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The Gods Of War

Note: This is a long rant, so start reading at your own risk. If anything offends you, it is your problem.

I entered the military during the era of the draft, so there was a diverse crowd in my basic training flight of 65 intentionally bewildered souls. [Come on, you didn’t really think that it was an accident that transportation to basic training sites was timed so you would arrived at night, be taken to eat an absurdly large meal, and set to bed, only to be awakened after a couple of hours by a fire drill?]

While the majority were probably Protestants, we had a Sikh, a Nigerian Muslim with tribal scars, a nominally Catholic Mayan, a Sephardic Jew from Morocco, no few “none of the above”, among the subgroup that bunked around me. It’s not like you had any privacy in the barracks, so you learned this in passing, because you didn’t openly discuss religion or politics in the military. You were warned about this in classes on rules and regulations. The foreign guys were building a profile for immigration as their student visas were running out.

When I watch what has been going on in the military under the Hedgemony, it is totally foreign to my experience as a “military brat”, and during my own time. The rules haven’t changed, they are simply selectively enforced. A primary example of this is Lieutenant General William G. Boykin:

In fact, a Fort Bragg psychologist almost ended Boykin’s career, wanting to exclude him from the Delta Force because he was “too religious”. However, he was finally accepted into the Delta Force at the age of 29. Burruss wrote at the time that “Jerry Boykin is a Christian gentleman of the highest order.” Boykin believed God had a hand in things: “God led me into the Delta Force…. And He said to me, ‘This is where you ought to be.'”

Boykin achieved wide-spread media coverage for his statements that appeared to frame the War on Terror in religious terms, first broadcast on NBC News, October 15, 2003. William Arkin, military analyst for NBC-TV News, was the source of the video and audiotapes of Boykin. The following day the Los Angeles Times ran a piece on Boykin. Amongst several quotes, the LA Times article revealed Boykin giving a speech about hunting down Osman Atto in Mogadishu: “He went on CNN and he laughed at us, and he said, ‘They’ll never get me because Allah will protect me. Allah will protect me.’ Well, you know what? I knew that my God was bigger than his. I knew that my God was a real God and his was an idol.” Boykin later clarified this statement, saying that he was implying that Atto’s true “god” was money.

This guy wasn’t reprimanded, he was promoted. The Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, didn’t see any problem with what Boykin did, even though it is a clear violation of DoD directives.

As the Washington Post noted in 2006, Boykin wasn’t alone among general offficers: Inquiry Sought Over Evangelical Video

… In the video, much of which was filmed inside the Pentagon, four generals and three colonels praise the Christian Embassy, a group that evangelizes among military leaders, politicians and diplomats in Washington. Some of the officers describe their efforts to spread their faith within the military.

“I found a wonderful opportunity as a director on the joint staff, as I meet the people that come into my directorate,” Air Force Maj. Gen. Jack J. Catton Jr. says in the video. “And I tell them right up front who Jack Catton is, and I start with the fact that I’m an old-fashioned American, and my first priority is my faith in God, then my family and then country. I share my faith because it describes who I am.”

Pete Geren, a former acting secretary of the Air Force who oversaw the service’s response in 2005 to accusations that evangelical Christians were pressuring cadets at the Air Force Academy, also appears in the video. The Christian Embassy “has been a rock that I can rely on, been an organization that helped me in my walk with Christ, and I’m just thankful for the service they give,” he says.

You can imagine what a hard hitting investigation Mr. Geren conducted at the Air Force Academy.

Keep that in mind when you read The Military And Gods at Echidne’s place. In the current atmosphere that permeates the military, how do you complain about someone who is “overly religious”? How do you fault a Major for putting country second, when a Major General puts it third?

I noted that people said that Major Hasan was lazy, and that must be true because it is one of the basic characteristics of all Arabs according to the reference manual the US military uses, The Arab Mind. As a reviewer of the book at the Guardian notes: ‘Its best use is as a doorstop’. This book provided the “reasoning” behind most of the bizarre techniques used at Abu Ghraib.

When you look at what happened at Fort Hood, you have to use a lot of caution in making any assumptions based on what if being reported. as Nancy Youssef, the Pentagon reporter for McClatchy, notes at the Nukes & Spooks The facts on Fort Hood are only valid between military press briefings. The latest change has been the identity of the civilian police officer who actually “neutralized” Major Hasan.

