Tuesday, March 29, 2011

what the fuck did you expect?!

 Well, they finally made it to the internet. You knew they would be available at some point, but there had to be a dance of pro-forma disgust and horror before they arrived ... photos of American soldiers apparently delighting in their kill trophies in Afghanistan. Der Spiegel had them first. Now Rolling Stone has printed some of them.

The U.S. Army issued an apology:

Responding to their publication, the US Army said it would "relentlessly" pursue the truth, no matter how difficult or lengthy the investigation.
"The photos published by Rolling Stone are disturbing and in striking contrast to the standards and values of the US Army," it said in a statement. BBC article.

Something within me is enraged by the photos. They leave me screaming incoherently like some drunken nitwit at a football match. I am not enraged by the soldiers who committed these acts. I am not horrified by what they have done. I am not even angry at the military establishment that may have been complicit, but were not in the end responsible for what their civilian handlers decided. I am left speechless and yowling by the cruelty and thoughtlessness of the men and women who donned a self-important righteousness, who wore and wear American flag lapel pins, who raise the banners of war and do not send their own children into the fray, and who claim there are "standards" of behavior in unspeakable conditions. "What the fuck did you expect?!" I want to scream at these self-centered assholes. Of course human beings are capable of ignorance and cruelty. It's simply true. Nothing fancy about it. But for those in a position to address that ignorance and cruelty to make excuses for what they have wrought -- to ask that we be horrified and evade our own responsibility for electing them in the first place ... this is vile and cowardly. Those who ask us to "support our troops" are asking us to support their actions, to put icing on their concocted dog shit ... all so that they will not be held accountable in the mirror. It is lower than pond scum.

"'Relentlessly'" pursue the truth? Give me a break!

I cannot imagine being in a place where someone is trying to kill me, 24/7. I cannot imagine the twisting of the human spirit that a war zone implies. I can imagine finding joy in what is joyless. But I cannot imagine sending my children into such a place at the behest of someone whose moral and intellectual compass is so clearly skewed. By asking young men to do battle with the bad guys is to kill these young men bit by bit. Ask anyone who has been to war, and, if they are honest, they will tell you that they died, bit by bit, as they achieved what men in lapel pins called "honor" or "standards" or "courage" or "heroism." Their humanity was not lifted up. It was stripped away. What the fuck do these assholes expect?!

The self-important and those unable to reflect will say that people must defend themselves. And I agree. They will tell us that the price of freedom is sacrifice. And that's true too. But they will also try to evade the responsibilities of so-called "rogue" soldiers. In an unspeakable realm, still these dimwits expect "standards" and "patriotism" and ... oh, who the hell knows what self-serving language they will find? They will speak the language of human decency while sidestepping the indecencies they perpetrate.

My Lai, 1968
As I say, it makes me angry in ways I cannot adequately express. This isn't patriotism -- it's more like treason. It is My Lai writ large ... or perhaps another version of the Vietnamese village Bien Tre: "It became necessary to destroy the village in order to save it." Our soliders and theirs -- all of them Bien Tre.

Christ I hate the excuses! I hope the Spiegel/Rolling Stone pictures that cause so much "dishonor" and "shock" and "horror" are plastered on every billboard from East coast to West. Under the caption, perhaps, of "What the fuck did you expect?!"

When it comes to the courage and honor of soldiers in the field -- the sons and fathers of those left behind -- it is impossible not to think of the Christmas Truce of 1914 in which allies and Germans, without orders, set aside their weapons and came together in no-man's land where they traded cigarettes, played soccer and sang Christmas carols. They had been trying to kill each other and they simply stopped. Not everywhere and not everyone, but enough so that the time was remembered.
The truce is seen as a symbolic moment of peace and humanity amidst one of the most violent events of modern history. It was not ubiquitous, however; in some regions of the front, fighting continued throughout the day, whilst in others, little more than an arrangement to recover bodies was made. The following year, a few units again arranged ceasefires with their opponents over Christmas, but to nothing like the widespread extent seen in 1914; this was, in part, due to strongly worded orders from the high commands of both sides prohibiting such fraternisation. -- Wikipedia
"Strongly worded orders from the high command of both sides." Those commanders and their political handlers must have gone ape shit. For men to take their humanity into their own hands and simply decline the blandishments of horror and glory -- I find it incredibly touching and incredibly courageous. Peace and decency take real guts. Underlining the decency of human beings, especially in a time of unspeakable horror and cruelty ... how incredibly ordinary. How incredibly brave.

Of course after the truce, everyone went back to war.

What the fuck did you expect?


  1. Sunshine patriots think the military, especially the infantry, are the same boys we sent to Sunday school, parochial school, little league, and boy scouts. They are expected to be moral, upright, team players and brave. Winter soldiers know that you have to unlearn how you were brought up. It doesn't mean you become mean or bad or worse, evil. It means that you must learn to survive in the act of war. The essence of war is to dehumanize, kill, and absorb this evil and still be expected to be a human being. That can take a toll on the human psyche. But, for lack of a better word, the military industrial complex knows how to glorify war. It knows how to make you afraid and in your fear you must do things that will affirm that you are a man. I think the flag lapellars know this deep down but they deny it because they are are in denial. Things are either black or white. My country right or wrong. You are right. What did you expect?

  2. Sad, that's all. I see the Generals and "Commanders" on TV, so many pins and labels, colors and glory? Isn't every institution like that, with a code of honor/ethics/standards/reward and punishment. Its engendered into each being that enters its doors and breathes its rules. You tell me what is authenticity then in this environment. Maybe it is like the colored vat you speak of - we just absorb wheat we are.

  3. God,

    it feels weird that the zen teacher in the trench together with me is the biggest nurse of my trenchfoot.

    I thought God u should be beside me instead. Why a zen teacher?

    ESp one who also has the same trenchfoot as I have.

    fuck u god. argggh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!