Haditha

The facts are not yet in, and the presumption of innocence attaches to Marines just as it does everyone else, but the compensation paid to the victims' families suggest that whatever happened in Haditha was a bad business.Shooting unarmed civilians--women and children--is murder if proved, an atrocity, and ought to be savagely punished. All true, no argument, but that is not the only concern, because what happened at Haditha, regardless of the circumstances, was a breakdown in fire discipline by United States Marines. And that is worrisome.Marines, especially experienced, highly trained volunteer Marines under the command of professional, battle-tested NCOs, don't break fire discipline.There is no excuse for what is alleged to have happened at Haditha, but there is an explanation, and I'm sure that stress and fatigue were major contributing factors. Those words aren't military boilerplate. They're the facts. Our forces have accomplished astonishing things in Iraq, but there aren't enough of them and much has been asked of them. They have performed superbly, they have been titanium, but stretched hard enough even titanium will snap.I don't think Haditha means that we're at the breaking point, but I think the breaking point is on the horizon. The various services have altered their deployment rotations in an effort to get people home more often, but we have only as many troops as we have and the mission is what it is. The obvious and ethical solution is a draft, but I accept that a draft is a political impossibility. If the number of US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan cannot be substantially increased, then we must acknowledge that there is some limit to what we can ask of the troops who are there. At some point the limit must be fixed.Our people are all volunteers. For them the war has been three years in an extraordinarily jangly environment, always at risk of instant death from an IED but without an enemy to engage and defeat. No human organization can maintain this kind of performance under these conditions indefinitely. Sooner or later things start breaking. Systems break. Machines break. People break.Shit happens.We can do this for a while longer, but not forever. The sky isn't falling, but way out on the horizon someone just found a crack. That a combat patrol of highly trained volunteer Marines led by professional, seasoned NCOs might have broken fire discipline and shot unarmed civilians, even in the immediate aftermath of a fatal bombing, is a crack.I think the gentlemen calling the shots in the new Iraqi government have wasted much valuable time. I think the time available to them is a fixed quantity, too, and they're running out. I think it's imperative that they dedicate themselves to forming a functioning parliament and make an honest effort to govern their country. They have made a hash of things so far, and the price of their incompetence has been American casualties and a sea of Iraqi blood. Perhaps they should recall that if we all fail in Iraq, many American politicians will be "blamed," but many Iraqi politicians will be "shot in the head." Their dawdling reminds me of the dilletantes who played at governing South Vietnam, a country since erased from the map.

Comments

11 years, 5 months ago

"The obvious and ethical solution is a draft, but I accept that a draft is a political impossibility."

Dude, you have got to be kidding me. The obvious and ethical solution is to enslave our own young men and send them off to die for Democracy or some other capitalized ideal in a land that neither they nor their parents care about?

The draft is an unethical solution even when the Chinese are parked in the Los Angeles Port. If that were the case, it might be politically necessary to conscript every young man for the protection of the women and children, but that would by no means make it anything other than slavery. Our government has no more right to send our men to Iraq than it has to round up Iraqis and march them at gunpoint into Iran.

The obvious solution is to realize, sooner than later, that armies are made for killing people. Lots of people. They are not designed to build up, to pacify without violence, or to establish what has never existed. Then the ethical solution is to apologize, leave some guns and tanks and books on governance to the Irais, wish them well, and come home.

And then never again spend American blood - even volunteer blood but especially the blood of enslaved young men - on futile military actions for which our military is not designed. Our men have done yeoman's work, and they are every one of them a hero for the sacrifices they've made. They deserve better than the impossible task we've set before them.

It might not be necessary to apologize to the bowie knife that you have twisted and nicked putting in screws, but if you want it to last, you stop misusing it, sharpen it, and keep it handy, because someday you'll need it for the job it was designed to do.

Patrick Quinn 11 years, 5 months ago

Bill, to posit equivalence between compulsory national service and slavery is to suggest a gross misunderstanding of both terms and dishonors the suffering of real slaves and the 300,000 war dead this country has suffered in the past century, nearly all of whom were draftees. The point is perfectly illustrated by the numerous German and Japanese work camps liberated by American forces in 1945. The prisoners inside the wire were slaves. The uniformed, armed men who freed them were soldiers. There is a difference.

