Saturday, December 03, 2005

Special Analysis:
I Am Become Battle, How White Be My Tears

A generation and several of my lifetimes ago, becoming a soldier was for me supposed to be the turning point into manhood. I would be able to stand proudly before relatives who thought me weak, I would be able to crush those who had hurt me when I was a boy. Never again would I be a child: the military would make me a giant.

The wait at the disembarkation center went on for hours and hours, but the training would soon start. A bus would take us all to the place where good, strong men would show us all how to be good, strong men. They would teach us. They would be stern, but they would help us learn the ways of bravery, honor, and manliness. Those sergeants would be good to us, and their lessons would be good for us. The recruiter told me I'd do fine.

The bus driver talked with a corporal as we went down the road from the center to the base. Every now and then, that corporal would make some oblique comment back to us about how we were about to "get it," or something like that. He and the bus driver would start laughing almost hysterically.

After we went through the base gates, the bus driver pulled up to a group of uniformed men wearing big, Smokey-the-Bear type of hats. As soon as the bus stopped, the world changed. All at once, the door opened, the corporal stood up and started screaming at us, and what seemed like every one of those men who had been waiting for us suddenly boarded the bus yelling and cursing.

"Get your fuckin' gear and get off this bus NOW!"
"What th' fuck are you waiting for, little girl?!"
"Move yer ass, you fairy!"

We climbed off the bus as fast as we could, and more of those violent men were waiting for us down below, screaming, yelling, swearing.

"Where are you going, you piece of shit?! Did I tell you to go somewhere?!! Get down and knock me out twenty RIGHT NOW!"
"What th' fuck are you lookin' at, asshole?!" Get down and knock me out twenty!"

It made no sense. People were on the ground doing push-ups, other people were running nowhere because no one had told them where to run.

"You have walked the last step of your sorry-ass life, trainee!"
"I can't hear you counting! Start again!"

"Don't you DARE call me 'Sir', you dumbass. You say 'ONE, Drill Sergeant; TWO, Drill Sergeant'; like THAT. Think your little cunt can handle it?"
"Where the fuck do you think you're going?! You don't go ANYWHERE, you don't do ANYTHING, unless I TELL YOU TO... YOU GOT THAT, MUTHERFUCKER?!"

Different drill sergeants were screaming different orders. Trainees were falling over each other. Some were crying hysterically.

"Aw, look at them tears comin' down. You wanna go home, now? WELL, YOU AIN'T. Your mutherfuckin' ass is MINE!"

"Yer gonna be one strong-ass trainee when I'm finished with you."
"What the fuck are you lookin' at?! You don't look at me, you fuckin' queer!"

"Is your name 'Tinkerbell'?!"
"DON'T YOU FUCKIN' SAY NO T' ME, you piece-a-shit. If I tell you yer fuckin' name's 'Tinkerbell', that's yer name, Tinkerbell! An' that's gonna be yer name from now on!!"

Trainees stopped looking at anything. No one wanted to see someone being shaken by the lapels, no one wanted to see another guy crying, no one wanted to be there anymore.

It made no sense. None whatsoever. The madness, the confusion. They were all screaming different things at us. There was no ordering of the world in this place; it was just insanity stirred to bizarre proportions by men who had absolutely no self-control, who wanted to hurt us, who were hurting us.

And it didn't let up. As fast as we could run, they were right there at our sides screaming and yelling. It was coming from all directions. They got right in our way, and if we tripped and fell down, we got kicked violently by everyone else trying to keep moving forward.

Sounds all around us. Yelling voices, ear-piercing whistles, feet pounding the ground, men gasping for air, choking, vomiting, crying, sobbing.

It didn't make sense. It was madness. And it kept going on. One minute, there'd be no one around; then, all of a sudden, they'd all be there screaming and cursing, ordering us to do something. Standing in lines, the drill sergeants would suddenly be all around: two would gang up on one trainee, screaming at him in both ears, then punishing him for not obeying.

Tear gas training: trying to deal with putting a mask on, getting screamed at, snot and tears pouring out, ear-shattering whistles, more yelling, stumbling, coughing, puking.

Smoke: sounds coming from every direction and from nowhere, threats coming from everywhere, something to do that didn't matter because everything was madness.

Explosions, gunfire: thuds and pops. Ears deafened, nostrils burning, eyes welling up with tears, body aching, skin itching like fire from sweat and dust.

Then, nothing.

Then, more madness. Then nothing.

Then more insanity.

More chaos.

Not training. Learning.

I become acclimated to the confusion; I start to revel in it; I come to be a part of it.

The sounds, the smells, the blinding lights, the pain, the degradation: none of it matters. Neither do I, as long as I do what I'm supposed to; and that's a good thing. My senses, my feelings—my very life—are irrelevant. All that matters is the task before me.

A generation and half a world away was a sprawling place called Fallujah, where lived people: men, women, kids, pets, birds, rodents, and a scattering of armed boy-men and their inspirational leaders. The thugs sort of had their way, occasionally brandishing old AK-47s they fired every now and then. The extent of their training was the harangue of their religious mentors and senior thugs, themselves perhaps seasoned to combat to the extent of hit-and-run operations they had survived in low-level conflict with an army of occupation. No really formal, widespread, intense, sustained training. Not much theory—just action... a lot of fervent belief... more than a little swagger borne of youth's sense of immortality, not just in the after-life, but in the here and now, too.

