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Thu

09

Nov

2006

Myth of the brave soldier
Thursday, 09 November 2006 12:04

by Mickey Z.

 

In a recent correspondence, Adam Engel wrote: "One of the greatest myths about America is that it's the 'home of the brave.' Once, perhaps, prior to 1492. Now, it's most likely the greatest collection of cowards in the Milky Way Galaxy." Engel specifically mentioned our lack of response to losing habeas corpus and to being both "subject to eternal imprisonment for liberating animals from vivisection labs" and "complicit in the murder of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, Palestinians, Lebanese, Afghanis, South and Central Americans, Haitians etc. etc. etc."

He could've also included our acquiescence in a frighteningly broad range of areas, e.g. access to health care, tolerance for voting irregularities, directly funding the Israeli war machine, and stomaching the groupthink behind saluting a flag. Americans talk the talk but when ordered to remove their shoes before going through airport security, it's "yes sir" all the way.

 


For the purposes of this article I'd like to highlight another area in which American bravery is lacking...an area I have touched on before: supporting the troops. As John Kerry's recent episode demonstrated, one cannot appear to criticize the men and women in uniform without paying a high price. There are many who identify themselves as "anti-war" who will vigorously defend the troops. Even when faced with documented evidence of criminality, Americans still cannot summon the bravery to condemn the military.

The excuse-making typically touches on these two areas:

1. They were just following orders
2. Those who enlist do so for economic reasons

The first line of defense - whether Americans truly buy that line or not - is a flawed argument.

Principle I of the Nuremberg Tribunal (1950) states: "Any person who commits an act which constitutes a crime under international law is responsible therefore and liable to punishment." Principle IV adds: "The fact that a person acted pursuant to order of his Government or of a superior does not relieve him from responsibility under international law, provided a moral choice was in fact possible to him."

 

And please don't get me started on the Geneva Conventions.

As for excuse #2, a recent New York Times editorial put that myth to rest.

Authors Tim Kane and Mackenzie Eaglen, "...analyzed demographic data on every single enlistee, not just a sample, and found that in terms of education, last year's recruits were just as qualified as those of any recent year, and maybe the best ever. Over all, wartime recruits since 1999 are in many respects comparable to the youth population on the whole, except that they are on average a bit wealthier, much more likely to have graduated from high school and more rural than their civilian peers." They also found that youths, "...from wealthy American ZIP codes are volunteering in ever higher numbers" while "enlistees from the poorest fifth of American neighborhoods fell nearly a full percentage point over the last two years, to 13.7 percent. In 1999, that number was exactly 18 percent."

Are some of the American soldiers in Iraq there primarily for economic reasons? Sure. Did others sign up for a chance to shoot some towel heads? Probably. So, after factoring out these two relatively small groups and rejecting the immoral "only following orders" defense, the question remains: Exactly how are the men and women fighting in Iraq immune from any and all blame?

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Jimmy Montague said:

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Tommy Atkins knows
An ex-Marine myself, it's plain to me that Mickey Z knows nothing and is capable of understanding still less of what it means to be a soldier. That's no insult. It's just a fact that people who've never been brutalized and regimented can have no understanding of people who HAVE been brutalized and regimented. Might as well expect them to understand what life is like 300 feet beneath the surface of Jupiter.

To those of us who have been brutalized and regimented (they call it "trained" in polite society) the worst of the know-nothings are those who walk around preaching "I would NEVER" do this, that, or the other seemingly criminal thing that trained soldiers are variously accused of doing. In reply to their smug ignorance I can only say: "I once knew a drill instructor who could make you do anything and do it eagerly, at his command. Your problem is that you've never been handled by intelligent, professional sadists who employ proven methods toward a well defined goal and are answerable to nobody who gives a shit about you."

Short of sending you to Marine Corps boot camp to learn for yourself the truth of what I say, I can offer you a few words from Rudyard Kipling, who today is reviled as a racist but who knew, nevertheless, and wrote plain enough of what it means to be a soldier:

Tommy

I went into a public-'ouse to get a pint o' beer,
The publican 'e up an' sez, "We serve no red-coats here."
The girls be'ind the bar they laughed an' giggled fit to die,
I outs into the street again an' to myself sez I:
O it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy, go away";
But it's "Thank you, Mister Atkins", when the band begins to play,
The band begins to play, my boys, the band begins to play,
O it's "Thank you, Mister Atkins", when the band begins to play.

I went into a theatre as sober as could be,
They gave a drunk civilian room, but 'adn't none for me;
They sent me to the gallery or round the music-'alls,
But when it comes to fightin', Lord! they'll shove me in the stalls!
For it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy, wait outside";
But it's "Special train for Atkins" when the trooper's on the tide,
The troopship's on the tide, my boys, the troopship's on the tide,
O it's "Special train for Atkins" when the trooper's on the tide.

Yes, makin' mock o' uniforms that guard you while you sleep
Is cheaper than them uniforms, an' they're starvation cheap;
An' hustlin' drunken soldiers when they're goin' large a bit
Is five times better business than paradin' in full kit.
Then it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy, 'ow's yer soul?"
But it's "Thin red line of 'eroes" when the drums begin to roll,
The drums begin to roll, my boys, the drums begin to roll,
O it's "Thin red line of 'eroes" when the drums begin to roll.

We aren't no thin red 'eroes, nor we aren't no blackguards too,
But single men in barricks, most remarkable like you;
An' if sometimes our conduck isn't all your fancy paints,
Why, single men in barricks don't grow into plaster saints;
While it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy, fall be'ind",
But it's "Please to walk in front, sir", when there's trouble in the wind,
There's trouble in the wind, my boys, there's trouble in the wind,
O it's "Please to walk in front, sir", when there's trouble in the wind.

You talk o' better food for us, an' schools, an' fires, an' all:
We'll wait for extry rations if you treat us rational.
Don't mess about the cook-room slops, but prove it to our face
The Widow's Uniform is not the soldier-man's disgrace.
For it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Chuck him out, the brute!"
But it's "Saviour of 'is country" when the guns begin to shoot;
An' it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' anything you please;
An' Tommy ain't a bloomin' fool -- you bet that Tommy sees!

Note especially the next-to-last verse, which begins: "We aren't no thin red 'eroes. . . ." And if that isn't plain enough I'll cite Gustav Hasford, who once wrote: "In Vietnam you have to hate someone or you will go insane."

Nobody who serves in the ranks should EVER be accused of or prosecuted for so-called "war crimes." The perpetrators of "war crimes" are ALWAYS those who sent the men to war. You want to prosecute somebody, prosecute them. Leave Tommy Atkins and Mac Marine alone. For however much you despise some of the things they may have done, they are better men than you.

 
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