Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The Grenade Through the Door

Is this good news or bad news? The AP notices that "'Fragging' Is Rare in Iraq, Afghanistan"

American troops killed their own commanders so often during the Vietnam War that the crime earned its own name - "fragging."

But since the start of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the military has charged only one soldier with killing his commanding officer, a dramatic turnabout that most experts attribute to the all-volunteer military. And some argue the case of Staff Sgt. Alberto B. Martinez shouldn't even be considered fragging, since his motive was unclear.

The AP story continues:

Between 1969 and 1971, the Army reported 600 fragging incidents that killed 82 Americans and injured 651. In 1971 alone, there were 1.8 fraggings for every 1,000 American soldiers serving in Vietnam, not including gun and knife assaults.

"These people knew the war was pretty much lost, that they were going to be sacrificed," said Texas A&M University history professor and Vietnam veteran Terry Anderson. "They just wanted to get out of Vietnam." ...

Both Roland and Anderson said today's all-volunteer military, compared with soldiers being forced into duty in Vietnam, is the primary reason why fragging attacks are almost nonexistent in Iraq and Afghanistan. The conditions in Iraq are also much less conducive to the crime, Roland said. ...

"In Iraq, you never know when a helicopter might be going over or a newsman comes along," he said.

But I think Roland and Anderson focus on the wrong causes. World War was fought largely by conscripts. Nor were there many helicopters going over or newsmen coming along. Most World War 2 battlefields were vastly more isolated from the home front than Vietnam's. People moved by slow ship. Letters took weeks to reach their destination. Even Joe Rosenthal's famous picture of the flag-raising on Iwo Jima still had to be flown to Guam and developed before anyone could see whether the photograph had turned out. In other words it had all the factors which Roland and Anderson identify as causes of fragging. If battlefield isolation, the presence of conscripts, the absence of newsmen and heavy casualties were the real factors behind "fragging" then shouldn't the Second War Pacific campaigns have had incident rates to match or exceed Vietnam?

And if they don't maybe it is because low morale plays a greater role in fragging than any of the causes Roland and Anderson cite. While morale is determined by many physical things it is also driven by intangibles such as leadership, the perception of victory and the "justness" of the struggle the combatants are engaged in. Soldiers in Vietnam were materially better off than their fathers in World War 2 but due to factors too complex to discuss here, it was the intangibles which they lacked. Some were eventually convinced their service was futile, unappreciated and even criminal in nature. Wikipedia describes what John Kerry did upon his return from Vietnam.

On April 23, 1971 John Kerry and other veterans threw their medals, ribbons, discharge papers, photographs, citations and articles of their uniforms over a fence at the Capitol building at Washington, D.C. in protest. One disabled veteran even threw his cane. The stated purpose of the demonstration was to show that this protesting group of veterans thought the war was unjust, and that the administration had betrayed them.

That demoralization may have played a role in fragging. And therefore if fraggings are so rare as to be almost nonexistent in Iraq and Afghanistan it maybe due in part to a perception by men serving there that their cause is meaningful, just and ultimately destined to be victorious. It's a possibility at least.


Blogger Charles said...

the msm controlled both the vertical and the horizontal in the 60's & 70's.

Nixon was forced out of office in the early 70's as much for his role in the HUAC hearings in the early 50's as for his doings in the white house -- even as the soviet union in rigor mortis proceeded to carrying out Stalin's last wish--to rid Russia of Russian Jews.

10/17/2007 07:05:00 PM  
Blogger Cannoneer No. 4 said...

Unit cohesion, small unit Leadership, and professional pride make fragging socially unacceptable to the Marine's peer group. Almost everybody is a potential lifer now. I worked with a 19-year old Lance Corporal who considered himself a future Sergeant Major. Some people are on their FIFTH tour by now. Just about all the enlisted Marines have either joined or reenlisted since OIF started. Most are doing what they signed up to do, they have gotten pretty good at it, and they are fiercely proud of their skills.

The nostalgic longing for symptoms of indiscipline and low morale disgusts me.

