Friday, February 8, 2008

War is hell

At left: Jane Fonda's mug shot during her infamous "Hanoi Jane" period.

I don't usually get a multitude of comments on my blog, but I am hoping this time yall will jump in and add your two cents. A rather heated exchange on another blog has resulted in this post. I'm not really prepared to write it, and it keeps coming out all wrong, or at the very least, it sounds limited. Thus, I need some of you folks to help: clarify, add, subtract, criticize, correct me, whatever it takes. I welcome it. No offense at all will be taken. I would like to have a serious discussion. Canadians and other non-USA-citizens are particularly welcome: Please don't be shy.

Here are the questions for discussion:

Can one "support the troops" without supporting the war? How?

Can one criticize the atrocities of the war without actually describing in some detail WHAT "the troops" have done?

I don't think so, unless one is deliberately, determinedly vague. Yes, it's nasty over there. How nasty?

And then, the discussion grinds to a halt.


Some time during the presidency of Ronald Reagan, the mantra "Support the troops!" developed into a full-fledged battle cry; a compulsory litmus test of any criticism of American military adventures abroad, which are constant and never-ending. The United States has had it's fingers in the business of so many countries, I couldn't begin to name them all. As people here at home die from no transplanted kidneys and no health insurance, we have propped up corrupt dictators with millions of dollars. We have funded covert operations in every nook and cranny of the world. We have kept countries from having elections (as we nullified the election of Ho Chi Minh), and forced others into having elections they weren't ready to have, or perhaps, didn't even want. We have invaded countries, supposedly on the behalf of other countries. The list is interminable. I am ashamed of it. This was never my decision; I wasn't consulted, although they HAVE used my money to do it. Just as I belong to the biggest bully of Christendom, the Catholic Church, I belong to the biggest bully of the nations, the USA. It is my task (my destiny?) to reform both, to do whatever I can to humanize these institutions. I seek to increase and magnify the good in them (and there IS so much good) and minimize or eliminate the bad. Needless to say, I have my work cut out for me.

Since Vietnam and the abolition of the draft (and certainly, even before), the army has been drawn from the poor and working classes of the USA. This has been deliberate. Ashley Wilkes went dashing off to fight the yankees, but that is probably how long it has been since large numbers of upper-class men enlisted, William F. Buckley and a few other adventurous rich men notwithstanding. As the Bruce Springsteen song reminded us, prisons have habitually been emptied in times of war, with poor kid-car thieves and dope dealers used as cannon fodder. During the Reagan Admin, an increase in the "college funds" incentive was added to the formidable list of military benefits in the existing G.I. Bill. Obviously, kids who already have college paid for, wouldn't find this any kind of incentive to enlist. The class element is very clearcut and unapologetic.

Eliminating the draft army and using only volunteers meant there had to be SOME incentive to enlist; three-hots-and-a-cot wasn't enough. (As my brother once said, you can get that much in JAIL, forgodsake, and jail is safer than the battlefield.) Health care for life (however slipshod, it's better than none), preference in Civil Service jobs, life insurance packages, social networking for future employment leading to a solid place in the middle class--these are valuable incentives. But above all, the free-college bribe, the G.I. Bill? That was the big enchilada, and poor kids from the ghettos, the barrios, the farms, the projects, all saw a way out.

And so, the US military had a ready supply of cannon fodder, as needed.

I will never forget the documentary film Soldier Girls, in which the girls from the Bronx tell each other they have to hang in there--they MUST endure the abusive basic training drill instructors--because then they will go back to the neighborhood in uniform, looking fine. "Everyone will see that we made it!" one girl says to the other, embracing her as she cries that she can't go on.

Thus, there is also significant pride in military service, a sense of some lofty accomplishment that is preserved as long as the mystique of the military is preserved. To question that mystique is to puncture the egos of anyone who subscribes to it, including people who have spent their lives being proud of the uniform.

The Reaganites knew all of this. Reading The American Spectator and other right-wing publications throughout the 80s, one could read their open discussions regarding how to capitalize on these emotions, the need to build "a poor man's ego" and the accompanying need to feel accomplished, important and useful. The working class/poor have so little to be proud of--we can give them this... and fight our colonialist wars in the bargain. We can make them The Few, The Proud. Be All You Can Be, was the 80s army recruitment slogan.

