OO Rah

War and the Free Will of Pool Balls

by Fred Reed

I read frequently among the lesserly neuronal of the supposed honor of soldiers, of the military virtues of courage, loyalty, and uprightness–that in an age of moral decomposition only the military adhere to principles, and that our troops in places like Afghanistan nobly make sacrifices to preserve our freedoms and democracy. Is not all of this nonsense?

Honor? A soldier is just a nationally certified hit-man, perfectly amoral. When he joins the military he agrees to kill anyone he is told to kill, regardless of whether he has previously heard of the country in which he will kill them or whether the residents pose any threat to him or his. How is this honorable? It is cause for lifelong shame.

It is curious that so many soldiers think that they are Christians. Christianity is incompatible with military service, if any Christianity is meant that Christ would have regarded with other than repugnance.

The explanation of course lies in the soldier’s moral compartmentalization. Within his own tribe or pack, these usually being denominated “countries,” he is the soul of moral propriety—doesn’t knock over convenience stores, kick his dog, or beat his children; speaks courteously, observes personal hygiene, and works tirelessly for the public good in the event of natural disasters. A steely gaze with little behind it and a firm handshake amplify the appearance of probity.

In conflict with foreigners, he will burn, bomb, rape and torture indiscriminately. His is the behavior of feral dogs, which humans closely resemble.

Sacrifice? GIs do not make sacrifices. They are sacrificed, sacrificed for big egos, big contracts, for the shareholders of military industries, for pasty patriots in salons who never wore boots. They fight not for love of country but to stay alive, and from fear of the punishments meted out to deserters. If you doubt this, tell the men in Afghanistan that they may come home on the next plane without penalty, and see how many stay. Troops are as manipulated as roosters in a cock fight, forced to choose between combat and the pot.

Always, to understand the bloody absurdity of the military, bear in mind the primitive, overriding instinct of mankind to form packs and fight other packs. It is the only drive that can at times take precedence over sex.Thus we have tribes, football teams, Crips and Bloods, religious wars, rabid political parties, and patriotism, this latter being far the worst. Men in particular live primed to form martial herds and rush mindlessly upon other herds, waving slogans, arguments, forty-yard passes from scrimmage, swords, naval artillery, or white phosphorous. Dogs. Ants. Soldiers. Humanity.

Nowadays a high moral pretext for war will be contrived, embodying saccharine goodness and nauseous piety. We kill them to make them free, butcher their families because they must be democratic. The race has accumulated just enough fragile decency to want a noble pretext before burning children. Yet the pack’s hostility to outsiders remains the primary drive behind wars, with reasons hung on later like Christmas ornaments.

Most profoundly, wars are not about anything. They are just wars. Aggression trumps substance. Note that in politics, the content of debate often matters less than the visceral pleasure of antipathy as, for example, when greens and capitalists exchange irrational insults like savages working themselves up for battle. The posturing is just foreplay.

Armies, and nations, have to have enemies. Since our instincts seem wired more for single combat, for bar fights more than for sprawling industrial wars, soldiers invariably seek the atavistic adrenal satisfactions of a quick and smashing victory. They are almost always wildly optimistic about the likely outcome. Thus the belief in decisive battles, cakewalks and such, even when experience counsels that there won’t be one. The military wants to fall upon the bastards, any bastards, and give them what for, to settle things once and for all in brutal, exhilarating, simple combat. Agincourt, Picket’s charge, Themistocles in the Saronic Gulf, that sort of thing.

If you don’t think that exhilaration is a factor in military affairs, you have never watched night flight ops with a carrier battle group, Tomcats trapping ker-wham! rising howl of huge engines, thirty-knot wind whipping across the flight deck, smell of burnt kerosene, the focused dance of men cooperating in something complex and dangerous in the wilds of the Pacific. It is a drug. This is much of why we have wars.

And it is why the Pentagon is repeatedly surprised when after the swoosh and scream of the jets over Kabul, or Quang Tri, or Baghdad, angry men with rifles creep from their holes and begin killing and there comes a losing uncomprehended disaster of ten years. Practicality matters less than the spirit of the thing.

Armies of the First World have made this hormonal miscalculation time and again: The French in Vietnam, the Americans in Vietnam, the Russians in Afghanistan, the French in Algeria, the Israelis in Lebanon, the Americans in Iraq, the Americans in Afghanistan. Militaries don’t learn. They can’t.

