Don't go. They've been lying to you.
August 1, 2007 5:27 PM   Subscribe

I have a (self-described) Republican, Bush-loving friend whom I've known for about 13 years now, who's willingly signed up for the Marines and wants to be stationed in Iraq. He leaves for basic training next weekend.

Obviously, there's nothing I can do to stop him. He didn't mention this to me or another close mutual friend of ours until after he signed up. However, he's dead-set that "the liberal media" is making Bush seem like a bad guy and the Iraq war is just as Bush & Co. are telling it, despite "liberal war-haters" saying otherwise. I argued that Bush is hovering between 20-30% approval rating, and the "liberal media" has never been that efficient.

In middle and high school, he used to beat up the bullies cause he hung out w/us freaks and kept to his own, but he was bigger than anyone who would've fucked with the freaks.

So, he thinks he's going over there to help out the little guy (us) from getting beat-up by the bullies (Iraq, Terrorists, etc). So, his heart is in the right place. He really is one of the nicest, good-hearted people I've ever known and I've long said that if I found myself famous tomorrow - he'd be head of my security detail cause I trust him with my life.

The question I want to post to him is..

"In 10 years, when it's more than common knowledge that Bush and his gang of thugs lied to the American public, and we all look back on this time as a dark age for America - how will you feel about having been used as a pawn in that game?"

But that might sound harsh. I also worry that years from now, if we're hanging out and talking, he'll continue to believe he was doing right and the "liberal media" is/were lying. He's staying with me and my roommate this weekend, cause we asked that he come over from AZ to spend time with us before he left, so I know we'll end up sitting down to discuss all of this (and we had a brief discussion about it before I left for work this morning).

I've read a few other posts that I'd like to show him. But as a friend, as a supporter of the troops (but not their ringleader) - how should I react to this situation? And, years from now, what can I expect him to be like after all of this?

Any personal experiences with soldiers from Vietnam, Desert Storm, Iraq, etc would be most helpful
posted by revmitcz to Human Relations (45 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
Join the club. My best friend (total cliche: we grew up in a small town, I moved to the city, he staid behind) did exactly the same thing. He's married to a beautiful wife, they just bought their first house, everything is going great for him, until he gets his ass shipped off to some camel country.

He has totally bought into the idea that there is a world wide conspiracy within the media to make Bush and Iraq look bad, but more so than that he lives in a community where this sort of action is seen as brave and gains him some sort of social capital within his family and peer group... I dunno.

I gave up trying to change his mind. I tried. I was mad at first.

But you know what? He's an adult. He is the captain of his soul and the master of his fate. I have to concede that this is a choice that he and his wife thought through and decided to make via their own volition.

Is his misinformed? Yes. Will he have regrets someday? Perhaps.

But the point is that I can't do a damn thing about it except continue to be his friend or not. So I shut the fuck up. And now we don't talk about it...

You should probably do the same.
posted by wfrgms at 5:37 PM on August 1, 2007


Just an idea: why not let him go over there - since he's going anyway - and make up his own mind? I think that if he's really as good-hearted as you describe, he will learn for himself the ugly truth over there - namely, that the war isn't as black-and-white as he now thinks - and that will be more effective in changing his worldview than anything you or anyone else might say.

If he doesn't learn that lesson, then there will have been no need for you to have said anything in the first place, so you've got that base covered also.
posted by aberrant at 5:39 PM on August 1, 2007 [2 favorites]


"In 10 years, when it's more than common knowledge that Bush and his gang of thugs lied to the American public, and we all look back on this time as a dark age for America - how will you feel about having been used as a pawn in that game?"

Look, I totally agree with you re Bush, the war, the "liberal" media, etc., but by trying to make this argument with your friend you are presuming a paradigm that he A) does not currently subscribe to, and B) may never subscribe to, no matter how much more atrocious the war gets, no matter how low Bush's approval ratings sink, no matter how harshly his administration is judged by history. Just as there were always Nixon apologists, there will always be Bush apologists. Your friend might be one. He might not. But if -- if -- he ever has an epiphany about the truth of the war, BushCo, etc., it won't happen because you forced it down his throat and won an argument. It will happen as a result of his own experiences of the cognitive dissonance between the bill of goods he has been sold and the reality on the ground in Iraq.