And now, in America, it is virtually verboten to discuss WHAT soldiering is. As a consequence, many soldiers are stunned when they find out. "Peacekeeping forces"--after all, doesn't sound so bad, as Orwell's WAR IS PEACE doesn't either. Hey, it HAS TO BE DONE. Somebody has to keep the peace, right? The PR of "peacekeeping" served two functions, one for politicians to ask for more warbucks from the voters, and one to keep the soldiers in the dark. Many soldiers have no idea whatsoever of the politics of the countries they are deployed to. They don't know the languages, religion or cultures. The army likes to keep it that way. No classes in any of that are included in Basic Training, beyond what is necessary to find one's way around. (History? We don't need no stinking history!)


In the discussion I refer to, someone actually used the phrase "they were only following orders"--apparently with no irony and no memory of the Nuremberg Trials, where that line was first popularized.

Let's backtrack a minute.

My first introduction into world politics was the Indochina Peace Campaign, a road-tour by Tom Hayden, Holly Near and Jane Fonda. I loved them all, so I went to hear them. I was 14 years old. I still have the flyer in an old scrapbook, advertising their visit to the Ohio State University campus. They had just come from their highly controversial (putting it mildly!) FTA Tour, which was made into a movie that few people have ever seen. The concept was to go to the troops directly, based on some of the ideas presented above: the soldiers are often poor and working class, and need to be educated that Vietnam is a quagmire, a no-win situation, that benefits a certain class of American profiteers. A review of the movie fills us in:
During 1971 and 1972, Jane Fonda and Donald Sutherland led a quasi-USO tour that played in towns outside of U.S. military bases along the West Coast and throughout the Pacific. Fonda referred to the tour as "political vaudeville" and the show itself was called "FTA" (the acronym standing for "Free the Army" and "Fuck the Army"). The audiences were primarily the men and women of the U.S. armed services, and during the tour Fonda and her company interviewed the various soldiers, sailors and marines regarding their thoughts on the Indochina slaughterhouse.

Viewing "FTA" today is like opening a long-forgotten time capsule. The film's true power comes in the frank, often rude comments from the servicemen and women who openly question the purpose and planning of the American involvement in Vietnam. Most memorable here are the members of the U.S.S. Coral Sea, who presented a petition to their superiors demanding a halt to the bombing in Vietnam; African-American soldiers and marines who angrily decried racist attitudes among the white commanding officers at the U.S. military installations, usually with an upraised fist of the Black Power movement; women serving in the U.S. Air Force who talk unhappily about sexual harassment from their male counterparts; and soldiers who pointedly refer to the dictatorial government in South Vietnam which was being presented as the democracy which they were supposedly defending. The extraordinary air of dissent that rises out of "FTA" provides a rare glimpse into a unhappy and demoralized fighting force stuck in a war which they did not believe in.
Here we clearly see that the soldiers themselves often didn't agree with what they were doing.

If there are any who do not NOW agree, we certainly aren't hearing about them.

Perhaps the "Support the Troops!" mantra only refers troops that have accepted their fates? Can we support dissident troops? (Are there any?)


In 1970, one of the bloodiest years of the Vietnam engagement, Hollywood gave us some blatant, pro-war propaganda in the movie PATTON. General Patton, of course, was a commander during World War II, not Vietnam, but in this manner, Americans could look back to a time in which we had been on the morally-correct side of a military action. It was a cozy, well-acted valentine to Richard Nixon and General Westmoreland. George C. Scott earned himself an Academy Award, which he famously refused.

Despite the fact that Hollywood is supposedly so liberal, then as now, precious few openly anti-war movies have EVER been made. (One fascinating fact is that one of the co-authors of this screenplay, Francis Ford Coppola, DID go on to make one of the greatest anti-war movies ever made, Apocalypse Now.)


Speaking personally, I will do anything to end this war. Playing games about what war is, avoiding the truth, is not the way to do it.