Now for what isn’t being said. Major Hasan is an observant Sunni Muslim and an Arab. His family immigrated from Jordan, which means it is almost certain he has family, clan, or tribal connections to Sunni Arabs in Iraq. If you send him to Iraq, those with connection to his family are going to be expecting favors, and those with a vendetta against his family are going to be trying to kill him. This a personal problem for him in addition to those who oppose what the US has done.

As an observant Muslim, he doesn’t drink alcohol. Think about college and the military. Think about how important the consumption of alcohol is to the social environment in both experiences. It isn’t exactly surprising that he is considered an outsider. Mormons experience the same isolation, for the same reason.

As an observant Muslim he has been seeking to marry another observant Muslim, just as orthodox Jews want to marry other orthodox Jews, and observant Catholics, and so on… There aren’t that many Muslims [estimates range from 1 to 7 million for the entire US, and observant Sunnis are a subset], and they certainly aren’t attracted to the South around military bases, and the normal practice is for families to arrange marriages. In the US he has a minimal chance of finding a wife, and being in the military doesn’t make him an “attractive” choice for a woman’s family.

So you have a man forced by his religious beliefs into social isolation, and he is listening to those around him refer to others of his belief by various epithets. Meanwhile, the military is blissfully unaware of what a pressure cooker they have created for the guy.

He is personally responsible for what he did. Neither his religion, nor his mental state [he was a psychiatrist and should certainly been aware if he was losing it] excuse or mitigate his actions, but the military committed its own, separate and distinct crimes. When they allowed the Christian fundamentalists free rein within the military and ignored DoD policy and regulations, they fostered an environment that was destructive of “good order and discipline”. There is a reason that separation of church and state is contained in the First Amendment, it is one of the most important rights. When agents of government abrogate their responsibility to maintain that separation, the results have always been tragic.

18 comments

1 Comrade Kevin { 11.14.09 at 11:20 am }

I think the fault lies deeper and I think it applies to our cultural standards and fears more than anything. Others have superimposed their own anxieties onto this tragedy, which is a tragedy in and of itself.
.-= last blog ..Saturday Video =-.

2 Bryan { 11.14.09 at 2:17 pm }

Mr. Duff, if you had checked you would have discovered that the individual who wrote the article for the “Speculator” is a former Marine, and Marines don’t do strategy. Marines are tactical assault troops who win battles and then move on. They are totally immersed in assault, which is great, because you need that in the military and the USMC is an excellent force. The problem is that you have to have the follow-up garrison troops and civil affairs people available to take over and hold what the Marines captured, or they will have to take it again later. Rumsfeld was stripping the US military down to the bare bones, which is why major operations against the Iraqi military ended quickly, but we are still stuck in Iraq and Afghanistan – because we lacked the follow-up people, as assault troops suck as garrison troops. This misuse of assault troops makes more “terrorists” than it eliminates.

Major Hasan wasn’t free to just resign or walk away. That’s not how the military works. Hasan and Boykins are products of the Virginia Tech corps of cadets. That’s how they entered the Army officer corps. He had been in the Army for about 8 years when Bush declared a Crusade. He was qualified as a hospital administrator and doctor, and was specializing in psychiatry. He was obviously happy to be in the military for a very long time, until it became open season on Muslims. He recommended that Muslims be allowed to leave the military, but that went no where, because the people in charge refused to admit there was a problem.

The law does tend to involve lawyers, but in this case I was speaking as a law enforcement officer refuting possible defenses, including diminished capacity. Self-defense may be used depending on testimony. Fortunately this is not being tried in a Texas court or we might get into “fighting words” as a defense. The prosecution has already screwed up a few procedural issues that aren’t going anywhere, but will be the basis for appeals.

He isn’t being tried for treason, he’s being tried for murder, and one of his problems was he wasn’t accepted as a “comrade” because of his religion. I haven’t died yet, so I can’t comment on whether Muslims get virgins, but then, neither can you.

3 Bryan { 11.14.09 at 2:31 pm }

Comrade Kevin, we will never know exactly what happened in that medical clinic because we are dependent on the testimony of “eye witnesses” which is, in my experience, a half step above rumor. People really do see the same event differently, and they aren’t trying to make things up or being deceptive, it’s just the way the human brain works.

