RANGER AGAINST WAR <

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Primer Therapy


 ~We gotta play with more bullets
~How many more bullets?
~Three. That means we gotta play each other 
--The Deerhunter (1978)

 Some day you'll return to
Your valleys and your farms
And you'll no longer burn
To be brothers in arms 
--Brothers in Arms,
Dire Straights 

 She went to Berkeley, did primal therapy
She wrote the music for a series on the TV
She studied Rumi and Ibn'Arabi
She meditated every summer in a teepee
--The Girl's Got no Confidence,
 Gerry Rafferty
_____________________

So that we would feel good about the protagonist of the film American Sniper, Chris Kyle's killing back home by a brother in arms on the shooting range was omitted from Eastwood's film. However, Kyle's killing is perhaps the most poignant part of his story.

At Eddie Ray Routh's trial last week, his father testified that he had smoked dope with his son earlier in the day of the killing; it seems that the participants in Kyle's non-profit veterans program were not observing good range etiquette. Perhaps the only requirements for participation were having worn BDU's and knowing how to fire a weapon, and having some vague need for rehabilitation.

And what was Kyle's qualification to run this wounded warrior non-profit? Why are there so many shooting therapies for returning veterans? It seems like every town has one. Some are run by well-meaning people while others are strictly cash cows, but what does putting a gun into the hands of a traumatized soldier do for him aside from validating his skill in the killing arts?

Ranger can guarantee you there was no shooting therapy for him and his fellow Vietnam veterans. The American public did not seem to think that would have been a great idea.

The questions is simple: If shooting caused the trauma, why would shooting be a fix? Yes, it will reinforce a sense of expertise, but in a destructive skill. Going a step further, shooting is a skill which was exploited by and for governments, leaving the soldier to cope with the trauma earned via his expertise.

The zeitgeist of the time affects public attitude. In the late 1960's, National Guard riflemen opened fire on United States citizens who were exercising their 1st Amendment Rights, and the public distrusted the image of the returning drug-addled, alienated Vietnam vet. Even the most highly-decorated ones might go Rambo on them (the character "Rambo" was a Vietnam veteran Medal of Honor recipient.)

Then, the threat for the average American was not the small yellow people oceans away. When the U.S. left, they did not follow in vendetta. The Vietnamese who did come to the United States hoped to relocate peaceably here.

Today, the threat is vague, ambiguous, terrifying and omnipresent, and the media is complicit in forefronting it. In a commonly held view, when the U.S. failed to retaliate for the 1979 Iranian Embassy takeover a cascade of various Islamic extremist attack scenarios against the United States and its citizens followed, culminating in the second attacks on the World Trade Center (2001). The threat came to get us, having been heartened by their success against a nation which seemed to have lost its heart for the fight.

Post 9-11-01, the U.S. is more sensitive to acts of Islamic violence worldwide. Despite the fact that our society has grown more violent in terms of random indigenous shooting events, arming the "right" citizens does not seem as scary as it once did. Our society seems to be growing more tolerant of even open carry laws, presuming that the licensed gun bearer is not the source of mayhem and his vigilance might provide a mayhem deterrent quotient.

"Shooting therapy" makes sense in such a climate. Of course, the gun will not protect us from the threat, which is random acts of terrorism.

Today's veterans seem a more known quantity as they are self-selected and presumably do not hold the grudges of the draftees. Enter Mr. Routh -- the troubled combat vet on trial now for Kyle's killing. Routh said he shot Kyle because he felt he was not being listened to and felt marginalized, perhaps exploited yet again, this time as just another screwed up vet being used by a non-profit to justify its existence.

All the facts will not be known as the two witnesses are now dead, but if Routh felt as though he was not being listened to, perhaps a different sort of therapy might have been more appropriate. Why not something like "Non Violent Communication" (NVC), which fosters empathetic listening and communication skills?

Now Ranger loves guns and shooting, but shooting guns is not the therapy of choice for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). In fact, it is not until the PTSD is resolved that any of the former pleasures can be enjoyed again with the proper gusto. Ranger has some training in counseling education and never encountered vocational rehabilitation for combat trauma that involved rifle range activities.

What qualified Kyle to counsel troubled veterans with the tool of the gun? Was anyone involved with his non-profit credentialed to provide counseling services?

We should be wary of how we counsel fragile and fractured vets. Putting them on the firing line is counter-intuitive; why resurrect traumatic memories to no useful purpose? While there is a modality of therapy which involves re-creating the traumatic scenario in the safety of the of the counseling room, that is a safe re-creation, sans live rounds.

A soldier is more than a shooting automaton. We need to reach the troubled soldier on a level deeper than recognition of his skill with a weapon.

While Kyle might have been a killing machine in the military, he was also just another damaged soul looking to turn a profit trading on his "warrior" title. We are not ancient Greece, Rome or Japan and our society does not support a cadre of full-time warriors on the home front. Effective counseling involves integrating the returning soldier back into his human incarnation.

But none of this translates well into two hours of a red-white-and-blue Hollywood honorarium.

--Jim and Lisa

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Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The Duke of Death

 People seldom go to the trouble of
the surface of things to find the inner truth 
--The Shop Around the Corner (1941)

Informers inform, burglars burgle,
murderers murder, lovers love 
--Breathless (1960)

The way your head works
is God's own private mystery 
--Wild at Heart (1990)
________________________

[We said we were done with American Sniper; never say "never".]

Pity that American Sniper director Clint Eastwood took the advice of Kyle's widow to omit the sniper's killing at the hands of a fellow soldier on the gun range. It would have been a Hollywood-perfect wrap and would have provided far more nuance than the final cut allowed, but Mrs. Kyle wanted the happy, if not correct ending ("This is going to be how my children remember their father, so I want you to get it right.") Presumably, she will leave out the means of Kyle's demise from her family lore, as well.

Eastwood has long explored the ideas of revenge and reconciliation. His most recent films chasten the  braggarts and he is not kind to the too-proud gunman-for-hire, the Chris Kyle's of the world.

His first foray into complexity began with The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976). The protagonist Wales must reckon with his enemies, lest his life become one of relentless murder ("...the war is over. I reckon we all lost a little bit in that damn war.") A life of revenge is supplanted by one of necessary reconciliation. It was a message to a war-weary nation which did not win in another war.

In Unforgiven (1992), Eastwood's gunman William Munny returns to killing to avenge the knifing of a prostitute. The past always creeps up, and Munny cannot holster his guns for long. Despite the aging gunman's desire to leave his murderous ways, the film ends in an orgy of violence.

Instead of a simple matter of avenging one wrong, he becomes caught in a spider web requiring the final revenge killings for the killing of his friend. The viewer is left to wonder if the best that can be hoped for in this Old Testament eye for an eye world is that someone might avenge Munny's death one day.

