Your Turn: “I’m a Pacifist, but He’s a Military Man. Can it Work?”

In a feature I call “Your Turn,” in which you, the readers, get to answer the question, I’m presenting the following letter without commentary from me:

I have been talking to this guy for a while now, and even though I am starting to really like him something about his past bothers me, something that conflicts with my own principles. I am a pacifist and idealist, I am a strong advocate of human rights. This guy whom I have started seeing just told me he served in the Navy a couple of years ago and had also served some time in Guantanamo Bay. When I found out about this, I was a bit shocked and bothered by it. I didn’t know what to say or how to react.

I remember saying that, even though I had always opposed the war against Iraq and was against the government’s adopted policies, I respected the soldiers who had served during this time. He then went on to say that the prisoners had it easy, and how the whole story had been twisted (the last thing I expected to hear). He showed me a couple of scars he had suffered as a consequence of the time he served in Gitmo. He said that no form of torture had ever occurred and that, on the contrary, prisoners were served with Pizza Hut or Burger King after interrogations and most of the interrogations that had been taped had never showed any form of abuse. He further added that everything we have heard was just BS and that the media had focused more on the prisoners than on the soldiers, who had a rougher time.

As he was telling me this, I couldn’t believe what was coming out of his mouth. It just seemed he kind of wanted to hide everything; I don’t know if deep down he was ashamed, but I felt very confused. I know that the military is very transformative — and of course for me it’s easy to say what’s right or wrong — but I would have rather heard that he didn’t want to talk about it rather than pretending or trying to convince me that Gitmo was a heavenly place. I really like this guy, and I know it’s not his fault he had been sent to Gitmo; he was probably placed there. I don’t know if he literally ever hurt anyone; I couldn’t bear to ask and I don’t think it would have been appropriate. How can I cope with this? I do like him and enjoy being with him, but I am torn with everything I heard. — Haunted by Gitmo


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  1. This is a major difference in values. I’m a pacifist, too, and when I was online dating I’d just avoid the guys who mentioned military service. I know there are tons of different opinions on this, but it’s something that means a lot to me and that I know I can’t sacrifice.

    Here’s something to think about: suppose you get married and have kids and stuff. What is he going to want to tell your children? What are you going to want to tell them? Will he encourage them to join the service? Will you be horrified at the thought?

    You’re at the very beginning of a relationship, so it’s easy to gloss over major differences. And it’s easy to say “oh, we’re just dating, so it doesn’t matter.” But eventually it will matter. If it were me, I would honestly end it now, just based on what I know about myself. But only you can ultimately decide your values dealbreakers.

  2. I don’t think this will work out, too great a difference in beliefs. You should MOA. Also, this guy is BSing you. Guantanamo is not where the torture took place, but the prisoners’ lives at Guantanamo certainly does not seem at all easy or pleasant. Not that some of these guys aren’t truly awful terrorists, but some are innocents fingered by their neighbors to settle scores or get rewards.

  3. interesting issue.

    i dont think that i could ever date anyone in the military, but more because of the military’s overall culture/lifestyle then the things it is responsible for doing… their culture/lifestyle is not something i would ever want to be a part of, and its hard enough to be a small part of it with a very good friend in the marines… i couldnt imagine dating someone in the military- ever. so i sympathize with that. it does clash with my ideals, and i will always reject things that clash with my ideals, right?

    however, you did say he “served”, as in, past tense. as in, its over and done with. so, i would then ask two things: is a person’s past actions enough to condemn them (in your eyes)?, and what are his thoughts/feelings/culture now that he isnt in the navy anymore?

    there are a lot of people who join the military because they dont know what else to do. they dont have money for college. because its “easy”. there are people who join *not* because of the war and bloodshed, and who just need something to do with their life and get paid for it. is your boyfriend one of those? or did he serve because he really, really believes in what the military is doing wanted to do his part? what were his motivations and how do they carry over to his life now?

    as for what he specifically told you, you do have to wonder if a. the conspiracy theorists are right somehow and there really wasnt any torture that happened (who knows, right? i have come to the realization that no one will ever know the truth about gov’t interactions) or b. he didnt have the higher security clearance or whatever was needed and so he didnt even ever see any torture happen. maybe the guantanamo that he saw wasnt that bad…. which doesnt mean that other parts arent terrible, but it could be that he just had no idea. he is, after all, only operating on what he knows… and its hard to believe that one lowly navy guy would see/hear enough to form a complete opinion of the whole prison and what went on there.

    i would just proceed and see what happens. see if who he is, as a whole complete person, clashes with your own ideals. however, if you could never get past what he thinks/knows about the prison and even the fact that he was in the navy, then MOA. if his lifestyle doesnt mesh with yours, why try to force it?

