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Source: (consider it) Thread: The military
mousethief

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# 953

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quote:
Originally posted by rolyn:
I have every respect for a pacifist, or indeed someone who can identify a predominantly pacifist narrative in the bible. However, apart from certain aspects of the Gospel, along with St Paul's campaign of non-violence, it seems a bit of a stretch to me.

So, if you take out the pacifism, you just can't find any pacifism? Stands to reason.

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rolyn
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Pacifism is in there yes but with so much else to contradict it, esp OT and Revelations, it isn't difficult to understand how soldiers were motivated to advance, bayonets fixed with Bibles pressed close to their chest.
Were the few conscientious objectors of WW1, and greater number of WW2, motivated by formalised religion? My guess is they were not.

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Kaplan Corday
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quote:
Originally posted by rolyn:
Were the few conscientious objectors of WW1, and greater number of WW2, motivated by formalised religion? My guess is they were not.

Some certainly were.

My father-in-law, when called up for WWII, refused on Christian grounds to bear arms, but agreed to serve in a medical unit, where he finished up nursing a few Japanese soldiers as well as those on his own side.

He was by no means the only one.

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Huia
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quote:
Originally posted by rolyn:
Were the few conscientious objectors of WW1, and greater number of WW2, motivated by formalised religion? My guess is they were not.

I know some of the NZ conscientious objectors in both wars were motivated by their Christian beliefs. Some were also motivated by political beliefs.

James K Baxter, a NZ poet noted how his father, Archibald Baxter* (a CO) shared a prison cell with early Labour Party supporters in WWI, while his brother Terence was imprisoned by the Labour Government for being a Pacifist in WWII.

*Archibald Baxter wrote We Will Not Cease which was am autobiographical account of this treatment by the military. Well worth a read if you can get hold of it.

Huia

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Charity gives food from the table, Justice gives a place at the table.

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Jengie jon

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I am afraid for Rolyn that the evidence is rather contrary and that the majority were motivated by Religious belief.

The most decorated soldier in WWI was a conscientious objector almost certainly motivated by his belonging to a Congregational Church. Pacificism is a strand within Congregationalism that runs deep and Congregationalism was far bigger in the first half of the twentieth century than it is today. If you look up Constance Coltman you will find that she too was strongly Pacificist.

Another major thing is that many conscientious objectors were Quaker where Pacificism is far stronger.

The problem is that these parts of Nonconformity often does not give the vocal statements about their beliefs but phrase their faith commitment statements in rational form. You give the reason of your faith, not simply restate your faith. Nobody comes a conscientious objector suddenly, it often comes of a life lived within the community that supports it.

How deep does it go? Well as a teenager one of the issues that my congregation put in front of me was whether I would sign up for the armed forces in case of war. The encouraged line was to be an objector. This really was overdrive; not only am I female but because of my parentage, I am unacceptable to the military (I am not British enough).

Jengie

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rolyn
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I am beyond the age of call-up but have generally felt I would have answered it, (albeit with trepidation), provided the cause was just-- vague though such a definition has proved to be.

The conviction of the conscientious objector at the early stage of WW1 is to be admired because many of them faced brutality and humiliation due to their disobedience.
Having read a little more on wiki I discovercovered that CO's who objected on religious grounds were treated somewhat more sympathetically by the public than those acting purely for political motives.
Presumably this was a time when nothing was viewed lower than an apparent coward who also turned out to be an atheist.

[ 28. December 2016, 22:25: Message edited by: rolyn ]

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Brenda Clough
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There's a frightening article in today's NY Times about how Stephen Bannon (notorious right-winger, formerly head of Breitbart News and now consigliere of the Mango Mussolini) spoke to a Vatican conference about the Church Militant and how to politicize it. I can't post a link but the headline is "Church Militant Theology Pu to New and Politicized Use."

Would that the Church could indeed be a tool for peace; there are those who want to use it for war.

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Science fiction and fantasy writer with a Patreon page

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mousethief

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quote:
Originally posted by Brenda Clough:
There's a frightening article in today's NY Times about how Stephen Bannon (notorious right-winger, formerly head of Breitbart News and now consigliere of the Mango Mussolini) spoke to a Vatican conference about the Church Militant and how to politicize it. I can't post a link but the headline is "Church Militant Theology Pu to New and Politicized Use."

