Free Markets, Free People

The NYT tries to revive the “crazy vet” meme

One of the most enduring themes of the Viet Nam era was that of the badly damaged Vietnam vet who came home and created mayhem – all because of his experiences and training.  It was a myth that died hard only because the war was so unpopular and so many people wanted to believe it.

BG Burkett in his book Stolen Valor, completely takes all the underlying premises that supported that myth apart with facts and statistics.  I don’t have time to relate them all but I cannot recommend that book highly enough.

That said, this article by Luke Mogelson in the New York Times Magazine (via PJ Tatler) entitled “The Beast In The Heart Of Every Fighting Man” is a travesty.  It’s subhead gives you a clue why:

The case against American soldiers accused of murdering Afghan civilians turns on the idea of a rogue unit. But what if the killings are a symptom of a deeper problem?

Instead of telling the story of the now infamous “kill squad” from the 5th Stryker Brigade out of Ft. Lewis WA, and the reasons for their actions and activities, Mogelson does what many hacks do and tries to conflate what happened in a single platoon out in the middle of nowhere in Afghanistan with a problem that infects the entire military.

Granted – no, stipulated – war is hell, it changes people, it is something which anyone who has ever experienced it up close and personal would never wish on another person.  And yes, there are stresses that come from multiple deployments, leaving your family behind and watching men you think more of than anyone in the world die in action.  But those stresses aren’t unique to these wars.  Yes, multiple deployments are fairly unique.  But then the alternative is the duration – which my parents did in WWII – 4 years of war, from beginning to end.

But that’s not the point of the article.  Mogelson does a credible job of telling the “kill squad” story.  It’s a horrible story in which a deviant but charismatic junior leader, in an isolated outpost, talks some impressionable squad members into doing the unthinkable all while the weak leadership in charge of the platoon failed in their roles.

Had he left it here, I could actually find myself saying nice things about it. It is a story that must be told.

But he didn’t leave it there.  He started to veer in that old and predictable lane in which the military is indicted for making robot killers out of their charges and becoming so good at it that things like this happen.

In fact, just the treatment of the title outlines his attempt.  And interestingly, later on in the article, he uses the full quote from Gen. George C Marshall from which the line comes:

“Once an army is involved in war, there is a beast in every fighting man which begins tugging at its chains. And a good officer must learn early on how to keep the beast under control, both in his men and himself.”

Mogelson deals with the first part, but he makes absolutely no effort at all to understand the second part and how critical it is to the institution he attacks.  That is, “good officer[s]” and NCOs do keep control of it and they comprise the vast majority of the leadership in our military.  That’s why the military spends so much time and effort training them to do so.

Mogelson is reduced to using the Philippine insurrection and My Lai, two isolated examples decades apart as some sort of proof of his premise.  They are, instead, outliers.  As was Abu Ghraib.  There are always going to be bad people found in good institutions.  We see bad cops – but we don’t think all policemen are bad nor do we pretend that law enforcement as a whole deserves blanket condemnation.  We realize that with any organization of size which deals in a deadly business that there may be some bad people who we will have to weed out at some point or another.

However, Mogelson, via sociologist Stjepan Mestrovic, rejects that premise:

If we lack a sense of collective responsibility for these more recent war crimes, Mestrovic blames this on our readiness to believe that such occasional iniquities are aberrations perpetrated by a derelict few, rather than the inevitable result of institutional failures and, more generally, the nature of the conflicts in which we are engaged.

Institutional failures?  A military that fights the cleanest wars imaginable, does everything in its power to avoid collateral damage, demands that its leadership monitor and control that so-called “beast” by being totally involved and leading from the front.  A military that has fought like no other military has ever fought in history is an institutional failure?

Yeah, it was 40 years ago too according to these experts.  Except it wasn’t.

Welcome to my world of those long gone days of the Viet Nam era when exactly this sort of nonsense was written about Viet Nam and it’s vets.   And, if you read the comments to this story, you’ll find “mission accomplished” is appropriate:

These men and women return to abuse and often kill innocent people stateside. Their minds are permanently mangled.

The United States military is not protecting us but putting every US citizen in grave danger from the killing robots they have created..

END the military. We will all be safer.


In sum, the military’s purpose in training young men and women is to twist, destroy, and pervert basic human decency, empathy and consideration of other human beings– everything that most likely his or her family has also strived to cultivate in him or her– in order to serve the aims of empire.

Thus, the military is essentially an evil institution.

The old meme is resurfacing and gaining some traction.  As I said way back then, “never again”. 

The military is both an honorable profession and a extraordinarily necessary one.  Its members are not “victims” of some evil institution.  They’re not robots.  They’re not “killing machines” who come home to “abuse and often kill innocent people stateside”.   The purpose of our military isn’t now nor has it ever been to “pervert basic human decency”.  It’s to do a necessary and often distasteful and dangerous job for the BENEFIT of those back home – for their safety and freedom.

Ironically the NYT publishes this garbage just after some hard men heroically risked their lives in a daring raid to kill a mass-murdering terrorist who struck the very city they print this in. 

This is the thanks they get.



