A Barrel of Bad Apples

by Kieran Healy on June 8, 2005

“Ted’s open letter”:https://crookedtimber.org/2005/06/08/an-open-letter-to-the-new-republic/ and “this post from the Poor Man”:http://thepoorman.net/?p=162 make the point that outrage at Amnesty International’s use of the word “gulag” seems to have provoked more response from the Administration (and some parts of the media) than any amount of confirmed evidence or clear moral argument about the actual practice of torture and other human rights abuses by the U.S. government. A standard official response to the criticisms has been the “bad apple” defense that only a few low-ranking people were involved in isolated cases, and those individuals will be punished. Let’s leave aside the fact that, in Amnesty International’s words, “an archipelago of prisons, many of them secret prisons in which people are being … held in incommunicado detention without access to the judicial system” and where we know prisoners have been “mistreated, abused, and even killed” could hardly have been created by a few bad apples. While I share Ted’s and the Poor Man’s fear that U.S. public opinion — and especially Republican talking-heads — are still willing to swallow whole barrels of bad apples, I wonder how long this excuse can play within the military itself. I’m reminded of the discussion in chapter 9 of Victor Davis Hanson’s _The Western Way of War_ (an excellent book, by the way, despite the author’s recent output). Hanson opens the chapter (“A Soldier’s General”) with this epigraph from Gabriel and Savage’s _Crisis in Command: Mismanagement in the Army_:

bq. In Vietnam the record is absolutely clear …: the officer corps simply did not die in sufficient numbers or in the presence of their men often enough to provide the kind of “martyrs” that all primary sociological units, especially those under stress, require if cohesion is to be maintained.

The chapter argues that the best generals are battlefield generals who stand and often die with their men. Leadership from well behind the front lines is much less effective in this respect. Is it plausible to think a similar process might apply to repeated use of the bad apple defense by military officials? How long, in other words, can the officer corps and high command wash their hands on the shirts of their own enlisted soldiers before morale starts to suffer?



CKR 06.08.05 at 12:14 pm

The administration has to object to the use of the word “gulag.” It’s too nice a use of their tactics, turned against them. Succinct, overblown, and easy to use in further sentences.


bi 06.08.05 at 12:42 pm

Kieran, why are you criticizing our(tm) generals? Why do you even suggest that they should go get themselves killed? Are you trying to make us(tm) lose the War on Terror? And the War on Drugs?


Steve LaBonne 06.08.05 at 12:52 pm

What makes you think morale hasn’t already suffered? I know some people with kids or relatives’ / friends’ kids in Iraq and they’re well aware of, and worried and angry about on behalf of their kids (who might someday be made scapegoats for some incident), this “shit flows downhill” syndrome. So I’m sure this sentiment exists among the enlisted personnel themselves.


Kieran Healy 06.08.05 at 12:54 pm

Steve – sure; maybe the answer to “How long?” is “Until last year.” I really was just wondering about it.


george 06.08.05 at 12:55 pm

I follow your logic Kieran, and I don’t necessarily disagree, but I’d also point out that one of the designated “bad apples” was a general: Karpinski was the name if I recall. Her case strongly smells like scapegoating to me, but the example runs counter to your argument.


Steve LaBonne 06.08.05 at 12:57 pm

I didn’t mean to be critical, I think you made an excellent and important point. And sadly, I think your comment gives the right answer to the question.
I’m quie worried that Iraq will end up doing the same kind of long-lasting damage to the military that Vietnam did.


goesh 06.08.05 at 1:00 pm

..the best generals are battlefield generals who stand and often die with their men .. ah, not since Patton and a few of the German generals way back then. It is sort of hard these days for generals to up and leave all the real time data coming into operational centers to go rushing off to spear Huns. Hmmm, This sounds like something Howard Dean would say since most of our generals are white Christians. I’ve often wondered where the Liberal camp gets their notions of combat from.


bi 06.08.05 at 1:08 pm

_I’ve often wondered where the Liberal camp gets their notions of combat from._

Not from Vietnam, at least. :|


Mr. Bill 06.08.05 at 1:19 pm

In enterprise of martial kind, When there was any fighting,
He led his regiment from behind (He found it less exciting).
But when away his regiment ran, His place was at the fore, O-
That celebrated, Cultivated, Underrated Nobleman, The Duke of Plaza-Toro!
In the first and foremost flight, ha, ha!
You always found that knight, ha, ha!
That celebrated, Cultivated, Underrated Nobleman, The Duke of Plaza-Toro!