In short, he has free will, he's exercising it, and he might never see things your way. That's for you to accept, as maddening, baffling, or tragic as it may seem.
posted by scody at 5:41 PM on August 1, 2007 [2 favorites]


He's already signed up and he can't get out of it.

Don't spend his final days as a civilian belittling him and what he believes in and may die for. If he dies in Iraq, do you want your first thoughts to be "I told you so," or "I'm glad I spent quality time with him before he went?"

Don't do or say anything that would knowingly or forseeably make your friend feel like crap for no good reason. Convincing him that the war is a farce will accomplish nothing except alienating him as your friend and making him miserable. Why would you want to do that?

If he had just been elected President of the United States, then convincing him that the war is bogus would be a great idea. But he is about to go into the Marines no matter what. He will not be a decisionmaker. He will be a trained killer -- the "tip of the sword," as they say. Don't waste your time telling the tip of the sword that the people holding the sword are evil.

Oh, and "camel country?" Classy, there, wfrgms.
posted by The World Famous at 5:41 PM on August 1, 2007 [12 favorites]


I think the best thing you can do for him is let him know you'll be there for him when he gets back. Sure, you disapprove of his decision, but you like him.

As far as what will happen. So many soldiers come back really messed in the head, even from successful wars. Humans aren't wired to kill people, so you have to change them in drastic ways to turn them into people who can kill others. The military doesn't talk about it but it's a huge problem. This is what you need to research.

So, yeah, be prepared for when he comes back. Don't try to keep him from leaving.
posted by Deathalicious at 5:41 PM on August 1, 2007


Don't pose that question.

From your description, I'm sure he'll request and get a spot in the rifle infantry. He's almost certainly going to experience some awful things.

So how should you react?

Well, he knows you think he's made the wrong choice. Beyond that, be a friend please? What's more important to you: being right, or being supportive?

I've been in the Army for about two and a half years, a year of that spent in the mountains of Afghanistan. I had my reasons for joining, I've got my good memories and my bad, my regrets and my accomplishments. If I'd had a friend with the attitude you seem to have, he'd've stopped being my friend pretty quickly.

Look at it this way: things are fucked up and someone's gotta fix it. Lots of someones, actually. He's made his decision. The politics have sort of ceased to matter. If he tries to start talking about the "liberal media," go "man, you've made your point. I wish you the best. Let's let it go for a few years, ok?"
posted by kavasa at 5:44 PM on August 1, 2007


Don't argue with him about it. Seriously. When a guy has made a choice, it's been done, and you should be hoping that he's safe, not focusing on political differences. And I'm sure that he'll get a pretty honest opinion of the war by fighting in it. One of my best friends is doing a similar thing, and we just put our differences aside: and no, I doubt he'll see himself as a pawn in the game. What troops do on the ground mostly isn't Bush-evil type stuff, you know, stealing oil and spreading lies, but actually... kind of effective, useful, moral stuff.

At least my 2c.
posted by tmcw at 5:46 PM on August 1, 2007


If you are interested in pursuing Deathalicious's recommended research, I can heartily recommend a book by David Grossman called On Killing. Fascinating in its own right, and quite possibly useful here.
posted by catesbie at 5:47 PM on August 1, 2007 [1 favorite]


I think you're just gonna have to let this one lie.

It's hard, because it's dangerous, and it's frustrating, but you have to respect his journey. Some people need to take things all the way to their most inevitable conclusion and really see things for themselves before they are willing to really accept the truth.

And regardless of the reasons for why he's there, the reasons that the war exists, the reasons that he's decided to go -- it sounds like your friend is a major stand up guy, misguided or no, and maybe he really will be able to do some serious good out there.

You should tell him that you will be there for him, will be pulling for him, and will be there for him when he gets back.
posted by pazazygeek at 5:48 PM on August 1, 2007


Response by poster: @kavasa : being supportive is far more important to me. It doesn't matter who's "right", if there even IS a "right" to this.