10/17/2007 07:21:00 PM  
Blogger Whiskey said...

The AP article is (as usual) factually incorrect.

At the start of the Iraq War, a Muslim soldier rolled a grenade into his commanding officer's tent killing him and several other officers and NCO's, wounding more.

IIRC, he was charged and convicted, is serving a life sentence. His reason for doing so?

He was in fact a Muslim and fragged his officers and NCO's because as he stated, "I am a Muslim" and must oppose any war with Muslims by violence. In other words, Jihad.

No surprise the AP does not mention the incident.

Fragging was in Vietnam much exaggerated. Like US-led atrocities it DID occur, but was rare. Far rarer than what the AP article laughably describes.

10/17/2007 07:22:00 PM  
Blogger wretchardthecat said...

For those who were violently opposed to "Amerika" and the War in Vietnam, the fragging phenomenon may have been welcomed, though many were careful enough not to say so openly. The current "antiwar" movement seems almost nostalgic for fragging, and describes Assan Akbar's attack in these terms: the "solo attack on fellow soldiers by Muslim African-American again raises troubling questions for the U.S. military on race".

Even the phrase "War on Iraq", which Alternet uses, might have been inspired by the phrase "War in Vietnam". Just as Vietnam was disconnected from the context of the Cold War, Iraq is separated from the context of the War on Terror, which after all does not exist either -- at least for some people.

But of course the US would not have been in Vietnam at all or nor would it be in Iraq today without the context of the larger conflict. And the larger conflict is made to artfully fade out in proportion to the degree with which the focus moves in until finally the larger conflict vanishes entirely. Then the "War on Iraq" like the "War in Vietnam" is finally portrayed to be about race, class and bigotry. The transformation is complete.

So "fragging" becomes a particular manifestation for all the globally racial, social, class and imperialist issues Amerika represents even as the "War on Iraq" becomes a thing in itself.

Sometimes I wonder how psychologically destructive it would be for the extreme Left if America wins the War on Terror. They survived the fall of the Soviet Union by extreme acts of denial and then, when the period of mourning was over, finally by morphing into extreme Greens, both of the environmental and Islamic kind. What will they become if Osama's movement is finally discredited is anybody's guess. They'll turn into something, I guess. But I shudder to think what.

10/17/2007 07:28:00 PM  
Blogger Fat Man said...

Let me cut it down to two words:

Boomers Suck.

10/17/2007 07:45:00 PM  
Blogger wretchardthecat said...

The Boomers had their faults, but they held the sky up in their day, partly by skill, partly by bravery and partly by dumb luck, like everybody else.

They sent a man to the moon and if they "lost Vietnam" they won the Cold War. Didn't start Armageddon, had some good times. Compared to the leadership generation of the 1930s or early 1900s, they did good.

So maybe history will forgive the patchouli oil, the beads and stupid cliches and remember how the Boomers drove the old VW art van chugging up to the End of History and left the next generation the keys. Maybe it wasn't much. But it was still something. The van needed some cleaning up though.

10/17/2007 08:03:00 PM  
Blogger newscaper said...

"What will they become if Osama's movement is finally discredited is anybody's guess. They'll turn into something, I guess. But I shudder to think what."

Nastier, more prone-to-violence enviros? Worst case, think Clancy's Rainbow Six (novel, not game).

10/17/2007 08:30:00 PM  
Blogger newscaper said...

Remember, Clancy's Debt of Honor foresaw 9-11's airliners-as-bombs even if he got the culprit wrong.

10/17/2007 08:31:00 PM  
Blogger jj mollo said...

The depressing part about Vietnam was that our leaders would not do what was necesssary. I don't know if Goldwater would have done any better, but the enemy wouldn't have known so accurately where his limits were, and that is a good thing. MAD is what saved us from the Soviets, but Vietnam was waged on the opposite principle. We were so fearful of antagonizing the Soviets and the Chinese that we left our men stranded somewhere between victory and defeat for so damn long that they went nuts.

Yes, it's all about morale. There is no substitute for victory.

