A giant firehose that takes in pharmaceutical company money at one end, and shoots lectures about social justice out the other

Friday, May 31st, 2019

There’s a popular narrative that drug companies have stolen the soul of psychiatry, Scott Alexander notes:

That they’ve reduced everything to chemical imbalances. The people who talk about this usually go on to argue that the true causes of mental illness are capitalism and racism. Have doctors forgotten that the real solution isn’t a pill, but structural change that challenges the systems of exploitation and domination that create suffering in the first place?

No. Nobody has forgotten that. Because the third thing you notice at the American Psychiatric Association meeting is that everyone is very, very woke.


Were there really more than twice as many sessions on global warming as on obsessive compulsive disorder? Three times as many on immigration as on ADHD? As best I can count, yes. I don’t want to exaggerate this. There was still a lot of really meaty scientific discussion if you sought it out. But overall the balance was pretty striking.

I’m reminded of the idea of woke capital, the weird alliance between very rich businesses and progressive signaling. If you want to model the APA, you could do worse than a giant firehose that takes in pharmaceutical company money at one end, and shoots lectures about social justice out the other.


  1. Graham says:

    I remember seeing some narrative of the psychological and psychiatric disciplines in which they evolved from focusing entirely on heredity and maladies of the brain and body of a chemical sort, but fairly primitive as befits Victorian medicine, to all social causes of the Freudian family romance and societal pressures schools, through behaviorism and its assumptions of easy condition and entirely external causes, back once more to human body and brain chemistry, except this time with the information and drugs to back it up.

    On the whole, I think the biochemical model still seems the most likely accurate, in accordance with actual science as it comes down to us, and my own materialist biases. Freudianism sounds in retrospect like absurd claptrap. Jungianism I can have time for as an aspect of philosophy or mythology. Behaviourism showed us a bit about how we can be manipulated but as a core explanation for human psychology was a bust.

    This new version sounds like a combination of Freud, Marxist Science, and witchcraft.


    Why am I worried about Climate Change, Asteroid impacts, the Jihad, the Russians or the Chinese, the promise and perils of technology, again? Is this civilization really worth it?

    I have no kids, as it happens. I wonder to what degree I’d feel differently if I had.

  2. Kirk says:

    My first experience with the academic world and psychology/psychiatry was being used as a guinea pig for my mom’s class in child psychology at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

    Professor running the class? No kids of his own. I repeat, no kids of his own. NO. KIDS.

    The interactions I had with the guy, which included a bunch of crap that the other “research subjects” didn’t go through because my mom thought I needed to “talk to someone” about the recent divorce… Oh, dear Lord. That guy set the stage for every other experience that I ever had with that discipline, and started me down the road towards considering them all to be essentially nuts, themselves.

    And, this guy was teaching college students who were going to be educators, counselors, and child mental health specialists. I wish I could even begin to describe what it was like interacting with him as a kid–I’d sit there in the back of my mom’s class, and he’d seem normal and adult-like, so I could “get” him like I could any other adult. Whenever I interacted with him as a kid, though? Oh, man… It was so dissociating, because it was like talking to and dealing with someone who was living in another universe. For metaphor, imagine you’re talking to someone about the color of a ball; the ball is blue, but they keep talking about it as though it were red, then yellow, then green… All the while you’re telling them the ball is blue. Then, they start interpreting for you, and telling you why you really see the ball as pink.

    I’d literally walk out of a session with this guy dizzy, trying to keep track of the BS. Some of the stuff he sent my mom home as homework seemed sane, but every time I dealt with the guy as a kid, the bastard seemed like a nutter.

  3. Paul from Canada says:


    Academic psychology is weird to begin with. Talking about the “hive mind” of academia you referred to in the other thread, and the circular logic.

    One of the issues with psychology papers is the self referential nature of them.

    There is a joking statement to the effect that the problem with psychology papers is the lack of a broad based population of test subjects. Most papers do a study, and publish results which they interpret broadly, but that it is not justified because of the narrow range of the test subjects.

    Basically, the results apply to western college students between 18 and 25, because that is who the test subjects are. If you are doing psychological research in a university setting, your test subjects are all your students, who volunteer for extra credit or the money.

  4. Graham says:

    Something happened in the vicinity of my workplace the other day.

    My employers sent around a message referring to an incident and a location and indicated anyone who needed counselling could get it.

    Naturally most of us had been unaware of this incident. And sought to find out.

    As it was a probable suicide, it was scrubbed from the news quickly by convention. Possible to find some google cache though, to confirm it was a probable suicide and probably involved fire.

    Now that sounds like a hell of a horrible thing to witness, but of course the message sent around more or less seemed to imply anyone might need counselling, live witness or not.

    I have at least one colleague to whom that is utterly normal. Mid millennial. Fortunately, at least one late millennial thought that was nuts.

    There is this increasingly pervasive notion that everybody needs constant counselling for everything. I’ve taken some for some life issues and it helped, and I’m glad it’s possible. I’m not sure we need it this much or to have it shoved proactively at us.

    I wonder that I might not some day soon be considered a troglodyte for this, before any other issue.

  5. Kirk says:

    I blame the culture, to be honest.

    It’s like with Grossman. His BS schtick was that everybody had problems processing violence and killing–Which made the guys who did it and went “Meh…” feel like there was something wrong with them. Which fed into them developing actual problems with it all, and thus, making Grossman money ‘cos he’s just set up a bunch of people for PTSD, who he’s selling preventative nostrums for…

    Quite the circular little gag, eh? And, that’s why most of SOCOM considers him a charlatan and a cheap whore.

    Me? I think that if you can’t process and cope with something like someone showering you with their gore as they commit suicide, there might be something very maladaptive for survival going on in your head.

    I mean, for the love of Christ, let’s consider what our ancestors dealt with on the daily: D’ya think that the folks living outside Lindisfarne went into catatonia when they found the good monks massacred? Was that a survival-oriented response, if they had? No?

    So… The excessive identification with the victims probably isn’t a really good thing to encourage. Someone blows their brains out near me, and I don’t know who they are? It’s gonna be “Christ, did you have to do that next to me indoors, you soggy wet bastard…?”, and I’m going to get on with things. Because, that’s what works. Sitting around and going “Waily, waily, woe is me, I’ve been traumatized…” ain’t helping squat.

    Call me insensitive, but don’t call me late to dinner. I’ll likely be upset as hell if it’s someone I know and care about, but the broad fact of the matter is, if I don’t know you, your death really doesn’t mean sh*t to me, unless you splattered yourself on my hood. Then, since that means you probably totaled my car, in your inconsideration, I’m gonna be pissed. Sympathetic to your survivors, but still pissed. Six feet further left, and I woulda been golden… Is that too much to ask?

    There is such a thing as too much empathy. On the other hand, I may be a poster child for too little…

  6. Graham says:

    That was refreshing.

    Good Lindisfarne reference, too. From back when the Scandinavians took a robust view of life.

    I can’t make claims for how I’d react seeing or being adjacent to any of those things. I at least hope I would react without undue freakout. Or at least, only such momentary freakout as warranted by unfamiliarity with the situations. But I can’t say.

    In 2014 there was a minor shooting incident in which a lone gunman killed a soldier guarding our war memorial in Ottawa, and went on to storm our parliament. He was short and killed by the sergeant at arms.

    As it happens, I was at home that day but well inside the lockdown area of downtown. I don’t recall being unduly troubled. Some folks were quite put out, I hear, and public discussion seemed to bear this out.

    I have considered the possibility that I am now a tad abnormal, for all I am not exactly a lion of physical courage.

    I’ve also noticed that discourse up here has started in recent years to talk so much of empathy you’d think they’d just heard of it around here. It’s become a shibboleth.

    I am fine with it, it’s a fine human quality. I am not sure we need it shoved on the face daily. That and I’d actually throw in a vote for the oft deemed inferior idea sympathy. I think the ability to reach out to someone without directly feeling their pain or understanding their experience is being undersold.

    I admit that I grew up in a city with a subway and we did get blase about the possibility that every delay was a jumper. So I’m not up to modern empathy standards.

  7. Graham says:

    Minor was perhaps not the right word under the circumstances.

    Modest in scale is more what I wanted to convey.

    Also, typo. “Shot and killed”, not “short and killed”. I can’t recall the attacker’s height…

    Aside from that, someday I hope to be infamous enough to be called a charlatan and cheap whore. The magnificence of the insult might be worth it.

