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Jul 12 2012

Modern bravery

My father-in-law was one of those quiet guys who had a secret. He had a box full of medals from World War II, which he didn’t display and didn’t brag about, but the grandkids could ask to see them and he’d let them look at them, and maybe say a few reluctant words about what they were for, if pressed. He was a Marine, and not one of those REMFs, either — he’d been one of the defenders on Midway atoll, and had been boots on the ground in the Iwo Jima landing, and had fought in the jungles of Guadalcanal. I may be a pacifist myself, but I had to respect the personal bravery of a guy who experienced some of the fiercest fighting in the war, and he earned every one of those medals.

So now the US military is considering awarding medals for heroism to goddamned drone pilots: people who sit in an air-conditioned bunker far from the frontlines, playing a video game that lets them turn distant human beings into bugsplats. There is no risk here, except maybe for carpal tunnel inflammation, and there is no sacrifice, no bravery, no struggle. They’ve done nothing to earn recognition for heroism.

Maybe it’s just as well the older generation is dying off. I would think it hard to attend a veteran’s meeting and compare your medal for storming a machine gun nest to the medal some guy got for flying a model airplane. Heroes just aren’t what they used to be.

187 comments

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  1. 1
    Zeno

    It’s like a medal for playing video games, except that the game is real only for the people at the other end. (Someone at the Pentagon has read Ender’s Game too often.)

  2. 2
    Paulino

    Drone pilots may bring a whole new meaning to Purple Hearts.

  3. 3
    manocheese

    I understand that jumping on a grenade to save your friends is heroic, but I still feel uneasy about calling them heroes because they are invading another country and apparently not actually saving anyone from anything. Even though there are clearly a lot of people that need saving and a lot of people that need to be removed from power.

  4. 4
    mal099

    Sounds like they’ve been inspired by that trend in gaming, where you get rewards for certain feats…
    “Achievement unlocked: Kill 10 innocent bystanders with just one shot” or something like that. For some reason, it sounds like it might actually work…

  5. 5
    Setár, Elvenkitty

    Two to one the first Presidential candidate with one of these medals is a Republican.

    1.5:1 that if it’s a Democrat we’ll really learn the meaning of swiftboating.

  6. 6
    Vall

    If the Chair Force wants to recognize these individuals, let them unlock achievements like non-military gamers. You could give bonuses like extra missiles, a new spawn point, or a custom paint job.

    Was it Roger Waters that wrote about the bravery of being out of range?

  7. 7
    A Hermit

    Sadly, not a new problem…In the Falklands War the British awarded fewer than 700 medals among the more than 28,000 military personnel involved. Two and half months of combat against a well armed professional Argentine military in which the British lost 255 killed, hundreds wounded, six ships sunk and a dozen planes shot down.

    Contrast that with the American invasion of Grenada just a year later…to crush a ragtag collection of about 700 Cuban construction workers equipped only with small arms Reagan sent 7,000 American personnel with the best equipment, satellite intelligence, state of the art combat aircraft and naval support. More than 8,000 medals were awarded…some were undoubtedly well deserved, but as anyone even remotely involved in planning or supporting the operation was awarded some kind of decoration it kind of cheapens the whole idea of awarding medals.

    (Source Military Incompetence: Why the American Military Doesn’t Win
    By Richard A. Gabriel
    )

  8. 8
    sethkeipper

    I have to play devil’s advocate here. As far as risk to one’s self there is little opportunity for heroism as a drone pilot. But today’s comparatively simple drones are sure to be replaced and upgraded with more capable hardware in time.

    Just because the pilot isn’t going to get shot down they could still assist troops on the ground, defend civilians and monitor situations in non-war scenarios.

    If you look at it in terms of good that could be accomplished I think there is definitely room for heroism in the air-conditioned bunkers. Personally I would settle for an end to the civilian casualties.

  9. 9
    timgueguen

    I suspect some of those “medal winners” will eventually be wishing the money was spend on consoling services instead of creating and issuing a meaningless medal. Drone pilots probably get a very nice look at the results of their handiwork given the resolution of modern optics.

  10. 10
    Antiochus Epiphanes

    The less opportunity for heroism, the better. Maybe we should give medals to soldiers who just stay home and practice.

  11. 11
    johnhunter

    Well it took six years of following your blog but finally I agree with something you said PZ.

    This is pitiful and embarrassing. It is disrespectful to those who have continually put their lives in actual danger for their country and the men by their side. It reminds me of the Scott O’Grady situation where the media called the pilot who got shot down a hero but ignored the Marines who rescued him. But this is worse.

    As a Marine myself I have tons of respect for your father-in-law. It’s men like him that inspired me to make the decision to join. My service of course paled in comparison to his.

  12. 12
    Ingdigo Jump

    I have to play devil’s advocate here. As far as risk to one’s self there is little opportunity for heroism as a drone pilot. But today’s comparatively simple drones are sure to be replaced and upgraded with more capable hardware in time.

    Just because the pilot isn’t going to get shot down they could still assist troops on the ground, defend civilians and monitor situations in non-war scenarios.

    If you look at it in terms of good that could be accomplished I think there is definitely room for heroism in the air-conditioned bunkers. Personally I would settle for an end to the civilian casualties.

    Sacrificing others with no personal risk yourself is not usually what we call heroism.

    FFS, didn’t we criticize OBL for hiding out safe in his bunker while he sent young men to die by the dozens?

  13. 13
    Johnny Vector

    So will REMF now come to mean “Remote Engagement Mother Fuckers”?

    Dudes, The War Was in Color.

  14. 14
    Setár, Elvenkitty

    sethkeipper #8:

    Personally I would settle for an end to the civilian casualties.

    Ha, ha. Funny. An end to the civilian casualties. That’s rich. That’s really fucking rich.

    It will also take much more fundamental changes to the US military’s training and structure than merely upgrading their attack drones.

  15. 15
    lobotomy

    Thanks for the article PZ. This is the first I am learning of a move to award medals to UAV pilots.

    While I would agree that there is a vast distance between what a boots on the ground soldier or marine faces and what a UAV pilot faces with regard to physical danger, there are psychological aspects to consider. I have seen several stories of psychological problems among drone pilots and I can understand that somewhat from personal experience.

    I served in the (first) Gulf War and was stationed in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. I would watch the daily briefings from Riyadh on CNN and after a scud missile attack would turn to CNN to watch the “post game” show. There was a very odd feeling watching what was going on on the TV and realizing that “there” on the TV was actually “here” where I was. It felt like I was living a weirdly recursive dream. I do not claim that I was adversely affected by that, but I must admit that I never really felt comfortable in my own head about the difference between “here” and “there.”

    There are two more element that need to be added to the mix. The first is consciously understanding the difference between cartoonish video game killing and actually killing another human being.

    I can relate that the one time that I thought that I might actually have to use a handgun to kill someone I was scared shitless. Granted, this would have been up close and personal, but the thought that I might have to kill, even to protect someone else from violence, was powerful. Fortunately, the situation calmed and no violence was necessary. I couple that with my differing reactions to watching various videos of people being killed, from Nick Berg being beheaded to less gorey things like aircraft crashes at airshows and TV and movie violence. In the first two I know that actual people are dying and my reaction is completely different than when watching fictionalized accounts or playing video games.

    These themes come together when a drone pilot has to consciously carry out an order to kill with a missile via remote control and then go home to their family and return to “normal” life. The distance between routuine home life and the battlefield is not hundreds or thousands of miles but a short commute to work.

    The final point is that it usually takes some significant training to get normal people to kill other people on command. See “On Killing” by David Grossman (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/On_Killing:_The_Psychological_Cost_of_Learning_to_Kill_in_War_and_Society). In previous wars you could often escape actually killing others but that is not possible as a drone pilot.

    So while I agree that awarding medals for bravery is probably misplaced, and I did not se any attempts to award medals for bravey or valor in the article, we should not dismiss the fact that despite fighting a war remotely from an air conditioned van that the operators can potentially suffer some of the same mental traumas that war fighters have faced for millenia. Agree or not with the use of armed drone, but that aspect of the war and the affects on our servicemembers should not be ignored.

  16. 16
    Charly

    Medal for accuracy, precision, number of flawlessly accomplished missions etc. for drone-flying I would understand. But for heroism? Nah. This is a joke, right? Some innuendo behind this I do not get?

    I am pacifist myself, but I recognize the (hopefully waning with shifting zeitgeist) need for soldiers and weapons. I also recognize the change in combat techniques and the need to reward even these people for good work (when it is, actually, good work, and not mindless slaughtering of funeral bystanders). But calling them brave devalves the concept of bravery into nothingness.

  17. 17
    Setár, Elvenkitty

    It reminds me of the Scott O’Grady situation where the media called the pilot who got shot down a hero but ignored the Marines who rescued him. But this is worse.

    That’s the best you can do?

    See, I’m thinking of Jessica Lynch, which got turned into a “HERO!!!” circus of…the Army Rangers walking in, picking her up, and walking out. Only, with less than no personnel risk, as opposed to merely none.

  18. 18
    Setár, Elvenkitty

    …I did not se any attempts to award medals for bravey or valor…

    Other than a Purple Heart, what other reason would there be to award a medal?

  19. 19
    Siobhan

    So the only real criteria for what a hero is has nothing to do with actions that have saved lives of fellow soldiers, or going ahead and doing your duty even though you -know- you’re not playing a video game and those are real people you’re killing with your drone attacks.

    The only real criteria for what constitutes a hero is if the person in question has risked their physical well being. Risks to mental well-being don’t count. Being willing to kill other human beings to save the lives of one’s fellows doesn’t count. Unless you lost sweat or blood, you’re not a hero. I think we need to stop calling teachers heroes, then.

    They’re not playing goddamn video games. They are using highly technical machinery to kill human beings. Not only have they had to kill human beings, but they also get treated with contempt, as if those deaths were “easy” because it seems like a video game to anyone watching from the outside.

    The work they do saves lives. They do the work in combat situations that require split second decisions that mean the difference between life and death for both their fellow soldiers and any civilians in the area. And they have to follow orders, and kill the enemy, just like any other soldier. They suffer from as much stress and emotional trauma as any other soldier. The violence they do is just as real, and they know it. I bet they sweat through their combat missions, too.

    I would concur that they don’t deserve the same medal, or maybe even not the same class of medal, as the soldiers who are facing enemy fire do. But they are still fighting in combat, they are still risking their well-being for their country, and they make a difference in the battles. They deserve recognition for it when they do a superior job.

    Recognizing that other people in other types of jobs using other sorts of technology are doing important, necessary, and yes, brave, work does not take a single thing away from the bravery or heroism of your grandfather, or the thousands of others like him. It doesn’t dilute anything to recognize that the technology changes and that these people are still soldiers who save the lives of their fellow soldiers and they are still participating in combat missions that have a significant impact on their well-being.

  20. 20
    jimi3001

    Perhaps I’m being too cynical, but it seems like the medals given out in this manner are more like a reinforcing mechanism by way of reward. Even if the killing isn’t up-close with drone killings, a soldier might still try & come to terms with their responsibility for killing people. Giving them a medal can help to edge the soldiers towards justifying the killing over regretting it too much.

  21. 21
    bodach

    FFS, really? Instead of medals, how about more money for treatment of PTSD? I was a REMF in Viet Nam, a corpsman; I’ve seen heroes and I’ve seen a lot of broken people who were just trying to stay alive.
    Agh, this really pisses me off.
    Let’s give medals to people in Congress that vote to get us out of all these effing wars that everyone loves that hasn’t seen someone bleed out.

  22. 22
    ltft

    From the link PZ provided:

    The proposed medal would rank between the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Soldier’s Medal for exceptional conduct outside a combat zone.

    So the military recognizes, via medals, activities outside combat zones. From the WP article PZ’s link went to, the military also recognizes, as combat, actions taken when there’s no risk to the individual involved. Given all that, and given the psychological difficulties many of the drone operators must face, I can understand giving medals.

    The heroism tag, though? Not so much.