Would that the Church could indeed be a tool for peace; there are those who want to use it for war.

Psalm 120 verse 7:

I am for peace: but when I speak, they are for war.

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“Religion doesn't fuck up people, people fuck up religion.”—lilBuddha

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Avey
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This site is oddly like the Army Rumour Service website (to which, apart from being registered there, I am otherwise unaffiliated)

There is even an identical "Dead Pool 2017" thread. They are good deal more sweary but not at all unlike this site.

Good threads on various subjects including Christianity and cover all things military.

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betjemaniac
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quote:
Originally posted by Avey:
This site is oddly like the Army Rumour Service website (to which, apart from being registered there, I am otherwise unaffiliated)

There is even an identical "Dead Pool 2017" thread. They are good deal more sweary but not at all unlike this site.

Good threads on various subjects including Christianity and cover all things military.

there's more cross-over than you might think - I post on both and I can think of a couple of others (obviously I'm not going to name names).

I find ARRSE has a broader political spectrum than on here (there's a thread which has been running for several years where hardline Soviet-style socialists have been going at the Ayn Rand followers - and vice versa - hammer and tongs), and also like the way that it seems to work much more on trust - you're allowed to cross lines that on here would have people screaming about lawyers, and moderators only seem to get involved once in a blue moon. Nevertheless the sky doesn't seem to fall in...

On the other hand, the ship is clearly the place for more breadth of religious focused discussion, hence membership of both.

I'm projecting here massively, but I think members of the ship would be surprised how much they've got in common with Arrse members. Having said that, I think Arrse posters would find it easy to get along here, whereas Shipmates would need to be asbestosed up beyond Hell levels to survive in Arrse's more no-holds-barred atmosphere. Probably a place on the internet for both of them.

The short way to keep this on thread is that I think there can be a tendency to "other" members of the military - either because it takes a certain sort of person, or "they have something done to them during training" - both of which attitudes have come across on this thread from time to time. 5 minutes on Arrse would make it clear that, aside from the swearing Barclay James Harvest had it right; Everyone is Everybody Else.

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moonlitdoor
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I've always thought that it takes a certain kind of person, namely a brave person. I am not a pacifist and generally admire the courage of the armed forces, but it is very other than me, as I am not brave at all. I don't think that seeing people as different has to mean that you regard them negatively.

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Doc Tor
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quote:
Originally posted by betjemaniac:
The short way to keep this on thread is that I think there can be a tendency to "other" members of the military - either because it takes a certain sort of person, or "they have something done to them during training" - both of which attitudes have come across on this thread from time to time. 5 minutes on Arrse would make it clear that, aside from the swearing Barclay James Harvest had it right; Everyone is Everybody Else.

I'd like to agree with you, but I can't.

In no other walk of life would someone I considered a friend be compelled by someone else (a more senior officer) to shoot me.

You might like to maintain the fiction that 'everyone is everybody else', but in this specific situation, they're not. We should all remember that.

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rolyn
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Quite right DT.
Which is why Hitler ordered the burning the copies of All Quiet on the Western Front . He knew that a powerful scene, (in which a young German soldier was filled with remorse at stabbing someone who 'could have been his brother'), had the potential to seriously undermine his plans for remilitarisation.

Military personnel have to be conditioned, with the ultimate conditioning coming from actual experience in battle. Often it is the readjustment which is the problem, more for some than others.

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Kaplan Corday
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quote:
Originally posted by Doc Tor:
In no other walk of life would someone I considered a friend be compelled by someone else (a more senior officer) to shoot me.

The caricature of all soldiers as automatons, who mindlessly and murderously obey any order, makes me think that most of the contributors to this thread have had very little first-hand knowledge of the military.

I did eighteen inglorious months of National Service as a medic back in 1972-3, spent mainly conducting sick parades, or sitting in an ambulance reading a book out at the rifle range,, where the presence of a medic was required but never needed.

My closest relationship to anyone who had experienced combat was with my father, who volunteered for WWII, saw action in the infantry in North Africa, the Greek mainland and Crete, and spent the rest of the war in a German POW camp.

He was a humane man, who hated violence, such as hunting, but believed that it was necessary against Nazism.