  8. Paul from Canada says:

    “I have considered the possibility that I am now a tad abnormal, for all I am not exactly a lion of physical courage.”

    No, I think Kirk has it right.

    These sorts of things have been going on for ever. If we believe the current anthropology and archeology (not the Rouseauan previous BS), 25% of all adults throughout history died by violence.

    We had an work related incident last year. One of the employees at my company was stabbed to death by a schizo on the bus on his way to work. Same thing, wringing of hands and offers of counseling, but I did no min other than a name on the org chart,so other than “glad it wasn’t me”,and “how tragic”, and “how horrible for his family”, it didn’t effect me in the slightest.

    It is like Kirk and I said in another thread about Israeli practice WRT PTSD. Tell soldiers that they are supposed to feel trauma and remorse, and when they don’t (quite naturally, since many people don’t), you induce in them the very PTSD you are trying to prevent.

    I remember as a teenager, every year, at least one kid at any given high school would’ die in a car crash/drown or otherwise die in an accident/commit suicide. Other than a memorial page in the yearbook, nothing special was done. Today if anyone dies for any reason, the grief counselors drop form the ceiling. I don’t think this is resulting in healthy outcomes.

  9. Kirk says:

    I think I’m probably empathy-deficient. I’m not going to be out there yelling at someone to jump, but at the same time, if they decide to, I’m not really going to be that broken-up about it, either. Again, if they were connected to me in some way, I’m probably going to experience at least some emotional turmoil, but in the broad sense? I don’t know you, I really don’t care. And, should some moaning minnie try to guilt me over the fact, they are probably going to get both barrels from me in return, metaphorically.

    I really don’t get it, either. You would think that there would be something of an evolved emotional circuit breaker, in place. I’ve actually met people who freaked out and had emotional breakdowns over the instructor in a sociology class describing what was found down in the Arizona ruins where the Anasazi had apparently been massacred and eaten. I’m sitting there enjoying a snack, reading the material, interested in how they’d identified the blood proteins from the coprolites, and asking questions, because the instructor had done similar work in forensics…

    Meanwhile, I’m getting open stares from some of the people around me, and I’m looking back at them, trying to figure out what the hell the problem was. I guess the rare roast beef sandwich was a bit much…

    I mean, for the love of God, these things happen nearly every single day. You get wrapped around them, where do you stop? Are you supposed to exist in a state of mortal outrage and shock 24/7? How do you cope with life, then?

    I like ER nurses. You simply cannot freak them out. If there’s ever a zombie apocalypse, or the end times come, I have two classes of people I’m going to seek out for their coping skills alone: Former military of a certain bent, and ER nurses. Doesn’t matter what fluid it is, or where it came from out of a body, they can deal.

  10. Kirk says:

    Yeah, I’m with Paul; you look for emotionally overwrought responses, you’re going to get them. Self-fulfilling prophecy.

    I arrived in a unit at Fort Lewis in November of 1986, from Germany. I’m assigned a room, over in the NCO barracks, and everyone is kinda looking at me funny. At first, I’m thinking it’s because I’m the new guy, but what I found out was that I’d been put in a dead guy’s room, and the majority of the unit hadn’t quite finished processing what had happened.

    Which was macabre in the extreme–Back in May-June time frame, from what I remember, these two guys, buddies, young Sergeants, had taken one of their cars out on a test drive after they worked on it out in the parking lot.

    They’d never come back, and nobody knew what the hell had happened to them. The next few months were quite traumatic for the unit, since nobody thought they’d have gone AWOL, the families showed up, and there are searches, appeals to the public, and God alone knows what else I wasn’t there for.

    September, a hunter found the car. They’d shot off the road on a curve, impacted a tree, and since we’re talking what amounts to a virtual temperate rain forest there at Fort Lewis, the car vanished, totally invisible from the road.

    They hadn’t been wearing seat belts. The seats were unbolted. They’d been drinking.

    Now, there was a sharp split in the unit reaction; the guys who’d been friends of theirs were all waily-waily-woe over their lost buddies, who’d morphed from a couple of irresponsible drunks into The Best Soldiers Ever(TM) in their minds, and the bare majority that went “What a couple of idiots…”. They’d been doing, I think, sixty or seventy miles an hour on a road that the speed limit was 35 or 40.

    Me? I heard the stories, and was smart enough to keep my mouth shut, but I’m thinking: “Evolution in action…”.

    I also wasn’t too pleased to find that they’d left some things behind in the room for me to have to deal with, like a cache of C4 and some blasting caps they’d purloined off a range and then hidden. Drew that to the attention of one of the guys who “knew people”, and we dealt with that discreetly and legally, but… Jeez. Bit of an eye-opener, that was.

    Main point being, the post safety officer decided to put their car on display. Wasn’t bloody or anything, but it was well-wrecked, and the amount of angst that people had over it being by the front gate with a sign saying “Don’t drink and drive…”? Good God, you’d think they had put dead babies on display, or something. And, the outraged ones were outraged that the not-outraged ones were not-outraged…

    Seriously weird vibe in that outfit, until most of those guys rotated out to Europe or Korea. I was really glad when the last of them were gone, especially after the residual lower enlisted started confiding things in me about the previous lot, including our dead “heroes”. You don’t know a lot about a certain type of soldier, until they are dead, and the peer and subordinate community feels like there’s enough distance to actually start telling the truth about them…

  11. Graham says:

    I’ll reserve personal judgment until I face such situations- I can’t recall ever seeing anyone’s blood but mine, and that in modest quantity at any one time. Although as an adolescent I have dim memories of a probably tired nurse not finding a vein and spilling a fair amount on the floor.

    My mother told me at some length later, so that colors my memory.

    I did have one outpatient surgical experience living in a dorm in London back when. That was more other post surgical fluids than blood. Hurt and messy like the proverbial mofo. Generally tried to conceal it from all but one person.

    Not that much really. A lot of childhood dentistry, but really no biggie at this distance. I know a guy who grew up poor enough to have never seen a dentist and had to see them constantly in adulthood, eventually requiring surgery that required having his jaw broken and rearranged twice within about a year. That guy was pretty matter of fact about stuff.

    But yes, ER nurses. Pretty impressive up here too. Capable of handling any shock.

    I do find this latest thing about being traumatized in classes or things on the page or tv absurd. Know a guy who thinks that’s normal. Same guy as the counselling reference.

    It’s hard to quite argue with him- I guess I could understand a rape victim or war refugee being messed up enough to react to anything, though I’m perhaps too old to have expected that many of either in my classes.

    So I let it pass. But then nature reasserts. I mean, people allegedly freak out at BW war photos or coverage of tragedy on the news.

    I heard of folks up here who wanted counselling after 911, and not people who were there or had people in NYC either. Folks like me watching the news hundreds of miles away.

    My reaction of “For God’s sake!” is typically not well received.

  12. Paul from Canada says:

    Also brings to mind the reaction to celebrity death.

    Modern media creates this weird thing where a celebrity becomes almost a part of your family. You see them all the time on TV, know intimate details of their lives, so you get the artificially induced idea that hey are part of your family/community/part of your Dunbar’s number, when in fact they are none of those things.

    So when someone like Princess Diana dies, thousands, nay, millions of people feel like they have lost an intimate friend or family member, even though they are nothing of the sort.

  13. Paul from Canada says:

    It also occurs to me that in our modern times, we don’t have a close association with death.

    In our great-grandparents’ day, a large proportion of all children died in childhood from disease. People died in industrial and farm accidents all the time. Old people died sooner, and at home. Death was ever present. Violent death was more common back the too.

    Today, very few people get to see a corpse, other than a grandparent laid out at the funeral home, if they even see that. Most people die in hospitals or hospice, not at home, surrounded by family. (This phenomenon is one of the things Grossman got right in “On Killing”).

    I think this rarity of death as an everyday and normal occurrence is also part of this issue with modern “trauma”.

  14. Kirk says:

    I grew up on a small hobby farm with an utter lunatic of an Eastern European stepfather running the show. I came to know many of my meals on a first-name basis, and I’m quite frankly, a little blase about killing things to eat. I mean, it’s a little added work, but if I need to, I’ve got zero issues with doing it.

    My two younger brothers did not get that salutary experience, since my stepdad did not keep us down on the farm, so to speak, and moved us to a small mountain tourist town in the North Cascades. He still had the occasional vestigial twinge for ye olden dayes of yore back on the farm, so he’d occasionally pick up a pig or a goat to fatten up.

