Sunday, November 15, 2009

Bad Apples

The Independent posted a Nov. 15 story regarding allegations of sexual and physical abuse of Iraqi civilians by British soldiers. The Ministry of Defense is investigating 33 new torture cases. Human rights groups caution that the British Army may face hundreds of claims of sexual and physical abuse.

The Independent outlined details more sordid than we need to repeat here, but suffice it to say that some sick British puppies pulled stunts that compare to what we know about our own shenanigans at Abu Ghraib, and need to be put down.

How do these things happen in supposedly disciplined armed services of supposedly civilized, enlightened nations?

There is a depraved, bigoted, small-minded segment of every society, and any country’s military is bound to reflect that. Take a look at how successful right-wing hate radio and FOX News are in America. Lamentably, the people who fall for the fear-and-loathing media madness tend to be the people who line up to join our military.

Militaries also tend to foster a sense of moral irresponsibility. Decisions concerning life and death and war and peace get made “above my pay grade.” Questioning ethically iffy policies isn’t good for one’s military career. A lot of congenital bullies achieve high rank (one might well argue that being a congenital bully is a requirement of achieving high rank.) When the boss is a bully, being the bully’s accomplice becomes the key to success.

The military’s senior officer corps, by and large, is a moral morass. The Pentagon’s military analyst program is a perfect example. Retired senior officers with financial ties to the military-industrial complex teamed up with the Pentagon to sell the case for war on the major news networks.

One wants to say that the vast majority of the rank and file is on the up and up, and I believe that is the case. Ultimately, though, the rottenest apples are at the top of the barrel, and that’s certainly the case in the military. The men involved in the military analyst program were, by and large, retired generals, many of them retired four-stars. They were sending American kids into harm’s way to line their own pockets.

Where do we find such men?

We don’t so much find them as make them. We have military academies where cadets and midshipmen spend their first summer learning a laundry list of senseless rules and spend the next four years learning to break them without getting caught. You couldn’t design a better system to foster moral ambiguity. That Christian fanaticism is promoted at the academies makes things even worse. (A senior Catholic chaplain told me, when I was a senior officer, that going to mass and receiving sacraments would “enhance” my military career.)

Whether fish rot from the tail up or from the head down is perhaps moot. But leaders are supposed to lead, and the military leaders we have now are leading us down the road to ruin.

Sun Tzu told us more than two thousand years ago that “No nation ever profited from a long war.” Yet a Long War is precisely what our current military mafia—which includes Gen. David Petraeus, Adm. Mike Mullen, Gen. Ray Odierno and McChrystal—want us to buy into.

These brass hat cats are up to no good. They’re trying to keep us bogged down in Iraq as long as they possibly can. With the help of Petraeus’s media tent lad Thomas E. Ricks, they’ve converted the oafish Odierno from Desert Ox to the Eric Rommel of the surge in Iraq. Odierno is dumber than a truckload of landscape pebbles. When Colonel Timothy Reese noted that the Iraqi government and security forces were incompetent, corrupt and lazy, Odierno replied that those issue were mere “tactical issues.”

Odierno is the essence of our militaristic cognitive dissonance, where reality and perception differ so drastically that insane behavior erupts. Oderno, like most of the rest of our military and, unfortunately, most of the press, has a stake in clinging to the fantasy they created through media manipulation that the surge in Iraq was a success.

I’ve been listening to bloated right-wing hypocrite Bill Bennett making the argument on CNN that it’s in our vital interest to make a major military commitment to Af-Pak. Why Bennet, a proven neoconservative lunatic, still gets a microphone in the mainstream media is beyond reckoning. (He thinks Sarah Palin is good for the Republican Party. Yikes. Yikes. Yikes.)

McChrystal’s media blitz against President Obama was a buck-naked attempt to subvert the Constitutional authority of the commander in chief.

It pains me no end to say these sorts of things. I loved the vast majority of the people I knew and worked with in the military. They were selfless, energetic, enthusiastic servants of their country. But those people didn’t become four-star officers who defied civilian authority and tried to lead their country into everlasting, counterproductive armed conflicts.

Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld blamed the prisoner abuses at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere on a “few bad apples.” The worst apples in the barrel were Rumsfeld himself and Dick Cheney, who set the tone that led to prisoner abuse and extra-judicial assassinations of “suspected” bad people. Mentally challenged Private Lynndie England spent years in prison over Abu Ghraib. Rumsfeld, who was fired after the 2006 election took away the GOP’s majority in Congress, lives in a multi-million dollar home on the Eastern Shore by his pal Cheney, who is to date the greatest villain of the 21st century.

“King David” Petraeus, the four-star shaman who created a false perception of success in Iraq by bribing bad guys not to shoot at us, runs our military now, and for all practical purposes, dictates our foreign policy.

We need to wrest control of our policies and our government away from our military, or we’ll go down the road of the Prussians, who eventually spawned Nazi Germany. President Dwight Eisenhower, who as a five-star general guided us to victory against Germany during World War II, warned us that the “unwarranted influence” of the military-industrial complex would persist, and it has.

Our military’s influence on the country has sprinted amok. Our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines are being led by careerist cronies who are dedicated to preserving a perpetual state of conflict overseas that contribute nothing to national security.

Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes at Pen and Sword. Jeff's novel Bathtub Admirals (Kunati Books), a lampoon on America's rise to global dominance, is on sale now.


  1. Bonnie5:14 PM

    When I read commentary such as yours, it makes me glad I am as old as I am. I won't live long enough to see these really depressing predictions come to fruition.

  2. Anonymous5:30 PM

    I really have to question whether or not the majority of the rank and file are on the up and up. It seems to me if they were on the up and up we, as a nation, would not be where we are now.
    If the rank and file had any sense they could have used their positions to better effect. Yet here we are trying to verbally knock some sense, and ethics in to them and although they may hear us what we say seems to just go in one ear and out the other.
    In one ear and out the other.
    In one ear and out the other.
    Did I repeat myself enough?

  3. Anonymous5:33 PM

    Oh by the way that last message was from us,
    Andreas Hofer,
    Sedgwick Holstein,
    Curt Kastens.

  4. "comes down to basic political questions" . . .

  5. Jeff Huber:
    Would you say that the military has become worse after it became a free choice to join it? Or was it the same when every man hade to do his military service for a period? (Sorry don't know the proper English words for these two different types of military forces.)

    Am interested as Sweden has just decided to change system into keeping a military force founded on soldiers who are there by their own free will.

  6. Small-scale demonstrations of what might be going on / went on in "Vietnam":

    - Escalations of commitment,

    - Bid-items "in their final seconds (throes?)" for days

    I think there are some parallels here.

  7. Anonymous9:01 PM

    The US military since the end of conscription (1974) has gone from a cross section of the US social/economic mix to something that Commander Huber describes herein.

    I was in the US Air Force from 1972 to 1982. The all volunteer force was introduced and refined during my short career.

    With the draft the Air Force was filled with very smart high school graduates who went there to not do Army draftee or Navy work. They were upper levels on skills and intelligence.

    As the post Vietnam era progressed we had a steady decline in recruits. More folks enlisted who appeared to me unable or unwilling to compete in the real economy. In an organization attracting the lower strata the top can afford to be as rotten as the bottom.

    I do not know how it went wrong, but as the US military industrial complex and militarism gained power, the moral part of the US military was declining.

    The draftees were often arrogant enough to tell the lifers they were corrupt and smart enough to do it properly. With the career force it is: 'see no evil, hear no evil, speak not against your crocked boss..............'


  8. Anonymous9:52 PM

    I believe that Maj. Gen. Smedley Butler USMC Ret.(decased), said it best,"War is a Racket".

  9. My very strong impression is that the all-volunteer force pushed the demographic in to red-state dominance. Back when he was still doing real journalism, Tom Ricks wrote about that quite a bit.


  10. You'll forgive me if I disagree with your conclusions about military academies and military colleges-they are not the source of the problems at the top-except in how, they have become changed by the required emphasis on "diversity" and making women into a class of preferred customers. The system is fundamentally sound and produces the right kind of people to serve a military career.