An interesting side story in Unforgiven is that of Richard Harris's English Bob ("The Duke of Death"). He is a foreigner of vague British background who repurposes himself in the American West after writing a book embellishing his prowess in the art of killing. His bragging earns him a serious whipping by the town's sheriff (Gene Hackman), as Bob must be taken down a notch for his braggadocio.

The Duke does not realize his hypocrisy:  "A plague on you. A plague on the whole stinking lot of ya, without morals or laws. And all you whores got no laws. You got no honor. It's no wonder you all emigrated to America, because they wouldn't have you in England. You're a lot of savages, that's what you all are. A bunch of bloody savages." The irony is that English Bob is the same as "the savages", though he imagines himself otherwise.

In Flags of Our Fathers (2006), Eastwood follows the stories of the men who raised the flag at Mt. Surabatchi on Iwo Jima in World War II. The character singled out for censure is the money-grubbing Rene Gagnon, who attempts to exploit his chance appearance in Joe Rosenthal's iconic photo to raise his social and economic position . 

Eastwood's sympathy is reserved for Ira Hayes, who was unable to surmount his combat trauma and could not reckon that with the celebrity thrust upon him. Hayes died drunk in a ditch of water some years after the war and his exploitation as a U.S. Bond salesman.

His treatment of gun fighters Josey Wales, William Munny, English Bob and Gene Gagnon differ from that of Chris Kyle. Kyle is every bit the self-promoter as English Bob or Gene Gagnon, but there is no repercussion that accrues to him because of Eastwood's restricted ending.

If Eastwood had shown the death of Kyle at the hands of another soldier, he would have been consistent in his message -- the past catches up with you. Unfortunately, in his decision to omit the story's end he delivers a film lacking in his previous gravitas.

After Seal team member Robert O'Neill decided to go public about his killing of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden (following Matt Bissonette's firsthand account of the operation in his book, "No Easy Day"), Rear Admiral Brian Losey, head of the Naval Special Warfare Command, condemned the pair's decision. He warned serving members of special operations forces that Navy leaders "will not abide willful or selfish disregard for our core values in return for public notoriety and financial gain."

Director Eastwood has detracted from his oeuvre's message that braggadocio in killing is neither noble nor an action without consequence. Had he hewed to the actual storyline, he would have maintained his consistent and solid position.

--Jim and Lisa

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Friday, February 13, 2015

Shooting Protection

 He was a most peculiar man
He lived all alone within a house
Within a room, within himself 
--A Most Peculiar Man,
Simon and Garfunkel 

They seek him here, they seek him there
In Regent Street and Leicester Square
Everywhere the Carnabetian army marches on
Each one a dedicated follower of fashion 
--Dedicated Follower of Fashion,
The Kinks

He didn’t say boo in confession
He wasn’t the least judgmental
If you didn’t kill your ma or your da
He could be exceedingly gentle 
--Uncle Jim, Black 47
____________________
Ranger's last observation from the film American Sniper, by way of the t.v. series, "Justified":

Hollywood depictions of violence do not usually parallel those events in real life. Take the case of breaking a 2 x 4 over the back of federal agent Givens by his opponent in a fist fight. In Hollywood, the Good Guy victim rolls over and gets up to fight another day. In real life, that would probably have been a killing blow.

In a now-iconic scene from American Sniper, Kyle is shown poised to make a kill with his sniper rifle which shoots high intensity cartridges and has considerable muzzle blast, yet he is wearing neither ear protection nor protective glasses. He is wearing the iconic American baseball cap with bill turned backwards -- the primary accoutrement of the American man-child -- steely eyes not of a killer but of a patriot doing his duty, sans lust and with a bissel of sadness, or perhaps isolation. The soldier next to him is wearing a helmet.

People viewing the film may think this is how a professional shoots, but that is not correct. One's hearing and eyesight are valuable assets not to be squandered, even in the service of killing Iraqis, but a helmet and goggles would have prevented a close-up on Kyle's inscrutable eyes.

We are exposed daily to noises below that of a rifle blast that can damage hearing. But sixty million Americans own firearms, and many people do not use appropriate hearing protection devices.

Power tools, leaf blowers and even the volume in movie theaters can exceed 85 decibels, the level at which hearing is damaged. So not only does the film perpetrate a scene not true-to-life, but the very act of sitting in the theater viewing the scene may damage the viewer's ears -- the supreme irony.

Rangers suffers tinnitus from blast damage, as do many soldiers. The damage is permanent and the consequences are incessant buzzing and ringing. According to Shands/UF Medical School, the second most common combat injury is ear damage. Coming home healthy is more important than confirmed kills.

We understand that Clint can't come out and deliver a Smoky the Bear public service announcement so Ranger is doing it for him: only you can prevent damage to your ears and eyes.

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Saturday, February 07, 2015

Body Counts

 You can't kill your way out of an insurgency
--General David Petraeus 

For days and nights they battled
the Bantu to their knees
They killed to earn their living
and to help out the Congolese 
--Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner, 
Warren Zevon

'T ain't what you bring
it's the way that you bring it
'T ain't what you sing
  it's the way that you sing it 
--Taint What You Do, 
Ella Fitzgerald
 ____________________

In our continuing series of running jumps off of the much-lauded film, American Sniper:

The dark subtext to this erstwhile patriotic film is, "In lieu of a successful hearts and minds counterinsurgency (COIN) operation [something which has never been and probably never will be], we are left to celebrate the prodigious human husks left in the wake of a patriotic sniping machine (= Mr. Kyle), our views confined to those seen through the cross hairs of his sniper rifle scope."

Whiz kid Robert McNamara, former Secretary of Defense through much of the last United States' COIN operation in Vietnam, was fond of "body counts" as a metric for measuring success in that endeavor. It was a failed concept then, and it remains a failure today, yet good Americans get whooped up over the story of Mr. Kyle, the "killingest sniper ever."

Of course, body counts can be inflated, and even had he killed twice his 160 supposedly "confirmed kills" [who ARE these "kill confirmers", anyway?] that would not turn the tide of war. The Islamic State has garnered far more success with their brute, time-intensive Middle Age-style staged killings than Kyle could with his high-tech sniper rifle.

But from this tiny diameter of the sniper scope on celluloid, it's all good. From here, FLOTUS Obama can praise the film and its subject, a stone cold killer who admittedly also shot underage persons. Meanwhile her husband the President holds forth about the injustice of killing young black men in the U.S. by uniformed officers in the line of duty. Decrying the killing of our own underage youths without understanding the reciprocity abroad, the U.S. shows its callow and bigoted nature once again.

