians are our bosses. They get to address policy, and some of those policies they get to talk about, involve whether we live or die. That's not only the way it goes, it's the way it should go.

What's funny is the last time I lost it (and I mean lost it, foaming at the mouth and so enraged I was rigid; which probably kept me from beating the weaselly little bastard to a pulp) was because I was being told that killing wounded people wasn't just understandable, but needful, and not done enough; because that was the only way to be sure they wouldn't try to kill one.

I, as you might have guessed, don't believe that, and I accpept that so believing means I am at a greater risk of getting killed.

It's the price we pay for being an army, not a mob.

Do I understand how that happens in a combat zone? You bet. But at best it mitigates; it doesn't excuse.

And it's one of those things civilians can, should, and in fact, must, hold us to account for. Why? Because there are too many of us who will say, "he was scared, and shell-shocked and he made a mistake."

We are too close to the sharp end, and too often we have too much sympathy for the accused, "there but for the grace of God" and all that.

I can't sing opera, but I know what it sounds like well done.

I can't make a cello, but I can tell a good one from a bad.

I think the idea that only those who have some exclusive expertise have any right to comment, critique, and, yes, condemn is pernicious. It leads to insularity (and if they can't criticise, they can't praise either).

You might want to read, "Making the Corps" for some insights about the problems insularity breeds, and seems to be breeding.

#257 ::: Howard Peirce ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 01:44 AM:

Terry @ 256: Your posts here at ML keep me just this side of sane, in very insane times. Thank you.

#258 ::: PublicRadioVet ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 02:02 AM:

Okay, I've had time to think.

Regarding onceamarine's last post, #252:

After great reflection (bus rides are good for that) I must recant my assertion that the peace-at-all-costs stance is, across the board, a form of moral cowardice. As an admirer of Dr. MLK I can't deny the fact that he very much epitomized the achievement of goals through non-violence, and was obviously prepared to give his own life in the name of his Dream. I can't call that into question. No way. Nor could I call into question the Quakers or Menonites or other groups who have a deep-seated and often religious foundation for their pacific ideology. There is a part of me that admires and is humbled by such people. Either by accident or by design, they mold themselves on Christ's example, and as a Christian, this speaks to me.

The ones that get me riled up are the the peace-at-all-costs people who are altogether unserious about their ideology, who come to it lately and fashionably and who don't really seem to have a firm grasp on what it is they're saying. Great whacks of movie and TV stars fall into this camp. I won't name names, but I am sure we can all think of at least one "peace activist" entertainer who'd be doing us all a favor by sparing us their shallowness and simply shutting the fuck up.

And when that shallowness and fauxctivism breeds a sense of superiority among such people, wherein they take it upon themselves to sermonize the universe... Oh boy. My blood pressure goes into orbit.

Lee @ #255: I think the yellow ribbon magnets were a nice sentiment, in the early going. Now it's kind of become cliche, even to a rah-rah patriot like me, and you are correct: too many people slap that magnet on the car, and call it good. How many of them give blood at military blood drives? How many send care packages to troops or correspond with the troops? How many of them visit VA hospitals and lend care and comfort to the wounded and the crippled? How many of them actually take time and money and effort to put meaning into the words, "I SUPPORT THE TROOPS", instead of leaving it as an empty slogan?

We've seen a lot of "empty" on both sides of the war fence, since 9/11 happened. The bandwagons have been running at full steam. That was one of the reasons I joined up in 2002. I didn't want to be the "empty" bandwagon patriot who was all talk and did nothing. (this was pre-Iraq)

And yes, peace. (grin)

Terry @ #256: There is some irony here, in that you're the guy extracting the info, while my unit is an I/R unit. We're both on the somewhat "nasty" end of the spectrum, eh?

You make great points, about insularity. Sometimes I think this has been the greatest casualty of the cessation of the draft. When everybody had either a) served or b) knew a close relative who served, and this was true across most of the socio-economic spectrum, I think the gulf between the civilian and military population was pretty narrow. I might be romanticizing that point a bit, but that's my impression.

Once the draft ended, we slowly developed a professional "warrior caste" which too often doesn't mingle well with civilians, in fact resents their "civilian meddling", and is in turn resented and distrusted by a growing number of civilians who do indeed see them (us?) as cold mercenaries and heartless paid henchmen.

For myself, I hope to never be placed in a position where I have to take a life through force of arms. That might sound paradoxical, given the fact I signed up in the "heat" after 9/11. But it's true. I never deluded myself into thinking I was any kind of blood'n'guts hero. I am content as PSNCO, helping out other Soldiers and chasing paper. I might hit WOCS after I make E-6, but even then, I'm hoping the only thing that ever tastes my steel is a target at the firing range.