The battlefield is not three dimensions. Width, breadth, and height are only the most primitive of the axes of warspace. A battlefield is a large clutch of dimensions waiting to be opened, prepared for exploitation, availed of management.

The sonic dimension is a vast drum waiting to be pounded rhythmically, each pulse stunning the ears, confusing the mind. The thermal dimension is an oven waiting to be turned on, crackling the skin, confusing the mind. The shockwave dimension is an ocean of air ready to articulate concussive force through a body as if it were a thin curtain. The emotional dimension is a chessboard waiting for a master to play the fool into a corner of rage, confusing the mind.

The inventory of weapons is a list of fingers, each tuned to stroke one or more dimensions of that zone, each geared to construct a field ripe with enemy combatants ready to be killed.

The battle begins as a symphony of harmonics, with each dimension suddenly, violently revealing itself to the enemy. The dimensions curl down over his world, compressing it into an ever tightening sensorial experience for which he has no response save panic.

Artillery shells rip into houses and buildings, sweeping them into smoke and raining rubble. The smoke fills the air and burns the eyes. Small arms fire makes ZIP-ZIP-ZIP sounds. Snarling aircraft spit bright little stars that race to the ground and wreck the Earth. Blinding flashes crash through the retinae, mind-numbing explosions excavate the ground and obliterate more houses. Debris makes even the simple dimensions of width and breadth treacherous. Below trees and in the streets lie dead birds, killed by shock waves where they had been perched before they could take flight.

Screaming. Horrified screaming. Bullets and shrapnel make people scream. Kids bawl, old women wail. People hit by pieces of metal howl, sometimes uncontrollably. They run, they lie down, they writhe, they bleed to death. Usually, they get quiet pretty soon.

It's important, that screaming. In blinding smoke, it adds a mind-wrenching overtone in the repertoire of the sonic dimension. But bullets and shrapnel aren't as good as some other fingers to stroke that high note of horror.

To make smoke is one thing; to make it with white phosphorous is quite something else. Chemicals land on the skin like globs and bits of molten plastic, sinking in, making the skin bubble. Try to wipe it away, and the hands turn into raging pain, too. The flesh becomes something that falls away in smoke, ash, and chemical residue. The pain can't be stopped: it goes in, through, and out. White phosphorous kills; but far more importantly, it maims. Killing the enemy does not confuse his battlefield nearly as much as maiming combatants and civilians alike because it is those morbid wounds that cause people to become screaming, disruptive, insistent, shrieking, enraging, horrifying deterrents to the enemy's sense of order.

Maiming is a battlefield management tool.

Women holding pieces of their children run hysterically at you, past you, in front of you. Like you're supposed to do something. Touch one of those human tragedies, and you turn into a screaming, useless statistic, too.

A dog runs by making ungodly sounds, half of his hind quarter nothing but a charred bone. Kids screaming from somewhere in the smoke. Some old woman bawling prayer that doesn't even sound right. Part of her face might be gone.

Civilians, combatants, animals, all of them blisters, black ash, bones showing, red and purple, naked skin parading around all of those other dimensions of confusion.

Shrieks and quiet alternate; thuds, unearthly snarls, and dead calm dance in the tiny place left of you.

The smell of burnt human flesh wafts with the smell of smoldering wood and flaming gasoline.

Some places, the dead are charred bodies; other places, they're pieces smeared in pools and congealing streams of blood.

As the battle rages into the night, the stillness plays to the hand of chaos. Someone walks by, oblivious in his shock. The POP-POP-POP up ahead ends his misery. The sickening smell of burning flesh becomes the putrid pall of rotting corpses. Trucks drive wildly through the streets. Maybe a woman on the passenger side is holding something against her chest.

The BOOM a few minutes later might be that truck getting obliterated by a stand-off weapon.

They can see you at night. If you move around, you die. Trying to put together an improvised explosive device on a road might end with your head splattered away by a sniper.

The walls that were once houses are chambers of moans and prayers. Women kneel, rocking slowly, almost absently, before their little piles of bodies. Men and animals lie waiting for ambulances or other vehicles to take them somewhere that's probably going to get bombed anyway. Pops and whumps occasionally pepper the sonic landscape. When you can, you rig a body. Better still, you rig a wounded fellow combatant who's still alive: he says nothing as you lay him back down on the trigger that will set off the explosion when they come and kick him over.

You try your best to become part of the confusion; but you're not capable of creating the sustained chain that turns confusion into chaos. You just can't do that part. You don't have the training.

Burning straw and grass were used a long time ago; then it was burning oil. Eventually, chlorine gas would come along, as well as other chemicals: VX and other "nerve" agents. But the incendiary stuff is always the best. Magnesium doesn't go out, even if a victim jumps in the water. The jellies came along, and they were super. Napalm was outstanding, if somewhat unidimensional. White phosphorous is better: it's slower, it makes smoke and light as it rends flesh and bone. It builds confusion with every injury it has wrought.

