"Actually, it's a lot of fun to fight. You know, it's a hell of a hoot. ... It's fun to shoot some people. I'll be right upfront with you, I like brawling."
"Actually, it's a lot of fun to fight. You know, it's a hell of a hoot. ... It's fun to shoot some people. I'll be right upfront with you, I like brawling."- Lt. Gen. James Mattis; USMC Feb 2, 2005
THE BIGGER THEY ARE…
Feb. 22, 2005: What makes some guys like to fight? Why is it a hell of hoot?
Seems to me that even if one cares nothing at all for the humanity of his adversary, and even if he is beating women or children or defenseless men, even then, fighting will probably get you injured to some degree in return. The simple fact is that striking bone hurts ones fists. Does that add to the fun? Is there so much pleasure to be derived from beating another person that it’s worth the reciprocal pain? As an adult I’ve come to consider fighting a last resort, a life-saving or life-improving defensive necessity, sort of like surgery without the anesthetic. But fun? Hardly.
Further, if we skip the part about shooting people, then most real fighting – brawling in particular – implies touching another person, doing so violently, passionately, and having him touch you in return, with equal ardor or submission. This person-to-person touching is generally accompanied by grunting sounds and sweat. Inevitably, there is also pain and often blood. Consider the image. Is fighting the only thing that comes to mind? Of course not. So, is there a repressed sadomasochistic sexual component to the joy of fighting? If so, does that make fighting rape when one of the combatants is unwilling?
Or, as is more likely – and perhaps more disturbing - is there something in all of us that responds to fighting’s lure, the lure of physical domination? Is there a primitive compulsion to dominate that is perhaps stronger than anything the developed rational mind can use to counter it? Is there a thing in us so primal, so animal that it ignores or is oblivious to the inevitable repercussions of physical violence, repurcussions that only thinking humans can anticipate?
Did evolution weave some uncontrollable thing into the genetic fabric of its survivors that thrives on mortal combat?
So it seems.
Fun or fabric, the last real touchy-feely fight I had was as a teenager.
A big, dumb bully had injured my sister with a tossed firecracker. It left a minor scar. It was no big deal until I made it one. I encountered the culprit at the annual end-of-summer-vacation beach party. After a couple of beers, I decided that he wasn’t all that big. I introduced myself, and invited him behind a sand dune. Once there and alone, I realized he was big, really big. But I was fast. At first that speed seemed little more to me than an exit strategy. That’s when he swung. I ducked. He grabbed my head and I realized that for the first time in my life, I was about to be physically abused. It was a sick feeling. It was precicely then that thinking stopped, and something else took over.
Purely on instinct I dealt him a clean blow to the ribs and another to the midsection. He released me and I tagged him on the chin as he stepped back. To my amazement he fell to his knees. Then, in a textbook display of underage drinking’s affect on teenage hormones, I proceeded to beat him senseless.
Oh, I could have stopped when he asked me to stop, but was not about to let him stand up again. I should have stopped when he begged me to stop, for by then he couldn’t stand up again. Instead I beat him senseless. Was it fun? I dread to think it might have been.
The point of this, however, is that the big man’s arrogance left him wide open for a beating he should never have taken. He did not know how to fight defense! He was, after all, a bully. Defense was never an issue. He was all about the preemptive strike.
Upon returning to school I encountered the repercussions. My sister, my pretty and popular sister, could not get a date for a significant part of her junior year because all the boys thought her brother a violent maniac. She hated me for it. But it didn’t end there.
The bully became my new and unwanted best friend, following me around like a 230-pound pup.
I lost my position as varsity left fielder for having splintered the 3rd metacarpal bone in my right hand on the bully’s head.
Pretty girls who formerly avoided the bully suddenly felt – and several displayed - sympathy for his bandaged countenance while shooting me disapproving glances. He seemed richer for this. I, poorer. Was any of this in the plan? Plan? What plan?
If you were to say, big deal. This stuff happens every day at high schools all across America, you would be right. We grow up, and we grow out of it. Well, most of us grow out of it.
Consider then, yet another, uglier little slice of life, something that does not happen every day. But it happens. It happens because not all of us grow out of it.