But back to your point, the fact that the U.S. military enjoys civilian oversight is one of the big differences between our "free" military, and the more traditional forces which have served tyranny of one form or another throughout history. I wouldn't change that. Not ever. Just as I would not change our Constitutional Republic, even though government-by-representative so often seems an ugly, petty, and wasteful affair. What was it Churchill said? Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the rest? True, true.

"Making the Corps"? I think someone else recommended that to me lately. I will spock it out.

Hooah, hooah.

#259 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 05:32 AM:

#237: I think we've had rotten decision-making, in regards to military readiness, since at least 1994. Downsize, downsize, downsize, and then, wham, 9/11 happens and suddenly we realize, hey, we need a military again

This sort of remark is always a bit of a shibboleth for determining whether people know what they're talking about. You see, thirty seconds googling would show that, in inflation-adjusted terms, military spending started to fall from a peak in 1985, and flattened out in 1994. Doesn't fit with the CLINTON HIPPIES BAD idea, I know, but there you are. Manpower - more or less the same. Most of the drops happened before 1994. Clinton left the US with a larger and more expensive military than he found it with.

It would be OT to mention that a 37-brigade military would have been easily adequate to handle Afghanistan (especially given that America's French and German allies were - and are - helping bear the load), while maintaining a presence in Korea, Kosova, the rapid reaction airborne brigade, etc., if someone hadn't decided to invade Iraq.

#260 ::: FungiFromYuggoth ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 08:58 AM:

Ajay - This relates to when I first started to get very frustrated with Joe Lieberman. Then-Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney presides over a huge manpower reduction in the military, including a large amount of privatizing services.

Cheney then becomes president of Halliburton and gets the contract for a lot of the services he's just privatized.

What happens after that? Cheney claims in the VP debate that the government hasn't had anything to do with his success. And Lieberman just let him get away with it.

I suppose this is another point of evidence that we're dealing with immigrants from an alternate timeline.

#261 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 09:26 AM:

#262: I keep meaning to write that alternate timeline. Point of divergence somewhere in the second half of the eighteenth century, I think.

#262 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 11:40 AM:

PRV in #258:

Outstanding.

#263 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 01:25 PM:

PRV: Your desire to not kill people doesn't shock, nor even surprise me.

One of the things my Quaker girlfriends (one before I joined the Army, and one after. The latter still with me) noticed was my attitudes toward such things.

Gary Louie once questioned my assertion of pacifism (this was before I joined the Army). My girlfriend said, "No, Terry is a pacifist, he just not non-violent."

My better half (the one who's been with me for eight years, two extensions a deployment, and far too much time away from home on the Army's business) was surprised when she spent time with members of my unit. Because we didn't want to go off and shoot people.

Willing, when we felt it needful, but not eager. It's the question of needful which creates the difference of opinion.

As to the charge that the reductions were all post '94, it ain't so. The largest drawdown (which happened in '94.. the only time prior to the present need for HumInt operators when my MOS was below 798 for points) was designed in the years from 90-93, under Bush Pere. It just took that long to be implemented; as it was phased, and meant to put half the force in the reserves.

Because the new, post-Soviet, world wasn't going to need a massive army.

Well, the problem wasn't the size, but the organization. Putting so many, essential, CS, and CSS roles in the reserves meant even a moderate conflict requires Guard, and Reserve troops to be deployed.

Which puts the homefront political questions to the fore in a way they never were for things like Panama, Somalia and Bosnia/Kosovo.

#264 ::: PublicRadioVet ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 04:10 PM:

Granted, I did not pay much attention to the brass tacks of military force reduction until after 9/11. I am surprised to learn that Bush 41 was part of the drawdown, though I would not give Clinton the pass that ajay seems to be willing to give him. Clinton always seemed to be a man uncomfortable with the military, and if Bush 41 is to blame for setting up the drawdown, Clinton seemed to do little to halt or reverse it. If I am stumbling across some sort of shibboleth here, would it help if I said I voted for Clinton in 1996?

#265 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 04:43 PM:

A lot of that drawdown was reasonable at the time, since it was based on studies showing that the end of the Soviet Union and the Cold War era meant we would have less need for a large standing army, since we wouldn't be fighting the Mother of All Battles in Europe. It was also encouraged by the effects of the Gramm-Rudman legislation to reduce the deficit by cutting the federal budget everywhere.