We who use such weapons are acclimated to confusion; we revel in it; we are a part of it.

As we endow the arena of our enemies with confusion, we deliver to them a battlefield of chaos over which they have no control, for which they have no training, upon which they have no hope of domination. They are just unwelcome visitors to our home, temporary intruders in our world. We are not the instrument of chaos; we are chaos.

And as we are chaos, we are more than just the owners of the battlefield: we are the battlefield.

The Dark Wraith has offered his perspective.

<< 44 Comments Total
 oldwhitelady blogged...

...and that's why civilians become insurgents. They see their relatives become a death statisticin a most horrific way.. Thank you. It was painful to read, as I'm sure, more than painful to live through.

Sat Dec 03, 11:17:06 PM EST  
 Dark Wraith blogged...

Good evening, Old White Lady.

I remain concerned that this post will be difficult to read for more than a few people. In one way, I suppose, it would serve to deter unabashed support for war if more were written about it.

Perhaps also, it would serve to deter unthoughtful enlistment if more were written about boot camp, although it is much tamer now than it used to be. It's still pretty bad, though, but at least the drill sergeants can't openly use certain profanities and obscenities on trainees, and they can't hit... at least when somebody's looking, I guess.

The Dark Wraith prefers not to revisit to find out first hand.

Sat Dec 03, 11:24:12 PM EST  
 The Fat Lady Sings blogged...

Where were you stationed?

Sun Dec 04, 01:07:25 AM EST  
 Dark Wraith blogged...

Good evening, Fat Lady Sings. The boot camp I describe was at Fort Sill.

The Dark Wraith has never since then put Oklahoma on his travel plans.

Sun Dec 04, 01:15:43 AM EST  
 BlondeSense Liz blogged...

Good Morning, Dark Wraith

The post was very difficult to read, indeed. I'm holding back the tears. I spent the last 50 years in a dream world and starting to wake up now. It hurts to realize that everything I believed about my country was a lie. The difference between our country and the USSR was that they knew they were being fed propaganda.

I imagine that the harsh words uttered by the drill sergeants can hurt much worse than being struck by them. But then, I'm a big wussie and I'd rather be killed than kill someone else. I admit it.

Thanks for sharing that.

Sun Dec 04, 11:22:49 AM EST  
 SB Gypsy blogged...

Good Afternoon Dark Wraith

Eloquent denunciation of the war machine. When will the human race learn that peace is the road to prosperity and happiness, and war is a sacriligous waste.

Fucking greedy bastards they are.

Sun Dec 04, 12:19:50 PM EST  
 Terrible blogged...

Great post Wraith! You description of boot camp sounds not too different from my experience at Fort Leonard Wood, 1980. Luckily I was never ordered to murder innocent men, women and children as todays troops in Iraq are. If I had been I fear I'd still be in Leaven Worth.

Sun Dec 04, 02:14:48 PM EST  
 Wild Clover blogged...


Mon Dec 05, 12:05:24 AM EST  
 donviti blogged...

I enjoy your writing style. The chaotic and frantic pace in this "story" were right on time.

Keep echoing others voices Dark Wraith and before long maybe we all can sing as one.

Mon Dec 05, 08:33:47 AM EST  
 Anonymous blogged...

From what I gather of my dad's stories Naval Boot Camp is (or was) no different, with the possible exception that the goal isn't so much the creation of chaos as it is successfully managing the function of a warship while its under attack. Of course a warship's goal is to create that chaos, but usually not at close quarters in the same way as it is with the Army.

- oddjob (who was too young to be drafted, but with his epilepsy would never have been allowed to serve anyway; I was however in the first wave of those who had to register for the draft after the Soviets invaded Afghanistan)

Mon Dec 05, 09:02:19 AM EST  
 Andi blogged...

Dear Dark Wraith,

thank you - for offering both your own perspective and the likely perspective of the people on "the other side" of this conflict.

using our essential humanity to imagine how others might also know our own fears, we realize once again that we're all in this together, no matter the color of our skin, what language we speak, or what god we choose to worship. our bodies are all fragile, our souls easily damaged by cruelty.

but some people are trying to deny this basic shared experience by eliminating poverty and suffering in their own lives, but no one else's. this ignorance is heartbreaking and infuriating to witness.

thank you again for the reality check.

Mon Dec 05, 10:51:41 AM EST  
 Dark Wraith blogged...

Good morning, Andi. It's strange to see the word 'reality' with regard to battlefield. For far too many of our current policymakers in Washington, this is some kind of imperialistic game, something like Risk or Stratego. They never got the full treatment, so to them this whole Project for the New American Century operationalization is just a play being acted out from a script written almost a decade ago.

Even old George "Empty Flight Suit" Bush got the kid-glove treatment for basic through to the fizzled end of his days in the stateside military. I wonder what would have happened if regular soldiers had decided to stop showing up with no repercussions for that war in Vietnam.

I suppose it would have ended a whole lot sooner. Maybe that's why it dragged on so long: only the few, privileged wimps got the slack.

The Dark Wraith kind of grins every time he thinks of Bush in a flight suit (with a codpiece stuffed with socks).