But I realize this is a philisophical difference and not a product of the current conflict. (I incidentally believe that the quickest way to convert American libertarianism from a politically insignificant minority into a real national political force is to institute compulsory national service.)

"Our men have done yeoman's work, and they are every one of them a hero for the sacrifices they've made. They deserve better than the impossible task we've set before them."

Yes, they do, and I'm afraid that providing what they deserve is out of our power. The only "win" scenario in Iraq is for these wretched medieval Iraqi "politicians" to stop bickering and form an effective government, and I don't see any way our people can expedite that short of putting a few politicians up against a wall to sharpen the concentration of their surviving brethren.

We have taken the Serious Finger-Wagging policy about as far as it can go, and so far it has produced no results.

I'm still not ready to pull out, but I've scanned the room, picked up my coat and am trying to remember where I parked. This Haditha business is distressing. If Marines are experiencing fire discipline breakdowns, then the clock is ticking. We have to get these people home soon, and not just for a month. There's not another army in the world that could do what ours has done for the past three years, but there's not an army in the world, period, that can keep doing it forever.

11 years, 5 months ago

"The prisoners inside the wire were slaves. The uniformed, armed men who freed them were soldiers. There is a difference."

On the contrary, it's quite possible to be both at the same time. I think we would agree the Russians those soldiers met in Berlin were slaves, as were the 14-year-olds and old men who represented what remained of the German Army when we got there. And I suspect we would agree that the uniforms of North Korea today are worn by slaves.

"I realize this is a philosophical difference and not a product of the current conflict."

It's rather a product of centuries of thought about the rights of man and the priveleges of those who would rule them. Modern conscription arises from the French Revolution and has always been politically contentious, especially when sending young men off to fight in wars that do not affect us directly. But it has been contentious for the wrong reasons, imo.

I realize that most people aren't opposed to compulsory national service, so long as a) it's for a good purpose, and b) it's somebody else who's compelled. No one wants compulsion for themselves; those who want to do simply volunteer.

I don't mean to be flippant, but American blacks - whom we think of when we say slavery - were not they only slaves who ever lived. Most men have been slaves (the property of others) for most of history. Their lives had a prior claim to themselves, someone else who had the right to take as much of their time and work as was deemed necessary to establish someone else's purpose.

But calling something "compulsory service" as opposed to "involuntary servitude" does not change its essence. Either you own yourself, in which case you have the right to choose whether and for what you will take up arms, or you do not.

"There's not another army in the world that could do what ours has done for the past three years, but there's not an army in the world, period, that can keep doing it forever."

Amen to that.

Patrick Quinn 11 years, 5 months ago

"Either you own yourself, in which case you have the right to choose whether and for what you will take up arms, or you do not."

OK, I'll buy that. And the conclusion is that if one wishes to enjoy the rights and benefits of living in a modern state, one does not own oneself. Sometimes the state requires service of its citizens. The French Revolution was a long way from being the first occasion on which a government instituted conscription, and it is not the fount of modern rationale behind in favor of national service.

The proposition that government is inherently evil is no different than the proposition that religion is inherently evil. The libertarian notion of a society of "free," "equal" citizens, all obeying some nebulous, unwritten "natural law" (over the terms of which there is no agreement), doesn't even qualify as a fantasy. It's an adolescent retreat from the real world, and it comes as no cost, because there's never been such a society and there never will be.

A comparison between service in the US military and service in the North Korean military is no comparison at all, it's just ducking the question. Slaves, if the term has any meaning, are chattels. American servicemembers, conscript or volunteer, are not.

11 years, 5 months ago

Come on, Quinno, you're simply arguing yourself in a circle, because first you say "if one wishes to enjoy the rights and benefits of living in a modern state, one does not own oneself" and then deny that those same people are chattel. If you can't leave state service without being imprisoned or shot, what do you call it?

