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Friday, December 02, 2005

Tale Number One: Demoralization

written by: Liberal Jarhead

Bush took a swipe at his congressional critics and opposition Democrats, saying that although he respected a healthy debate on his Iraq policy, it was discouraging American forces in Iraq.

"For our men and women in uniform, this debate can be unsettling," Bush said. "When you're risking your life to accomplish a mission, the last thing you want to hear is that mission being questioned in our nation's capital. While there may be a lot of heated rhetoric in Washington, DC, one thing is not in dispute: The American people stand behind you," he said.

After being one of the troops for 20 years, I think I can talk about what really demoralizes the troops.

When you’re in uniform, the things most likely to demoralize you are apathy on the home front and the awareness that the decision-makers don’t value or respect you. One thing that is painfully obvious is that the President and his people don’t give our military people credit for being very bright or very observant. Message for them: we pay more attention than anyone else to how their actions actually affect the soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines that have to walk their talk. We pay attention to how much attention they pay to us when we try to give them input or feedback based on our experience. These guys keep making the classic boot lieutenant mistake of thinking it’s a sign of weakness or something to get the advice of their subordinates who are the experts on the task at hand.

I was enlisted for nine years, then an officer for eleven, and when I got commissioned I knew that my Staff NCOs and NCOs would make me or break me – I’d been one of them. So everything that had to be done I ran past them, and got their input before making a plan, and listened when (not if) they spotted holes in the plan. Then I looked out for their interests while they got the job done. And things worked out great, after which my main function was to make sure they got the recognition and credit they deserved for our success. That’s the opposite of the way these guys are operating, and that’s damned demoralizing. They ignore the input of their generals when it isn’t what they want to hear, and when something bad happens (Abu Ghraib?) they blame the troops instead of standing up and saying, "Yes, I was in charge, so I was responsible for making sure this didn’t happen – I failed as a leader. I take the hit along with the troops that actually committed the offenses."

Lip service without substance behind it is demoralizing, as in seeing people wave flags and hug the more photogenic troops for the cameras, right before you go back to your muddy hole in the ground and running patrols at 2:00 a.m. while they go back to Washington and try to cut your combat pay and the benefits they’ve promised to your food-stamp-dependent family and to you in the future as a possibly disabled vet … so they can give another tax break to Bill Gates and Donald Trump and vote themselves another raise to their already-six-figure salaries and then go on vacation for a few weeks.

Being used as toy soldiers and crowd extras for dog-and-pony show photo ops – e.g., being lined up in front of a "Mission Accomplished" banner or getting served plastic turkey by a plastic turkey - is demoralizing. I’ve always thought that must be what it’s like to be one of those dogs whose owners dress them in humiliating costumes and parade them around. It does a pretty thorough job of rubbing your nose in the fact that to them, you are an object, a minor prop for their narcissism.

Being given defective equipment, or not getting the necessary equipment at all, is about as demoralizing as it gets – you’re far from home and utterly dependent on those people, and they’re letting you down. Kind of like when your deadbeat dad doesn’t pay his child support and you don’t have a coat for school for the winter, except a lot worse – very few children die because of deadbeat dads, but lots of soldiers and Marines die when Uncle Sam welshes. Ask the guys who became unwitting beta testers for the not-ready-for-prime-time version of the M-16; the folks digging through scrap heaps and welding hillbilly armor onto non-armored hummers that weren’t meant for combat use are in the same kind of fix.

It’s terrifyingly demoralizing to be deployed for your second, third or fourth tour in a place where the situation keeps slowly sliding downhill, more of the citizens hate and fear you every day, and you can almost see the odds stacking up against you making it home in one piece – while people who have never been and will never be shot at strike belligerent poses, talk about your willingness to sacrifice for a noble cause, and from behind fortifications two continents away, invite the people down the street from you who are trying to kill you and your friends to "Bring it on!" Being put in a three-way shooting gallery with a target painted on your back, like Reagan did to the Marines and their Navy Corpsmen in Beirut.

