Muddy Thinking

McQ fisks Balko:

… built back up into a proper, orders-taking, unquestioning drone.

The obvious rebuttal to this is “drones don’t dissent”. But again, Balko’s statement is simply a myth which I would assume is based on an unfounded assumption of how he thinks the Army works. If you think, as a leader in the military, that you can give orders which will be unquestioningly and unhesitatingly followed by anyone, you’re simply not at all familiar with the military. Heck, you haven’t even watched many war movies (“I’m giving you a direct order!”).

First, one of the strengths of our military is we encourage our soldiers to think and take the initiative. Drones don’t do that … they wait for orders. Secondly, we pound into our soldiers heads the difference between moral and immoral orders (murder is still murder in the military) and lawful and unlawful orders. Not only are they expected to refuse immoral and unlawful orders, they’re liable if they obey them. Drones don’t differentiate those subtleties nor are they held accountable for them.

There is one place that I see this mentality over and over, and it is in the conspiracy theorist. This is where the Truthers fall completely flat. If you know one thing about the military man, know this: your average soldier is not amoral. In fact, he is more moral than your average man on the street. Soldiers have a right and a duty to disobey illegal orders. Any order to commit a warcrime is an illegal order.

If you believe that the US military destroyed the World Trade Center, then you have to believe that a significant portion of our military, police, and firefighters are, at best, amoral. The biggest example to me is the sniper. People like to think that snipers are cold-blooded assassins for hire. They have no problem believing that military snipers killed JFK and Martin Luther King and any number of other political figures. And this is simply wrong. Snipers know the difference between a military operation and murder. They understand all the ins and outs of posse comitatus. A US military sniper is not going to accept a mission to assasinate a US political figure, and they are not going to accept any mission that requires them to attack a target in the US. Period. If you want that job done, you find a police sniper, like Lon Horiuchi, who killed the family at Ruby Ridge and is believed by many (including me) to have killed people at Waco. Police snipers are trained to shoot at American citizens in the United States. And even they wouldn’t take on a purely political assassination. You have to convince them that the target is a criminal (which I think that Horiuchi wrongly believed.)

What disturbs me the most is that I think that a lot of people believe these things because of projection. Because they would like to have a job that removes them from having to make decisions on morality, they want to believe that there are people out there who are free from having to make those choices. If those people exist, they aren’t in the US military.

6 Comments

  1. […] Phelps: There is one place that I see this mentality over and over, and it is in the conspiracy theorist. This is where the Truthers fall completely flat. If you know one thing about the military man, know this: your average soldier is not amoral. In fact, he is more moral than your average man on the street. Soldiers have a right and a duty to disobey illegal orders. Any order to commit a warcrime is an illegal order. […]

  2. jack says:

    “…your average soldier is not amoral. In fact, he is more moral than your average man on the street.”

    Great statement… prove it. Cite examples. Give us a history lesson. How many soldiers fragged civilians in Vietnam compared to the number of soldiers who refused? Can’t find that answer? Well, open up the question… how many soldiers, throughout all of American history, have refused “illegal” orders? Making it even easier, how many have refused OBVIOUS illegal orders compared to the number of soldiers who willingly followed them? Example might be; how many refused to round-up Jap.-Americans for concentration camps?

    Consult your local historian… and good luck finding any non-anecdotal examples.

    As for the idea that orders to murder someone on US soil need to be carried out by police agents, where do civilian police agencies hire from? Almost exclusively, (with large incentives coming from the Federal government for doing so), they hire directly from ex-military.

    Ask your local police department what percentage have military background. Federal agencies percentage will be even higher. If these officers were so “moral” during their military service, what the hell happened?

  3. Phelps says:

    Give us a history lesson. How many soldiers fragged civilians in Vietnam compared to the number of soldiers who refused?