"You cannot qualify war in harsher terms than I will. War is cruelty, and you cannot refine it; and those who brought war into our country deserve all the curses and maledictions a people can pour out."

Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman
Letter to Mayor Calhoun of Atlanta,
September 12, 1864


Lucas said...

Hey, you may recognize my name- I'm that "fanboy that doth rage."

I also happen to be a former soldier in the US Army. I am a veteran of the Iraq War (er...conflict, technically), and I am also not a fan of the war, how/why it ever happened, or the fact that it's still going on. As I type this, some of my friends from my old unit are preparing to go back over there- and this time I won't be there to watch over them. I absolutely support the fact that many of them have high ideals, and they joined the military because of those ideals. I do not, however, support the misappropriation of funds that should be going toward improving the quality of life for ourselves, scientific research, and about a million other things before it goes toward fighting a war for b.s. reasons.

Unfortunately, what a lot of people seem to be deluding themselves on is this: We are NEVER going to leave Iraq! It is now a permanent base of operations for the US Military. It's been over 50 years in Korea, and over 60 in Germany, Japan, and Italy. We still have people there, and for the foreseeable future, all of these, let's face it, strategic locations will remain occupied.

Regardless, I sincerely hope that our next president pulls back the grand majority, aside from the operating staff of the one or two bases we'll keep up there. We shall see.

I'd love to comment more, but that's the two cents I have time for right now. I selfishly came across your blog by googling myself (which still sounds dirty to me), but I'm glad I came across it at all!

Bryce said...

you can support 1 person just as an individual but as not a soldier. especially if you'd be supporting that person in all things anyway -such as a friend or loved one.

but if you support them as a soldier *first* & that's the only reason you support them -that's like supporting the war.

Anonymous said...

What Lucas said. John McCain is talking about 100 years. Vietnam was nothing.

Renegade Evolution said...

I can support the troops because they are real human beings. I can not support the war because I think it is a crap war.

I'm simple like that.

La Lubu said...

Can you support the troops without supporting the war?

I think you can, depending on what "support" means. I've sent care packages to sons of friends who enlisted (and were told they wouldn't be going to Iraq, they'd be stationed elsewhere, and given "computer training" or whatever lie du jour the recruiter is authorized to tell). In with the mixed nuts and canned turkey and such, I threw in copies of the Progressive, the Nation, In These Times, Mother Jones, etc.

I do think it's our obligation to support these people (mostly young people); they'll be coming back in horrible shape, and they will be abandoned by the U.S. government. Just as they fought "in our name", they will be abandoned "in our name". Soldiers who have become disabled have already been sent official letters to return bonuses, since they can't meet their enlistment obligation. Do we abandon them? Lecture them on how they never should have enlisted? What about our sister soldiers, who come back traumatized from sexual assault? Do we give them the "you shoulda known" treatment too? (I know you wouldn't advocate that Daisy---I'm just saying it for the record). Those are our brothers and sisters who have enlisted (metaphorically and literally).

You articulated the reasons young people enlist very well. There but for the grace of God....I would have been one of them. I thought about enlisting---in the Marines. Me and a girlfriend discussed it when we were seniors in high school. We lived in a rust belt town devastated by Reaganomics.

"Devastated" is not too strong a word. It was bad then; it's dying now. Drive down Main Street, and you see boarded-up buildings with the upper windows broken out, eaves dryrotted and falling. Keep driving up the main arteries, and you see more closed businesses than open. Drive down the side streets into the neighborhoods and see the plethora of abandoned houses, falling-apart houses, the shuttered neighborhood businesses that used to be barber/beauty shops, grocery stores, donut shops. At this stage in the game, it's even gotten down to the bars. You know things are fucked up when the bars and liquor stores start closing the doors. The local real estate association removed the town from the statistics pile---it was hurting them professionally too much to see those numbers and value plummet.

Places like that are all over our country. Some urban, some rural. The high school guidance counselors don't offer much to kids from those places. There's about a hundred times more military recruiters than college recruiters in places like that. I never saw or spoke to a college recruiter when I was in high school. It wasn't expected. "Everyone" knew that the kids in my high school were the detritus of the nation.