As soon as one accepts the proposition that "the state requires service of its citizens" then one pretty much gives up the right to bitch about anything the state does. Hey, sometimes the state needs to listen in on your phone calls. Sometimes it needs to keep you dangerous enemy combatants on ice. Sometimes it needs to put move your family into safekeeping until the Yellow Peril has passed. Sometimes it needs to preserve continuity of leadership, regardless of whether there's an election scheduled.

"A comparison between service in the US military and service in the North Korean military is no comparison at all, it's just ducking the question."

Let's be clear, I'm discussing involuntary service in the US military, enforced by the threat of prison for non-compliance.

It's not ducking the question, but illustrating that we are simply discussing a matter of degree. You say it's ethical to take 4 years of a young man's life against his will to fulfill national purposes. We both agree that North Korea, where the entirety of one's life is taken in service of the state, is slavery.

So where's the cutoff between ethical and slavery? Is it 4 years? 10 years? And why do we set the bar there? Or is it simply a matter of whether that service is put to use that most agree with?

Patrick Quinn 11 years, 5 months ago

Bill, chattel slaves--and North Korean soldiers--possess no rights and have available to them no avenue of official recourse. American soldiers, conscript or volunteer, do. There is no such thing as an "illegal order" in totalitarian militaries; there is in the American military.

I entirely agree that we are discussing a matter of degree, and that the only difference here is where we draw the line. To my mind, compulsory service is no different than taxation or driving on the right side of the road; in all three cases we are talking about coercion backed by the threat of imprisonment in the event of noncompliance. (I prefer two years, but four is OK, too.)

If, as the Supreme Leader insists, this war is one about our national security, then the whole nation ought to be participating in it on one level or another. If it is not a war for our national security, then the Supreme Leader ought to be impeached.

And I should qualify my earlier remark: I believe that a draft is the ethical solution, but I'm not sure that right now it's the correct solution, because even a small draft would probably overwhelm DOD's ability to process incoming servicemembers. It's vy likely that the mess in Iraq will have reached a climax (one way or another) before we could get draftees on the ground over there; I'm thinking it would take a minimum of six months to train everyone up. So I guess I think a draft would've been the correct thing to do in 2003/2004, in which case we could have 750,000 people in-country right now, and things would look considerably different.

My chief objection to the way we've waged war in Iraq is the President's insistence that we can do the whole job w/ existing forces--no matter how big the "whole job" turns out to be--and that we don't have to pay for it until some undetermined time in the future. The latter, at least, is LBJ-delusional, and the former ain't looking real smart right now.

I want to win this thing, but I also want to end it. I don't think we've reached our body-bag limit, but I think we're getting close. There are new reports today of additional civilian deaths at the hands of our Marines. We can't keep this up forever. I think another 300,000 people in-country would go a long way toward fixing this mess, and the fastest way to get 300,000 additional people in-country is a draft.

But I don't think we have enouigh time.

feeble 11 years, 5 months ago

Not to take away from your convo with Bill (which I admit, I've only half read) but have you heard the latest about the news coming out of Abu Seffa district of Ishaqi?

While the body count is lower than Haditha, there is apperantly a lot more physical evidence and documentation.

Patrick Quinn 11 years, 5 months ago

Yes, I'm sitting on the wire.

I will never attempt to justify the killing of civilians, but as a society we must come to grips w/ the realities of war. Our military (like every military) is composed largely of young people who command almost indescribable lethal force. Stress those people enough and mistakes will occur. Error rate increases w/ fatigue and stress. That can be mitigated by training, and our people are the best-trained in history, but sooner or later... Make a mistake in an office and p'haps someone loses a job or a company loses some money. Make a mistake on the battlefield and innocent people die.

We've been stretched vy thin for a vy long time. If we intend to leave our people in harm's way, we must give them every opportunity to fully exploit the training they've received, and that means acting RIGHT NOW to relieve some of the stress they're facing.

