October Diary
Election fatigue, Fort Hood reconsidered, and more.


John Derbyshire

Election non-fever     This being October of an even year, I’m going to grumble about election fatigue, right? You bet!

It’s just fatigue, mind, not a chronic cynicism. The struggle to control what Chinese people call tian xia da shi — “great matters under heaven” — is nothing a grown-up person should ignore or take lightly. I know which side I’m on, and I want it to win. It’s just that each of us has his threshold of interest, above which more politics is just too darn much, and I was way over my threshold by about mid-year.

I’m with Leo Strauss (I think it was) in deploring the “un-manly disdain for politics”; but while I agree that disdain is un-manly, or at least un-citizenly in a free republic, I can’t help thinking that being too interested in politics is the sign of a disordered digestion.

In any case, I think we’re drifting into a zone of what in the Margaret Thatcher years we used to call TINA: There Is No Alternative. Our economic situation is going to be so chronically bad, even without unexpected shocks — which there will surely be — that any administration of any stripe will have to carry out much the same policies. That this election will be as consequential as my colleagues tell me, I therefore doubt.

It’ll be fun to watch so many liberals being turned out of office, though. As Oscar Wilde said of the death of Little Nell, you’d have to have a heart of stone to read about it without laughing.

Destroying the evidence     I waxed indignant about our PC military in the October 22 broadcast of Radio Derb. The topic here was the destruction of two videos a soldier took of the Fort Hood massacre. The soldier took the videos with his cell phone, but an NCO ordered him to erase them:

Under cross-examination, Pfc. Lance Aviles told an Article 32 hearing that his non-commissioned officer ordered him to destroy the two videos on Nov. 5, the same day a gunman unleashed a volley of bullets inside a processing center at the Texas Army post.

A military reader objects:

You note that PFC Aviles was told by his NCO to destroy the videos on the day of the shooting. The terminology of “his NCO” instead of “an NCO” indicates that the NCO in question was his squad leader or otherwise first-line supervisor . . . For a PFC, that position would usually be filled by a Sergeant or Staff Sergeant, though in some cases it could be a Corporal.

Since the shooting occurred in the afternoon, that leaves less than 12 hours for “the Army” to discover the existence of the videos, run that up the chain to the Pentagon, and return a decision to destroy evidence back to the first line supervisor of PFC Aviles. Nothing in garrison ever works that fast. Ever. Actually, nothing on the battlefield ever works that fast either.

Your assumption that “the Army” ordered the videos erased is simply silly. This is clearly a case of an NCO taking matters into his own hands.

<wild-speculation>There are several valid, reasonable reasons for that NCO to do such a thing that spring to my former NCO mind.

The first is that on a battlefield, taking pictures of one’s fellow soldiers being slain is a total No-Go. Any NCO in today’s Army will have at least one (likely more) combat tours in either Iraq or Afghanistan. They would be well trained in keeping their people in line on things like this. A combat vet of either of those two theaters is going to think a guy shooting at them shouting “Allahu Akbar” is a combat situation — they will not think that it is a law-enforcement matter that requires evidence to be preserved.

The second is that PFC Aviles (and his NCO and entire unit) were about to deploy. The NCO might have realized that the video in question would result in PFC Aviles being pulled into all sorts of hearings and Court Martial proceedings. Which would mean that PFC Aviles would not be in Afghanistan doing his job. Maybe the NCO wanted to keep his squad fully staffed. It sucks to think about, but 13 KIAs are a done deal; that NCO needs to think about the coming rotation and how many KIAs will occur if the unit is short one medic.</wild-speculation>

Some quick Googling shows me that you were just reading verbatim from AP, UPI, etc., but please, in the future, do some fact checking with someone who has an understanding of military terms and structures . . . just aim before you shoot.

I think this reader has the better of me here. Let’s break it down.