I'll let you in on a little secret--I never went to the seventh grade. My family moved a lot, and by the sixth grade, I was in another new school---but with a twist. The principal was trying to make a name for herself by identifying kids that could be "passed ahead", and giving them the necessary tests. She'd passed ahead several. The fact that I ended up there was just sheer luck. I tested out with a "high IQ" whatever the fuck that means. I was officially "gifted".

Didn't matter. By the time I was graduating from high school I was recognized as a marginal student, maybe capable of being a good secretary for someone somewhere (although my typing speed kinda contraindicated that, too...). The bored guidance counselor, at the mandatory senior meeting suggested that I take the ACT and go to the local community college---focus on a vocational program. (Maybe I should mention that my nonrequired classes were an odd mix of vocational with advanced English and history---just 'cuz I loved history, and I loved to read and write. The fact I had A's in those courses didn't impress the counselor.) He knew I was another dead-end kid with a dead-end future. He laughed when I tagged the circles that would send my scores to Boston College and CUNY. I knew nothing about those schools (or any college, really), I just knew I could see myself living in Boston or New York. At least there were Italians there---I wouldn't be The Weirdo. No fucking way did I want to stay in Bum Fuck Illinois.

And I got a high score. Higher than the girl who was chosen as a National Merit Scholar. The counselor actually dropped his jaw---said, "wow, I never would have thought you had that ability."

So. There's a similar story going on several times a day, different kids each hour, each week, all year round the senior year in every rust-belt, rural, inner-city or otherwise forgotten high school. And the bright shining light in all these places remains the same---the recruiting office. The recruiters, with their sharp haircuts, and clean outfits and shined shoes. Damn, but they look good. And hey! Just look at that college money! And the job training! For real jobs (it says so on the posters), like auto mechanics and computers and medicine and everything!!

Damn Daisy...I gotta go run some errands (and my friend with the Italian deli called and told me she's saving some sesame semolina bread for me)...I didn't even answer the second question yet! I'll get back here this afternoon and get to that one. (Short answer---like I ever give those---is "no".)

It's an important conversation to be having, and I'm glad to be having it with someone who understands the nuances involved. I don't feel comfortable having it with some of the folks on the progressive blogosphere, because in my bad moods I think "they aren't so damn progressive", and in my good moods think, "well, their hearts may be in the right place, but they need to take those effing blinders off!"

On one of my more recent posts, the rethinking schools one, at the end there's a link to the alternative to recruitment booklets offered by the American Friends Service Committee. They focused mostly on the midwest, offering up alternative paths for the kids least likely to know about them.

But yeah---we gotta support those poor souls that enlist. Like Lucas said, many of them have high ideals, and they are being taken by the best-oiled con machine ever generated. One of my friends in the union had a son who didn't get into the apprenticeship, so he enlisted. Saw his best buddy's head get blown off. Dreams about it. Drank copious amounts of beer to make the war go away, even though he wasn't legally old enough to. Got a DUI. Those stories are legion. My mother was a nurse in a veteran's administration hospital. She's heard a lot over the years, and has always been bitter about how these individuals have been officially abandoned. Spent cannon fodder.

My mother has cancer, and she's going to end this life speaking out against this shit on a daily basis. I get emails every day from her, about the war, about the economy, about the where-the-fuck-izzit-impeachment...

Hey, gotta run. I'll be back.

Factor 10 said...

Not a fan of the war, never thought we should be going, but the fact is we're there and it's a mess and we're going to be there in some aspect for quite some time.

I have to disagree with Bryce, though. In the same way that a firefighter or a police officer puts their life on the line for an ideal, and is accorded a certain heroic status. Are there asshat cops? Absolutley. But in honor of the things they do for YOU, you honor and support them until they prove themselves unworthy.

I certainly agree that the media is reporting nothing but sunshine, certainly in terms of statisitcs. I want a candidate who's going to
demand money back from Halliburton & Co. for the obscene amount of corruption and mismanagement going on there, and that money should be channeled straight into funds for these kids coming back. Our fatalities are less than in previous wars only because medical technology is so much better. No one is asking how many life altering injuries are coming home. We need to be investing in support systems NOW to be ready for these folks.