  23. 23
    Setár, Elvenkitty

    Medal for accuracy, precision…

    I’m sure all the soldiers who have to aim their own M16s without a computer or rockets to help guide their bullets would appreciate that.

    (Also, in the real world, we can’t turn off the targeting computer, so don’t even think about that.)

  24. 24
    Setár, Elvenkitty

    bodach #21:

    Instead of medals, how about more money for treatment of PTSD?

    [Republican congresscritter]: In my day, veterans went down to the pawnshop for that.

  25. 25
    physicsphdstu

    @lobotomy

    I remember that “On Killing by MG” mentioned that it is easier to kill the farther you are from the actual killing. So killing from 1000s of miles away does not cause that much psychlogical damage than hand to hand killing. Also we are de sensitised to killing via computers through video games.

  26. 26
    sadunlap

    Does anyone remember Bill Maher lost a TV show for pointing out the un-heroic nature of drone attacks? (I’m not a fan of his or his show, just saying).

    In Catch-22 they gave Yossarian a medal for how perfectly the bombs fell in a cluster (in the ocean) when he purposely dropped them too soon to hit a civilian target because “They had to give him a medal or otherwise the Army Air Corps would be forced to recognize his actual behavior – something that required dealing with the implications of what he did,” (I paraphrase). Giving medals to drone pilots does the same sort of thing only with people who blow up non-combatants rather than refuse to do so. After the news puff pieces about the drone attacks in which the Obama administration admitted to the Vietnam era double-think of considering, ex-post-facto, all military-age men killed as militants, awarding medals to drone pilots makes perfect sense : the perfect blend of Catch-22 and 1984.

    If I believed in an afterlife I would say that Joseph Heller and George Orwell would be banging their heads together right about now.

  27. 27
    Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought

    “How many are you missing?”
    “Twenty. I got a bonus for a couple of soldiers, but damn, I always get those lousy civilians. They aren’t worth much. You?”
    “What do you think?”
    “No!”
    “Yep. No soldiers, but I got enough civilians to count. I’m getting one. A nice shiny medal is waiting for me.”
    “Lucky bastard.”
    “Aw, don’t feel bad. You’ll get them more next time.”

  28. 28
    jackjesberger

    I know what you’re saying PZ, but the trend dates back to WWII.
    Lee Sandlin’s account of the naval part of the Midway battle.

    That was when a squadron of American dive-bombers came out of the clouds overhead. They’d got lost earlier that morning and were trying to make their way back to base. In the empty ocean below they spotted a fading wake — one of the Japanese escort ships had been diverted from the convoy to drop a depth charge on a suspected American submarine. The squadron followed it just to see where it might lead. A few minutes later they cleared a cloud deck and discovered themselves directly above the single largest “target of opportunity,” as the military saying goes, that any American bomber had ever been offered.

    When we try to imagine what happened next we’re likely to get an image out of Star Wars — daring attack planes, as graceful as swallows, darting among the ponderously churning cannons of some behemoth of a Death Star. But the sci-fi trappings of Star Wars disguise an archaic and sluggish idea of battle. What happened instead was this: the American squadron commander gave the order to attack, the planes came hurtling down from around 12,000 feet and released their bombs, and then they pulled out of their dives and were gone. That was all. Most of the Japanese sailors didn’t even see them.

    The aircraft carriers were in a frenzy just then. Dozens of planes were being refueled and rearmed on the hangar decks, and elevators were raising them to the flight decks, where other planes were already revving up for takeoff. The noise was deafening, and the warning sirens were inaudible. Only the sudden, shattering bass thunder of the big guns going off underneath the bedlam alerted the sailors that anything was wrong. That was when they looked up. By then the planes were already soaring out of sight, and the black blobs of the bombs were already descending from the brilliant sky in a languorous glide.

    But it seems somehow paltry and wrong to call what happened at Midway a “battle.” It had nothing to do with battles the way they were pictured in the popular imagination. There were no last-gasp gestures of transcendent heroism, no brilliant counterstrategies that saved the day. It was more like an industrial accident. It was a clash not between armies, but between TNT and ignited petroleum and drop-forged steel. The thousands who died there weren’t warriors but bystanders — the workers at the factory who happened to draw the shift when the boiler exploded.

    The days of massed armies face to face is fading. Maybe the old schemes of recognition should fade away with them. Maybe they will…I don’t know. So much of warfare now just doesn’t jibe with the term combat, or when it does it’s contained wholly in the experience of those on the receiving end of the mechanized violence. And even that violence occurs in the blink of an eye now; a drone or a missile strikes; a bomb goes off. Combat was always what happened in that interval of time between the waiting and the aftermath. Now that that period of time is often a mere flash of light and sound, a mere point of transition. Is this even combat anymore? What does it even mean to be brave when there isn’t even enough time to be frightened?

  29. 29
    mythbri

    I’m with bodach. More money, more attention, more care for the service-men and -women who come back from combat with mental health issues. Veterans are accounting for one out of every five suicides in the U.S.

    Let’s actually show that we value their lives more than their service.

    My cousin is a veteran of combat (well, not really – he was a mechanic) in Afghanistan. He was riding in a Jeep with some other soldiers when it was hit by an IED. He nearly lost his life, and eventually he lost his leg. He claims that he’s much happier without it – it would have been painful for the rest of his life, and now he can run marathons with a prosthesis.

    But you can’t amputate the part of your mind that hurts.

  30. 30
    ButchKitties

    Are these medals going to be awarded during meatspace ceremonies, or will there merely be a pop-up on the drone pilot’s computer screen that says, “Achievement Unlocked”?

  31. 31
    Glen Davidson

    But it seems somehow paltry and wrong to call what happened at Midway a “battle.” It had nothing to do with battles the way they were pictured in the popular imagination. There were no last-gasp gestures of transcendent heroism,

    One can only say that by ignoring the almost kamikaze-like attacks made by the torpedo planes, which drew the defending zeros down too low to attack the dive bombers (and, some say, they didn’t even have enough gas to get back up to the height from which the dive bombing began), thus allowing the bombings to be highly effective in such an explosive and inflammatory (literally) situation.

    I know that this doesn’t change the situation for the dive-bombers, which did a good job (still a lot of misses, but they really were pretty well-trained), but weren’t called upon to act so “bravely,” in fact. I still think that the particular account seriously ignores the sacrificial and nearly suicidal valor of the torpedo-plane crews. It just wasn’t the successful ones who always showed the most bravery, and few of the torpedo-plane pilots ever came back.

    Glen Davidson

  32. 32
    kevinalexander

    Think about this for a second. These pilots are going from an air-conditioned trailer in Nevada back to their homes. And then they do it again the next day. I’ve been to Nevada, it’s hot there. The stress of going from hot to cold and back again…

    I’m weeping right now when I think about these brave boys.

  33. 33
    zb24601

    Those drone pilots may be brave people, but that bravery is not displayed in carrying out their drone sorties. It seems the most dangerous part of their job is the drive from their home to the base. There is more bravery shown by a pilot of a fighter plane on a routine training flight in friendly skies.

    As for the term “bug splat”, I propose a new term. How about “termination of a unique human life”?

    When drones were first put in use, they were unarmed, and I thought it was a good thing to not have to risk a pilot’s life to collect battlefield intelligence. Then they started arming the drones. I thought it was good that they could do some of the missions that piloted aircraft would otherwise do, but not risk the life of the pilot. But it seems they are going too far, and doing much more killing and destruction than is needed, and even making things worse by making the US even more hated. (Like our use of torture didn’t go far enough in making the US look bad.)

  34. 34
    Phalacrocorax, z Třetího Světa

    They suffer from as much stress and emotional trauma as any other soldier. The violence they do is just as real, and they know it.

    Questionable. From the Air Force Times:

    «Interestingly, drone pilots and sensor operators did not report that watching people get blown up caused them stress, Ortega said.

    “That, I think, is really one of the major things, the major findings of the work so far, that … the popularized idea of watching the combat was really not what was producing the most, just, day-to-day stress for these guys,” he said.

    Their stress stems from quality-of-life issues, such as working more than 50 hours per week.»

  35. 35
    Who Knows?

    I don’t know if you’ve served in the military or not, I’m guessing you didn’t. You really have no business using the term REMF. Especially in such a broad way. It’s a term used to describe a certain type of soldier, not combat support personnel in general.

    Personally, I think it is the military equivalent of cunt. Please don’t use it.

  36. 36
    ancienttechie

    Setár, my dad earned a couple of bronze stars in WWII for jumping into the ocean during naval combat and pulling unconscious drowning sailors to safety. Such acts seem like pretty good reasons to award medals other than purple hearts!

  37. 37
    ballio

    I recall in Huxley’s Brave New World when the Controller explains to the “Savage” that nobility and heroism are not desirable qualities because they are only widely possible within an atmosphere of social instability. Sadly, and by contrast, it would seem that cowardice is being re-branded as heroism within a period of great instability.

  38. 38
    eean

    You don’t think being asked to kill for your country is the biggest sacriface of all? Doesn’t seem very pacifist of you. Are you a pacifist because you are against killing or against dying? I’m pretty sure the latter doesn’t count…

  39. 39
    Alexandra (née Audley)

    Bodach:

    FFS, really? Instead of medals, how about more money for treatment of PTSD?

    This, exactly. Instead of hand wringing over medals, if we’re going to insist on waging pointless and unwinnable wars, we could at least make sure that our veterans have the best health/mental health care that money can buy.

    It seems our soldiers are important enough to give a useless chunk of metal to, but not important enough to care for. Imagine that.

    Let’s give medals to people in Congress that vote to get us out of all these effing wars that everyone loves that hasn’t seen someone bleed out.

    Hell, if this were ever come to pass, they would deserve medals and a fucking ticker tape parade.

  40. 40
    He Who Shall Not Be Blamed

    Nowhere in the linked article or its source does it say the new medal would be awarded for heroism, valor, or bravery. The writer appears oblivious to the whole raft of military awards given for other reasons – despite mentioning a major counterexample, the good conduct award, by name.

    I will let the military experts hash out whether the new award is really needed or not. But this article and a lot of snark on this thread seems to assume that only actions taken at the risk of life and limb deserve recognition. That isn’t the way the rest of the service works, so why should drone pilots/operators be different?

  41. 41
    Siobhan

    Perhaps I project too much. The idea of killing people, no matter how distant I may be from it, stresses me. Let alone the fact of it. *shrug*

  42. 42
    theophontes (恶六六六缓步动物)

    re: Money vs medals

    Well, Napoleon famously knew the answer to that. You can get more done with medals than with money. It is about propoganda, not recompense, or even salary levels.

  43. 43
    Matt Penfold

    Nowhere in the linked article or its source does it say the new medal would be awarded for heroism, valor, or bravery. The writer appears oblivious to the whole raft of military awards given for other reasons – despite mentioning a major counterexample, the good conduct award, by name.

    Yes it does. I quote:

    The proposed medal would rank between the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Soldier’s Medal for exceptional conduct outside a combat zone

    Both medals are awarded for heroism.

    Why did you not read the article ?

  44. 44
    chigau (違う)

    Medals are way cheaper than medical care.

  45. 45
    Alex

    Interestingly, drone pilots and sensor operators did not report that

    I think that this self-reported evaluation is not reliable at all.

  46. 46
    Rip Steakface

    I take offense to comparing drone attacks to video games.

    Video games don’t kill innocent people.

  47. 47
    Rip Steakface

    That was meant to be read in a somewhat sardonic voice >_>

    Video games obviously don’t kill people, but I sounded awfully serious for a joke.

  48. 48
    carlie

    The writer appears oblivious to the whole raft of military awards given for other reasons – despite mentioning a major counterexample, the good conduct award, by name.

    The military needs to stop wasting time coming up with new shiny badges and spend its energy supporting actual soldiers and their families.

  49. 49
    ltft

    To build on what Matt Penfold @43 said (from wikipedia):

    “The Soldier’s Medal is awarded to any person of the Armed Forces of the United States or of a friendly foreign nation who, while serving in any capacity with the Army of the United States, distinguished himself or herself by heroism not involving actual conflict with an enemy.”