Of course there has to be a degree of discipline and obedience in any army. but everyone except doctrinaire pacifists recognises that it is the lesser of two evils when it comes to confronting totalitarianism and tyranny.

There are some very instructive passages in Homage To Catalonia when George Orwell (another humane individual) has to force Spanish Republican volunteers to face the fact that it is impossible to fight fascism with an army based on a libertarian, individualistic and democratic command structure.

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Doc Tor
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quote:
Originally posted by Kaplan Corday:
quote:
Originally posted by Doc Tor:
In no other walk of life would someone I considered a friend be compelled by someone else (a more senior officer) to shoot me.

The caricature of all soldiers as automatons, who mindlessly and murderously obey any order, makes me think that most of the contributors to this thread have had very little first-hand knowledge of the military.
Firstly, you appear to have neglected to include any argument in your reply.

I've not suggested that soldiers are mindless, murderous, or automata. I've stated baldly that they are trained to kill another human being when given the appropriate order. This is not a contentious issue. This is a simple fact.

The only complicating factor is that a serving soldier can be ordered to kill someone they know, and are even friends with. The person giving the order presumably expects them to obey. Whether they do or not is then down to the individual soldier's conscience, bearing in mind they might be shot themselves if they refuse. But that's the position the soldier has placed themselves at the very start of enlistment. Again, not a particularly controversial statement.

Secondly, I married an army officer. I don't know how much 'first hand' knowledge you might think that gives me, but it's considerably greater than zero.

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no prophet's flag is set so...

Proceed to see sea
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quote:
Originally posted by rolyn:
Quite right DT.
Which is why Hitler ordered the burning the copies of All Quiet on the Western Front . He knew that a powerful scene, (in which a young German soldier was filled with remorse at stabbing someone who 'could have been his brother'), had the potential to seriously undermine his plans for remilitarisation.

Not quite rolyn. The Nazis banned books they considered to be Marxist, Jewish and defeatist. Remarque's book was not much different, except for the author's nomination for the Nobel Prize, and the beheading of his sister because Hitler couldn't get to Erich. This article regarding Hitler and Remarque is worth the read.

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\_(ツ)_/

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no prophet's flag is set so...

Proceed to see sea
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There's a need, I think, to emphasize the ultimate immorality, incompatibility with Christianity, and thus the need to refuse anything military. Something I was raised with by a surviving father, twice a refugee. Something emphasized by watching napalm on TV news when a teenager.

I ain't marching anymore (Phil Ochs):

quote:
For I marched to the battles of the German trench
In a war that was bound to end all wars
Oh I must have killed a million men
And now they want me back again
But I ain't marchin' anymore



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Out of this nettle, danger, we pluck this flower, safety.
\_(ツ)_/

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Kaplan Corday
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quote:
Originally posted by Doc Tor:
Again, not a particularly controversial statement.

It's a particularly silly statement.

For a start, only soldiers in rare and extreme quasi-gangster, warlord/myrmidon situations sign up with the intention of killing anyone they are told to, no questions asked.

The average soldier signing up in the armed forces of most countries, certainly most Western countries, does not do so on the understanding that they will kill anyone they are told to in contravention of of all the international laws of war.

Next, soldiers are not unique in facing the possibility of having to kill someone they know.

The same (very remote) contngency could also arise for members of police forces.

And defining soldiers as people who might be called upon to kill someone they know is as bizarre, lurid and tendentious as defining nurses as people who just conceivably might be called upon to help kill a baby twin (or at least cause him/her to die) in a crisis birth situation in order to let the ther twin live.

Both situations are imaginable, but abnormal and certainly not definitive.

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mdijon
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quote:
Originally posted by Doc Tor:
Secondly, I married an army officer. I don't know how much 'first hand' knowledge you might think that gives me, but it's considerably greater than zero.

Presumably he/she hasn't been compelled to shoot you yet?

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mdijon nojidm uoɿıqɯ ɯqıɿou
ɯqıɿou uoɿıqɯ nojidm mdijon

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Doc Tor
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quote:
Originally posted by Kaplan Corday:
quote:
Originally posted by Doc Tor:
Again, not a particularly controversial statement.

It's a particularly silly statement.