When, to evade Destruction’s hand, To hide they all proceeded,
No soldier in that gallant band Hid half as well as he did.
He lay concealed throughout the war, And so preserved his gore, O!
That unaffected, Undetected, Well connected Warrior,
The Duke of Plaza-Toro! In every doughty deed, ha, ha! He always took the lead, ha, ha! That unaffected, Undetected, Well connected Warrior,
The Duke of Plaza-Toro!

When told that they would all be shot Unless they left the service,
That hero hesitated not, So marvellous his nerve is.
He sent his resignation in, The first of all his corps, O!
That very knowing, Overflowing, Easy-going Paladin, The Duke of Plaza-Toro!
To men of grosser clay, ha, ha!
He always showed the way, ha, ha!
That very knowing, Overflowing, Easy-going Paladin, The Duke of Plaza-Toro!


jet 06.08.05 at 1:29 pm

“Generals” does not equal “officer corps”.

“I’ve often wondered where the Liberal camp gets their notions of combat from.” Kieran is quoting Hanson, a widely respected military historian, who is certianly counted in the “Bushies” camp. So this “Liberal camp gets their notions of combat from” a man who most take deadly seriously on military history.


goesh 06.08.05 at 1:43 pm

Kosovo, Somalia, Haiti, Grenada, Panama, Bosnia, Gulf War 1 where stormin’ Norman personally gutted 11 Republican Guardsmen with his boyscout knife while up front, Gulf War 2, Afghanistan, Viet Nam, Korea, the incursion into Cambodia, Lebanon – up front and bloody with their lads! the only way to be! I should shout some kind of grunting cheer here…….


Ralph Hitchens 06.08.05 at 1:52 pm

Personal leadership on the battlefield is still possible, but in the US military at least the topheavy management model invariably keeps the boss tethered to his command post. The better exemplars of personal leadership in modern mechanized warfare — Rommel in WW-II and Ariel Sharon in the Yom Kippur War — had fairly small staffs and subordinate leadership cadres, who in turn enjoyed a wide scope for their initiative because they were all (most of the time) singing from the same sheet of doctrinal & tactical music in terms of both the commander’s intent and what would have to be done in a variety of unforseen circumstances. The US military has tried to institutionalize a similar dynamic, with only limited success. Staffs are very large, there’s not much willingness to make critical decisions with less than complete information, and it’s hard to shake our traditional “zero tolerance” mentality and allow people to learn by screwing up.

All that said, there’s no reason why there couldn’t be a heavy senior leadership presence at Guantanamo. From the beginning this place was destined to be a media magnet, and DoD should have treated it as such, with a high-level officer “close to the throne (i.e., direct report to C/JCS) in command. Lots of “MBWA.”


anciano 06.08.05 at 2:15 pm

The Bush administration is and should be very sensitive to these reports of torture, rendition, sexual humiliation etc. which go beyond Gitmo and Abu Ghraib. I believe that morale is poor in most units serving in Iraq. There are two important differences from the Vietnam war (I was drafted into it): no draft and the rise of religious extremists in the US military. There was a tremendous amount of bitching and complaining among the enlisted men in Nam, and more than a little bit of fragging. Both of these correlated with being drafted and feeling that officers were both protected and unaware of the real world. It’s very clear that military personnel in Iraq who are not gung ho suffer for it- not physical punishment but reduced privileges, fewer perks etc and if you volunteered it’s hard to face the fact that you volunteered for a misguided mess. I saw no religious enthusiasts or people trying to convert me in Nam. Now we have a minority who do believe that they are fighting a crusade, it goes beyond Gen. Boykin And Gen Weida. The military-industrial complex is still the # 1 threat to American freedom and prosperity, but the military-evangelical complex is gaining strength and numbers. Not all corporations foster militarism and less than half of evangelicals are militarist, but we’re going to see a lot more of this.


John 06.08.05 at 2:41 pm


I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the only general scapegoated was both a reservist and a woman. No member of the “inner circle” of regular officers has been punished.

On a broader note, as one brought up in the Anglo-Canadian military tradition, when I look at the US Army I find myself asking “where the Hell are the officers?”. Basic welfare and supervision activities that are one of the primary roles of junior officers in Commonwealth armies seem to have been entirely delegated to NCOs while the officers presumably are doing paperwork or kissing up.


gmoke 06.08.05 at 2:56 pm

Check out Karpinski’s appearance on “Nightline” a month or two ago. Looks like she’s not going to be a willing scapegoat.

I reserved my judgment on Victor Davis Hanson until I saw his CSPAN “In Depth” performance. When he said that the USA fought WWII to end the Holocaust, I realized that this guy may be a fine classical historian but he doesn’t know anything about recent history.

