Ledger-Enquirer | 04/09/2005 | Vets ripe for road rage

Road Rage:

A writer named Kaffie Sledge at the Columbus (Georgia) Ledger-Enquirer has a piece called "Vets Ripe for Road Rage." It quotes a reservist veteran of a "combat stress unit" who is a social worker in her civilian life.

"The road rage -- on some levels doesn't surprise me," she says. "Over there, the United States owns the roads. When we come in our Humvees, people pull over. It's like get out of our way or get run over . We go up on sidewalks. We squeeze between traffic. Police will halt traffic jams or whatever so that we can drive down the opposite side of the street. The concept is you never stop moving because it makes you a target.

"So, we drive fast, we drive wherever we want to whenever we want to, and there is really nobody there to challenge us. We will hit you, slam your vehicle or whatever.
A fair point: being in a combat zone is not like being in an area ruled by established law. It takes a while to "gear back" to civilian life. This is why the USMC has told veterans not to drive for thirty days after their return from Iraq. Mr. Snook was on the passenger side of the vehicle.

All that said, I strongly object to the reservist's closing comments:
"The Marine killed in Atlanta may have had road rage, or he may have had a personality disorder before he went to Iraq, and he came back and still had one."
There is no basis for this sort of speculation. Psychologists feel free to throw these kinds of damaging, libelous statements around after little or -- as in this case -- no actual experience with the person in question. Mr. Snook can suffer no further harm from these statements, but had he still been a sergeant of Marines, his career could be ended by such idle speculation. Even in the grave, his memory is slandered by it.

I've been critical of certain decisions the man made, in particular getting out of his car and getting in the face of another driver. Still, it's enough to say, "that was foolish, especially given the history of which he must have been aware," without having to suggest he was unfit for a service whose obligations he fulfilled honorably and well.

Psychology is poison, as the Hall has always held. I would appreciate it if its practitioners would not practice their necromancy so carelessly. The dead, and the living, deserve better.


A Good Day:

Today, the grandparents -- that is, my family -- were up visiting from down Georgia way. We took the boy on his first train ride, down into Washington D.C.

I gather from talking to other parents of young boys that all boys go through a "train phase," which follows the "construction equipment phase," and preceeds the "sportscar phase" and the "jet fighter phase." I've heard this from several independent sources now. It doesn't seem to matter whether the kid ever encounters actual trains, or even sees them on television; if he's a boy, at some point, he's going to be fascinated with trains.

So we took the VRE from Manassas to the District. My wife and my mother were both delighted that, by happenstance, this week was the high bloom for the cherry blossoms in Washington. My father enjoyed his grandson (as did my mother). My son enjoyed the train immensely, but also had the chance to indulge in that other fascination of young boys.

I myself mostly got to shepherd the crew, but that is rewarding in itself. Plus, I got a chance to talk to my father, which is and has always been one of my favorite things to do. He is an untrained master of the art of storytelling, and can talk for hours without ever tiring his audience. Even if it's me, who's heard all the stories a hundred thousand times.

Today, he and I were talking about the tricks memory plays on the mind. Particularly, we were discussing how you tend to forget the miserable parts of any experience, but remember the good parts. Thus, even if an event was an endless stretch of pain punctuated by a few good moments, you'll end up with a positive memory of it if you get far enough away.

His own example was being in the Army. He loves to remember his time in the Army, when he was a Drill Sergeant. He was telling me how hard he has to think to remember the bad parts, which were legion: "All that crap," as he put it, "that drove me mad."

Grim's Hall is much the same way. We almost always focus on the good, indeed the glowing, parts of military life and culture. For example, this post on the Defense Department and its wings as a "parallel structure for the life of the mind."

Those parts are real, and it's all true.

On the other hand, there's this.

WSBTV.com - News - Marine Killed in Downtown Atlanta

Letters from Home:

JHD writes to tell me that a Marine from my home was killed this week. He was too young for me to know him, though I know people who go to his church. His name was Jack Snook. He was killed, not in Baghdad, but in Atlanta.