    1. Avatar photo theattack says:

      love this comment! I’m not a big fan of fighting and the violent culture that comes with the military either, but LW really shouldn’t fault someone for taking an opportunity to make his life better, if that’s the case. Your theories about his Guantanamo ideas are really good.

    2. very true katie!

      i’m going to guess that as a ‘lowly navy’ guy i don’t know the correct term for what he would be 😉 what he saw probably was very different. and there is a chance that his experience was personally awful, that shouldn’t be downplayed either.

      side note I got to take a tour of Gitmo in the early 90s when my father’s parents were stationed there. the wall that divided ‘cuba’ from ‘gitmo’ was super creepy, all I remember are men on both sides with giant guns and being in this open car and my Mom not being very happy about the tour because it wasn’t what she thought. pretty sure she had a death grip on my shoulder the whole time!

    3. I was thinking the same thing. Maybe this guy didn’t have clearance and really didn’t know what all was going on. I mean, because what they did, I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t want just anyone to see.

      So, LW, maybe he wasn’t outright lying to you? IDK.

    4. I agree with this whole line of of thought. LW, maybe he’s not actually lying to you about *his* particular experience. I will grant you, it’s a bit blow-hardy of him to project his version of what happened to be the ultimate and only truth. But still. You’re arguing the finer points of facts and figures, you really need to get to the heart of his beliefs and values before you can determine whether you guys will make a match.

      1. kerrycontrary says:

        Yeh but the LW is also projecting that what she has read/seen in the news (which is not very trustworthy, at all) as the ultimate and only truth of the events that transpired. I honestly don’t think she’s being open minded about possibilities here.

  4. sarolabelle says:

    here is a new DW motto….

    If you don’t get along, move on!

  5. No, it can’t work. MOA.

    Also, open your mind a little bit. Your entire letter focuses on details about his version on life while he was at gitmo vs media reports of what I have to assume were the worst-cases, rather than focusing on what your actual differences in principles are.

    I assume based on your letter that your pacifism is such that you are against ever using violence for any reason, but you don’t spell that out. Some self-proclaimed pacifists are okay with violence for self-defensive purposes, etc. Regardless, if you actually want to see if this could work, your only real bet is to have a candid discussion on his and your values, not on your disagreement of the facts of circumstances to which neither of you actually witnessed in person.

  6. I think you both probably need to move on. No one can ever find the perfect mate, of course, but I have to think you could find a man a *little* closer to your deeply held beliefs. Longterm, his military service has the potential to be a major source of conflict for you as a couple. It sounds like you would prefer it didn’t exist, and he can’t spend the rest of his life hiding or being ashamed (unless that’s how he really feels) of his military service. And what if he wants to re-enlist? You need to date another pacifist, and he needs to date someone less horrified by his military history.

  7. LW – I think you need to do more research about Gitmo. “Enhanced Interrogation” or Torture is only used within the first weeks of capture. There is no sense in torturing people who have old information. Some people have been imprisioned for a decade. What are they going to tell us? Where Bin Laden is? So, he most likely isn’t lying to you. They probably are treating them like any other prisoners and his time there was as a glorified prison guard.

    I don’t think you are right together because you assume he is lying rather than believing him. Also, you should realize that you get the right to be a pacifist because other people are fighting the war for you. Most people in the military aren’t “Pro War” but understand that they are protecting us. They are fighting to free populations. You might not agree with the war in Iraq but Saddam was called the “Butcher of Bagdad” for a reason. If we didn’t go to war, he would still be killing people and his sons were worse. He wasn’t a nice dictator and had major genocide campaigns against the Kurdish population. You are choosing to look at him as a villian rather than a hero.

    OK, done with my tirade.

    1. OH, that totally makes torture OK then, if it´s only for the first few weeks.

      1. I don’t think csp is saying it is okay. I think she is explaining how the guy’s story could be true simultaneously with the torture reports being true.

      2. Thanks, yes, that was my point 🙂

    2. And how dare anyone decide to murder a bunch of innocent civilians? You´re only allowed to do that if youre a powerful country and you´re doing it for “freedom”! Or to destroy weapons of mass destruction that conveniently never surface.

      1. Ooooohkeee getting a bit off topic…

      2. just as off topic as csp’s…..she was simply responding to it. specifically her second paragraph. or at least that’s how i read it.

      3. you know me too well, jlyfsh. 🙂

      4. weird…csp was the person I thought I was responding to…

      5. WMDs were a justification that I did not bring up. My comments were that as a nation, we believe that genocide is wrong. And I mean killing people solely because they were born to the wrong ethnic group. We get blasted for ignoring it in Rwanda (and rightfully so) and then go in to Iraq and get blasted. You can argue timing and pros and cons in a war until you are blue in the face. However, Saddam was a very ruthless dictator and I think people forget that fact.