The military is already being hollowed out. The junior officers are looking to leave, re-enlistments are way down, and enlistments are also way down. For something really horrifying, take a look at http://www.axisoflogic.com/artman/publish/article_17578.shtml.


george 06.08.05 at 3:15 pm

John, I was struck by the same things. While I don’t like to be swayed by racial/gender politics (its seems perfectly natural that the officer in charge of the prison be disciplined), something intangible about the case makes me think she got a raw deal. But what do I know.

PS: see this Troubletown cartoon sort-of on the subject: http://www.troubletown.com/cartoons/04.html


the talking dog 06.08.05 at 3:31 pm

There’s punishment and there’s punishment. Brigadier General Janice Karpinski was recommended for “discipline” by the Inspector General’s report in the nature of “an adverse write-up”, and possibly being busted down to Colonel or something… The Chas. Graners and Un-Lucky Lynndie England’s of our service face… years of jail time.

Karpinski’s is still a most troubling situation, actually: though her regular standing reserve assignment involved being an intelligence officer, she was not given a role in the actual nasty interrogations so much as she was simply as a jailer, a role in which she had no particular prior experience, and the CIA, contractors and others performed so-called “interrogations” in a facility she had nominal charge of, but not actual charge of.

This is a unique war in a lot of ways: an awful lot of our casualties are reservists or careerists well into their 30’s and beyond, and no one above the rank of Sergeant seems to be responsible for anything.

And the Army announces that it missed another recruiting goal.


thibaud 06.08.05 at 3:33 pm

Do you have any data on casualty rates for the officer corps in Iraq and Afghanistan, also for enlisted men and women?

In these two campaigns, there is no distinction between the “front” and the “rear.” Fallujah excepted, the enemy does not assemble for set battles, instead slaughtering a wide range of civilian and military targets with, primarily, human and car bombs.

Perhaps the data indicate otherwise, but I don’t see any logical reason to assume that the “officer corps simply did not die in sufficient numbers or in the presence of their men,” as you contend.



Barry 06.08.05 at 3:55 pm

From what I’ve been able to gather about Karpinski, the military intelligence units were not under her command, the CIA people were not under her command, and one section of the prison was off-limits to her.

When one considers that the push for ‘no rules but what we will’ started with Bush, that the legalization of torture started at the lowest with his immediate people in the White House, that General ‘Gitmo’ Miller went to Afghanistan to ‘improve’ the interrogation at Abu Ghraib, and that these methods seem to pop up everywhere, then the only conlusion is that it is a deliberate policy of the Bush administration.


P ONeill 06.08.05 at 4:17 pm

Somewhat speculatively, I also wonder whether the generals’ reluctance to depart from White House spin hurts their esteem with the rank and file. Tommy Franks and Richard Myers have refused to break Bush’s circular logic that “we have enough troops because if we didn’t have enough troops, the generals would have asked me for more troops.” Of course they know not to ask for more troops because there aren’t any. And yet Myers stands there like a sap while this line gets trotted out. Franks of course, having lied for Bush about Tora Bora, now has books to sell so it’s not his problem anymore.


thibaud 06.08.05 at 4:27 pm

Is it normal and expected for officers to make up more than ~15% of all casualties? That would imply an officer:enlisted ratio of 1:6 or lower. No military expert here but that doesn’t make much sense. A ratio of 1:5 or 1:4 would be top-heavy in the extreme.

It appears the officer casualty rates in Vietnam and in Iraq so far are very similar: In Vietnam, the officer casualty rate was about 12%: 6,598 out of 58,148 total. If one includes Warrant Officers, this rate increases to about 15%.

In Iraq, according to this website (http://icasualties.org/oif/Stats.aspx), ~225 officers (including Warrants), or ~15% of the 1,684 US casualties in Iraq, have been officers.

Iraq War – US Casualties
– Lieutenant (sum 1st, 2nd Lt. and Lt. Cmdr): 66 = 4.2%
– Captain: 61 = 4.0%
– Petty Officers [sum of 1st-2nd-3rd Classes]: 28 = 1.8%
– Chief Warrant Officers [sum CW, CW2 to CW5]: 26 = 1.7%
– 2nd Lieutenant 20 1.2%
– Major 15 0.9%
– Lieutenant Colonel 8 0.5%
– Colonel 1 0.1%

For comparison:
Vietnam War – US casualties
– Total 58,148
– Enlisted 50,274
– Officers 6,598
– Warrants 1,276

(The average age, btw, of infantrymen killed was 22.55 years; the average age of officers killed was 28.43 years.)


