Today on Blogcritics
Home » Fisking a Stereotype

Fisking a Stereotype

Please Share...Tweet about this on Twitter0Share on Facebook0Share on Google+0Share on LinkedIn0Pin on Pinterest0Share on TumblrShare on StumbleUpon0Share on Reddit0Email this to someone

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.

My response:

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. ”

See above.

“…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.”

Sleep well.

Also posted at Confessions of a Jesus Phreak

UPDATE: Sgt. Stryker says it much better than I.

Powered by

About Scott Bell

  • mike

    Now there you prowars go again. Using “fisk” as a negative when Fisk has been completely vindicated in everything he said.

    War would lead to more terrorism? Check.

    A guerilla war would start up right after “liberation”? Check.

    Iraqis would not welcome us as liberators? Check.

    There were too few troops on the ground? Check.

    Our experience would mirror the British’s in the 1920s? Check.

    You name it, Fisk said it. So consider yourself “fisked,” in every sense of the word.

  • Eric Olsen

    Other than perhaps the “too few troops on the ground” theory, theopposite point of view is just as valid as every one of these points, and who didn’t think there would be lingering battles to be fought after the “war” proper was “ended.” Bush should have never declared the war over in the first place – obviously, it is ongoing.

    Fisk became a catch phrase due to his bizarre moral and factual gymnastics required to perpetuate his grotesquely Arab/Islamic-centric view of the world, accompanied by anti-Americanism and an anti-Israeli stance so vehement and total that anti-Semitism cannot lurk far behind it.

    And Scott’s post is defending the American military in general – it has little or nothing to do with Iraq specifically, the central point being that the actions of a few severely taint the whole, and this is unfortunate and not fair.

    Thanks Scott – good to have you back.

  • Shark

    Dear Jesus Phreak,

    “Thou Shalt Not Kill.”

    — did that phrase have qualifiers we’re not privvy to?

    If so, can you share them with the class and explain which branch of the military you think Jesus would have preferred?

    Thanks in advance,
    Bibilcal Literalist

  • http://dirtgrain.com/weblog Dirtgrain

    So you speak for all soldiers because of your experience? Consider a poem from Wilfred Owen, a British soldier poet who died in WWI just after having been decorated for gallantry:

      Dulce Et Decorum Est
      Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
      Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
      Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
      And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
      Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
      But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
      Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
      Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind.
      Gas! Gas! Quick, boys!-An ecstasy of fumbling,
      Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
      But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
      And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime…
      Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,
      As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.
      In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
      He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.
      If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
      Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
      And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
      His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;
      If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
      Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
      Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
      Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,-
      My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
      To children ardent for some desperate glory,
      The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
      Pro patria mori.

    Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori = “It is sweet and honorable to die for one’s country” (from Horace’s Odes).

    And for good measure, here is a Siegfried Sassoon poem:

      I knew a simple soldier boy
      Who grinned at life in empty joy,
      Slept soundly through the lonesome dark,
      And whistled early with the lark.
      In winter trenches, cowed and glum,
      With crumps and lice and lack of rum,
      He put a bullet through his brain.
      No one spoke of him again.
      . . . .
      You smug-faced crowds with kindling eye
      Who cheer when soldier lads march by,
      Sneak home and pray you’ll never know
      The hell where youth and laughter go.

    Of course, you could have just watched First Blood. John Rambo was turned into a killing machine, and he couldn’t just turn it off. When you do savage things, it is hard not to become a savage. “When you gaze long into the abyss, the abyss also gazes into you” (Nietzsche).

  • mike

    No, I think that if you go back and read Fisk’s articles in the Independent for the last year, you’ll see that what has gone wrong in Iraq fulfills almost exactly what he “grotesquely” warned of.

    The anti-Semitism charge is typical of the prowar smear: not that he “is” anti-Semitic, but that it must “lurk” somewhere behind his reportage.

    It reminds me of the slander directed against Fisk in the 80s by the British government–because he pointed out Saddam’s atrocities in the face of British and US support for the regime. For this, it was said, his “pro-Iranian” sympathies must have lurked somewhere beneath his writings.

    Besides which, he is one of the greatest war reporters ever, his vividness of language and detail rivaled only by Hemingway and a few others.

  • Eric Olsen

    Um, I guess that’s a matter of opinion, but I do know his classic tale of having the shit kicked out of him by Palestinians (I believe), who only knew him to be Western and hence an appropriate target for their rage, and his obsequious, tortured apologetics for those who pummelled him, didn’t become a symbol of pathetic appeasement for nothing.

  • mike

    I mean his literary ability to evoke the the intensity of what he is witnessing, whether a desert battle or an urban riot. In this sense, I think, the comparison to Hemingway is apt. You didn’t have to love Hemingway’s politics to appreciate his immense literary skills. So it is with Fisk.