      6. Yeah, well I (thankfully) belong to a different nation. And we as most other nations also believe genocide is wrong, no matter who does it, andfor what reasons. ANd really most dictators are ruthless and murderous, funny how the US backs some of them though, and looks the other way when their ruthlessness and murderousness (?) comes out. eg: Pinochet

      7. Avatar photo Addie Pray says:

        go JK go!

    3. I 100% support our military, and I hate that she chooses to believe the media over someone who has been there, and is in a relationship with, but I hate when people say that because of what they are doing over there that is why I have freedom. I’m pretty sure if we never went to these wars, I would still live in a free country. We were afforded this freedom long before we went to Iraq, or Afghanistan, and our military can protect our freedom from home, and by only acting against threats to our country, but we choose to protect everyone else’s freedom as well, and that is part of why they are over there now.

      1. You have a very valid philosophy. The problem is that it cant be proven without a total overhaul of our political system. My belief is that the reason we do not have war on our soil is for two main reasons. 1.) we are geographically in a great place in the world that removes us from many local wars based on natural resources. 2.) We bring the war to other people so that it is not on our soil. We have guarenteed rights based on our founding principles but they are only valid because we have a strong military supporting them.

        So I would argue that if you take historical looks at Stalin, Kaiser Wilhem, Hitler, Napoleon, anyone. They start with small, localized takeovers then move to grander scales. Now, if those small consolidations are ignored and left unchecked, they lead to major world wars. The belief I have is that by stopping these type of strategic moves i.e. saddam in Kuwait or with the Kurdish genocide, we are stopping full out world wars.

        unfortunately, in all of history, we have not had a chance to study a large economy that can exist without a strong military.

      2. Then we should be in North Korea, or Iran but not Afghanistan. I just personally don’t believe what we are doing right now is something that falls into that category. It might have started that way, but it has been a huge clean up project for a while now.

      3. You are right about the clean up. However, we learned in the cold war that abandoning war zones without rebuilding only makes a generation of angry citizens. You can argue that 9/11 was a direct response to the lack of post war rebuilding during the cold war. North Korea and Iran are very, very valid points. However, contrary to many beleifs we are not the only superpower. Iran has backing from Russia and North Korea has backing from China. This might be a paternalistic statement, but those two countries are not our sphere of influence.

    4. Comeon People says:

      CSP is right. It is really great that all of you guys are pacifists. Yay for you. How do you think you got the freedom to think that way? I don’t think you are right together because he sounds like a great guy and you sound like a spoiled little princess who wants to hide in her ivory tower while everyone else does the dirty work.

  8. I probably wouldn’t date someone in the military. Not because I’m necessarily against it, but because I assume that this person and I would have such a difference in personality and values if he chose to join the military. I did have a fling with a guy one summer who had served in Iraq, but he was fairly liberal and anti-war, so our values were actually not that far apart.

    I think that your problem is not necessarily that he was in the military, but also a difference in values. I doubt you’d be writing in if he had not said that stuff about Gitmo or if he’d qualified it a little. He’s either just getting super defensive or doesn’t comprehend that his experiences don’t cover what may have been going on during the entire war, though probably both. Personally, I just don’t see this working out.

  9. Avatar photo bittergaymark says:

    If this relationship was further along and you were doing more than just “talking” and a bit of “seeing” with this guy and had somehow already fallen hard in a much more real and much more tangible way… then I suppose I might be more inclined to tell you to try to work it out. But so early into this relationship? I say —- MOA. This is far too great a difference in fundamental values. And frankly? His views on Gitmo sound a little nuts… Oh, sure. He may be a nice enough guy, but he simply ISN’T the guy for you, I fear. Wish him well, and then send him on his way. Sorry, but you two simply aren’t a match…

    1. Avatar photo Astronomer says:

      It sounds like he’s repeating things he was told in debriefing to say when asked about his service in Gitmo. It’s very possible the military would condition soldiers stationed there to not give civilians any real details about torture, prisoner treatment, etc.

      1. MissSally says:

        I think this is probably right on the money, Astronomer.

      2. conspiracy theorists unite!!


  10. Truth is, you have absolutely no idea what he experienced while serving and it comes off like you are a bit know-it-all on a topic you can’t possibly know a thing about unless you experienced it too.

    Bottom line, you aren’t compatible.