    Now, I grew up with that, and having had the singularly enlightening experience of having nearly been eaten by one of the pigs, I have a firm idea of my proper place in the food chain–And, I damn well mean to keep it.

    Brothers, not so much. They were toddlers when we moved off the farm and became townies, so they quite often didn’t quite catch the times my stepdad brought home livestock “fer eatin’…”. Until the time they did.

    Stepdad’s fiftieth birthday is coming up (dear God, I just realized I’m older than he was when he got himself killed… Wow.), and he wants goat. Baby goat, kid, really. So, he goes out and finds one, brings it home, and has the baby brothers take care of it. They bond. The goat is my baby brother’s best buddy, playmates.

    One day, he comes home from school. Goat gone.

    Trauma, thoughts of failure; did he leave the gate open? Did the goat escape…? Did something get it? The neighbors dogs? A cougar…?

    Much sadness and woe is expressed, to my stepdad’s shock–It was dinner to him, you see. Not a buddy. Had no idea…

    Next day is a Saturday, and the wee lads are down at the barbecue for the birthday, aaaand… My mom tries telling them the meat is rabbit. Mom is a tad naive, and doesn’t realize that the boys see through it, and I guess you can extrapolate from there. I’m hearing this via a letter while I was either in Germany or away somewhere, and I’m howling, laughing my ass off at it all… The sheer pathos, the horror; I can see both sides, and I’m like, whoa… Way to go, stepdad! Way to repeat the trauma of your early life on the next generation! Although, in truth, since he’d grown up in WWII Yugoslavia, he’d have had to shoot a couple of us to really do that, which he didn’t. The man wasn’t a monster

    So, anyway, I’m telling you this story because my brother and I were at a little business get-together, and we’re playing “Can you top this…?” in terms of how ‘effed up our childhoods were, with a friend of ours, while his fiance is looking on. That story came out, and a couple of other folks are listening in, and the looks… Oh, dear God, the looks. In my family, it’s like a bonding experience, going over stuff like that. For others, well…

    You rather get the impression that they’d have called Child Protective Services, or something. I remember we told that story on another occasion, and some little old lady came up to him after we were done, and she’s gently taking his hand, and looking soulfully into his eyes… “Oh, you poor dear… You poor, poor dear child… I’m so sorry…”, with tears, then a gentle hug.

    If I ever get a reason, I ought to describe a survival course we did, in the Army, where we were provided with a live chicken or a rabbit for about every three guys, and told to make dinner out of them. I have to tell you, after observing that lot of idiocy happen, I had some serious doubts about my fellow soldiers and their ability to cope with anything more traumatic than a toddler’s boo-boo. Even some of the medics were a little less than, shall we say, competent with the blood and the killing and the screaming of the bunnies…

  15. Graham says:

    Lord, princess Di’s death. That takes me back.

    I even then sympathized with the queen’s allegedly WTF initial reaction to the mobs.

    We had them in Toronto at the namesake Princess of Wales Theatre. I worked across the street at that time. Mountains of flowers.


    You’re definitely onto at least part of the heart of the matter by noting how rare death has become as a real regular experience, or even an awareness. For me, probably little different from anyone else. It has happened quickly. I think it has been shaping all sorts of changes in expectations, and just as quickly.

  16. Graham says:

    “The blood and the killing and the screaming of the bunnies” is the winning phrase of the night.

  17. Paul from Canada says:

    …Thinking a bit more on the subject, there is also expectation and habituation.

    For example, I personally know/knew five people who have ejected from military jet aircraft. All of them were colleagues, friends or instructors of mine. Two of them died doing so. Both of those who died were friends of mine, not just guys whose name I knew or faces I recognized from the Squadron ready room, but guys I shared beers with.

    One I knew from Air Cadet days, who had got in ahead of me, and made instructor before I got to Moose Jaw. He died while flying with the Snowbirds, Canada’s equivalent of the Blue Angels or Thunder-birds. The aircraft he was flying was a type that I flew.

    The other was a guy I knew from Basic all the way through to basic jet training. After I washed out, he graduated and went on to fighters, where he was killed in a training accident.

    Was it a punch in the gut when I heard they died? Absolutely! Was it devastating? Not in the least! It was part of the job. There was the expectation that doing this job, was on average, going to cost one or two of the couple of hundred of you who did it, your lives every year.

    Also, since it did indeed happen every year, it was, while not something casually accepted with callous fatalism, something accepted as an unpleasant, but predictable and normal part of our lives.

  18. Graham says:

    That will, I hope, not soon become once more part of civilian experience in the west, but that was certainly sobering to read.

  19. Kirk says:


    Oh, it was one of those… Moments. I mean, you don’t get them all that often in life, where the sheer surreality of it all leaves you wondering if you’ve utterly lost your bubble, but when they occur, they stick with you.

    On average, I think my time in the Army produced about one or two every couple of calendar years. That one was summer, Fiscal Year 1988.

    And, since I raised the specter of that tale, I really probably owe it to y’all to tell it.

    We were doing a course, as a unit; all and sundry leaders, officer and enlisted. The course was intended as a cut-rate combination Ranger, SERE, and Air Assault course for turning plain Combat Engineers into SAPPERS!!!. Good idea for the course, reasonably well-executed, but they were cramming what should have been about an eight- to twelve-week course into four. It was rather like the Cook’s Tour of Europe–”Oh, this is the second Tuesday, we’re doing survival course stuff…”.

    It really was rather well-done, but the cadre had been at it awhile, and they were pretty well-done in the other sense of the word. Fried, some of them.

    Survival course dude was rather more than a little done, if you catch my meaning. We go out, did the classroom phase, and then it’s time for the somewhat anticipated practical exercise. With bunnies and chickens. Live bunnies and chickens.

    Which, for me and a certain small percentage of the class, is another day at the office. Kill dinner? LOL… Lemme tell you about the time my sister and I used to have to process rabbits after school, and the Headless Death Bunny of the Apocalypse took off into the twilight without its head, leaving us holding said head and the body taking off like a broken-field running back for the woodline, dodging each and every obstacle in its path.

    I’m like, yeah, killing stuff. Haven’t done that in awhile, bring it on. I was looking to observe technique, and offer criticism, mostly–This same bunch had tried telling me that a Romanian FPK was a Soviet Dragunov, and I rather liked the warm feeling I was getting from sharpshooting all these lordly Ranger-tabbed he-men of the elite.

    Instructor comes out, and man… What showmanship. Dude is on it as an instructor. He’s got us in the palm of his hand, and we’re mesmerized. Has a guy pick a bunny out of the box, and he goes into his routine, which I have to tell you, was amazing. Started off with him holding said bunny, cuddling it, cradling it in his arms, as he’s talking about the need to keep the bunny all calm and not to get the adrenaline running, ‘cos that will make the meat tougher… He starts talking calmly and rationally about how you really have to get to know your bunny, that you should name it, because… Well, he never did say. His patter was exquisitely done, damn near put me to sleep, even though I’m thinking “This can’t end well… Especially for Peter the Bunny, there…”.

    And, everyone is watching, raptly, as he’s doing this “calm the bunny” thing. Eventually, he ever-so-gently eases the bunny up into a head-down position, hanging by its back feet, and he’s showing us how you calm the bunny, stroking its back in a downward, steady way, making it comfortable, and how you can tell it’s relaxing because the ears aren’t back, they’re all flaccid and drooping towards the ground… Most of the audience was right there with the rabbit, calm, unworried, figuring they weren’t going to have to watch something cute and furry die in front of them… Instructor is lulling them, along with the rabbit, seeming to be quite a bit more sanely lucid than we’d expected, from previous sessions he’d run.

    At the point everyone and the bunny were calmest, he performs this really well-done martial-arts strike, artistic in its power and force, damn near removing the bunny’s head, and morphs over into this utter raving lunatic. Blood is going everywhere as he exsanguinates the bunny, spraying a bunch of the audience, and then he goes into a manic”Let’s prep the bunny for din-din phase”, and, oh, dear God… I can’t do it justice, but I can tell you the highlights as he demonstrated how to remove and use the bunny’s intact skin and head as a puppet to keep yourself company with, in your lonely survival situation–Presaging Wilson by a decade or two. He had the puppet provide a running commentary on processing the rest of the bunny, too…

    Another highlight was his demonstration of how to use the lungs as handy balloons, as well as how you could make Real Bunny(TM) slippers from the puppet, once you’d filled your need for companionship. He was quite… Graphic.