I have severe doubts, for instance, that Major Hasan actually said “Allahu Akbar”, because most people don’t know what it is, nor can even spell it phonetically the first dozen times an Arab says it, and they say it a lot. I would note that the Marine Reservist in Tampa claimed to have heard a Greek Orthodox priest say it, and the Reservist had never seen duty in the Middle East. I think that they heard it because they expected to hear it, so the brain wrote it down.

The Hedgemony spent most of their 8 years making people afraid for no reason, and wearing out the US military. They have a lot to answer for.

4 Bryan { 11.14.09 at 4:51 pm }

Major Hasan was given a lot of expensive training, and every additional course came with an extension of his enlistment contract. The minimum commitment is 6 years after the end of the last course, so his enlistment had years on it before he would be eligible to resign. Given that there is currently a critical shortage of military medical officers, even if he had completed his enlistment, there is a “stop-loss” order in place that would have kept him on military duty.

My Father was retained for three years after his retirement date because of a “stop-loss” order. They have been doing this for years to highly trained specialists because they haven’t been training the people to replace them.

I like the Marines. The Marines are a superb force for what they are trained to do, but they are assault troops, and you don’t use assault troops for garrison duty, any more than you ask paras to man tanks, or tankers to make an amphibious infantry assault. The military has specialties, and you need them all.

I jumped out of aircraft when they were on fire, and no other reason. I received small arms training, but I wasn’t trained for the infantry. On the ground with a rifle platoon, I wouldn’t be an asset as I wouldn’t instinctively react as everyone else in the platoon. The training matters, and people like Rumsfeld don’t understand that simple point.

5 hipparchia { 11.14.09 at 6:31 pm }

He is personally responsible for what he did. Neither his religion, nor his mental state [he was a psychiatrist and should certainly been aware if he was losing it] excuse or mitigate his actions, but the military committed its own, separate and distinct crimes.

i’m not sure you do always know that you’re ‘losing it’ and even if you do know, but can’t get the help you need, you can’t necessarily just will yourself to ‘not lose it’.

6 Bryan { 11.14.09 at 8:02 pm }

It is normal practice for psychiatrists and psychologists to have their own doctors to monitor them because of the stress of dealing with the problems of others. Of course, BOB only knows what the situation was at Fort Hood.

So far, I haven’t seen anything that gives me confidence that the JAG’s office at Fort Hood knows what the hell it’s doing.

Another thing that is puzzling is that he was arrested outside, reportedly pursuing someone who was wounded. If the purpose was to inflict mass casualties, he should have been inside where the mass of people were. I am also waiting for the lab work to find out what weapon fired the shots in the clinic. There is a probability of more than one shooter, and some people being hit by “friendly fire”.

This is not as simple as is being presented.

7 hipparchia { 11.14.09 at 8:44 pm }

It is normal practice for psychiatrists and psychologists to have their own doctors to monitor them because of the stress of dealing with the problems of others.

yep.

Of course, BOB only knows what the situation was at Fort Hood.

yep. my guess is that there was a good possibility they were short on [or stingy with] help, but i admit i’m basing this on anecdotes from acquaintances in the military, and those anecdotes are about the military’s medical system in general.

This is not as simple as is being presented.

i can well believe that.

8 Bryan { 11.14.09 at 9:44 pm }

In passing somewhere I saw a report of a stop-loss on military medical personnel in general, and psychs in particular. Hasan was not going to be released from his enlistment, no matter what channels he tried.

I’m also suspicious of the reports coming out of Walter Reed, sourced to people who supposedly worked with him. They have a CYA tone about them. This is the same group that missed the reality of the housing situation for the returning wounded until the media got involved. Rumsfeld broke the military medical system and then got us involved in two wars.

Just like FEMA, the system worked under Clinton.

I’m not quite ready to put on the stainless steel colander. as this could just be incompetence, a not unheard of situation in the military, but they really need to get their story straight before much longer. People have died, and they and their families deserve the truth, not some Jessica Lynch/Pat Tillman fairy tale.

9 Bryan { 11.15.09 at 3:28 pm }

You are not paying attention, Mr. Duff. He entered service in 1995 with an 8 year contract. Six years were added for the Masters in Public Administration and six years for the MD. The soonest he could resign is 2015. He didn’t choose to remain, he had no options. With a stop-loss in place for medical personnel, he would have been held in the military even if his enlistment had expired, that’s what a stop-loss does.