    1. What we do know is that the claim that the prisoners “had it easy” at Guantanamo is hardly true, and even if it were, their rights were still violated (no due process). So we actually do know some things about it without experiencing it. Plus, regarding moral judgement, the LW even admitted that it’s “easy for her to say what’s right or wrong”, so I didn’t get the know-it-all impression at all.

      1. Avatar photo bittergaymark says:

        Beyond true. Yeah, Gitmo was a beach resort and everybody ate pizza while sunbathing… It amazes me that there are so many revisionists out there… Look, the whole war was a GIANT fuck up instigated by Bush (our first mentally challenged President) but absurdly enabled by all the Democrats who caved like children before the headmaster. Bah… to this very day, I respect NOBODY in politics. Nobody… It’s all just one big painfully unfunny fucking joke.

      2. Avatar photo iwannatalktosampson says:

        “their rights were still violated (no due process)”

        The U.S. following due process when other countries are busy beheading journalists is like bringing a knife to a gun fight. I don’t understand how people can be so passionate about criminal rights when these criminals are supporting causes that kill thousands of innocent people.

      3. lets_be_honest says:


      4. Avatar photo bittergaymark says:

        Um, maybe because there was NO fucking proof many of those at Gitmo actually did any of those things… But fine. Hey, lets toss due process out the window. Fuck it! Lets sink to their level!! And this from a lawyer yet… Christ, no wonder we are so fucking lost as a society.

        America was once great. But no more. And attitudes like this had ensured that to be so.

      5. lets_be_honest says:

        Not interested in engaging in a discussion about this. Maybe you can “shout” at someone else you disagree with on here. Just reading your comment is giving me a headache unfortunately.

      6. Avatar photo bittergaymark says:

        Then perhaps in the future you should, I don’t know… simply refrain from bringing it up?

      7. lets_be_honest says:

        My “comment” was the same thing as a thumbs up. It wasn’t even a comment.

        Sorry, just don’t have the patience for your attitude today. 🙂

      8. Avatar photo iwannatalktosampson says:

        Mark it’s great to follow the rules (due process here) when everyone is playing the same game. But not so much when you’re trying to play chess and they’re playing battleships. Different rules for different games. American citizens of U.S. soil get due process. Terrorists don’t. Do you think they’re giving our citizens great treatment? Hell John McCain was waterboarded and no one is protesting that.

      9. Avatar photo bittergaymark says:

        Agree to disagree on this issue. The idea of ANY government being able to arrest anybody on foreign soil with very little cause and then (conveniently) branding them a terrorist so they suddenly have virtually no rights whatsoever is something that SHOULD alarm thinking people everywhere. Only it, somehow, doesn’t.

        Maybe I’m right and much of the world simply isn’t thinking. Maybe most of the people out there truly are just fucking idiots… The whole thing is absurdly hilarious in retrospect… Damn near everybody here in the U.S. was so whipped up into a lather about a horrific attack that only killed a few thousand Americans that an entire nation gleefully cheered — no, clamored for — a foolish war that killed nearly 7,000 U.S. soldiers and left at least another 100,000 injured. Okay, so instead of making them bring the war to us, we took it to them. Hell, we even gave them plenty of targets. Oh, and we had no plan to pay for this war, either. So the entire economy collapsed. Fucking Brilliant.

        Again. Very little thinking. None that I can see, frankly. And the worst part is, it appears nobody has learned a thing from any of this either. Nobody.

      10. Not all of the Guantanamo prisoners were criminals. Due process is necessary to find out who really is a criminal. Rights only have meaning if they are strictly respected, and whether they are respected should not depend on whether anyone’s passionate about them in a given case. I believe that not respecting fundamental rights sends the worst possible signal to anyone supporting causes that harm or kill innocent people – namely that what they are doing could be morally acceptable if only they are doing it for the right reasons.

      11. Avatar photo iwannatalktosampson says:

        Yeah you’ve got a point.

  11. Huh, I had no idea there was a Pizza Hut or a Burger King in the vicinity of Guantanamo Bay.

    Anyway, just because you are a pacifist does not mean you could never date a military man. People join the services for a whole host of reasons, and there are many members in the service who do not necessarily agree with the politics of the war they are fighting. But they can’t think about that while they are in the middle of a war; their number one objective is to survive. At the end of the day you just need to understand his values, just like in any other relationship. His personal experience serving at Gitmo is irrelevant to your worldly views on peace and anti-violence. So if his views and what he values in life are relatively in line with your own, and you can live with the one’s that may not be akin to your own (for example, if his reason for joining the military may have been to pay for college, whereas you would do literally anything else in the world to pay for college before joining the military) then your relationship may work. You can’t be so general in how you view people. Every person is different, and using idealistic principles to assign a value to any one individual will result in either a very lonely life or a life in which you date your identical twin. Maybe you want to date yourself, I don’t know. But why don’t you try relating to him as a person outside of the job he had to do. And also, do not ask any question you do not want to hear the answer to.