    “The Distinguished Flying Cross is a medal awarded to any officer or enlisted member of the United States armed forces who distinguishes himself or herself in support of operations by “heroism or extraordinary achievement while participating in an aerial flight, subsequent to November 11, 1918.”

  50. 50
    ltft

    Hit submit too soon…

    Some confusion, including mine, has come from the description of the medal, in every post everywhere, as the, ‘Soldier’s Medal for exceptional conduct outside a combat zone.’

    This is kind of conflating two different medals. The Soldier’s Medal is one given, as described above, for heroism outside a combat zone. The Good Conduct medal, which was mentioned by He Who Shall Not Be Named @40, is given more-or-less for not screwing up for three years straight.

    I can find no authoritative account of the proposed new medal that describes it as being awarded for heroism, but its proposed ranking does fall between two different medals given for heroism.

  51. 51
    rork

    This is not a medal for storming a machine gun nests Mr Myers.
    I was never a fan of our recent military actions, but I try not be be a dick about it.

  52. 52
    ginmar

    I got the same medal as the REMF who folded cots and fled whenever there was a convoy to do. I mean, literally hide when there was a job to do. I always volunteered for those because the alternative was the office. It was easy to forget how much danger you were in. And if you want to get killed, a convoy is a great way to do it, because of IEDs. My CO, no stranger to actual terrifying danger, got a Bronze Star, and that’s for when he had to be restrained from driving or forcing a chopper to fly to at least resupply my team and I with ammo when we got ambushed by a huge force.

    He always told us to take one more second to take a shot if we were in that position, which saved at least one life, and probably what little I have of my sanity to this day. Suicide bombers in vehicles would try and bump up into US convoys, and one day this guy did just that. Often these guys have a dead man’s switch so either way you were screwed. One one thousand, two one thousand—–most terrifying thing I’ve ever felt, and I got pinned down by distant snipers a couple times when I was there. Then I got a good look at the guy’s face and realized he was just a dumbass. I can’t say anything adequate about how it felt to realize how badly we’d been lied to and what we were actually complicit in.

    We were the people who were out on the street every day, talking to ordinary Iraqis, writing reports that got ignored, particularly about procedures to save lives on both sides. I wish somebody would figure out a way to take away the guilt that descended when I realized I’d swallowed all those lies about Iraq, because I just couldn’t believe anybody would exploit all those murdered people from 9/11.

    The way they award medals is so ridiculous that everybody in my battalion below a certain grade got an ARCOM, and everybody above it got a Bronze Star. Pretty much everybody in the company below that rank tossed their medals in the drink outside the Al Fawr Palace at Camp Victory Main, while people who had driven outside the wire just once to get themselves written up as ‘combat mission veterans’ got to give a whole new meaning to Stolen Valor. (A Supreme Court decision I actually agree with, because free speech is free speech.) We had one woman actually resuscitate a guy who was effectively dead while she was under heavy fire, thus giving his family a chance to say goodbye, and she didn’t get so much as a Purple Heart.

    Jessica Lynch gets lots of press but the 82nd had a female medic who rescued men under heavy fire, and Sgt.Leigh Ann Hester turned an ambush into a firefight that captured a number of insurgents and a ton of weapons. There’s been others. Conservatives, by the way, love to cite Lynch as an example of ‘little blond girls who should be in college’, not the military.

    My dad didn’t talk about his war, but I felt at stray moments I could at least look his generation in the face for a second or two. I do know that based on his uniform he got busted down in rank and then promoted over and over again, and like father like daughter. I lost a promotion when an NCO demanded I lie for him and I refused. The CO tried to make it up to me by giving me one of he funniest bullet points you could get away with: he praised me for swearing and cussing out twits, in multiple languages, sometimes without them knowing it.

    But I belonged to an MI unit, where the whole culture is different. (Think M.A.S.H. from TV.) Theoretically, we had desk jobs. In reality, we were out on the roads at least every other day. I can’t stand roads and vehicles now. Too many IEDs. It doesn’t take long before surviving in the face of the casualties we saw—–140 our first month—–feels like something you should atone for.

  53. 53
    Matt Penfold

    This is not a medal for storming a machine gun nests Mr Myers.

    Neither is the Distinguished Flying Cross or the Soldier’s Medal. Indeed, neither can be won for such action, the first because as the name suggests, you have to be flying to win it, and the second because it is awarded for heroism outside of combat.

    Are you always this ignorant ?

    I was never a fan of our recent military actions, but I try not be be a dick about it.

    Instead you try to be a dick when commenting at Pharyngula,

  54. 54
    Amphiox

    Acknowledge them for feats of skill above and beyond the regular call of duty if you wish. Recognize them for actions above and beyond the call of duty that resulted in the saving of actual lives on the ground, if such does happen.

    In the second case you can even call them heroes, if you want. (In civilian life people who do extraordinary things that save the lives of others are often called heroes even if their actions do not put themselves at personal risk).

    But don’t call it bravery. Because it isn’t.

  55. 55
    gworroll

    A medal for drone pilots I’m ok with. There’s skill and stress involved, I could see them displaying the skill and resilience worthy of a medal.

    But ranking that highly? That’s pushing it. Maybe if we had WWIII going on and a drone pilot pulled off a feat of brilliance that single handedly won the war and everyone believed was impossible before it was done. Or if they kept flying and completed their mission while the drone control base was under attack and they would be permitted to halt the mission(this one is probably covered by existing medals though).

    But short of that, it should be something significantly lower.

  56. 56
    thegoodman

    My own grandfather was in the 2nd airborne unit that parachuted into countless south pacific islands with little intel to “wipe up the japs” as he describes it. He is a quiet man who never boasts and I am he has done many unspeakable things to which he is neither proud nor happy about. He didn’t even bother applying for a purple heart despite a significant leg injury because “everyone was getting one, so there was no point”.

    I am not sure how I feel about these medals. Most of war is very unjust, the drone pilots might as well join in the party. As a pacifist, I don’t think any act of war should be rewarded on any level, regardless of the sacrifice (or lack thereof).

  57. 57
    Worldtraveller

    Contrast this with all of the medals that didn’t get awarded during/after WW2 for extreme bravery (CMH, Gold, Silver and Bronze Stars and many unit citations) because the units/individuals in question happened to be black.

    I watched the special about the awarding of many of those overdue medals awarded, finally, by Clinton, during his administration. It was sad how many of them had to be awarded posthumously, and young children/widows were the only ones able to collect them. That show had me in tears at several points.

    FWIW, my grandfather was awarded a Bronze star during the battle of the bulge. I couldn’t be more proud.

  58. 58
    Setár, Elvenkitty

    Tyrant al-Kalam #45:

    I think that this self-reported evaluation is not reliable at all.

    You are either joking, or else you are denying other people their own agency because you think differently.

    Please be joking.

  59. 59
    tsig

    When did the US government get the right to kill anyone it thinks is dangerous? Where will the line be drawn? Why not enemy leaders like the president of Iran? How soon will we see drones operating here in the US to take out dangerous criminals?

  60. 60
    'Tis Himself

    A Hermit #7

    More than 8,000 medals were awarded [for Grenada]…some were undoubtedly well deserved, but as anyone even remotely involved in planning or supporting the operation was awarded some kind of decoration it kind of cheapens the whole idea of awarding medals.

    Every so often this “statistic” gets trotted out. And it’s quite correct, more medals were for Grenada awarded than there were participants. But there’s a major however. All of the 7,000 people involved in the Grenada episode were awarded a medal called the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal. This medal meant “I was there.” So the vast majority of the medals awarded were actually one medal given not for bravery or meritorious achievement but just for showing up. So if one person involved in Grenada was awarded any other medal for any reason, then the claim can be made “more medals were given out than there were participants.”

    All the British military personnel involved in the Falklands War were given a similar medal by the British government. So the comparison between Grenada and the Falklands is flawed.

  61. 61
    Ingdigo Jump

    They’re not playing goddamn video games. They are using highly technical machinery to kill human beings. Not only have they had to kill human beings, but they also get treated with contempt, as if those deaths were “easy” because it seems like a video game to anyone watching from the outside.

    Yes it’s odd that we treat people who sign up for the job of killing human beings from the safety of a bunker with contempt? I mean…why don’t we ever think about the feelings of the people who signed up for the job of killing other human beings!?

  62. 62
    Matt Penfold

    All the British military personnel involved in the Falklands War were given a similar medal by the British government. So the comparison between Grenada and the Falklands is flawed.

    The medal was called the South Atlantic Medal. Some 29,700 were issued, of which the vast majority served in the Royal Navy and probably never set foot on the Islands. It was awarded to anyone who had “30 days continuous or accumulated service between 7° and 60° South latitude between 2 April and 14 June 1982 (completing no later than 12 July 1982)”.

    It was also awarded to non-military personnel who were part of the task force, including journalists.

  63. 63
    Setár, Elvenkitty

    Ing #61:

    I mean…why don’t we ever think about the feelings of the people who signed up for the job of killing other human beings!?

    Indeed. We must think of the poor and downtrodden state of the most privileged among us. It is not enough that they have a small probability of high stress, it has to be a minute probability!

  64. 64
    The Rat King

    My grandfather stormed the beach at Dieppe and Juno, and we have the medals to prove it, though it was never his idea to display them either. Only person he ever told about what he did while across the pond was myself, when I was just six years old and he was on his deathbed.

    I can’t remember much of it, but given his attitude, I suspect he’d be just as insulted.

    Heroism is supposed to mean something.

  65. 65
    baal

    @#58

    the antecedant:

    Questionable. From the Air Force Times:

    «Interestingly, drone pilots and sensor operators did not report that watching people get blown up caused them stress, Ortega said.

    your point to Tyrant al-Kalam #45 regard him not accepting self reporting:

    You are either joking, or else you are denying other people their own agency because you think differently.

    Please be joking.

    The Air Force Times is not a neutral third party (I’m not faulting their objectivity so much as appearances) and self-reporting on your mental state while still in the military doesn’t make for good science. The way to answer the empirical question about drone pilots PTSD or lack there of is to do follow up studies by trained psychologist after the pilots leave the service.

    Further, going into the military is the only realistic option for some folks (at least one of my nephews in fact), I’ll not speak against them for that choice.

    As to the war in Yemen and other places that are being run through armed drones, I’m appalled. We’re the first country to ‘video-game’ a war and I strongly doubt were being ethical (or rational) about it. I’ll even predict that the definition of war crimes will later include revisions to cover bad actions of the U.S. that are happening right now.

  66. 66
    ricardodivali having sniffles over stiffles

    So I can get paid for being the “hero” of the most graphically realistic video game available… and all I have to do is pretend it’s not reeeaally real along with the guys handing out medals…

    …and i’ll never meet these people or have to directly worry about my actions…

    Hmmm…I can’t help thinking that this is not terribly far from a lot of people’s dream job. Pretending is hardly a difficult thing for humans to do, especially when everyone around you joins in.

  67. 67
    wanderfound

    According to PW Singer (http://www.ted.com/talks/pw_singer_on_robots_of_war.html), drone pilots actually show higher rates of PTSD than front line troops.

  68. 68
    Guenter

    It’s interesting to me that the only place in the article that mentions “heroism” is the title. It was obvious linkbait.

  69. 69
    He Who Shall Not Be Blamed

    Matt Penfield:

    Yes it does. I quote:

    The proposed medal would rank between the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Soldier’s Medal for exceptional conduct outside a combat zone
    Both medals are awarded for heroism.

    Why did you not read the article ?

    Sure, I read the article. But I don’t assume that because THAT medal is awarded for heroism, then THIS medal must be awarded for it as well. All the snark seems to be that this medal is for bravery behind the computer screen, when the only one claiming that is the idiot author of the article.

    As ltft points out in #49, the DFC is awarded for “…heroism or extraordinary achievement…” Is there really no room for extrodinary achievement while operating a drone?

  70. 70
    frogkisser

    @ballio
    I disagree with the characterization of the people piloting the drones as cowards. The way the US is using drones is cowardly. The people piloting the drones are not cowards.