RAW the art critic asks: "Should not great art and film take the viewer to a transcendent place and help elevate his soul?" We could say that a great war should do the same, and so should a movie about such a war. Some examples are Sergeant York, Paths of Glory, All Quiet on the Western Front and Flags of Our Fathers.

These movies show men who grew in the execution of their duties, unlike Kyle, who shrinks as a person. Where does American Sniper take us? How are we elevated and what do we take when we leave the theater? In the absence of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) or linkage of Iraq to the the U.S. events of 9-11-01, what makes this movie a work of art versus simple "war porn"?

Invading countries cause the indigenous people to resist the invading forces, so why would we celebrate killing Iraqis at all?

Through a rifle scope at 100 yards you have an 80 feet field of vision. General Petraeus, on the other hand, saw the entire spectrum of the conflict and for him, killing was not the metric of success.

The U.S. took an entire country and turned it into a rifle range sans safety officers. That is not very uplifting.

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Thursday, February 05, 2015

Calling the Shots


Smokey, this is not 'Nam. This is bowling.
There are rules 
--The Big Lebowski (1998)

The essential American soul is
hard, isolate, stoic, and a killer.
It has never yet melted
--D. H. Lawrence  

What right have you to be morose?
You're rich enough 
--A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens
_______________________

The recent film American Sniper brings Ranger to the idea that the entire Phony War on Terror (PWOT ©)  has been about "chasing a zero" -- a losing proposition if one is aiming to be an effective sniper and make one's shot.

Some background: in Army rile marksmanship training, soldiers learn to "call their shots". Calling one's shots is essential in order to zero one's rifle. Zeroing one's rifle is what allows for the shooter to hit his mark with accuracy and consistency. When shooting at the range, it allows the shooter to achieve a tight shot grouping.

If one does not achieve a zero one fires "scattershot", which implies throwing everything you have downrange and hoping that something will hit the target. It shows a lack of discipline and skill.

Riflemen used to be taught to record and thence learn from every shot. For example, after firing the round and before the primer would send the round on its way, Ranger would note mentally: "seven ring, three o'clock." After practice noting where the trigger breaks and where the shot impacts, the shooter can then put a zero on his rifle's sights. The gun and its shooter are then well-adjusted and in accord. A zero is an adjustment which compensates for any peculiarities of the weapon.

If one fails to zero one's rifle one will be forever "chasing a zero", meaning that the rounds hit the target in an unpredictable fashion -- helter-skelter, like the efforts in the War on Terror. If one cannot call one's shots one cannot hit the center of the target with any surety, and such willy-nilly placement does not make for effective sniping.

Today soldiers use expensive sights with fancy range finders, but if one cannot zero without a scope, one cannot zero with a scope. A scope on one's rifle does not a rifleman make. Only training and experience will produce riflemen, and riflemen grow up to be snipers.

Like a rifleman unable to zero his rifle, the United States is fighting wars that cannot be accurately zeroed. Even if you inadvertently hit something not aimed at, you cannot count that an intentional hit on the range. Likewise, you cannot call the occasional winging of the target a foreign policy on the national level.

If you cannot zero your rifle, you will be an ineffective shooter. Likewise, if you can't zero your foreign policy -- whether because you lack absolute control of your weapons of state or the target keeps moving -- it, too, will be ineffective.


Instead of calling the shots the U.S. has been chasing a zero in its War on Terror.

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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Do You Love Me?


Those that I fight I do not hate,
Those that I guard I do not love 
--An Irish Airman Forsees His Death, 
W. B. Yeats

Uzi like a metal d*ck in my hand,
Magazine like a big testicle gland 
--Uzi Lover, Fur Q.

In every job that must be done
There is an element of fun 
You find the fun and snap! 
The job's a game 
--A Spoonful of Sugar, 
Mary Poppins
___________________

The film American Sniper based on Chris Kyle's eponymous book did better than it deserved to based upon some fortunate confluences.

In addition to its propitious opening date (the Martin Luther King holiday weekend), the recent murders by Islamist gunmen at the Paris office of the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo added a bump of renewed outrage in the viewing public. Clint Eastwood, the aging film gunman who had softened in his recent cinematic depictions of bad versus good (The Unforgiven, Flags of Our Fathers, Grand Torino) has gotten right back on that black hat /white hat horse with Sniper, and that simplicity is what an angry and confused audience craves.

The pairing of Eastwood and Kyle -- the two outlaws for good -- provides a uniquely American antidote to evil. The pairing is as perfect as Fred Astaire with Ginger Rogers -- a pas de deux where each understands the dance executed from the pull of the trigger to the hit of the target. It is a ballet, and a love song.

However, a conflict sits in the heart of the solution. For every "American" sniper, there is a Syrian, or Iraqi, or an endless array of other nationalities, thus making sniping a zero-sum game. Moreover, the sniping has no forseeable end-point either in time or place, and Kyle can't be everywhere, so what began as a bromidic story of bravado and sacrifice becomes one of ultimate failure.

Moreover, the "Good" Bad Guy archetype in American films (from Zorro to the Outlaw Josey Wales and Dirty Harry Callahan) has been trounced by the level of brute violence demonstrated by the Islamic fighters. In a reversal of Crocodile Dundee's dictate to not bring a knife to a gunfight, now the knife or the scimitar wields more terror than the surgical strike with the grandest destructive materiel.

It seems the late Mr. Kyle was something of a fabulist who claims to have killed 150, and maybe 225 enemy. But even had Mr. Kyle killed twice as much, he did not make the American public safer, for the enemy is like a hydra. Each head cut down generates two more. The murders we commit lead to an animation of the rising generation.

We are like Utah's Kaelin Clay, dropping the ball one yard short of the field goal and calling it a win. The celebration and elation does not make it so.

Kyle apparently took glee in finding his life's profession, having failed at some early life projects. The origin of braggadocio can often be found in failure. The author presents a pure Horatio Alger story, but being a sniper is neither glorious nor especially patriotic, though that seems to be the emotion elicited in the average viewer of the film.

A sniper is a member of a military unit who executes a job, but does not single-handedly win a battle. The military does not bestow medals prodigiously to snipers.

Ranger has known several Army snipers of repute, and they all demonstrate humanity and humility. They do not brag, nor do they express a diminution, disdain or hatred of the enemy (unlike Mr. Kyle.) The qualification for the job is to be calm, steady and reliable. 

Perhaps the reason a film like American Sniper does so well is that tries to compensate for decades of lost American wars. Since World War II, America has not enjoyed a win. So we take the small story and pump it up, telling ourselves that at least we have heart. But in his book, Mr. Kyle reports that he would have liked to have killed everyone he saw carrying a Koran (though he did not), and, “I only wish I had killed more,” of which neither statement demonstrates heart.