Just to clear some things up (I didn't mention it in the post, cause I was worried it was long enough already)

I've already told him, several times, that I support any decision he makes - because I'm his friend. I told him that this applies especially to going into the war, and my question is less about "you're so wrong! look at you! being all... wrong and stuff!" and more about hopefully just easing him into the idea that maybe there's more to the story than he was told or is thinking.

He's the one that wants to sit and debate this with me, not to change my mind - but because he loves a good debate. And, I've told him I'm not interested because I don't want it to potentially be a sore spot w/him and I definitely don't want to have "I got in a fight with him about the war he died in" on my conscience if something terrible happens.

So far, there's been good points made : be supportive, let him know I'm there for him regardless, realize it's his own decision, etc. and that's pretty much what I was thinking I'd do. I just don't know how to handle the specific conversations, and/or what some other things I might say/do would be.
posted by revmitcz at 5:51 PM on August 1, 2007 [1 favorite]


Please keep this in mind. You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink. Re-read this. Mull it over. You can't change him/get him to think your way. He doesn't want to.

All too often political thoughts are 'beliefs' with ZERO basis in reality; It's a belief. Everything that reinforces it is TRUTH, everything that dispells it is FALSE.

He likes a 'good debate'? Simple. Switch sides. Tell him you'd be disappointed with him if he doesn't seriously try. He should try to seriously debate that the war is a mistake. And you should seriously try to debate that the war is RIGHT.

It will make both of you compassionate to the other's point of view....given that he tries. Oh, and you try too.
posted by filmgeek at 5:59 PM on August 1, 2007


And when you switch sides of the debate, don't just parrot what you think are the standard talking points of the side you disagree with. Really, earnestly make the best arguments you can.
posted by The World Famous at 6:01 PM on August 1, 2007


Ask him to check it out for you and give you the real information. Unlikely as it is, it is possible, that the "liberal" media is lying to us. Every Republican I know whose been there thought it was a great idea and now thinks it was the biggest fucking foreign policy mistake of the last 50 years. Like, bigger than Viet Nam.
posted by Ironmouth at 6:06 PM on August 1, 2007


you should be supportive of him. go to his graduation on parris island (which is an amazing spectacle worth seeing anyway), send him care packages when he ends up over there. the life of a grunt in the US Marines Corps is a difficult life. he deserves respect for his service.

look, i am completely opposed to this war. i am ashamed that bush is actually president. i am ashamed that the american public could be so easily duped by their lies into this war. that said, US Marines do not set policy, they do not authorize war funding bills, etc. Marines fight. And they're contribution and importance to the our nation is enormous.

support the soldiers. fuck the politicians.
posted by Flood at 6:10 PM on August 1, 2007 [4 favorites]


So, he thinks he's going over there to help out the little guy (us) from getting beat-up by the bullies (Iraq, Terrorists, etc).

I find it hard to believe he ever would put it in those terms. In fact, you really don't explain what he states his motivation is, aside from your conclusion based on his behavior in high school. There are perfectly valid reasons for wanting to join the military, even during wartime. How do you know that his is not one of those reasons?

He may give Bush too much credit and so on, but that doesn't mean that he doesn't have a legitimate reason anyway.
posted by Brian James at 6:11 PM on August 1, 2007


revmitcz: He's the one that wants to sit and debate this with me, not to change my mind - but because he loves a good debate. And, I've told him I'm not interested

Tell him, sincerely and friend-to-friend, that you'll be more than happy to debate it with him when he gets back in one piece, but for now you are calling off the debate and get on with supporting him as your friend.

Repeat as often as necessary until he gets that not only do you not want to have this argument, but in fact you are not going to engage him in this argument.
posted by scody at 6:17 PM on August 1, 2007


Sometimes people have to make thier own mistakes.

There are very good chances that he'll come back safely with many new educational experiences.

Be supportive of him. Not what he's doing, but of the person. Don't pose the question and bite your tongue when you get the inclination to yell "I told you so!!!"