We can't expect human beings to function like androids. If we can't up the numbers, we must revise the mission. The Iraqis are doing more than enough killing of civilians; they don't need any help from the Marine Corps.

lazz 11 years, 5 months ago

These tragedies are an unfortunately inevitability of war, all war. To pretend otherwise is to gloss over the horrors that are unleashed ---- as President Bush has done so since the day he whispered in Rumseld's ear, "Whaddya have on Iraq?"

ALL OF THIS traces back to the fact that we are fighting a personal war at the instigation of a dullard who wants to hear no thunder of reality and has no taste for inquisitiveness.

These Marines, and Soldiers and Sailors and Airmen, will continue fighting this wrong-headed battle as long as we allow their Commander in Chief to maintain that title. The war we should have been fighting -- against Afghanistan, Bin Laden, et al -- is a distant memory that will only be revived after they strike again, which they will. Hopefully when that happens we'll have a leader in place who understands, or is at least interested in, the world at large and our place in it. And hopefully when that happens, we'll have a leader who will honor his or her pre-election pledge to refrain from nation building.

In the meantime, heavily armed young men wearing our flag on their uniforms will be stretched past their breaking points and they will make mistakes of the worse sort. And they will come home dead and wounded and the Pentagon and the White House will march merrily along.

It's not up to them to stop these atrocities, it's up to us.

Terry Bush 11 years, 5 months ago

"I'm still not ready to pull out, but I've scanned the room, picked up my coat and am trying to remember where I parked."

PQ - I laughed out loud at the above. Not a laughing topic, to be sure, but the way you put it was so darn clever and clear...I hear you on it...... I too am torn. On one hand, I hate seeing situations where evil prevails without lifting a finger to intervene. When I was VERY young the mere mention of a Nazi death camp's name sent me into terrors and tears. And I totally agree that when good people do nothing to stop evil, evil wins.

Plus, I believe that the people who serve in our armed forces deserve our support. They are, by and large, really good and well intentioned people. I've known far too many service men and women that I admire. I cannot automatically believe they all represent the lowest common denominator or routinely evidence the worst parts of human nature. On the contrary, they are often some of our most idealistic and capable folks. So them shooting civilians for the sport of it doesn't ring true to me; unless someone cracked up en masse. I know it happens, under stress and with provokation (Viet Nam showed us how that can happen). On the other hand, I am enough of a pacisfist and an isolationist to wish my country - as a whole - would accept its limitations and not be the bully of the world when it comes to assuming that our form of government is the only/best one for everyone. IMO some of the problems we are having in Iraq and the whole region may be due to the fact that their cultures are so vastly different from ours that we cannot just superimpose our value system and expect it to fit neatly and nicely. While most Americans would chafe (or worse) under a theocracy or dictator's rule, it is what many regions expect, want and even like. Yea, I know; how can you know if you like apples (democracy) if all you've ever had to eat were hair balls? But is it our job to re-educate and rescue everyone from the circumstances of their lives? Sounds pretty arrogant to me.

Terry Bush 11 years, 5 months ago

And finally, the draft. My ancestors left Germany and then Russia to avoid fighting for a country or in a conflict that they did not support. But once here, many of the MALES in my family volunteered for service (mostly in the Air Force). Having a draft does not guarantee peace or security (look at Israel). But if we do re-institute it, I would like to see a system whereby those who are doing the drafting have their own rear-ends (or their children's at least) on a 100% equal basis.

My departed ex-father-in-law fought in WWII as a glider pilot. He suggested that there would be far fewer wars/conflicts if everyone back "home" had their name in a big fish bowl (men, women and children). Anytime one of the soldiers suffered in some way (from hang-nails to death), a name would picked out of the fish-bowl, and the same thing done to the "back-home" individual. In that way, said he, those who were not on the front-lines would probably make more careful choices about whose lives to risk and when it was worth the chance.

Patrick Quinn 11 years, 5 months ago

It seems to me the issue at hand centers not on our conduct of the war, but on the infuriating childishness of the men pretending to be "the government of Iraq." I think the President, the Vice President and nearly every member of the Cabinet belongs in a cage, but they are not directly responsible for the current mess.