The grave stupidity came in with Bush 2/Cheney and Donald "you go to war with the army you have" Rumsfeld. it would not have been difficult to gat the legislation needed to significantly increase the size of the military, especially the army, in October 2001. I have no idea what Bush's thought process on doing this was; Rumsfeld, as an old Naval Reserve aviator, has never been entirely clear on what ground forces are for, and what's needed to use the effectively--he's all about the high-tech equipment, and always has been. Cheney, of course, is just all about the contracts.

It's much easier for many people in the military to blame Clinton for all of this. He'd never served, he'd been anti-Vietnam, and, as PRV notes, he wasn't all that comfortable with the military--and they were, in many cases, carefully led along that path by the right-wing noise machine, which did not ever bother to point out that the planning for these cuts was in place before Clinton got there, and that his period in office offered no strong reasons to reverse the reduction in force.

It's worth noting that the Republican congressional majorities in the 1990s and early oughts saw no reason to contest the cuts seriously.

#266 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 04:49 PM:

fidelio @ 266

Don't forget that whole bit about 'wagging the dog', while Clinton was president. That was GOP noise machine.

#267 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 05:11 PM:

Unless my memory is even worse than I think it is, the first base reduction studies started under the Reagan administration; Whidbey NAS and Bremerton Shipyard were high on the first list of cuts.

#268 ::: PublicRadioVet ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 05:24 PM:

fidelio, I have often thought that if Bush had gone on TV on September 12, 2001, and announced that he was calling for 500,000 new volunteers for military service so as to expand the Active component, he could have gotten and surpassed that goal within one year.

I agree absolutely that the infautation with technology has been somewhat detrimental, in that we have placed too much emphasis on gizmos to solve problems which simply cannot be tackled in any other way than to throw raw manpower at them.

When Rumsfeld made his now-infamous "You go to war with the Army you have" comment, I thought he was stating a historical truth. The U.S. has seldom, if ever, been "ready" when war came. We've always had to play catch-up, rush the factories into re-tooling and production, mass the volunteers, basically shift to a war footing after the war has already begun. So in a sense, Rumsfeld was correct. You really do go to war with the Army you have, not the Army you want.

Where I think this falls apart is that, by the time a war is several years old, the U.S. has historically made up a huge amount of ground. Certainly the U.S. armed forces on December 7, 1941, were a different and altogether smaller beast when compared to the hypertrophied animal that existed in 1943, or 1945.

Since 9/11, neither Bush nor the other elected officials seem to have done much about "blowing up" the Army or the Marines; the two services badly in need of manpower. Also, the Air Force is starting to have problems in that its planes are wearing out and wearing down far faster than anyone anticipated. It seems clear that without some kind of significant change, the air fleet is going to become increasingly un-airworthy.

And with the cost of Iraq spirally towards half a trillion dollars, with no end in sight, I think our country as a whole is going to have to ask itself several significant questions:

1) Is Iraq really worth it? (seems most people think: no!)
2) Post-Iraq, what will the "job" of the military be? Will it continue to include Europe?
3) Do we expand our footprint in Afghanistan, or get out of that country, too?
4) Should we shift funding from "toys" like the F-22 and pour it into less fancy, more practical investments?
5) Or do we go way, waaaay back and just pull home the majority of our overseas troops altogether; decommission a bunch of ships, downsize both Army and Marines, and use the freed funding to begin paying down the colossal debt?

#269 ::: onceamarine ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 05:35 PM:

downsize both Army and Marines

And I was just starting to take a shine to you.

;)

#270 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 05:43 PM:

When Rumsfeld made his now-infamous "You go to war with the Army you have" comment, I thought he was stating a historical truth. The U.S. has seldom, if ever, been "ready" when war came.

Nevertheless, if you're starting the war you sure as fudge had better have the army you want.

#271 ::: PublicRadioVet ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 06:09 PM:

James, I think you are 100% correct. Whereas 9/11 and the response in Afghanistan came upon us out of the blue and we had to scramble, Iraq was a different animal altogether. I think in Rumsfeld's mind the two events are joined at the hip, but history is liable to prove otherwise.

I often think the prime opportunity to remove Saddam came and went in 1991. I still don't understand why we didn't do it then. We had the Cold War army. Saddam was the clear aggressor. No need for a WMD smokescreen. Yet we stopped at the border....

#272 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 08:15 PM:

PRV: There was nothing Clinton could do.

The Base Realignment and Closure commissions were built to be, mostly, fidge proof. The list could be negotiated, up to the point it was finalized. Once it's finalized the President gets two options, kill it, or accept it.

Bush accepted it, Clinton had to live with it.

A large part of the problem was Calif. being disliked by the people who lobbied the committee.