I had a friend who joined up because he thought it would get him chicks. Everyone know this was a bad idea (him included) but he did anyway. Now he's four years older, and many more years wiser. None of us could stop him, but he was very grateful for the support we gave him until he came back.
posted by Ookseer at 6:17 PM on August 1, 2007


Best answer: I hear you, revmitcz, but having made the effort, and told him the truth, there's a point where you just have to wish him good luck with that, and make it clear--without criticism, if you can manage that--that he can come back and you'll be there for him if it turns out badly. It's all you can do.

I've had two friends take up drugs, after having been shown the evidence and told the stories about how it fucks you up. Yes, it fucked them up too, for a long time, and one of them didn't survive it. We told him, his mother told him, his girlfriend left him over it, but nothing mattered but the hit. The other one got rehab, but it wasn't from listening to us, it was because she realized, in her own sweet time, that the drugs were ruining her life.

I've had a friend go into Amway, and believe all their happy crappy about how you too can be a millionaire, and spend upwards of two thousand dollars on stupid books and tapes, and go to seminars, and blah di blah ... and ten years later, he's broke as ever, and realizes it was, if not exactly a scam, at least a crap-shoot, and he'd been rolling unlucky. He realized that, himself. While he was into it, advice to get out of it just came across as "negativity". Ironically, it was the politics of the Amway company and the trogolyditic head "Diamond" Dexter Yager--their support for Bush, and all the shit he stands for--that caused enough of a crack in his cognitive dissonance to let him see that he wasn't actually making any money out of it, and the way things were going, never would. He had to dislike the people before he critically thought about their story. Same thing will happen with your friend, is my guess. Once he dislikes the people, he'll be able to critically think about what they say. As long as he likes them, he'll let it slide.

Then there's unwise personal relationships ... I've had two friends hook up with the same bunny-boiler in succession - even though the second one had seen how she did over the first. I have a friend whose flatmate currently owes her $500, and rising. I know a girl--wouldn't consider her a friend, but friends of mine do--whose boyfriend keeps cheating on her over and over, and every single time, she takes him back. Dumb. Dangerous.

We all know these people. We all are these people. The wise advice that everyone gives us, that they gather together in our absence to bemoan how it bounces off our ears ... to us it was just so much noise, or interfering, or "they don't know the whole story".

It's awfully hard to watch your friend, or your child, or someone else important to you, make stupid, crazy, dangerous life decisions--and I must say, joining the US Army and going to Iraq is right up there as far as physical, emotional and moral hazards are concerned--but what can we do?

We do our honest best to show them why we think they're wrong. We listen to why they think we're wrong, and give it a fair hearing. If we don't, we don't deserve to be their friend anyway. But in the end, they're free agents. If we could somehow take that away from them, to make them see the world as we see it, and do what we want, then we'd lose the things that makes them capable of being cared about at all; further, if this could be done to people--and to some extent it can--they'd have the same right to do it to us.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 6:18 PM on August 1, 2007 [11 favorites]


In light of your friend's decision, you might want to read this op-ed published in this past Monday's New York Times.
posted by extrabox at 6:23 PM on August 1, 2007 [1 favorite]


If he's leaving for Marine boot camp in a week, what he needs right now is you to say "Hey man, I don't understand why you're doing this, but you're an awesome guy, let's go get you some lap dances."

I AM A GIRL. EVEN I KNOW THIS.

Man, he's joining the Marines in a time of war. He is about to experience male friendship of an intensity pretty much unheard of in civilian life, and if you want to remain his friend (instead of rapidly getting replaced by his buddies Moose and The Jeez from C company), you should probably refrain from saying rude and judgmental things like:

"In 10 years, when it's more than common knowledge that Bush and his gang of thugs lied to the American public, and we all look back on this time as a dark age for America - how will you feel about having been used as a pawn in that game?"

You want to be the civilian friend who gets it, right? Not the one he drifts away from because whenever he talks to you, you ask if he's killed anyone and then harangue him about his politics?

You want to be the friend he can always be himself around. You want to be the friend where, if ten years from now he really does look back on his service and think "That was a mistake" (I know some Marines. This is a doubtful outcome.) he can admit it to you without fear that you will go I TOLD YOU SO.

Right?