The idea was to depose Saddam, guarantee free elections and allow the Iraqi people to govern themselves. Mission accomplished. It hasn't pretty, there have been many mistakes made and many unnecessary lives lost, but mission accomplished. Now it's up to the Iraqi government to take control of the country and govern. I am prepared to blame President Bush for everything from the Great Chicago Fire to yesterday's weather, but I see no actions available to him that will ameliorate the current horrors in Iraq. We knocked over Saddam, we organized and protected the elections, and now it's time for these Iraqi "leaders" to lead. If this undertaking fails, the real losers are the Iraqi people who flocked to the polls twice to make clear their disgust w/ anarchy and violence.

If these men refuse to accept the responsibilities attached to their office, there's not a heckuva lot that a rifle company of Marines can do to make them.

Patrick Quinn 11 years, 5 months ago

I have always resisted the argument that Islam is fundamentally incompatible w/ democracy and the rule of law, but I am now prepared to accept that argument w/ respect to political Islam in the Middle East.

If our efforts in Iraq are fruitless, then I think we have to seriously consider disengagement from the region in toto.

Terry Bush 11 years, 5 months ago

I think other systems have "rules of law" too. They just don't always have the same laws as our systems.

With regard to attempts to "help", IMO (and that of people I know who have spent their entire lives in other countries and/or traveling for most of it) a lot of problems arise with regard to international relations when the residents of one culture presume that "we're all just alike". No we are not.

Sure, we are all human beings and (under our Judaic Christian code) therefore entitled to some of the same basic rights (i.e. the pursuit of happiness). In that broad sense, we're all brothers and sisters. But the values, desires, hopes and dreams of all people are not identical. For example, while some cultures applaud and give vast support to individualism and personal autonomy, others are scandalized by actions that do not first and foremost take into account the needs and desires of the group. Without a deep and abiding knowledge or appreciation for such differences (not judging right or wrong) there can be, and often are, huge mistakes made. Whether we approve or not, we need to realize that values and priorities can and do vary, from culture to culture, before we interject ourselves and insist our ways are superior.

lazz 11 years, 5 months ago

you're making leaps in logic there, quinno my fine friend ... we didn't set the stage for a gracious rise of democracy ... we destroyed a country that had been held together by a vicious dictator/autocrat/self-idolizing murdering thug ... we didn't go in there to install democracy ... we used that as an EXCUSE to cover up the reasons that weren't fit for public distribution ... this is a personal little war being waged on a tragic international scale ... and yes, I totally agree with you that there's nothing a company of marines can do to solve the current political crisis. Or that Bush can do to solve the current political crisis. I never argued either was possible. I stated that we're there as long as Bush is president; when he's not, we'll leave. It's just that simple. I, too, am disappointed Iraq hasn't been able to cobble together a respectable form of self-governance, but that's not entirely of their own doing ... we destroyed their country, we destroyed the only security system that existed (as evil as it was, it certainly kept the bad guys out), and in washed every malcontent scumbag murdering blood drinker within 2,000 miles, with a bunch of american-flag wearin' targets out there ready for the taking, along with women and children and every fool who signs up to be a Iraqi cop ... kinda makes it hard for a new democracy to take root, no? kinda makes it hard for a country with absolutely no experienced leaders, nobody with any authority, to figure out how to make a go of it while all around them the shit storm rages, no? Look, nothing is getting fixed there. not for a long, long time, if ever. We just have to say, er, sorry 'bout that, and f----g leave. End. Of. Story. It's time we go back to worrying about Global Warming.