    1. For the pacifists I know, his personal experience at Gitmo would be HIGHLY relevant to our views on peace and anti-violence. I wouldn’t want to be with someone if I couldn’t ask questions that I’d be afraid to hear the answer to.

      It’s not wrong to say “you seem like a nice guy, but we are too different” and leave it at that. It’s not insulting him. It’s just recognizing a major difference in values.

      1. So if his experience at Gitmo was just standing guard at the front gate that would conflict with your worldly views to the point where you couldn’t possibly see yourself dating this man?

        My point about his values was precisely that – figure them out. Being in the military does not alone define a person and their values in life. That sort of information is gathered by doing things like talking, sharing, and listening. I believe the term for judging something on it’s face value and assigning characteristics to one individual based on a per-existing view of a whole is something along the lines of stereotyping.

      2. For me personally (and I am not saying this is every person who is a pacifist AT ALL), people who’ve served in the military will probably have some HUGE problems with my worldview. And I with theirs.

        I’m not saying I would NEVER be with someone who had served, but it would take an awful lot of talking, and none of that talking would be along the lines of “eh, they weren’t treated so bad.”

      3. GatorGirl says:

        I identify as a pacifist and yes, I would have a problem dating a man who served in any capacity in the military (the exception might be if he served as a medic). You are right that being in the military alone does not define a person. However, it is a very, very large part of a person. In my opinion serving in the military is as big of a defining factor as what religion a person is.

        LW, I think this is too big of a hurdle. I would move on and find someone who is more in line with your pacifist beleifs.

      4. The way I see it, there are two important factors in this situation. The man the LW liked before she heard the stories of his service and the man the LW thought he was after hearing those stories. But here’s the thing: nothing about him changed after he told those stories. It is not like the LW knew him before he went into the service and didn’t like who he was after returning. There was obviously something about this guy that she liked from the start – she mentioned she has spoken with him for a while now and has grown to like him quite a bit. It was only after she heard the stories of his time at Gitmo that she became conflicted. The reason she became conflicted is because she had a pre-existing view of who military men are, what they stand for, as well as what types of soldiers are stationed at Gitmo. So what did she like about him before she heard the stories? Was he friendly, caring, funny, sweet? Maybe the stuff she liked about him before hearing those stories is who he really is, despite serving in the military. The problem with idealistic thinking is that you do not open yourself up to understanding reality. There is a ideal way the world should be and how we should live, and anyone who doesn’t share those views has sub-par values (very interesting you equated his military experience to a religion, isn’t it).

        Look, I’m not saying whether or not this relationship will last. That is anybody’s guess. But here is my point, and my advice to the LW: If you are open to understanding him as a person, then you have a lot to learn from him – stuff you can’t know or understand by looking at a resume. You very well may find out you two are not compatible. But at least you will know after putting in an honest effort, rather than just by judging a book by it’s cover. But, if you are incapable of or unwilling to understanding views that go beyond your narrow idealistic idea of what our world should be, then there is no helping the situation and you should stop speaking with this man, for both of your sakes. But a warning in following the latter: life may get lonely.

      5. GatorGirl says:

        Re: the before and after arguement. It’s the same as getting to know someone and finding out they have opposing political views or religious views or beleifs on how to raise a child or gay marraige. Some things just aren’t compatible. If you’re a far leaning right republican there is little chance you would be able to have a sucessful relationship with a far left democrat, or even a moderate.

        I don’t see how you’re judging a book by it’s cover when you know you fundamentally disagree with a choice someone has made in their life or a beleif they hold and therefore don’t want to date said person. Life isn’t going to get lonely if you seek out people who you share beleifs with and, I don’t know, can actually relate to.

        And I have no idea what you’re trying to get to with your snarky comment about equating religion to military service. Are you saying you think I’m implying other religions are sub-par? Because I can assure you that is completely false.

      6. first point: I will have to tell that to my liberal friend from college who just married a republican. Funny thing about their relationship, they realized they loved each other and were a perfect match. Their nights were not filled with political arguments at the dinner table, they were spent celebrating the things they liked about each other. They were both capable of seeing the other person as a person, rather than a view point.

        second point: you can not fundamentally disagree with a choice someone has made if you don’t understand why they made it. I’ll float the hypothetical situation I mentioned above by you: joining the military to pay for college. Do you fundamentally disagree with the reason that person made their choice? Or would you just have made a different choice? To that point, life will get lonely if you only open up your dating pool to people with exactly the same beliefs as you, who make the same exact decisions you would make, and who only look at life through the same papertowl roll that you do.

        third point: I was not saying you think other religions are subpar, I am saying that often devout religious followers feel other religious views and values are subpar. Similarly, people with idealistic views see opposing views as subpar. I was simply saying that people who use religion to gauge the value of a person are the same as idealistic people who use their views to judge a person’s value. It was just interesting that you said his military involvement was as big a defining factor as someone’s religion. It was not a snarky personal jab, just pointing out the similarities in mindset.