    Audience response? I think there were less than ten of us who were country boys or hunters, and we were kinda “Meh…” about the whole thing. The rest of the class? Oh. My. God. I’m looking around at people who are vomiting into their headgear, passing out, and generally not having a Good Time(TM) like the rest of us. I started watching them, instead, because it was really morbidly fascinating to observe all these “tough guys” that postured and acted the fool most of the time suddenly losing their sh*t over this little dead white rabbit thing. There was one guy, who postured that he was a “former gang member” who’d done drive-bys and all the other “stuff”, and I’m here to tell you, I’ve never seen anyone literally turn green before that moment.

    Whole thing is surreal as hell, on several levels. It managed to approach Boschian levels, though, when they handed out the live subjects for our dinners. I wish I could capture some of the facial expressions, because a lot of them were priceless.

    In any event, the following hour or so was a bit hard to take, even for the country boys. My small group had two of us who knew the deal, and a guy who didn’t freak out at the sight of blood, so our bunny was in the stewpot in short order, and we’re standing there while it’s cooking, having to listen to all these other botched kills going on around us. Ever hear a bunny scream…? It’s not unlike that of a woman. And, with fifty-odd students, limited competence at killing things, and half the class getting bunnies, well… It was a little hard to take, simply out of professional pride. I mean, if you’re gonna kill an animal to eat, do it humanely, right?

    Cadre let that go on for a bit, and then accepted our offers to go around and put the surviving bunnies down for those of our class that couldn’t manage it. The expression on the face of that rough tough gang-banger as his bunny was taken from him for processing by the skinny white kid he always made fun of was something else. I don’t think he ever looked at any of us “country f**ks” quite the same, after. Dude literally couldn’t kill a bunny, y’know? Credibility as a “hard guy” was shot.

    Whole thing was a little bizarre by my way of thinking. I mean, really? Soldiers? Can’t handle a bit of killing-to-eat? WTF? People passing out? I’d never really considered the whole thing to be that much of a “big deal”, but I guess that if you’ve never been exposed to the reality of it all, it’s a Big Deal to you.

  20. Graham says:

    Bizarre and hilarious. I’d probably have been one of those puking in my hat, but that’s still funny as all hell.

    I’ve probably never seen the expression “exsanguinates the bunny” either.

  21. Kirk says:

    Yeah… I mean, right? Hilarious. For a certain dark and morbid value of hilarious, that is.

    I’ve told that story a couple of times, and the people that “get it” are almost always not city-folk. The ones that don’t? Denizens of the urban zone, mostly.

    And, it’s telling: The vast majority of the population still thinks that their steaks grow there on the plastic trays they buy them on, and that the milk jugs are filled from a tap in the back room of the store.

    Most of these are also the same people who’ve never seen or experienced death, and while I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing, it’s also a sign that we’ve successfully disconnected a bunch of people from real life as she is lived, which I cannot help but think is a really bad thing, overall.

  22. Paul from Canada says:

    Man! My experience wasn’t half as amusing.

    I guess I was unlucky in that where we did our survival training, there were enough wild bunnies around that we got to actually catch wild ones with a snare, and there were enough that each group usually got one.

    That said, our instructor, an old Swedish-Canadian trapper named Gus, also did the skin-and-head puppet routine, so I did get the entertainment of that!

    This goes back to our discussion about the need of certain life experiences to make a whole person, and I think killing you own food is something that should be part of that.

    I think that something like this, is part of the Japanese school curriculum. Not that each kid kills his own chicken necessarily, but that a class gets to see a chicken killed, processed and then get to eat the cooked results.

    I am reminded of something I read in a book by David Suzuki. Now he is something of an icon in Canada, and I was something of a fan back in the day, though I think his environmentalism has progressed to the hypocritical and fanatics quasi-religious type currently in vogue, so I don’t care much for him now.

    Anyway, he was commenting on this loss of direct connection to nature and food. How most kids today have never been fishing, don’t get any experience of farm life, believe meat comes from a factory wrapped in plastic on a Styrofoam tray. (Now that I think about it, I think this book is where I heard about Japanese school kids and the chicken).

    Anyway, to illustrate this, he related an incident that happened while filming his signature TV show (The Nature Of Things). He had been taping, and wrapped up a segment where he was talking about muscle, and how, just like chickens, other animals, including humans, had the equivalent of light meat and dark meat, or something like that.

    Anyway, after the director called “cut”, one of the cameramen asked him, “So you mean that meat is actually muscle?” He was completely unaware of the actuality of what meat really was.

    I am also reminded of a meme image of a farm girl, maybe six or seven, who has taken the disembodied feet of a slaughtered chicken and is using them to practice toe nail painting. The caption read simply “Farm girl”.

    I am also reminded of something else;

    “…Soldiers? Can’t handle a bit of killing-to-eat? WTF? People passing out? I’d never really considered the whole thing to be that much of a “big deal”, but I guess that if you’ve never been exposed to the reality of it all, it’s a Big Deal to you….”

    One of the most infamous incidents in the Yugoslav civil war was the Srebrenica Massacre. One of the things the Bosnian Serbs did to intimidate the Dutch soldiers guarding the enclave was to slaughter pigs in front of or near them, without stunning them first. The local Serbs, being rural people, had no problem doing this, but many of the Dutch soldiers were city boys, who were disconcerted/intimidated as intended.

  23. Kirk says:

    @ Paul 1:11am post,

    It’s interesting how it’s changed over the years, too. I enlisted 1981, went on active duty 1982, and completed training in early ’83.

    By about September, I remember getting word that we’d lost three guys from my One-Station Unit Training company already, all three to “training accidents”. One was a rollover in Germany with the infamous M151A1 Mutt, another guy was killed down at Fort Hood in some kind of motor pool accident, and the third guy was playing OPFOR for an exercise with the National Guard or Reserves up at the Guard Center there in Wisconsin when some idiot decided to fire an M203 flare into the back of a 5-ton truck he was in, and he took it right in the chest. Wasn’t a pretty sight, either.

    Those were also the years when you pretty much planned to have a casualty assistance officer ready to go, whenever you went to the National Training Center. When I worked down there, circa 1998-ish, I was shocked to find really old SOPs from the early days of the place, where they told incoming player units to ensure they were ready to escort bodies back home… There was one safety case study where they somehow managed to kill someone every single week they were there, which was mind-boggling to me. The entire time I was in that job, we had one training accident that resulted in a fatality, and that was a two-year period.

    The Vietnam and post-Vietnam era in the US Army was not one I’d describe as particularly safety-conscious, from what I saw of the records. Not to mention, the attitudes of some of the guys who were still around from those days. Death was not an uncommon thing, even in routine peacetime training. Now, if someone gets killed, it’s an outrage, and there are recriminations galore.

    Unsure how I feel about that, to be honest. Of course, it’s better not to waste the lives, but there was a certain training benefit to be had from the cold realization that this was a dangerous game we were playing, even in peacetime. Woke you up, it did…

  24. Kirk says:

    @Paul 2:47am,

    I’d never heard that anecdote about Srebrenica, before. Specifically, what the hell did they intend to do, by that? Did it work?

    Me, I’d be sitting there going “OK, you’re slaughtering your pigs here, please clean up when you’re done…”, and that’s about it. How the hell is that intimidating? I don’t get it, at all–That’d never even occur to me as some kind of threat display to make, and I’d be complete nonplussed by it, were it directed at me.

    Now, under certain circumstances, I’d likely respond by sending out some of my Samoans or Cajuns, and tell them to return the favor, intimidation-wise. No idea what that would result in, but I can guarantee you that they’d have come up with something graphic and viscerally disturbing in the way of a reply. That’s the sort of thing you just point out, give permission and a free rein to the right troops, and then stand back and offer up plausible deniability to the boss.

    “I simply had no idea that Sergeant Tuisosopo would do something like that, Sir… To shreds, you say? Tch, tch… I will have a word with him, I promise you! This will not happen again, Sir! (sotto voice… until next time…)”.

  25. Paul from Canada says:

    Yeah, the statistics are much better now. Military flight safety has kept pace with civil flight safety, so we can now go years without a fatal accident, but back them, (’90-’95). you could expect at least one, or possible two hull losses per year.

    Because of the various aircraft types and the small sample size, the casualty rate varied considerably. Some years we would lose a jet or two, but the ejection seats worked and ejection happened inside the “envelope” and nobody died. Other years, worse. For example, one year a Herc crashed doing LAPES practice, that took out six (two pilots, a navigator, a flight engineer and two loadmasters).