10/17/2007 09:24:00 PM  
Blogger Valentine Smith said...

What the stats detail as fragging incidents most certainly include attacks of any kind with a weapon on NCOs and officers. Fragmentation grenades simply elevate the crime to a phenomenon. It's a typically newsworthy and sensationaI designation. I would bet dollars to donuts the numbers would be very similar for such incidents during WWII.

10/17/2007 10:17:00 PM  
Blogger John Aristides said...

I was watching Delta Company: A New Era (Episode 2 on the Military Channel), and it occurred to me the Iraqis were jeering Saddam and his symbols, not as men of principle as we would define them, but as tribal optimists. I detected a distinct whiff of something not altogether wholesome when these Iraqis performed their anti-Saddam rites of spit and stomp. My intuition says this was the shadenfreude of the invested, not the defectors we needed for progress.

It's worth saying because that was the raw material we were working with. Now? I think they've experienced the entropic margins, a series of environmental spikes that have rendered something more supple, and more fragile.

10/17/2007 11:28:00 PM  
Blogger John Aristides said...

schadenfreude, natch.

10/17/2007 11:31:00 PM  
Blogger Deuce ☂ said...

Whiskey is right. Like most of the other nonsense that comes from the 60's, "fragging" is myth. It is exaggerated BS accepted as fact. Second lieutenants have always had a short shelf life in combat. Criminal behavior in the ranks is also a fact of military life. There never was a fragging phenomenon.

10/18/2007 02:33:00 AM  
Blogger J. Random American said...

So the Boomers "sent a man to the moon and if they 'lost Vietnam' they won the Cold War."

Lets see, the moon landing was in 1969 and the baby boom started in 1946. The Apollo program was even more amazing when you consider that it was done by the nation's high-school and college kids in their spare time after school. Seriously, though, I would not be suprised to find that at lot of Boomers do think that THEY put men on the moon. Either because they are so ignorant of real history or because they are so self-centered that they think the most critical part of the moon landing was that they watched it.

I was also unaware that Reagan, Thatcher, and Pope John Paul II had been redefined as Baby Boomers. Or is failing to save communism from their parents now the same thing as defeating communism itself.

I guess soon I'll be treated to Ameriprise ads bragging about how the Baby Boomer's wrote Shakespeare's plays and invented sliced bread.

10/18/2007 04:53:00 AM  
Blogger wretchardthecat said...

j random american,

I guess you're right and I stand corrected. Hell of a thought, having a useless generation. But at least I'm probably right about the Art van.

10/18/2007 05:20:00 AM  
Blogger Beyond The Rim... said...

Being a boomer, having served in the Vietnam conflict (USAF - specifically Utapao AFB, Thailand) and lost a brother (101st Airborne) to a booby trap during TET, I feel that for most of my life I have been swimming against the tide of those like Clinton, Gore, and the pseudo-conservatives on the Right.

Some of us did accomplish things. So you can thank some of us for the PC, the Internet, Hubble, and other technical advances. You can also thank us for the volunteer army that now protects us, with boomers as most of its senior officers. Petraeus is one of us.

We had a clear choice to make and many of us made it. It is GenX and the future that concerns me, because the fronts have been multiplied across the board and everyone knows how difficult it is to fight a multi-front war.

10/18/2007 07:54:00 AM  
Blogger vnjagvet said...

BTR has the timeline right.

Thankfully a minority of boomers somehow took "duty, honor, country" seriously.

Helped, of course, by their slightly older brothers and sisters who were not so exposed to the wiles of the "summer of love" and the peace movement.

10/18/2007 08:20:00 AM  
Blogger tommo said...

Don't forget the other great myth of our times, a hippie spat on a returning Viet Nam vet.

Don't "blame Americans first" because those of us on the left want to use our entire arsenal, including diplomacy and the criminal justice system when best.

To the right-wing our beloved military is a hammer, and everything that we don't like in the world is a nail. You all need to grow up.

10/18/2007 08:31:00 AM  
Blogger tommo said...

