Active Duty Army Major, Iraq War Participant and Professor Kirstein Exchange Opinions

The army major has requested that his name not be used. I have complied with that. I have removed his e-mail address and signature. I initiated some editing for purposes of proofreading and excising extraneous and irrelevant items. I made a few appropriate clarifications to my e-mail. I added a few explanations of the major’s references with [ ] brackets. He did sign his initial e-mail as captain and the others as major. He sent me a document attachment that, while redacted, affirmed his recent promotion to major. I believe the sender’s argumentation merited an exchange and a public airing.


Army Major Insignia
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Sent: Sat 2/3/2007 9:32 PM
Captain to Professor Kirstein

Dr. Kirstein,

I often wonder if leftists are actually serious or just fail to consider the rich irony of their lives. Your website reminded me of an earnest left wing student in a political science class I was taking back in ’96. In what I can only assume was a break with reality, he retorted to me and my support of a particular candidate, “if Bob Dole is elected, he will re-institute slavery”. [Senator Dole, Republican of Kansas, was the G.O.P. candidate for the presidency in 1996. He lost to William Jefferson Clinton.]

Looking at your site and its support of Iran, North Korea, Syria, Cuba, China and Communism in general seems unbelievable, as you were extremely miffed at being censured for speaking your mind about your government. Those who speak their mind in such utopian societies as you support are generally known either as “prisoner” or “dead”.

I can only assume that you are not overly burdened in contemplation of such contradictions.

Respectfully,

Captain
US Army, OIF I & OIF III [These are acronyms for “Operation Iraqi Freedom.”]
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Sent: Sun 2/4/2007 8:22 AM
Professor Kirstein to Captain

I think in part you are correct. Other societies would be less tolerant of speech than the United States. Yet many societies are more so and we claim to be the exemplar of human rights and liberal-democratic principles. My “censure” as you describe it would be an example, albeit without physical depredations, as would Abu Ghraib, Haditha, GITMO, N.S.C. surveillance of telephone conversations etc. Finally, those nations that you refer to are not as violent or as cavalier in sending its military personnel to kill or to be killed for ignoble ends.

Professor Peter N. Kirstein
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Sent: Mon 2/12/2007 2:12 PM
Major to Professor Kirstein

PNK WROTE: I think in part you are correct. Other societies would be less tolerant of speech than the United States. Yet many societies are more so and we claim to be the exemplar of human rights and liberal-democratic principles.

Could you name me the societies that are more tolerant of speech than the US? From my time in Europe I noted that they had their own particular brands of intolerance of speech (Christians speaking out against homosexuality getting jail time, holocaust denier wackjobs getting jail time, Europe has its own limits). As for the rest of the world, see my first e-mail. Dissent is not tolerated in any country with lots of martinets, or most countries that have a population generally darker than George Hamilton, or places with a -stan at the end of their names. [This is a reference to many of the former Soviet republics in Central Asia such as Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan etc.] The US and a few notable exceptions are generally tolerant of free speech and free thought. As for the exceptions, getting a letter in your permanent file or having people run over your CDs with a tractor [The major is probably referring to the Dixie Chicks whose antiwar music alienated many of their country-fan base.] is much different than having your eyeballs poked out or your skin flayed off for disagreeing with the government.

PNK WROTE: My “censure” as you describe it would be an example. albeit without physical depredations, as would Abu Ghraib, Haditha, GITMO, N.S.C. surveillance of telephone conversations etc.

1. Abu Ghraib – Inexcusable and a failure of leadership. The vast majority of Army officers keep their troops on a much tighter leash. I actually spent New Years Eve the following year there and got to look around. We didn’t build the Rape rooms and plastic shredder execution areas, in our defense.

2. Haditha – Not fully investigated or resolved. The entire due process thing must only apply to terrorists at GITMO, not marines in combat. If they are convicted I will want to see them punished.

