Friday, March 12, 2010

Family Feud

Long time readers will know that one of my brothers is a Marine. As I understand it, the present tense is correct, once, always.

He read an article on about a very brief interview with a Navy Seal and his lawyer about pending charges against the Seal and two others for assaulting an alleged terrorist they had apprehended.

My brother sent me the link and gave me his thoughts about the charges using the theme “you can’t handle the truth!” from the Nicholson/Cruise movie A Few Good Men.

Here’s his raw Email (published with his permission and encouragement) and then my quick response. Then I’ll write a bit more.


As I have said before Jack Nicholson is the real hero in the movie “A Few Good Men” not Tom Cruise. Some of you don’t understand the line that Jack said in the movie as he portrayed the USMC Lt. Colonel . What was that line you ask? “You can’t handle the truth”.

So why start with a reference to an old movie? Because a Navy Seal is on trial for giving a “fat lip” to a murdering coward. Remember the Fallujah incident of the American that was killed and then dragged around town, burned and then hung from a bridge while the citizens of that city celebrated? I remember. This guy and two other Seals captured the bastard that killed him and tortured his body in public. He is on trial because the guy has a fat lip. I am tired of this Political Correctness and ACLU crap that this country seems to think they must maintain. This country for the most part can’t handle the truth. They want safety but they won’t let those who do the job of ensuring it carry out the mission without oversight into things that they can’t understand and “can’t handle”. So what if the guy got a fat lip from a Navy Seal that captured him??? IMO he is lucky that is all he suffered. It is WAR people. Wake up. Let those that are trained do a job most of us don’t understand do it without reprisal.

Maybe it was the physical beatings that I took from my Marine Corps Drill Instructors that jade me to this. Maybe I understand more than some others do because of what I went thru. If you care to watch another movie, “Full Metal Jacket”. That is what I endured. I got regularly punched and knocked onto my ass from DI’s that had contempt for me. They screamed at me just inches from my face one minute and then whispered into my ear hate and contempt for my sorry ass the next minute. They told me I was not worthy to be a Marine in THEIR Corps. They told me softly and they told me loudly. They told me with pain. I proved them wrong. I took their words, their punishment and their pain. They told us that if we could not survive what they were dishing out in Boot Camp how would we ever survive being a POW in a time of war. How could we perform our mission under pressure?

Even if the guy did get punched who cares. I don’t.


I read the article and did a search for news reports. I can't find anything that sets out the facts of the incident. Without them, I don't know what he did, when he did it and what the specific charges are. If the bad guy got the injury during the apprehension, I don't think the Seal did anything wrong, probably. If the guy was in custody and restrained and the Seal was taking little vengeance, the Seal probably violated the [UCMJ]. Even if that's the case, it's understandable and I would hope he wouldn't get slapped too bad. That said, and this has nothing to do with me being liberal, everybody knows the rules of the game. For a poor analogy, if I'm speeding and get a ticket, it's no defense that the speed limit is too low or that everybody goes as fast as I was going. I broke the law and have to face the consequences.

Should the [UCMJ] be changed to allow a Seal to after the fact take out his anger on a terrorist? Probably not in my liberal view.

As to the "you can't..." Oh, I can take it. I know full well that a lot goes on in and around war that doesn't pass legal muster. It doesn't bother me too much; but, again, like the Nicholson character, the Seal, a CIA operative, you get caught, you know what's coming.

Finally as to how you were trained, as you know, that is for the most part a thing of the past. I think it should be. My proof: the military is turning out some pretty good Marines, soldiers, sailors and Seals with the new "kinder and gentler" training.

So, we have the visceral reactions of the hero (he is, he’s decorated) and the lawyer. Neither is sufficient.

What are the core issues?

First, we are at war whether we want to be or not. War is not pretty. There is truth to the broad defense of the warrior of “you can’t handle the truth!” There is also truth to the proposition that we should be “better” than our enemies. Is an eye for an eye the best answer?

I don’t know what the Seal and his friends did, I still can’t find a media report that includes anything but reports of the reaction to the charges against them.

Beyond the timing of the offense, if there was an offense, that I seized on in my Email response, what is it that we should be telling our warriors? And let’s be realistic here. There are those among us, I’m included, that don’t want violence, guns, war. I want it all to “poof” go away. It isn’t going away for the most part because of the huge cultural differences between the “Western” nations and the “rogue” countries and groups. We can pull out of Iraq and Afghanistan tomorrow and we will be attacked at the next opportune moment.

So, again, what to do with a Seal that we need, that we have trained to have a hair trigger, that may have reacted (and it’s the wrong word) inappropriately? Or that flat violated the Uniform Code of Military Justice?

We’ve faced this issue for the life of our country. The old people start the war and the young go to fight it. Every now and again, the young’ns, having been wound up, screw it up.

I can’t help but revert to my legal background. If he attacked the guy when he didn’t need to, he has to face the consequences. That said, he was conditioned to react with violence, should we have a few more co-defendants, a bit older?