Convey my best wishes to your friend. Many people believe, as do I, that he's about to embark on an honorable path. Even if you don't believe that along with me... well, that's part of what being friends with someone is. Sometimes, they do things you just don't understand, and the buddy code requires us to be decent to them anyway.
posted by thehmsbeagle at 6:28 PM on August 1, 2007 [4 favorites]


So he wants to serve his country. I made that same decison 3 years ago. He may be a little misled as to what is going on over there, but what he believes is what he believes.

You just have to let him live his life, trying to force him to change his views is the same thing as those religious folks that try to get you to change your faith, whatever it may be.
posted by C17H19NO3 at 6:29 PM on August 1, 2007


Congratulate him on joining one of the finest military forces ever known. Really, the standards for the USMC are high and the training difficult. Even the leadership is of exceptional quality. Early in Iraq, the MEF was one of the first to recognize the need for a velvet glove approach. In the second marine tour, despite getting pushed by the higherups into an utter shitstorm, they conducted themselves well and protected their brethren.

In ten years time, he will probably be extremely proud of his service to his country regardless of what either of you think of the civilian leadership, which will be different before he's done. The Marines will likely have been deployed to a number of trouble spots and conducted important humanitarian missions. Marine forces will probably be involved in important attacks on terrorist training grounds and safe havens.

It could be worse; he could be manning a supply truck. An army friend of mine who got back last year described his job as driving around waiting for people to shoot at him (he's a Humvee gunner). He's a veteran-against-the-war-blogger, but is proud of his service (and his actions leading to a bronze star) and remembers his comrades-in-arms well.

Besides, just because he wants to go into Iraq doesn't mean that he will. The corps will decide what to do with him.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 6:34 PM on August 1, 2007


As a friend you're supposed to offer a few words of advice and then, if he falls apart, help him put the pieces back together.

Don't waste the last time you might see your friend alive arguing about who's right.

and, years from now, what can I expect him to be like after all of this?

Dude. You don't know what you'll be like in a few years, so how do you expect a group of strangers to know what your friend is like?! He might be horribly burned or missing pieces. This might depress him. It might make him a stronger person. It might turn him into Buddhist, drug addict or priest. Whatever. Just fucking be there, you know?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:40 PM on August 1, 2007 [1 favorite]


He's already signed up and he can't get out of it.

Not true. The first six months of being in the military is the easiest time to get out. You just tell your recruiter that you changed your mind and you are out. The discharge reason is called "inablity to adapt" and it happens *all* the time. While in basic, you just tell the drill segents in a calm plain voice that you are done and this isn't for you. And just repeat it over and over again. Then you are on your busy home as soon as they can take care of the paperwork.
posted by __ at 6:54 PM on August 1, 2007


Response by poster: @Brian James..
I find it hard to believe he ever would put it in those terms. In fact, you really don't explain what he states his motivation is, aside from your conclusion based on his behavior in high school.

He actually did use that as his motivation. It's an indirect quote. His exact words were..

"Why I want to be a Marine- Mitch, you know as well as anyone else that I spend most of my childhood defending myself and my friends from fuck head bullies. When I was in middle school, I was big enough that most kids didn’t pick on me. However, they picked on my friends. I could have turned my back and ignored it. After all it wasn’t my problem. I couldn’t do that though. I knew what it was like to be humiliated and tortured with harassment. So, I did the only right thing I knew. I stood up. The consequences were getting followed home by 15 jocks threatening to kick my ass, followed between classes, and even jumped in my own apartment complex when I didn’t even see him coming. I was happy to make this sacrifice because...it was the right thing to do. Defend those who cannot defend themselves. It took me a long tome to realize that the suffering was training for who I am today. A Marine! It was a burning desire I could not ignore anymore. I would dream about it. I just couldn’t get away from it. So, I let go of my business and joined. Make no mistake, in no way do I feel special for my choice. In fact, it is the realization that I am not special that made me realize I need to join the fight against terrorist that want nothing more than to convert us or kill us.

1400 years of religious war- this war between Muslims, Jews and Christians has been going on for 1400 years. It is written in the Koran that it is the duty of all Muslims to join up and convert the world to Islam Law. I ask you: How do we negotiate with these animals? They are not politicians that want money or land. There is nothing we can offer them to get them to recede. If they had there way, they would chop your head off right on your show. You think if we don’t fight there ways of oppression that your show would exist? No way. "



But, I think the message in this AskMe is pretty clear : be supportive, don't be judgmental. Tell him I'm there for him, regardless, and hope he comes back okay (and tell him so, of course).