Who among us has not heard the story of the woman who was constantly abused and brutally beaten by her husband? He was much larger, far more aggressive, and immensely more physically powerful than was she. As such, his small brain told him he was safe and could continue the abuse. Fun dominion. No possibility of reprisal.
What he failed to consider was that he had trapped her into a life no longer livable. She acted. Of course she did.
One evening as he slept-off yet another courage-inducing drunken binge, she duct-taped him into their bed, wrapping strip after strip of the sticky stuff around his arms and legs, and around the bed. She then prodded him awake and proceeded to beat him first with her fists, then with her high-heeled shoe, then with a baseball bat until he was dead. She drove off never to be heard from again. He rotted beneath the tape. When the police discovered the body, they estimated that the beating was administered over a period of twelve hours. More fun? Perhaps. Retribution? Absolutely.
The moral of these stories is simple. No one with a sound human mind remains helpless in the face of inevitable abuse unless of course he or she chooses to. In all of human history, few have chosen to. Sometimes retribution is swift, as with the bully, sometimes slower, as with the woman. But in every instance, victims can be driven beyond their concern for repercussions. That’s when even the physically weakest among us are moved to act.
I inflict these ugly little slices of life upon you gentle reader that it might illustrate how unplanned fighting among humans rarely yields the expected results. We call them repercussions. We too often ignore them before the fact in our quest for easy dominion.
It also illustrates quite typical human behavior. Bullies, even those who limit their violence to the abuse of women, children, and defenseless people, are still not entirely safe from reciprocal harm. Human abuse victims often have, or will surely find formidable and compassionate allies: friends and family. If that’s not enough, they WILL gain access to weapons when they need them desperately enough.
In the hands of the vindictive, these family, friends, and weapons will shift the balance of power. They will be brought to bear against the bully at some future date lest the abuse ends. Even a small ally can distract a big bully’s attention if he’s brandishing a club. Under such conditions, even the littlest guy can score a game punch. Hit the right place, and it’s the only punch he’ll need.
On a larger, but equally human scale, consider a defenseless little unarmed country. It is reeling from extended abuse by a big, dumb bully country that just wont leave it alone. Since countries are geographically fixed in place and cannot run away as people can, might not a country under assault befriend a big brother country of similar family name but of whom it formerly – if only recently – disdained? If the big brother was smaller than the bully, but meaner, might not the victimized country find reason to patch things up? Family is family, after all.
I’m speaking of course of Iraq and Iran and the greater Middle East as well.
In fact, if one looks back, back to a time before the Europeans came into the Middle East and drew borders and began inventing names, he would find that Iran was part of the very same society as Iraq for most of their long recorded history.
Many Iranians proudly call themselves Persians today. Mesopotamia, or what is now Iraq, was the first nation state ever.
So uniform is their cultural past, that there is an Arabic saying that goes something like this: "Beirut writes, Cairo prints, Baghdad reads."
These people do not need lessons in civics or in history from us. They need only to be left alone. Nontheless, George W. Bush – a character who can’t even remember where he comes from (New England) - has persuaded most Americans to believe that he’s going to teach the people of these ancient cultures how to govern themselves.
But long before that happens, might not the "N" country find reason to sympathize with the "Q" country? After all, they are family. The only thing about which they formerly disagreed was religion based. But America fixed that with this month’s "US sponsored elections." They’re both under Shi’a "control" now.
Oh the media will tell you Iraq’s Shiite leaders are secular, unlike Iran’s Ayatollahs, and if we drink enough Bush Administration Kool Aid perhaps we’ll collectively find a reason why that matters. But lest we forget, the Shah and Saddam were "secular" too. By Middle Eastern standards even George W. Bush is secular.
That begs the question: So what? They’re all nuts. Shouldn’t that be what we focus on?
The point is this. With the emotional obstacle of religion out of the way, wouldn’t that family affinity grow warmer now that the "U.S. sponsored elections" have given power to the very same majority sect that so altered life in Iran: the big brother country?
(That’s right folks. We lost 1550 young troopers in order to turn Iraq into Iran. We did that by handing over control of Iraq to The Shi’a, the sect of the Ayatollah Khomeini.)