3. GITMO – That is politics, of which I am less and less interested in. If the democrats want to give each GITMO detainee an earnest and liberal socialist civil defender and arange for all of them to get book deals then they need to speak up. As I remember, they won in ’06. Maybe they can ship them all to Iowa and New Hampshire in time for the primaries for a get out the vote drive. But believe me, if even one GITMO releasee blows himself up in a middle America preschool, prepare for a Republican dominated government into the mid 22nd century. Roll the dice and take your chances. I don’t live in New York, LA or DC and my kids are homeschooled. I am a harder Infidel to get to.

4. NSC surveillance – Actually you mean NSA (National Security Agency, a scary spy organization) not NSC (National Security Council, a benign organization with the VP and Steve Hadley). When bad guys start wearing easily recognized uniforms, we will need less covert intel. For the moment, when they frequent our strip clubs and live in our sub-divisions, I want the good guys to have a way to find the bad guys. Again, the Dems can disband the NSA and replace it with a bunch of well meaning French Literature majors from the Peace Corps if they have the stones. When the missed intel adds up to a tac-nuke in Hollywood, I’ll pray for Sean Penn’s soul from El Paso.

PNK WROTE: Finally, those nations that you refer to are not as violent or as cavalier in sending its military personnel to kill or to be killed for ignoble ends.

Cuba in Angola, Syria in Lebanon (occupy and terrorize a weaker country), China in Tibet (occupy and terrorize a weaker country), Iran vs Iraq (genocidal secular maniacs vs genocidal islamist maniacs), North Korea vs South Korea (genocidal commies vs the UN), China vs the UN in Korea (genocidal commies vs the UN again). These seem pretty cavailer and ignoble. Not to mention Darfur (muslims killing non-muslims), East Timor, India vs Pakistan (twice to the brink of a nuclear shooting war), everybody vs everybody in the former Yugoslavia and Russia in Afganistan and the other -stans. Seems to me that there is more than enough blood to go around in recent history.

I am on active duty, as I have been for the last 14 years. I was in Kuwait, Camp Doha, for OIF I, and at Camp Victory, Baghdad for OIF III.

Respectfully,
Major
Fort Bragg
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Sent: Mon 2/12/2007 4:22 PM
Professor Kirstein to Major

Dear Major:

I enjoyed hearing from you and welcome your extensive answers. I would like to know if I can post our exchanges on my blog or website? I am impressed by your knowledge and commitment to a point of view that is clearly worth greater exploration.

The major wrote:
Could you name me the societies that are more tolerant of speech than the US? From my time in Europe I noted that they had their own particular brands of intolerance of speech (Christians speaking out against homosexuality getting jail time, holocaust denier wackjobs getting jail time, Europe has its own limits). As for the rest of the world, see my first e-mail. Dissent is not tolerated in any country with lots of mineretts, or most countries that have a population generally darker than George Hamilton, or places with a -stan at the end of their names. The US and a few notable exceptions are generally tolerant of free speech and free thought. As for the exceptions, getting a letter in your permanent file or having people run over your CDs with a tractor is much different than having your eyeballs poked out or your skin flayed off for disagreeing with the government.

PNK: It is egregious that many European Union states have laws forbidding research or statements against the orthodox interpretation of the “Holocaust.” I agree with you, and my friend David Irving, until recently, was in jail in Vienna for making statements and giving lectures seventeen years earlier, in 1989, that were deemed offensive to Holocaust conformists. To suggest that nations of the developing world or non-white countries are uniformly less democratic is a gross oversimplification. India is certainly the world’s largest democracy.

Also democracy is much more difficult to maintain in developing nations, many of which still feel the impact of European colonialism and globalisation with subsidies and so-called free trade penetration of poor economies. I could care less about letters in my file. But a suspension is a disgrace in which my students were punished for my right to utter harsh opinions on the military and in specific the conduct of the military in times of war.

The U.S. through “extraordinary rendition,” does many of the more brutal and physical examples of torture and even homicide that you allude to above. The U.S. also prevents distinguished scholars such as Professor Tariq Ramadan from assuming a tenured position at Notre Dame because of controversial SPEECH.

