30 June 2006

Support the Troops, But Be Wary Too

I'm an Army veteran who spent eight years with the Green Machine back in the Cold War. I love my country and was honored to serve it in uniform and do my humble part for its defense. I never participated in wars or combat, simply because during the years I served there weren’t any of great significance, other than the brief conflict in Grenada and the peacekeeping debacle in Lebanon, both of which happened at the same time in 1983. However, eight years of service in uniform as a professional soldier is still eight years of sacrifice and toil for my country, and therefore I certainly feel qualified enough, and have enough military experience, to comment with some authority on military matters.

Let me state clearly that our current, post-9/11, "I support the troops" collective mentality is nice and sweet, and for the most part the folks in uniform deserve this almost saint-like reverence, but there are also scary, moronic, thuggish, racist, and psychopathic bastards in the military who are about a half-step up the ladder from the murderous slime on death rows.

Support the troops, yes, but also be wary of them. Most of all, be wary of their leaders all the way up the chain of command to the commander-in-chief, the President of the United States. Quite often, when honor and discipline breaks down in the lower ranks, the leaders are responsible for this breakdown.

Professional killing is a brutal enterprise, and the killers we train for our military forces are not all white knights and saint-like patriots doing their duty for Mom and apple pie. Some troopers dig the violence and killing. Many join the military hoping to kill enemies. Of course, this attracts an unsavory element that the military often allows to join simply because the services are so desperate for fresh recruits. The military would never turn away tough, physically and mentally qualified kids just because they have questionable morals or unsavory intellectual views. However, the military does disqualify anyone who appears to be obviously crazy or dangerous, and yet even then there’s a fine line between insanity and the kind of mentality that makes a good, tough, motivated professional killer.

So of course lots of vicious pricks and vile scumbags enlist.

For example, back in the 90s it was a known fact that there were alarmingly large numbers of white supremacists and former skinheads in Airborne and Special Forces. The military tried to weed out the worst offenders, but these kind of elite troopers are, by character and training, difficult to break under pressure or be forced to confess their sins, so a large number snuck through the dragnet. And besides, these punks make fantastic soldiers as long as they keep their repugnant views to themselves. That may be difficult for some of you to swallow, but it is true.

The elite units (airborne, rangers, marines, special forces, et al.) are, by their very demanding and often crazy nature, magnets for the more, how shall I say, psychopathic members of our armed forces. That is not to say murderous wackos comprise the majority of elite units, but they do exist in these units in larger numbers than is comfortable for polite society.

The elite units don’t want gutless and weak-kneed pussies, after all. They want men who can deal with massive amounts of stress, sleep, water, and food deprivation, and the most horrifying adversity imaginable, and yet still complete their missions successfully. It takes a rare breed of man who can do that, and maybe not always the kind who would fit in at your vegan cooking club or church social.

Quite often, having violent tendencies or an anti-social personality disorder actually enhances a guy’s chances of making it through the elite unit qualification process. Like I said, there’s a fine line between a psychopath on death row and a soldier who can kill effectively if ordered to do so. Just because a soldier kills primarily for duty, honor, and country certainly doesn’t mean he or she doesn’t also do this killing for pleasure. War is just organized murder, after all, and some people are better wired for killing than others.

Our current military service members bear little resemblance to the citizen soldiers portrayed in "Saving Private Ryan" or "Band of Brothers." The real World War II servicemen were humble civilians who volunteered or were drafted for a great war that required massive numbers of citizens to be quickly called up, trained, and serve in that ominous global conflict. Those men were not professional career soldiers; they were temporary soldiers—temps.

Our World War II temps performed brilliantly, of course, but the fact remains they were mostly amateurs filling slots (cannon fodder in many cases), not crack, highly motivated, and professional soldiers by any accord. Immediately upon the cessation of the conflict, nearly all of these men returned to their civilian lives, and while proud of their service, they were tired of the rigid military lifestyle, plus were horrified and humbled by all the killing and carnage. My father was that type of World War II temp warrior.

Truly professional soldiers, by comparison, have to be less psychologically affected by the military lifestyle and the horrors of war. If not, they wouldn’t have much of a career in the military beyond one tour of duty. Citizen soldiers and draftees tend to serve reluctantly; professionals serve willingly.

Our current military is peopled with this type of extremely fit and highly motivated professional soldier. This new breed sees military service as a career, not just as a duty to their country. This is especially true in the regular military (as opposed to the National Guard and reserve units, which, as we have seen in the Iraq War, aren’t too shabby either, but are still more citizen soldiers than professionals), and even more so in the elite units. The pay, benefits, and bonus and retirement packages are generous enough to retain large numbers of those who have served more than one tour of duty. Because of this high retention of the best and brightest troops, the upper ranks of the non-commission officer (NCO) and officer corps are filled with the best soldiers and military leaders in the world.

While our troops today remain citizen soldiers to a certain extent, our current military as a whole is more like the crack, veteran, war-tested, full-time professional mercenary forces of old that kings and princes paid handsomely to fight their battles alongside the monarchs’ less professional units that were comprised of subjects in their realms pressed into service involuntarily. These mercenary forces often made a huge difference in the outcome of battles. Sometimes they changed sides in the course of the same war. Their only allegiance was to better pay and the opportunity to rape and pillage the vanquished enemy with impunity once the battle was completed. Raping and pillaging was part of their compensation package.