A photograph of the alleged killer, Charles Anthony Key, is here. The details are as follows: Snook was riding in the passenger seat while his wife and he were driving around the best part of downtown Atlanta, the part where all the five-star hotels are that cater to the world's richest businessmen and conferences. It was a Sunday night, which is normally a pretty quiet time to be down there.

Somehow, an argument developed between Snook at another motorist. Snook got out of the car, and got shot in the face. No one seems to know exactly what was said. Having grown up in Forsyth County myself, I have my suspicions as to what might have been said, but they are only that. Still, Georgia license tags do list the county name on them, and Forsyth County is -- for historic reasons dating to 1912 -- particularly hated in Atlanta.

This is so much so that my father, a man who frequently saved lives or entered burning buildings as a volunteer firefighter, used to deface his license tag before driving into the city. If Snook were more combative -- as is suggested by the fact that he got out of his car to confront Key -- it's not hard to guess what kind of language would have been exchanged.

The law of the State of Georgia, until the US Supreme Court overturned a unanimous ruling of the Georgia Supreme Court, had a law that anticipated such language. Now they do not, and so we are left with prosecutions for murder instead of for "fighting words." The Federales were wrong to overturn the Georgia court in this case. The legislature and the state courts understood the culture of honor, and the dangerous history, that sometimes drives these young men to strike like bucks at one another. "Old men" like me, who grew up in the culture, understand it and support the legislature's attempts to empower people to stop this kind of thing before it gets out of control. The Supreme Court did not, and this is the price of its meddling.

We were better off when we empowered the police and the citizenry to arrest, and therefore separate, two such youths at the first sign of heated rhetoric. Now, people believe that because it is permitted by the law -- protected, indeed, by the Supreme Court! -- that it is acceptable. It is a tragedy. JHD thinks the killer will walk, and frankly so do I. The racial aspect to the case is one reason why; the jury in downtown Atlanta will be sympathetic in that sense. But also, even if I were a juror, I would find it hard to fault someone for shooting a large, powerful man who got out of his car, came up to your car, and started yelling fighting words at you. It was cowardly to shoot an unarmed man in these circumstances, when the shooter could have driven away instead, but it isn't murder. I could only vote to convict on a lesser offense, manslaughter perhaps.

The obituary for Snook says that he "played a vital role in the liberation of Baghdad." That suggests he was in I MEF, or Task Force Tripoli. I'll ask around the folks back home, and see if I can discover more. He leaves a seven year old daughter. A fund has been set up for her, if anyone is interested: call Region's Bank at 770/887-1031.

?????? ?????????????/Unrealised Moscow

Another Warning Sign:

Thanks to Arts & Letters Daily for this link to "Unrealised Moscow." It is a slide show, with text, offering the majestic plans Stalin and his technocrats drew up for the capital of the Soviet empire.

Surprisingly, much of the architecture seems to be non-Modernist: notice the Gothic spires on the corners of the Palace of Soviets, below the giant New Soviet Man. The Palace of Technology is fronted with a Roman-revival arch. The People's Commissariat of Heavy Industry looks like a squared-off Colosseum.

It's notable that the USSR never managed to construct any of these things. Yet, somehow, it was perceived as a competitor by the America that never lets a year go by without some additional monument or museum on the National Mall.

Telegraph | News | Adams calls for IRA to give up armed struggle

Something I Never Expected:

Gerry Adams of Sinn Fein calls on the IRA to lay down arms. This will be an interesting one to watch, since Sinn Fein and the IRA are so closely tied. It could be a ruse. The IRA can refuse, making Sinn Fein seem more independent (and legitimately political) than it is.

On the other hand, the IRA would lose its principle defender. Any return to violence would have to be met with condemnation by Sinn Fein, unless Sinn Fein could justify it from British or Unionist actions.

Such justification would be hard under the standard Adams has set. It would require demonstrating that the particular act to which the IRA was responding was severe enough that "there was no alternative" to violence in order that "the struggle can... be moved forward." Simple reprisals for Unionist violence would not do it: it would have to be an attack on the political process.