Noah Larsen 11 years, 5 months ago

Quinno, I've gotta side with Lazz on this one. We basically went over there and did everything to the bee hive except knock it off the tree. Then we give the Iraqi politicians a picture of a bee suit and tell them to make it happen. Furthermore, I'm an not so convinced that the abrupt installation of a democratic government will fly over there. Hell, I'm not so sure that our version of democracy is working over here. The only thing we have going for us over here is the absence of genocide, but what's genocide we you can lock people up for life without a trail? Yes, our troops are stressed and fatigued, but when the hell was the last time anybody used that as an excuse to execute tens of people. I would be more inclinde to side with you if we were talking about troops shooting a carload of innocent people cruising to quickly through a checkpoint (http://www.breitbart.com/news/2006/05/31/D8HUT0B81.html), but not this. This is cold-blooded, there-are-no-rules-let's-do-whatever-the-f*ck-we-want murder. End of story.

lazz 11 years, 5 months ago

by the way --- "I think the President, the Vice President and nearly every member of the Cabinet belongs in a cage, but they are not directly responsible for the current mess."

Which country -- or both? -- did you mean?

Just out of curiousity, if you meant the U.S., how is it possible that President Bush is not directly responsible for the current mess? If not he, who?

Terry Bush 11 years, 5 months ago

"We basically went over there and did everything to the bee hive except knock it off the tree. Then we give the Iraqi politicians a picture of a bee suit and tell them to make it happen."

Man, you guys can make even a terrible situation and serious topic have a funny side..... What a talent....

Patrick Quinn 11 years, 5 months ago

Guys, I agree that the President is responsible for the war. What I mean is this: Whatever our intentions (and I am still inclined to see them as noble), what has in fact happened is that a country that was miserably tyrannized for 4,000 years has been given an opportunity to create the institutions of representative self-government. Maybe it wasn't the "right" time for the Iraqi people, or maybe Islam is an immovable anchor, or maybe the region has been damned by God to endless suffering, whatever, the fact remains that the History Train arrived. This is, for the Iraqi people, a heaven-sent opportunity, and their performance in both elections demonstrates that they see it as such. These moments don't last forever. Wrong time or no, when the History Train arrives one must either get on or watch it steam away.

The onus, the responsibility, for rising to this world-historic moment does not rest w/ the President of the United States or w/ the American people. It rested w/ the Iraqi people as they went to the polls, and it rests w/ their elected representatives now. Whatever the sinister machinations of the Bush administration, if these bozos would pull their collective head out and put together something like a functioning government, they would be a wonder of the world and an inspiration to their beknighted coreligionists across the region. We can't do that for them.

I think the material destruction of Iraqi infrastructure is p'haps a bit exaggerated here. We didn't destroy the country. I'm quite sure as much material damage has been done by Arab-on-Arab insurgent violence as has been done by American forces.

Yes, it's tough situation. They don't get to wait for a better one. It's now or never. They must rise to the moment or fall into barbarism, and w/ them likely the whole wretched region.

lazz 11 years, 5 months ago

Well said, and I think I agree with just about everything you said there, compadre. The onus is on them. This IS their chance, their one-in-a-million chance. And clearly they are blowing it. Or, perhaps it's not that THEY (as in, They Alone) are blowing it, it's that they are blowing, the insurgents are blowing it, the continued presence of armed Americans is blowing it ... who knows ... there's surely no one answer ... but as you say, History Train is in the station, and it ain't waiting long ... BUT: This isn't a "4,000-year-old country." It's a modern (thanks, Brits) amalgam of 4,000-year-old tribes that REALLY don't like each other. To pretend that they might come together under the Western notion of "democracy" is fanciful in the extreme. Yes, History Train arrived, but perhaps it's the wrong train. It's wrong, I think, to assume democracy is best for all. Heck, it doesn't work for us all that often (Bush v. Gore, anyone?). OK, I'll stand by your sentiment to see a noble cause in this, but only so far as GET RID OF SADDAM. OK, he's out. Now, what might work? Why should democracy be the only answer? Benevolent autocrat? Split the country into its natural pre-World War I borders and let each subset become self-determining? Even if democracy is the best EVENTUAL solution, the simple fact is, it will NEVER HAVE A CHANCE of taking root under current conditions. Policemen slaughtered by the dozens and otherwise living and working behind concrete barriers, car bombs and roadside bombs destroying families and fraying nerves, assassins determined to put a bullet in the melon of anyone who has the guts to stand for office ... Seems we need a solution to get us from here to there. Stabilize the country, get us out of the country, and then the Iraqis can figure it out for themselves. Even if they want a theocracy, fine, so be it. Just get us out, and then it's their problem. But so long as we have our eyes on the golden ring of democracy, the carousel ain't never gonna stop spinning ...