    Given that at the time, the number of active duty pilots not riding a desk, or doing a staff tour, but actually actively flying, was something around two hundred and fifty, I’m not sure what a proper actuary would peg it at, but the annual death rate, had to be something like one in four hundred or five hundred.

    I am actually a little freaked thinking about that number now, and it would not be tolerated today,but like I said at the time, it was accepted as part of the job.

  26. Kirk says:

    “That said, our instructor, an old Swedish-Canadian trapper named Gus, also did the skin-and-head puppet routine, so I did get the entertainment of that!”

    Y’know… It would really be very interesting to do an ethnographic study on that idea, and see where it came from. Was there a movie I’m unaware of, where they did that? Has there been some kind of transnational cross-military transmission of the idea, via exchange officers, or something?

    Because, I think I’ve heard that same thing from about half-a-dozen different places, and now Canada’s Air Force survival training.

    Did the deranged bastards develop these ideas independently, maybe? How weird would that be, in terms of parallel development?

    Inquiring minds would like to know…

  27. Paul from Canada says:

    Kirk @03:01

    That is what I heard.

    Now this is an anecdote, and might be apocryphal.

    As I understand it, they invited the Dutch staff to a liaison meeting, and while it was going on they dragged some pigs in front of the open air forest clearing where the meeting was taking place, and slaughtered them without stunning them first.

    What I was told was that the not stunning them first was deliberate. Even a Serb farmer usually has a big hammer handy. The idea was to intimidate, straight up, “We don’t flinch from doing this, we would be just as happy doing this to you.”

    As to whether it worked, don’t know, but my interlocutor seemed to think that it did, or at least that it had an effect.

  28. Paul from Canada says:

    Kirk @03:09

    I think maybe it is just a natural thing that occurs independently, given that the easiest way to process a rabbit is to twist the head off commensurate with the skinning, and ending up with a head and attached pelt. It just seems to me like a natural association of ideas from that point.

  29. Kirk says:

    @ Paul 3:14,

    And, that’s why most of my generation of US soldiers were generally disdainful of a lot of the Euros we met and dealt with.

    If I’d been in that situation, or around it? I’d have looked around for one of my crazies, and told him to have at it, we needed to make an example. Where that would have gone, I don’t know, but the Serbs would have left that forest clearing knowing two things: One, we weren’t impressed with their little pig-sticking, and two, that there were some seriously deranged people on our side, too.

    War and combat is a mental game; if you don’t have the essential knack for it, the ability to produce that high mad laughter on cue, you probably shouldn’t be there.

    If the specific guy I’m thinking of had been available, I would wager long, hard money that he’d have joined in the killing of the pigs, and added some cute little fillips like chasing them down and drinking their blood as it came spraying out. By the time he got done, the Serbs would have likely been sick to their stomachs and scared shitless that they were next for the roasting-rack. Sergeant Tui could do a really good “crazed cannibal routine”, when he wanted to, and was convincing enough that I’m not entirely certain that he might not have been serious about “long pig”…

  30. Kirk says:

    As an aside… Ya pull out crazy, you best be certain that your crazy is crazier than the other guy’s, or the mojo is going to backfire badly on you. And, if someone pulls crazy on you, then the only way to go is demonstrate that you’re crazier, exponentially so.

    Ideally, you want to have your laughter haunt their dreams, and their imaginations running wild. That’s half the Gurkha trick–Smiling little brown man, with a big f**king knife you’re certain he’s really, really wanting to use on you. Always with the smile, that one you can’t quite figure out, smiling at you… You’ll see it in your sleep, you’ll see it in your waking nightmares, and it’s all in your head.

    Think Maori Haka, only not with all the dancing and shouting. You answer a demonstration of crazy with even crazier.

    Watched Tui, one time. Different guy, same name though. Tui was the immediately adjacent machinegunner on the perimeter during an evaluation exercise. We’re digging in a defense, and he is working like the Tasmanian Devil, flinging dirt everywhere. His position is finished long before mine is, and we’ve got three white guys to his one Samoan. Embarrassing.

    Anyway, he leaves his machinegun in the position, and goes out to take a piss against a tree. While he’s doing that, a small mob of evaluators comes up and starts harassing him. I’m watching, and all I hear is a heavy sigh as he returns himself to his pants, and turns to confront the evaluators. They ask where his weapon is, and when he points back at it, they tell him he’s outside the perimeter unarmed, and he’s captured. Tui just looks at them, shrugs, grunts, and then pulls an artillery simulator out of his ammo pouch, holds it at arms length, and pulls the detonator on it. After it goes off, and everyone is standing there with their ears ringing, he just looks around at this gaggle of officers and says “Booolchit. We all dead.”.

    Never heard a word about that incident, again. Tui walked back to his position, sat down, ate his C-ration, and that was the end of it. The gaggle of officers wandered off, looking rather the worse for wear, and a little shell-shocked.

    Two lessons, there: One, always pack your Samoans for war, and two, make damn sure that you’re on their side and that they know it.

  31. Paul from Canada says:

    To be fair, it IS an anecdote, and might be apocryphal, but I hear you.

    One of the interesting thing I heard (again, and anecdote and probably not true), is that one of the reasons that the initial cease fire agreement that established the Srebenica enclave was signed, was that the Canadians were the initial UN force to protect it.

    I hate to sound boastful, but we developed a certain reputation. Canadian troops took their job seriously. We were to be a trip-wire, which meant, if necessary, we were to fight and die in place to maintain the ceasefire line. We had had lots of practice in the Golan and Cyprus, and we understood how it was supposed to work.

    The Croats found that out the hard way at the battle of the Medac pocket. They were used to being able to get UN troops to withdraw, but we told them, “No”, our order were to hold and guarantee the ceasefire line, and anyone who attempted to cross it in force, did it over our dead bodies.

    Having been able to intimidate other UN forces to withdraw, they were quite shocked when we fought back when they tried it.

    Unfortunately for us, this full on battle embarrassed the government (we were only doing “peacekeeping” after all), and the whole thing was kept quiet, and lots of people who should have got recognition and medals didn’t, because our government was actually ashamed and embarrassed at what we had done.

    Anyway, the Dutch took over and the rest is history.

    Would we have changed the outcome? Would Canadian troops have fought instead of standing aside and letting the Serbs in? I would like to think so, but I can’t really know.

  32. Kirk says:

    The Canadian Army has always been a bunch of hard-asses. Germans knew it, having learned the hard way in two world wars.

    Here in the US, we seem to forget how to “Army” in between wars, while you lot never seem to lose the bubble.

    It’s just too damn bad y’all have a sorry lot of politicians. You really deserve better, or they deserve a much worse Army.

  33. Kirk says:

    On the whole, I’m very ambivalent about the entire Balkans misadventure. We started that pot boiling back in the 1970s, in a very similar way to how we set the stage for ISIS in Iraq.

    What Clinton and the rest of the meddling fools should have done during the late 1980s? Ripped the bandage off, and then let nature take its course. There was a lot of crap going on in the deep background that led to that mess that nobody wants to acknowledge or talk about today, not the least of which was all that sweet, sweet Saudi money coming in to finance a Muslim revival. People don’t know it, but that didn’t start up in the late ’80s, it was going on starting twenty years earlier.

    Tito had proven he could keep the lid on the ethnic stuff. Unfortunately, he didn’t manage to make that an institutional thing, and everyone was running scared for the time that was coming, when Tito would be gone. So, the pot started bubbling back when, and it blew up in the period we all know about–But, the heat went on sometime around ’68, or so. I forget what the meeting was, but there was some regional political thing where Izitbegovic started up this Muslim “return to values” thing, and when Tito’s boys were going to put his nuts into the fire for doing that, the US State Department, in all it’s malevolent incompetent obliviousness, chose to tell Tito that Izitbegovic was their boy, and not to ice his ass. Saudis and some other chimed in, too.

    At that point, nobody really thought the Muslims were that serious a problem–Muslim terror wasn’t yet what it became, and nobody really thought it was a fall-on-your-sword moment.

    Few more years, different attitude.

    Truth is, we (the US) started absent-mindedly finger-f**king the Balkans a long, long time before it all really got going, and then screwed up dealing with it all. We should have stayed out, entirely.

  34. McChuck says:

    The prime requisite for becoming a psychologist or psychiatrist appears to be personal insanity. Not to mention a firm commitment to Leftism. Which reinforces my first point.