Among Ranger's sniper associates, after their lethal engagements they spoke with respect for their former enemies. They do not brag nor do they express hatred for the enemies with whom they were formerly lethally-engaged, in fact, they speak with respect for them. Many have formed personal reconciliations with them. 

Killing was a job to do, and it was neither fun nor enjoyable. Mr. Kyle's stated enjoyment of killing belies the truth behind winning hearts and minds with a military. His attitude is neither fully human, nor is it necessary for the execution of his job. 

Watching the film gives the viewers a false sense of participation in a war we largely ignore. The true believers come as they do to Lourdes, deifying their savior (for few bucks and a couple hours.)

For the faux patriots, "Kyle, save us!" may be 2015's version of  "E.T., come home!" And just as unlikely. 

--by Jim and Lisa

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Monday, January 19, 2015

Blood Simple

 Now Jesus don't like killin'
No matter what the reason's for,
And your flag decal won't get you
Into heaven any more
--John Prine 

But what I know about is Texas,
an' down here... you're on your own 
--Blood Simple (1983) 

There are few things more fundamentally
encouraging and stimulating
than seeing someone else die 
--Paths of Glory (1957)
_____________________

Why our current fascination with snipers? 2013 brought us Marcus Luttrell's "Lone Survivor" (which grossed three times its budget), and 2015 brings Clint Eastwood's film based on Chris Kyle's "American Sniper" released earlier this month (which has already outearned "Lone Survivor" in its first month of release.)

Since the inception of the Phony War on Terror (PWOT ©) the SEALs have undertaken a tremendous public relations campaign aimed at propagandizing the U.S. taxpayer into thinking their dollars have been well-spent. For sure, one group of capitalists did benefit handsomely from the propaganda spawned by Luttrell's Lone Survivor, Matt Bissonnette's No Easy Day and Kyle's American Sniper: the video gaming industry. It is unlikely these men considered if or how their missions were relevant to the concept of fighting terror, but their stories are being bled for all they are worth.

Does the impulse to view such films arise from our need to make meaning, or the need to not admit that men's lives are spent often too cavalierly, in the service of projects which reap little if any benefit? Is it an offshoot of the father archetype and the sniper is the Big Daddy who will protect you and keep you safe? Is a tit-for-tat on life's treadmill, an urge to escape the claustrophobic feeling that if they have you in their cross-hairs, at least you have someone on your side whose weapon is trained on them, too? A cosmic Mobius strip of death.

But the recent apotheosis of the sniper belies the fact that no soldier is irreplaceable, nor does any battlefield outcome rest on the scoped rifle of any one participant. Sniping is as old as the U.S. Army. One could even say characters like Robin Hood were snipers, as they were selective marksman. The current sniper movie genre probably began with the 1980's Tom Barringer films featuring modern-day Natty Bumpos -- James Fenimore Cooper's Leatherstocking Tales adopted for Hollywood.

Whether it is Enemy at the Gates or Saving Private Ryan in a theatre Army scenario, or Luttrells' Lone Survivor in a godforsaken valley somewhere in Afghanistan, Hollywood creates the aura that the sniper creates fear and terror in the enemy, but this is not military thinking.

The most common misconception is that a sniper can, by killing the leaders of an enemy unit, destroy the unit's will to resist. But if this were so, why not call in artillery and fire a "battery five" killing them all?

In fact, the Infantry's mission is clear and simple: to close with and destroy the enemy through fire and maneuver. Nowhere does our mission entail fear or terror. We either shoot, move or communicate, or we don't. The idea of the mission being to create fear or terror is a myth.

American Sniper's director Clint Eastwood is that rare conservative Hollywood bird whose head space and timing seem to be a few degrees off judging by his surreal performance at the 2012 Republican convention. But that does not keep a patriot in his dotage from turning out a good cowboy film, even if it is in the Arabian desert and the punks are hajjis.

Eastwood cut his teeth on "The Outlaw Josey Wales," "Heartbreak Ridge" and "Dirty Harry", finding his groove in romanticizing the unglamorous life of the executioner. Chris Kyle's book does not deviate from this hoo-ah approach. For him, his targets were "savages" and "terrorists" (stating in his book that he would like to kill everyone toting a Koran, a sentiment which Eastwood cannily decided to omit from his film.) Surely Kyle saw himself as an instrument of God's hand, every bit as much as those he shot saw him.

However, as Ranger has discussed before, terrorists do not attack hard targets, an example of which would be the U.S. military. The men Kyle was killing were insurgents, soldiers, militants or guerrillas -- take your pick -- but not terrorists. Of course, since the terrorist menace was the casus belli for the PWOT, the longest U.S. war, it pays to play the term for all it's worth.

Unfortunately, when your film's subject has matters so terribly confused, it is hard to make of him a hero archetype. In Chris Kyle's and Clint Eastwood's world, things are black and white, and do not admit of nuance, and it is he who has the fistful of dollars who calls the tune.

The American Sniper's claim to fame is his 165 confirmed (and possible 225) kills, but how did kills become a metric for achievement? The Vietnam War, despite its hopeful and often inflated body counts, showed that "body count" was a meaningless concept when Saigon fell.

Even had Kyle killed 250 insurgents -- did we win the war? The U.S. is no safer because of the violence men like Kyle visited upon the Iraqi nation, and possibly less so. It could be argued that Islamist State (ISIS/ISIL) is the godchild of the relentless violence wrought by the U.S. military.

Killing without a meaningful military objective is simple murder, whether issuing from Kyle's muzzle of an ISIS executioner's knife. Mr. Eastwood can wrap his movie in a flag and overlay bagpipes playing "Amazing Grace", but the map ain't the territory. 

When Kyle and his actions are apotheosized, it is akin to raising the entire PWOT © to some noble, nation-saving enterprise. Unfortunately, like most of the U.S.'s Counterinsurgency efforts, it was naught more than a bloody game of whack-a-mole. You can put lipstick on a pig ...

Is a film like American Sniper a mass catharsis for the viewing audience eating popcorn and drinking soda? Does it whip up the patriotic fervor that enables a nation to stay in the warfighting game for the long haul? Or is it just another way to shoot two hours of a life being wafted away on the fantasy of some good, clean red-white-and-blue fun?

Hollywood likes to call these fictions "biopics", which is like saying John Tesh's "infotainment" was the news. Viewers leave the theater feeling perhaps proud after the gorefest done in the name of guns, football, hunting, Bibles, beer and cowboys. Eastwood offers up this "heartland bingo", and hopes the cards he has thrown down will constitute a winning hand.

And in the parlance of the Awards that matter, it probably does. But really, it is just another bad movie based upon a juvenile view of life. The director would have done better to have stopped after his film The Unforgiven, for that title explains the plight of the gunfighter best.

America is not about killing people. If it is, then we have morphed into a tawdry version of the Marvel superheroes The Avengers.