For a start, only soldiers in rare and extreme quasi-gangster, warlord/myrmidon situations sign up with the intention of killing anyone they are told to, no questions asked.

The average soldier signing up in the armed forces of most countries, certainly most Western countries, does not do so on the understanding that they will kill anyone they are told to in contravention of of all the international laws of war.

Next, soldiers are not unique in facing the possibility of having to kill someone they know.

The same (very remote) contngency could also arise for members of police forces.

And defining soldiers as people who might be called upon to kill someone they know is as bizarre, lurid and tendentious as defining nurses as people who just conceivably might be called upon to help kill a baby twin (or at least cause him/her to die) in a crisis birth situation in order to let the ther twin live.

Both situations are imaginable, but abnormal and certainly not definitive.

I'm sorry, but I think you've just outed yourself as someone who knows next to nothing about the military. You've refuted precisely none of my arguments.

The phrase "If you can't take a joke, you shouldn't have joined" is oft used. Even those soldiers who have ostensibly non-combat roles are trained to, and are expected to, fight. When you're running around with an SA80, fighting = killing.

No one's said anything about contravening international law. I'm simply talking about obeying a lawful order from a superior.

We can dress up war fighting in all kinds of fancy language. 'Calling up air support' does generally mean 'bomb the crap out of the target, killing everyone inside'. 'Posting a grenade' does actually involve 'throwing an explosive into a room which you know contains other people and hoping it kills or maims them'. 'Clearing a compound' does mostly involve shooting everyone inside if they look a bit shady.

And yes, armed police officers are under no illusion that they will be required to kill someone if they're ordered to do so. I know one. He hopes never to have to do it, but knows he might.

So I'm bemused by your objections. This is the armed forces we're talking about. A bit of realism about what they're trained to do is the first step to an honest discussion about whether we want them to do it.

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Doc Tor
Deepest Red
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quote:
Originally posted by mdijon:
quote:
Originally posted by Doc Tor:
Secondly, I married an army officer. I don't know how much 'first hand' knowledge you might think that gives me, but it's considerably greater than zero.

Presumably he/she hasn't been compelled to shoot you yet?
Give it time.

(We decided fairly rapidly I'd never make a good army wife)

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Forward the New Republic

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mdijon
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No. But if needs must I guess. Perhaps showing her the thread might spark something off?

To be serious though, I can see how Kaplan might be reacting to different ways of reading your post. What you say is, to my reading, technically correct but our posts often mean more than the straight technical reading.

You could be read as saying that soldiers are fundamentally a different sort of human being owing to the necessity of needing to shoot people, and we should consider them at arms length and not like the rest of us because of that.

In a sense that is all correct, and clearly soldiers do need to kill, and one can't have a democratic command structure in determining who and when to kill if one wants a functioning army. My view would be that is the reality we have to consider in having an army, and unfortunately in this particular iteration of the world we seem to need it.

But the emphasis and way one reads it could be as a defence of "othering" soldiers, which is the context of the thread at that point.

[ 03. January 2017, 10:23: Message edited by: mdijon ]

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mdijon nojidm uoɿıqɯ ɯqıɿou
ɯqıɿou uoɿıqɯ nojidm mdijon

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Doc Tor
Deepest Red
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I see your point. I don't think I'm arguing that soldiers are fundamentally different people, but that they have made a decision that does fundamentally separate them.

How they arrive at that decision is through various pathways which may or may not involve various degrees of critical thinking (I've encountered a wide variety of reasons given for signing up). And the training - based around loyalty to your immediate comrades, and more loosely to the company and regiment - does actually reinforce the othering, but from the soldier's side, not the civilians.

Most people, if pushed to the extremes, would probably pick up a weapon and kill. People being willing to kill other people is not the othering. It's the decision to allow yourself, consciously, to be used in that way by someone else, against someone you probably don't have a particular argument against and who isn't threatening you in an immediate way.