Here are some things that are not demoralizing – they’re morale-boosting.

It’s wonderful to hear that most Americans are concerned enough about your safety and welfare, paying enough attention to know about and raise hell about demoralizing things like those we talked about above.

It’s morale-building when people on the home front demand that you be given satisfactory equipment.

It’s great for morale to learn that mainstream America is making the administration stop trying to cut your pay and benefits while you're getting shot at.

When you read in the newspaper or a magazine that Congress and your senior military leaders are yelling that the multiple combat deployments are grinding you, your family, and your gear into the dust and something has to change, it feels good to know they see your pain and are trying to do something about it.

When you can see that what’s in front of your face doesn’t match what the plastic turkeys are telling people, and that more and more people are raising the bullshit flag and demanding straight answers that make sense, it feels pretty good – validating, as the psychologists say.

Bush is operating at the same level of moral and emotional development as a child of about three. You know, that age when you catch the kid with his hand in the cookie jar, and he stares at you with his hand still in the jar and tells you he didn’t do it. The age when everything’s about them. So if something is demoralizing them, it must be demoralizing the troops that are just extensions of their egos! Kind of like the woman who told her daughter she couldn’t buy the red dress she wanted because "I don’t look good in red."

Truth is, Mr. Bush, each of those troops is a real human with his or her own life, dreams, worries, and so on, and believe it or not, you aren’t the center of that human’s universe – he or she is. So something demoralizing you may suit them just fine.

Truth is, most of us are gaining nothing and losing our freedoms, our treasure that we could be using to help people here at home in a thousand ways, and most of all a steady stream of our loved ones coming home (at night, no photos allowed) in boxes or wheelchairs. That demoralizes me. The only people demoralized by criticism of this war are the people who are financially and ideologically invested in it, i.e., war profiteers and neocons.

Truth is, as an old friend used to say, the truth doesn’t give a damn whether you believe it or not. It just sits there grinning at you and being true. Whether you find it demoralizing or not.

Posted by The Bastard at 12:02 AM in Current Affairs, Military, Politics | Permalink


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Bravo, very well said!

Posted by: Robert Mayer | Dec 2, 2005 1:30:38 AM

Thank you for an eloquently expressed post.

What you say makes intuitive truth; but when we who weren't in the military say it, we're told our opinion doesn't matter, what do we know?

Bush does act like a three year old. Problem is he thinks everybody else thinks like one too and is going to believe what he says

Iraq's very different from Viet Nam for one reason and one reason only: there is no draft, and troops can be deployed way past what they thought was their time.

It is partially for that reason I disagree so vehmently with the war in Iraq. No, I'm not advocating a draft at all.

People have to know that when their tour is over, it's over. They face danger every second of every hour of every day. To not know when you're going to come must seem the ulimate torture--and yes, I used that word on purpose.

Bush is torturing our own troops and then telling the troops the American people don't support them which is a bold faced lie

Posted by: pia | Dec 2, 2005 9:05:22 AM

Good post! Thanks for clearing up what does and what does not hurt morale. Like Pia said, it is pretty intuitive, just put yourself in thier place and ask how you would feel. Soldiers are just people like you (well, you were one) and me....

Posted by: LiberPaul | Dec 2, 2005 11:05:18 AM

Thank you for this post.

We love you all!

Posted by: Julia | Dec 2, 2005 11:30:05 AM

Nice post devildog... Makes me feel bad about our standing joke (in the Navy) about MARINE being another acronym for My Ass Rides In Navy Equipment.

Please keep up the awesome posts.

Posted by: Bradford Morris | Dec 2, 2005 1:26:55 PM

Excellent. Semper Fi.