    @Who Knows?
    I agree with you about the use of the term REMF. If you don’t have a right shoulder patch, you shouldn’t use it.

    On Topic
    Everyone who joins the US military is taking a path that may require them to kill. It is part of the job description. And most service members are aware that even if they aren’t pulling the trigger, the work they do supports those who do. Military intelligence analysts who provide coordinates to div-arty know exactly what is being done with that information.

    Bugsplat
    Regarding the term bugsplat, context may be helpful. Slurs are used to dehumanize targets and desensitize soldiers – so the soldiers can kill the targets. One of the first things I learned in basic training is the answer to the question “What makes the grass grow?”. Blood

  71. 71
    georgelocke

    Drone pilots take real psychological risks. Rates of PTSD among drone pilots are unusually high. Perhaps this isn’t the same thing as risking one’s life/bodily health, but PTSD is no joke.

  72. 72
    Cynickal

    To paraphrase an author I can’t remember, “In the founding days of the republic, heroic men dreamed heroic dreams and achieved them. These days petty men dream petty dreams and achieve them too.”

  73. 73
    AlanMac

    Religious fervor, war fever. and lies; the right sure do love their Strauss.

  74. 74
    petzl20

    It’s a little odd this would rank above the Soldier’s Medal, which is “the highest honor a soldier can receive for an act of valor in a non-combat situation.” Colin Powell got one for pulling a fellow soldier from a burning helicopter.

  75. 75
    ginmar

    @ 70 No, I don’t buy that at all. Pre-George Bush it was possible to never fire a weapon for a whole career off the firing range. That kind of thinking leads people to start lobbing shit like ‘baby killer’ and crap like that around. That kind of critique ignores that the military offers the only chance some people will ever have.

  76. 76
    stringer

    Yes it’s odd that we treat people who sign up for the job of killing human beings from the safety of a bunker with contempt? I mean…why don’t we ever think about the feelings of the people who signed up for the job of killing other human beings!?

    Why does the fact that they carry their job out from a bunker warrant more contempt than someone who has to risk their life before putting a bullet in someone’s head?

    What bullshit. If you’re a pacifist you need to be consistent. Putting yourself at risk doesn’t magically make the taking of life a laudable heroic action.

  77. 77
    twincats

    Medals/ribbons are awarded for the most mundane things. I got two just for doing two overseas tours, although I did lose my ability to be a blood donor because of them. :/ The tours, not the ribbons.

    So, medals for being an effective drone pilot? Not at all surprising, Even though I do agree that such medals shouldn’t be so highly ranked, my reaction by and large is ho hum.

    Medal for accuracy, precision…

    I’m sure all the soldiers who have to aim their own M16s without a computer or rockets to help guide their bullets would appreciate that.

    They get a marksmanship medal for successfully aiming a weapon that was tailor made for use by idiots. As one of the many who never even thought about firearms until basic training, I only missed getting that medal (in basic training) by two shots.

  78. 78
    Setár, Elvenkitty

    frogkisser #70:

    Bugsplat
    Regarding the term bugsplat, context may be helpful. Slurs are used to dehumanize targets and desensitize soldiers – so the soldiers can kill the targets. One of the first things I learned in basic training is the answer to the question “What makes the grass grow?”. Blood

    Hey, asshole. People are fucking people, regardless of what flag they’re waving. You don’t need to paint an entire other side as Evil Enemies to get the soldiers to kill the guys who are fucking shooting at them.

    You know what you do when you do that?

    You get the soldiers to shoot the helpless enemy combatants rather than capture them, or mistreat the prisoners, because the soldiers are taught to dehumanize the enemy. To think of them as not human. To think of them as unpersons.

    FUCK YOU. DEHUMANIZATION IS NEVER OKAY.

  79. 79
    Dee Phlat

    Drone pilots should just get Steam achievement awards.

  80. 80
    frogkisser

    @ginmar
    It’s still possible to have a military career and never fire a weapon off the firing range. I contend that those who aren’t firing weapons, are supporting those who do, and that they know it.

    Now, about the military being the only chance some people will ever have, I know. However, that is not a military problem; it is a societal problem. That men and women, usually in their late teens, have no reasonable alternative to military service is disgraceful. I need to find a citation, (and I know anecdote =/= evidence), but in my experience, those with the fewest civilian options also have the fewest options in the military. The poor and poorly educated were disproportionately represented in the enlisted combat arms, because other (potentially less dangerous) MOS’s were closed to them either because of lack of education or personal history or both.

  81. 81
    Setár, Elvenkitty

    twincats #77:

    They get a marksmanship medal for successfully aiming a weapon that was tailor made for use by idiots.

    But it’s still got a human that has to make all of the targeting calculations, and hold the weapon steady, and pull the trigger at the right time. And, of course, stay alive.

    The drone pilot doesn’t even have to do that, because the weapon is mounted rigidly on the drone, and the drone also (I would assume) has an autopilot of some sort to allow the pilot to focus on targeting. The computer sights the target, calculates everything, and even draws a nice little box to show where the thing is going to hit. And then in the case of missiles we also have a little thing called missile lock. All the drone pilot has to do is push the button when the cross is on the target or when the screen beeps and says “MISSILE LOCK”.

    In the case of the drone pilot, the medal should be going to the computer, even though the computer will do what it’s supposed to do perfectly 999 times out of 1000. The proposal is to give someone a medal for knowing when to push a button, and then pushing it at the right time enough times.

  82. 82
    ginmar

    You can contend all you like, but by that same token I can condemn Mitt Romney’s lowliest employee with Romney’s sins as well. In some areas of the military, you use your weapon as a last resort—and you’re proud of never having to use it. It’s a great deal more complex than you’re making it.

  83. 83
    andusay

    I have read an awful lot of military history. To paraphrase an attitude I have read many times: “It wasn’t the dieing I was afraid of, it was the killing”.

    The ignorance shown on this thread is astounding. Like reading a creationist thread. Some folks should read up on their military history before making their comments.

  84. 84
    ericpaulsen

    The first time I heard a reporter refer to a person who had done nothing more than keeping themselves alive in an admittedly harrowing situation a “hero” I knew the word had become meaningless. I was among the first people who complained bitterly about Chesley Sullenberger being labeled a hero for ditching a low flying slow moving jet into a river because it was his job to do so. He was trained for exactly that kind of scenario. If you are doing your job and you are not putting yourself in greater danger than you are already in to help others (he was on the plane himself after all) then how can you be considered a hero? Competent, cool headed, an excellent pilot to be sure but hero? The word is as abused as love.

  85. 85
    Charly

    @ Setár #23

    I’m sure all the soldiers who have to aim their own M16s without a computer or rockets to help guide their bullets would appreciate that.

    (Also, in the real world, we can’t turn off the targeting computer, so don’t even think about that.)

    Allow me to rephrase what I wrote more accurately in line with what I meant by it:
    Medal for accuracy, precision, number of flawlessly accomplished missions etc. show of above average or extraordinary skill in their field, when accomplishing given tasks for drone-flying I would understand…

    I am sure that even drone operators differ in skill and those really skilled should be rewarded in appropriate way in order to motivate the rest.

  86. 86
    frogkisser

    @ginmar
    Which service did you serve in? In which war did you participate? What did your fellow service members think? What did they say to you? If you cannot answer these questions, I contend you have no right to school me on how complex this issue is.
    I didn’t say the issue was simple; I said service members know what the military’s mission is.
    And if I wasn’t clear, the point of my last post was forcing people to choose the military because they have no other reasonable options is wrong.

    I do not think service members should be held accountable for the decisions of the government. That’s why I can consider the way the US government is using drones to be cowardly without considering the drone pilots cowards.

  87. 87
    mouthyb, Vagina McTits

    baal: Self-report is standard in situations where lab conditions are not practical. While it’s not the most stringent data gathering technique, it can be a useful tool over time, given the use of things like alternate phrasing and comparing records can help accuracy.

  88. 88
    qwerty

    Medals aren’t just given out for heroism. Everyone who volunteers in a time of war since 1953 is given the National Defense Service Ribbon. This, to me, is well deserved as a volunteer for our armed services gives up a certain amount of freedom while serving our nation.

    I earned three ribbons during my service from 1969 to 1972 in the Navy. One, the National Defense Service Ribbon, and from the dates I’ve given, I am sure you may have surmised the other two were for serving in Vietnam. I was a cook at a Naval Hospital just outside of Da Nang. During the time I was there I never fired a weapon or faced the enemy. (Yes, some of our civilian workers may have been VC, but I wouldn’t have know this.)

    I’ve recently bought replacements and the last time I wore them was at a celebration of the end of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

  89. 89
    lipwig

    I may be a pacifist myself

    I’m confused – I thought PZ had a son in the US militery.

  90. 90
    ginmar

    86 Nice to know you didn’t read my earlier comment.

    Army. Iraq. You’re going to have to narrow it down. I already described my commander advising us to take that extra breath, and how it saved at least one life. I already described how he found my swearing at stupid procedures to be worthy of mention.

    Now, what about you? Service? War? What the fuck specific shit you want me to quote or ask? My hero remains my CO who trained us specifically to avoid using our weapons at all unless fired upon. If you want me to quote people you’re going to have to be specific about what.

  91. 91
    Setár, Elvenkitty

    Charly #85:

    I am sure that even drone operators differ in skill and those really skilled should be rewarded in appropriate way in order to motivate the rest.

    Someone suggested Steam achievements; that could be a good one. Also helps get rid of the problem of painting one’s kills on the drone/terminal.

  92. 92
    Setár, Elvenkitty

    ginmar #90: frogkisser’s post #86 is quite obvious trolling; it’s JAQing off and trying to discredit you without actually going after what you said.

    You can probably notice the other thing they’re doing, which is handwaving and appealing to Sophisticated Military Theology.

  93. 93
    quidam

    I’m sure that when terrorists use drones to attack a US target they will be declared cowards.

    The 911 pilots were ‘cowards’ – even though they died for their cause. (Strongly religious and devout – yes, cowards no)

    It’s just like how water-boarding is despicable torture when conducted on Americans, but simply ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ when conducted by Americans

  94. 94
    frogkisser

    @ginmar
    I apologize.
    I went back through the thread, and you did indeed provide your background. That was my mistake, and I am sorry.

    Since I demanded yours, it’s only fair I provide mine. I was tactical MI from 87-91, and I served in Gulf War I, where my squad was positioned amongst mechanized infantry and division artillery units. I carried an M60. It was not the same kind of war as the 2nd Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and I do not in any way think my service carried the same degree of risk.

    I also had the good fortune to be mentored by more experienced soldiers who taught “think before you shoot” (and countered most of the “blood makes the grass grow BS shouters).

  95. 95
    ricardodivali having sniffles over stiffles

    I may be a pacifist myself

    I’m confused – I thought PZ had a son in the US military

    Well, they are different people.

  96. 96
    Setár, Elvenkitty

    Okay, correction, frogkisser, you were -not- JAQing off.

    That being said, do read that page and take it into account. JAQing off (or appearing to) is a really easy way to make people lose their patience with you, because it indicates that you’re being really dishonest.

    That being said, you still have a shitload to answer for, considering that you think dehumanization is okay.

  97. 97
    Holms

    Bear in mind though that the PTSD experienced by the drone pilots is not unique to them; the combatants experience it as well as well as the risk of bodily harm. Do not conflate ‘psychological trauma’ with ‘psychological trauma plus risk of dying’.

    While on the point of conflation, do not do the same with ‘performing a useful military function’ (setting aside any ethical concerns for the time being) and ‘perfoming a useful military function while risking your life’. They are not the same.

    Competence awards for doing a task well is one thing, but any mention of bravery or heroism can get the fuck out.

  98. 98
    frogkisser

    @Setár, self-appointed Elf-Sheriff of the FreethoughtBlogs Star Chamber

    I apologized for missing that the post I read earlier in the thread was ginmar providing his background. (I read the post, but in my brain assigned it to qwerty – not an excuse, I should have checked before I got pissed.)

    I am familiar with JAQing off, thanks for the link though.