--Jim and Lisa

(In an interesting aside, American Sniper is poised to out-earn the previous highest-grossing U.S. release, 2012's The Avengers. The Avengers are a Marvel comic Superhero creation with whom Chris Kyle symbolically associated himself.)

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Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Rise and Shine

Never, never, never, never give up
--Winston Churchill 

Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light
--Dylan Thomas

 Then I pray
Don't take me soon
'Cause I am here for a reason 
--One Day, Matisyahu
_____________________

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is the signature wound of the recent wars, and there is no quick fix. It is a devastating play-as-you go scenario past the initial triage, the path back to normalcy a no man's land fraught with unseen mines. It is estimated that 400,000 U.S. soldiers currently suffer TBI.

I was impressed recently with Simon Lewis's talk at the first INK conference which was published online in association with the TED conference on his medical journey after suffering TBI and the multiple, often unguessed, internal injuries pursuant to the initial concussive event. While Mr. Lewis, an attorney and Hollywood film producer, suffered his TBI in the civilian world, his experience is readily translatable to that suffered by some of our military readers. Since viewing his talk I have had the pleasure of making his acquaintance, and I believe his message and crusade to protect, restore and improve human consciousness is a vital one.

His injuries were so massive that he was presumed dead at the scene of his auto accident. Mr. Lewis then spent one month in "Glasgow Level Three", the lowest state of coma existence on the Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) and one from which few emerge. When he did, recovery was a grueling process which took him from trying to comprehend children's animations back today to his pre-accident 150 I.Q. Equally as torturous was the fact that there was no clearly enumerated path back, just a continuous hit-and-miss process of brute force effort and will combined with the occasional welcome serendipity.

Reading his book, Rise and Shine, is an antidote to demoralization and will encourage and enlighten anyone on his hidden path to recovery. Being English, Mr. Lewis employs his gallows humor to good effect. He hits the right tone, and his story is engaging throughout.

A recurrent theme is the dismal reality that he must fight for medical coverage time and again before he can even begin the fight on the bodily level for his recovery. Anyone who has been in his position will understand the daunting challenges which face the patient on every front.

Of special interest to those who have or will undergo cranial reconstruction will be the unforeseen complications surrounding the prosthetic inserts.
In addition, the ongoing trauma set up throughout the body following massive concussive damage is often unexpected and not well understood. 

One of his mantras is, "no one will tell you everything"; in fact, the things we are told are often contradictory and potentially damaging. Surviving and thriving seems to hang on a wing and a prayer, many times.

Lewis has made it his mission to raise awareness of the necessity for the medical world to widen their approach to TBI survivors and employ every available modality in order to not lose our most precious asset, consciousness. If you or anyone you know has suffered TBI and is looking for a way, I recommend Mr. Lewis's book. While not a manual for navigating the medical system, it provides one man's clear and stoic efforts to regain the maximal wellness possible for him.

20 years on his recovery continues, and it is his mission to bring the message that there are many unused modalities of treatment -- many which he presents -- and that we should not be satisfied with the often low expectations attached to such diagnoses. 

As he told one interviewer, it seems in America we are satisfied with discharging accident victims after they have achieved a very minimal baseline of function and call that a recovery, with no direction for their future. (Mr. Lewis was discharged once he achieved an I.Q. of 89.)

This is not good enough.

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Sunday, January 04, 2015

Hostage Rescue Situations, II: Civilian

 Whether we like it or not,
the one justification for the existence of all religions is death,
they need death as much as we need bread to eat 
--Death with Interruptions,
Jose Saramago,

The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be;
and that which is done is that which shall be done:
and there is no new thing under the sun 
--Ecclesiastes 1:9 

When people show you who they are,
believe them the first time 
--Maya Angelou
______________________ 

SubtitleChicken Little, or, The Lone Wolf

Scenario: Sydney (AUS) hostage crisis, 15-16 December 2014.

The media reported yet another Lone Wolf Islamic gunman took hostages at the Lindt Chocolate Cafe in Sydney;  two hostages and the hostage taker were later killed. But how -- or does -- this situation differ from hostage situations that preceded it?

Instant analysis provided by hasty experts lead to the speedy disappearance of any discrete event from the headlines in favor of the next shock and awe event, and any lessons to be found in commonalities are lost in the relentless quest for the new. So what's new and what's not? 

All hostage taking is criminal behavior, and law enforcement exists deal with such events. The laws already exist in the legal codes of all civilized nations. Motives, tactics and response times may differ, but there is always a police response that is appropriate. Sydney is but another in the ignominious history of the hostage taking event. While there is no comprehensive list online, one can begin ticking off the scores of events in recent memory:

Moluccan separatists (Holland, 1977); DFLP Ma'alot massacre (Israel, 1974); numerous aircraft hijackings, beginning in the 1930's; Mumbai hotel (Lashkar-e-Taiba, 2008); Chechen theater takeover (Russia, 2002); Grozny (Caucasus Emirate, 2014); Beslan School Siege (Chechen, 2004); Grand Mosque seizure (Mecca, Saudi Arabia, 1979); Munich Olympic massacre (Palestinian Black September,1972); OPEC ministers (Carlos the Jackal + German and Arab terrorists, 1975); Iran embassy takeover (1979); Iranian Embassy siege (London, 1980); Raid at Entebbe (Uganda, 1976); Norrmalmstorg robbery (Sweden, 1973) -- origin of the "Stockholm Syndrome", etc.

"Lone Wolves" are nothing new. The "shoe" and "underwear" bombers were also lone wolves. Anyone who attempts such an illegal and audacious action is by definition a lone wolf, even if representing a larger group. Most lone wolves are backed by a much larger transnational support system facilitating their operations.


All hostage takers give off intel predictors of their actions, just as all spree killers have. The problem is that we ignore these indicators. The perpetrators of the attacks of 9-11-01 and all subsequent attempts by affiliated groups gave off indicators, but nobody connected the dots. It's not that they are invincible but that we are negligent.

Our negligence allows these people to slip through the cracks and fly under the radar. Since the agencies tasked to ensure our safety are often no more than theater, look for the attacks to continue. The people leading these agencies often lack a police or security background

The police operate on the belief that all life is sacred, including that of the hostage-taker; but if intel indicates the hostage takers will execute hostages, then police must end the situation by assault. The police assault differs from the military one, however.

When the SEALs entered Yemen their assault was a predetermined, essential part of their plan. In contrast, a police assault should be effected only to prevent further loss of hostage lives. As the police assault phase is fluid, hostage lives always hang in the balance. In Sydney, the police had no option as all intel indicated the hostage taker was intent on killing his hostages.

