* Picture credit: found on and copied from www.defensemedianetwork.com
“My momma told me there’d be days like this”, sang Van Morrison. Just before I got out of the car, my father told me “where you’re going, there will people who are not as knowledgeable as you. A lot of them will even be stupid. You have to understand that and be patient with them.” There were many days like that, so I understood and was patient.
Actually, I did my best to teach the men and women by whose side I served everything I knew, and for my efforts they elected me “study member” ie. the company’s after hours tutor for all military matters. I didn’t want it. In an organization which was and still is strongly anti-intellectual, with dual citizenship and an accent along with all the attention I was getting, the last thing I needed was more attention. Still, I took on the job and did it until my best friend died in my arms. In that time, I found out the black guy who slept next to me had never heard of Jimi Hendrix, that one of the women in my platoon was allergic to meat and lacked the strength to carry me in a fireman’s lift, and a lot more besides. I was patient and informative in a non-judgmental way, my aim always being to teach, not to berate or abuse the ignorant.
I don’t know if that guy ever listened to Jimi Hendrix afterwards, though I’m pretty sure the woman was discharged from the army because as I later heard it, she was HIV-positive. Besides her allergy to meat, chances are some of her weakness was due to the effects the virus had on her system. She had no interest in being an infantry soldier. Her idea was to work in accounting. I understood that, but had to tell her even non-combat personnel get caught in combat situations, that her life and the lives of those around her depended on her ability to do what had to be done, and if she couldn’t do that, the army was not the place for her because the basic function of every service member is that of rifleman, and riflemen kill. I didn’t look down on that woman for being true to herself. Only a fool would do such a thing.
If it came down to it, I would’ve fought, killed and if necessary, died to protect her without resentment or rancor. The reason is simple- while there is peace, society is best served by those who are peaceful, and if a war starts, these people must be protected so that they can raise the world from the ashes of conflict after trained killers are done killing. If you know where to look, you’ll find killers and they’ll seem to be a dime a dozen. A lot of them are outside society because it doesn’t know what to do with them and they don’t know what to do in society. Some find a place in armed forces, but sometimes armed forces have no place for men who can go from smiling to full-blown war in a split second. Yet societies need them when the time comes. They need men and women who know how and are able to kill. They need them to kill, but also to teach others how to do it, because peaceful people have almost no idea.
The problem is how to turn peaceful people into killers, and hopefully give them the skills to turn that instinct off when they return to their homes and families. Short of teaching them from childhood that killing is a necessary fact of life, about the execution of which deed people ought not to feel guilty if it’s done for the right reasons (ranging from self-defense and that of innocents under attack, as well as national defense), the only way left for most military organizations is through months of brutal and aggressive training which tries to break through 17 to 22 years of these recruits being told every day “killing is bad, thou shalt not kill”. Such training often inflicts physical and psychological harm on the peaceful, and is one of the many reasons why I oppose military conscription.
However, if military service is voluntary, then those who join have to accept beforehand everything that choice brings. By the looks of it, a consequence of joining the United States Marines is that at some point in basic training somebody will come with official-looking orders to tell everybody there’s been an attack and all troops are going to war, irrespective of their military occupation specialty and phase of training they’re in. They are then given a choice of whether to go to war as infantrymen (regardless of their MOS) without telling their families they’re leaving and where they’re going- or stay behind. The idea of this scenario is to present the incompletely trained recruits with a hard choice, as well as for the unit leadership to see who will choose what. Strange and cruel as this sounds, it’s apparently what happened to Marines at the outbreak of the Korean War, and they went, untrained though many of them were. However, because this is a learning experience, nobody is supposed to benefit or be victimized as a consequence of their choice.
Apparently, in one case last year, at least two former Marine recruits allege they chose not to go to war and afterwards their superior officers victimized them with physical and psychological torments. War is not for everybody. Hell, it’s not for around 99% of the population, and that’s as it should be if we want a peaceful society. Nevertheless, war isn’t just about soldiers firing their weapons at enemies. It’s also about logistics, intelligence, communications, making food and repairing weapon systems, and so on. Thus you’ll get people who won’t be able to put a bullet into a paper target’s center mass from five paces, but they can feed 400 people in an hour or shut down NORAD with a laptop- and they are just as vital to any war effort as those who can kill a man by smashing a laptop on his head. Here are the questions:
- If you joined the military to program computers, would you go as an infantryman if that’s what your country needed?
- If you would not, would you accept as correct being punished by your superiors with physical and psychological measures as a consequence of opting not to?
- Do you think such a punishment is right or wrong?
I look forward to your responses.