Posted by: Gordon | Dec 2, 2005 3:22:48 PM


1. The North Vietnam attacked US warships in the Tonkin Gulf. Lyndon B Johnson.

2. I am not a crook. Richard M. Nixon.

3. There are weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. George W. Bush

4. We don't ovefly Russia with spyplanes. Dwight Eisenhower.

5. Fallah hates war. Franklin D Roosevelt.

6. I did not have sex with that woman, Monica Lewinsky. Bill Clinton.

7. I only lusted for women in my mind. Jimmy Carter.

8. Read my lips, no more taxes. George H W Bush.

9. I am faithfull to Jackie. John F Kennedy.


I am personally disenchanted with all of our presidents as to truth telling. What do you think?

Martin S Friedlander, Esq.

Posted by: MARTIN FRIEDLANDER | Dec 2, 2005 3:29:33 PM

Funny, no Treason or Steve here to say your demoralizing the troops. It's kind of nice.

LJ this was an incredible piece to read. I want to ask though, when you see people protesting against the war, what does that do to you? When your fighting, does that make you angry, sad, or validated? Or are you too busy staying alive to even give a crap what people are doing?

Posted by: The Cranky Liberal | Dec 2, 2005 4:13:24 PM

Color me jaded, but frankly, I think killing, lying and spying are more damaging to the country than sex or lust. Not condoning adultry here, but I do think that lies that result in the loss of human life are worse.

LJ, that was a great post. Your paragraph that began with the words "Lip service..." should be framed and hung on every desk in Washington.

Posted by: Jet | Dec 2, 2005 4:34:58 PM

Dear Liberal Jarhead:

I read your post, and if you truly experienced what you stated, then your statements fully express my experience with the military, although not as extensive as yours. I am involved at this very moment writing and speaking to our Think Tankers in the Democratic Party to give us a PLAN FOR AMERICA", which we sorely need, and do not have.

I, in my personal life, am a military historian. I have not only read and studied the hisory of war, but I have personally walked the great battlefields of history, such as Bastogne, Waterloo, the Somme, Verdun, Galipoli, Constantinople, Berlin, Normandy, Salerno, the ancient battlefields in Greece, Italy, Sicily, Israel, Jordan, Syria, Carthage, Tunisia (Kasserine Pass), Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Singapore, New Guinea, Pearl Harbor, etc., etc., and etc.

Like in the movie Patton, I feel that I was present at all of these great battles, in my imagination of course. I have great admiration for the Marines, the Airforce, the Army, the Navy, and the Coast Guard. Until you see and feel what these men and women have gone through, you cannot know what it is "TO SUPPORT OUR TROOPS".

If our leaders put our troops in "harms way" through lies and deception to further their own selfish personal mission, then they should be removed, and if there is a "hell", that is where they should go.

All of our President lie to us. See my previous comment. However, Roosevelt was hemmed in by the isolationist right, such as Linbergh and Kennedy, that he could not fight the Nazis until we were attacked. Japan attacked us first, and Hitler, in all his stupidity, declared war on the US, mistakenly believing that he was obligated to do so pursuant to the "Axis Agreement" between Italy, Germany, and Japan.

Eisenhower lied to Russia after they shot down Francis Gary Powers and then produced him for all the world to see. However, these overflights were to protect America, not to deceive its people.

Clinton lied about sex, so what. Nixon lied about his excesses of power for which a Bill of Impeachment would had been issued if he did not resign first. Johnson is another story. His lies cost over 50,000 American lives to be lost. I spoke to leaders in both North and South Vietnam after the war. In my opinion, the war between the North and the South was not part of the "so called" "Cold War", but it was a war over the brutal colonialism of the French and a battle between the Buddhists of the North and the Catholics of the South. The Buddhists of the North correctly viewed Catholocism imposed by the occupying French to be an extension of "colonialism". The North fought the "Japs" while the South were part of Vichy France. The North was brutalized by the Japs while the South, through its Vichyism, was really part of the Axis powers. I cannot to this day forgive Johnson and his administration for involving American troops in this justifiable "civil war".