    I'd also take issue that the people at the top are "immoral" per se-they are misguided and short sighted. The focus on "getting the job done" obscures the ability to see whether the job is worth doing in the first place. The inability to speak out about the latter idea has come from the PC changes within the military and again is a product of wanting be a diverse organization and making unreasonable compromises to accomplish that.

    I will agree that the US needs a national service program and that all men should be under an obligation to serve for a period of a few years. The current military-despite its braggin about how much more effective its leadership is-fears having draftees more than it fears the Iraqis. I've never understood that.

    But its wrong to use sweeping terms like immoral and what not-because civilian authority defined the problems and made them happen. The blame starts with the executive and Rumsfeld.

  11. Anonymous9:09 AM

    Before the question of whether the US should have an all volunteer force or have a force that includes draftees I think the question should be asked. Should the US have a military at all. Most people are so brainwashed that they think only a lunatic would ask this question.
    Think about this. The US military is theoretically there to protect the Constitution. Yet they do not protect the Constitution from Internal threats. That is what the FBI and Secret Service are for.
    So the military is created for protecting the US Constitution from foreign enemies. It is not created to make every US citizen safe from every Juan Dick and Farhad that may have a grudge against an American because they work for a corporation that is bribing some countries dictator to prevent unions from forming on that countries Persimmon farms.
    If American businessmen or missionaries get kidnapped overseas it is not the job of the US military to come and rescue them. If US corporate asses get nationalized overseas it is not the job of the US military to restore those assets to their original owner. Nor was the US military created to make sure that Mobil and Exxon get access to foreign oil markets. Nor is it the job of the US military to defend the Israeli or Kuwaiti Constitution. Now our government and military leaders may tell their subordinates that it is. But one thing that seperates a soldier from a thug is that they know the difference between what they can and can not be commanded to do.
    Back to defending the constitution from foreign enemies. The US has no enemies that could conceivably be a threat to the Constitution without decades of noticeable preperation. The US has no enemies that would actually ever have a motive to invade and occupy the US. Steps which would be neccessary to actually prevent the US Constitution from functioning. Therefore the US military does not protect the freedoms of the American people as it claims that it does. Like most militaries around the world the US military is actually an oppressor of its own people.
    It is probably not a bad idea to maintain a small mostly reserve military because some day things might be different.
    If a person comes to that conclusion then the question of whether to have a volunteer or a draft army becomes easier to answer.
    Curt Kastens

  12. Skippy, if you're telling me you haven't seen more immoral, illegal crap go down that came from the top of the food chain, then you're just plain delusional.

    "If you're not cheating you're not trying" didn't come from Rumsfeld. That mentality comes from the service academies and you know it.


  13. Plus, steering this conversation into the women in service issue is bull carp.

  14. Anonymous1:06 PM

    Cheating for a good cause might be ethical. For example I recently wrote on the neptunus lex web site that I am a Unitarian Universalist Buddhist Marxist Libertarian Conservative Sufi to hide the fact that I am simply an Islamic Jihadist Sleeper Cell.
    My lie was morally justified. Telling a lie to justify a war that has no purpose at best or has a purpose so evil that you do not want to state it publicly is another story.
    a person with a hidden identity,

  15. It must have been very hard for you to say that, Jeff, but I think you're right. I think a lot of people are looking at their armed services with rose-coloured glasses. They see the old, tired WW2 vets and think that the military is just like them, except younger.

    Outside of wartime (and I don't mean perpetual war) there is no reason to have a large standing army. (I'm with the anti-Federalists on this one, who had a huge distrust of standing armies.)

    When the armed services provided most of their own support staff, doing a stint gave you a skill you could use on the outside - cook, doctor, dentist, medic, aircraft mechanic, supply, logistics. Now all these services are supplied by contractors, at a hugely inflated price, and the recruits don't learn anything they can use. Being a sniper doesn't really have much of a legal demand in civilian life.

