Saturday, January 10, 2009

Warrior ethos

Robert Fisk, British correspondent for the UK newspaper The Independent and credited by the phrase 'fisking', has in his new book "The Age of the Warrior" brought attention to two separate and very distinct US Armed Forces creeds. The first was originally created after the My Lai massacre in Vietnam to encourage 'professional' conduct in war. The original was scrapped in 2003 and replaced with what the military calls The Warrior Ethos to encourage an abject obedience to the mission of the armed forces.

The original text can be found in the older versions of the Soldier's Handbook and also this Field Artillery NCO Study Guide.

I am an American soldier.

I am a member of the United States Army - a protector of the greatest nation on earth.

Because I am proud of the uniform I wear, I will always act in ways creditable to the military service and the nation that it is sworn to guard.

I am proud of my own organization.

I will do all I can to make it the finest unit of the Army.

I will be loyal to those under whom I serve.

I will do my full part to carry out orders and instructions given me or my unit.

As a soldier I realize that I am a member of a time-honored Profession, that I am doing my share to keep alive the principles of freedom for which my country stands.

No matter what situation I am in, I will never do anything for pleasure, profit or personal safety, which will disgrace my uniform, my unit or my country.

I will use every means I have, even beyond the line of duty, to restrain my Army comrades from actions, disgraceful to themselves and the uniform.

I am proud of my country and it's flag.

I will try to make the people of this nation proud of the service I represent for I am an American soldier.

This is the version that Donald Rumsfeld created to be the new 'Warrior Ethos', via The Independent:

I am an American soldier.

I am a warrior and a member of a team.

I serve the people of the Unites States and live the Army values.

I will always place the mission first.

I will never accept defeat.

I will never quit.

I will never leave a fallen comrade.

I am disciplined, physically and mentally tough, trained and proficient in my warrior tasks and drills.

I always maintain my arms, my equipment and myself.

I am an expert and I am a professional.

I stand ready to deploy, engage and destroy the enemies of the United States of America in close combat.

I am a guardian of freedom and the American way of life.

I am an American soldier.

The differences are obvious. The second version says nothing about disgraceful conduct. It says nothing about ethical standards. It emphasizes total obedience to the military chain of command. It lent itself to Abu Ghraib, to Guantanamo, and Bagram. It lent itself to war crimes.

The older version has problems too - the same problems are in the second version. In the My Lai version, for example, "greatest nation on earth" already shows signs of extreme nationalism. Both creeds reinforce subservience, domination, and unquestionable submission to hierarchy. Both appeal to professionalism, and easily give rise to the same problems that Hannah Arendt pointed out when it came to Nazi professionalism.

The second version certainly goes further than the first; Robert Fisk considers the first one acceptable, and the second one deplorable. But there is another creed that the Army has on hand, for civilians, called the Civilian Corps Creed. This creed is worse than the others in my opinion, because the civilian creed extends "Army values" onto civilian populations, and encourages the same hierarchical obedience to non-warriors. Perhaps in the wake of 9/11, everyone became an "Army civilian" and a member of the "Army team".

I am an Army Civilian - a member of the Army Team.

I am dedicated to the Army, its Soldiers and Civilians.

I will always support the mission.

I provide stability and continuity during war and peace.

I support and defend the Constitution of the United States and consider it an honor to serve the Nation and its Army.

I live the Army values of Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless Service, Honor, Integrity, and Professional Courage.

I am an Army Civilian.

Recorded speech - Robert Fisk in Seattle, September 2008.

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