Department of Sardonic Understatement


Russell Saunders

Russell Saunders is the ridiculously flimsy pseudonym of a pediatrician in New England. He has a husband, three sons, daughter, cat and dog, though not in that order. He enjoys reading, running and cooking. He can be contacted at blindeddoc using his Gmail account. Twitter types can follow him @russellsaunder1.

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35 Responses

  1. Avatar Jazgar says:

    Isn’t the whole point of military training to purge one of “sympathy” and “humanism” toward a perceived other, to instead enable a service member to kill without hesitation or remorse? You know, be “objective”?Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      I thought it was to provide employment.Report

    • Avatar tom van dyke says:

      Mr. Jazgar, the modern US military is more than just a killing machine; it must be more. I’ve enjoyed Robert Kaplan’s work over the years; you used to see him inthe Atlantic a lot, boots on the ground. Here’s how he sees it:,13190,091205_Imperial_Grunts,00.htmlReport

    • Avatar Burt Likko says:

      The military’s mission is to protect and defend the society which sponsors it. Killing — or at minimum, being able and willing to kill — is most certainly a part of fulfilling that mission. But so is subordination of its command structure to the civilian political powers and the rule of law.

      That means that the military must comply with lawful instructions given to it by the Commander in Chief and it must comply with the law of the land, which originates from Congress and the courts. To follow the law is therefore part of the mission of the military.Report

    • Avatar BlaiseP says:

      Um, no. The point of military training is to teach people the exact opposite sort of skill set. They are taught to operate as a team and to obey lawful orders. I have hollered this exact bit of boilerplate at trainees. I repeat it for your benefit.

      War is what happens when politicians stop doing their goddamn jobs and they stop when the politicians start doing them again. They wouldn’t happen at all if humankind exhibited any common sense, but this commodity is woefully lacking the world today. In the mean time, the in between time, until the politicians get their shit together and work out how men and nations can get along, we in the military are the only thing keeping good order and discipline in the world.

      You will notice the flag of the United States upon your shoulder. Everything you will ever do while wearing that uniform is a direct reflection upon that flag. That uniform does not insulate you from being a human being and does not give you the right or obligation to shoot people you do not like. You will fire when you are ordered to fire, and you will not like it one little bit. Your job is to take ground and hold it.

      And let’s get another thing straight right now. If I detect a sociopath in this unit, someone who enjoys the idea of killing and abusing people, I will personally see to it you end up in Fort Leavenworth with a lifetime subscription to Stars and Stripes.

      By the way, does anyone in this formation want to be a Heeeeero? Well get that idea out of your head immediately. Medals are awarded to dead people and your job is to stay alive and achieve your mission. Your ass is currently the property of the United States Army and as such, it will be properly maintained as would any other military asset.

      Motivated soldiers do not fight for glory. They fight for each other and my job is to evict the self-centered pusillanimous civilian from your soul. You will do thousands of pushups because someone else screwed up and you will learn to think as a team. My job is not to reduce you to some fighting dog, but to train you to stay alive and instil enough honor and duty in you to do your job and obey orders in the face of great adversity. Every living winner of the Congressional Medal of Honor has said he felt he won it on behalf of his unit.Report

      • Avatar Jazgar says:

        “You will fire when you are ordered to fire,”


        • Avatar BlaiseP says:

          No, Jazgar. Sorta helpful if you’d at least quote the whole sentence.Report

          • Avatar Jazgar says:

            That would defeat the point I’m trying to make. Shooting, killing is something a service member is expected to do – like it or not – without question when ordered to do so. I was focusing on what I see as the key bit.

            Does that necessarily translate into a blindspot for civil rights advances throughout history? Or, at minimum, a blindness for how those earlier advances in any way relate to what’s happening with gays today? I don’t know, but it certainly can’t help.Report

            • Avatar BlaiseP says:

              Your point was about Sympathy and Humanism, both of which were sequestered in the Quotation Marks of Snarktation. As a former drill sergeant, linguist, interrogator and military trainer, I find your points repulsive and uninformed. These are American soldiers, still American citizens, with all the faults and failings of an effete and selfish civilian upbringing, into whom honor and duty and yes, civil rights are instilled through months of nonstop training. The US Army was the first branch of service to desegregate its ranks. My chain of command personally covered for several gay troops in units, including my own platoon, knowing they were good soldiers and well-respected in the ranks. These soldiers came out to us, because such things cannot be hidden, and we protected them out of a sense of unit cohesion. Our training instilled in us a team ethos which did not allow us to betray our fellow soldiers, whatever their sexual preferences and this was in the 1970s, long before gays had any rights in the military.

              Don’t you worry about why we shoot at people, Jazgar. It’s no fun, as I’ve said. It’s terribly destructive to the shooter. It ain’t Hollywood. There are no blind spots, anywhere. You shoot someone, it’s burned into you forever.Report

              • Avatar Jazgar says:

                Okay, thanks for missing the topic I was discussing completely, but feel free to jump in and make this all about YOU.Report

        • Avatar DensityDuck says:

          Jazgar, why do you so badly want soldiers to be mindless killbots? Why do you so desperately want that to be true?Report

      • Avatar DensityDuck says:

        “The point of military training is to teach people the exact opposite sort of skill set. They are taught to operate as a team and to obey lawful orders.”