      7. GatorGirl says:

        It’s great that it works for your friend. It doesn’t work for a lot of people, like the overwhelming majority. I can hardly be in the same room with my sister-in-law when certain topics come up because our beleifs are so so very different (and yes, I’ve researched her “side” of things and listened to her arguements and still don’t agree with them). I’m not “gauging the value” of a person. I don’t think I’m better than my uncle who served in the military. I’m just saying I wouldn’t continue, well really start in the case of this LW, a relationship with someone who had such a different world view than I do. It doesn’t mean I’m closed minded or put less value on people who have those different views.

    2. Chaotonic says:

      I dunno about a Pizza Hut or Burger King but my husband brought me back a t-shirt from the Irish bar on base. He was TAD there for a bit.

  12. Pizza Hut and Burger King after interrogations? I thought he said there wasn’t any torture?

  13. You appear to believe that he is a liar.

    If he is, then obviously MOA is the right call.

    If he is not, then you are wrong but you will never believe/accept that, so MOA is still the right call.

    1. I completely agree with this…
      I’m don’t think the main issue at hand is the pacifist vs. military…

      the main issue is that you didn’t trust what he was telling you, and can’t look at him the same.

      MOA before this gets deeper. You’ll always question his ‘motives’ deep down, and it’s doomed.

    2. Yeah, this was going to be my point. It doesn’t matter what did/didn’t happen during his time in the military. She clearly doesn’t respect him enough to believe his side of the story, so, true or not, there’s no point in staying with him.

    3. kerrycontrary says:

      I agree. I think the LW believes that the only possibilities are that he’s lying or that the military brainwashed him, she doesn’t even consider that there could be a third version: the truth that probably lies somewhere between what she has seen on the news and what he has said.

  14. It’s one thing that you’re a pacifist and he serves in the military (indicating a major value difference). The more significant problem is that you don’t believe him what he told you about Guantanamo (probably rightly so) and that you are questioning his sincerity (or intelligence?) over it. I find that once you’ve lost respect for someone it’s hard to bounce back from that – it appears that the Guantanamo conversation influenced your gut feeling about this guy in a very negative way.

  15. painted_lady says:

    I’ve been around military guys most of my life. I nearly married one, and his brother and best friend were also in the military, and they were some of my good friends as well. I think being in the military tends to polarize people, and they either fall into the, “Military is a job, and just like anywhere you work, your employer will do some shitty things,” or the “Military can do no wrong and if you question that you dont love out country! Traitor!!!” Obviously, there are shades of gray, but most of the military folks I’ve met feel pretty strongly one way or the other. I nearly married the latter, and I don’t feel that way, and ultimately that’s why we broke up. I understand why he feels that way – he carried a lot of guilt for some of the stuff he did during deployments, and I think that was the only way he could cope. I couldn’t agree, though, and I hated the thought that he questioned how American I was. I also knew he thought I saw him as a monster, and I knew if he ever came around to agreeing with me (unlikely, I know) then he might have more guilt than one person should have to handle. So it couldn’t work.

    I did date a different military guy, and he was more the first mentality. Pretty liberal, thought that there were some shitty things going down, but did his best and was getting out ASAP. We meshed so much better on that front.

    So I guess my point is, he sounds like he might have a little more of a hard-line stance on it. That doesn’t make him a bad person – I don’t agree with him, either, but it’s still a valid viewpoint, and even if the evidence suggests he’s wrong…sometimes people need to deceive themselves. But this is probably one of those not-just-about-Gitmo disagreements that speak to larger incompatibilities.

  16. Lemongrass says:

    Seriously, just walk away. You have nothing invested in this guy yet, why start off something that you have issues with in the very beginning? Those are the easy days!

  17. Eh MOA. You’re never going to get along.

    Also, lots of military personnel I know do share a very different story than what the media shares. So it is what it is. You wouldn’t know because you’ve never been there, so honestly, you don’t really know what happens there. So even if you don’t believe him, you can’t really say a whole lot about it (at least to him) because all you know is what the media chooses to show… and I wouldn’t be surprised if he threw the whole “you wouldn’t know” thing in your face.

    That being said, it’s all about what you choose to believe… and if you don’t believe him, well then that’s not a very good start to a relationship, right?