Amid the corporate press euphoria of elections in Iraq, elections where only 400 voters were killed, and amid the multiple orgasms in Washington because only 90 more Iraqi Shi’a were killed at Ashura observances this week, Russia, yes Russia, weighed in on the "Nukes For Iran" issue. On Saturday, February 19th, Vladimir Putin announced that Russia would help build an $800 million nuclear power plant in Iran.1 The only condition anyone set is that Iran must give back the spent nuclear fuel when depleted.
This comes on the heels of some very troubling revelations. Two days earlier, Bush’s new CIA Director Porter Goss testified before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, that Bush’s war has turned Iraq into a training ground for terrorists. At the same hearing, Vice Admiral Lowell Jacoby, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency told the committee that "Our policies in the Middle East fuel Islamic resentment." As evidence of this, Jacoby pointed out that attacks by a growing insurgency have increased by a staggering 240% in just the last year. 2 And finally, thanks to us, Iraq is doing what it did not do, could not do, and would not do before we arrived: Iraq is now a breeding ground for al Qaida, and they’re both finally gonna get next to some nuclear weapons-grade plutonium.
But back to our story. If that new ally had nuclear weaponry, just think of the possibilities. Might not such a newfound friendship yield vindication against the abuser at some future date, repercussions notwithstanding, a date when the abuser is tired or sleeping or drunk with power? Or in a word: distracted. It takes post-MTV America about a millisecond to get distracted.
Further, this defensive behavior by our adversaries is normal behavior. It’s more normal certainly than "liking to fight." It is also human, and it is just. Though the result of conflict is never predictable, the result of continued abuse is. There will be vindication coming out of the Middle East. It’s been going on in Palestine for 58 years so far. Now we’ve created another disaster in the region not another democracy.
Now, with Russia playing a hand by providing Iran with nuclear power, we’re in a high stakes game again, just like the Cold War.
This raises questions in my mind, questions the press seems to have overlooked, or been told not to ask. I’ll ask them here. They are, after all, obvious enough.
My first question is this: Does anyone really care what Iran does with its DEPLETED plutonium after a few billion years?
My second question is simpler still: We all know that Russia needs the $800 million they're getting for building the nuke. That’s a given. But why does Iran, a country with more oil underneath it than a McDonald’s freedom fry, need a nuclear power plant at all? Hello… is anyone out there?
Yet this is the country – Iran - toward which we’ve driven Iraq with our stupid administration’s stupid war.
But I digress... how does all this relate to the subject of fighting and its aftermath?
Simple. In the realm of Earthly creatures, humans are slow and weak and not especially big. Yet we dominate. That’s because we are not programmed for helplessness. When it comes to fighting against humans, the only speed and strength that count are the speed and strength of the combatant’s mind. Only here does size matter.
Vindication is so simple and fundamental a form of human behavior so predictably primitive a response to abuse, that it might even be within the cognitive grasp of the few intellectually advanced Right-wing chickenhawks sucking at the teat of our current government. Yet their greed and power-lust prevents them seeing it. They will, though. We all will.
The human mind is a more formidable weapon than anything it can devise. Whatever the mind can devise, the mind can obviate.
Against the bodies of our adversaries, America’s weapons and warriors are devastating. But against their minds, even our nukes are reduced to so much irrelevant smoke. Add to this that our leaders are of inferior mind to their adversaries and are disdained by fully half of their own demonstrably better-informed population. Now, multiply that adversarial mind by 1.7 billion.
There are 1.7 billion Muslim minds out there in the world. They are being made drunk with hatred, hatred of their bigoted and persistent abuser: America. Their religious teachings deride violence. But so do those of the American armchair-warrior chieftain and his comparatively little group of never-bloodied war counselors who abuse them. We’ve all seen how malleable are religious teachings in the face of fear, hypocrisy, and hatred. Another few billion non-Muslim human minds despise our leaders because they realize they cannot share the planet with them very much longer and survive, nor can they assure the survival of their children at the hands of the Americans.
Simply stated, "in the course of human events," our "leaders" are demonstrated failures, doomed to failure yet again. They’re just too dumb, greedy, and scared to see it. They will though. All of us on geographically fixed in place America will see it.