This is a work place shooting, “going postal” in the vernacular, and nothing more, unless you are trying to give Hasan an out. Make this anything other than that and you open the field for the defense.

This has nothing to do with treason, and there is no evidence that Major Hasan was accepted by anyone at Fort Hood. There is, in fact, evidence that Major Hasan was targeted because he was a Muslim, which is why you don’t go there unless you are trying to get him off.

10 Bryan { 11.15.09 at 6:06 pm }

Now that you have proven that you understand nothing, and are doing your best to provide the Major with a defense that shouldn’t exist, you continue your fractured logic by failing to understand the common and legal meaning of treason and comrade. It is a two-way street, and he certainly was not receiving anything approaching comradeship from the rest of the military.

His decisions were made before Bush was President and the Crusade against Muslims was declared.

You don’t know what happened in that clinic, any more than I do. You are executing a man based on rumor at this point, as there has been no evidence presented for anything, and much of the raw information that has come out has been shown to be wrong.

11 Badtux { 11.15.09 at 8:37 pm }

Officers serve at the pleasure of the President. They can turn in a resignation letter, but the President (via his designee, the Secretary of Defense, and SecDef’s designees under that) are under no obligation to accept that letter of resignation. Officers can, and are in fact, ordered to report for specific training duties based upon the needs of the service. For example, a large number of Annapolis grads are being ordered to report for submarine nuclear reactor engineering training school next year because of a shortage of nuke pukes. Officers in the U.S. military are not free to turn down training billets and are not free to turn down the extension of required service duty that comes with training billets. The involuntary nuke pukes are going to have years added to their required service because of the “needs of the service”, and that’s that — they signed on the dotted line to become military officers, and they are military officers until the military says otherwise, and not one minute prior.

Things may work different in Jolly Old England, Mr. Duff, but that’s how it works here in the United States of America. It’s even in our Constitution that the President, and only the President, has final authority over individuals who are in the military — including their terms of service and whether they are allowed to resign or not. And Major Hasan most definitely would *not* have been allowed to resign.

12 Badtux { 11.15.09 at 8:44 pm }

And oh yes — the word “treason” has a specific legal meaning here in the United States that is defined in the U.S. Constitution. I suggest, Mr. Duff, that you read that document and the definition therein. It is a very strict and limited definition and because of its narrow definition, the number of convictions for treason here in the USA can be counted on your fingers. It’s not like Jolly Old England where simply shouting “Down with the Queen!” can be prosecuted as treason…
.-= last blog ..Sunday Music Break =-.

13 Bryan { 11.18.09 at 1:21 pm }

OK, we can agree that you don’t know what treason is.

MDs are commissioned as Captains [O-3], and Majors are O-4. There was almost no chance of his making O-6, Colonel. Resignations have to be accepted, and they aren’t currently being accepted for Medical Officers because, again, there is a stop-loss order in effect.

14 Badtux { 11.18.09 at 2:48 pm }

Apparently “serves at the pleasure of the President” is too complicated a term for Mr. Duff to understand, as is the rather strict definition of the word “treason” that is written in the U.S. Constitution. Sad, really, that someone who purports to be an intelligent man would be so willfully ignorant of such fundamental realities even upon being informed about their existence. It is as if he did a Sgt. Shultz and covered his eyes and ears and said “I hear no-think! I see no-think!” when we directed him to accurate information. But then, willful deafness and willful blindness is, I think, a requirement to be a right-winger in today’s day and age, with few exceptions who tend to get dumped upon as “RINOs” by the willfully ignorant.

– Badtux the Law Penguin

15 Bryan { 11.18.09 at 9:07 pm }

It’s a fold in the space-time continuum, probably caused by the Large Hadron Collider. It’s a different world on the other side.

16 Badtux { 11.19.09 at 10:26 am }

What Hassan did is called “Murder”, not “treason”, and it gets the death penalty here in the USA. I am baffled as to why you wish to confuse crimes, other than that it fits your bizarre political agenda which is intended to demonize brown people. Note that Brian was in law enforcement and I, err, well, not exactly, but both of us have reason to know what the law actually is, vs. hysterical bullshit. The OED is not a law book and your quoting of the OED as if it meant something outside of Jolly Olde England is noted as further evidence of intellectual dishonesty.