    The WHO and APA have delisted ‘transgenderism’ as a mental disorder, yet has declared that masculinity is a treatable disorder. This proves the profession is insanity, all the way down.

  35. Kirk says:

    At some point, we’re going to have to acknowledge the fact that membership itself in the WHO and the APA likely needs to be listed as an untreatable disorder…

  36. Graham says:

    I assumed McChuck was kidding.

    Nope, and only a moment’s googling required for the evidence.

  37. Longarch says:

    Relevant background from Carlton Meyer:
    May 26, 2019 – Sociopaths in the Military

    President Trump’s desire to pardon American war criminals confuses everyone. How did these patriots become killers? Was it the stress of war? In most cases they suffer from a mental illness they had before they joined the military, which is why they joined the military.

    The problem with sociopaths is never discussed within the US military because it is not understood. Sociopaths have a mental condition in which death and destruction excites them rather than causing depression. It is a common mental illness and most all sociopaths live normal lives keeping their violent impulses under control; others become serial killers. Many seek occupations that allow a socially acceptable chance to vent their rage. This is why police departments keep an eye on rookie cops who seem enthusiastic about “kicking some butt.” Many rookie cops are fired for bad temperament, often after shooting someone for no reason. Police departments do not try to retrain them knowing that sociopathic behavior is difficult to control.

    Sociopaths are attracted to military service as well, wanting to serve in infantry units where they can see violent action. While most infantrymen are motivated by the excitement of combat and the accomplishment of the mission, sociopaths are motivated by the chance to cause death and destruction. They can be identified by the wild-eyed excitement they show when talking of how they plan to kill the enemy. Another sign is a love of knives and violent movies. This behavior is usually dismissed as dark humor or enthusiasm, but it may be sign of trouble. Sociopathic behavior is depicted in the movie “The Dirty Dozen.”

    While sociopaths are often excellent soldiers, they are dangerous if they lose control. Officers and NCOs must be aware of this mental illness and take note of soldiers who demonstrate sociopathic tendencies. Before a unit enters combat, suspected sociopaths need counseling to let them know they demonstrate sociopathic tendencies and that they must keep those urges in check. They should be warned that if they show any sign of losing control by harming prisoners or civilians, they will be transferred to a rear area unit. They are likely to be shocked by such a warning, and thus keep their demons in check.

    However, many sociopaths are unable to retain control and commit vicious war crimes. Officers will not be confused about what triggered this odd behavior if they understand this mental illness. This does not excuse such behavior, it merely explains it. Hopefully, such incidents can be prevented by identifying sociopathic behavior beforehand and taking steps to deal with this mental illness. Given that some 2% of the general population shows sociopathic tendencies, and a volunteer military attracts a much higher percentage, keeping sociopaths in check is a major leadership challenge.



    >>“That said, our instructor, an old Swedish-Canadian trapper named Gus, also did the skin-and-head puppet routine, so I did get the entertainment of that!”

    >Y’know… It would really be very interesting to do an ethnographic study on that idea, and see where it came from. Was there a movie I’m unaware of, where they did that? Has there been some kind of transnational cross-military transmission of the idea, via exchange officers, or something?

    Armies have to train soldiers to be brutal. However, the soldiers of any army frequently have chances to be brutal to their comrades, and not to outside targets. Thus many armies tend to perpetuate sociopath training programs that mostly victimize their own people.

    See also:


  38. Kirk says:

    The problem you’re highlighting, with war crimes supposedly being committed by all these “sociopaths” in the military, which Trump is supposedly creating a scandal by pardoning is this: You’re conflating a huge number of issues, some of which have nothing to do at all with the problem.

    Some of those guys are quite certainly sociopathic loons who should have been summarily executed, and in a sane country, would have been. We’re not that country.

    Others of that group are men who the Army screwed up with, big-time–Case in example would be Staff Sergeant Bales and the massacre he conducted near Kandahar. Bales was a multi-tour veteran, had TBI, and was on a number of psychotropics treating him for all of that. His doctors had advised his commander not to take him on that deployment. Commander thought Bales was fine, took him. Bales loses his shit, Army blames Bales, bang, here we are. Bales should never have been put into that position. Institutional-level f-up, and the people that were really responsible for it happening were never prosecuted. Bales should have never been sent back to combat.

    Bales was also not, apparently, a danger to anyone before the Army broke him. Is he responsible? To my way of thinking, if the doctors treating you advise against your deployment, then that pretty much means that you’re no longer fully responsible for your actions, especially when you start talking about TBI and other brain issues.

    Pardon Bales? Absolutely. Then, lock his ass up in a nice, comfortable treatment facility until he is either back to normal, or dead. Concurrent with the pardon, court-martial the dumbass commissioned jackass that decided to ignore the doctors treating Bales.

    The freaks involved in the Mahmudhiya deal, where some privates decided to rape a girl and kill her family to cover it up? All of them should have been summarily executed at the scene. The screening process that missed the ringleader, and the leadership that knew of his issues (guy got discharged for what I remember as “Inability to adapt” and sent home mid-tour), and still took him on deployment needed to be held accountable for that whole thing.

    There’s still another bunch of these guys who got prosecuted because JAG and some staff weenies decided they’d committed crimes, which they were sometimes complicit in. Case in point here would be that of Lieutenant Behenna. You examine the particulars, there, and the question becomes “What the hell did they expect…?”. Behenna’s platoon had been hit by an IED ambush, two of his soldiers were killed, several wounded. Then, the geniuses on the staff decide “Oh, let’s task the LT with picking up the guy we think did it, and let’s also tell him…”. So, Lieutenant Behenna goes out, captures this guy along with a cache of ammunition and a light machinegun (AKs were like household appliances; everyone had them–The LMG was not legal, and an indicator of “involvement”), and brings him back to the FOB. That alone was a miracle, because most folks would probably have evaluated the reality of things, and just made sure that guy was killed in the course of capture. Behenna did the “right thing”, though, and took him in. Then, two weeks later, the MI assholes are like “Oh, we can’t prove a thing, now… Take him home, please…”.

    I can’t prove it, but I think that the staff was playing games, and wanted that guy dead, but didn’t want to take responsibility for it, so they outsourced it to Behenna situationally. When it got reported, rather than admit that they’d basically used Behenna to kill him, they preferred charges.

    And, you say, all simon-pure, that Behenna should have been a saint and foregone killing the guy, if that’s what happened. Here’s the reality, though: Behenna is a platoon leader over a bunch of guys with guns in an environment where they’re all fighting for their survival. In the dynamic, if Behenna had “done the right thing”, one of several outcomes would have probably ensued–His platoon, perhaps rightly, would have evaluated Behenna as a leader that didn’t care about them, and that would mean that the LT might take a bullet in the back, or just find himself going through a door alone some night, with no backup. Either way, those MI assholes put the LT in an impossible situation with his platoon. They never should have been tasked with going after someone that had killed their own, and they sure as hell shouldn’t have expected that that guy was going to make it home safe. They created the situation that led to the crime, and did so with either such malice as to be culpable, or they were just too stupid to be doing what they were put in charge of.

    War is basically controlled sociopathy. That’s what the military is, in essence. That’s what all the traditions, regulations, and disciplinary structure are there for–Control. The problem is that you have to have a balance: Too little sociopathy, and you’re not going to have effective soldiers, unless your root social structure is already sociopathic. Too much, and you get things like My Lai.

    You really can’t avoid it, when you ask men to go to war. Things are going to happen, and there are things that are going to look awfully ugly in the rear view mirror, like all those Japanese skulls sent home as souvenirs. In the final analysis, you’re going to have issues and errors, mistakes and tragedies. The trick is, you have to do a bit of a “dial-a-yield” on what you’re doing, and ensure that you’re making the troops sociopathic enough to survive and win, and not so deranged that you have to put them down once the war is over.

    Professional soldiers are not people you want to take home to mama, in most cases. Offer them the right stimuli, even well after their military careers are over, and you’re going to see things happen that you really wouldn’t expect from a civilian. The majority of us are fairly good at keeping the beast leashed, but the odds are pretty good that you’ll be in for an unpleasant surprise if the leash ever snaps.

  39. Paul from Canada says:

    “…On the whole, I’m very ambivalent about the entire Balkans misadventure.”