The only critical observation in the Sydney scenario is that the police may have used too much firepower when they employed fully automatic fire. Prudence in the civilian setting may call for less rounds fired in select single fire mode to avoid accidentally killing hostages. A police response should always be measured, but it is always a judgement call for those on-site.

Hostage barricade situations are not going away, but the Western world has levels of security which can address any criminal activity, to include terrorism. The Euroterrorism of the 1960-90 era was effectively neutralized by good police work, intel and counteraction efforts, without governments crossing into authoritarian mode. The same comment will be made 30 years from now about today's "Lone Wolves".

Today's Lone Wolves do not differ much from their predecessors: they want to broadcast a message, and they often seek to gain ransom for further operational funding. Individually, they seem to be nihilists who do not value their own lives. However, their actions continue to support the viability of their group (=the Islamic State), even if they were not directly affiliated with the group to which they claim fealty.

As an aside: What hath the media and its mandatory political correctness wrought by feeding us the line that Islam is a religion of peace? It keeps us in a state of unknowing, children who must act shocked each time we put our hands on the stove and it burns. Certainly there are good Muslims, but the intermittent terrorist act will continue to erupt from that unsettled pool and we must be stoic in our application of established police protocol.

To deny that there is a large swath of "bad" Muslims who rejoice in their 10th century ethos is to be willfully blind to a movement taking over large swathes of the Middle East and Asia. To paraphrase Sam Kinison, it's called The Islamic State, people. "Bad" to us is "good" to them, and never the twain shall meet.

Our fundamental worldviews are different ... it is not simply a matter of the West disbursing a few more palletized bundles of Benjamins, or more education or fruit juice boxes at the Loya Jirgas. We are as puppets on a string when we recoil in horror at the beheading du jour.

What's new is the environment of fear fomented in the press.

[cross-posted @ milpub.]

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Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Hostage Rescue Scenarios

We will fight hostage taking 
like we fight terrorism 
--Ali Abdullah Saleh, 
former Yemen statesman 
_______________________
 
Hostage rescue situations are among the most fraught police and military scenarios. It is instructive to look at the recent SEAL raid in Yemen, in which neither hostage was retrieved alive, and the Australian hostage scenario, which resulted in two hostage deaths; the scenarios share a few similarities and many differences.

First, Yemen:

In the military hostage rescue operations are usually phased, the most difficult military efforts. The death of the hostage is always a probability.

In military terms, these are raids with a hostage retrieval. The raid is usually in a denied area, requiring an approach or movement to contact followed by an assault phase in which it is usual to kill all enemy except for prisoners, which may provide intel about future enemy intentions. The objective is usually isolated, and approach marches, difficult. Assaulting the objective is difficult not in a military sense, but in the attempt to preserve the life of the hostage.

In warfare, you can kill everyone on the objective if they are combative. They do not need to be armed since warfare does not require rules of engagement. Warfare is a state of belligerency, unlike in civilian law enforcement. A soldier's mission is to sweep the objective and leave it as soon as hostages are secured.

Since SEALs operate in secret there are few details for the Yemeni raid, but these comments are based upon historical context:


1) Hostage rescue is a host nation function, therefore, why didn't the Yemenis conduct the raid?  Does the United States have a status of forces agreement (SOFA) with Yemen?

2) Did the US SOF employ agents to approach the hostage-taker's compound? Was this a go-it-alone venture? If so, why are our allies not hands-on in their own country?

3) Why is the U.S. in Yemen in the first place? Why are Western civilians allowed in a high-threat area? Does the U.S. want potential hostages running around the AO willy-nilly?

4) Why doesn't the Department of State declare Yemen, Iraq and all other high-threat areas off-limits to U.S. citizens? If we are banned from travel to Cuba and North Korea, then why not from areas of flat-out craziness? It is no secret that Westerners are desirable targets.

5) If the U.S. is in Yemen to secure Saudi Arabia's flank, then why can't Saudi Special Forces be employed in the hostage rescue efforts? Saudi assets could penetrate Yemen territory more easily than can U.S. SEAL teams.

6) Is Yemen really a country, or a lawless sand pit? If Yemen cannot ensure the safety of foreigners, can we say they are a nation?

7) Are the Yemen hostage-takers proponents of Saudi Wahhabi beliefs?

8) Why are all of the recent raids and hostage rescues being conducted by SEALs? Why are Special Forces no longer being employed -- aren't SF teams part of General Joseph Votel's SOCOM? When did SOCOM become a one ring circus?

Why are the SF not being rotated on the hazardous duty roster? SF has institutional Infantry combat knowledge beyond the capability of SEAL teams.


Next: we will look at the civilian hostage rescue or barricade situation in Sydney, Australia, the so-called "lone-wolf" scenario which may become the face of recurring hostage situations in this century.

[cross-posted @ milpub.]

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Sunday, December 28, 2014

Just Fun and Games

 --Team America: World Police (2004)

Hi, I'm Ricky Bobby. 
Christmas is right around the corner,
and what better gift to give a loved one [pulls out knife] 
than this Jackhawk 9000.
Available at Wal Mart!
--Talledega Nights (2006) 

The thing about killing you or her or him
is that I wouldn't be getting paid for it
and I don't like giving anything away for free 
--Suddenly (1954)

Freedom isn't free/no, there's a hefty fuckin' fee/
and if you don't all chip in your buck o' five who will?
Freedom costs a buck o' five 
--Team America (2004)
__________________

From the endless parade of news you can't use comes brouhaha of the week no.2: 

Sony and its computer hacking.

In what should have been news for the financial or entertainment sections made Front Page: entertainment company Sony's computer hacking at the supposed hands of the North Koreans, in supposed retaliation for Sony's scheduled release of "The Interview," a supposed comedy about the assassination of the NOK head of state, Kim Jong-Un.

In keeping with the peace and love of the Christmas season, President Obama gave a stern shout-out to Sony in a news conference saying he wished the Sony executive had consulted with him first before deciding to yank the film as he would advised them differently, and in no uncertain terms. Heavy-duty talk from a sitting President about the fate of a feature film (we hear, a not very good one at that), in the vein of "we'll kick your ass because we're Americans and we stand for freedom, y'see?"

Obama also comforted the madding crowds a few days ago reassuring them that the hacking was not an "Act of War", all of which makes RangerAgainstWar wonder, "Just how stupid are we?" Have we not moved beyond the hysteria generated by Orson Welles' broadcast of his "War of The Worlds" in 1938? Must everything be war or terror-related?

Reuters reported President Obama said (in a classic non-sequitur):

"I think it was an act of cyber vandalism that was very costly, very expensive. We take it very seriously. We will respond proportionately [President Obama said]."

"Obama said one option was to return North Korea to the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism, from which Pyongyang was removed six years ago."

