ChristDot is a SlashDot-type Christian website that I frequent. It is remarkable for its diversity of viewpoint and relatively calm demeanor.
This morning I read an article in which one of the founders, whose dislike for Pres. Bush is well-known, does an I-told-you-so entry regarding the Abu Ghraib mess. Par for the course, but I’ve learned that he won’t be budged from his position. But it was an entry in the comments section to which I had to respond. I can’t link directly to the comment, so I will reproduce it here.
Ladies and gentlemen, a Fisking:
First the comment from “SteveGus,” in its entirety:
War fills me with horror. The thing is, I could not honestly call myself a “pacifist,” in that I can imagine killing other people in combat, and do not think that I personally am too squeamish, or not capable of that kind of anger.
Still, the military as an institution fills me with horror — not because it uses weapons and kills people, but because of the nature of military training and the sort of behaviour it encourages. I cannot imagine myself a private, bound to unthinkingly carry out the orders of the corporal or the sergeant. If you send me to boot camp, you would be most unwise to trust me with live ammunition or real weapons, especially given the sort of hollering and insults that seem to be mainstays of military training. The isolation and rigorisms of that kind of training strike me as being intended to cut the recruit off from his real life, in order to remake him as a member of a “unit,” who is willing to carry out military orders because he sees only the military world and its values, and imagines that he has nothing left to lose.
Atrocities like this seem to me to stem from the brutality of military organisations generally. To be a soldier is to practice extreme sorts of group cohesion and group-think, a radical sort of male bonding, and to be cut off from sources of competing values. You have to dehumanize your enemy, and if your comrades in arms approve of doing so, you don’t think of what the rest of the world will see.
Methinks you’ve been watching too much “Full Metal Jacket” and not enough “Band of Brothers.”
As a veteran, it is self-evident to me that you have no first-hand experience with any of the subject matter on which you speak. For instance:
“…the sort of behaviour it encourages. ”
What sort of behavior would that be? Military folks, as a group, are willing to give their lives so that you don’t have to get your hands dirty. The primary reason we’ve lost as many soldiers in Iraq as we have, is that we are doing our best to avoid any civilian casualties.
“I cannot imagine myself a private, bound to unthinkingly carry out the orders of the corporal or the sergeant.”
If you are an unthinking soldier, you are a dead soldier. Military folks are trained so that they react instantly, by intimate familiarity with their duties. To do otherwise in a combat situation is to be killed. “unthinking?” The battlefield is not the place for a philosophical debate. That is taken care of before combat.
“…you would be most unwise to trust me with live ammunition or real weapons, especially given the sort of hollering and insults that seem to be mainstays of military training”
If you are given to killing people if they are “mean” to you or yell at you, then I don’t want you in my military. Basic training has one purpose, to tear down self-centered individuality, and teach people to work together as a team.
“who is willing to carry out military orders because he sees only the military world and its values, and imagines that he has nothing left to lose. ”
I’ll say this, you have some imagination! Military beople aren’t locked up on base or on post, unable to partake of the “real world.” If anything we see the world in larger terms, because we see a bigger picture.
“Nothing left to lose?” What, do you think that we only joined the military because we couldn’t make it anywhere else? Today’s all-volunteer military is the most well-educated in history. In the Air Force, for instance, over half of the enlisted have a bachelor’s degree or better. Not to mention the fact that most still have parents, brothers, spouses or children. Nothing left to lose? I don’t think so, buddy. We fight to protect their, and your freedoms.
“To be a soldier is to practice extreme sorts of group cohesion and group-think, a radical sort of male bonding, and to be cut off from sources of competing values. ”
“…you don’t think of what the rest of the world will see. ”
Again with that automaton stereotype. Just because one wears the uniform, doesn’t mean that he (or she) stops thinking about others.
Yes, it’s terrible what those idiots did at Abu Ghraib. They have dishonored the U.S. and its military, and given the enemy a powerful weapon. This is, unfortunately, another thing which the military has in common with the rest of the world: there are a small fraction who can give the rest a bad name.
I would suggest that you actually get to know some people who serve, rather than taking your cues from shallow stereotypes. You might be surprised what you would find. Yes, war is terrible. It is to be avoided if at all possible. But sometimes it is the only option. To quote Orwell:
“People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.”
Also posted at Confessions of a Jesus Phreak
UPDATE: Sgt. Stryker says it much better than I.