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The Problem of the Military Mindset
May 12, 2004
By Hawker Hurricane

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It is indeed a mindset.

You teach a young man (or woman, now) that problems are to be solved with violence. After all, what is the military for but to use violence to solve problems? If the problems could be solved by other means, you wouldn't send in the military.

You tell them that what they are shooting at are not human beings (not killing human beings is taught at an early age). For the navy, we are taught that we are blowing up ships (no mention of the sailors on those ships) or shooting down aircraft (no mention of the crews) or blowing up buildings ashore (get the idea?). The air force is similar; pilots talk of shooting down enemy planes like there is nobody on them; the talk of "delivering ordinance to the target" without thought of what is alive on/in the target... and never mind the bombs that miss.

But what of the soldiers (Army and Marines)? They can see who they are shooting - it is not impersonal. So it is made impersonal. They aren't shooting human beings, they're shooting "terrorists," "ragheads," "congs," "gooks," "japs," "krauts," "spics," "rebs," "yanks," "bluebellies," "grays," "redcoats" - because, after all, they are also taught that their country is right and good... therefore the other guys must be wrong and bad.

This is why combat troops make lousy policemen - until they've had a chance to calm down. It is also why Military Police are given special training; they are taught that the opponent (who might be on their own side, after all) is not inhuman, but misguided and needs to be "corrected."

We have taught the soldiers, as we do in every war, that the enemy is not human... and then put the same soldiers in charge of the prison camps. We have told them that the "rules" (the Geneva Convention) do not apply, for these are not enemy soldiers, people like themselves who are on the wrong side, but terrorists - worse than criminals, dangerous animals who are to be used and then eliminated when no longer useful. So - we need to get information? Do what it takes. And when we have the information we need... well, what do you do with a rattlesnake after you've collected the venom you need to make antivenin?

I cannot bring myself to blame the soldiers.

Does anyone remember the USS Iowa disaster? An explosion in one of the 16" gun turrets killed a large number of sailors, and the Navy's investigation focused their efforts on the (conveniently) deceased enlisted sailor who they claimed was a) homosexual, b) depressed because of the recent marriage of his best "friend" and therefore c) suicidal.

The Navy's investigation claimed that this sailor committed suicide by placing an explosive "device" into the gun turret, killing himself and 50 of his shipmates. The Navy claimed that the FBI investigation found evidence of the device, even though the FBI said no sign of the "device" was there.

What the FBI did find was that the officers were experimenting with the powder loads, that the crew had not been properly trained, and that the commanding officer had covered up evidence. The FBI filed no charges, as it was a Navy matter. The Navy filed no charges; after all, the person "responsible" was dead.

The leaders in the current situation, the officers and the politicians, have put the soldiers in this position. The politicians must be blamed and punished; the officers are the ones who are responsible. The enlisted men will be blamed, though - after all, they're the ones who did this. The officers who ordered it, at least the senior ones, will walk. The CIA interrogators who required it will remain anonymous. And the politicians may very well be re-elected.

So I ask, once more, that we put aside our differences. This November we have a clear choice - between a man who puts criminals in positions of power, and a good man. The good man is not perfect - what man is? His views may not match yours as much as you'd like. But given the choice, who would you prefer? The criminal candidate or the imperfect candidate?

And I remain Hawker Hurricane SM1(SW), USN(Ret).

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