Don't forget the other great myth of our times, a hippie spat on a returning Viet Nam vet.

Don't "blame Americans first" because those of us on the left want to use our entire arsenal, including diplomacy and the criminal justice system when best.

To the right-wing our beloved military is a hammer, and everything that we don't like in the world is a nail. You all need to grow up.

10/18/2007 08:32:00 AM  
Blogger tommo said...

Don't forget the other great myth of our times, a hippie spat on a returning Viet Nam vet.

Don't "blame Americans first" because those of us on the left want to use our entire arsenal, including diplomacy and the criminal justice system when best.

To the right-wing our beloved military is a hammer, and everything that we don't like in the world is a nail. You all need to grow up.

10/18/2007 08:32:00 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

Poll: Bullshit Is Most Important Issue For 2008 Voters

10/18/2007 08:40:00 AM  
Blogger Beyond The Rim... said...

To tommo, some myths are based on real incidents. When I went to Thailand in February of 1968, you would not believe the vilification of the military in the terminal as we prepared to leave for the theater. They had separated us for our protection.

Spit wasn't the only thing that tried to cross the glass partition. Every gesture and slur word possible was thrown at the army guys, in full gear, who were waiting to board. Being Air Force we weren't the focus the epithets.

Yes, they did call them baby killers and everything else imaginable. It was unbelievable to see what some of us called the "war dance" of the "peace" protesters. In some ways it was comical, in others it was demoralizing. In the end, it only served to get more of us killed.

Interesting to see the words "beloved military" coming out of the mouth of an avowed liberal. That must be a recent spin job, or hopefully a change of heart on SOME, because I heard nothing like it for over thirty years, especially pre-911.

10/18/2007 09:00:00 AM  
Blogger NahnCee said...

So you can thank some of us for the PC...

Boomers are responsible for both kinds of PC: personal computers AND the overwhelming multi-culti Political Correctness that we're currently contending with world-wide.

10/18/2007 09:05:00 AM  
Blogger Beyond The Rim... said...

Sorry, I should have said February 1969.

10/18/2007 09:06:00 AM  
Blogger PeterBoston said...

You can be sure that there was nothing gracious intended with the use of the phrase "beloved military."

But do not speak harshly. Woosieboy will pee his pants.

10/18/2007 09:24:00 AM  
Blogger David M said...

Trackbacked by The Thunder Run - Web Reconnaissance for 10/18/2007
A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention, updated throughout the check back often.

10/18/2007 09:51:00 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Alison's husband who served in war zone C ,northwest of Saigon from August 1968 until May 1969 and in Long Binh basecamp from May 1969 until August 1969 has some first hand knowledge of the fragging phenonomena.
To call it an urban myth is a stretch as it did occur. It seemed to occur more after Tet when public opinion turned on the war and the brass were trying to fight a war of attrition while keeping casualties to a minimum. How'd that work?
As the enlisted men were largely draftees, officers who exhibited personal ambition paid for with grunts' blood were threatened with friendly fire (even if it didn't occur). My first C.O. , Captain James Rackstraw, who was involved in the 1965 Ia Drang valley fight,
was murmured against because he turned down a bridge security job to operate in the dangerous Oriental River A.O.
Incompetent officers were also considered a threat to the troops and were potential targets. As the war appeared increasingly a no win situation; survival for 364 days and a wakeup became the mission. Any orders that compromised survival were considered a capital offense, although they usually weren't acted on.
My time in Long Binh gave me a glimpse into a scenario probably much more conducive to insubordination and fragging. At least in the field there was a certain camaderie and esprit de corps. In the big base camps there was nothing but corruption, bad morale as well as rampant drug abuse and racial disharmony. In the cities in America; this played out in its own ways.In Viet Nam it could become lethal.
I remember a black guy who was a Blackstone Ranger gangbanger from Chicago stalking a hillybilly lifer with an M16 in my company area in Long Binh before being disarmed.
In 1970-1971 certain divisions had very serious drug and race problems which no doubt led to fragging incidents. The worst division in Viet Nam, the Americal , was one with lots of morale problems as well as the 5th Mech Infantry.
Late in the war ,even the best ones like the 1st Cav and the 101st had morale problems.
I wonder how much access to alternative media has helped preserve troop morale and prevent insurrections in Iraq and Afghanistan.