    Most of the guys I knew who served there, and one was a guy who was quite famous in Canada for a while, being wounded and decorated for an incident, all had pretty identical attitudes:

    1. Cool! We get to actually do out real jobs for a change, and we might ACTUALLY get to kill people and break things! They absolutely LOVED being involved in a “real” operational tasking.

    2. This is f’ed up! There is no good solution, and no good guys. Put a perimeter around the place, give succor to any refugee who reaches said perimeter. As for the rest, shovel surplus ammo over the wall/fence, till the noise stops. Let them kill each other, as it seems to be their national sport.

    One Canadian General who ran UNPROFOR in Sarajevo, gauged his job performance by the death threats and denunciations. If he got an equal number from all the various factions, he was obviously doing his job properly.

    Incidentally, Kirk mentioned Isebegovic, (not sure if my spelling of Kirk’s is the correct one). The State Department, and a bunch of other big organizations and NGOs, basically picked a side, because there has to be a white hat, and a black hat, and the black hat, and the consensus is that the Serbs were the black hats.

    In reality, there WERE no good guys. Some were worse than others,(and the Serbs, or at least the Bosnian Serbs, probably were the worst), but there were no angels.

    Isebegovic was playing the game of trying to depict himself as the victim and martyr, hoping to get western intervention for his side. It didn’t work, because a lot of the UN troops and staff, kept to their ethics of strict neutrality, and saw through his attempts at manipulating the situation.

    The General I mentioned earlier, got a lot of denunciation in the international press, for being more even-handed than the narrative called for. He is famous for saying, after an infamous mortar attack on a civilian market, that he would make more progress in his ceasefire negotiations, if one of the factions would stop “shelling their own people for coverage on CNN”, or something like that.

  40. Paul from Canada says:

    “…It’s just too damn bad y’all have a sorry lot of politicians. You really deserve better, or they deserve a much worse Army.”

    A sorry truth, but a truth nevertheless. I think the same is true of a lot of European armies as well. Ignore the conscripts, and the national ROE B.S. A lot of the European contingents did good work in Afghanistan, and ironically, some of the Scandinavian contingents were serious and useful contributors.

    We tend to conflate country and its military with its government. The US Army wasn’t responsible for Obama, and the Canadian military certainly didn’t vote for Jean Cretien or Trudeau the younger!

  41. Kirk says:

    The thing with Izetbegovic that most Westerners don’t get is that he’s not the great innocent everyone thinks he is. Bastard started agitating, feigning this vast “innocence” of his, back in the ’70s.

    The big thing to know about the former Yugoslavia is that it was essentially willed into existence from among a welter of really damaged people. Between all the various ethnic groups which made up the country, there are no really innocent parties. Each and every one of them is guilty of doing something to someone else somewhere along the line–And, with the numbers of clashing empires and nations that have washed over the territory, what you’re basically dealing with are a bunch of historically traumatized PTSD victims, in cultural terms. Just like the Russians, as an example, the Serbs have earned their paranoia and self-labeled victim status the hard way. Same as everyone else… I honestly think the Slovenes may be the closest to “sane” in terms of culture, but the rest…? Hoo-boy.

    What Tito wrought was this: He welded together this marvelously fractious collection of ethnic groups, mainly by brute force. For awhile, after WWII, everyone was exhausted, and the message he sent was “Hey, we’re screwed alone; let’s gang up and get big enough to make a go of it…”. That happened to be in alignment with a bunch of Serb thinking, and the rest of the groups were just tired and cowed enough to go along, for awhile. Dubiously, but they did go along. Mostly out of fear, and remembering what life was like before Tito. That lasted as long as Tito did, and then the cracks started appearing in the facade.

    Izetbegovic was one of them, consciously or unconsciously. The thing with him wasn’t necessarily that he was advocating for a Muslim resurgence, but that he didn’t get crushed when he did. Unlike the other groups did, he had an external constituency and paymasters–The Saudis and the US State Department. Money was flowing to the Muslims from the Arab world back when, and from what I understand, some of it was predicated upon Yugoslav military sales in the Arab world, which weren’t small. So, the other groups like the Serbians saw Izetbegovic getting away with his revanchism, and their finely-tuned instincts took over. It seems a small thing, but it wasn’t to the locals. Tito was dying, and everyone knew that once he was gone, there was no telling if the truce would hold.

    If Tito had managed to outlive the memories of pre-WWII Yugoslavia, maybe things would have worked, and Yugoslavia might have come into existence as a real nation. As it was, though? It fell apart when he died, and a big chunk of that I have to lay at the door of outside influences. The idiots in the US State Department had no idea what the hell they were doing, back in the 1970s, or ever.

    With Izetbegovic, they saw a pious, Allah-fearing man, someone who wasn’t a Godless Communist (TM) like the others, and they thought it was a good idea to support him and others like him. What the rest of the ethnic groups saw was quite different–They saw the Muslims lining up outside support, getting it, and the rest followed. Had the US State Department had the wisdom to say “Meh.” when the Yugoslavian government went to deal with Izetbegovic, I think things might, with much emphasis on the “might” have worked out differently. All the other groups in Yugoslavia would have looked at that, and said “Oh, ethno-nationalism isn’t a thing, any more… OK, we can live with that, so long as it’s evenly applied…”.

    It manifestly was not, so the dancers on the ballroom floor spun up again. Took another 20 years for the whole thing to get going again, really, but the roots are there.

    This is also another example of my message/signal theory on display: The message was, we’re all Yugoslavs together, forget your ethnic heritage… Signal? Yeah; except for you lot, over there… Go ahead, keep being Muslim, and in the pay of outside interests…

    The Bosnian Muslims are basically the residual left-overs of the Ottoman Empire. They were the local Quislings, the turn-coats, the rat-bastards who went out for the Enemy, and did their dirty work. Also, the majority of them were the “townies”, who’d been lording it over the Good Country Folk (TM) since forever, running the taxes, being the landlords, all that sort of thing. The Serbs hated them with a passion that’s reserved for race-traitors, and you’ll often hear the Turk excoriated, but still somewhat admired for their strength and ruthlessness. You will never, ever hear the Bosnian Muslim described in the same terms by the same men. The Muslims are traitors who went over to the other side, in the long ethnic strife that is Yugoslavia.

    Memories are long; the Serbs remember how the harems were filled in Istanbul, how the Janissaries were created, and by whom all that was administered. You start talking about Islamic renaissance to a Serb, what he remembers are those tales about Great-Great Grandmama’s baby sister being sold off to pay rent or taxes, and never seeing her again. In the Balkan stewpot, it does not pay to forget, because those that forgave and forgot wound up as the next set of victims.

    So, whether or not he knew it, whether or not the State Department knew it, we lit the match on that whole cluster-f**k. Having done so, and not meant to?The lesson should have been “You’ve no idea, whatsoever, what you’re doing… Stop.”.

  42. Graham says:


    I’d like to remember Chretien fondly in some ways. Liberal, and liberal, not progressive. Paul Martin, of all people, as a mentee of Maurice Strong, struck me as the thin end of the progressive wedge among senior Liberals.

    Also, JC was an authentic working class French Canadian Quebecer type, a Canadian archetype I can have a fair amount of time for even if I don’t really have any connections to that identity. And even though he spent most of his working life in elected office and got rich as a patronage lawyer during his brief stint out of office. It’s all good.

    Plus, only Canadian PM in my life to basically get away with manhandling and slightly choking a protester, and laughing off the RCMP pepper-spraying protesters with joke about putting pepper on his plate. He also, after power, several times spoke some home truth about the problems of Canadian Indians.

    I think he’s finally gotten the memo now, but he was OK at times back in the day.

    Smart enough not to back the Iraq war, too, whichever his reasons.

    Terrible on defence, but what Canadian PM is not?

    Justin, I have little to say in his favour save that he landed himself a beautiful wife. A talent of value.

  43. Graham says:


    When it comes to blowback, I’m OK with it in principle. Sometimes to defeat the enemy of the hour you call forces into being that become the enemy of the next week. Russia for the Germans, Muslims for the Russians. Also, China for the Russians. I’m not sure which of the latter will ultimately prove to be the worse of the two, for all the Muslims scored a terrible wound on 9/11. You don’t always get lucky and manage to arrange the world to advantage by yourself or with only like-mindeds on side.

    SO I’m OK that the US propped up the Mujahidin parties to gut the Russians, and I’m even OK that they then “abandoned” Afghanistan [a common complaint, as though more was owed], to settle itself and the mujahidin showed their criminal side badly enough to birth the Taliban. It didn’t quite need to lead to a successful AQ strike on the US, nor did the response in 2001-3 need to produce 18 years of failed nation building.