OpinionJournal - Best of the Web Today

Sloppy Thinking:

The following letter appeared in the Best of the Web yesterday. It was composed by a resident of Germantown, MD, who had written an earlier letter that irritated people:

My intention was not to offend Christian conservatives--so if I have offended you as a Christian, who is also conservative, I would like to apologize. However, I am concerned that if we continue to blur the separation between church and state at home, it will become more and more difficult to win the hearts and minds of nondemocratic nations abroad.

While I find the "culture of life" argument appealing, conservatives use it only where it is convenient. For example, conservatives have abused the Second Amendment to promote a "culture of death" with their unbridled support for all kinds of weapons, which are rarely purchased by law-abiding citizens but more frequently by criminals and visiting aliens (who probably export them to terrorists abroad).

I do not like to compare and equate religions for better or worse--religion has been the cause of the world's major problems throughout history--so it's best to keep one's faith personal. I can only hope you got my underlying message--the war on terror cannot be won if we start doing what they have been doing--defending political behavior and governance under the garb of a particular religion.
A generous apology should always be acknowledged, and so I do wish to remark that I appreciate the fellow's attempt to soothe the feelings of his fellow Americans. If all discourse was conducted so politely, we would have a far better political culture.

The BOTW replies, "[W]e appreciated the opportunity to call attention to sloppy thinking. And we're going to take this opportunity to do so again." They then reply to his point about involving religion in politics.

There is another, far worse, example of sloppy thinking going on in the piece. It occurs in his example: "...unbridled support for all kinds of weapons, which are rarely purchased by law-abiding citizens but more frequently by criminals and visiting aliens (who probably export them to terrorists abroad)."

There is absolutely no evidence to support this line of thinking. It is a sentiment based on nothing at all.

* There are nearly as many firearms in America as there are people. If this were true, "most" of these firearms, being purchased "more frequently" by criminals and aliens, would be used in crimes. The real numbers are miniscule:
Even if the same gun were never used more than once in committing a crime, only one out of every 309 guns would be involved in a crime in a given year... If we realistically allow for repeated criminal uses of the same weapons, the fraction of all guns that are ever involved in crime would be less than 1 percent, with long guns under 0.5 percent and handguns under 2 percent.
* As a trip to any gun show will demonstrate, the majority of firearms purchased or traded in America are antiques that are collected by enthusiasts, rarely but sometimes fired on the range. The majority of firearms have no interest to criminals or aliens at all.

* Of those firearms which might be interesting to criminals or aliens, the transfer or sale of any of them come under some 20,000 existing Federal firearms laws or regulations.

* Any Federal Firearms Licensee (i.e., a gun dealer, as all are required to be FFLs) is required to conduct a background check before tranferring a firearm to anyone. As a result, any alien who wants to buy a firearm from a gun dealer or at a gun show will have to be a documented alien; any criminal will have to be uncaught, as his record will follow him.

* The Violence Policy Center, a gun-banning outfit, prides itself on the sharp drop in the number of gun dealers in the United States under regulations enacted by the Clinton administration. However, most FFLs before those regulations were passed had become FFLs for reasons of convenience (it smoothes the process of collecting or trading the aforementioned antiques, as well as other firearms, which can only be legally shipped across state lines to an FFL, not a non-licensed private citizen). The main result of the VPC's work is that these "reduced" FFLs, who previously were required to conduct a background check on anyone to whom they transferred a firearm, are now private citizens who may sell their firearms without such a check. Good job, VPC.

* In spite of that change, the crime rate involving firearms has not risen. In fact:
There are more guns, gun owners, RTC [Right-To-Carry] states and carry permit holders than ever before. And the nation`s violent crime rate has decreased every year since 1991, to a 27-year low.
* Nor is the protection of the right to keep and bear arms a "culture of death." From the same source:
Survey research during the early 1990s by award-winning criminologist Gary Kleck found as many as 2.5 million protective uses of guns each year in the U.S. "(T)he best available evidence indicates that guns were used about three to five times as often for defensive purposes as for criminal purposes," Kleck concluded. Analyzing National Crime Victimization Survey data, he found, "robbery and assault victims who used a gun to resist were less likely to be attacked or to suffer an injury than those who used any other methods of self-protection or those who did not resist at all."