Thanks, everyone.
posted by revmitcz at 6:55 PM on August 1, 2007


While in basic, you just tell the drill segents in a calm plain voice that you are done and this isn't for you. And just repeat it over and over again.

That works in theory, but Drill Instructors (that's what they're called in the Marines) hear that all the time. They won't let that excuse work...at least not easily.
posted by C17H19NO3 at 6:57 PM on August 1, 2007


listen to scody, man
posted by matteo at 7:18 PM on August 1, 2007


Actually, they don't tell you, but there is NO PENALTY for not showing up to MEPS on the day that you ship out, because that's when you sign your contract.

If you don't sign that contract, they can't touch you. You might receive angry phone calls from your recruiters, but they cannot DO anything to you, and you have no "military record."

I wish someone had told me that the day before I left for Great Lakes.
posted by sara is disenchanted at 7:24 PM on August 1, 2007


One thing I think would be awesome, if he was up to it and if his superiors are cool with it, would be sending him some Arabic-learning resources, though I've never been in the military, so I don't know how this would play with them. His ability to communicate might help him be a more effective person over there, both in diffusing tense situations one-on-one between locals and coalition forces and understanding everyday life and culture in Iraq. He seems to want to really understand what's going on over there, and it seems like knowing the language would be a logical step.

It would also show him that you're interested in his greater success within the armed forces, as I imagine Arabic speakers are in great demand all over the Department of Defense.
posted by mdonley at 7:35 PM on August 1, 2007 [1 favorite]


You can't change people. The best you can hope for is to be a good example or a terrible warning.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 7:49 PM on August 1, 2007


Just a future talking point for you: "Liberal media" means Hollywood - the gays on the sitcoms, the promiscuous sex in the movies, all that stuff. The news in the USA, in contrast, is highly conservative - shockingly so when compared to what is centrist in other countries - mindblowingly nutty extremism when compared to the news media in other developed nations.

The news media is not part of the "liberal media". But blurring that line has been quite a successful Republican defence.

That said, I think you've done your bit to intervene. Now is the time for "Well, I don't agree with the reasons, but I'm here for you if you need anything"
posted by -harlequin- at 8:09 PM on August 1, 2007


Honor, duty, country. Nothing wrong with that if it is what you believe. Support the man. He made a decision and he should have the chance to live with that decision. Learn for himself. I certainly understand the frustration that we keep guzzling oil for all sorts of things which just enriches many of the folks who are shooting at us.

Tell him to keep his head low and his spirits high.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 8:12 PM on August 1, 2007


revmitcz, I wish you luck in wishing your friend well. But, after reading his words, you might want to remind him that one of his roles should he be sent to Iraq or Afghanistan is to protect the local populace and keep the peace -- and the locals are by far a Muslim majority. I would generously assume "these animals" refers to those who are responsible for acts of terrorism, but it might be worth touching on.

The consequences were getting followed home by 15 jocks threatening to kick my ass, followed between classes, and even jumped in my own apartment complex when I didn’t even see him coming.

Some people who were 13 years old on September 11, 2001 have enlisted in the armed forces in order to help their country. Likewise, some kids who were that age when the US entered Iraq are the ones setting roadside bombs because they don't understand why they're getting pushed around in their own homeland. Or, as your friend put it, getting jumped in their apartment complex.
posted by mikeh at 8:21 PM on August 1, 2007


Your question is kind of vague, but because I disagree with a lot of the tenor of answers so far, I thought I'd throw my two cents in.