Get that? Not terrorism, but the U.S. will put them back on the list of state-sponsored terrorism ... and why is that? Because we don't like you, and this is what freedom looks like, big guy.

Are we so insensitive that we forget we have lost Presidents to murders? If we are making a thinly-veiled suggestion that NOK would be better off without Kim, we would do wise to remember that our fomenting of the murders of sitting heads of state like Iraq's Saddam Hussein and Libya's Muammar Khaddafy did nothing to further the cause of humanity in those hapless nations.

Perhaps the insensitivity required when viewing the killing and violence in "patriotic" films like Act of Valor, American Sniper, Lone Survivor and Zero Dark Thirty has seeped so deeply into our consciousness that we are simply inured to any presentation of on-screen murder. That's entertainment.

But let us suppose for a moment that some members of NOK's burgeoning film culture decided to make a film in which President Obama gets whacked (a funny film, mind.)

Let's say the plot features Kim's friend Dennis Rodman challenging President Obama to a pick up game of b-ball-turned-deadly. Some unfortunate and gruesome accident occurs while Mr. Obama is jumping for a lay-up. In the denouement, Mr. Rodman and his friend Kim enjoy some gauche Western vittles in a slight to Capitalism -- maybe pizza and Pepsi, with Cheetos as a side -- while mock-eulogizing the loss of their dear former World Leader. Funny. no?

It's all fun and games til someone puts and eye out, as they say. Do you supposed we would screen the film here, and laugh at its premise?

Na ga da, as Dana Carvey might say.


[An interesting aside: Frank Sinatra starred in two films about assassinating a U.S. President -- Suddenly (1954) and The Manchurian Candidate (1962). A year later, President Kennedy was actually assassinated. 

If NOK did in fact commit the hacking of Sony, perhaps it was they did not like those cinematic odds.]

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Saturday, December 27, 2014

Death of the Week

 

 --We could make a series of it. "Suicide of the Week." 
Aw, hell, why limit ourselves? "Execution of the Week."
-- "Terrorist of the Week." 
--I love it. Suicides, assassinations, mad bombers,
Mafia hitmen, automobile smash-ups: "The Death Hour."
A great Sunday night show for the whole family.
It'd wipe that fuckin' Disney right off the air
--Network (1982) 

I'm robbin' people with a six-gun
I fought the law and the law won
I fought the law and the law won 
--I Fought the Law, 
Bobby Fuller Four

The thief cometh not, but for to steal,
and to kill, and to destroy:
I am come that they might have life,
and that they might have it more abundantly
--John 10:10

 Really Doctor, you must learn to govern your passions.
They will be your undoing 
--Star Trek, Spock to Dr. McCoy 
 ______________________

"So whaddya think about the latest shooting outside of Ferguson?" I was asked on Christmas Day.

"Stupid." The policeman was responding to theft in the vicinity of a Jiffy Mart, and he approaches two men in the area, one of whom turns on the cop pointing a weapon at him. Forgetting uncivil, illegal and criminal for the moment; just stupid. Are we at the "jump the shark" moment re. the racist cop meme?

The victim of this latest shooting to reach the news is Berkely, MO's Antonio Martin:

"In the 15 months since turning 17, Martin has faced several criminal charges. According to St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar, they include three assaults, an armed robbery, unlawful use of a weapon, armed criminal action and stealing." 

Why amidst the hue and cry over how "Antonio did not need to die" is no one asking the question: "Who taught Mr. Martin how to behave in his society?" It does not sound like he was starting out the gate as anyone's paragon of virtue.

I think of my experience vis-a-vis a FAMU cop who accused me of an offense I did not commit. I could have been confrontational, and maybe his itchy trigger finger might have flinched, or I might have been strong-armed and knocked to the tarmac, a victim of a cracked skull after hitting the pavement like this poor woman. I certainly wouldn't have pulled a gun (even if I'd had one.) Yes, the officer was aggressive and out of line, but alone in the parking lot was not the place to seek justice.

My experience was not even close to that of Mr. Martin's criminal aggression, but a socialized human being knows the correct way to respond to a police officer. Such a person understands that the policeman is often functioning under pressure of a developing crime-in-progress. Especially a person like Mr. Martin, for whom it seems dealing with the po-po was a fairly routine experience.

As we mentioned in yesterday's piece (To the Point), the precipitating incident in this latest racial brouhaha (the police shooting of Mr. Brown) is irrespective of any other preceding or following police action in or around Ferguson, MO, or in any other town. To use one incident (which a grand jury declined to prosecute) as indicative of some larger cabal on the part of police is disingenuous at best.

Many Southern blacks commemorate their dead young relatives by wearing their image on a T-shirt with the birth and death date. The person is often the victim of gang violence, and he or she may have been alternately an innocent victim or a perpetrator, but they are memorialized on the shirts as if martyrs. Do we now have citizens so desperate that they are willing to goad a policeman into shooting them, just to drive up the numbers and amp up hatred and dissent in the populace? If we do, then our problems far outstrip any questionable police action.

In this season it easy to be mindful of the Christian perspective. Christ was supposed to be the last martyr. Don't tell me how bad or unfair things are today; they were much worse and less fair then.

But crying "racism" is so easy. One may feel righteous and expend some lingering angst, but the cry fixes nothing, nor does it address the actual problems which we dare not speak about lest they pull a Bill Cosby on us. Inconvenient and uncomfortable truths remain just that. We have closets for such things.

Perhaps Andy Warhol was right, and we all seek our 15 minutes of fame by any means necessary. Social networking certainly makes that possible today. More likely, certain areas are simply bastions of violence, and once one incident gains the national spotlight, all future criminal incidents in which blacks come up against police are then exploited, 'til knocked off the front page by the next outrageous non-event.

Living in civilized society requires that the members be disciplined and buy into that covenant that opposes the law of the jungle. Police, who are entrusted with maintaining the law and order we often take for granted, cannot be on every corner, in every potentially-robbed Zippy Mart, therefore as citizens we must be self-policing, functioning to protect both our own interests as well as those of our neighbors. We must all be good stewards of the society, and if most of us are not on board, then that society begins to unravel.

What keeps any of us from walking off with the contents of the supply room at work or worse? There would be no Post-it Notes or pens if we all took what we wanted. Fear -- fear of loss, or ridicule, are a couple of constraints. Out in society, the presence of CCTV's on street corners is another possible deterrent. Of course, many criminals do not think they will get caught. They have a sense of entitlement and lack a sense of responsibility.

Ask most criminals about their crime and they will tell you: "I didn't do it -- I was framed." Perhaps this is why for many, the deterrent value of punishment does not work. Also, some are so far down on the social ladder that there is nothing for them to lose in the commission of their crime.