    And the religion thing - that scares me a lot. William Astore has written about the infiltration of the Air Force academy by evangelical or fundamentalist god botherers. There's too much blind obedience to unseen and unexamined dogma when religiosity and militarism are intertwined.

    Sometimes, in my more paranoid moments, I wonder if the economic collapse wasn't engineered to draw the desperate into the only paying job left. Although who exactly is going to pay for it is another question.

    There was a story the other day about a young woman in the army (not sure if she was reserve or regular) whose child was taken into care so that they could post her to Afghanistan, as there was no other family member to care for the child. How sick is that?

  16. Re the torture allegations against British troops, I wondered why they beat such a hasty retreat from Basra. Hoping, maybe, that they could get out before anyone found out?

    Eric Holder is refusing to release more torture photographs, in spite of the court decision that they were to be released, basing his decision on a law that was passed after the court decision. There's something distinctly illegal about that.

    No wonder everyone is so anxious and depressed. They feel that they're being dragged into some horror that they have no control over.

  17. Jeff,

    No its not-go read your Martin van Kreveld. The simple truth is that begining in 1993, the train went off the tracks and the women in the service issues is a big part of that.

    As for the academies-all I know is that at my alma mater, the honor code was taken quite seriously. Yes I've seen plenty of things I thought were wrong-but in most cases it was case of disagreement about a decision rather than an outright lie. Where you sit determines what you see.

    I can't follow you into the wholesale comdenation of the service that gave so much to me and I won't. And I've got plenty of axes to grind with mother Navy-but in the hindsight of being older not all of it was mother Navy's fault. Even if I do agree its time to get the hell out of Afhganistan and Iraq. Are there improvements that need to made? Sure. But to cast this wide a net, on people who are giving wholeheartedly of themselves in support of their country is a road I cannot follow.

    " People drink the sand because they don't know any better."

  18. Skippy, you missed a big part of my article. I'm sorry, but defending the academy system is myopic.


  19. I notice that the graduates of our "feminized" military academies somehow still managed to blow Iraq and Afghanistan to splinters, even with girls in the treehouse. They must be taking testosterone supplements to help purge the cooties from their systems.

    Skippy, you might lay off the Van Creveld (and William Lind, I'm guessing) and dig into some John Taylor Gatto, i.e. learn something about why our educational institutions (including the military academies) are the way they are. It's not because of affirmative action, but a much older and far more malign influence:

    The Prussian mind, which carried the day, held a clear idea of what centralized schooling should deliver: 1) Obedient soldiers to the army; 2) Obedient workers for mines, factories, and farms; 3) Well-subordinated civil servants, trained in their function; 4) Well-subordinated clerks for industry; 5) Citizens who thought alike on most issues; 6) National uniformity in thought, word, and deed.

    I'd say that the program has delivered all of that in spades, as well as a host of people like you who reflexively defend the system without thought.

    And where did you get the idea that Jeff Huber is engaged in a blanket condemnation of the military and everyone in it? He's always been crystal (or is it McChrystal) clear on exactly who and what needs to be changed for real reform to take place.

  20. Thanks Jeff Huber,
    for your answer.
    Am reading Tom Ricks now .
    Your answer, diplomatic as it was, was a kind of expected. :-)

  21. Also those "fanatical" Christian fundamentalists in the US Wehrmacht did a terrific job of thwarting Maj.Hassan.

    The US military is a tool of the Empire and has only has a technical and legalistic link to the historical American nation. If you're a leftie or neocon who believes no such thing ever existed should read the book Albion's Seed by David Hackett Fischer. Today belonging to the US military is anti-patriotic act.

    The official ideology of USGOV-this just as true under W as BHO-is Cultural Marxist: PC, Multicult-all cultures are equal except for the shameful ones of the West, state-enforced Diversity with a capital D and HBD-denialist radical feminism.

    It's only a matter of time before the US Army has a male-to-female or female-to-male transsexual commanding an Infantry company-I think they may already have one but are waiting for the right time to make it public.

    It's all the more reason to withdraw form Afpak, Iraq, Korea, Germany, etc. as soon as possible.

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