    I do not think dehumanizing is OK. If I wasn’t clear, I will try to clarify. Dehumanizing the enemy by way of slurs was part of military culture when I was in the military. Given the use of the term bugsplat, I have reason to believe it still is.
    We were told it was to distance us, make us not think of enemy soldiers as humans, so we would be able to kill them if necessary. I thought the ends justified the means at the time. I no longer hold that opinion.

  99. 99
    lipwig

    @95 Well, they are different people

    Yes, they are. But I recall PZ being very proud (with photos and things) when his son entered the military. How can he be a pacifist and be proud of his son entering the military at the same time.

  100. 100
    Setár, Elvenkitty

    Homs #97:

    Bear in mind though that the PTSD experienced by the drone pilots is not unique to them; the combatants experience it as well as well as the risk of bodily harm. Do not conflate ‘psychological trauma’ with ‘psychological trauma plus risk of dying’.

    In the case of psychological trauma specifically, drone pilots not only don’t have to worry about themselves, they don’t have to worry about losing their coworkers either.

    On the other hand, for the soldiers, those other soldiers aren’t just coworkers, they’re the people they live with and whose lives they have to protect as well as their own. And a soldier’s mistake can mean that one or many or even all of those people could get injured, captured or killed.

    Killing people is very likely to be traumatic, I will accept. But I do not accept that it is anywhere near as traumatic for someone safe and snug 3000 miles away as it is for someone who has to deal with all this other traumatic or potentially traumatic shit as well.

    And with military culture the way it’s being described, that seems to mitigate even that last b it of possible trauma. The drone pilots are killing faceless idiots that military culture teaches them to view as non-human.

    Yeah. Really fucking traumatic, that — press a button, kill some A-rabs, save the Free World(TM), another day, another dollar.

  101. 101
    Setár, Elvenkitty

    er. ‘faceless enemies’, not ‘faceless idiots’. I need either food or sleep, probably more likely both.

  102. 102
    stringer

    Why the pissing contest between which job is more traumatic and deserving of medals? Does it really matter? In both cases lives are destroyed and a ribbon on some soldiers chest isn’t going to fix that.

    I have a question for those who have actually been in these sort of situations: Do you appreciate the medals? If so, in what way do you appreciate them?

    I’ve never been anywhere close to a combat situation so I am utterly ignorant of what being in the military (let alone being in the military during war time) is like. I imagine that if I had just gone through near-literal hell I would feel patronized by having a ribbon pinned on my chest.

  103. 103
    Rich Woods

    This probably isn’t fair given that I have mixed feelings about the armed forces, the uses to which politicians put those forces, and the actual resulting effect upon the individuals who volunteer for such service in good faith, but I am reminded of a cartoon, entitled ‘Casualty of War’, in a recent issue of Private Eye, which showed a remote UAV operator sitting in front of his keyboard, saying “Holy shit! I think I’ve broken a nail!”

    Meta: I claim the prize for the most egregious use of commas (Oxford or otherwise) since Charles Dickens.

  104. 104
    Ingdigo Jump

    Why does the fact that they carry their job out from a bunker warrant more contempt than someone who has to risk their life before putting a bullet in someone’s head?

    Because it’s a position that is willing to spend lives but not sacrifice your own.

    “Some of you may die…but that is a risk I’m willing to take”.

    Call it necessary if you want, but it isn’t heroic.

    What bullshit. If you’re a pacifist you need to be consistent. Putting yourself at risk doesn’t magically make the taking of life a laudable heroic action.

    I’m not a pacifist. I just don’t clap my hands and celebrate violence like an idiot.

  105. 105
    Ingdigo Jump

    This is of course ignoring the utter hillarious patronizing that is handing our medals.

    Good job! Here’s a golden banana sticker!

  106. 106
    stringer

    I guess I just don’t see how putting yourself at risk makes the taking of life any better. The end result is the same, and if you find violence contemptible then you should find all soldiering contemptible…right?

  107. 107
    stringer

    To clarify Ing: I don’t think either form of soldiering is inherently heroic. I think we’re on the same page?

  108. 108
    ricardodivali having sniffles over stiffles

    I read Frogkisser’s comment as a statement of fact. Not an endorsement.

    I have seen it in other ways actually. I was going out with an ex army guy… and he wanted to watch some army training real life documentary thingy on tv.

    There was a bit where the training included realistic training for taking an enemy base and one of the guys “shot” another who protocol-wise he could have taken prisoner without bloodshed. He got offhandedly told that killing was wrong and he was very, very naughty. There may have been some finger wagging.

    After the test one of the trainees didn’t do as one of the instructors said or didn’t salute at the appropriate time and what followed was a 3 minute high pitched, bullying, in your face temper tantrum of vitriol from the instructor.

    Because not doing as you were told was far, far more important and deserved far more attention and punishment than the fact that you just killed a guy you didn’t need to.

  109. 109
    Ingdigo Jump

    @Stringer

    Because it’s EASIER if you’re not at risk.

    and if you find violence contemptible then you should find all soldiering contemptible…right?

    You might want to go back and actually read what I said, nit wit.

    You’re also 100% wrong, by contempt in regards to the Vietnam war for example is much grater for the architects of the war who ruined innumerable lives without ever having to leave their offices; especially Nixon for his valuing ‘honor’ over the actual lives of people.

    I have far less sympathy for merchants of death, killers by remote, or generals than I do people put into kill/bekilled scenarios.

  110. 110
    Antiochus Epiphanes

    The end result is the same, and if you find violence contemptible then you should find all soldiering contemptible…right?

    Hmmm. Not always contemptible, but always wrong. When people don’t fully understand the wrong that they do, I (for one) don’t feel contempt. I also think they are doing wrong.

    I find those who knowingly take advantage of others’ willingness to kill as contemptible or moreso as those doing the killing. And as wrong.

  111. 111
    frogkisser

    @stringer re: medals
    I have a few, but I never wore them. I hated wearing the Class A uniform, so whenever possible, I volunteered for other duties (guarding the museum, cleaning up the cemeteries, etc…) so I wouldn’t have participate in the parade or what ever other bullshit reason we had to wear them. And I didn’t want the medals. I wanted to go home.

    @Setár, self-appointed Elf-Sheriff of the FreethoughtBlogs Star Chamber
    Dehumanizing the enemy may be effective for some soldiers, for some time. For me, the shame about how I thought then packed a pretty big wallop when I realized how gruesome it was, the anger at how badly I’d allowed myself to be suckered was even worse. Some of those drone pilots may be in for a rough time down the road. Regardless, it doesn’t make what they are doing heroic. In my opinion, what they are doing doesn’t make them cowards either, any more than the intelligence analyst who gathers information in an air-conditioned hut and provides it to the artillery for a strike is a coward.

  112. 112
    mepmep09

    @ginmar, just logged on to express my relief to see that you are still alive and walking the planet. I hope you are doing as well as is possible. I haven’t read your blog in ages – not sure I could even find it now (assuming it still exists; still on livejournal?) – but the last time I checked in, you were wrestling with some pretty bad PTSD.

    I would also like to express my profound appreciation for your reporting from Iraq back in the day, and for all your individual efforts to add the occasional teaspoon’s worth of decency and humanity to an environment where death, degradation, and destruction were being so generously ladled out. I largely gave up on American “journalism” in those days – at least that of the big commercial media variety – but found myself much better informed by folks like you (and even that rightie Jason van Steenwyk, before he went full wingnut upon his return Stateside).

    So I’ll say ‘thank you for your service’, not so much for your official role in that Great Unnecessary (Mis)Adventure, but for your making the best of a very shitty situation.

    Keep on keepin’ on, as best you can.

  113. 113
    Matt Penfold

    Sure, I read the article. But I don’t assume that because THAT medal is awarded for heroism, then THIS medal must be awarded for it as well. All the snark seems to be that this medal is for bravery behind the computer screen, when the only one claiming that is the idiot author of the article.

    So you read it but did not understand it. Not sure that makes you look much better to be honest.

  114. 114
    Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :)

    Also we are de sensitised to killing via computers through video games.

    Not this shit again.

  115. 115
    Setár, Elvenkitty

    Azkyroth #114: Yeah, no. The desensitization comes from a combination of being detached physically from the events, not having oneself or one’s comrade’s/livingmates put at risk, and military culture teaching them to dehumanize the enemy and view them as an Evil Other.

    The last one is the big one.

  116. 116
    ginmar

    Frogkisser, I appreciate the clarification. In my case, I started out as what’s now 37E—psyops/linguist, aimed at Cold War combatants, and specializing in stopping battles before they started——and then switching to 97E, interrogator/linguist. A good interrogator does not raise their voice if they can avoid it, and frankly, I found that being a woman was a big advantage in the Middle East, where often times the men will share their worries about their daughters, wives, and so forth with you, where they will not do so with males. Theoretically, I was a desk jockey. In reality, I had to cross train as a combat lifesaver/turret gunner—-we used the .249, and after two months in country the weight of the gun shield and the weapon with a full box of ammo was about two thirds my body weight. I had lost so much weight so fast I didn’t even know it.

    All soldiers face a choice. For me, it came the day after the battle, during which what seemed like the entire city rained down small arms fire, RPGs, and mortars on us (all forty of us, plus some civilians.) Do you distrust people as a matter of course, which hurts them? Or do you take a chance on everyone, and place yourself at risk?

    mepmep09 I still blog but it’s gotten much more difficult, thanks to the VA refusing to listen to me about my meds. Most recently, my house was burglarized while I was in it, and the thieves destroyed shit for the sheer joy of it and the cops were utter assholes. The thieves got all my medication while my fucking shit of a shrink dithered about one of her little games—-you know, forcing me into some situation where she could ‘prove’ that I was just malingering or something—-so I went through abrupt withdrawal from my meds during one of the hottest spells my part of the country experienced. Cue onset of full blown flashbacks, where your body reacts and your mind tries to tell you, You’re home, but your body is seeing palm tree shapes like phantoms over reality because the VA does shit for female vets. Because, you know, we’re not really in combat. You don’t know where you are, and it’s one of the most frightening things I’ve ever experienced, and this shrink is so inept that she’s actively dangerous. I’ve been on one med for over five years, and am now taking twice the dose to get any relief at all. She doesn’t care.

    As for medals, well, like I said, I threw mine in the drink and I don’t care. I got a shit ton of combat patches from units we did missions with and I tossed them all aside when I figured out the patch just means you were in a combat zone, not actual combat. I’m eligible for a CIB, but the guys I was with that day dropped off the radar, at least one due to PTSD. I actually had some officers ask to see one of my combat patch letters, because they wanted the nifty meaningless patch, even though they never had a shot fired at them.

    Anybody who makes light of killing, even during war, should not be in the service. It is a terrible thing to take any life at all, and I’m glad I don’t know to this day if I ever did so. Particularly after things like the reveal of the chopper gun camera footage that depicted firing on photographers and children and an ambulance, such a light attitude means that mistakes are not treated with any gravity or concern at all.

    The military hands out medals for the smallest trifles but what matters to me is what my CO thinks of me. People like him made the military the first place in my life I was ever treated like a full human being first, and not just a woman who was judged on the fuckable/not fuckable scale of civilian life.

  117. 117
    frogkisser

    @ginmar
    Thank you for being so gracious about my mistake and apology. And HOLY GUACAMOLE!!! I was a 98G, and when was able to get out and translate (as opposed to being in the hut transcribing and triangulating) the shock when I opened my mouth and spoke Arabic was palpable and pretty much cleared any heat from the discussion for a while. With the kevlar and the flak vests and the MOP-gear and the goggles and the face scarf for the sand, I don’t think anyone realized I was female until I talked.

    And word, Word, WORD about the VA and female vets not being *real* soldiers.

  118. 118
    petzl20

    It’s rather annoying hearing the self-righteous “dehumanization is never ok!!1!” rant.

    It exists in a vacuum as to how you get one human to kill another human.

    How do you get to be an effective soldier whose goal is to kill other human beings? By empathy?

    Did you even see the opening of “Patton”?