David All 06.08.05 at 4:36 pm

Thanks to Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Rove’s collective desire to fight the Iraq War without 1) any real bipartisan & international support & 2) any sacrifice such an increase in taxes, fuel conservation or even in the size of the Army, since any such moves would undercut their continued giving the rich increased tax cuts and any other goodies sent their way; the US Army is being hallowed out by 1) losing experienced personnel who are tired of constantly increasing both in length and in number, tours of duty in Iraq & Afghanistan and who are not re-enlisting or even joining the reserves as most have done previously when leaving active service, 2) not meeting their enlistment quotas, & 3) most disasteriouly, the lowering of standards for the recurits they do get. If this continues over the next several years, the US Army, the primary service fighting the wars (& potential wars) in Iraq, Afghanistan and where ever else, will be as it was at the end of the Vietanm War, a force more dangerous to the people it was defending then to any enemy. Earlier this year, the Army Vice Chief of Staff, General Cody, warned about “what the Army will look like in two years time”. I.E. what three years of lowering standards for recurits will result in. Do not know if this is effecting the Marines yet. Their smaller numbers and great traditions may still bring them enough qualified recurits, at least for the time being. But the same facts that are effecting the Army wil effect them too, eventually.


Michael B 06.08.05 at 5:00 pm

close eyes and ears/

“… outrage at Amnesty International’s use of the word ‘gulag’ …”

A great deal of it wasn’t outrage so much as laughable disregard; one is not inclined to engage with or otherwise take seriously ahistorical, nonsensical and counter-productive expressions of umbrage.

Where there was genuine outrage it was often by such “administration mouthpieces” as the Boston Globe or the Washington Post. Example, WaPo, excerpt follows:

“Amnesty … once knew the meaning of the word ‘gulag.’ Amnesty also once knew the importance of political neutrality.”


“Amnesty, by misusing language, by discarding its former neutrality, and by handing the administration an easy way to brush off ‘ridiculous’ accusations, also deprives itself of what should be its best ally. The United States, as the world’s largest and most powerful democracy, remains, for all its flaws, the world’s best hope for the promotion of human rights.”

Such “gulag hyperbole” also serves to dilute the significance of the all too real historical gulags in Cambodia, Vietnam, the Soviet Union, North Korea, Mao’s China, among others. Specific examples follow:

Details of Vietnam’s Gulags, also here; history of the Soviet Gulags.

Beyond that, in decrying a lack of substance and specifics, some substance and specifics might be offered to support CT’s claims. Few, in any, dismiss a need for conscientious and articulate oversight; what people are dismissive of or highly suspicious of is both overt and more subtle forms of ideological religionists of the Left insinuating their programs and specious “authority” into issues that need a more conscientious articulation.

For example, a study in contrasts: Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe: Where are the marchers in the West?

/open eyes and ears


Jayanne 06.08.05 at 5:01 pm

“When he said that the USA fought WWII to end the Holocaust, I realized that this guy may be a fine classical historian but he doesn’t know anything about recent history.”

Yes. Hanson’s a historian of the Pelopponesian Wars (whose views are not accepted by all classical scholars, still, I’d say he’s respected within that field) who seems to think we’re still fighting those Wars: he compares the US to Athens.

Googling for a reference on that for you I hit gold!



Anderson 06.08.05 at 5:44 pm

If I were a soldier in Iraq, listening to Bush smirk that he’d be happy to provide more troops but the generals say they’re not needed, I would not be happy with my leaders.


goesh 06.08.05 at 6:29 pm

I think it would be prudent to quote from Howard Dean’s “Manual of Close Quarters Combat”, and dispel some of the false, if not down-right bizarre, notions concerning our lads gettin’ jiggy with uniformed, enemy combatants in well defined theatres of battle.

Howie hits the nail on the head when he states, “The Halliburton syndrome manifests at a significantly higher ratio causing abuse of prisoners not yet processed into secure detention sites in the field if Officers that are not at least sweaty and grubby and unshaven are absent. In all observed operations where Officers were present wearing bandages, there was no laughing at the genitals of prisoners and pulling of their ear lobes by US personnel. In 21 observed engagements where Officers were seen by their men killing enemy combatants, none of the men subsequently urinated on the dead bodies of enemy combatants, compared to 10 observations of this sort of unacceptable conduct observed when officers remained in combat vehicles pecking away at lap tops”.

In retrospect, I must apologize for my unspoken assumption of vomiting and hysteria on the part of the Liberal camp if any with an adventerous spirit were to directly observe for themselves what Howie has most aptly addressed for them, and which of course the literature has alluded to all along.