In most defensive gun uses, the gun is not fired. In only 1% of instances are criminals wounded, and in only 0.1% are criminals killed.
Thus, the right to bear arms is a part of a "culture of life," if you like. It prevents violence three to five times as often as not; only in 1% of cases is the criminal wounded, and only in a tenth of such cases is he killed. While there are some of us who would like to see the latter statistic rise a bit, the facts don't support the notion that there is a "culture of death" involved here. Just the opposite: this is how life is protected from human predators.

The gentleman who corresponded with the BOTW stands opposed to the idea of enacting law or policy based on faith. But faith is merely the belief in something that cannot be proven. This fellow is ready to enact law and policy based on beliefs that can be disproven. It seems to me that the religious fellows offer the better deal: at least their beliefs aren't demonstrably false.

Tartan Day

National Tartan Day:

As per the last post, it's national Tartan Day today.

BlackFive has a post on haggis. I've had actual haggis (he seems interested in whether anyone has or not), at the regimental dining-in of the 78th Fraser Highlanders, to which I was invited one year. The ingredients were traditional, but the spices were not: the good lady wife of the Major, who prepared the thing, wanted everyone to enjoy it. As a result, she spiced it up nicely, and it was a truly delicious meal.

There was also a dram or twa, but the majority of the drinking followed the evening in the form of toasts. These were done with Port wine, not Scotch whisky, as there were far too many of them for a man to drink with whisky if he wanted to go home in any kind of shape.

Eric asked in comments, below, why Scots were so eager to leave Scotland if it was such a great place. Well, Scotland was a very poor place -- I don't know that it was at all a great place to be. It is the men, rather than the land, that I celebrate. Many of them left because they had taken arms against the King of England, and needed somewhere to go after the failure of the last great Jacobite uprising.

In my own home state of Georgia, the settlement of Darien on the Altamaha river was founded by warriors of the Clan McIntosh, MacDonald, MacKay, some smaller clans, and their families. They were allowed to relocate there from Scotland, under arms, even though they had used those arms against the King. However, relocated to the south of Georgia, they were a useful buffer force to keep the Spaniards in Florida out of the English colonies to the north.

As a consequence of their presence, and performance in battles such as Bloody Creek, the state of Georgia was secured against Spanish incursions. Darien itself survived until the Civil War, when it was utterly destroyed by Union army forces under the command of the famous Colonel Robert Gould Shaw. Most of you will know Shaw from the movie Glory, when he was played by Matthew Broderick. He was also the subject of a glowing biography written by Henry Cabot Lodge. You can read that here, if you're inclined. Lodge can be forgiven for forgetting to include mention of the burning of Darien, as well as other adventures, in his drive to focus on the purely heroic aspects of Shaw's career.

In memory of Darien, and the highlanders who secured the state of Georgia in her early days, the state filed for and received the Georgia district tartan in the registry kept by Lord Lyons. It closely follows the pattern of the McIntosh tartan, in memory of John Mohr McIntosh, who was the leader of the early settlers there.

BLACKFIVE: Tomorrow Is Tartan Day

Good Lord:

It proves that I'm related to BlackFive. Distantly, but all the same -- he's a Clansman.


National Review Supports MilBlogs:

Yesterday must have been the unofficial day of support for MilBlogs for NRO. Greyhawk's alternative Pulitzers was linked in the Corner; my post on loving-while-killing-your-enemy was linked at TKS. Thanks are due, I suppose, to the big media folks at the majestic NRO HQ.

Mudville Gazette


After the Pulitzers decided to award a prize to a collaborater with murderers, the Mudville Gazette has called for an alternative prize. Military photographers (presumably amateur) from Iraq are encouraged to submit links with photos posted.