There’s more here that I’m having trouble articulating, feel free to weigh in.


Posol'stvo the Medved said...

This is a complicated issue, but I think you've hit the nail on the head when you say (and I paraphrase here) that despite the fact that you find violence distasteful doesn't mean it's going away.

We may be civilized, but in the end, we're still animals. Territorial, protectionist, pack animals, and sometimes another pack tries to take over our territory, and that aggression will not stand.

I don't see that ever evolving out of us. If it did, humanity'd surely go the way of the dinosaur.

About this marine, I'm with you -- I cannot comment until I know what happened. The thing is, despite my veteran status, I can't help that I have a hunch that there's some culpability on that marine.

I hope I'm wrong.

Anonymous said...

I don't know that it's fair to call him a "murdering coward." In war the rules say you're allowed to kill people you don't like, and there have been been many instances where the US military, too, has proudly displayed the dead mangled bodies of the people they've killed; Qusay and Uday Hussein, for example.

I don't quite understand the distinction myself, but apparently it's not "murder" as long as you're wearing a hat when you do the killing. (It's a legal distinction, not a moral one.)

As for the "coward" part, that word is really just a schoolyard taunt these days, kind of like saying he's got cooties. I don't think it really applies here at all, at least not with the traditional meaning.

Moving along, I don't think the ACLU or "political correctness" has anything to do with this case. Correct me if I'm wrong, but the Navy Seal was arrested by the military and will be tried and sentenced by the military- and historically, the military has been awfully lenient with its own. I think the stiffest punishment he'll face is maybe a letter of reprimand in a dusty file somewhere.

I have no fears for the soldier's safety. It's not like he's being sent to Guantanamo.

Dave said...

I was hoping you'd weigh in Thomas.

Pos, Thomas, what is the appropriate punishment, assuming it was a punch in the mouth, after the fact? Just stirring the pudding.

Dave said...

And Larry, does the fact that it is the Navy charging the Seal have any bearing on your view? As Thomas says, the Military isn't known for going off half cocked against its own.

More stirring.

Lifehiker said...

I got a good laugh when I saw "" as the source for a complaint that "you can't handle the truth".

I was an Army paratrooper officer, but I trained with SEALS and I've hiked with some on the Appalachian Trail in recent years. They're pretty mature guys, since their job requires a lot of precision and control - unlike Marines, who are great soldiers but a bit crazy; I cite your brother's letter as proof.

As far as the actual offense is concerned, I'm not sure a simple "fat lip" would be causing all this consternation. As usual, I expect Faux News has left out a lot of the story. Will they report the "truth" that comes out of the trial? Not if it doesn't support their agenda.

Dave said...

From a fairly conservative blog, the Seals demanded a court martial rather than what apparently is a low grade proceeding called an Admiral's Mast.

LF, Larry's not crazy, he's set in his ways as are you and I.

The Tank said...

Maybe it is my fault that my characterization of the “murdering coward” and the lumping in of the ACLU and the Political Correctness are what you feel necessary to make comment about. On a higher level yes, I don’t like the ACLU and the PC things that we seem as a country to be doing more of but that was not my point. We can debate the “no value added” ACLU and the Political Correctness stuff later. I was lumping that in as my theme was “you can’t handle the truth”. So, I will take the blame for your going in the direction you have chosen as I didn’t explain that this “murdering coward” murdered 4 Blackwater contract employees with unsolicited wrath. I wasn’t a witness but I would bet you that the “murdering coward” didn’t wear a “hat” as you put it. Blackwater employees do carry weapons depending on the job they are doing. Some are drivers; some are armed bodyguards/security. This “murdering coward” saw them for what they were as they weren’t hiding their weapons (if they were carry any) but I will continue to bet high stakes that the “coward’ did NOT have his “hat” on.

Trouble with this modern day war is no one plays by the rules anymore but us. They don’t wear “hats” and uniforms. The coward can walk right up to you and pull his concealed weapon and “bang” (4 times) your all dead before you ever have a chance to react. Or if it is one of the cowards that wants all the virgins when he goes to heaven then he is a suicide martyr. The virgin thing in case you didn’t know is something they get promised in the name of religion. BTW have you heard that Marines are Travel Agents for Allah, but there won’t be any virgins when the “cowards” arrive.

I will also challenge your statement that the US military has “proudly” displayed dead mangled bodies. Kill verification yes; “proudly” display, NO. We didn’t burn them after they were dead then drag them thru the streets and hang their burnt body from a bridge or anything near that. We are the good guys.

Finally, yes, as you say the Military is trying this Seal. Maybe because the ACLU or some Politically Correct person is watching what they don’t understand or “can’t handle” and has forced the Military to put on a show for the PC people that can’t handle the truth.

The Tank said...

I will take the comment that Marines are “crazy” as a compliment. You can take a shot at me or my Marines but the point is you need us, to be “crazy”. Marines are machines not the precision intellectual warriors that Seals are. What did Nicholson say? You need me out there on that wall.