So, it’s a big fat mea culpa from the old Goesh. I can make amends for this with some serious commentary on the newbie on the Federal bench, JR Brown (Ewing??), who, rest assured, will find mitigating circumstances with any lynching case involving gay men that will be coming her way. Surely we will have some commentary on Janice shortly. I will be standing at the ready.


dipnut 06.08.05 at 7:10 pm

…an archipelago of prisons…where we know prisoners have been “mistreated, abused, and even killed” could hardly have been created by a few bad apples.

Actually, it could have been created without any bad apples, and in spite of the best efforts of a conscientious command structure operating in the service of the most humane imaginable policy.

These places are prisons, Mr. Healy. Being as you are a reasonably intelligent person, that should be all the explanation you need. Nevertheless, I offer a few points of reference to establish some context:

– The high incidence of assault, rape and murder in civilian prisons throughout the world, which frustrates every effort at institutional control.
– The outcome of the infamous Stanford Prison Experiment, which demonstrated that even “play” prisons quickly bring out vicious and deviant behavior in psychologically normal persons.
– The problem of maintaining institutional transparency and accountability along with military secrecy.
– The fact that military command structures were never designed to manage these kinds of prisons in the first place.
– The extraordinary challenges presented by inmate populations comprised largely of glassy-eyed, mass-murdering savages.

At that, I share your disappointment that our Armed Forces haven’t done better. Nor do these points rule out the possibility of malfeasance at a high level. But the willful naivete of so many commenters is galling to witness.


Michael B 06.08.05 at 7:34 pm

Goesh, such is a perfectly valid criticism and needs to be voiced; at least tentatively though, some caveats are called for.

Given the “cry wolf” syndrome, the willingness to coopt the 9/11 memorial, gulag rhetoric, etc., it’s understandable that some voices are not going to be heard even on the occasions, like a broken clock, where they do get it right.

Additionally, where did Dean get this particular critique from? Was it a review done by the military itself? Was Dean doing nothing more than advertising it? If so, was it because the military wasn’t remedying a situation that need to be remedied, or was Dean simply using it to score partisan points? Do we know if that was helpful in and of itself? Perhaps it was or perhaps it wasn’t, but it’s not obvious one way or the other on the surface of it. Without at all desiring to be dismissive of sincerely born, conscientious concerns, these and other questions, addressing all the specifics, need to be asked – and unapologetically so.


Syd Webb 06.08.05 at 7:44 pm

Hanson’s a historian of the Pelopponesian Wars (whose views are not accepted by all classical scholars, still, I’d say he’s respected within that field) who seems to think we’re still fighting those Wars: he compares the US to Athens.

Hanson is wrong. In the 5th century BC the Greek world had settled down into two blocs, the Peloponnesian League and the Athenian Empire. The Peloponnesian League was a free association of sovereign nations. The Athenian Empire consisted of Athens and her creatures, largely puppet states.

If we are going to do NATO/Warsaw Pact comparisons then the Peloponnesian League is NATO, the Athenian Empire is the Warsaw pact and Athens is the USSR. For all the Athenians’ bleating about democracy a handful of guys having the vote at the Agora impresses me about as much as a show of hands at the Praesidium in Moscow.

Ahem. We now return you to the torture.


Steve LaBonne 06.08.05 at 8:05 pm

As a “democracy”- and by the admittedly low standards of the 5th century B.C.E. not really such an unimpressive one- which ran an unashamedly tyrannical empire, one would think Athens ought to be a mighty uncomfortable comparison for Americans- especially for all those “conservatives” like Hanson who supposedly _used_ to believe in limited government…


Greg 06.08.05 at 8:36 pm

Most ancient historians and Classicists view Hanson and his theories with, at best, scepticism; even his best work from the 1980s, the last time he did anything original, is taking a battering nowadays.

His recent work seems to rely on a highly selective reading of whatever evidence he can find to fit his prejudices; I picked through one of his articles here.

For what it’s worth, Goesh, surely Kieran was drawing on Hanson to make a point about how people will ultimately only follow leaders who actually take responsibility, and suffer the consequences of their actions.


y81 06.08.05 at 9:41 pm

Well, syd, that’s not the way Ste. Croix saw it. How do you explain the Samian revolution if the Athenian empire was composed merely of “puppet states”? Steve Labonne, the whole concept of “limited government” simply isn’t apposite to classical Greece: whatever separated Athens and Sparta, or oligarchs and democrats, or whatever, it just isn’t describable in those terms. In part because at the technological level of those times, all governments were in some sense limited, but this is much too complex a topic to address in a blog comment, even one as superficial and snarky as yours.