    These problems were never slippery slopes without possible stopping or deviation points. Pop journalists insist on treating them that way, though.

    With Yugoslavia, I am on side with your comments. Those aspects are wildly underappreciated to say the least. Given how much Tito himself had been a bit of a deviant from the Soviet bloc from early on, undermining his country concept as a way of hitting at the Soviets seems like a lack of nuance terribly shocking from the State Department’s e-lite cadre of diplomatin’ men.

    And letting the Saudis in even back then. Hoowee. There was too little coverage of the role they have played even since 1990. Digging back a further generation really clarifies the picture.

    I can’t think of any American geopolitical error that would have seemed more necessary in the 40s-80s that has borne more bitter fruit since than the alliance with Saudi. I’m OK with propping up their regime, selling them AVs, and so on. I don’t need a crusade for democracy and women’s rights there. But the US’s indulgence of their enormous ideological/religious and geopolitical ambition is way out of control.

    Back in 1991, I assume because it was the summer after Desert Storm, the Saudi government was pulling out all the stops in PR. I don’t know how this manifested elsewhere, but in Toronto they took over a large exhbition space at the Canadian National Exhibition during that two week fair [it was the Ontario Government Building that at that time had long been also known as the Carlsberg pavilion, after the beer brand]. If that was gratis by the CNE board or the government, I am retroactively outraged. I assume the Saudis payed. If so, that would likely have cost a bundle. It was full of displays extolling their economic and technological development, construction programs, their affinity with western peoples, and so on. And tons of swag.

    My father, not a notable geopolitical sophisticate to be sure, was pretty cynical about it.

  44. CVLR says:


    between this

    >I’m sitting there enjoying a snack, reading the material, interested in how they’d identified the blood proteins from the coprolites, and asking questions, because the instructor had done similar work in forensics…
    >Meanwhile, I’m getting open stares from some of the people around me, and I’m looking back at them, trying to figure out what the hell the problem was. I guess the rare roast beef sandwich was a bit much…

    and your rabbit story, I laughed for a solid couple of minutes.

    Maybe I just have a sick sense of humor.

  45. Kirk says:

    Hell, where does that leave me, then?

    I mean, yeah… I’ve got an eye for the absurd, but I’m almost always able to find things laughable that other people just do not think are funny. One of my bosses once made the comment that the scariest thing he ever heard was me laughing at something, because he knew that if I found it funny, we were probably pretty deep in the sh*t, and that he’d be answering questions to someone later on. Hopefully.

    If you can’t laugh at it, well… What’s the alternative? Tears? Curl up in a ball?

    At least, that’s the way I’ve always looked at it. Which, generally isn’t appreciated when the subject of said laughter is an ongoing unavoidable disaster…

    Couple of times, though, it has gone a bit far, and even I have to admit that. I once got stuck in a job as an acting supply sergeant in Korea, because I was the only available E-6. Supply was not my MOS, but, hey… I could read, write, and find the “on” switch for a computer, so I was qualified. Due to the fact that the “real” supply sergeant was back in the US on emergency leave, and we were undergoing the last stages of a complete MTOE rework, there was a lot of crap that was left undone. One of those things was a huge loft over the supply room, which was in a building about the size of a city quarter-block, and where we had our company offices, motor pool work bays, and all the rest. I had that supply room for about three months, and between all the thieving KATUSA BS and trying to get gear turned in for the MTOE change, I about to lost my mind. After about 60 days, they figured out the real supply sergeant was never coming back, and they got a replacement for him requested. He showed up, and never was anyone greeted more happily or taken to my heart as a boon companion. I got him in-processed and handed that supply room over as quickly as I could, and we managed to get a bunch of stuff straightened out, between us. He’d never been in Korea before, and did not know the ropes, at all, so without me there to backstop him and show him where the bodies were buried, he’d have had a rough go of it all.

    Anyway, about a week after I was done turning that supply room over to him, I’m walking out of my platoon offices to go out to formation, and I look up at the interior of the building. Rather a lot of smoke up there, says I to myself, and then I trace it back and note that it’s not coming out of a truck exhaust stack, but out of the supply room loft. I trip the fire alarm on the way out, but that thing is anemic as hell, and you can’t hear it outside the building. Anyway, fire department is literally the next building over, so I make sure everyone knows to unass the building, see that they’re responding, and I walk out to formation. On the way to my platoon, I pass by the Headquarters platoon, and I tap the new supply sergeant on the shoulder… “Hey, dude… Your worries are over… Your supply room is on fire…”, and I guess my delivery and accompanying laughter made him think I was joking. I wasn’t. He took it as “Yeah, right… Pull the other one…”, and a few seconds later, here come the fire trucks in the motor pool gate. He gets all wild-eyed, and grabs me: “You’re bullsh*tting me, right? Right…?”. Few seconds after that, the commander comes running out, screaming, because he’s just noticed what everyone else did about ten minutes earlier, and he’s reacting to it all.

    I wish I could reproduce the look on the new supply sergeant’s face–He was usually unflappable, and had spent the entire transition in a state of trying to talk me down from a nervous breakdown due to being on the hook for literally millions of dollars of unaccounted for property, which he managed to figure out. So, when I told him the supply room was on fire, with all his work in it, well… Yeah. Plus, I’d been joking for weeks about burning the place down to hide the fact that the records were that messed-up, so he half-way thought I might have snapped and really done it.

    That may be one of those things you had to be there for, to see the humor inherent to the situation. Still makes me laugh, though, thinking about the look on his face… Priceless. Well worth the preceding weeks of grief, to get to see that on someone’s face.

    They did get the fire out, thank God, and well before the records were even at risk. Turns out, old canvas tents that some idiot soaked in a mixture of linseed oil and wax are not the ideal thing to leave under a hot light… Who knew?

  46. CVLR says:

    You, me and this guy all.

    That’s a pretty good story also. I’d pay good money to see that one live.


  47. Kirk says:

    Yeah, it was one of those things you kinda had to be there for, to get the full effect. I’m really not doing justice to the whole run-up for it. That supply room was a sh*t-show, start to finish. They’d started the conversion over from a Heavy Engineer horizontal construction company to Combat Engineer about a year and a half earlier, it was the middle of the Stop-Loss for Desert Storm, there’d been two commanders, and the third guy was who I was working for. The paperwork was so thoroughly screwed up, I can’t even begin to describe the outlines of it all–They’d turned in all the heavy equipment, to the tune of tens of millions of dollars worth of it, but they’d completely lost paper accountability for it all. There was a very real chance that the then-current commander and I were going to be on the hook for it all, which is something I only figured out at about the time the amnesty period ran out. I probably could have dodged that particular bullet, due to how screwed up everything was, but… It would have been a mess. A big one.

    Lynch pin of the whole thing was the KATUSA clerk we had in there, who I’m convinced was engaged in a complex fiddle with the Korean civilians over at the turn-in point. There was stuff he’d handed out to the other KATUSAs that wasn’t accounted for, there was paperwork that had vanished, and it wasn’t until the new, real supply sergeant showed up that anyone could make sense of whole mess. He’d had experience cleaning up a bunch of really big messes, and knew all the ins and outs of what had likely gone on, so when he got all his ducks into a row, he left an extensive documentation packet laying out on his desk, with a cover memorandum addressed to the Defense Investigative Agency that handles things like that. Missing paperwork suddenly started appearing all over the place over the next week as I suspect that our little fraudster began unwinding his peculations. You wouldn’t think that a humble company supply clerk could finagle something on that scale, but holy hell… He had to have either been heavily involved, or he had some pull with whoever was really pulling that crap off at the turn-in points.

    In any event, had that fire occurred a few weeks earlier than it did, after the crisis was over? LOL… Friends, I’d have been out there locking the motor pool gates to keep the fire department out, and defending them with an axe or something, until that entire building was ashes. I wouldn’t have started the damn thing, but I can about guarantee you that once I saw that, the fact that it would have been my salvation would have flashed through my mind, and I’d have been out there cutting firehoses and beating up the fire department… Anything to make sure that damn supply room and all of the paperwork went up in smoke.

    Which was, to be honest, the real reason that whole absurd situation was so damn funny to me… “Fire, you bitch… Where the hell were you when I really needed you…?”.

    The whole thing just struck me as typical… After we solved the problems that the fire would have fixed, then the damn place wants to burn down. Outrageous, that…

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