If you want to have an honest conversation with him about the war and he's mistrustful of the media, there are a lot of great resources about what is wrong with the military and U.S. Foreign policy from people who were part of it and who left in disgust:
1) War is a Racket by US Marine Corp Major General Smedley Butler
2) Killing Hope by William Blum (former State Department employee)
3) Hideous Dream by Stan Goff (Army Special Operations -Delta Force, Rangers, and Special Forces / Vietnam, Grenada and Haiti)
4) Secrets by Daniel Ellsberg (Marine/ State Department)

Your friend is right to be suspicious about the "mainstream" media, but that almost isn't the issue: him going to Iraq is. And I'm sure that a lot of people will really disagree with this, but just as much as the system tells us that we should join the military to protect our freedoms (because who would join an imperialist army?), it also tells us to "support the troops" and "his decision." (Cue groans and disagreements). But what we're doing in Iraq is a crime that we're all complicit in, not least of which are the soldiers pointing and shooting the guns. If your friend said he was going to go violently rob a bank or rape a woman, you might realize that you would be there for him when he got back to sort through his thoughts and understanding, but you'd also owe it to him and yourself to say that you think that he's doing something very wrong.

I'd like to add that none of us, myself included, get a free pass on this complicity. We are all responsible to stop the war and this silly weak "well, just support your friend and get him a lapdance" is kind of appalling. I'm not saying this to be flame starting troll, but because I mean it. If you understand that the war is wrong as much as you say you do, then you should volunteer to work on counter recruitment for as long as he is in the military.
posted by history is a weapon at 9:22 PM on August 1, 2007


I also worry that years from now, if we're hanging out and talking, he'll continue to believe he was doing right and the "liberal media" is/were lying.

aeschenkarnos has it right; I'm so glad you marked their answer as "best". It's possible your friend will never come to see things your way. All you can do is show him your love. Send letters and care packages. Take him at his word that he is doing what he thinks will make the world a better place, and support his intention.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 10:34 PM on August 1, 2007 [1 favorite]


"You're an idiot. I love you."

I don't know how many times real good old friends have said this to me, and me to them.

It's all that you can say, sometimes.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 11:02 PM on August 1, 2007


I'd just like to vociferously second what thehmsbeagle said.

Don't be a prick. He's made his decision; the time for political / sociological / philosophical second-guessing is over.

Go out, buy a case of Jack Daniels, get hammered with him, talk about old times.

Trust me on this one -- that's what he needs, not some know-it-all telling him that he's going to regret something later.
posted by Kadin2048 at 11:53 PM on August 1, 2007


Republican, Bush-loving

Be happy at least that he has the integrity to to back up his ideals with action. Most people don't.
posted by poppo at 3:34 AM on August 2, 2007


I have experience with this issue. The soldier in my life is my brother. There was nothing I could do to talk him out of enlisting. I tried. He knows how I feel. He went to Iraq, saw a lot of horrible stuff, yet he recently committed to reinlist and is prepared to go back.

I quit trying to talk him out of it. I quit trying to argue with him about politics. While I don't support his viewpoint, I do support him as a person and have the respect for him as an adult to make his own decisions.
posted by pluckysparrow at 7:54 AM on August 2, 2007


How would this be a helpful, friendly thing to say to your friend? He's committed, he's going. Offering your opinion is not necessary. Tell him you hope he comes back OK.
posted by chickaboo at 8:05 AM on August 2, 2007


If you want to ignore the chorus of "support him" voices here and actually try to change his mind, try this:

Sit him down in front of a video camera. Explain that whatever he says today, you will play for him in ten years. Lay out some basic talking points (whether iraq was involved in 9/11, the nature of the conflict, the influences of the Bush administration, etc) and give him a few minutes to put his thoughts together, then press REC and sit back.

If going on record about those things, and knowing that he'll have to justify today's actions in tomorrow's world, doesn't give him pause, nothing will.
posted by Myself at 1:20 PM on August 2, 2007


"One thing I think would be awesome, if he was up to it and if his superiors are cool with it, would be sending him some Arabic-learning resources..."

Great idea, but don't forget it has to be Iraqi Arabic. Tactical Iraqi - Language and Culture is available as a free download for anyone with a .mil address.