  119. 119
    ginmar

    People should not dehumanize the enemy. For one thing, they might not be the enemy. We saw neighbors settling old grudges. And let’s face it, we fucked over the Iraqis so very badly so many times. First time in ’91, when Bush I urged them to rebel and they did and the fucker didn’t back their play. That would have worked, too, even if all he did was give them the air cover Obama supplied to Libya. Saddam killed them by the thousands, and when we invaded the second time, those big graves everybody was congratulating each other, because look at what a monster Hussein is? Those were the direct result of Bush I abandoning the Iraqis who trusted him. Then there was the blockade and the no fly zone, which resulted in a whole generation of people so malnourished for so long I’d find myself addressing what I thought was a scrawny twelve-year-old only to realize I was in fact talking to a twenty-year-old man. All we had to do was leave their Army in place, realize the Ba’ath Party membership was mostly pro forma, and give all those Halliburton jobs to the Iraqis, thus saving trillions of bucks and doing the right fucking thing. It took me years to articulate this shit and even now it blurts out every chance I get. We could have done so much fucking good in that country for the sheer joy of it for the price of those fucking rented fancy SUVs that those fucking Halliburton assholes insisted they had to have, and which got promptly IDed by the insurgents, who targeted them relentlessly in about five seconds after “Shock and Awe.” Millions of dollars spent on luxury vehicles that were destined to be attacked, blown up, and destroyed.

  120. 120
    frogkisser

    @petzl20
    Just because it’s effective doesn’t mean it’s right. I’m not interested in looking for effective alternatives for getting people acclimated to the idea of killing people.

  121. 121
    ginmar

    Frogkisser, I didn’t know any Arabic when I got there and have probably lost most of it since then. But I remember my first exchange with a real live Iraqi made it extremely hard not to like them. They’re not especially religious, they go to Mosque once a week, and they looked at my pictures of cats very politely, even though I used to spring them on them without warning when they said, “Missus? Baby?”

    We were on the Iran border one day when a guy came up to me to make one of those confessions they make to women. “I’m a bad Muslim,” he said.

    Well, I figured this was going to be the key to understanding the culture, an amazing insight, and I leaned in eagerly. “Why’s that?”

    He paused, looked around guiltily, and then confessed: “I like bi-er.

    I had a moment of thunderstruckedness, then I blurted out, “OMG, I’m a bad Muslim too!”

    He called the IPs around, translated the little exchange and all of them fell over, laughing. How on earth can you not like people who laugh at your jokes? And like beer? And keep pictures of their pets and kids mixed together in their wallets? And so many other things?

  122. 122
    ginmar

    Pezlo what the fuckever your name is, a good soldier is not one who dehumanizes. Patton was strategically brilliant but humanity deficient, and also he was seventy years ago. He was an asshole.

  123. 123
    frogkisser

    @ginmar
    I had virtually no interactions with the Iraqis. (The interactions with the Saudis were a mixed bag. Great: A market owner bringing his daughters out to meet the American woman soldier who speaks Arabic! Not so much: Being harassed by police because I was sitting in the front seat of a vehicle with two male soldiers.) I did listen to a LOT of Iraqi soldiers talk, and they talked about the same things we did – bad food, too hot/cold, blisters, bugs, generic soldiers complaints. I think that’s when some of my toxic thinking started to unravel. They were complaining about the same things we were, and they had it a lot worse. The few months between coming home and ETS were pretty awful, and realizing what was happening to the Kurds and the Iraqis who rebelled was the worst.

  124. 124
    petzl20

    What you’re objecting to is WAR. Which I’m fine with. What I’m not fine with is, you don’t even know what you’re objecting to. If they killed politely you’d be ok with it? You’re objecting to war and killing and armed conflict. So talk about that, not the “dehumanizing” argument; that’s what follows from war and convincing your soldier to kill that nice guy in the enemy lines.

    I’m not saying it’s “right” or “good” to dehumanize when you’re a soldier, but it’s about the only coping technique that “works.” What army since 2000 BC does not have come component of this in their training?

    Yes, Patton was an asshole, a great asshole, in fact. He saved lives, because he killed efficiently and quickly in his battles, achieving his objectives with fewer casualties than other generals would have.

    (ginmar — good for you! whenever my arguments are bankrupt, I revert to namecalling, also.)

  125. 125
    ginmar

    Yeah, Petzlo, great argument is telling a veteran what her argument is, so that it makes you look like less of an asshole. Here’s a porcupine, asswipe.

    frogkisser the chilling moment for me was when we realized at least some of the IPs were insurgents. We were pulling out of a meet with some local cops, and waving and smiling, and one of the cops was saying, “Curse all your mothers.” Smiling.

    I like how Petzlo is telling us how to conduct war, and what it is. When it’s pretty clear it’s what he wants it to be and what he needs it to be.

    I burned my interrogation notebook in the burn barrel because interviewing Cold War soldiers is a very different thing from interviewing Hot War soldiers. Utterly useless.

  126. 126
    Ingdigo Jump

    Frogkisser, I didn’t know any Arabic when I got there and have probably lost most of it since then. But I remember my first exchange with a real live Iraqi made it extremely hard not to like them. They’re not especially religious, they go to Mosque once a week, and they looked at my pictures of cats very politely, even though I used to spring them on them without warning when they said, “Missus? Baby?”

    We were on the Iran border one day when a guy came up to me to make one of those confessions they make to women. “I’m a bad Muslim,” he said.

    Well, I figured this was going to be the key to understanding the culture, an amazing insight, and I leaned in eagerly. “Why’s that?”

    He paused, looked around guiltily, and then confessed: “I like bi-er.”

    I had a moment of thunderstruckedness, then I blurted out, “OMG, I’m a bad Muslim too!”

    He called the IPs around, translated the little exchange and all of them fell over, laughing. How on earth can you not like people who laugh at your jokes? And like beer? And keep pictures of their pets and kids mixed together in their wallets? And so many other things?

    *smacks StevoR over the head*

    ARE

    *SMACK*

    YOU

    *SMACK*

    PAYING

    *SMACK*

    ATTENTION?

    *SMACK SMACK SMACK SMACK SMACK FACE DESK*

  127. 127
    madscientist

    Goddamn. And I thought it was bad way back when that dipshit Westmoreland was made out to be some sort of hero – then Norman Dummkopf. At least lunatics like Patterson were actually frequently out where they could be shot at. Once upon a time the medals were generally not handed out just for being subjected to the hazards of the job (except perhaps for the Purple Heart) – you had to do something special. Hell, I’d rather give the medals to Lockheed-Martin and Northrop-Grumman than to these RC operators.

  128. 128
    Ingdigo Jump

    Yes, Patton was an asshole, a great asshole, in fact. He saved lives, because he killed efficiently and quickly in his battles, achieving his objectives with fewer casualties than other generals would have.

    Fewer casualties on whose side?

  129. 129
    sparky_ca

    @Frogkisser

    When were you in Saudi? I was there helping patrol the no fly zone in the 90′s myself.

    Sparky

  130. 130
    feralboy12

    “When you put your hand into a bunch of goo that a moment before was your best friend’s lunch, you’ll know what to do.”

    Gen. George S. Patton, updated

  131. 131
    frogkisser

    @sparky_ca
    I was in Dhahran and Dammam when I was in cities. Mostly, we were out in the desert, and I don’t remember the names of the towns nearby. I was home by May of 91.

  132. 132
    sparky_ca

    @frogkisser,

    I was hoping that you were one of the few other females that were on base with me while I was in Saudi.

    I was there in June of 96, Det out of Rota, Spain.

    I was not in combat; as a sailor, we don’t tend to have weapons that aren’t long range or require a plane or a ship to carry. I’m told we are supposed to sit 30 miles offshore and shoot officers at the enemy. But I was witness to some really awful, awful things while deployed.

    Of course, as a female vet, it’s not possible for me to get PTSD, because women don’t serve in combat.

    Sparky

  133. 133
    frogkisser

    @sparky_ca
    Pleasure to meet another female vet.
    As for my nonexistent PTSD, I’ll just be glad when the neighborhood hooligans finally run out of bottle rockets.

  134. 134
    Antiochus Epiphanes

    All we had to do was leave their Army in place, realize the Ba’ath Party membership was mostly pro forma, and give all those Halliburton jobs to the Iraqis, thus saving trillions of bucks and doing the right fucking thing.

    I just listened* to No End In Sight yesterday. I haven’t heard more chilling account of vile stupidity.

    I still would have opposed the war even if we hadn’t planned to screw the pooch. Still. *erk*

    *Its a movie, but I need my eyes to work, so I just listen. It makes little difference in many documentaries.

  135. 135
    sparky_ca

    @Frogkisser

    yeah, I’m not horribly found of the 4th of July celebrations either, but it’s the big fireworks that get me more than the bottle rockets, but I was exposed to a bigger explosion than you probably were. I never had to deal much with small arms fire or mortars.

    Back to the OP. There is a difference between ribbons and medals. I don’t so much mind if the drone pilots get a ribbon or two for doing good work or being a skilled pilot. I just don’t think they deserve a medal, much less a high level medal that gets you points for sitting in Nevada and shooting people on a screen, while everyone else is in the Sandbox.

    I think the best way I can articulate it is along the lines of if you are there in person, there is the high probability of your targets shooting at you, while flying a drone you are safe in an air conditioned room with no chance of being harmed by your target. Add on the brutal conditions of the climate, armor, and not having a real safe place while there, I think the front line troops give more of themselves than a drone pilot.

    Sparky

  136. 136
    Amphiox

    Fewer casualties on whose side?

    Ideally it would be both sides – a well conducted battle ending in swift decisive victory has the theoretical possibility of killing less people on both sides in the long run.

    But that would be something really hard to verify in actual real life situations.

    Sun Tzu was probably was the earliest who said it best, though – the very best generals are the ones who achieve their objectives without having to resort to fighting any battles at all. That way no one dies.

  137. 137
    mrfat

    I’m conflicted because some part of me doesn’t want them to get the same medals some got while serving on the the ground, but me and many others wouldn’t be here if a drone pilot hadn’t walked us out of an ambush he will forever be my hero.As some others have said medals are shiny bits of tin and pretty ribbons, I know i chucked a mine into the sand right after they were awarded as a corpsman who had lost marines i didn’t deserve them.

  138. 138
    petzl20

    ginmalo- you’re obviously a victim of PTSD. hope you get some help.

  139. 139
    ginmar

    Can somebody ban this motherfucker?

  140. 140
    petzl20

    i say we ban the people who can’t stop calling people she disagrees with, ever so slightly, “assholes” and “motherfuckers.”

  141. 141
    ballio

    @frogkiser

    I disagree: it seems a mistake to personify an institution (by calling it cowardly) when there are individuals to whom the term applies more directly.

  142. 142
    ginmar

    Dipshit because insulting someone’s sanity is so intellectual.

    You haven’t earned anything else. Defending killing, defending a notoriously bloodthirsty and domineering general, and using mental illness as a slut among at least three vets, at least two of whom who had discussed PTSD……You should be grateful I haven’t called you worse.

  143. 143
    birgerjohansson

    It is interesting to compare this to some of the stuff that resulted in medals during WWII.
    Some of the highest performers were German*, but it does not negate the fact that they put their own lives on the line.

    *Like the Tiger commander that had blown up a hundred tanks before he succumbed to a British 17-pounder. Or Rudel, the Stuka pilot who destroyed 512 tanks and one battleship. Or the Messerschmitt pilot who shot down more than 300 aircraft.
    — — — — —
    The Japanese soldiers were expected to die as a matter of course. If the walls of dead blocked the view of enemy machine gun positions, so much better.

  144. 144
    petzl20

    gilamonster– if what you get from what i’ve said is i “defend killing” go back to your hole and keep reading until you’ve reached high school equivalency. and as for Patton, are you seriously going to argue that he’s a bad general? if you get away with that, then there are no vets in this thread.