Take Bush the ultimate liar who believes his own lies. Iraq is a mythical country created by the British after the fall of the Ottoman Empire. They joined three disparate groups of people, the Kurds in the North, the Sunnis in the Cental, and the Shias in the South. Britain at that time was still preserving its idea of Empire. We are paying the price of Britain's ideas of Empire. After the defeat of Germany in WWII, the Brits, who were exhausted both economically and militarilty, replaced Churchill the Empire builder with Atlee, and they still tried to impose their idea of empire in the Middle East, Maylaya, India, Greece, Cypress, and elsewhere.

The Brits joined Bush and the Christian Right to occupy the Middle East again. for what? Oil, Empire, and Christianity. Never again would the faithful Christians permit Jerusalem to be occupied by Islam. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre was too holy for it to be dirtied by the infidel Muslims. The Crusades all over again. The Knights Templar are leading the war in Iraq.

Why should Americans die for this thousand year old dream? There is no question in this writer's mind, that we should pull out NOW, and let the infidels fight their civil war of Jihad among themselves. If America has no plan of Empire in the Middle East, it should withdraw. Empire is now "oil" which is driving this occupation.


Martin S. Friedlander, Esq.

Posted by: MARTIN FRIEDLANDER | Dec 2, 2005 5:10:04 PM

Great post LJ, although I was a squid I would have loved to have served under you. Mustangs make the best officers for exactly the things you mentioned in this post.

Lets get our guys home soon!

Posted by: The Bastard | Dec 2, 2005 5:48:34 PM

Great post - I'm linking up. Blog on LJ.

Posted by: windspike | Dec 2, 2005 6:51:07 PM

To Cranky:

If I wanted to read a blog about the what I think more closely resembles the truth about the war, to me I'd read this guy's blog. I don't need to pick apart LJ here. I don't think for him, he's got valid issues. I am not one to go after personal experiences.

Bottom line, thanks for thinking of me but I don't live as a liberal. I don't speculate.

Posted by: steve | Dec 2, 2005 7:39:07 PM

Thought provoking post. It's hard for me as a mere civilian to imagine what it's like in the trenches. Thank You for what you do.

Posted by: Betsy | Dec 2, 2005 10:05:08 PM

Well Steve, it's not so much I was thinking of you, as wondering what you would do with a total refuation of your hurting the troops theory. Call it curiosity.

Posted by: The Cranky Liberal | Dec 2, 2005 10:38:53 PM

Wait! Who said it was my theory? I am just calling you guys whiny bastards. Speculation will get you nowhere.

Posted by: steve | Dec 3, 2005 2:04:39 AM

Thanks, folks! I'm honored by your feedback. It is inspiring to know that so many civilians support the troops. It's the taxpayers that pay for all the training, equipment, and infrastructure it takes to keep the armed forces tuned up and working right, and the common theme for some years now has been a desire to make sure we're doing right by our soldiers, sailors, airment, and Marines. That's refreshing, having seen times when it was very different.

Bradford, I like that acronym for Marine. Have to say, the times I was on ship I was impressed with how hard the sailors seemed to be working all the time. You guys work your asses off. But you don't get muddy very often.

We always said USMC meant Uncle Sam's Moldy Crotch or Uncle Sam's Misguided Children; a lot like the Boy Scouts, except they have adult leadership and a better budget.

Cranky, my feelings about protest depend on who the protest is aimed at.
If it's idiots blaming the men and women in uniform for policies set by the civilian brass, it makes me want to kick their ribs in. I hated being treated as some kind of thing because I had volunteered to protect the freedoms of the people who were looking down their noses at me. I have nothing but contempt for that kind of hypocrisy.
But if it's what I'm seeing now, people saying that they love the troops, want them properly equipped and led, and don't want them put in harm's way unless it's for something that actually makes America safer, it makes me feel good. It makes me glad that these people understand the situation and care about America's sons and daughters enough to give up their time and show up to advocate for the troops. I know that these same people who are protesting this war will be lining the streets cheering and applauding our troops when they come home, welcoming them home as heroes and continuing to advocate for them as they begin to deal with the VA (and don't get me wrong, I love and admire the majority of the VA's staff and facilities. They have been angels to my family. The problem is that they're not getting enough of the resources they need to carry out their mission.)