Speaking as an anti-war liberal who has relatives in every branch of the military (including an Army Lieutenant General), your friend is probably way past discussing his decision now, especially if he's been dreaming about it for months. He's just getting psyched up to go, and you should be honored that he wants to spend some quality time with you before he leaves. As for "I also worry that years from now, if we're hanging out and talking, he'll continue to believe he was doing right and the "liberal media" is/were lying." So what? He'll be alive and arguing with you. As for what he'll be like when he comes back, don't start in on him with the "Was I right or what, huh, huh? No, really, do you know what a dick Bush is now?" Just listen to him.
posted by Liosliath at 2:17 PM on August 2, 2007


If your friend wants to debate then I can't imagine how engaging him in a debate could possibly be a bad idea. It's very rare that a man has the courage to entertain an attack on his beliefs and a more nuanced understanding of what's going on in Iraq should only better prepare him for the truths he'll find in Iraq.

The best strategy would be to attack the principles that underlie his false beliefs. Getting bogged down in discussions about the details of media bias is largely unproductive. The fundamental error your friend seems to rest on this notion that America is "fighting for freedom" in Iraq. The strongest counterpoint to this argument is to raise the possibility that the American perspective here might be perfectly valid (it's not, but it's unlikely he's prepared to seriously entertain this and besides you only have a weekend) but it's not the most important perspective here.

Ask your friend to put himself in the shoes of an Iraqi civilian whose country has been irrevocably shattered by a foreign aggressor, who's likely lost several loved ones, who's everyday is filled with fear and anxiety, and who can see no end in sight for what has become a never ending cycle of tit-for-tat violence. Ask him to put himself in the shoes of a devout Muslim who's been forced to endure humiliation after humiliation while an arrogant and uninvited Christian aggressor oversees the total destruction of everything he holds dear. You can do some research on this point; there are plenty of articles, polls, internet forums, videos, and other media that, to some extent, capture what's going on in Iraq from the perspective of Muslims. The goal isn't to make a frontal assault on your friends cherished beliefs but to lure him out of his shell and see the situation from a totally different perspective. Emphasizing what the Iraqis think, feel, want and need is key here because your friend has naively styled himself their champion and yet he likely has no appreciable understanding of Iraqi culture at all.

Defend those who cannot defend themselves. It took me a long tome to realize that the suffering was training for who I am today. A Marine! It was a burning desire I could not ignore anymore.

Faced with idealistic nonsense of a true believer you should also call a spade a spade. Your friend's childish beliefs in his special destiny have no relevance at all to the complicated geopolitical situation in Iraq. If your friend thinks a situation as complicated as Iraq can be boiled down to stupid slogans like 'Defend those who cannot defend themselves' then he simply needs to grow up. Explaining that geopolitics is never this simple is important if he is ever to grow. Heck, explaining that life is never so black and white would be a good first step.

In the end your friend has led a very sheltered and shallow life. He is trying to take questionable lessons he's internalized from growing up in some uncivilized podunk town and apply them to a very complicated situation in a completely alien country. But that's okay. Part of the mission of the Marines is to teach ignorant young Americans about world geography. Your friend will be exposed to other Marines (military support for the war among the non-officer class will likely collapse before the year is out and groups like VAIW are growing more each month) and, most importantly, he will be exposed directly to Iraqis. In the worst case scenario he will be forced to endure massive dissonance when he learns that the insurgents trying to kill him both consist of and are supported by the Iraqis themselves. When he sees first hand the deep well of hatred and contempt that both Sunni and Shiite have for America he'll have to resolve this somehow with his notion of Iraqis as "victims." In the end the best thing you can do is to induce a little bit of skepticism and doubt in him since it's this that will let him endure such discoveries. Everybody makes mistakes, what's important is to learn from such mistakes.
posted by nixerman at 4:59 PM on August 2, 2007


Gotta agree with HIAW. He is your friend and all but sheesh, he's also likely to be killing innocent people soon.
posted by stinkycheese at 5:04 PM on August 2, 2007


We are all responsible to stop the war and this silly weak "well, just support your friend and get him a lapdance" is kind of appalling.

Yeah, and telling a new Marine recruit that the war is bad does absolutely nothing to stop the war.

He is your friend and all but sheesh, he's also likely to be killing innocent people soon.

And this is true regardless of whether or not he is convinced that the war is bad. The die is cast.
posted by The World Famous at 6:57 PM on August 2, 2007


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