RonF said...

You make the statement above that:

Since Vietnam and the abolition of the draft (and certainly, even before), the army has been drawn from the poor and working classes of the USA.

However, analyses done of recruit demographic data propose to refute this. The Heritage Group has analyzed demographic data on recruits and find that recruits' family income average and distribution reflect those of the U.S. as a whole. The NPP drew a different conclusion, but a story in the Washington Post, comparing the two analyses, found that the NPP analysis had flaws. Notable among these was that unlike the Heritage Group, the NPP analysis did not consider all data as a whole, but only that from the 20 counties providing the most recruits.

Now, obviously the Heritage Group has an agenda. But then, so does the NPP. You might want to take a look at this issue in more depth. While John Kerry and others have been spreading the narrative that only poor kids join the armed forces, actual facts seem to be at odds with this.

Daisy said...

Thanks everyone for keeping the tone civil.

Lucas, welcome! And thank you for your comments. And there ain't nothing wrong with Googling your own name.

LL, most definitely, we have to take care of veterans when they return. I was thinking, perhaps the most effective anti-war movement will come from the veterans themselves?

RonF, "Heritage Group" as in (holds nose) the Heritage Foundation?

I hate to tell you this, but every single word is a lie, including the AND and the THE.


And my point is also that the mandatory "support the troops" rhetoric makes it difficult-to-impossible to discuss what those troops are doing. Any criticism is seen as "not supporting the troops" and serves to silent dissent, as well as further investigation into what is really happening over there.

A comparison would be in early feminism, traditionalists would say (if one's mother was a stay-at-home-mother; mine was not): "You are saying your mother's life was meaningless?" and bait young feminists with that, accusing them of dishonor and disrespect.

That is the modus operandi here, too.

La Lubu said...

Ahhh, ok, I see where you're going Daisy. But again, it goes back to that (deliberately) vague word, "support". Perhaps I'm playing into the war machine rhetoric by not challenging the use of that word, instead of interpreting it differently and prefacing it or following it with how much I'm thoroughly against the war. Now that you put it that way, it easy to see how we shouldn't even engage that word; say, "Support the troops, my ass! Bring them home!!"

Can we criticize the atrocities of the war without describing the details? I'd have to give a hearty "hell no" to that. A food critic couldn't do her job without actually telling just what it was she ate---I'd say we're obligated to name the atrocities.

Not naming the atrocities, the war crimes, the killing and maiming of noncombatants, the rapes, the torture---doesn't all that sound strikingly familiar to the kind of denial experienced in abusive and/or addictive households? Whatever you do, don't speak about the actual problem! It's an illness permeating the nation, has been permeating the nation since the earliest genocides committed on what is now United States soil---the land stolen from other people!

La Lubu said...

Regarding the Heritage study, and setting aside any potential flaws from using ZIP code data (which skews results---it makes recruits outside of a large, urban metropolis look like their families have a higher income than what they do)---I'd say even that study firmly backs up Daisy's assertion that recruits come from the poor and working classes.

Take a look. You'll see that once the family income is around $70,000 (what would be comfortably "middle class" in terms of income), there are very few recruits. There are negligible numbers coming from the $90,000 and upper groups. Where are the highest percentage of recruits in this study coming from? The $35,000 group. Depending on where you live, that's either working class or working poor.

ted said...

This is this from the Iraq page on my website, I posted it a couple of years ago-

We all "Support The Troops" every April 14th, but beyond this no one really knows exactly what it means to "Support The Troops". Except we all of course do.

"Support The Troops" is in fact a base, manipulative appeal to sentiment, a phrase which the magic of marketing has made synonymous with supporting the war, though in reality you no more support the troops by supporting the war than you support cows by supporting McDonald's. I expect there's a marketing term for this. There are certainly one or two coarser words.

Sillygeuse said...

Great post! Absolutely great! While we do not always agree, I have to applaude how well you state your opinon. You really should be writing political commentary for a living.