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Forward the New Republic

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Dave W.
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Your original objection seemed to be stronger than that:
quote:
In no other walk of life would someone I considered a friend be compelled by someone else (a more senior officer) to shoot me.
Would you say they've all agreed to be OK with being ordered to shoot their friends (or people who think they are friends)?
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Doc Tor
Deepest Red
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quote:
Originally posted by Dave W.:
Your original objection seemed to be stronger than that:
quote:
In no other walk of life would someone I considered a friend be compelled by someone else (a more senior officer) to shoot me.
Would you say they've all agreed to be OK with being ordered to shoot their friends (or people who think they are friends)?
So where's the line drawn? Where does "faceless enemy" finish and "next door neighbour" begin?

Ordinary soldiers don't get to draw that line for themselves, do they? While I'm certain that most soldiers don't ever think about that possibility, and it's never likely to appear on a recruitment poster, it is still a logical end-point to the command structure and military discipline.

If you can argue otherwise, I'd be interested to hear it.

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Forward the New Republic

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betjemaniac
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quote:
Originally posted by Doc Tor:
quote:
Originally posted by Dave W.:
Your original objection seemed to be stronger than that:
quote:
In no other walk of life would someone I considered a friend be compelled by someone else (a more senior officer) to shoot me.
Would you say they've all agreed to be OK with being ordered to shoot their friends (or people who think they are friends)?
So where's the line drawn? Where does "faceless enemy" finish and "next door neighbour" begin?

Ordinary soldiers don't get to draw that line for themselves, do they?

Yes, they do - it's the point where they won't do it. Soldiering, like policing (in the UK model anyway) is done by consent (in this case the consent of the commanded to do the bidding of the commanders). Some orders are best not given because its both embarrassing and deleterious to military discipline when they don't get obeyed.

Anecdotally, Wilson was quite keen on dispatching the RAF to do a few bombing runs on Rhodesian military installations following UDI - it was made quite clear to him that the RAF wouldn't be doing that, because they were friends with too many of the people in those installations.

Since we're trading experience in support of opinions, ex RN officer, served in conflict, instructed in a basic training establishment handling and inducting the latest classes off the streets and immersing them in military life.

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And is it true? For if it is....

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betjemaniac
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admittedly the Rhodie example isn't perfect, although the brass were as worried about the response of the non-commissioned riggers, armourers, etc as they were about the officer aircrew - but it's the only time post 1945 when I could think of someone in the UK being silly enough to contemplate a "go over there and punch your mates" order.*

*with the possible exception of Bloody Sunday (on the grounds that they were at least fellow British citizens, whether some of them wanted that status or not) - but as I said in my first post, that comes under the heading of "crazy enough to spark a multimillion pound inquiry and acres of adverse newsprint." Not to say multiple funerals of innocent people.

[ 03. January 2017, 13:50: Message edited by: betjemaniac ]

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And is it true? For if it is....

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Martin60
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I can't think of an example where where British squaddies have had to shoot friends, apart from WWI firing squads - who executed around 300 men - and I doubt men in the same company (a hundred odd) actually did that. Battalion probably (a few hundreds). The same goes for US, Commonwealth, French and all European forces including WWII German I'd have thought.

The ghastliness is not diminished: Victor Silvester was a member of one firing-squad in 1916: "The tears were rolling down my cheeks as he went on attempting to free himself from the ropes attaching him to the chair. I aimed blindly and when the gunsmoke had cleared away we were further horrified to see that, although wounded, the intended victim was still alive. Still blindfolded, he was attempting to make a run for it still strapped to the chair. The blood was running freely from a chest wound. An officer in charge stepped forward to put the finishing touch with a revolver held to the poor man's temple. He had only once cried out and that was when he shouted the one word mother. He could not have been much older than me. We were told later that he had in fact been suffering from shell-shock, a condition not recognised by the army at the time. Later I took part in four more such executions."

Source.

[ 03. January 2017, 13:56: Message edited by: Martin60 ]

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Brenda Clough
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Both my children are US Army officers, and my daughter is married to another officer. I would say that they are if anything notably loyal. They do not fight and die for abstract issues; they fight for their comrades.

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betjemaniac
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quote:
Originally posted by Martin60:
I can't think of an example where where British squaddies have had to shoot friends, apart from WWI firing squads - who executed around 300 men - and I doubt men in the same company (a hundred odd) actually did that. Battalion probably (a few hundreds). The same goes for US, Commonwealth, French and all European forces including WWII German I'd have thought.