Greyhawk has his own favorite up at the link above. I think mine, all things considered, is this one. It has it all: servicemen, a smiling child whose brighter future was bought at those men's peril, the thumbs up, and the Iraqi kid proudly wearing a USMC t-shirt.

That about sums it up for me: service, courage, friendship, liberation.

Sometimes it's simple.

"You mean you have no other plan than to stand your ground?" Says an incredulous Michael Caine to Stanley Baker in the Movie "Zulu".

And it appears that the Great State of Florida intends to afford that opportunity to the citizenry with a new law.

Typically, the article quotes Republicans as supporting this law, and Democrats against it.

Further slant can be discerned by how myway.com puts this item under their 'Oddly Enough News'.

I suppose since the original source of the news item is Reuters, I guess I shouldn't be surprised.

I'll be very interested to see what effect this law has.

Medal of Honor - Sergeant First Class Paul R. Smith

Paul Smith:

If you haven't read the Medal of Honor citation for Sgt. 1st Class Smith, you should. It was a posthumous ceremony, as are too many of those associated with the Medal of Honor.

TKS on National Review Online


Geraghty has more on the grief of Mehmet Ali Agca, attempted assassin of the Pope. Geraghty is astonished:

Sad to say, the greatness of spirit to declare a man who tried to kill you “your brother” is almost impossible to imagine – at least to my modern, post-9/11, you-hurt-me-I’ll-hurt-you-worse mentality.
Is it really that strange? It makes perfect sense to me.
How white their steel, how bright their eyes! I love each laughing knave,
Cry high and bid him welcome to the banquet of the brave...
The hour when death is like a light and blood is like a rose, --
You never loved your friends, my friends, as I shall love my foes.
Perhaps Geraghty loses track by misunderstanding forgiveness and brotherhood for an end to combat. But you should love your enemy. It is in them that you will see the other edge of humanity; it is only through them that we can see the whole of what Man can be. It is, as it ought to be, a vision both terrifying and awesome.

They may yet have to be defeated. I argue below that some such men -- rapists, to be specific -- should even be destroyed. It is worth noting that we all have the capacity for evil. It is in rejecting it, in fighting it, that we achieve what we can of good in this world.

But we are brothers. Any of us can feel the temptation to evil; that is no theology, but a plain fact that we can observe in our daily lives. When we lift that sword against the cruel, we lift it against the cruel parts of ourselves. As you would strike down your own drive to cruelty, you may strike down the cruel.

Here many fall astray, saying: "But you are a hypocrite! You feel the same drives as he does! How dare you strike him down?" Yet nothing could be more evenhanded and honest. It is because of our familiarity with the nature of evil that we strike with a ready blade. It is because we know so well where those roads lead.

Therefore it is only healthy to love and to pity the cruel, even as we love and fear our own will. It is only honest. And it is only proper, as in the poem, to feel love and joy at the striking.



Christopher Hitchens has some for the late Pope, which you have surely seen by now. There is a two-fisted debate going on between fellow MilBloggers Baldilocks and Sgt Stryker.

The problem Rome faces is this: it has decided to embrace the Culture of Life without reservation. As Hitchens points out, the Vatican is a government. It has the right of pit and gallows. It has decided not to use them, out of the horror it feels for its own history. The Inquisition has writ terror on their souls. They have cast away the sword entirely, that it may never again be used for evil. That means, also, that it may never strike a blow for good.

The Vatican, in other words, is struck with the same sickness of the soul that afflicts Germany. The pacifism that has arisen in both places is a reaction to the horrors that came before. It is a wound in their hearts. Until it heals, they will not be whole: and as the Church teaches in other matters, in such holes in the soul grows a gnawing and terrible evil.

At the time of the Abu Ghraib scandals, I argued that the proper punishment for rape of prisoners -- whether with organic instruments or flashlights -- was death by firing squad. The criminal is driven out of the unit even by dishonorable discharge, but that is not enough. The unit's honor must not be stained by these evil acts. In order to be sure that it is not, the remainder of the unit must not merely turn its back on the guilty. It must perform its function as a unit of riflemen, and gun the guilty down as enemies.