  18. LW, you absolutely must watch this TED talk by a highly acclaimed research psychologist (Philip Zimbardo), which contains a great deal of well-explained, CLEAR insight about what happened at Gitmo, and more importantly, WHY and HOW your guy would think the way he does. Generally speaking I don’t post links unless they are directly relevant, but I’m telling you, this one is well, well worth it. It’s in my top 5 list of TED talk must-sees. Beware, the video shows graphic footage of the prisoner situation there. Zimbardo warns you when it’s coming, so you can look away or fast-forward if you don’t want to see.

    This is good stuff that everyone should understand about what evil is and how it is propagated.

    If for some reason the link doesn’t go through, just search on Youtube for Philip Zimbardo and/or TED talk about the psychology of evil. Zimbardo’s talk is 23 minutes long.

    1. CORRECTION: My bad, the video actually deals with the military prison in Abu Ghraid, not the Gitmo detention center.

      The video explains how the military and the base/prison environment break down a person’s sense of individuality and how the culture makes it so it’s very easy to go along with / perpetrate very evil acts.

    2. 6napkinburger says:

      Grrr…I couldn’t even watch the TED talk b/c I can’t stomach Zimbardo passing himself off as a scientist. His “experiment” was a freaking joke (scientific method-ly speaking). I hope in the 40 years since, he’s done some real experiments that back up his original “findings”, as I think there was merit in the idea, but if he is still just riding the coattails of that experiment, he should be ashamed.

  19. 6napkinburger says:

    While I don’t know much more than the next person on Gitmo, the biggest problem people have with it is that they are detaining people indefinitely without any due process, whereas I think the torture thing was abu grab, or whatever it was called. People protest the fact that these people haven’t had trials (or had “tribunals” which are basically a sham) and will be in jail forever, which is a form of torture, but not I don’t think that “torture” itself — like waterboarding, etc. — is part of the reason why gitmo is such a hotbutton issue (or at least, it was).

    So when he says that they aren’t being tortured and that they are treated like regular prisoners, he’s probably telling the truth. And considering people don’t like being locked up forever without a trial or being found guilty of any particular crime, I wouldn’t doubt that they would lash out violently at the guards — hence the scars. And considering that prisoner abuse would most likely make its way onto the front page of the papers, I’m sure there are strict regulations about how to treat prisoners, hence the seeming imbalance he feels.

    I don’t know if your differences are something that is worth breaking up over, and very smart people have taken on both sides of the debate (you can’t keep people in jail indefinitely without a trial v.ok, but now what should we do with them? send them back (justifiably) hating America more than ever and having spent years forming relationships with other possible terrorists), and the problem is that now there is no easy solution. If you can’t respect his point of view on war/military/justice issues, then move on. But if you can respect them as reasonable, but you just disagree, then you’ll probably be fine.

  20. landygirl says:

    LW, I’m sure there are other men on the planet whose ideals are much more aligned with yours. Go out and find one of them.

  21. Sophronisba says:

    “Dear Wendy,
    I’ve been talking to a girl I like a lot, but she seems to hold me responsible for whatever may or may not have happened at Guantanamo before, during, and after the time I was stationed there. I’m just a grunt who spent long hours in the hot sun standing guard and have no idea what other people were doing with the prisoners, but my buddy told me they get Burger King. We don’t get Burger King. They must have it better than we do. Anyway…”

    1. Chuckle – this will be the next letter written.

    2. The letter write needs to move on already.
      If she actually believes that the guy is delusional about what he did while he was in the service then she has fallen prey to the media machine and is the one who is brain washed.
      She needs to run far away from this man – and I say that because I cannot look at him and scream run.

      We, the general public, will never know exactly what goes on at Gitmo, or any other prison where our military holds war criminals. These are not prisons for the petty dope seller on the corner, the misdemeanor crime in the park – these are prisons for prisoners of war. The due process that everyone is spouting is for citizens arrested by local law enforcement on US soil – not for people captured in a war.

      Pacifists need to get their story straight – you hate military, but are okay with police? Do you watch sports? Football, rugby, soccer – it all gets violent – in fact people have been killed during sporting events. So are you against sporting events?

      See where this line of thinking can take you? It is where it has taken the Letter Writer. Turned into a woman who will believe big, profit making, media services over someone who actually experienced the event.