1. Abu Ghraib. Well, maybe we did not build the place but we used it in a manner that disgraced the military and the nation. Even Mr Bush said that. It was not a failure of leadership but executed policy to treat these poor, innocent prisoners as if they were animals. It was a disgrace that the Nazi wehrmacht would have appreciated. There is no way to diminish what happened. An absolute vile, inhuman display of animal barbarity against defenceless, non-resistant prisoners.

2. Haditha has been fully investigated and if not fully resolved, that is the fault of the marines. There were random killings of twenty-four non-combatants including several men in a taxi and baby-killings in homes and apartments which were simply sociopathic in nature. I wonder why a Lieutenant Watada who opposes war is so quickly court-martialed, despite the incompetence of the military leading to a mistrial, and the foot dragging and delays in prosecuting murderers and baby-killers who wore the uniform in those attacks in Haditha.

3. GITMO, Your response here is outrageous. To make this into a soft on crime and Democratic Party issue is ludicrous. You have innocent Afghani and other nationals kidnapped and brought to this god-forsaken location and NOT one has been proven to be a “terrorist” or “al Qaeda member.” They have been tortured; Qur’ans have been defiled; they have been caged like animals in substandard conditions. They are in a Stalin gulag without hope, without, until fairly recently, defence counsel, without the prospect of a quick and speedy trial. Even the courts have said that Military Commissions without express Congressional oversight are improper and that these internees are entitled to due process. This concentration camp at Guantánamo Bay is an example of the U.S. flouting human rights, the Geneva Convention and even minimal standards of basic decency.

4. Yes obviously I meant N.S.A. I have written on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act which only recently, in the face of a Democratic Congress and a majority on the Judiciary Committee, has the Bush administration agreed to inform prior to spying on telecommunications involving U.S. citizens. The ignoring of this act and having warrantless intercepts and spying is representative of an imperial presidency believing it is above the law. To make this into a farce in which Democrats, hell I don’t like them either but please, are seen as coddling criminals is ludicrous. We are a society of laws and while cumbersome and onerous, vigilante justice is not conducive to our national security but is a threat. An honourable country with an honourable military does not treat human beings as if they were outside the purview of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the United Nations in 1948: There must be “respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance, and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups.”

The major wrote:
In referring to nations that I claimed were not as imperialistic as the U.S.: Cuba in Angola, Syria in Lebanon (occupy and terrorize a weaker country), China in Tibet (occupy and terrorize a weaker country), Iran vs Iraq (genocidal secular maniacs vs genocidal islamist maniacs), North Korea vs South Korea (genocidal commies vs the UN), China vs the UN in Korea (genocidal commies vs the UN again). These seem pretty cavalier and ignoble. Not to mention Darfur (muslims killing non-muslims), East Timor, India vs Pakistan (twice to the brink of a nuclear shooting war), everybody vs everybody in the former Yugoslavia and Russia in Afghanistan and the other -stans. Seems to me that there is more than enough blood to go around in recent history.

PNK: Cuba in Angola was hardly an invasion and as the Central Intelligence Agency, was supporiting different factions in post-Portuguese colonial Angola. Syria in Lebanon was quite stabilising and rather popular in the international community until the recent February 14, 2005 assassination of former Lebanon Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Their “occupying and terrorising a weaker country,” was not unwelcome by the U.S. and pales in comparison to the war crimes of strategic bombing of Beirut, Qana and other cities by Israel last July. I do not defend China in Tibet but that pales in comparison to Vietnam and Iraq and many other adventures by the U.S. China entered the Korean War not as genocidal commies, please!, but in response to an invasion by U.S. and Korean forces that were approaching the Yalu River. General MacArthur was even fired because of his aggressive preachings to expand the war into China. Your other examples are certainly horrid. I agree that Darfur is genocide, but some are internal and not similar to the deployment and use of American imperialist forces throughout the world.

Respectfully yours and good luck to you,

Peter N. Kirsten
Professor of History St Xavier University
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Sent: Wed 2/14/2007 2:49 PM

Dr. Kirstein,

I am actually currently writing responses to the responses. You can publish my mails and anything I send, though it would be appreciated if my name is removed. The Army is sometimes funny about officers thoughts being published online, even if I am in general agreement with policy.

Respectfully,
Major

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