Enemies they truly are, of all we hold dear. It matters not that they once wore our uniform, and pretended to swear the same oaths.

The military has proven unwilling to exact that kind of vengeance, tied as it is to a legalistic notion of justice that all but prevents these punishments -- punishments at which a Patton would never have blanched.

But the military at least can punish and shame in public. It has not so lost itself in regulation and procedure that it cannot punish at all. The Church can no longer separate itself from its foes within. Where now is the "sundering sword" that Chesteron praised so high?

All those vague theosophical minds for whom the universe is an immense melting-pot are exactly the minds which shrink instinctively from that earthquake saying of our Gospels, which declare that the Son of God came not with peace but with a sundering sword. The saying rings entirely true even considered as what it obviously is; the statement that any man who preaches real love is bound to beget hate. It is as true of democratic fraternity as a divine love; sham love ends in compromise and common philosophy; but real love has always ended in bloodshed.
Gone, gone, from the Church he loved. Where now is the hand that can hold the Jerusalem blade, that Wretcherd spoke of so recently? Where is the sundering sword, that will strike these men from the Church? Where is the hand that will bind millstones to their necks, in front of the wine-dark sea?

Yet all is not lost. The sicknesses of the soul can be healed, and a Church that will not strike its foe is no more damaged than a man who will not strike his weakness: no worse a Church than an addict is a man. It is particular to the Catholic philosophy that God exists, and loves, and forgives; and that all men stand in equal need of these things. Using that faith, many a man has put the bottle behind him. It may be that there is yet a Theoden in the Church, if the right wizard exists to break his spell.

Grim's Hall is open to warriors of all faiths, as is the US Military. This is not a Catholic, nor even a Christian blog. It is a place for warriors. The Catholic Church preaches a warrior faith, but her priests and sons have laid down their sword. As a man -- as a fighting man, which is the only kind of man to be -- I charge them to take it up again.

Whatever differences exist between one warrior and another, they ought always to drive one another to live up to their own codes. You Catholics are meant to be Fishers of Men; you are meant to wield the sundering sword. Where is the courage that ought to flow from faith? Stand up!

World pays tribute to a pope who reached out to world | csmonitor.com

More Kind Words for John Paul:

The Christian Science Monitor has a roundup piece on tributes to the deceased Pope. One among those offering condolences is Hasyim Muzadi, leader of the single largest Muslim organization in the world -- Indonesia's Nahdlatul Ulama:

"We ... certainly feel sorrow for the passing away of the pope because he has dedicated himself all his life to humanitarian and peace efforts," said Hasyim Muzadi, a Muslim leader in the world's largest Muslim country, Indonesia.
Muzadi's own contributions to peace are notable. This very week, he has been on an extended trip to the nation of Thailand, experiencing a Muslim insurgency in its southern provinces. The trip is being spun by supporters of the insurgency against the Thai government, but in fact it was a show of support. The Thai Prime Minister, Thaksin Shinawatra, notes that Muzadi blames the insurgency on evildoers, not on religion. Thaksin has been taking the advice he's gotten on avoiding a religious war to heart. Muzadi, in turn, has promised to provide regular counsel to the Prime Minister and the King of Thailand, and to lead outreach efforts designed to reconcile Thais and the Malay-speaking Muslim majority in their south.

Thaksin also had kind words for the Pope. Though he did not mention it, the royals of Thailand were raised and educated in Catholic schools. Buddhists themselves, they nevertheless demonstrate the strong intellectual ties that the Catholic church has nurtured throughout the world. It is worth reflecting on the contrast in these religious men. Al Qaeda and Jemmah Islamiyah work to tear Muslims apart from the rest of the world. But Buddhist, Muslim and Catholic can come together in Thailand, to work for a better world.

So goes the war among the oratores. I know which theology I expect to win that battle. It only remains for us bellatores to gain them the space, and the time.