I didn't see it mentioned here, so I will point out that active duty soldiers cannot speak against the war, nor those leading it, for to do so would be treasonous. They would be whisked away to their happy new home at Ft. Leavenworth, KS. From an officer's wife's perspective, I can understand the reasoning behind this rule, but I feel that perhaps if the cause was worth fighting or was being waged in the appropriate manner, then there wouldn't be much dissention, and the issue would not exist.

I support the soldiers but not the war. Soldiers enlist, most do not choose to deploy. They are given orders. I cannot tell you how difficult they find it to deploy when they object to the mission. Yet, they follow orders as expected. Thus, support of them does not equal support of the war.

There are many positive aspects of John McCain and his intent to become our next president. I do believe his resolve in respect to Iraq is a misguided attempt to complete the mission that failed in Vietnam. The positive that comes out of that failed mission is intimate knowledge of what will and will not work. One has to respect him.
Perhaps all of this would not be so hard to swallow if someone would step up and call the situation as Lucas has. The Democrats got into Congress by promising we would leave Iraq. Since that has not occured, how are we to believe we'll ever leave? Presidental candidates can promise the moon, but as we've seen with Bush, there is no guarantee they will deliver.

Redhead said...

To me it's simple. I am awed, humbled and honored when I see our young troops, their patriotism, dedication and bravery. Supporting our troops also means being VERY careful under what circumstances we risk these young lives. We better have a DAMN good reason. We don't. Support our troops - bring 'em home.

whatsername said...

In my opinion supporting the troops will often mean not supporting the war.

Because to me supporting the troops means a lot of things.

It means not sending them to war unless we have triple checked our intelligence reports, and we know for sure they will be protecting our country.

It means keeping the troops supplied with the things they need, even if that means rationing at home.

It means taking care of the soldiers who come home.

It means taking care of soldiers families.

It means remembering that when awful things happen "over there" (as they always do in war) to remember to hold accountable not just the soldiers on the ground, but the people above them putting policy in place.

It means holding our government accountable for the decisions it makes in regards to our troops lives.

And it means agitating to bring those troops home if you believe they are abroad erroneously. Which is the ultimate expression in being for the troops and against the war.

RonF said...

La Lubu said:

You'll see that once the family income is around $70,000 (what would be comfortably "middle class" in terms of income), there are very few recruits.

I presume you are referring to this graph, which shows that relatively few recruits come from families that have an income of > $70,000. However, in the country overall there are relatively few families that have an income of > $70,000.
The next graph shown in the study shows a relationship between the distribution of recruits in a given income cohort vs. the distribution of families in that income cohort, and shows relatively little variation between the two; in fact, in families with income > $70,000, it shows a disparity of < .5%.

Octogalore said...

I don't think supporting the troups and not supporting the war are conflicting, because the folks in charge of the operations you mention aren't the troops themselves. As you say, the troops are the least powerful factor in the equation.

I think it's possible to criticize the atrocities of the war without talking about what the troops have done, yes. I think most are aware of the relationship and to criticize the troops is, again, not pointing the finger in the right place.

If one defines support as "help them to be as comfortable as possible while there and to come home as soon as possible," I can live with that.

belledame222 said...

what octo said.

La Lubu rocks, incidentally.

RonF said...

la Lubu also said:

(which skews results---it makes recruits outside of a large, urban metropolis look like their families have a higher income than what they do)

I don't see how. Large urban metropolises have numerous zip codes, so I don't see how being a zip code in or near a large urban metropolis skews the average income in a given zip code.

RonF said...

La Lubu also said:

Soldiers who have become disabled have already been sent official letters to return bonuses, since they can't meet their enlistment obligation.

First, the first word and others in this statement seem to be inaccurate, as they are plurals and I have only been able to find one instance where this happened.

Secondly, as you can see in this press release from the DoD that letter was rescinded and the DoD clearly states that this is in fact not policy and that this was an isolated error.

“Bonuses are not recouped simply for one's inability to complete an enlistment or re-enlistment agreement through no fault of the military member,” a policy statement said.


“Department policy prohibits recoupment when it would be contrary to equity and good conscience, or would be contrary to the nation's interests,” according to the Defense Department policy statement. “Those circumstances include, for example, an inability to complete a service agreement because of illness, injury, disability, or other impairment that did not clearly result from misconduct.”