Mon Dec 05, 12:29:17 PM EST  
 Dark Wraith blogged...

Good morning, OddJob.

I have heard from many former Navy folks about the ungodly misery of training and ship duty. Interestingly, although Hollywood has a few times captured some of the rigors of the land soldier's life, almost nothing has been produced that shows the day-to-day awfulness of being on a boat. From what I've heard, it's drill after drill after exhausting drill. There's no let-up: the theory is that everyone has to be able to do his or her job without even thinking about it, and that requires repetitive practice to the point that it should send a normal person overboard (quite literally).

Of course, I don't think the training films the armed forces produce do much to capture the monotony, the tedium, the exhaustion, and all of that.

The Dark Wraith wonders if they'd pay him to do a series of recruiting films.

Mon Dec 05, 12:53:33 PM EST  
 Dark Wraith blogged...

Good morning, Donviti. Welcome to the Dark Wraith Forums.

Actually, things are usually pretty calm around here. My typical posts tend to be on the very dry, technical side without much effort to apply finesse.

If you read Part 1 of "A Brief Story of Money" or Part 1 of "The Structure of an Interest Rate," you'll see what I mean: just the facts; no fancy stuff; nothing strange going on at all.

The Dark Wraith wishes the regulars would try to keep the snickering down a little bit.

Mon Dec 05, 12:57:31 PM EST  
 Dark Wraith blogged...

Good morning, Wild Clover.

Yes, a shudder is probably as good a response as any. After I wrote and published this article, I had the oddest experience trying to put it behind me. I swear, all day yesterday, I kept thinking about it, even though I didn't want to after a while. It got a little ridiculous because I would catch myself spinning thoughts over and over again in my mind.

I wrote three tests yesterday, and even that didn't chase away the thoughts. It finally took a walk of about a half-hour in the bitter cold to get me out of that obsessive thinking. (Near frostbite has a way of clarifying the mind, especially when one doesn't care much for wearing a coat.)

The Dark Wraith needs to avoid writing too often about things like this.

Mon Dec 05, 01:03:22 PM EST  
 Dark Wraith blogged...

Good morning to you, Terrible. If I'm not mistaken, that was the first comment you've ever made here at The Dark Wraith Forums. It's good to see you coming over to the Dark Side of the Blogosphere.

And as far as still being in the brig for disobeying an order to kill, if memory serves me correctly, had you committed such a violation of the UCMJ, you would have been released a few years ago. I can't imagine that they'd keep you in for more than twenty years or so. That means you would have gotten out at about the same time our War President was coming into his own.

Sort of makes one want to stay in the brig.

The Dark Wraith sees a pretty complicated trade-off, there.

Mon Dec 05, 01:08:48 PM EST  
 Dark Wraith blogged...

Good morning, SB Gypsy.

Every now and then, some academic or military scholar comes along and posits that war is an essential part of being human: we wage war because it's somehow in our "nature" to do so. This idea is very popular in some military circles, particularly of the armchair and weekend warrior types.

I suppose, at the end of the day, the argument boils down to something along the lines of 'We've always had wars, and no exemplary civilization can be found that didn't have them.'

The argument is, of course, specious: we cannot find any civilization that didn't have criminal activity going on, but that doesn't mean we resign ourselves to allowing it to happen because it's somehow in our "nature." To suppress it, to abate it, to lessen its impact within a given time and across generations require the sustained, concerted, dedicated efforts of all levels of society from the family that rears the children to the leaders who pose to shepherd the nation.

Suddenly, the names DeLay, Frist, Cheney, Libby, and Rove come to mind.

Okay, then. So much for the leadership exemplifying non-criminal lifestyles.

The Dark Wraith should probably not let his ramblings lead him into counter-examples.

Mon Dec 05, 01:20:26 PM EST  
 Dark Wraith blogged...

Good afternoon, BlondeSense Liz.

You indicated before that you have a college-bound son. For his sake, I hope the nation is much different within the next few years. I fear most for a generation that has grown to adulthood watching the madness of our time and thinking this is normal. It isn't, of course; but I wonder how many young people just now becoming adults are going to imagine that wars on multiple fronts, fear at home and abroad, and religious intolerance are the way a nation typically stands.

I hope for our sake the young folks see the stupidity of it all and point out the obvious to a society that has far too many people and media outlets that simply can't see how weird this all is.

The Dark Wraith wouldn't even mind a student riot every now and then, just for old time's sake.

Mon Dec 05, 01:26:43 PM EST  
 Charles2 blogged...

A fine piece of writing, Dark Wraith. I went through a somewhat modified form of basic training at West Point. No drill sergeants, but a bunch of upper classmen who'd been through the same training; they could be awfully cruel, too. And our version lasted through the summer and through an entire academic year.

And yet the purpose was the same; to be able to operate in the chaos, to keep doing our jobs in the midst of the horror. While leading soldiers to their potential death.

As an ex-officer/soldier I understand that world. Having studied a lot of history, I understand the need for an army. Having been that instrument of "politics by other means" I understand the need to employ the pointed end of the spear with great patience and wisdom and forethought. And as a last resort.

And that last is where we've failed. (And by "we" I mean as a country; more specifically our fearless leader and his minions who have no appreciation of either the fine points of military thought nor of patience).