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18 Responses to The NYT tries to revive the “crazy vet” meme

  • Another in a long line of reasons to despise the NYT’s.
    As a Viet Nam era vet I still get mad at the way many of my friends and brothers were treated when they returned.   There are five young men I grew up with who died over there and many more who came back and lived productive, law abiding lives.
    Screw the NYT’s.

  • Their timing couldn’t have been worse!

    Reminds me of the Times printing an interview with Bill Ayers in which he said, ‘I don’t regret setting bombs,” and publishing it on the very morning of 9-11.

    Why does anyone take the New York Times seriously anymore?

  • Contemptible stuff, but always good for a hack who wants to make a splash.  “How can I make a name for myself?  How can I get myself noticed by the editor-in-chief so I can start doing REAL journalism?  I know!  I’ll write a story about how the military is wicked and teached people to slaughter and become robotic mass-murderers!”  So, I suggest that there’s nothing “ironic” about this cowpat of a story coming out right after the SEALs got bin Fishfood: it was done on purpose.

    Unknown moron[T]he military’s purpose in training young men and women is to twist, destroy, and pervert basic human decency, empathy and consideration of other human beings– everything that most likely his or her family has also strived to cultivate in him or her– in order to serve the aims of empire.

    As it happens, some of the finest men I ever knew were in the military.  I’m guessing that this fool not only never was in the military, but also doesn’t know anybody who was.  Hell, he can’t even have READ much about it, else he’d know about the acts of ultimate “decency” (a man giving his life to save others) that are common in our military.

    But I’m curious about something: since this putz thinks that our military is “serv[ing] the aims of empire”, who is responsible for this?  The name Barack Hussein Obama leaps to mind since he is (God help us) the commander in chief, and he’s the one who could AT THIS INSTANT start pulling all the guys out from every foxhole, firebase, post, station, and base where they are deployed if he so chose, and that he doesn’t so choose makes HIM ultimately responsible.  Somehow, I’m guessing that Mr. Putz doesn’t see it that way.  “The buck ends here” seems to apply only when there is a Republican in the White House.

    huxleyWhy does anyone take the New York Times seriously anymore?

    Judging by their stock prices and circulation numbers, the number of people who do is dwindling pretty quickly.

    • “some of the finest men I ever knew were in the military”
      And far from being twisted, they have been some of the most courteous, conscientious people I know (heh and that includes the Marines….).

      I’m guessing that this fool not only never was in the military, but also doesn’t know anybody who was. ”
      that was my thinking too.  I wonder if his sources weren’t some of those lying buttwipes that claimed to be vets.

      • He’s writing about what he knows (that platoon) and conflating their dysfunction with the entire military. It is sloppy and lazy but also exposes a bias – a predisposition to believe the worst – toward an institution that he really knows nothing about (as evidenced by his piece).

        • I may be way off base, but I’m betting his interaction with vets is limited to this trial and casual acquaintance of people he may not even be aware are vets.

          • I’d agree. This is a guy who has been exposed to a very bad but tiny, tiny part of the military and they validate all his presumptions about the institution. So conflation isn’t a huge leap for him.

  • “These men and women return to abuse and often kill innocent people stateside. Their minds are permanently mangled.”

    “Often?”  “OFTEN?”  Where in the hell does this commenter get this stated fact that military members “often” return to kill innocent people at home?  This is officially the stupidest thing I have read all day…

  • “These men and women return (from the police academy) to abuse and often kill innocent poeple stateside”. There I fixed it…

    • “These men and women return (from J School) to abuse and often (disgust) innocent poeple stateside”.

      Even better.

    • “These men and women return (from foreign madrassas ) to abuse and often kill innocent people stateside”.
      There, I improved on your fix.
      Which makes me wonder if they’ll be publishing any articles on radical Islam and the training of it’s adherents any time soon….

  • I guess parts of the Collective did not get the “bin Laden Week” memo.
    “We LIKE the military this week.  Next week…but certainly the week after…resume your hatred of all things American.”
    Ah, well…communication and coordination can’t be perfect.  Ask the White House…!!!

  • The left is pretty unhinged without military training. Look at the sick treatment of Palin.

  • I see some commercials recently that I can’t really recall what they are for exactly, but their express a sort of backhanded empathy for the returning soldiers.  Basically a broad brush implication of ‘damaged goods’ is smeared across all soldiers.  Its hard to tell if that is the conscious message or if the people who produced the commercial just can’t escape their negative perception of return vets.

    • Not the various Anheuser-Busch commercials? Those are emphatically PRO-MILITARY. Hell, they switched me back over to Michalob after a good many years.

      • They seemed like government sponsored PSA’s. 

        And there’s a difference between sacrifice and victimization.  Sacrifice generates a sense of gratitude and respect.  Victimization generates pity.  Although victim/pity approach can seem compassionate it also permits the ‘soldiers are all monsters’ meme to be more palatable, in fact supports it. 

  • I sometimes have a pleasant fantasy where I introduce myself to some of these folks as one of those ‘killing robots’ and then…well, it is a fantasy. *sigh* Obviously the product of a mangled mind.