They can’t learn because soldiering is directed as much at maintaining a desired mental state as at practicality. A thick layer of romance has always lain over matters martial. The rush of a low-level pop-and-drop bombing run in an F16, the legions wintering on the Rhine-Danube line, pennants, charges, the poetry and intensity of it all. “Oo-rah!” “Death from Above!” “The most dangerous thing in the world is a Marine with his rifle.” “Crush their skulls and eat their faces.” Feel-good slogans, suitable for children of eleven..

One thinks of the excitement of a high-school basketball game, bright lights, tense expectancy, cheerleaders twirling and emitting exhortations to invincibility. “Hey, hey, whaddya say, let’s get that ball and go!” “Ricky, Ricky, he’s our man! If he can’t do it, nobody can!” Oo-rah.

Those who train and arm the soldiers are less delusional. Behind the curtains the butcher’s trade is an ugly one. In my days of covering the military, I remember efforts to invent blood-red plastic shrapnel that would not show up on x-rays, to make it difficult for the enemy to save his wounded. A tac-nuke manual spoke of how to keep soldiers fighting after being lethally irradiate by a nuclear explosion. Shortly they will die, puking and stumbling, but how does one get a bit more combat out of them? This manual used the evocative phrase, “terrain alteration.”

While soldiers quickly come to hate their assigned enemies, as do fighting cocks, they also know that what they are doing will not play well back home. The entrail-dripping gut-shot, a woman sobbing over a mound of red mush that is no longer precisely her child—these could interfere with the flow of contracts. Consequently militaries try furiously to suppress photographs of those they torture and mutilate, to package routine atrocities as “isolated incidents,” to keep pictures of garishly altered soldiers off the pages of newspapers. The extreme sensitivity suggests moral uneasiness, oo-rah or not. During Vietnam, the damning photos poured out. The controlled press of today poses no similar problem.

If this is honor, I’ll pass. Oo-rah.

All original material © Violeta de Jesus Gonzalez Munguia

8 Responses to OO Rah

  1. The author makes many good points, but borders on willful ignorance at best, or dishonesty in many areas.

    And Russ, do you think secession will be peaceful? Really? Would you denigrate the next generation of American revolutionary soldiers, the “feral dogs” according to the author, who will fight and die to make such a dream reality?

    I was a soldier. A paid assassin. I knew that when I was in. To say that is one thing. To say soldiers are used by those in power is true as well.

    Having said that, I think some of the things this author says are just outright ignorant.

    You’ll have a hard time inspiring soldiers to defend secession if you treat them thus.

    And make no mistake. Secession will involve a fight.


  2. I do believe Mr. Reed was a policeman once. Does he hlold them in the same esteem?

  3. Richard says:

    From the choir loft:

    There won’t be any secession, much as I’d like to see it.

    Why? As an example, have you personally attended a major league ball game recently? The expression of the nationalist religion is huge, disgusting and all pervasive. No more is there a simple rendition of the anthem followed by the call to “Play Ball”.

    Now there is an enormous flag carried over the playing field, a squad of armed soldiers carrying the national banner, perhaps a fly over of military jets and oh yes, later on in the game a SECOND call to worship complete with a national hymn at half time or the seventh inning.

    And all the while we are asked to pledge our allegiance to a flag no longer our own. If there is to be fighting and dying, it ought to be for our own interests and not that of the oligarchs. Such a concept, however, is light years beyond the understanding of the nationalist fanatic.

    Even that which once passed for real religion has been corrupted by fascist militarism. It has even penetrated to the sanctuary of the saints. Blindness is everywhere and this nation shall surely pay a dear price for its lack of vision.

    But that’s just me ranting from the choir loft.

    • I agree, we are likely a far from actual secession.

      Guess that means it’s time to start lighting brushfires.

      A ball game would be an outstanding place to start.


      • Richard says:

        Ball games, NASCAR races and the like are off limits for any anti-Federal demonstration because the assembly is sacred. Anything which disrupted such an event would be received with anger and national rebuke.

        Support for a cause such as secession requires sympathy. Sympathy can only be generated by non-violent methods and those methods which create embarassment for the Feds and their minions. Case in point is TSA groping of grandma & baby Johnny.

        The key is agitation, not fire.

      • dumpdc says:

        Richard- Pre-economic collapse secession will not happen. And secession before collapse won’t happen. After collapse, when millions will be protecting home and hearth with firearms, there will be plenty of sympathy welling up from the survivors. Secession won’t come from the top. Russ

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