lazz 11 years, 5 months ago

but enough. It's Friday. Have a great weekend, gang.

editer 11 years, 5 months ago

the homies would just like to take this opportunity to note that the above thread is among the most engaging, thoughtful, and - above all - CIVIL (esp given the potentially volatile nature of the topic) discussions to ever occur on an l.com board. we commend and thank the participants for their so described participation.

11 years, 5 months ago

"It's a modern amalgam of 4,000-year-old tribes that REALLY don't like each other."

And I think that is part of the explanation for their inaction. We think it's a history train because we look at a peaceful nation of Iraq full of shining happy Kurds and Shiites and Sunnis as the goal.

But I suspect that there is a significant percentage of the new government that does not share that dream. In other words, it's not incompetence, it's patience. They can't defeat us, so they are simply waiting for us to leave so they can get to work on their real goals.

Someone higher in the thread (and I'm too lazy to go see who) said that they had no experience and no leadership and no authority, but that's not true. They have no civil authority, but in many minds that's superfluous anyway. There is no need for a separate authority than the Imam or Ayatolla, because they are a religious people and are going to have to work some things out there first.

There's no doubt that much of the new leadership has pined for the day when Saddam was no more, not because he was bad but because he kept them from leading their own flocks. Now their chance is here, and not so many want to give that up for the Western Idea that if a Kurd and a Sunni agree that a Shiite ought to do something, he's legally bound to do it. Many many people just don't think that way.

MyName 11 years, 5 months ago

If you want to be technical, a draft in this country is more like forced indentured servitude than slavery. The main difference is that people who are drafted have a time limit while slavery does not. Admittedly, that can change if the war starts going bad, but then it's the same way whether you're drafted or volunteer in that case.

Aside from being politically impossible, a draft really wouldn't solve anything. A draft is good if you need an army that's 50% bigger, but it's no good if you need an Army that 10-25% bigger, which is what we need. The problem is, unless you draft a large number of people, you end up taking as many people away from the battle as you add in conscripts. This is because someone will need to train and provide for the new people and the people who do the training will have to be experienced volunteers.

I've hated this war since before it began, but there is no way we can just leave now. The chance of anything remotely good coming out of that course of action is non-existance. We'll be stuck with having to deal with a series of little chaotic fiefdoms ran by warlords and their militias. And they'll be sitting on one of the biggest oil reserves in the world. We'll end up actually hoping that another dictator steps in to take over and end the chaos.

Or we could have a land grab where Iran takes over part of the country, and Turkey or Syria or somebody takes over another part, and the rest manages to form an independent gov't (my money would be on the Kurds).

There really are no good options for at least 3-5 years. And it's sad.

11 years, 5 months ago

"my money would be on the Kurds"

In that case you can almost guarantee an invasion from Turkey. Kurds make up a significant portion of the population of Eastern Turkey (which also contains Turkey's main source of leverage in the region, the Tigris and Euphrates headwaters) who might start making nationalist noises given an independent Kurdistan nation next door. Turkey would never, ever stand for that.

But whether one wants to call the draft "indentured servitude" or "slavery," I still think you run up against the 13th Amendment:

"Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction."

Of course, the courts don't agree that serving involuntarily in the armed forces is involuntary servitude, writing (Arver v US, 1918) that "we are unable to conceive upon what theory the exaction by government from the citizen of the performance of his supreme and noble duty of contributing to the defense of the rights and honor of the nation as the result of a war declared by the great representative body of the people can be said to be the imposition of involuntary servitude in violation of the prohibitions of the Thirteenth Amendment."