    Here’s a better idea — since you are the one alleging warcrimes, how about giving us a single example of soldiers outside of My Lai who did knowingly fire on noncombatants? And even in My Lai, read the history. It was stopped by soldiers there and prosecuted by the Army itself. So “how many”? Even in that case, arguably the worst in history, at least two soldiers testified that they refused to participate, and a helicopter crew threatened to fire on them if it continued. How’s that for non-fucking anecdotal, you slandering piece of shit?

    And I would like to know where your non-anecdotal evidence is of the police hiring “almost exclusively” from the military? I know several cops, and only one of them was ex-military — and he was ex-shore patrol, which means he was a cop in the military, not a soldier/sailor. As I said in the post, it is the training that matters.

  4. jack says:

    So, you cite one example from Vietnam, which the majority of soldiers were willingly participating in, and you think that is evidence for your belief that soldiers are, by and large, not amoral?

    Hey, it’s your belief, which is fine, (and by-and-large I agree with it). But history doesn’t give us a whole hell of a lot of examples of soldiers refusing illegal orders. Much like one person would never go shoot up a 10 year olds birthday party, yet that same person, when put in a gang, WILL. Try the National Guard troops in New Orleans, who went door-to-door collecting firearms following an illegal and unConstitutional order, (not exactly the same, but they do swear to uphold the Constitution).

    As for police hiring policies, go to DC gov. website: http://mpdc.dc.gov/mpdc/cwp/view,a,1230,q,538044.asp#veteran

    …”Veterans preference is granted by law to disabled veterans, to veterans who served on active duty in certain time periods or military operations, and, under certain circumstances, to the spouses, widows(ers), or mothers of deceased or disabled veterans. Five or 10 points, as appropriate, will be added to the rating of the qualified veteran.”….

    This example was found in under 2 minutes. I was unable to find percentages of police which are veterans, but from previous reports I’ve heard it is quite high, especially at the Federal agency levels.

    The bonus monies the Federal gov gives to small police forces for hiring veterans is sometimes the only way they can afford to hire extra officers.

  5. Phelps says:

    Okay, you challenge me to find a single example, and I show you that the most public (and only documented) attrocity in Vietnam had that sort of behavior exhibited. And then you admit that you agree with me in the second paragraph?

    You aren’t here for the hunting, are you?

  6. jack says:

    Point is: You are expressing an opinion that soldiers are more moral than the rest of us. This belief, if true, should have some hard data to back it up. It doesn’t. Stories of soldiers refusing illegal orders is in very, very short supply. That doesn’t make your opinion wrong, but if you also believe that your “only documented” case of atrocity was the only one that occurred… you are naive. Add naive with your firm belief in an unproven opinion and you might have just created your own religion.

    Men are men. Put them together, give them power over others, tell them they are part of a group of men that they should never let down, a brotherhood that is relying on them,… etc. and you will get some rather loose accounting of moral standards. Large groups of men tend not to bring out the groups highest moral standard, but their lowest or weakest link.

    But, as I said, by-and-large I believe most men have a high moral standard. One beat into them, starting at birth, (not boot camp). Almost any standards applied to a group of men will weed out those with lower moral standards. Therefore, you are likely right that soldiers are more moral than the majority of society.

    Still, I would feel much better if you were able to bring up more than only ONE officially documented case of atrocity, because, I think we both can admit there were likely a few more… Hell, it even sounds like one of Kerry’s purple hearts happened while he was committing the murder of an innocent. Why was that story only leveled against him by his fellow soldiers when he ran for president? It does sound like it was another illegal action that was never reported by those extremely moral soldiers you have faith exist in the majority.

    More recently, there were some profound lies being spewed about the friendly fire death of Tillman. Attempting to make political points with outright lies isn’t exactly supportive of this higher moral standard.

    (The John Kerry story had something to do with him leading his boat to the shore, taking an unarmed behind a structure and then shots rang out. How much of that is true, I have no idea. Either way, whichever party is lying was one of those soldiers with supposedly higher moral standards.)