        Which is, incidentally, why basic training still involves marching and rifle drill.Report

  2. Avatar Dexter says:

    The only problem with separate showers is the potential use of Zyklon B.
    As an old straight guy that came of age in a very liberal college town at the height of hippiedom, who has lived in San Fransisco, lived in the gay area of Baton Rouge for several years and hitchhiked over 100,000 miles, I have been propositioned by gays more times than I can remember, and everytime but once, all it took was for me to say, “I appreciate the offer, but I am not gay.” and that was the end of that. The one scarey timeI was thumbing in Arkansas and the man drove off the main highway and would not quit touching me. I had to threaten violence before he took me back to the main highway. How many women my age can say they have only ran into one overbearing jerk?Report

  3. Avatar Barry says:

    What gets me about those soldiers (and a similar question from a Marine sgt) is that if some soldier walked up to an officer or sergeant in Iraq, and said that ‘I signed up to defend the USA and kill Al Qaida, not to help Bush the Lesser with his daddy issues, or to enrich Halliburton’, they’d slap him down hard. Real hard.

    Again, we see right-wingers crying oppression when they don’t get their way.Report

    • Avatar BlaiseP says:

      That depends. There’s loads of talk like this in the barracks, you might be surprised. Soldiers are trained and generally instructed to keep their politics in their footlockers, but I’ve had substantive discussions about politics with my chain of command, both officers and enlisted. There are ground rules about it: partisan politics leading to disruption can get you whacked under Article 134, but observing a host of civilian contractors including a bunch of retreads who used to be in the ranks now making ten times their former military salary has engendered many an unpleasant remark of the sort you mention.Report

      • BlaiseP, why would you say polls show most military people are Republicans?Report

        • Avatar BlaiseP says:

          Democrats are generally more educated and therefore don’t enlist as much? Hard to say.Report

          • Avatar Robert Cheeks says:

            Could you cite that remark? Just curious!Report

              • Avatar Robert Cheeks says:

                Thanks Bp.
                I found this comment in the body of the article most telling:
                “Obama’s weaker performance among voters with less education is inconsistent with the typical pattern seen in general-election contests, in which the Democratic candidate tends to do better than the Republican among this group.”
                Perhaps, Barry’s election was in part the response to him being the product of miscegenation, which was considered rather kewl in 08. I wonder if it’ll have any effect in ’12?Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                I am not touching that. Bobbo, when you sit down to compose one of your screedlets, do you sort through your potential responses to find which might be the most graceless, the crudest, then spice it with the dry rub of cracker crypto-racism? So it seems, from over here.Report

              • Avatar Robert Cheeks says:

                Bp, I do think you swallowed the whole damn glass of political correctness bs to the point that simple, observable facts are what, unfair, too challenging for your intellect, ‘racist?’ Dude, you played that card way too early.
                BTW, the answer is very simple. The color of the skin of Barry’s commie parents is now, officially, irrelevant. What will matter most in ’12 is how many millions of Americans this clown has outta work.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                transfer calicem istum a me. I am hardly an exponent of political correctness. If anything, I am the most politically incorrect person I know. I am, to put it mildly, an equal opportunity asshole; I simply do not care who I offend anymore. I call ’em like I see ’em, and your coprophagous defense of the Confederacy leads me to the conclusion thou art a cracker of the first water.Report

        • I think the fact that the South is overwhelmingly Republican — and the military has almost always been overwhelmingly Southern — plays its role, too.Report

        • Avatar BlaiseP says:

          There’s a strong rural component in the Army, which sorta goes to Elias’ point. I can’t speak for USAF or any of the other branches of service. Also lots of Pacific Islanders, getting their US citizenship the Hard Way.

          There are Democrats in the military. It’s an existential problem: I wonder how many soldiers didn’t respond to these surveys, preferring, as I said above, to keep their politics in their footlockers. As with bar etiquette, it’s unwise to bring up religion or politics in close quarters.Report

  4. Avatar Mike Schilling says:

    There’s also a strong evangelical and fundamentalist component in all of the services (see the scandals at the Air Force Academy), and that trends heavily Republican these days.Report

  5. Avatar Scott says:

    It would have been nice if CPT Bonenberger had mentioned the role Judge Advocates played in the briefing and his training. I find it hard to believe he did it all himself.Report

  6. Avatar tom van dyke says:

    They felt that the terms of their commitment to the Army had been changed — that they would not have joined if they had known they might be serving alongside gays. There was also a great deal of concern about the decision not to make separate showers or living quarters.

    No different than if our women in the military were now presented with unisex bathrooms, showers and barracks.

    I don’t find the controversy fairly stated here. Perhaps there were some who enlisted in the belief that there “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” was a chimera, that there really are no gays in the military, but this is not a reasonable assumption.

    Although some like to think that our military is made up of the ignorant and stupid, I find it difficult to believe that Bonenberger’s locution

    The vocal minority asked whether soldiers could be compelled to serve alongside people whose lifestyles they believed were immoral.

    is accurate, any more than these enlistees believed they would not be serving next to whoremongering drunks. I estimate that the lion’s share enlisted under DADT, which they found acceptable and agreeable. Their protest is valid.

    Not that I consider the C-in-C abolishing DADT as illegitimate. It was Bill Clinton’s first [attempted] official act, iirc, and I thought he damaged his presidential authority from the first by backing down from Congress. But he should have had the votes or not brought it up. Big mistake, one he repeated with Hillarycare.

    Now that Congress has jumped in as well't_ask,_don't_tell#Don.27t_Ask.2C_Don.27t_Tell_Repeal_Act_of_2010

    well, it’s the law of the land. Unless repealed, but that’s not going to pass a presidential veto. Done.

    Will it negatively affect the military? We will not know for a long time, and by then, it won’t matter. The ratchet will have already clicked.Report

  7. Avatar DensityDuck says:

    “Some have complained that the military is taking too long to put the repeal into effect. Why can’t the president just order it done and move on, they ask.”

    Well, according to some people here, that should have been all it took. After all, Brown v. Board of Education was all we needed to solve racism, right?Report