Ft. Ord, gone, Alameda Naval Station; gone. Ft. Hunter Ligget; cut way back, Oakland Army Base; gone, Presidio of San Franscisco; gone, El Toro Marine Base; gone, Miramar Naval Air Station, gone (that was the home of Top Gun) Long Beach Naval Shipyard; gone.

Which means Ft. Lewis is the only place on the western seaboard we can load rail, ship, or airlift.

We used to be able to do it in three places (Long Beach, by using the JRTC in Los Al) and San Franscisco (By using Oakland Army Base).

We could stage troops for that at Ft. Ord (and ramp it up as a training base; it used to be a Basic Training facility).

When the BRAC came around in '98, Clinton actually refused the first offer, because he thought it cut too deeply. He also supported BOSS, and other improvements to soldier quality of life (such as my getting a, very, partial housing allowance because out billets had 7 sq. ft. less than regulation demanded; and so were, "sub-standard.")

I served back then and the thing I remember most was, in '94, my commander commenting that of the people who were in the service when he joined (in '84... which made him about eight years older than I was; he's in Afghanistan now, and getting ready to retire, but I digress) more than half were gone, retired, or RIFfed. That can't be laid at Clinton's feet.

While he was in office I saw an increase in the training, and respect, the Reserve Component got. We were trusted to deploy, to be the lead element in international exercises; to take part in stuff that set the baseline for international doctrine in stuff that we'd not have been able to touch.

His SecDef was solid. From what I could tell he had every respect for the troops, and liked them.

He didn't serve. I don't care. He was honest about what he did. Some think he gamed the system. Maybe he did, but I can account for his time, and he never tried to buffalo me about it.

His vice-president went to Viet-nam as a private soldier, when he could have gotten out, or had strings pulled to spend his entire enlistement someplace comfy.

He saw to it the VA was improved, and under his administration it became one of the better hospital systems in the nation.

Say what you like about his personal foibles, as a steward of the Armed Forces, and those who served in them, he was without peer.

#273 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 08:32 PM:

Terry Karney points out:

A large part of the problem was Calif. being disliked by the people who lobbied the committee.

Ft. Ord, gone, Alameda Naval Station; gone. Ft. Hunter Ligget; cut way back, Oakland Army Base; gone, Presidio of San Franscisco; gone, El Toro Marine Base; gone, Miramar Naval Air Station, gone (that was the home of Top Gun) Long Beach Naval Shipyard; gone.

Which means Ft. Lewis is the only place on the western seaboard we can load rail, ship, or airlift.

The result of that being that the west coast transhipment area was put down in a place with a long history of pacifism, with relatively long transports to the docks, and therefore plenty of opportunity for noisy demonstrations along the way. Add that to insufficient base housing (especially during this period of remodelling) putting stress on the already tight local housing market, and new units with no history in the area, and the social conflict between the base and its neighbors has reached some sort of crescendo this year.

#274 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 09:28 PM:

PJ #267:

I recall some extremely conveniently timed airstrikes during the Clinton administration, as well as starting bombing in Serbia the same day as the impeachment vote. That wasn't the plot from wag the dog, but it didn't take a Republican shill to recognize what was going on there.

#275 ::: PublicRadioVet ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 10:48 PM:

albatross @ #275: my thoughts precisely.

#276 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2007, 11:50 PM:

PVR: Clinton always seemed to be a man uncomfortable with the military.

How would you feel visiting an organization where top management encouraged contempt for you personally?

I still haven't figured out whether all the halfwits retired or whether they just look better next to the utter idiocy of the PNAC axis.

#277 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2007, 12:10 AM:

Albatross: Lets see, he tried to take out bin Laden, so he was wagging the dog. Given the noise machine, it didn't matter when he did his bombing.

Lets say he did it before the vote, he's trying to distract from the important matters being debated.

He does it after, he's trying to influence the Senate.

He does it during, and he's trying to keep the people from noticing it.

If he didn't do it, he was going to be crucified for being weak, and doing it he was "risking American troops for something which didn't make us any safer, had no clear victory condition and was setting a risky precedent, because there are so mamy people we would have to bomb to be consistent.

Since it was going to be front page, above the fold; unless he nuked somebody, he might as well do what he thought was right (and the released conversations from the situation room show that both of those were debated, and his military advisors said it was the best time to do it).

The "Republican shills" were going to be spouting off no matter what happens.

The terror alerts, just before elections, or votes the adminstration wanted passed, those aren't dog-wagging.

And now we discover convicting Libby for, actual, puerjury and obstruction of justice; that's just a partisan witch-hunt and he deserves a pardon.

What sympathy I might have had for that charge (dog-wagging by Clinton) has been burnt out of me in the past six-years.

#278 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2007, 12:45 AM:

#272:

Yet we stopped at the border....