In other words, serving involuntarily is not involuntary servitude because Congress says so. It would be interesting to see what the "original intent" vs. "textualist" interpretations would be. The 13th was not written with the draft in mind, but reading the text as written might give a different answer, espacially if the Solicitor General were to utter the words, "a draft in this country is ... like forced indentured servitude"

MyName 11 years, 5 months ago

But I suspect that there is a significant percentage of the new government that does not share that dream. In other words, it's not incompetence, it's patience. They can't defeat us, so they are simply waiting for us to leave so they can get to work on their real goals.

Not only that, but there are outsiders (al Quada, etc) who also want to do as much damage as they can while we're there. They wouldn't have this opportunity if we hadn't gone to war there in the first place, and that's something else that bothers me about the war in Iraq.

greyhawk 11 years, 5 months ago

El_B Trenchant commentary throughout but especially apropos in describing the lunacy of the courts (Arver v US, 1918).

In support of gender equity....if a draft/involuntary servitude is instituted, why not draft women as well as men? There are many good women serving in our volunteer forces....

11 years, 5 months ago

Well, except that I don't believe in gender equity. ;)

But the 13th is interesting because of the clause "except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted."

We have never turned prisoners over to be the servants of individuals, but criminals have often served the state, whether in work gangs or "community service." I would see nothing unconstitutional about turning them over to the military to serve out their sentences. And if our Armed Forces weren't so damned important, I'd suggest it might do some of them a lot of good. I just don't want to see our Marines ruined by indiscipline. We have problems enough among the guys who choose to be there.

Terry Bush 11 years, 5 months ago

I agree with Homie and commend the high IQ's of all concerned. Perhaps it's an example of what can (and sometimes does) happen when folks who don't normally agree get to know each other well enough to drop the axe and not assume the worst.... I may not live to see the day when that attitude prevails in the Middle East, or anywhere else for that matter, but it is nice to see shining moments of civil discourse (even in debates) in small places like the blog world. Let's all sing Kum-ba-ya ya'll.

subsalr 11 years, 5 months ago

Pat your comment: "The obvious and ethical solution is a draft, but I accept that a draft is a political impossibility." really emphasizes two distinct but related issues.

On one hand 1% of the population of the United States provides 100% of the defense of all citizens' rights and privileges. They, and they alone, take the risks and suffer the consequences for defending our way of life. When this 1% is overextended or overused, moral suffers. When moral suffers discipline breaksdown. We will punish the guilty Marines but we will not address their problem.

The 99% who enjoy the rights and privileges are deadset against fixing the real underlying problem, namely sharing the risk or suffering any personal consequences to remain a free society.

Unless and until our National leadership is full of people who have shared in the risks of democracy, we will never have balanced, thoughtful policies. A fair and equitable draft is mandatory if we are ever to have fairness and equality. The Equal Rights Ammendment needs fixing; we also need an Equal Responsibilities Ammendment.

Iraq will be followed by Iran, it by North Korea, and it by something as yet unseen. Anyone who harbors the hope that all the world's problems will move to Crawford, TX in 30 months has their head up their ass.

sjwilson 11 years, 5 months ago

And what of the infuriating childishness of the men pretending to be the government of the United States for Crissakes?

I've tried, and not without interest, to follow the contours of the arguments made here. IMO what we have here is, in the words of Habermas and the Frankfurt School, is a legitimation crisis. There comes a point at which the institutions of governance are so corrupted, so perversely removed from their intellectual and moral foundations that they cease to be, or even resemble, what they purport to be. Conscription in a society in which real standards of justice and equality were upheld would be one thing, in ours it would only be a way to make the middle class pay attention. As it is, their kids aren't going to be compelled to "defend democracy," we have the poor, Blacks, and Latinos for that. Now, this would in and of itself not be such a bad thing. But it would still be bullshit.

At this stage of the game we are an empire in eclipse, and justifiably. Unfortunately there doesn't appear to be any ideology or credo to step into the vacuum created by the disintegration of American liberal democracy, at least nothing that mirrors or expands upon its purported values.

Personally, I would be devestated as a parent to know that my child died in this idiotic conflict perped by some half-wit aristo-inbred and his dad's old pals. They are morally and intellectually bereft and bankrupt.

lv, sjw.

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