Mon Dec 05, 01:43:27 PM EST  
 PoliShifter blogged...

I just wanted to say that Mr. Wraith you have brilliant literary skills.

I know the subject matter for most of us is hard to masticate but I have to tell you from a reader's standpoint I was immediately drawn into your story.

I felt the bullets whizzing by my head and heard the screams of women and children. I could smell the gunpowder and burnt flesh.

You story immediately grabbed me by the shirt collar and shook me repeatedly.

Unlike many stories, this one did not let go of me until the end. Even then, the taste lingered in my mouth like morning breath for a few hours.

Even today after brushing my teeth several times I still have a sense memory from your article.

That is the long way around for me to say:

"Well Done"

Mon Dec 05, 05:08:20 PM EST  
 Anonymous blogged...


Yes, from what my father has said, the drills are endless, and for the exact purpose you cite. Under sudden attack you don't have the luxury of telling thousands of sailors where they should go; they need to do it on their own automatically.

I haven't asked my brother to verify that because it hadn't occurred to me to. (He served from '86 to about '92, IIRC). I'd be surprised if he said anything different from my dad.

My dad, however, LOVED the Navy. When you listen to him enough it becomes clear that it was quite literally when his life started. He has a tortured relationship with his family, so it probably gave him the opportunity to begin anew, as it were. He served during Korea, and while enlisted, flew in that time's equivalent of the Hawkeye, the "Guppy" (so named because the radome gave it the look of a pregnant guppy). He operated the radar.

But boot camp is boot camp.

(Oh, there are some films that show it a little. One that comes to mind in a comic way is Mr. Roberts.)

- oddjob

Mon Dec 05, 06:44:08 PM EST  
 Anonymous blogged...

("It" being the misery of shipboard duty, that is.)

- oddjob

Mon Dec 05, 06:54:47 PM EST  
 Dark Wraith blogged...

Good evening, Charles2.

The hazing at West Point is legendary. It has even influenced, or perhaps reflected, a broader cultural ritual within Anglo-Saxon societies: the so-falled "fagging" in British schools is but one example; in the United States, the teachers for many years (and still to this day in some high schools) allowed the upperclassmen and especially the athletes to brutalize the younger, weaker, and oddball kids.

At West Point, it seems to me that the treatment you mention is as much science as it is ritual. I understand that it has recently taken on a dimension of evangelical bullying, as well. That's about as scary as it gets: the secular hazing with overt religious thematics thrown in.

The comments here indicate to me that this whole subject of preparation for combat is one that has been to some extent politely ignored for so long. To the extent that Hollywood even deals with it, the point is usually to show how it makes "men" out of us. Only in rare cases, like Full Metal Jacket and Tribes, is there a hint that this isn't all a positive experience. I cannot say here or perhaps ever whether or not what happens in boot camps, basic training, military academies, and other such training grounds does good for us, our society, and our world.

I don't think it's as easy as simply deciding as an individual that I'll retain the aspects that made me stronger and simply dispense with the awful parts. It doesn't work that way: it's all there as a package.

For a person who goes in fragile, psychologically unstable, or just plain mean, what happens there turns a troubled person into a societal threat. For a person who goes in more robust, perhaps it really is something that can be shaken off in the years afterward.

Still, even though they are so rare anymore, I can't ever be sure I won't have one of the dreams again.

I hate it when I have one of them. It's like vomiting again after you think you're all better.

The Dark Wraith should probably lay off that subject, now.

Mon Dec 05, 08:52:38 PM EST  
 The Fat Lady Sings blogged...

I lived on or adjacent to a Navy base in Japan for four years. I ran a coffee house, and operated a small theatre company through the DOD. As a result, I view the military through very jaundiced eyes. I blog about it, on and off - the culture, and what it wrought. Especially the treatment of women (two words - Subic Bay). One commenter thought I was being a bit hyperbolic; but he saw Subic through male eyes – it was, after all, a testosterone paradise. Most of the sailors I knew didn’t understand what was wrong about the Navy supporting hookers – or encouraging the rest of the negative behaviors I saw day in and day out. It is all geared toward one thing – separation; them against us – and anyone not packing gonads fell into the ‘them’ category – whether they wore a uniform or not. Sometimes even that wasn’t a guarantee. The base I worked at is now infamous for the murder of a young sailor by his ship mates; all because he was gay. So I understand military culture all too well.

Tue Dec 06, 03:21:28 AM EST  
 SB Gypsy blogged...

Good Morning Dark Wraith,

The Dark Wraith wonders if they'd pay him to do a series of recruiting films.

You might get more traction from the several organizations that are blocking govt access to the HS Seniors in their community. Y'know, just to counter those enlistment commercials that are trying to guilt our parents into giving up their children to the war machine.

Tue Dec 06, 06:55:00 AM EST  
 Anonymous blogged...

The one who was murdered was Allen Schindler. Since then there was another equally brutal murder at an Army base in Kentucky.

- oddjob

Tue Dec 06, 09:03:29 AM EST  
 Progressive Traditionalist blogged...

Good morning, Dark Wraith.