  145. 145
    The Swordfish, Ambulatory Memory Leak

    Ginmar, I just want thank you so much for speaking about this. I’d had no idea the VA was particularly discriminatory towards female veterans; that’s something that needs to be shouted from the fucking rooftops. I’ve never heard a single news outlet so much as mention it, which is beyond shameful.

    petzl20 @ 118

    Did you even see the opening of “Patton”?

    Huh, I guess my extensive personal studies of histories of oppressive regimes and military history are totally invalidated by having never seen a particular fucking movie. Oh well! I guess since a particular fucking movie suggests dehumanization is a good idea in wartime, the historical effects of dehumanization is just totally fucking irrelevant!

    By way of rejoinder I’d suggest you read Night by Elie Wiesel, but since you appear able to understand things only through fun-sized modern media, I’ll refer you to the excellent (if gut-wrenching) Maus by Art Spiegelman to give you a fucking clue about what dehumanization actually does. It shouldn’t be too hard even for you to read; it’s illustrated and everything!

    (Cue screams of “GODWIN!!1!” in 5, 4, 3…)

    ginmalo- you’re obviously a victim of PTSD. hope you get some help.

    petzl20, you’re obviously a condescending asswipe. I hope you get some decaying porcupine. I’m going to refrain from jumping to the conclusion that you’re trying to dismiss what she has to say because of PTSD, because I desperately want to believe that nobody would be so fucking horrible.

  146. 146
    HappiestSadist, Repellent Little Martyr

    Petzl, you piece of fucking waste, shut the fuck up. You know less than fucking nothing about what you’re talking about, and you’re still fucking condesplaining to soldiers who WERE FUCKING THERE. You unbelievable turd.

    And using PTSD as a slur, very fucking intellectual. Guess what, douchewicket? You are officially welcome to eat the corn out of my shit.

  147. 147
    The Swordfish, Ambulatory Memory Leak

    ginmar @ 142

    and using mental illness as a slut among at least three vets, at least two of whom who had discussed PTSD……

    Ah, so the asswipe really is that horrible. Welp, I second the request for the banhammer.

  148. 148
    frogkisser

    @ballio
    I’m going to think on your position (that the cowardice lies with the individuals piloting the drones) for a bit. I see parallels between what I did in the military and what they do now. I don’t know if I’m going to come around to your way of thinking, but I’m going to try to see if my experience is blocking me from seeing something valid.

    @petzl20
    You are a pearl clutching, taint huffing, patronizing, feces fondling carbuncle on a rotting dead porcupine’s backside. Because someone has PTSD, their arguments aren’t valid? Go back to masturbating over your idol Patton.

  149. 149
    petzl20

    you guys are right. we need to teach soldiers empathy training not marksmanship. my bad. we need horticulture and flower arrangement so they can properly place cut flowers in enemies’ gun barrels. and we need to teach grammar and diction so they can rant more impressively on blog threads.

  150. 150
    ginmar

    The “t” in “Slut” should be an “R”, obviously.

    If you want to grasp how horrible the VA is to women veterans, here’s two examples from my own delightful medical history:

    The first therapy group they put me in was male REMFs.

    Sex offenders. Rapists. Wife beaters. Ex cops. Current cops. Former battalion commanders who had sexually harassed their female soldiers by the dozen.

    This was after it had taken me two years to discuss an incident. In Iraq. That kind of incident. Which I had discussed with this therapist.

    My therapist’s response? “There’s jerks everywhere.”

    And the constant refrain of, “Oh, we don’t need special programs for women.”

    I can’t drive myself to the hospital. They used to give me transportation. Then they cut it off. Then they refused to give me my meds—four serious types of medication, including anti-seizure medication. It smacked of parents letting a kid having a tantrum wear themselves out and realize the parents could just outlast them.

    I had seizures.

    I have a bleeding ulcer, migraines that make me lose my sight and sometimes fall down, and injuries that have been neglected so long that they’re now affecting other parts of my body. My doctor’s comment? “Oh, those are just chronic injuries.” No treatment. I didn’t have any of those before Iraq. In fact, I was a ballet dancer before I joined the Army. Every woman who goes through that bullshit ‘womens’ clinic’ gets diagnosed with arthritis….and anything but service-connected PTSD. I fought them for four years. By that time the PTSD symptoms included stuff I’d never even imagined existed before. By that time the VA had given me the wrong medication—-penicillin!—-at least once, given me a skin infection via insanitary conditions, and neglected to find a jaw abscess. My therapist responded to a request for new meds by giving me a medication that was not appropriate for what I have, and might have killed me if I had taken it as directed.

    That’s just a taste.

  151. 151
    HappiestSadist, Repellent Little Martyr

    petzl: Seriously, that corn ain’t gonna eat itself. And I just ate chili.

  152. 152
    sparky_ca

    @petzl20

    Seriously, what the fuck is your damage? I try not to pay attention to shits like you because it sends me into HULK SMASH RAGE to even acknowledge your comments, but to start shit with someone like ginmar? My disgust for you knows no bounds.

    Congratulations. In all my time reading this blog both here and on Sci blogs, you are the first person I’ve ever wanted to kill file.

    Sparky

  153. 153
    ginmar

    I have PTSD, to respond to the asshole in question. I don’t have stupid. What’s your excuse, porcupineophiliac?

    (Is there a Latin term for someone who practices necrophilia with deceased porcupines? Because if there isn’t, there obviously should be.)

  154. 154
    petzl20

    sadist, i can only deal with one babykiller at a time, ok?

  155. 155
    ginmar

    Christ, can the trolls have to take an exam or something in remedial trolling? Or putting up a fucking pretense at all?

    And we should start a pool or something.

  156. 156
    HappiestSadist, Repellent Little Martyr

    Nah, not military, petey, m’boy, my PTSD is the regular civilian kind. I’m just not a waste of fucking carbon like yourself, and actually prefer my opinions to be fact-based.

    Now just to be nice, you’re welcome to the utensil of your choice while helping yourself to that corn.

  157. 157
    Josh, Official SpokesGay

    petzl: Seriously, that corn ain’t gonna eat itself. And I just ate chili.

    Holy fuck you’re killing me!

  158. 158
    HappiestSadist, Repellent Little Martyr

    Josh: *curtseybow*

  159. 159
    The Swordfish, Ambulatory Memory Leak

    @Ginmar: I have no words. Apart from “I’m so fucking sorry.”

    Regarding words for porcupines: “herinaciomortophilia” is the best Latin can do, as far as I know, or “necroherinaciophilia” if one wants to kludge together something out of two parts Greek and one part Latin. Anyone here know enough Greek to come up with a better one?

  160. 160
    Ingdigo Jump

    Did you even see the opening of “Patton”?

    Did you even see Apocalypse Now?

  161. 161
    Ingdigo Jump

    I thought we were going to retire the porcupines?

    I do however have a Patton hat filled with wasps that I’d like someone to wear.

  162. 162
    Antiochus Epiphanes

    you guys are right. we need to teach soldiers empathy training not marksmanship. my bad. we need horticulture and flower arrangement so they can properly place cut flowers in enemies’ gun barrels. and we need to teach grammar and diction so they can rant more impressively on blog threads.

    We need to provide our young men and women with opportunities don’t require them to kill people.

  163. 163
    Antiochus Epiphanes

    Cuz, like, we don’t really need to kill anyone as it turns out.

  164. 164
    ginmar

    This fool thinks he’s joking. Would it have killed the powers that be to let the troops know that at least one common hand gesture in America means exactly the opposite in Iraq, and as a result of that miscommunication hundreds of Iraqis died? What about the deadly insult of showing the sole of one’s foot to someone, much less touching them with it? But it’s the same thing with this asshole as with those Jack Bauer assholes who think interrogation is shouting and pounding the table. What it really is, is, “Hey, dude, you want a cup of coffee? Some Gummi Bears? I got halal ones.” They’d do the macho way even if they’re guaranteed it is going to ruin the mission and hurt their supposed buddies. Because it’s macho and they’re stupid.

    Any good soldier should hate war, and I say that as a soldier whose father fought in WWII, both of whose grandfathers fought in WWI, whose great uncles fought in the Spanish American war and whose great great grandfather fought at Gettysburg. I had a great-great-great-aw-fuck-it-I-lost-count grandfather march into Moscow with Napoleon. You know how I got there? By learning the language. Not a shot fired.

    We invaded Iraq based on two lies; that Saddam had WMDs and that he had something to do with 9/11. Neither was true. It seems to me that if you’re going to inflict that much damage on a nation you owe them the courtesy of learning at least some of their customs and polite phrases, if only to reduce the hostility directed at your own troops. Cheaper than bullets, right? Unless Halliburton is selling them and Bush and Cheney are buying them, of course.

    Frankly, I’m bewildered by all these movies and TV Shows showing these tense interrogations where there’s shouting and table pounding and crap like that. Don’t even get me started on waterboarding. See, to the extent that one may generalize, it’s not getting Iraqis to talk that I had the problem with. It was shutting them up that kept me up at nights. It was hard to keep up with them. Be nice to them, in the slightest way, and they handed over old munitions, actual insurgents, ammo dumps, and material assistance. We had several guys risking their lives to try and warn us away from dangerous situations. We had guys get killed for helping us. All that? Courtesy. Too much of a price to pay, it seems. You could lift an Iraqi out of permanent poverty, into financial security and home ownership with a bounty of $2500, which is less than we spent on Halliburton perks. College, new cars to drive off and on as cabs and bring in steady income……too much to pay to people whose country we gutted.

    Oh, yeah. Flower arranging, asshole. What a silly stupid thing.

  165. 165
    Lyn M: ADM MinTruthiness

    @Swordfish

    I have really excellent dog latin. How about necrohystriphilia?

  166. 166
    Lyn M: ADM MinTruthiness

    @ petzl20

    sadist, i can only deal with one babykiller at a time, ok?

    Dude, this is Pharyngula. We’re ALL babykiller/eaters. In fact, I bet happiestsadist forgot to mention the babyribs mixed in with the corn. Help yourself!

  167. 167
    Lyn M: ADM MinTruthiness

    D’OH!

    @ petzl20

    sadist, i can only deal with one babykiller at a time, ok?

    Dude, this is Pharyngula. We’re ALL babykiller/eaters. In fact, I bet happiestsadist forgot to mention the babyribs mixed in with the corn. Help yourself!

  168. 168
    The Swordfish, Ambulatory Memory Leak

    Yes. “Necrohystriphilia” flows much better. :D

    @ginmar:

    And that’s after all the crap the US has been doing to that region for decades. And for all that, people in the US just hate those “terrorists.” I once caught one of my (former, for obvious reasons) friends on Facebook screaming that we should just nuke the entire Middle East off the map (and he wasn’t even a remotely wingnutty person, yet he was acting like it was something totally uncontroversial), and I can’t imagine that’s a particularly uncommon feeling — I live in probably the most hippie-tastic city in the US, and even here, a lot people still tend to think of our wars there as being against the entire local population. The media and government have done a masterful job of painting Arabs as “The Enemy”, and of anyone remotely associated with al-Qā’ida & co. as HARDENED MURDERING BABY-EATING RELIGIOUS FANATICS WHO KNOW THINGS BUT WON’T TALK UNLESS WE BEAT, RAPE, AND WATERBOARD THEM and also a bunch of innocents but who cares about them anyway ‘COZ TERRORISM AN’ WHY ARE YOU SOFT ON NATIONAL SECURITY, YOU COMMIE PINKO NAZI SOCIALIST!?

    Seriously, the only person in the media I’ve ever seen treat the people of Afghanistan and Iraq (to name but two of the countries the US’s leadership saw fit to ponderously squish beneath our enormous, bloated backside) remotely fairly is Richard Engel. Everyone else seems content to promulgate the USG’s dehumanizing slander.

  169. 169
    ballio

    @frogkisser
    that you are giving it consideration is flattering. I appreciate any further discussion.

  170. 170
    phoenicianromans

    When are people going to acknowledge the heroism of that great American, Ted Kaczynski? Imagine how much courage it took for him to mail off 15 bombs and stick one in an airliner, bravely accepting the likelihood of killing people remotely.

    Perhaps they could stick Kaczynski’s face on this medal as teh inspiration for their work?