Army officials said Fox will not be required to pay back any enlistment money he received. “By all accounts, his case seems to be an isolated one,” Army officials said. Anyone who does have an issue can call the Wounded Soldier and Family Hotline at 1-800-984-8523.

I feel rather secure in saying that there are sufficient numbers of DoD /war/Administration critics that if this was not an isolated case we'd have read about further cases by now.

So while a letter was sent out, the way you state this makes it look as those a) there were multiple instances of this happening and b) it's DoD policy. That's misleading.

La Lubu said...

RonF, you're from the Chicago area, right? Take a look at the geographic boundaries of Chicago area zipcodes. You'll note that most of those geographic boundaries provide a rough guide to the socioeconomic status of the people who live within them.

Ok, now humor me and take a look at the geographic boundaries of Danville, Illinois---roughly 100 miles to the south. A lot larger, no?

Now, add these figures:

Wouldn't you agree that the mean is not as representative in this instance as the mode? Yet the Heritage study used the mean income from zip codes. You're more likely to get a skewed mean in a place like Danville, or Belleville, or Carbondale, or Petersburg, or any number of smaller Illinois cities than in cities with multiple zip codes like Chicago. A mean that skews higher.

P.S.: It's not just the lefty magazines I read that stated the Pentagon had thousands of these letters ready to rock and roll. The mainstream media did also. That makes me go hmmm, since the mainstream media isn't very critical of the Pentagon or the war in Iraq. I find it extremely unlikely that this was the only letter like this that was written; perhaps it is the only one that was mailed---and yes, I would agree with you that it happened by mistake. The mistake being, that someone in the Pentagon with some pull realized the effect this policy would have, and finally got that policy quashed---but not before that letter escaped. But make no doubt about it---at one time, that was the policy. Some low-eschalon staffer didn't cook that up from scratch.

RonF said...

I haven't seen the cites that say that a bunch of those letters were written, but positing that's so, that doesn't mean that it was once policy. There are other quite likely scenarios.

People are, in fact, required to return all or part of their enlistment bonus if they fail to complete their enlistment because of something they did, such as get discharged for taking illegal drugs, getting convicted of DUI, etc. I imagine that a batch of those letters goes out every week or month. All it takes is for some low-level admin to run the wrong database command and everyone who fails to complete their enlistment gets dumped out instead of just those who got a bad-conduct discharge. Someone figures it out, the job is re-run, but one letter got mailed by mistake.

Never presume malice when stupidity suffices.

Not to say that malice is automatically eliminated; but it should not be automatically assumed, either.

Re: your zipcode example. Yep, that example shows skewed. But that means you have to figure that there's a significant number of zipcodes where 30% of the incomes are above $70,000 and the other 70% of incomes are $20,000, with nothing in-between. You think there's a lot of those? I don't. And that's what it would take to throw off the Heritage analysis. And it does little to support the NPP analysis, since they both limited and skewed the sample they analyzed. If there's some figures out there on median, mean and mode incomes for zip codes that would show which one of us is right.

RonF said...

To the main point of the posting:

Do the troops recognize the distinction that you want to make here?

Don't forget that the troops are all volunteers. This war's been going on for a while. A great many of the people in the armed forces joined after it started. And re-enlistment rates are higher now than before the war.

Seems to me the people actually conducting this war believe in their mission. And that agrees with what I see on the milblogs as well. I recommend you check out who deserves a Pulitzer Prize, (although guest bloger Uncle Jimbo on the latter will likely give you fits), read some of and then hop though the blogrolls on Grim's Hall and . You'll get an idea of what the people actually on the ground in Iraq and who are not hiding in the Green Zone paying someone else to do their legwork for them (e.g., just about anyone writing for the Associated Press) think.

RonF said...

Well, I don't know what the heck I did wrong there, but if you carefully slide around you'll see about 4 different links (they run together in the comment) for milblogs that I recommend you take a look at if you want to get an idea of a) what's actually happening in Iraq, and b) what the people there who are actually out in the mix think about it.