Steve LaBonne 06.08.05 at 10:00 pm

“Limited government” was not meant to refer to Athens, but to the hypocrisy of our contemporary “conservatives” like Hanson whose announced principles traditionally were supposed to preclude support for militaristic adventures abroad.


sara 06.08.05 at 10:02 pm

A bit of background for the Amnesty “gulag”choice;

their view is international, and they do not take the American domestic prison system for granted, as we do. They (and many liberals in the US) see the prison-industrial complex as enforcing a de facto racial (and class, for those who cannot afford lawyers) apartheid.

In that sense, our domestic prisons are also gulags, considering that a disproportionate number of prisoners are sentenced on minor drug charges which appear to be excuses to put away social or racial undesirables, given that middle-class white people generally walk from such charges.(This is not an argument in favor of drug legalization; we have enough drunk drivers.)

The descent to overtly political prisons even more justifies the term. For those who demand an extensive network of political prisons, we do not know all the sites nor how many persons are being extradited to other Arab countries to undergo detention and torture.

sorry about sounding like a National columnist, but I’m not too happy about the ‘glassy-eyed savages’ phrase upthread. Or can we torture as many savages as we want, given that our political prisons are not called gulags?


chris lovell 06.09.05 at 1:00 am

> The Peloponnesian League was a free association of
> sovereign nations.

Even a superficial reading of Thucydides should disabuse you of this notion. Sparta subjugated as much of the Peloponnese as it could. Helots, anyone?

>The extraordinary challenges presented by inmate
> populations comprised largely of glassy-eyed,
> mass-murdering savages.

Syd Hersh confirms your point:

“The Taguba study noted that more than sixty per cent of the civilian inmates at Abu Ghraib were deemed not to be a threat to society, which should have enabled them to be released.”

Oh, wait, I guess he didn’t confirm it after all.


rea 06.09.05 at 8:17 am

“How do you explain the Samian revolution if the Athenian empire was composed merely of ‘puppet states’?”

I don’t pretend to be any great classics scholar, but the way I read Thucydides, the Athenians started the war as more-or-less the leader of a willing alliance–but as the war dragged on, the Athenians became less and less inclined to tolerate dissent on the part of their allies, and more and more inclined to act as bloody-handed rulers of an empire.

It is something of a mystery why a classcs scholar like Hanson wants us to emulate Athens fighting the Pelopponesian War–after all, Athens lost!


abb1 06.09.05 at 11:39 am

How long, in other words, can the officer corps and high command wash their hands on the shirts of their own enlisted soldiers before morale starts to suffer?

There are several ways to keep morale high. One is to earn trust, respect and authority. Another one is to get the poor bastards psyched-up on irrational hatred n’ stuff like that; certain medications help too, I heard.

All things considered, the second method is way more effective, and that’s, of course, what they do.


Steve LaBonne 06.09.05 at 2:05 pm

You don’t actually know any military personnel, do you- if you do know any you owe them an apology for this insult. On the whole they are a lot _less_ susceptible to such tactics than the large slice of the civilian population that’s been so effectively manipulated inbto supporting Bush by those means. Thing is, they’re so conditioned by respect for authority that they’ll follow even plainly bad leaders for a long time, as long as they make a convincing show, not of hate-mongering, but of authoritativeness and decisiveness.

That’s the tragedy of this war- the best being led by the worst. Reminds me a bit of WWI, on a mercifully far smaller scale of bloodiness.


abb1 06.09.05 at 2:08 pm

No, I don’t know any military personnel, but I can read.


Steve LaBonne 06.09.05 at 2:12 pm

And you can drivel, too. Well, it’s a free country- thanks in large part to those you so ignorantly deride.


abb1 06.09.05 at 2:23 pm

Oh, please. Leave it to the Washington Times and Fox News.


Steve LaBonne 06.09.05 at 2:30 pm

What an absolutely perfect poster child for the jackass Left that has made it so easy for the republislime to stay in power.


abb1 06.09.05 at 2:39 pm

Yeah, right. It’s all the jackass Left’s fault. Our ignorant drivel flooded the airwaves and the print media.

If only wein the jackass Left had enough sense to show the proper respect to our brave men and women in uniform serving to protect our freedom (God Bless), the Republicans would’ve never won. I clearly see it now.


abb1 06.09.05 at 2:56 pm

LA Times, November 19, 2003: Tired, Terrified, Trigger-Happy


Michael B 06.09.05 at 4:05 pm

An all too typically jaundiced “debate” at CT; yet another meeting of the muddled. KH’s initial suppositions are themselves shaky, so it’s no wonder the end result is complete, lowest-common-denominator dissolution – and unabashedly conjoined with self-congratulatory fervor.