Here's what George Bush Sr. said about that in 1998:

While we hoped that popular revolt or coup would topple Saddam, neither the U.S. nor the countries of the region wished to see the breakup of the Iraqi state. We were concerned about the long-term balance of power at the head of the Gulf. Trying to eliminate Saddam, extending the ground war into an occupation of Iraq, would have violated our guideline about not changing objectives in midstream, engaging in "mission creep," and would have incurred incalculable human and political costs. Apprehending him was probably impossible. We had been unable to find Noriega in Panama, which we knew intimately. We would have been forced to occupy Baghdad and, in effect, rule Iraq. The coalition would instantly have collapsed, the Arabs deserting it in anger and other allies pulling out as well. Under those circumstances, furthermore, we had been self-consciously trying to set a pattern for handling aggression in the post-cold war world. Going in and occupying Iraq, thus unilaterally exceeding the U.N.'s mandate, would have destroyed the precedent of international response to aggression we hoped to establish. Had we gone the invasion route, the U.S. could conceivably still be an occupying power in a bitterly hostile land. It would have been a dramatically different--and perhaps barren--outcome.

Turns out he was right....

#279 ::: PublicRadioVet ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2007, 12:58 AM:

Jim, that's a fascinating quote from Bush 41, especially considering when it was written. Almost prophetic.

Makes me wonder about this question:

Is it the job of the U.S. to oppose dictators in other countries, with military force when necessary?

Back before World War 1 I think the general mood was that the U.S. had no business involving itself to the hilt in such operations. Starting in World War 1 we saw a continual shift away from this kind of isolationist policy, in the direction of making the U.S. a kind of dictator and tyranny policeman for the planet, culminating in the removal of Saddam.

Christopher Hitchens has often argued that the U.S. had no moral choice other than to remove Saddam. I have trusted Hitchens' arguments because he is certain;y not a shill for this Administration, and his heart has always lain with the Kurds, who truly do deserve their own country IMHO.

But was there no other way to get rid of Saddam than to launch ourselves into the mess we're in now? And if we'd left Saddam as-is, would that have been a more moral choice, or simply an amoral choice that was just cost less in terms of lives and equipment and cash?

I personally feel like the U.S. is greatly responsible for helping Saddam become what he became. He was our boy during the Cold War. Just as so many other bad dictators were our boys during the Cold War. Does the U.S. not have some kind of obligation to police such men, now that the Cold War is long over, since we did such a good job of propping them up when it suited us? Seems like we owe the Iraqis by trying to make it right.

(*sigh*) So many conflicting arguments. I wish it were simple.

#280 ::: PublicRadioVet ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2007, 01:04 AM:

Terry @ #273: Without peer? I think that's way generous of you. But again, I wasn't tuned in to BRAC and the goings-on during Clinton's run. Only after I joined the USAR did I start paying attention to that kind of stuff. So I don't have the background to directly dispute you.

#281 ::: Alan Braggins ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2007, 06:59 AM:

#271: "Nevertheless, if you're starting the war you sure as fudge had better have the army you want."

If you really truly believe that your opponent has a weapons program which will give him nuclear weapons any moment now, and that he will use them against you or your allies once he has them, then going to war with whatever army you have now rather than trying to build the army you want might make sense.
I am not for a moment suggesting that Bush was actually in that scenario.

#282 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2007, 08:35 AM:

#278 Terry:

So, are you saying that the decision to start bombing in Serbia the day of the impeachment hearing was a complete coincidence?

The fact that the Republican noise machine says "X" doesn't tell you anything about the truth of "X". The mild sliminess of Clinton is entirely independent of the much greater sliminess of Bush.

#283 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2007, 11:24 AM:

Albatross: I'm saying that it didn't matter what he did, he was going to get tagged.

And that if he was going to bomb, the least dog-waggy day to do it was the day of the vote, because the way things were going, nothing was going to take that off the screens and the papers.

In fact, to be honest (and I was in the Army at the time) I don't recall the day as being notable. The bombing of Serbia was only an issue in that there were those who accused him of wagging the dog, and then said he was bad, and we shouldn't be there; risking troops in a situation that didn't directly affect us.

PRV: Without peer? Yeah, I mean that. President's from the first Johnson on have paid lip service to the troops, but Clinton actually ponied up.

Civil War vets got their pensions late in life. WW1 vets were chased out of town at gunpoint, WW2 vets got the GI bill, but that was quickly changed; and the VA they got was substandard. That substandard of care continued, and Reagan, pumped up the numbers, but didn't do much for quality of life. Bush started the drawdown (not unwise) but shifted the crucial roles of CS, and CSS into the reserve component; without really funding it.