That was well-written; a bit too well-written for my taste. And I'll admit that I skimmed through a large part of the middle section of the post.
I read the comments section thoroughly, however, hoping to glean information without such graphic detail.

I tested high enough on my ASVAB test that I was offered the Fireman "A" school and a two year enlistment. For those unfamiliar with it, a "Fireman" is the guy that punches the button when the officer gives the order. I had serious ethical reservations concerning firing missiles into occupied cities, and so I went with the Storekeeper school and the standard three year enlistment, stating that I felt it would provide me with more marketable job skills. And for those of you still wondering, I passed up a prestigious school and a sweetheart deal to take the grunt work and the standard wank.

I did my basic at NavCruitCom Orlando. I forget how many recruits committed suicide while I was there, but it was about one a week, give or take a few.

To gloss over a subject which really requires exploration, suffice to say that the mind control techniques employed by the military are highly advanced. Sleep deprivation and peer pressure are among the first you meet, but I really don't like jogging my memory that much to enumerate others. Among other things, I saw a kid have his arm broken for not folding his clothes properly and causing us to fail inspection.
So I understand how pointless it is to question the troops concerning their mission. It's all about say what you were taught to say. Not that they're not sincere about it. It's all about believe like you were told to believe. And always the big "Or Else" in the shadows behind them.

And, for the record, the Navy started shelling West Beirut one day while I was still in basic. We all thought we were going to war then. And I was glad in my heart that it would never be my finger on that button.

I'll agree that the public really needs to hear more of this. I wish this post could be made required reading for every high school student in this nation (and The Sheep Look Up, while I'm busy wishing). As for me, I've had enough.

Excellent work. Now shake it off.

Wed Dec 07, 03:44:48 AM EST  
 Dark Wraith blogged...

Good morning, Progressive Traditionalist.

You know the story, too. There are far too many who have gone through this who then spend the rest of their lives carrying the mark. Although only some guys get a tattoo to show their service, we all wear it. One way or the other, we all wear it.

And you are correct: the techniques employed are advanced. As a corollary to that, the results are durable. This is but a small part of the full fee of Empire: we shatter the lands of the world as we choose, we kill those who resist as we must, and we crush the will of our warriors as we may.

The Dark Wraith bids you a safe journey home, Progressive Traditionalist.

Wed Dec 07, 09:24:38 AM EST  
 PeterofLoneTree blogged...

"...the mind control techniques employed by the military are highly advanced." -- Progressive Traditionalist

Since we're speaking of mind control, I invite the blog's readers to explore "THE GREENBAUM SPEECH Hypnosis in MPD: Ritual Abuse" by D. Corydon Hammond B.S. M.S. Ph.D (Counseling Psychology) from the University of Utah delivered at the Fourth Annual Eastern Regional Conference on Abuse and Multiple Personality, Thursday June 25, 1992, at the Radisson Plaza Hotel, Mark Center, Alexandria, Virginia.


Wed Dec 07, 09:47:34 AM EST  
 Progressive Traditionalist blogged...

Good morning, Dark Wraith.

Thank you for your kind words.
And again, your insight proves to be rather incisive. And I would like to say this so that the others here will know.

As I read through the comments, I came across the one from the officer talking about hazing in the academy, and a part of me inside said, "Heh, heh, I hope he got it good." Because he's not "my kind," he's one of "those." And I didn't even realize it until later.
I don't even know this person, and, rationally, at least, I would never intend him any harm. Yet something inside of me clings to a thing I truly despise.

I thought those stains had washed away, and it was rather unsettling when I realized what I had done.
I have no justification. I can only say that it was a reflexive thought process, something I thoroughly reject, yet somehow cling to. That I can reach back in time 20 years to compromise my principles for the sake of wishing harm on a complete stranger is deeply disturbing.

And that's how it happens, without your ever knowing about it, only realizing what you've done later.
It makes me wonder if I'll ever really be able to be free. It makes me wonder what else is in there, hiding. What next?
And it pisses me off that I could have been so much of a fool as to buy into that line of crap to begin with.

That's not who I want to be in this world.
Self-discovery can be most troublesome.

Wed Dec 07, 10:21:26 AM EST  
 Andi blogged...

having read over the last few comments it has become plain to me how a nation like ours can easily justify torture.

after all, it seems we do it to our own - methodically, systematically, and regularly. what difference, then, if the "bad guys" torture our folks as well? they signed up for it, after all.

and what difference, then, if we do it to the "bad guys" - or those who might be "bad guys". after all, the ends justifies the means, right?



i wonder if basic training has changed much over the last 50 - 60 years or so. i'll have to ask my dad when i see him next. no point asking granddad - his memories of military service have paled to zinfandel and carnations.

Wed Dec 07, 10:32:09 AM EST  
 Anonymous blogged...

As DW mentioned, they aren't allowed to be quite as abusive now as they were when he went, or when Progressive Traditionalist went (the Navy shelled Beirut when Reagan was president), but even so, while I don't have personal experience, I know damn well boot camp is boot camp.

It's brainwashing, and it's deliberately so, and they'll frankly acknowledge it if you ask the right way. Given that they want to create a fighting force that won't ask, "Why?" when an order is given, what they do makes sense.