The ghastliness is not diminished: Victor Silvester was a member of one firing-squad in 1916: "The tears were rolling down my cheeks as he went on attempting to free himself from the ropes attaching him to the chair. I aimed blindly and when the gunsmoke had cleared away we were further horrified to see that, although wounded, the intended victim was still alive. Still blindfolded, he was attempting to make a run for it still strapped to the chair. The blood was running freely from a chest wound. An officer in charge stepped forward to put the finishing touch with a revolver held to the poor man's temple. He had only once cried out and that was when he shouted the one word mother. He could not have been much older than me. We were told later that he had in fact been suffering from shell-shock, a condition not recognised by the army at the time. Later I took part in four more such executions."

Source.

I've read that account before - while it's very moving, historians IIRC have not been slow to question how Victor Silvester, in an army of several million men, managed to participate in 5 of the 304 British firing squads of WW1 - either he was spectacularly unlucky or for whatever reason he was engaged in embroidery....*

*rather like the number of people who claim to have been with the SAS on the balcony of the Libyan embassy, the number of accounts of WW1 firing squads does tend to suggest that each of those 304 men had a good couple of hundred people taking aim at them.

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Martin60
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Excellent point! To claim to be involved in nearly 2% of British WWI executions is very suspect. A one in a thousand chance pentupled! This should be easily disprovable I'd have thought?

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betjemaniac
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quote:
Originally posted by Martin60:
Excellent point! To claim to be involved in nearly 2% of British WWI executions is very suspect. A one in a thousand chance pentupled! This should be easily disprovable I'd have thought?

not as easy as you might think - you'll get the report of the field general court martial on who was sentenced to death, but even unit war diaries tend not to list firing squad participants IME. You tend to get the impression that they thought it was a pretty dirty business and the less recorded the better once the sentence had been confirmed.

Basically there's no real way of gainsaying Silvester's account - other than noting that it's quite extraordinarily unlikely to be true. The number of celebrities who subsequently sexed their war service up a bit is legion - one thinks of Trevor Howard, and Christopher Lee at the head of the column.

[ 03. January 2017, 14:25: Message edited by: betjemaniac ]

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mdijon
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It's important to be accurate and this sort of embellishment is nauseating. Although it's a bit of red herring in the sense that WW1 firing squads clearly did execute British soliders and quite likely that a number of soldiers felt extremely conflicted about it. Robert Fisk wrote about his Father's very mixed character and refusal to be involved in a firing squad in an account that rings much more true to me.

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Doc Tor
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quote:
Originally posted by betjemaniac:
quote:
Originally posted by Doc Tor:
So where's the line drawn? Where does "faceless enemy" finish and "next door neighbour" begin?

Ordinary soldiers don't get to draw that line for themselves, do they?

Yes, they do - it's the point where they won't do it. Soldiering, like policing (in the UK model anyway) is done by consent (in this case the consent of the commanded to do the bidding of the commanders). Some orders are best not given because its both embarrassing and deleterious to military discipline when they don't get obeyed.
This is a very good point. But it does rely on common sense as to what orders might or might not be obeyed, which in turn relies on the calibre of both the officers and the wisdom of the advice they receive.

There was nothing in general terms stopping Wilson from ordering the bombing of Rhodesian assets, and nothing in general terms stopping the Air Marshall ordering his bombers to carry out the raids. It's then down to individual air crew to refuse a legitimate order.

Which is my point: they've already conceded that they might be asked to kill friends, and conceded that such an order would be lawful, and conceded that refusing such an order would see them in front of a court martial. History is littered with examples of friends ending up on opposite sides during a war, so it's not in reality an extreme case to consider.

(I am reminded of the James Blunt incident during the Kosovo War, where refusing to obey an order (and getting a fresh, sane one) averted WWIII. Whatever you think of his music, we owe him one.)

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mdijon
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quote:
Originally posted by Doc Tor:
(I am reminded of the James Blunt incident during the Kosovo War, where refusing to obey an order (and getting a fresh, sane one) averted WWIII. Whatever you think of his music, we owe him one.)

As mentioned here along with Stanislav Petrov who we also owe.

I believe Dallaire disobeyed orders in Rwanda to save lives, and I think I remember reading in another Fisk account about British soldiers defying orders in order not to leave Kurdish refugees at the mercy of Turkish troops.