Clinton funded it, tried to address the issue of homosexuals in the services,(ineptly; and I think in a politically foolish way. He needed to stand up to the right-wing from the gate. Then again, I think he needed to default in the Jones case, and say the people's business was too pressing for him to take the time and effort needed to respond), saw to pay raises which brought pay (and benefits) more into line with the outside world, and so made it easier to keep skilled soldiers; in jobs which need practice.

He listened to his generals, and made reasonable decisions. Yes, he allowed mission creep to set in while we were in Somalia, but learned from it, and while new missions were added in the former Jugoslavia mission creep wasn't a problem, even when our allies were pushing for it.

I think he kept his eye on the ball, and managed to ignore the hostility he got from a lot of the brass, and the rank and file.

He, I think, actually saw/sees the troops as people, which made him far more careful of how he used them then he might otherwise have been.

I have a lot of problems with his politics, and his maneuvering the center to the right. I think he isn't as sympathetic as many might paint him, but I don't think he did any harm to the Armed Forces, and left them in better condition than he found them, and there aren't many presidents of whom that can be said.

Off to Jury Duty, 250 miles from here. I'll be back when I can.

#284 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2007, 12:58 PM:

#280 PRV--I find myself suddenly channeling my dear dead great aunts Selma and Hilda: "Law, child. Are you taking him seriously? Well, bless your heart."

Christopher Hitchens--well, it's plain that like a lot of the rest of us, Christopher Hitchens got a good scare on as a result of 9/11/01. Unlike a lot of the rest of us, he's never gone past that scare to actually apply clear, reasoned thought to the problem, thought that had actual logic behind it and depended on the facts as she am, so to speak. Whether he intends to shill for GWB & CO. or not, he is doing so in this matter.
It is also quite plain that unlike, say, you, Christopher Hitchens is ready to fight to the last drop of other people's blood. What neither Hitchens, nor any member of this administration has been able to explain in a manner that convinces me is what advatange in combatting Islamist terrorism removing Saddam Hussein would provide. Part of this is because they very plainly did not consider what the results might be if this didn't work the way they thought it would (Applying the Jiminy Cricket Principal of Strategic Planning AKA "When you wish upon a star" is Not Good, OK?). Part of this is because they confused a secular leader (who was, we all know, a thug, but a secular one, who wasn't in much of a position to push his neighbors around any more) with Islamist revolutionaries, or encouraged us to do so for their own ends. Part of this is because they got greedy for oil. Part of it is because actually dealing with the root causes of such movements is pretty hard, does not require exciting things like a big war (and so is not likely to make anyone connected to this government a lot of money), and involves convincing other countries, such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Israel and others to ahndle many things differently (good luck with that), and is therefore Not Fun* in the eys of the people who run this administration.

Christopher Hitchens has been a willing water-carrier for these folks, When he shows signs of sensible, coherent thought about these issues, I'll take him seriously. but until he gets over the adrenaline rush, I'm ignoring him. YMMV.

As for whether the USA should remove brutal dictators, I think Charlie Stross has already discussed this issue, and I agree with him about the sauce for the goose. If we don't like having our internal political processes interfered with, how is it possible to conclude that we have the right to do this to other countries? There are bad habits we all could stand to break, and this is one the USA needs to find a patch for.

*Other Not Fun things include fulfilling your oblication in the ANG, setting up a rational tax policy, providing meaningful oversight for contractors, and hiring people on the basis of competence. Oh, and broccoli, probably.

#285 ::: Clark E. Myers ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2007, 01:51 PM:

#273 "His SecDef was solid. From what I could tell he had every respect for the troops, and liked them."

All three of:
Les Aspin, 1993
William J. Perry, 1994
William S. Cohen, 1997?

FWIW I worked with Paul Thomasson and had it been my place would cheerfully have written him a fitness report of the happy to serve with him in time of war variety so liked by the Navy.

On the subject of bases and budgets:

...In March 1993 Aspin introduced a FY 1994 budget proposal costing $263.4 billion, about $12 billion below current levels, and reflecting cuts in the military services similar to those later included in the bottom-up review. ...Like his predecessors Carlucci and Cheney, Aspin faced the perennial issue of base closures, which could also affect the Defense budget. In March 1993 he released a plan to close an additional 31 large military installations and to shrink or consolidate 134 other sites, projecting a savings of over $3 billion a year beginning in 2000. A new Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission approved the proposal, which went into effect when Congress accepted it as a package. Emphasis added Wikipedia current date of posting

Amidst all the talk of don't tar with the same brush I might mention the only "yellow ribbon troop-supporters" I know personally could hang 3 blue stars if that were the current fashion including a son just volunteered and still in training and a daughter pulled from her college classes as part of the IRR - she's cross dominent so perhaps not the best rifleman in the Marines but they seem to have a need.