I suspect the real trouble comes from Americans assuming that it's good and healthy.

- oddjob

Wed Dec 07, 11:11:27 AM EST  
 My Pet Goat blogged...

Back when I read this post Saturday evening I initially wanted to comment on it, but as I sat there thinking about it I realized I didn't know what the hell I really wanted to say. The longer I sat there the harder it became to reread it because of the heartache and watery eyes. I walked away from it without comment, but knowing that you hit a nerve that I knew was there but was hidden behind my personal outrage against the war and torture this administration supports.

After coming back a few times to read the comments I can only say war touches people in horrendous ways that some probably can't fathom without being a party to it one way or another. Yours was boot camp. Mine was of a different nature. I was too young for Viet Nam, and although I would take up arms against an invader of this country today, I never developed a drive to enlist. Not after a relative went on a short, but entirely too effective killing spree of his immediate family a few years after his return from a tour in Nam. Blamed, in part, on post traumatic stress disorder resulting from his own experiences with war.

War is hell, in many different ways. Iraq isn’t about defending our freedoms, and quite frankly I don’t have much sympathy for those who haven’t walked away from the lies. My heart is with those touched by the cruelty of fate, those that didn’t have a choice, the mothers, the fathers, the sisters and brothers, and the Iraqis.

Wed Dec 07, 10:38:54 PM EST  
 Dark Wraith blogged...

Good evening, Mr. Goat.

I had been a bit concerned that you hadn't commented before now. When I published this article, I had the thought that I would alienate some people by the graphic details, the language, and the general subject matter. I've already been de-blogrolled by several bloggers over the past month or two, which has led me to conclude that The Dark Wraith Forums has been diverging from an unstated orthodoxy within this part of the Blogosphere. That's okay, I suppose, but I certainly don't want to lose the core readership here. I've never had the big audience of other blogs, so I surely cannot afford the loss of the dedicated readers who've stuck with this publication over the past year.

Although, as I mentioned in a previous comment, writing this article dredged up some sentiments and issues I had done a pretty good job of burying in my own mind, what has made me feel better about this is that the comments indicate the topic resonates among people, veterans and non-vets alike. That points to a binding force that will eventually—far too late, for many—put an end to this awful way in which we are conducting ourselves as a nation.

It seems to me that, early in the war and the run-up to it, there was almost a sense of incredulity among those opposed to the neo-conservative agenda: we knew it was all wrong; we knew they were liars lying once again; and we knew that no good would come of their war. At the same time, though, we had no voice, even as we screamed at the top of our lungs. Yes, there were massive demonstrations; and yes, there were eloquent (if all too rare) denunciations from the halls of Congress; but it was for naught: we had no voice.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: it's not enough to chant, "Hey-hey, ho-ho, George Bush must go!" We need more.

Now, we're getting a good sense of what that "more" is: it's blood. Lots of it. And not just any blood will do.

As sickening as it is, we still haven't learned how to inform ourselves of what is right without the sacrifice of blood. And even then, it takes awhile for the blood to soak in far enough for the majority of Americans to hear our screaming as a faint voice offering the radical idea that it's okay to stand against leadership that is immoral to its very core.

Such creatures, we are.

Sometimes, the Dark Wraith wonders if he will live to see an age that doesn't suck.

Thu Dec 08, 12:22:27 AM EST  
 Dark Wraith blogged...

Good evening, OddJob.

That point about the 'good and healthy' aspect of this way of training is about as off-limits as it gets. These training techniques are the end result of decades of development, and neither the military nor the media are going to go within a couple of light years of looking seriously at whether or not they are the most effective methods of constructing a strong fighting force.

Even I would be reticent to tell you right here and right now that the methods aren't the best. One reason is all too familiar: if one lives through something, one tends to believe that others should have to do so as well.

After my father died, I lived with my mother in wretched poverty. To this day, I find myself irritated at children who grow up with "too much." I have to fight that feeling, yet believing as I do that to abandon it is in some very material sense to dismiss my own experience as irrelevant, immaterial, less.

Difficult territory to explore. Too many roads take a fellow to too many different places.

The Dark Wraith should probably take a compass when he goes on these treks.

Thu Dec 08, 12:40:44 AM EST  
 Dark Wraith blogged...

Good evening, Andi.

Ah, you get the point about torture. It seems so obvious to me, but I shouldn't think that way: soldiers become quite a bit more receptive to serving in the capacity of torturers once they have endured a bit of "harsh" training, themselves. It's a slippery slope, and once you've been put on it, there's not a lot you won't do, as long as you see the victims as just something to be managed the way you were managed, except more harshly.

Once a person "understands" that it's just enhanced interrogation, enhanced training, enhanced resource development, or whatever, it becomes not just the best way, it's the only way.

A parent who uses physical violence on a misbehaving child is going to be quite difficult to convince that some other technique might work, and it might work far better. It is only when the fist of the state imposes a rule against that method that other ways are even considered, especially with parents who were, themselves, reared by violence.

Yes, Andi, torture is the best way for military personnel to get information from detainees; and the reason it's the best way is because military personnel know it from personal experience as the only way to deal with a critical, military, security, threat-level-high sort of environment.