Steve, I don't think I'm whining. I'm pissed at what I believe are wrongs being done to our military people and want to see them change, but whining involves self-pity, and self-pity is toxic. One of my younger brothers is 100% disabled, paraplegic after being accidentally shot by one of his best friends while on guard duty, and he learned fast how lethal self-pity could be by observing its effects on others in the VA system. We've talked about it many times and even though he's younger and was only in for 18 months before he was shot, he's taught me a lot about dealing with hard situations.

I certainly don't pity the troops. That would be condescending and an insult to them. They're strong and tough and resilient, not pitiful.
No self-pity either, and I hope I didn't come off sounding that way. I have no complaints about my own service - I volunteered and then kept volunteering over and over. If I hadn't wanted to be there, I could have left. However, I expect my government to honor its promises to me and you and our brothers and sisters in arms, past, present, and future.

You sound like you were a pretty solid jarhead - wish we'd had a chance to serve together (I know, you mentioned disagreeing with that sentiment, but that's okay.) You sound like one of the guys who were a lot of fun both on duty and on liberty. I have a feeling that you'd have been right in there in some weird situations my friends and I got into. We could probably sit and trade stories for days.

Semper Fi!

Posted by: Liberal Jarhead | Dec 3, 2005 6:37:26 AM

Um... Never in the military here... If I gave that impression I am sorry. Could be mistaken with Treason??

I think serving your country is the most honorable thing you can do, right there with being a teacher or being a caring parent. My wife is the teacher, I hope she and I can both be good parents someday.

Posted by: steve | Dec 3, 2005 9:57:12 AM

Hoy, Jarheads! I'm a twenty-year man, myself. And this 'war president' reminded me of a story told by a Marine aviator who saved his own life by skillful use of his service pistol - yes, the ubiquitous 1911A1 .45. He was shot down in Korea while covering an urgent rearward advance, and held off the enemy patrol until his own troops could extricate him to safety.
He would sit at the picnic table in the back yard and (lovingly, reverently) clean it as he told us that story. Strong stuff for ten-year olds. Apparently, though, his kid was unimpressed; he swiped his dad's gun and used it to stick up a liquor store. Nobody got hurt, but the cops caught him and the gun was destroyed after the judge sent him to prison. The old man was never the same after that. His old, trusted friend was gone, and dishonorably at that.
The gun wasn't a bad thing or a good thing - just a thing. It's having been used to save (his) life made it a noble thing. The kid profaned that nobility by using it for a completely selfish and ignoble purpose.
So it is with the president and his military (which is really OUR military). The military is neither good or bad, it is made noble or ignoble by the way it is used. By the way in which we allow it to be used.
This president is brandishing OUR military like a dimestore stickup artist brandishes a Saturday Night Special. In doing so, he dishonors not only the commitment of those serving today, but the commitment of all who have served throughout our history. He turns them into thugs and gunsels.
When we put on the uniform of our country, we mindfully place our lives in forfeit for our nation. But more than that, we agree to do the things which are not acceptable in civilized society. We willfully suspend our deeply ingrained prohibitions on killing, for instance. And in doing so, we are forever changed.
So, when we are ordered to do so and it turns out that the reasons are ignoble, are lies,... then the commitment, the sacrifice, the honor of service to our nation and it's ideals is voided and becomes merely the actions of another well trained, well equipped gang of thugs. Another mob of Vandals or Huns acting as muscle for an Empire.

Posted by: The Chief | Dec 4, 2005 9:47:25 AM

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