With billions of Chinese now clamoring for oil at any price, and the Euro kicking the Dollar’s ass everywhere else, no one will need America for very much longer. Oh, the French will smile and make nice to Condoleeza, and the idiots of the press will eat it up. But the EU members have already begun their economic neutralization of America. I see it every day. They do not consider an increasingly fundamentalist, ignorant, scientifically irrational society worth its place at the table of mankind. We’re a consumer of their goods, little more. As America spirals ever deeper into religious primitivism, we deliberately segregate ourselves from the modern world. Our economy is no longer the largest, our debt structure is unmanageable, our bonds are worthless to foreign markets, and our philosophies equally worthless to foreign minds. We’re boring, we’re boorish, and we’re broke. We’re also troublemakers. Nobody needs us any longer. We’re the big stupid guy who always starts the fight that gets himself and everyone with him, bounced from the party. Then, when the bully finally gets his ass kicked, he starts to suck up. Look at Bush and Condoleeza grinning their way across Europe even now.
And as for our war, did you know that behind the scenes we’ve been secretly negotiating with the Iraqi insurgents? 3 I’ll bet that lets them know they can’t win. Better still, do our troops know that?
Sucking up. What a surprise.
So, fighting between humans is not quite the same thing as hitting your dog on the nose with a newspaper. Fighting between humans always yields repercussions. Most humans are vindictive not submissive. Eventually vindication overcomes concern for reprisal.
So one should not start a fight with innocent humans without an appreciation of those repercussions, and neither fighting nor shooting people should be fun when one combatant is neither willing, culpable, nor equally armed. In fact, shooting people should not be fun. Period.
Yet, when all is said and done, some guys just like to fight. They ignore the implications, and they invent justification for their actions. Consider what else General Mattis said:
"In Afghanistan you got guys who slap women around for five years because they didn't wear a veil. You know, guys like that ain't got no manhood left anyway. So it's a hell of a lot of fun to shoot them."4
But is it justification? The general seems to be ignoring both reality and recent history.
For example, though I can find no evidence of any American generals having been killed in the Iraq or Afghanistan fighting, 1540 of their troops have died there recently. 5 How much fun were they having? How much fun will they never get to have? How many more will die simply as retribution for the general’s misguided attempt at bravado.
For do his words not incentivize an already suicidal enemy fully as much as those of our president when the latter foolishly bragged, "Bring em on!" They do, and perhaps more so. A general does not compromise the welfare of his men by incentivizing the enemy, an enemy our government is ostensibly attempting to pacify, not defeat, at this stage of the fighting. He knows this and should keep it top of mind. His words are damaging and disappointing because they came from a warrior leader of men, not from the brain damaged, drug abusing, alcoholic deserter who said, "Bring ‘em on." Mattis’s words have meaning, for General Mattis is a good and worthy officer. He has boldly spoken out against prisoner abuse, and torture and done so for reasons only a soldier can appreciate. Study his record, and you’ll know he’s been there. For this general, this good man and true, there is no excuse for so blatant a lapse of judgment.
Further, they are empty, self-serving words.
Remember, one million fighters died in the Russo/Afghan wars before we arrived. 6 Yet those remaining Afghan fighters never gave up. It was the Russians who gave up. They went broke and quit the fight. So one should weigh his words carefully before deriding this enemy’s "manhood." Warrior generals know better than to ridicule their adversaries, however tiny those adversaries might be. By deriding the enemy’s courage, a commander trivializes the courage of those fighting that enemy – his own troops. This fight ain’t over yet. Remember al Qaida? Stronger than ever, and we’ve outspent the Russians with no results. Osama bin Laden is still free. Are you?
As for Iraq, words alone cannot describe our crimes. Our actions have left over 66,000 innocent women and children dead in Iraq. 7 We’ve left countless more people maimed.
As relates to these atrocities, methinks that each and every one of the women and children we’ve killed in the Middle East and everyone to whom they mattered, would have preferred that they be slapped around for a while longer – at least until they, or other rational humans found a better solution to their plight, a solution short of killing them.
After all, isn’t that why were still in this fight, to free people from oppression? Or was that last week’s excuse? I’ve lost track.
- END -
About The Author
Dom Stasi is Chief Technology Officer for an international media network. A pilot, Air Force veteran, and member of both the Planetary Society, and Center For Inquiry, he is also a widely published science and technology writer. A father of two, Mr. Stasi lives in Los Angeles with his wife of 38 years.
- Footnotes -