Steve LaBonne 06.09.05 at 4:11 pm

You bet your ass you’d be terrified and trigger-happy if you were put in that position, abb. Which has what, exactly, to do with being “psyched up on irrational hatred”? Oh, sorry, I’m asking for rational thought from the loony left- what was I thinking. Perhaps the all-seeing source of all wisdom, Michael B., can help.


Michael B 06.09.05 at 4:33 pm

Lol! No, not all-seeing, lol, but help or not I’ll respond to the jab beyond my two earlier posts.

To say the least, there’s some rich ironies here, will being by noting this from another poster:

“… surely Kieran was drawing on Hanson to make a point about how people will ultimately only follow leaders who actually take responsibility, and suffer the consequences of their actions.”

Surely so, and such brings up several issues. What, for example, does that say about those who remain outside the system and “above the fray,” who wouldn’t go through a few months basic training much less attempt the difficult work that actually needs to be done – and therein leading by example instead of from the sidelines? And, if the impulse is to complain one is against the Iraqi intervention per se, that’s a pretty lean argument, four points:

1) Most are saying the Afghanistan invention was warranted, 2) there’s all those years between the end of the Cold War and 9/11 during which there was no specific conflict to oppose and indeed, some to positively remedy (e.g., Rwanda), 3) if someone claims they’re waiting for a perfect country and a perfect military to be formed before they join up, that’s never going to happen in the first place, 4) don’t have to join the U.S. or British militaries necessarily, other countries’ militaries are also possible destinations in this regard where leadership by example could be demonstrated:

Darfur update here and here.

Zimbabwe update here and here.

For Rwanda, of course, it’s a bit too late to demonstrate one’s convictions and leadership, to lead by example instead of by multiplied mouthings.

Or, Kieran and the rest can remain high, pontifically high, above the fray – unsoiled by all the actual work. Rich ironies indeed.


sdb 06.09.05 at 9:43 pm

so michael b.. what unit are you currently serving in?


abb1 06.10.05 at 1:20 am

You bet your ass you’d be terrified and trigger-happy if you were put in that position, abb.

The Telegraph reports:

According to senior British officers, US military operations are typified by “force protection” – the protection of troops at all costs – that allows American troops to open fire, using whatever means available, if they believe that their lives are under threat.

By contrast, the British military has a graduated response to a threat and its rules of engagement are based on the principle of minimum force. Troops also have to justify their actions in post-operation reports that are reviewed by the Royal Military Police, and any discrepancy can lead to charges including murder.

A British officer said that some of the tactics employed by American forces would not be approved by British commanders.

The officer said: “US troops have the attitude of shoot first and ask questions later. They simply won’t take any risk.

Which has what, exactly, to do with being “psyched up on irrational hatred”?

I believe what the article describes is consistent with my comment. ‘Trigger-happy’ and ‘psyched up on irrational hatred’ are not that dissimilar.

Oh, sorry, I’m asking for rational thought from the loony left- what was I thinking.

I think you might want to admit that there’s nothing particularly irrational in what I’m saying. It maybe too blunt for your taste – OK, but irrational?


Steve LaBonne 06.10.05 at 7:26 am

I think I might want to admit no such thing. What I _do_ think is that you, who continue ignorantly to blame the guys in the trenches for the sins of the brass and the DoD civilians, need to reread an old progressive classic- _Blaming the Victim_.


abb1 06.10.05 at 7:55 am

Where do I blame ‘the guys in the trenches’, though? I said that getting them psyched-up on hatred is a method the military establishment uses to keep their moral high.

You admitted that it worked on the civilian population.

Then you said that troops are a lot less susceptible to such tactics. How can it be? Are they the best and the brightests? Are they free-thinkers? Are they subjected to a wider variety of views and commentary than general population? Less propaganda? This is absurd, Steve.

This constant exaggerated idealistic flattery of ‘the guys in the trenches’ and pretending that any criticism of the military is an attack on them is exactly how the higher-ups manage to deflect and demagogue.


Steve LaBonne 06.10.05 at 8:06 am

Very impressive coming from someone who admite to never even having met anyone in the services. The troops on the ground- especially the reservists, less well trained and equipped than the regulars- are scared and disoriented, not “psyched up on hatred.” And if you had half a brain you’d realize that in their position, you would be too. My reading recommendation stands.


abb1 06.10.05 at 9:06 am

They are scared and disoriented all right, yet I haven’t seen any accounts of them shooting each other, it’s always civilian bystanders they kill in large numbers. So, there is a method to this madness, and it’s very obvious: in order to be able to kill eaisly like that, one has to be trained to view his targets as less than human.