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Martin60
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@betjemaniac

Trevor Howard wasn't at all well it seems: Although stories of his courageous wartime service in the British Army's Royal Corps of Signals earned him much respect among fellow actors and fans alike, files held in the Public Record Office reveal that he had actually been discharged from the British Army in 1943 for mental instability and having a "psychopathic personality". wiki

Christopher Lee seems the genuine article, a seven year service record and his claim at 90 saying, "I was attached to the SAS from time to time but we are forbidden – former, present, or future – to discuss any specific operations. Let's just say I was in Special Forces and leave it at that. People can read in to that what they like", could well be true as he was in their theater, but he probably didn't fire a shot or cut a throat, just flew them about.

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betjemaniac
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I was thinking more of articles like this from shortly afterwards. He was in a different league to Howard certainly, but the persistent suggestion was that in Lee's case he took a perfectly respectable war record as it was and buffed it up further.

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Martin60
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Thanks mate, a superb article. We can forgive the old boy, obviously despite having a good war he thought badly of himself for not doing more at the sharp end. What about the rumours (and what's with this bloody AMERICAN spellchecker? Made me correct theatre!) about David Niven?

Just watched the first two episodes of the excellent Nobel on Netflix. I'm a tad at sea again. Having been a teenage and long term cultically mandatory pacifist (even in prepubescent war games I started to play a war correspondent!) with an insatiable thirst for things military (a bit like the Dalai Lama apparently) and really looking forward to the Second Coming with Extreme Prejudice. With deprogramming I became a born again liberal interventionist until being reproached in my reading of Brian McLaren five years ago. Stopped me playing COD Modern Warfare in my tracks. I flipped to genuine war pacifism as may have been noticed here. Right up until mdijon challenged me here recently.

I have always had the highest regard for our guys and our noble allies. My second father in law was on the greatest raid of all. For real. And their guys. Good soldiers in bad wars.

I'm trying to integrate it all and under the banner of McLaren's Christian peacemaking, rather than pacifism, as that seems to include just war, war, intervention that has to be waged to prevent worse. I can't be an armchair free rider.

The trouble is, as for Patton, I love it so. In my liberal interventionist late forties, briefly, I was THE paint-baller ... pathetic I know, but I was nastily good. Outflank, ghillied up and kill them, kill them all, point blank, from behind. Did some shooting with the army once. Marksman. And at archery. You bet I think badly of myself!

Conflicted or what?!

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Kaplan Corday
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quote:
Originally posted by Doc Tor:
A bit of realism about what they're trained to do is the first step to an honest discussion about whether we want them to do it.

No, the first step is to get realistic about what is actually involved in being a member of the armed services.

I have been in the army, and known plenty of serving and ex-service personnel.

Yes, of course they are trained to kill other people in obedience to military orders.

But I have come across none who would automatically do so in any and all circumstances, with no regard to common decency, justice, or the international rules of war.

Crimes are perpetrated in war, just as they are in civil societies that are not at war, but that is because of fallible human nature, not because of some unique feature of the military which turns its members into some sort of "other".

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Doc Tor
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quote:
Originally posted by Kaplan Corday:
Crimes are perpetrated in war, just as they are in civil societies that are not at war, but that is because of fallible human nature, not because of some unique feature of the military which turns its members into some sort of "other".

I don't know. I seem to have missed the last civilian carpet bombing of a built-up area, or the part where my local council left unexploded cluster bombs in the local park.

And yes, that's slightly facetious, but it's still true. Military training is about setting people apart and making them 'other' everyone else. Because how else are you going to kill them?

Like I've said, if that's what we want and what we need, then okay, that's what we have to do. Deny that's what we actually do do is problematic.

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Sioni Sais
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quote:
Originally posted by Kaplan Corday:


Crimes are perpetrated in war, just as they are in civil societies that are not at war, but that is because of fallible human nature, not because of some unique feature of the military which turns its members into some sort of "other".

Really? The command to commit some war crimes may be given because of fallible (or downright evil) human nature and because this is in the military context orders are not questioned as often as they might be in civvy street. I'm sure other war crimes are a result of the "Act first, think second" response that is required of those at the sharpend, if not elsewhere.