  171. 171
    nogahdznoughmasters

    I was until very recently A UAV pilot in the Air Force. I agree that there shouldn’t be medals given away for “heroism” either. Many soldiers’ lives have been saved by the CAS missions that we flew, however. We got “combat support” medals (lots of them) and everyone knew they weren’t worth as much as the regular Air Medal even. BTW there are a lot of misconceptions about the UAV mission by “liberals” (quotes because I am one). For instance the “bugsplat” being a term for civilian death is completely erroneous, it’s based off a computer modeling program. Not as sensational I know.

  172. 172
    fallingwhale

    If you want to frame an army after the actions of a WWII desert general why would you go with Patton?
    Rommel is a better teacher for how to face the enemy. He preferred capturing targets to killing them, had his men share beer with prisoners, and the only executions he called for were his officers that disobeyed his direct orders and attempted to execute Jewish POWs.

    “Krieg ohne Hass” ‘War without hate’ – Rommel

    Necrohystriphilia implies enjoyment from such a happening; penetro podex a hystrico is as close as I can get it.

    http://www.archives.nd.edu/cgi-bin/lookdown.pl
    That could help.

  173. 173
    mrfat

    nogahdznoughmasters thanks for posting. petzl20 thanks for making lite of PTSD and using it as a slur to talk down to a veteran who was telling us the very true challenges a women has in the military.

  174. 174
    ginmar

    Did Sadist make her chilli with baby? Because with rosemary and corn that could be lethal.

    168 It’s absolutely astonishing to me how different the reality is from the….slander. I agree about Engel, too; he’s practically the only foreign correspondent who knows what he’s talking about, and who speaks Arabic. The nervousness with which the media reports the Arab Spring, and now summer is striking.

    I always wonder how many Iraqis now have PTSD themselves—-and how many had it as a result of previous US abuses. It’s maddening, to see someone like Saddam Hussein deposed and then have the US adopt the very same tactics. Thanks to Bush and the encroaching effect of creeping conservatism, one cannot merely argue the morality of things like torture and Islamophobia. Once you argue the practically of things, the morality gets left behind.

    Iraqi casualties at Saddam’s hands were regularly over-reported—-and then vanished once it became apparent how old many of the graves were. Apparently Americans don’t care about the people they’re supposedly ‘liberating’ unless a sufficient number of them are killed.

    AQ has absolutely no operational capability in the United States. None. Ever notice how all the big scary plots reported by the FBI involve losers who are arguing about what color boots they should wear—and some paid FBI informant who needs to barter for a lesser sentence for something? I’m far more concerned about people like Ted Kacsynski or the Michigan Militia, or the people who are so stupid they must believe that Obama is an imposter of some sort.

    9/11 was a once-in-a-lifetime thing. They won’t find another charismatic rich guy like bin Laden again in a while and until then AQ’s most usual victim will remain other Muslims—in countries other than the US. Meanwhile, we have these stupid Baggers toting guns around and making threats.

  175. 175
    mrfat

    Sorry for the double post but i wanted to thank the other veterans and the regulars of pharyngula for giving the me the confidence to talk since all to often people just want war stories.

  176. 176
    The Swordfish, Ambulatory Memory Leak

    The nervousness with which the media reports the Arab Spring, and now summer is striking.

    No kidding. And even when they did report on it, it was pretty much universally framed as a “social media” revolution, cheerleading for US companies like Twitter and Facebook, whose services really had fuck all to do with the Arab Spring. And replete with condescending head-patting of the Arab peoples for figuring out how to use GLORIOUS AMERICAN TECHNOLOGY to organize their revolutions, never mind that they actually didn’t use Twitter or Facebook for anything remotely significant. It’s like everything remotely good must ALWAYS be attributed to Western nations in some capacity. Ugh.

    AQ has absolutely no operational capability in the United States. None. Ever notice how all the big scary plots reported by the FBI involve losers who are arguing about what color boots they should wear—and some paid FBI informant who needs to barter for a lesser sentence for something? I’m far more concerned about people like Ted Kacsynski or the Michigan Militia, or the people who are so stupid they must believe that Obama is an imposter of some sort.

    QFT.

  177. 177
    ibyea

    @ginmar
    Yeah, that is what strikes me wrong the most about the propaganda of “evil terrorist Muslims”. The majority of the victims of Al Qaeda are Muslims. All the bombings they do, they do it in Muslim majority countries. Their attack in the US was a one off event.

  178. 178
    Rip Steakface

    By way of rejoinder I’d suggest you read Night by Elie Wiesel, but since you appear able to understand things only through fun-sized modern media, I’ll refer you to the excellent (if gut-wrenching) Maus by Art Spiegelman to give you a fucking clue about what dehumanization actually does. It shouldn’t be too hard even for you to read; it’s illustrated and everything!

    Maus was one of the books I read in an American Ethnic Literature course my freshman year of college. I found Night by Elie Wiesel to be a bit more… terrifying, but that was when I was a freshman in high school. It wasn’t the first time I had heard about what happened in the Holocaust (I watched the History Channel when it was the Hitler Channel), but it was the first primary source.

  179. 179
    mepmep09

    Well @ginmar, I found your blog (I won’t link it, since you don’t) – same place as it always was. My compooter at work wouldn’t even acknowledge the existence of livejournal.com, so I assume it is blocked there. [I do miss the ostrich gravie though; always thought of you whenever I saw that elsewhere on the intertoobz.]

    If you ever think you would benefit from retaining a lawyer with specialization in VA issues; or a personally funded shrink; or a secure U-Store-It kind of facility for stuff you don’t want burglars to swipe… but you lack the funds for such things, I hope you would consider a fundraiser. I’ll be there for that.

    Take care.

  180. 180
    ginmar

    MepmepMy friends kind of strongarmd me into taking money for the new locks as it is. I’m more comfy with raising money for other folks, but my friends have basically been criticizing me for being stubborn.

    Ing, who is StevoR?

    176 ….I simply don’t get it. Do different clothes make that much of a difference? If you know nothing about Islam truthful information is easy to find. And let’s face it—if the Republicans had the sense they gave gravel, they’d notice that they’re losing a huge voting bloc in American Muslims who flee to this country from terrorists or from tyrannical regimes.

    Terrorism and terrorists are very easy to grasp. They’re not glamorous super spies. More often than that they’re malnourished hopeless young men who can ‘read’ only the Koran and have no realistic job prospects. Bin Laden was unusual in the funds he had and the quality of ‘hired help’ he got for 9/11. Notice that as of May in the year he was killed, he still hadn’t picked so much as personnel for this supposedly grand anniversary attack to mark 9/11′s tenth year anniversary. Plots like that take years to plan, train personnel, and execute. That indicates to me bin Laden didn’t have the kind of resources he once had, in any way.

    Attacks by so-called MUslims—–Richard Reid was more of a loser low-level crook who converted to Islam for the food in prison than any true fanatic——are disproportionately reported in terms of actual percentages. As I said, they almost always involve losers with no capability in training and arms, and at least one paid informant who moves the plot along. They’re talked up a great deal, but there’s almost nothing there.

    In Iraq, when Rumsfeld dissolved the Army, that left bases and munitions unguarded, and people flooded in and seized tons of mortars and RPGs and explosive material, which they turned into IEDs and VBEIDs. Significantly, there were NO WMDs except for ones that had been overlooked for years. WMD attacks would have been a game changer and would have ended the war in late 2003, at the very latest, due to the protective measures the troops would have had to take—-and the resultant exponential increase in deaths, whether they were chemical, biological, or heat related. Morale would have disappeared. Insurgents/terrorists are a supremely practical bunch. There is no ticking time bomb. There is no convenient red flashing countdown that tells the bomb disposal guys how long they have to disarm the device. (And usually the EOD guys just blow the thing up.) There is a pressure device of some sort, or there is some lookout with a cheap cell phone, poised to dial a number. The bomb placer guy is expendable; the bombmaker is not. For everybody who defends waterboarding, too, I have to say: everyone wants to talk. Whether to brag or to confess, it has to come out. All you have to do is find that chink, and they’ll talk, but it’s not fast, and you get them to talk by treating them like a human being. For some of them, it’s a novel experience in that it’s new.

    AQ does not have access to that kind of thing in the US, and in the US they face far greater resistance from their own ‘community’ than they do in Iraq, where they can kill people with impunity. I say ‘their community’ because the community of American Muslims largely rejects these criminals. Fully forty percent of suspicious incidents reported to the FBI came from American Muslims who, I must point out again, are trying to get away from this crap.

    Meanwhile, you have men like James G. Cummings, whose case was not widely-reported in the media. Yeah, I could live next to any Muslim community center and except for rightwing assholes attacking the place, I’d feel perfectly safe. Meanwhile, the Republican Party boos at a gay soldier on active duty, boasts are eliminating health care as if that’s something to be proud of and aims to send women back to a stage many women in many MIddle Eastern countries can’t imagine.

  181. 181
    gravityisjustatheory

    petzl20

    12 July 2012 at 3:58 pm

    It’s rather annoying hearing the self-righteous “dehumanization is never ok!!1!” rant.

    It exists in a vacuum as to how you get one human to kill another human.

    How do you get to be an effective soldier whose goal is to kill other human beings? By empathy?

    Warning! Un-cited anecdote approaching!

    I heard recently an interesting claim about how the British Army trains and trained its soldiers to fight.

    In the 80s and 90s, the training regime apparently centred around the idea that aversion to killing and a desire to preserve life was an inherent human instinct and a necessary part of civilized life, and that to be a good soldier, these instincts had to be suppressed or removed. The consequence of this was a high level of violent crime by soldiers and veterens.

    The modern approach is apparently to teach that these instincts are still valid even in combat, but that it is sometimes necessary to kill in order to save other life; and that unnecessary killing should be avoided.

    ***

    As I said, this was just one claim I heard recently on TV/radio. I don’t know how accurate or even who was making the claim. If anyone knows anything about the truth or otherwise, I’d be interested to hear. If it is true, then it does show why dehumanising the enemy is not only militarily unnecessary, but can potentially lead to all sorts of nastiness in and out of combat.

  182. 182
    RahXephon, Waahmbulance Driver for St. Entitlement's Hospital

    @Ginmar

    Wow. All I can say is that your posts in this thread have been amazing. You don’t hear a damn thing like what you’ve said in the Cable Newsiverse.

  183. 183
    ginmar

    Observation is an amazing thing. plus, if I see it and don’t accurately assess it, I would have died. The Iraqis also deserved their due and are not served by the lies told about them in the American media. The only black and whites I saw in Iraq were in the utterly avoidable horrible decisions the US made, and the results of those decisions.

    It’s amazing what happens when you listen sympathetically to people. All they were looking for was an ear.

  184. 184
    Ingdigo Jump

    who is StevoR?

    A horrible little ogre who cheerleada and promotes total war in the area.

  185. 185
    ginmar

    Is he one of those ‘glass parking lot’ assholes? No, sorry, that’s probably redundant.

    And I bet he’s never been in a war in his life.

  186. 186
    chigau (違う)

    ginmar
    (and everyone else who isn’t petzl20)
    Do you know about The Endless Thread?

    The link is in the right-side panel under PZ’s profile.
    TZT is good, too.

  187. 187
    tkreacher

    My regard for medals can best be described with an anecdote.

    A team member and I were walking into a Mexican restaurant just off Bragg at lunch, and I was rifling through my pockets for a quarter. They had those little peppermint patties up front and I have a sweet tooth.

    I pulled my right hand out of my pocket and in my palm:

    1. Sand.
    2. A cigarette butt.
    3. A medal.

    The Staff Sgt. I was with asked, “is that a [insert whatever dafuck medal it was - you should be getting an idea on where I am on medals]?”

    “Yea…”, I said as I turned my hand over and dumped it’s contents into the trash near the door, “do you have a quarter?”

    He found the whole scene uncontrollably hilarious and would bring it up from time to time, chuckling.

    Btw, I was also a 97E (which are now known as 35M). Something about Pharyngula that draws MI?

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