#286 ::: PublicRadioVet ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2007, 02:07 PM:

Yet again, I find myself in total agreement with albatross in #283. Well said.

Bush 43 vs. Clinton is not a Dark Knight vs. White Knight dichotomy. Speaking as a Clinton voter, the man seriously disappointed me as time wore on, and there were a few events, like the missile strikes on Khartoum, like the conveniently-timed bombing in Serbia, which struck me as deliberately posturing or exploitative on his part.

Maybe we as Americans are just doomed to dislike all our current-day Presidents. No President can be all things to all people. (Not even Barrack Obama, if he gets elected...) I think the one single way in which I can appreciate Bush, whereas I could NOT appreciate Clinton, is that Bush is not a poll-minder. I would like to see future Presidents pay less attention to polls, give less heed to "popularity", and focus on doing their job and making decisions that are good for the country; not just for their image.

Am I being unrealistic? Do I expect too much from our politicians?

I wonder.

#287 ::: PublicRadioVet ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2007, 02:16 PM:

Terry @ #284: Good points. I still think you are being way generous, but then I am assuming you voted for the man both times, so I can understand if you are something of a booster. Maybe I am wrong about that, but you seem quite high on Big Dawg.

Me? I felt burned when the Lewinsky thing broke and he lied about it on TV. Yes it was trivial and yes him fucking an intern didn't mean much in terms of doing the actual job of being President. But the total lack of character that showed.... I dunno. I felt ripped off. I don't expect my Presidents to not make mistakes. But I do expect them to admit it when they get caught red-handed.

Something neither Clinton no Bush 43 seem any good at.

#288 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2007, 02:26 PM:

Bush is not a poll-minder

No. No one can ever accuse him of that.

#289 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2007, 08:32 AM:

So the USA has never been ready to start a war?

Roosevelt was a bit constrained on rearmament until her won the 1940 election, but munitions production was one of the things which was used to get out of the Depression, and there was a lot of munitions plant developed to satisfy orders from France and the UK. Pearl Harbor really boosted recruiting. but such things as the carrier battles in 1942 had to be fought with the ships the USN had, and some of those were part of the pre-war expansion.

For instance, USS Essex was ordered in July 1940, laid down in April 1941, and commissioned on the last day of 1942.

The basic design of the M4 Sherman tank was submitted to the Ordnance Board in August 1940, although production didn't start until 1942.

More importantly, the pre-WW2 US Army was run with wartime expansion in mind. So was the pre-Nazi German Army. The US Army in 1942 could train the volunteers. The British Army in 1914 didn't have that provision for expansion, and it took about twice as long for the initial recruiting surge to reach the front line.

#290 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2007, 09:09 AM:

Presidents aren't pure paragons, ever, because pure paragons cannot possibly get elected President. Also purity tends to decay in office.

I think Bill Clinton was the best President in my lifetime (which began in the Eisenhower Administration). I thought Jimmy Carter was deeply underrated too.

As I've said here before, I'll take blowjobs over war any time.

#291 ::: Neil Willcox ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2007, 09:40 AM:

Charles de Gaulle, talking about France, suggested that a Head of State should embody the "spirit of the nation". It seems to me applicable to the symbolic role of most Heads of State. To do that and be a working politician is always going to be hard to the point of impossible.

In the UK we have the Queen as Head of State, so it's easier to disentangle feelings of patriotism from our governments. Tony Blair is a politician doing a job; he isn't the repository of the nation's soul.

In the US, I get the impression that people often feel the President is supposed to both do the work and be the symbol. I'm not suprised that people often express disillusionment and disappointment in their Presidents; as Xopher said "pure paragons cannot possibly get elected President".

YMMV

#292 ::: PublicRadioVet ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2007, 01:46 PM:

Neil @ #292: I sometimes think it all goes back to George Washington. The man enjoys mythic status in the American consciousness, and since he was our first President and his shadow has become so huge over the years, we're always hoping for another George Washington. Or Abraham Lincoln. Or FDR. Or Kennedy. The kind of larger-than-life figure who truly does reflect back to us all the best things about ourselves and our nation that we cherish and hold in esteem. (NOTE: I said reflected....)

And when a President fails to meet that lofty bar. When he becomes bogged down in scandal and bad decisions, or is just plain human (e.g: when he fails to reflect well!) we react badly. We stamp our feet and spit and declare that the man is a bum and is no good and should be tossed out.