The dilemma of an all-volunteer military in a democracy is simply this: on the one hand, an all-volunteer military is more professional, better trained, and more motivated than one comprised of draftees. On the other hand, this all-volunteer force is largely removed from the general population as a whole, and therefore doesn’t create a large, collective, nation-wide, we’re-all-in-this-together effort to fight our wars like there was during World War II, Korea, and even Vietnam. In those wars citizens from all walks of life either served or were related to or knew intimately someone serving in the military. Today few Americans have any bonds or ties with those serving.

The worst part of this is that, with our flourishing economy providing enough jobs to keep employment rolls high, coupled with the long, drawn-out war in Iraq, military service seems less and less attractive to the young citizens in our country who are capable of serving. So it opens door for more unsavory characters to join the military.

Back in the 80s when I served, the economy was shitty and good jobs were scarce, so large numbers of highly intelligent, motivated, and educated citizens enlisted. It was the golden age of the military. There was such a talent glut in the 1980s military that getting promoted to a higher rank was nearly impossible. E-4s in the 1980s military were probably as capable of leading as today’s E-7s. First lieutenants and captains back then were as capable as majors and light colonels today. And so forth.

I am not saying our military today is fraught with thugs and psychopaths or that the military was better in the 80s (and we did have our share of thugs and psychopaths in my day). But it is true that the enlistee pool from which the military gets it new members has shrunken and the quality has diminished.

However, the vast majority of those serving in uniform right now are citizens of the highest character and should be admired for the sacrifices they are making for all of us to be free and safe. But we have to be careful not to canonize our military to the point where we overlook the fact there are some scary bastards serving who do terrible things that diminish the honor of our armed forces and our country. We should be proud how much we embrace our warriors today, but we should also be mindful not to go overboard with this reverence.

Far too many citizens in this country, especially those who have never served in uniform, in their zeal to “support the troops” in this the post-9/11 world, often give far too much carte blanche to our troops, and forget that all armies, no matter how good or just the cause, commit horrible atrocities and war crimes, and the malefactors committing these acts must be punished. Furthermore—and this is where we have failed ourselves miserably in this current war—the uniformed and civilian leadership all the way up the chain of command should not escape retribution when the honor and discipline in the lower ranks breaks down in such horrible ways. Moreover, those leaders who encouraged illegal and immoral behavior should not escape punishment.

So, America, please support the troops, but be wary of them. Be even more wary of the leadership all the way up the chain of command to the President. Always. And this advice is coming from a veteran and patriot, not some shaggy, anti-war hippie or weak-kneed, lily-livered pacifist.

And now for something completely different.

Speaking of the 1980s, I'd like to present my favorite songs from the genre I call "Jheri Curl Soul." Jheri Curl Soul was music from an era when black artists still played in fully-formed bands and didn't just rap over background music created by someone else. While I do admire rap and hip-hop, I long for the halcyon days of the Jheri Curl Soul created by bands like Cameo, Midnight Star, the Whispers, the Time, Prince and the Revolution, Ready for the World, et al.

Nowadays the R&B charts are filled with rap, hip-hop, and watered-down, R&B-lite crapola. There are very few bands in black music like there used to be. Today's R&B music is driven by producers and marketing departments. I am not saying it's terrible, but it certainly lacks the diversity of sound that used to rule the R&B charts of days gone by.

iPod Playlist: Jheri Curl Soul, 1980-1988

1. "Oh Sheila" by Ready for the World
2. "Attack Me with Your Love" by Cameo
3. "Controversy" by Prince
4. "It's a Love Thing" by The Whispers
5. "The Walk" by The Time
6. "Criticize" by Alexander O'Neal
7. "No Parking (On the Dance Floor)" by Midnight Star
8. "Ghetto Life" by Rick James
9. "Dead Giveaway" by Shalamar
10. "Word Up" by Cameo
11. "Look the Other Way" by Isley Jasper Isley
12. "Forget Me Nots" by Patrice Rushen
13. "Happy" by Surface
14. "Dirty Mind" by Prince
15. "Always" by Atlantic Starr
16. "You Are My Lady" Freddie Jackson
17. "Nite and Day" by Al B. Sure!
18. "Tender Love" by Force MD's
19. "Wild And Loose" by The Time
20. "Back And Forth" by Cameo
21. "If Ever You're In My Arms Again" by Peabo Bryson
22. "Love Come Down" by Evelyn "Champagne" King
23. "Don't Disturb This Groove" by The System
24. "Erotic City" by Prince
25. "You Can't Change That" Ray Parker Jr. & Raydio
26. "Rock Steady" by The Whispers
27. "The Rain" by Oran "Juice" Jones
28. "Give Me To Me Baby" by Rick James
29. "Be Your Man" by Jesse Johnson
30. "Shake You Down" by Gregory Abbott
31. "Dance Little Sister" by Terence Trent Darby
32. "Love You Down" by Ready for the World
33. "Candy" by Cameo
34. "Operator" by Midnight Star
35. "She's Strange" by Cameo

- Alex von Waldenberg III, 29 June 2006

2 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Agree on the military. I was in before and and maybe after you, 11 years with a break in service plus another 14 years in the reserves.

They must be getting some real idiots and mental cases now, simply because you'd have to be crazy or stupid to submit yourself to the "leadership" of Bush and Rumsfeld.

1:20 PM  
Anonymous popin-in said...

I had fun twisting Oracle in a knot ~ by the end he didn't know who posted what and completely feel apart. Hahaha ~ unfortunatly, there are way too many like him. Not enough like you.

2:14 PM  

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