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Martin60
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quote:
Originally posted by Doc Tor:
...Military training is about setting people apart and making them 'other' everyone else. Because how else are you going to kill them?

Like I've said, if that's what we want and what we need, then okay, that's what we have to do. Deny that's what we actually do do is problematic.

Why do we have to 'other' to justly kill, even our friends?

The superb 1986 BBC dramatized history, New World, showed the vile necessity of killing between Christians who had sailed in the Mayflower.

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Doc Tor
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We don't have to. But it helps if we tell ourselves a story that the people we're killing aren't like us.

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Martin60
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Aye. We do. Deception is the greatest survival skill after all. Including, especially, of the self, the ego.

But I'm afraid it gets darker if we don't kid ourselves.

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Kaplan Corday
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quote:
Originally posted by Martin60:
Why do we have to 'other' to justly kill, even our friends?

Precisely.

Comments about soldiers being required to kill their friends are just a manipulative, emotive rhetorical device.

We have already seen that police personnel could also face such a remote contingency, and in fact we can all think of unlikely but possible scenarios in which we could be called upon to do the same.

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mousethief

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quote:
Originally posted by Doc Tor:
We don't have to. But it helps if we tell ourselves a story that the people we're killing aren't like us.

I find it much more sobering to realize they are like us -- indeed, they are us -- but have been run through the wringer of military groupthink and desensitization training. Their otherness is artificially induced, superimposed on a person who is otherwise like us. They're not some form of strange monster. They but for fortune are we.

And fortune is just the right word for it. In the United States, at least, a goodly number of the enlisted are from lower socioeconomic families, and this may be their one ticket out of poverty, if they survive it, although you and I both know that they may well leave the service impoverished, or with lasting health problems, physical and mental, sometimes debilitating. But the military industrial machine doesn't give a fuck about that, only about using these people's poverty to harvest canon fodder, so they can have perpetual war, so they can sell munitions to Uncle Sam.

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Kaplan Corday
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quote:
Originally posted by Doc Tor:
I seem to have missed the last civilian carpet bombing of a built-up area

Yes, carpet bombing is a relevant and unavoidable issue, but....

I would feel ashamed of judging, from my position of safety, young men who were taking terrible risks (statistically, membership of a British bomber aircrew was second only to membership of a German u-boat crew as the most dangerous job in WWII), no doubt believing that this was the one way available of hitting back at the Third Reich prior to the opening of the Second Front, and no doubt believing that they were destroying legitimate industrial and infrastructure targets, with civilian casualties an unfortunate but inevitable by-product.

It was senior officers such as Harris who knew that area bombing was the only possibility, given the inadequacies of bomb-aiming equipment.

I heard an interview with a former bomber pilot (Jewish, and therefore justifiably anti-Nazi) who claimed that the German civilian population got what they deserved for voting for Hitler.

This is not quite true - the Nazis never got more than 37% of the vote in a free election, and the huge majorities in the four plebiscites 1933-8 can be attributed to understandable fears (as in Stalin's USSR) that individual abstainers or No votes might be traced.

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lilBuddha
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quote:
Originally posted by Doc Tor:

(I am reminded of the James Blunt incident during the Kosovo War, where refusing to obey an order (and getting a fresh, sane one) averted WWIII. Whatever you think of his music, we owe him one.)

It is more typically referred to as the Incident at Pristina_airport and, for some strange reason, the credit is more often given to (then lieutenant general) Mike Jackson.

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No it won't be too soon 'til I say goodnight moon

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lilBuddha
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Soldiers are primarily recruited young so that they are more easily conditioned to obey orders in preference to thinking for themselves. This does not mean they are robots, but it does mean their thinking is formatted in a particular direction.

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So goodnight moon, I want the sun
If it's not here soon, I might be done
No it won't be too soon 'til I say goodnight moon

- A. N. Parsley, D. Mcvinni

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Brenda Clough
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quote:
Originally posted by lilBuddha:
Soldiers are primarily recruited young so that they are more easily conditioned to obey orders in preference to thinking for themselves.

I would say rather that they are recruited young, for the same reason that football players, ballerinas and gymnasts are recruited young. It is physically very demanding to be a soldier, and to pass the requirements when you're 50 is not on.

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