The Dark Wraith wishes the debate in the broader media would at least notice this connection.

Thu Dec 08, 01:00:48 AM EST  
 Dark Wraith blogged...

Good evening, Progressive Traditionalist.

It's so funny that you would mention that sentiment you had about cadet training. I, too, have had such thoughts over the years. It is amazing how well they train us to be divisive within our own minds. At the same time we are trained to work as a unit (no, not as a "team," but rather as a unit), they are also instilling in us this us-versus-them mindset. There are enemies everywhere; and no matter how paranoid we are, we just aren't paranoid enough. Even the guy who can't keep up on the march is not "us" until he's with the unit, and they'll punish us for his screw-up. Then, we'll kick his ass, and they can act like they had nothing at all to do with the beating. And they didn't, of course.

I don't know how you do these days, but I can't get over the feeling that I'm alone. The unit has closed down to an army of one, and the only way that's ever going to change is when the one passes from this good Earth.

Then, finally, the army will have disbanded.

The Dark Wraith finds that to be perhaps the greatest sadness of it all.

Thu Dec 08, 01:09:26 AM EST  
 Anonymous blogged...


- oddjob

Thu Dec 08, 08:53:17 AM EST  
 Anonymous blogged...

I begged my son not to enlist.
He's in Iraq now.
How do we get out of this mess?

Sat Dec 10, 04:58:35 PM EST  
 Dark Wraith blogged...

Good afternoon, Flo.

We will get out of it. Unfortunately though, in my judgment it won't be a rapid withdrawal, and we shall not have learned enough to avoid stepping into more trouble soon. We have put into power people who don't understand that war is an illness, not an expression of power. That we shall leave that miserable place one day is good, but we have constructed a world ripe for further violence; and those who caused this war will not be punished by the civil society: their ranks will, therefore, not be thinned, and they will return with more plans, more ideas, and more ways for our journey to be perilous.

I wish I could tell you news that is better, but this much I can say with some certainty: your boy will come home. What becomes of him, what war has done to him, what the military's treatment has made of him is mitigated to the extent that you brought him up well. Be confident of that. He has expressed his independence of you and your wishes. When he returns, if he is a good son, he will know far more about the wisdom that comes from the hearts of good people; and he will know this because he will have seen the blackness that comes from the souls of those who are otherwise.

The Dark Wraith wishes you well, Flo.

Sat Dec 10, 05:40:16 PM EST  
 LanceThruster blogged...

(Sorry. This is a duplicate comment post but I wanted it to go with the correct article. Thanks for your response Dark Wraith.)

Greetings Dark Wraith and forum community,

First time here, first entry. Came for the economics post, left with visions of white phosphorous dog agony and baby bits blown about by the masters of chaos.

I became of draft age in '75 but it was all over but the suffering by then so there was no real reason for concern. I actually considered signing up for several years thinking this would most likely be a relatively safe time for enlisted personnel. Probably the main reason I ultimately chose against it was that I had a dread fear of being called upon to kill people, or facilitate killing people, for no conceivable justification.

To this day the image of the young Vietnamese girl running naked down the road after having had her clothes and skin burned off by Napalm is still seared into my brain. One can only imagine the persistance of the memory of having actually gone through such physical pain.

What I'd like to add to the discussion is the suggestion that anyone interested in learning more about the psychological stripping of Basic Training (boot camp) read the chapter in Gwynne Dyer's book "War" titled "Anybody's Son Will Do". It was also a series on PBS with one of the eight episodes devoted to that chapter. It is certainly eye-opening material from a thoughtful and well-spoken indepenent journalist. Much like the Dark Wraith himself.


Thu Dec 29, 02:41:04 PM EST  
 john bourne harbour blogged...

that definitely needs to be read more than once-- i'll mark it and come back-- good writing--

Mon Jan 02, 04:38:10 PM EST  
 StealthBadger blogged...

Good evening, sir (in the formality, not the military sense).

One thing that everyone I know who has served in the Navy has told me, is that shipboard combat is frighteningly unreal. Aside from manned interdiction (which I believe is/was the term for where where you put Marines on someone else's boat) The people who get the closest to the enemy are the pilots, and their view of the carnage is distant, to say the least.

The reason the Navy has such repetitive, constant, mind-numbingly insistent training is because when things go wrong on a ship... they go very wrong. Enclosed compartments, fuel tanks (especially on an aircraft carrier), and the presence of ammunition magazines of one sort or another (gods forbid a fire near a set of Tomahawk launcher cells, or the munitions storage for fighter/bombers) make a shipboard fire something to be dealt with and dealt with quickly.

It's ironic that the branch of the service which has the most flexibility and power in its capacity for sub-thermonuclear warfare is also the one that is in by far the most trouble when someone successfully hits back (think of how long the U.S.S. Cole was stuck in place before it could even move after the naval equivalent of a truck bomb hit it - it was transported out).

The one thing in common it has with all modern warfare is the infliction of chaos on people far away from the purposes the chaos serves.

Fri Jan 20, 12:57:29 AM EST  
 jenny blogged...

Wow. Very intense. Thank you.

Wed Jan 25, 12:16:57 AM EST