[Note: Once again a piece submitted to Free Market News Network ... Mark Fadiman, if you are sending email and I'm not getting it, please get word to me through Steve T. - TLK]
I've made no secret of the fact that I oppose the war on Iraq -- or, for that matter, of the fact that I support the right of any individual, having taken an oath to "defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic," to take permanent leave of the US armed forces -- with or without "permission" -- when he or she realizes that service in those forces is no longer consistent with that oath (a criterion which the current abuse of the armed forces by the Bush administration meets in spades).
Where I draw the line, however, is at the whining of those who have signed binding contracts when they realize that they probably should have read the fine print. Here's such a story from yesterday's Boston Globe.
I was 18 once. Hell, I was 17 when I signed my first contract with the Marine Corps -- presumably the same, or nearly the same, contract which young Brian Shepard signed. At that time, the president was Ronald Reagan, the presumptive enemy was the Soviet Union, and the presumptive result of signing that contract was the same as it is today: Keep your bags packed -- your ass belongs to the Corps.
Perhaps I'm not seeing this issue clearly, but it grinds my gears a bit. I mean, c'mon ... what the f--k were these people thinking?
Surely it could not have escaped their notice that, as of last fall when young Brian contacted the Marine Corps about joining up, 150,000+ Americans were fighting overseas in Iraq and Afghanistan, with no end in sight.
Surely they had seen the stories about missed recruiting quotas and the dire need of the armed forces for grunts to keep the grinder grinding.
And hey ... we are talking about the Marine Corps here. Hello ... The Marine Corps is not an after-school activity. You don't get to go home if you skin your knee and the other kids are mean to you. The campouts may be weekends only -- or they may last a couple of years or more. You don't get to decide. You don't get a do-over. And if you don't read the contract, you're just, as we used to acronymize, SOL.
Even if young Brian had to go to boot camp to hear about Dan Daly's admonition at Belleau Wood ("C'mon, you sons of bitches! Do you want to live forever?"), surely the family might have taken the time to sit down for an evening of education-by-DVD -- say, John Wayne as Sgt. Stryker in The Sands of Iwo Jima (PFC Thomas: "That's war." PFC Bass: "What's war?" PFC Thomas: "Trading real estate for men."), or R. Lee Ermey in The Boys in Company C (SSgt. Loyce: "Right now the casualty rate for young Marines is over 50%. If you don't pay attention, you are going to be that private in the body bag.") or Ermey again in Siege of Firebase Gloria (Gunny Hafner: "Now you listen to me Flanagan and you listen good! The communications bunker is history! We are on our own. There will be no re-supply. So you tighten up and make do with what you've got. You're a captain? Be a goddamn captain!") or hell, let's just have an Ermey festival and settle in for Full Metal Jacket as well (Gunny Hartmann: "The deadliest weapon in the world is a marine and his rifle. It is your killer instinct which must be harnessed if you expect to survive in combat. Your rifle is only a tool. It is a hard heart that kills. If your killer instincts are not clean and strong you will hesitate at the moment of truth. You will not kill. You will become dead marines and then you will be in a world of shit because marines are not allowed to die without permission. Do you maggots understand?").
The legends of the military in general and the Corps in particular suffuse American culture and history. They're impossible to avoid. How could the Shephards really believe that the band of brothers who crippled Mao's masses at the Chosin Reservoir, where the wounded walked so the dead could ride, would be set up to let their son out early for class? What in the name of God would make them think that the force which wrested Guadalcanal from the Japanese now exists for the purpose of providing college scholarships and pocket money to America's high school graduates?
Apparently they thought those things, though, and non caveat emptor to boot. "Well, this is a pretty thick sheaf of paper, and it probably has lots of stuff in it that we might ought to have a look at ... but hey, the nice man in the uniform has a pen and he's in a hurry. I'm sure he'd not even consider being less than perfectly candid about any of the implications. Let's just sign on the dotted line -- and then, cake and ice cream!"
For those in the Corps -- or the lesser services -- who have seen their oath betrayed and their brothers killed in service to a government run amok, my sympathies and I hope you figure a way through this thing that lets you sleep at night. But this isn't a case of realizing that the war in Iraq is wrong, an abuse of power and an action which voids the enlistee's contractual obligation. It's just a case of signing a contract and then not wanting it to be binding.
For you 18-year-olds -- and the parents of same: Think. Think hard. The Marine Corps is not a college grant foundation. It is not a part-time job with cool uniforms, even for reservists (no, I'm not putting down reservists -- I was one). The Marine Corps is a military force. It exists for the purpose of killing people and blowing things up, and if you are not prepared to do those things -- on their timetable and at their discretion, not yours -- the time to face up to that fact is before putting your John Hancock (or your Brian Shepherd) on a contract committing yourself to an enlistment.