Now, granted, righties will not feel the same way about a Clinton compared to a Reagan, and vice versa. But I think on both sides of the political divide there is an undeniable yearning for a true-blue Leader. Someone wise, someone capable, someone who can keep himself/herself above the petty sins of us mortals and take the country in a whole new direction.

Right now Barrack Obama's campaign is being fed by this myth-laden desire. Lots of Americans don't want just another prototypical wealthy white businessman/lawyer in the White House. They want a decidedly different man; a man free from political baggage. Someone they can inject with their hopes for the nation.

I fear for Obama if he is elected. And not just because I am sure we'll see several assassination attempts my racists and KKK. I fear for his ability to escape the avalanche of expectation. If elected, anything short of a remarkable Presidency, for him, might be viewed as failure.

#293 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2007, 03:18 PM:

PRV @293
on both sides of the political divide there is an undeniable yearning for a true-blue Leader. Someone wise, someone capable, someone who can keep himself/herself above the petty sins of us mortals and take the country in a whole new direction.

I wonder if a lot of that unmet longing is the product of much freer communication about our public figures? Compare, for instance, how much the American public knew about JFK or FDR to how much they knew about Clinton. Is it possible to have a president who meets that yearning at all, in these days of intensive scrutiny and investigative reporting?

That's the advantage of our other national symbol and rallying point...flags don't have personal lives to expose.

#294 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2007, 04:06 PM:

abi... Saints are what people want. Saints are hard to keep perceiving as saintly when we have people who love nothing but to tear them down, and the people who want saints relish hearing every sordid details. Unfortunately, and if I may quote the only useful counsel I ever got from any priest, "Only God is perfect."

#295 ::: PublicRadioVet ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2007, 04:20 PM:

abi, I think you are absolutely correct. A hundred or even fifty years ago, the President enjoyed a kind of buffer in which not much that he didn't want known about his personal life, ever got to the surface. Not while he was in office anyway. Certainly Kennedy's womanizing was never brought to light until long after it mattered. And he might have been the last one to "enjoy" that kind of silence.

Nowadays, the media mud machine is switched on 24/7 and the instant anyone declares themselves for any kind of office, suddenly there is a reporter or a political opponent dredging for dirt. And if they can't find real dirt, they make it up. Because 90% of the battle, if you are a gossip-monger, is simply getting the dirt out there to the public in a mass form. Once the story "breaks", whether it is true or not ceases to matter, because then the politician in question is being judged in the court of public opinion, and we all know how fair that is...

I think it's this aspect that saddens me most about our open media and our democracy. I think our best and brightest and most capable people never bother to run for office, to say nothing of POTUS, because the 'attack' nature of the the media and politics scares them to death. They don't want to see themselves dragged through the mud, and their friends and families along with them.

I remember when my wife ran for and was elected president of the student body of the community college we both attended a few years back. It was amazing how nasty even that race got. And then, once elected... She had a little group of haters who were on some of the other sudent committees who just loathed her, were always starting shit behind her back, being rude all the time... It was astounding to see the same forces at work in our national politics, on a micro scale.

I think my wife has been cured of ever wanting to run for anything again in her life. And that's just a damn shame IMHO, because she did a lot of good as student body president that year. Especially in relation to fixing the way the student bookstore operated.

#296 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2007, 11:03 PM:

PRV: I voted for him neither time. I suppose, had I lived in a state where the question was at issue I would have, but it wasn't; so I was able to cast an advisory vote, in good conscience, for a 3rd party candidate.

#297 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2007, 02:55 AM:

Xopher @ 291

As I've said here before, I'll take blowjobs over war any time.

Me too. It's possible to be killed by a blowjob, but it's very rare. War on the other hand ....

#298 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2007, 03:09 AM:

Serge @ 295

Saints are what people want

Precisely why terms of political office should be very short. The less time we have to examine the character of a politician the less likely it is we'll find the feet of clay during that term.

Therefore I propose a return to old school politics: the politics of the old Greek city states like Thebes. We have a contest for political office, winner take all. The winner gets the job, the graft, the whole shtick, for one year. At the end of that time, we kill and eat the sucker.

#299 ::: Neil Willcox ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2007, 04:39 AM:

Saints are what people want.

The President has to do actual political things - domestic, foreign, economic etc - in a saintly way? Ouch. Once again the Queen, who is a nice old lady according to someone who met her, has an easier job of it. Of course when she does fall short of expectations, it's just as much of a disappointment. See The Queen for the usual example.

At the end of that time, we kill and eat the sucker.

At least it would sort out the menu for the inauguration dinner.

#300 ::: Gabrielle ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2009, 02:10 PM:

Or we could all sleep a little better at night.

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