Friday, February 24, 2012

Guys Gone Wild!

Look me in the eye, GI,
and tell me you're not tired
I'm tired to death sir,
I'm tired till it hurts
This s.... couldn't get much worse

--Starship Troopers (redux),

The Herd

Come on. Spring Break.
Spring Break!

--Girls Gone Wild

The compassionate warrior will be the winner,

and if compassion is your defense you

will be secure

--Tao Te Ching
, Verse 67


The day would never come that Ranger would call himself a warrior, so the current "warrior" fervor rankles. I have more self-respect than that. My soldiering days had a dignity beyond the violence.

The trial of Lance Corporal Harry Lew is making its way through the legal system with as little fanfare as possible. Lew committed suicide after alleged hazing by his fellow Marines:

The prosecution claims Lance Cpl. Carlos Orozco III put his foot on the back of Lance Cpl. Harry Lew, 21, ordered him to do push- ups, and poured sand into Lew’s face. Orozco has been charged with assault, humiliating Lew, and cruelty and maltreatment. A lance corporal pleaded guilty to assault and was sentenced to 30 days in jail and demoted to private first class; Sgt. Benjamin Johns was acquitted by a court- martial jury (USA Today).

Imagine a Lance Cpl. ordering another to perform pushups. Strange in itself since this was at unit level and not a training scenario. Is this how warriors treat their own? Is the loss of a stripe and 30 days in jail correct punishment for this behavior? The Sergeant involved was acquitted; where were the officers?

In the other loo case, the Marines who urinated on recently killed bodies demonstrated the desire to inflict extreme humiliation, but they have not been indicted because boys (=warriors) will be boys. When we revel in treating others this way, we have lost our basic goodness.

Warriorhood allows for this desensitization. Ranger understands Marines are not following Emily Post, but the recent violations getting press are opposed to the collegiality shared by older veterans.

The U. S. Marine Corps history in World War II is that of fighting on brutal, isolated Pacific battlefields. Today, we are not fighting on constricted battlefields or aboard ships; the days of fighting slug-fests on remote rocky outcroppings are gone.

Men like those Marines, or like my father who fought on discrete battlefields (aboard ships), were only fighting enemy soldiers intent on killing them. This is just and fair for both sides. But bombing a ridge line on Iwo is different from destroying Fallujah, or any other target in-theatre today. We no longer have isolated battlefields. Because of this, today's military efforts require more humanity, not less.

As unimaginably horrible as their fighting was, even on Okinawa the Marines attempted to save civilians intent upon suicide. Their humanity was intact; that is what is in danger in today's warrior world.

For the men who returned from those constricted battlefields, fighting had a certain clarity (if not always sense). Today's warrior mindset does not allow for the discrimination needed when dealing in a more ambiguous terrain.

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