The Christmas season is a good time to reflect upon what makes a society and allows for "goodwill among men". "Santa knows when you've been naughty or nice" pretty much sums up the whole shooting match. Don't do it -- don't take your sister's toys, kill the bird, steal the cookies -- because someone will know and you will be punished, or at least, you will not receive an even greater bounty, and you will suffer the censure of your fellows. Goodwill to you serves my better interests, but it is good behavior, in any event.

What do I think of people who draw a gun on a cop or anyone? If you want to be a pirate, go to Somalia. You can be a criminal every day of what will probably be a short and pathetic life.

Or you can enjoin the project of becoming a productive and kind citizen. Be a part of the solution, and not the problem, like the slogan says. You get to choose. Nobody said it was going to be fair, but we all arrive with basically the same set of tools. 

Unfortunately, we live in the time of the Death du Jour, and the copywriters have their bigotry meme to flesh out. Every killing that involves a racial disparity will now be magnetized to the meme. Everyone so inclined may hop on the feeding frenzy at the media's trough. Of course, in reality this is nothing but petty, unexceptional criminality, often ending in meaningless death, and the cries of protest land on fallow ground because few really want to speak the truth.

Common sense need not apply.

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Friday, December 26, 2014

To the Point

  We don't see things as they are,
we see them as we are
--Anais Nin
__________________

Amidst today's talk concerning police procedure vis-a-vis the deaths of black Americans sparked by the police shooting in Ferguson, Missouri, there is an unasked question, namely:

"Would the police have acted any differently if the suspect were white?"

If the answer is "No", then the shooting in Ferguson was not a racial incident from the police perspective. The answer to the question is discrete from how the event was perceived by the black population. Moreover, that precipitating event was a discrete event from each future police engagement with a black citizen.

Unfortunately, the concatenation of all following (or preceding) events is a human overlay, and humans have a compulsion to finding meaning or connection; we are pattern-makers. (We must be wary of our tendency to apophenia, as Lisa's Cambridge friend reminds her.)

Law enforcement officers have an unfortunate and built-in adversarial relationship with many of those those whom they must police. They are not filming a Hollywood police procedural and do not have the luxury of several takes. A pretty simple formula for not getting killed would be to not engage in crime, to not point a weapon at an officer and/or engage him in any physical way. Otherwise, it is an easy guess that the outcome will be an extremely violent one.

Lisa has a deputy sheriff friend who explained to her that many officers develop a poor attitude because they are dealing predominately with confrontation and shady characters on a daily basis. He, as a very Christian person, is able to access his faith and maintain a charitable outlook, but he allows that it is difficult in his position. He and his other deputies wear bullet-proof vests daily, a reminder that all do not welcome his appearance on the scene, despite and indifferent to his charitable outlook.

This is the law, which has no exceptions for race. So the question is:

"Do we have a race problem, or a police problem?"

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Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Have Yourself a Non-Warrior Little Christmas

--A Charlie Brown Christmas 

I got to keep my image
While suspended from a throne
That looks out upon a kingdom
Full of people all unknown 
--I'm a Man,
Spencer Davis Group

Have yourself a merry little Christmas,
Let your heart be light
From now on,
our troubles will be out of sight 
--Merry Little Christmas 

He who, conscious of being strong,
is content to be weak,
He shall be the paragon of mankind
--Lao Tze   

I've got to leave before I start to scream
But someone locked the door and took the key
You feelin' alright
I'm not feelin' too good myself 
--Feelin' Alright, Joe Cocker
 ____________________

As an extension of the previous post (God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen), the labels and identity of our soldiers -- both external and internal -- is a confused matter, adding to the fragmentation that many feel after their service.

The U.S. Army's Soldier's Creed morphed into a Warrior Ethos creed in 2003, and the oath is now a confused amalgam of the two concepts. A dialog on the topic began at the now-defunct site, "IntelDump", and Ranger will attempt his own definition via comparison now. (We also invite original participants and friends FDChief and Publius to continue in the discussion):

A soldier is conflicted by his wartime memories; a warrior exalts in them.

A soldier is shamed by violence; a warrior takes pride in and is defined by his violence.

A soldier fights to end wars; a warrior revels in them.

A soldier fights for humanity, and a warrior, for glory.

A soldier fights for country; a warrior, for his master and/or profit.

A soldier suppresses his memories; a warrior revels in them.

A soldier is self-effacing and humble; a warrior, brash and prideful.

A soldier values life; a warrior, only the life of  his leader.

A soldier fights as a team member; a warrior fights solo [this idea is confused in the 2003 Soldier's Creed, which states, "A warrior fights as part of a team.]

A soldier fights for duty; a warrior sees the fight as the end game.

A soldier's job is discrete and ends with the completion of the mission; a warrior accepts endless war as a way of life.

A soldier retains his humanity; a warrior tortures, takes hostages and assassinates.

A soldier is repelled by the suffering he inflicts; a warrior glories in carnage.

A soldier kills to fulfill a realistic objective; a warrior kills for no purpose beyond the kill.

A soldier tells his story with regret and humility; a warrior composes odes to the violence.

A soldier is mission-oriented, his acts conscribed by law; a warrior is lawless, unbound by civilized thought.

A soldier is committed to his community; a warrior, to his violence.

A soldier's life is not war; a warrior's life is war.

A soldier's death is lamentable; a warrior's death is meaningless.

A soldier acknowledges his weakness; a warrior destroys weakness.

A soldier respects law and authority; a warrior operates outside of the law, and has no restraint.

A soldier mourns the death of his enemy; a warrior kills sans remorse.

A soldier seeks to protect women and children; a warrior inflicts suffering on all, without discretion.

A soldier gives; a warrior takes.

A soldier fights in spite of his leader's lies; a warrior fights for his leader's lies.

A soldier does not endeavor to be a warrior; a warrior may never be a soldier.

Soldiers love; warriors, hate.

A democracy needs soldiers; an autocracy needs warriors.

Soldiers want their children to never know war; warriors raise their children to fight.

Soldiers bury the dead; warriors defile the dead.

Soldiers have sympathy; warriors extinguish their sympathy.

Soldiers defend civilization; warriors destroy civilization.

Historically, those sent into battle were kept apart from the general population for varying periods of time. The Greeks saw the fighting class as unfit for family life. After a probationary period as a soldier, some of these men could then enter the political arena. The Japanese Samurai was the prototypical lone wolf, an entity removed from and unruled by the constricts of his society.

Our Native American societies performed rituals to allow those returning from battle to become eligible to re-enter society. Reader MinstrelBoy, of White Mountain Apache background, explained that process here at RAW. Upon his return from serving in Vietnam, he partook of such a ceremony to assist him in his transition, and felt that the lack of such a passage for most soldiers leaves them with an open psychic wound.

This is not comprehensive, and your views are solicited.

Merry Christmas.

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