Seals are mature, I agree. Seals are trained in more than just warfare. They are given classes on human observation that might rival what a Psychotherapist might be taught. Precision and control, I also agree that Seals have that. Mature as you said, yes they are that or they would be weeded out of Seal training early on.

Marines are good soldiers as you said, thank you. There are no better soldiers than a US Marne in the world. I know. I am also biased and very proud of what I am. We might be crazy but in a good way. The kind of crazy this country needs. We don’t question orders or debate what is asked of us. So I will take your shot. Maybe we could change the tagline “The Few. The Proud. The Marines. The Crazies.” Don’t be jealous. We don’t take everyone.

FauxNews… I guess you’re happy with those other news agencies that kissed up to Obama. This past election was won by the media and the great unwashed, i.e. those that never voted before and can’t handle the truth. All news agencies are bad. If you followed the link there was no real story except an interview with McCabe’s attorney who had no comment. BTW I voted for the War hero, McCain.

Finally, I agree that there could be more to the “fat lip” that is causing all this consternation.

I guess I wrote my original email to my brother and others in my family and then encouraged Dave to “blog it” because I think warriors should be allowed to give murdering cowards a fat lip. They are under different work stress than most of us. They definitely have different office tools that they use at work than the most of us. Don’t judge a man until you have walked in his shoes. You said you “jumped” so you should know. That being said, those that walk in similar shoes are judging him. It is a UCMJ trial. That is a good thing.

One last thing, a report from Secretary Napolitano categorizes returning Military Veterans and those individuals that are proponents of “States Rights” or those that oppose the growth of the Federal Government as “Right Wing Extremists”. She used to be the Governor here in Arizona where I am from, you can keep her. She doesn’t like me.

The Tank said...

The Seals want to make a point if they passed on the Admiral’s Mast. Marines call it Office Hours. The “office” would be your Commanding Officer’s office.

Posol'stvo the Medved said...

Dave --

You asked me what I think an appropriate punishment would be, but that's unfair to ask without divulging the details of the crime. That said, let me give you a lot of carefully qualified possibilities.

IF it was just a fat lip, and nothing more, and was done while the prisoner was in custody and not in a position to defend himself, I think that's the type of offense that needs a strong deterrent to him and his buddies that such a thing will not be tolerated, and is (apologies to your brother) a cowardly act. But, this is not a hanging offense. If there was remorse, maybe an LOR (which stays on your record - if you get more, it turns into something else). If no remorse shown, perhaps I'd go as high as a reduction in pay grade.

If it were more than a fat lip, and the prisoner were unable to defend himself -- in other words, if the guy beat the shit out of a defenseless prisoner -- the punishment should be greater. Loss of paygrade and perhaps a short sentence?

Look, you can talk about how the enemy doesn't have to play by the rules and all of that shit, but that only applies in the field of engagement. (And sounds hauntingly like things that I heard that the redcoats said about the minutemen, which I find enticingly thought provoking.) Once the prisoner is in custody, however, we don't have to counter balance their lack of playing by the rules. To say that in this context is a specious argument, designed to invoke a visceral and emotional response. And guess what? You should not make judgments from emotion, otherwise you will not carry JUSTICE.

Posol'stvo the Medved said...

Oh, and by the way, "You can't handle the truth" is an emotional manipulator. Plays on fears or plays on pride. But it is bullshit. We can all handle the truths that we hold dear, and have a hard time with the truths that violate our sensibilities. (By the way, what the hell is 'truth' anyway, really?) Which could be used on both sides. It's called cognitive dissonance.

Anonymous said...

If all they did was give the guy a fat lip, then really I'd almost be willing to just give it a pass. I know that young guys with adrenaline pumping don't always make the best decisions, and if they expressed any remorse at all I'd be willing to let them off the hook. First offense for simple assault in Texas is usually just a $500 fine, and that seems more than adequate.

But I'm familiar with how the military ignored the massacres at My Lai in Viet Nam and Fallujah in Iraq. There's not a doubt in my mind that these guys are not only going to skate through this unscathed, but in some quarters people are going to want to pin a medal on them.

But I don't think that's what Jesus would do.

The Tank said...

It was "fat lip" so I vote for a letter of reprimand. No one will pin a medal on these Seals.

In my view the military didn’t ignore My Lai (Pinkville) or what happened over a long period of time in Fallujah. In the case of My Lai, jail time was served and in the case of Fallujah it is still a debate as to what happened and how. Nothing was ignored.

Actually it should be noted that the murder of the Blackwater employees and the subsequent "fat lip" incident occurred within Fallujah approximately a year after a turning point incident when the 82nd Airborne responded to what they thought was weapons fire on their position from within the large crowd of protesters that were violating a curfew. Fallujah was nasty and unpredictable from that point on. The Army fired upon what they thought was now combatants and no longer protesters. The sad results, 17 were killed and approximately another 70 protesters wounded. Lesson number one, it is a war zone, with a curfew, stay home at night unless you like testing the reactions of the occupying force.