The notion that Major Hassan would have been given a dishonorable discharge for refusing to obey orders is laughable. We simply do not allow officers to disobey orders here in the USA. We’re not civilized here, unlike Jolly Olde England. Either Major Hassan would have been quietly eased out of the service on a medical discharge as a certified lunatic (so much for his civilian employment opportunities, who wants to hire an insane doctor?!), or he would have been bundled off to Iraq or Afghanistan in shackles and turned loose there to ply his trade or to desert and go home to Jordan. Yes, that has actually happened, I have seen both scenarios play out in reality as vs. the abstract pages of the UCMJ (where Major Hassan would have been subjected to a courts martial then sentenced to hard prison time, that is done sometimes in peacetime but here in wartime your sentence is to be sent to the sandbox in shackles and is enforced without the bother of a courts martial). Your theoretical BS is all nice and pretty, but is not what actually happens in the real world of today’s U.S. military. The U.S. military is not a boy scout encampment, it is a mechanism for turning human beings into corpses, and has no more regard for its individual component human bodies’ whims than it has for the subjects of its exercise.

Btw, this is not “barracks lawyering”. We’ve observed how our military treats these issues in actual practice, vs. your hand-waving sophistry. Your deranged delusions of how things work simply have nothing to do with reality.

17 Bryan { 11.19.09 at 3:09 pm }

Trial by jury goes back to 1215 to a document called Magna Carta, and it was part of British law the last time I checked.

It is also enshrined in the US Constitution that people swear to support and defend when they enter public service, as is assistance of legal counsel.

In ten years in law enforcement there was only one person I arrested who wasn’t found guilty, and he was murdered before trial. You get a record like that by following the laws and not cutting corners.

You, Mr. Duff, want to cut corners and mischarge people. That can result in the individual going free. I want to see the guilty punished to the maximum extent of the law, which is why I don’t hand the defense attorneys opportunities to throw out evidence or get charges dismissed. You only get one chance to convict the guilty, so you should never put that chance at risk for political grandstanding.

You are assuming that Major Hasan shot people based on media reports. Making assumptions can cost you in court. There still hasn’t even been an Article 32 hearing, the military equivalent of a grand jury, so we don’t actually know if Major Hasan will face a Court Martial, and you have him hanging from a gibbet. He is charged with premeditated murder, but the theory on which premeditation is based, that Major Hasan wasn’t scheduled to work that day, is tissue paper thin, so I hope the actual investigation, which is still on-going, comes up with something a good deal more substantial. Without the ballistics report we don’t actually know who fired the shots that killed 13 people, so it might be a good idea to wait for some facts.

I have no idea what you think the US actually is, but from what you have written it would appear to have more in common with the Soviet Union under Stalin than a constitutional democracy.

18 Badtux { 11.19.09 at 4:51 pm }

Rule of law. It’s not only the law, but also a good idea, the notion of civil society is based upon rule of law. Too bad some people would rather we have rule of gun or mob rule rather than rule of law. How… uncivil.

The notion that Major Hasan would have had access to media in order to shout about how he was being persecuted if sent involuntarily to the sandbox does not pass the laugh and giggle test. The media has access to chosen military members, the rest are either under orders to keep their mouths shut around the media, or are kept away from the media if they are going to be an embarrassment. There were some incidents that happened at BAFB that I know about only because family of the person involved talked about it and the BAFB community is a tight-knit one where things get around. The media may have heard the same things from the family but, without being able to interview the USAF or the person involved (the USAF making their typical blanket statement of “we do not discuss personnel matters”, and the person involved being either in the brig or on house arrest and not available to talk to the media), typically did not write a story.

If Major Hassan had no family here in the U.S., the chances of his story getting to the media if he were hauled onto the cargo plane to Iraq in chains was even slimmer than in the stories I heard about second-hand from family of the persons involved. The fact of the matter is that Major Hassan was going to Iraq or Afghanistan, period, whether he liked it or not , unless he chose to commit suicide in some way. That is just how the U.S. military works, you sign away your rights when you sign on that dotted line, ALL of your rights, including the right to free speech. This is especially true if you are an officer, since you cannot even resign from the military unless the military accepts your resignation. From press reports it appears Major Hassan decided to commit suicide in the messiest way possible i.e. by taking as many others with him as he could. If true, he will eventually get his wish. Except that it will be a needle pushing a massive dose of paralyzing drugs into his body, rather than a bullet, that will be the instrument of his suicide.
.-= last blog ..Thursday morning dream pop =-.