And what’s with this apparently tremendous significance of knowing someone in the military personally? I don’t see the point, there are hundreds of thousands people there. We cast judgments on events and phenomena we haven’t personally experienced and people we haven’t personally met all the time, how come this is an exception?


BruceR 06.10.05 at 9:13 am

The numbers for officer fatalities above (post 21) would appear to be incorrect. Controlling for US serviceman fatalities only (other armies are not under discussion here, presumably, and may have different ratios), one arrives at 1686 fatalities listed in the cited website, combat and non-combat, as of this morning.

Of those, actual commissioned-rank fatalities amount to (according to the same site, with naval-equivalent ranks summed in):

2Lt: 20; 1Lt: 41; Capt/Lt(N): 64; Maj/LtCdr(N): 17, LtCol/Cdr(N): 9, Col: 1, for a total of 152.

That’s a 9.0 per cent commissioned officer fatality rate, down from the stated 12 per cent in Vietnam.

Including warrant officers, which are in many cases non-commissioned helicopter pilots, technical specialists, etc. is misleading. In both the army and marines, actual battlefield leadership remains exclusively a commissioned officer task, as it did in Vietnam.

The previous figures above appear to have counted warrants, soldiers from other armies, and also engaged in some double-counting of 2nd lieutenants in order to to arrive at the higher figure.


BruceR 06.10.05 at 9:33 am

As a side note, from the same statistical set the British officer fatality rate, albeit on a much smaller fatality sample (89), is 15.7.

Two other fatality sets are large enough to be of any use at all: the Italian military, at 3 officers out of 26 (11.5%) and the Polish/Ukrainian sets together (they served in the same formation and have similar recent military traditions): a remarkable 13 officers out of 35, or 37.1%.


Michael B 06.10.05 at 1:31 pm

SDB, I served, no combat. I’d note you’re seemingly unwilling to squarely face the point made. What the Left always and forever arrogates to itself, in addition to an often facile sniping from “above the fray,” is the notion that their own bona fides and real world commitments – or lack thereof – should never be seriously questioned. Their presumptive, insinuating moral authority is to be given an unquestioned pass – in perpetuity – tantamount to a divine right or some type of inherited right vouched to this latter-day moral aristocracy.

Perhaps that would be fine if such pertained only to conflicts which they deem to be “illigitimate”. But what of Afghanistan, which so many are (at least now) claiming they always supported. Or what of Rwanda? Or Darfur? Or Zimbabwe? Where are, precisely, their bona fides and real world commitments located, other than this vaguely arrogated notion that very much is tantamount to a divine right or an ideological exceptionalism that seems to stem from no source whatsoever, other than their own rhetorical effusions? Is this in point of fact some type of latter-day, self-knighted moral aristocracy, declaiming loudly of rights, silent of or dismissive of duties? (And at best, willing to send others to stem the terror in Darfur or Rwanda, but never commit themselves.)

Don’t misunderstand, I don’t expect this to penetrate anyone’s conscience, such a trespass would be deemed insufferably presumptuous. This received notion is so thoroughly a part of their mental and moral landscape, so much an aspect of their due inheritance, very much like some latter-day moral aristocracy, that anything said in this vein will have no impact whatsoever, water off the back of a duck. It very much is an impenetrable and ineducable quality, a trait long known among history’s various aristocracies and elites.


Michael Meo 06.10.05 at 6:56 pm

“How long will the high command wash its hands in the shirts of its soldiers before morale starts to suffer”

Before morale starts to suffer??

Befrore we lose a Constitutional form of government in a military coup, more like it.


Tom Doyle 06.10.05 at 7:24 pm

“In Vietnam the record is absolutely clear …: the officer corps simply did not die in sufficient numbers or in the presence of their men often enough to provide the kind of “martyrs” that all primary sociological units, especially those under stress, require if cohesion is to be maintained.”

This sounds preposterous to me. Combat officers are supposed to lead troops, not die spectacularly. In general infantry are trained to shoot enemy officers or NCO’s because it screws up their operations at least for a time. A units cohesion is diminished if a leader is killed or disabled, at least for that operation.

This is not to suggest officers should not take risks, or set an example by a display of physical courage. It depends on the exigencies of the moment.

I’m a former Marine, my MOS was infantry, I was never in combat. I read a lot of military history. I could be wrong.

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