10/18/2007 10:55:00 AM  
Blogger Mike H. said...

When I was aboard my destroyer I knew that we were winning.

The Marine Corps wasn't into fragging. What little fragging that was being done was by Army draftees that were indoctrinated before they were called up.

The baby boomers left the biggest void in accomplishment in the history of man. We have this as the current gospel. So if I'm not a babykiller (a charge which thankfully never existed, I have that on good authority) then I am among the biggest non-achieving generation in history. Did I get it right youthful one? It's a good thing that you didn't have to depend on the previous generation for anything. You sprang from the earth fully formed and you'll go down in history as the first generation, what an achievement.

I didn't have any kids, maybe that's a good thing.

10/18/2007 11:03:00 AM  
Blogger RWE said...

The greatest thing the boomers did was that some of us rejected the Post-Vietnam mindset and built a military that won the Cold War 20 years later. Quite a turnaround, that.

And tommie-boy, I was personally threatened by "hippies" with red paint while in uniform.

And if fragging was so freakin' common at that time when military people got P.Oed, how come no hippies got fragged?

Oh! That's right! "We ain't played cowboys and hippies yet." And there is still time.....

10/18/2007 11:06:00 AM  
Blogger PeterBoston said...

Rep. Stark's unbelievable rant on the floor of the House seals the deal that this Boomer Congress has to be the worst Congress ever. We surely could not have survived a worse one - and may not survive this one if the voters in Stark's district (and others like it) do not repel this vile cultural brutality.

The culture is in crisis mode and when the "rest of us" catch on that the collectivists are taking us to serfdom there is going to be a reaction.

10/18/2007 02:25:00 PM  
Blogger Peter Grynch said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

10/18/2007 05:06:00 PM  
Blogger Marcus Aurelius said...


You are obviously a newbie here, otherwise you would know most here support a mix of diplomacy, ideological, and military tools to win this war.

Your comments about the left wanting to use all the tools in the belt are not correct, most on the left have this silly notion that war never solves anything and we need just diplomacy and talk.

Most here recognize the talk and diplomacy wanted by the left is just champagne glass clinking milquetoast obsequiousness.

Diplomacy, politics, ideology, and kinetic military might all have a role to play.

10/18/2007 07:23:00 PM  
Blogger Purple Avenger said...

Boomers were too early for Mercury/Gemini/Apollo efforts. They would have still been in high school.

We (which includes me and almost all the other engineers I worked with at Rockwell) did build the STS system which was a technical accomplishment of similar, albeit not as sexy, proportion.

That being said, many of my peers are complete self-centered asshats.

10/19/2007 07:15:00 AM  
Blogger Mike H. said...

Keep going there must be some good in an entire generation somewhere. If not then maybe we can do something for posterity by committing suicide.

Or maybe we can search through history and find a suitable candidate to vie with for the worst generation ever. You guys go ahead and hate your fathers or yourselves. That seems to be what I'm reading here. It's just a waste and the epitome of PC.

10/19/2007 11:47:00 AM  
Blogger rayra said...

"wretchard said...
...The current "antiwar" movement seems almost nostalgic for fragging, ..."

The 'current' antiwar movement is the same people, with new Useful Idiot disciples marching to their crappy little tune.

As to their movement and 'fragging':

They're still driving their shitty little vans around San Francisco. Though they seemed to have loaned you their rose-colored glasses. ;)

10/21/2007 01:32:00 AM  
Blogger Dr. Michael Blankenship said...

What twisted logic to support the continued aggression in Iraq! Fragging superiors may be a measure of dissatisfaction with their leadership abilities. Desertions may be a better indicator of dissatisfaction with the reasons for and the manner in which the "war" is being run.

10/21/2007 07:16:00 AM  

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