  22. crazyayeaye says:

    Hey LW,

    Just to throw in my two cents about Gitmo, I knew a couple friends who were stationed there and pretty much had the same story as your boyfriend (believe me, I was pretty shocked when I heard their version as well). However, they are both trustworthy people. Personally, I wouldn’t cast too much doubt on his experiences (after all, he was the one who was actually there), but to echo everyone else, I think you should reconsider whether you would be ok with his former attraction to a non-pacifist career. Does he still hold these values? How does this impact other values such as political beliefs? Will these discrepancies have a large impact on your day-to-day functioning as a couple? I’d sit down with him and have a heart to heart about these issues and, though it’s difficult with these issues at times, try to keep an open mind and decide as a couple if it’s something you two can work through or if your differences are a non-negotiable. Best of luck!

  23. Avatar photo iwannatalktosampson says:

    I think it’s adorable that you don’t believe him and feel the need to educate him about his own experience. That poor kid must have just been so brainwashed! Good thing you know better. Because the media NEVER lies. Never. In fact did you know that Khloe Kardashian isn’t in fact a kardashian? That is a fact. The media never has their own agenda. They never sensationalize anything to sell magazines/papers/stories. These things never happen. You should find someone as (gullible) idealistic as you. You know way more about the military than people who have served. You are doing so much for your causes – you need to find someone equally as willing to believe everything they read.

    1. kerrycontrary says:

      What i’m most bothered by in this letter is that she is saying that he is either a) delusional about his experience there, b) was brainwashed so badly and the government replaced all his memories, or c) a liar. Why wouldn’t your first instinct be to believe him and then look further into things and do some research? You weren’t there, he was. Who has the correct version of events? People need to be a lot more skeptical of the media.

      Oh, and yes you should break up because you have fundamentally different values. Just because someone worked at Gitmo doesn’t make them a torturer. There are plenty of people that work there who could be in a) military intelligence, b) signal (IT), c) COOKING.

    2. Your response made my day 🙂

    3. OK, but has anyone around here heard of skepticism? I know little about Gitmo too but I’d be pretty damn skeptical if a former Navy man was telling me about prisoners eating Pizza Hut.

      The media lies. So do people. Not saying he’s lying, just pointing out that there’s no real logical reason she should believe everything he’s saying, just like there’s no logical reason to believe everything the media says.

      1. Avatar photo bittergaymark says:

        Seriously. Pizza Hut…? In Cuba no less. Sure, right. And I suppose Madonna popped in for a free concert while on her MDNA tour as well.

      2. landygirl says:

        If they want to torture prisoners then giving them Pizza Hut is one way to do it.

    4. I agree that she shouldn’t just assume she knows more than him, but there are a few things that he said that are pretty weird no matter what the facts about torture at Guantanamo really are. First, he’s comparing how the soldiers had it at Gitmo with how the prisoners are treated. That’s inappropriate. The prisoners were taken there forcibly and didn’t get due process (some of them later proven innocent). Even if they had good food and even if they were not tortured they were still treated wrongly – very wrongly. The soldiers may have it rough at Guantanamo but being there is their job. There’s a difference between having it hard and being grievously wronged. Second, he assumes that he knows what went down – that he would know if there had been torture. That assumption is surely naive. Sure, he didn’t see torture – doesn’t mean there wasn’t any though. At least he should state something along the lines of “This is what I saw and it’s different from what was reported in the media” and not “The media reported complete bullshit”. He may have said this in the heat of the moment because he felt attacked by LW, but nevertheless…

      1. Avatar photo iwannatalktosampson says:

        “Second, he assumes that he knows what went down – that he would know if there had been torture. That assumption is surely naive. Sure, he didn’t see torture – doesn’t mean there wasn’t any though. At least he should state something along the lines of “This is what I saw and it’s different from what was reported in the media” and not “The media reported complete bullshit”. ”

        Oh, the irony. I was going to comment on the fact that he could be telling the truth and the media could (at most partially) be telling the truth. Those things are not mutual exclusive. Except that’s not what she did. She immediately jumped to the conclusion that he was lying.

        Suffice it to say she does not sound like someone who is capable of having a rational discussion about this issue. I’m not sure what word I’m looking for because self righteous, know-it-all, the equivalent of feminzi for self righteous causes, and most obnoxious person ever – don’t really explain how I feel about this LW. I can’t find the word. But either way I strongly dislike people like her.

        It’s almost like she doesn’t want to believe him just so that she can carry on getting her panties in a wad. Why listen to truth when you can continue to be absolutely outraged? She might have to change some of her views – and that would just take way too much effort. Instead it’s easiest to assume this poor soldier is lying.

      2. It’s hard to know how exactly their conversation went down, but I didn’t get a strong “naive know-it-all” vibe from the LW, particularly since she says that she knows it’s “easy for her to say what’s right or wrong”.
        My impression is that she was bothered by what he said not necessarily because she believes he lied to her but because some of his statements are straight up weird up no matter what the facts are (the burger king thing, for example). I’m skeptical about media reports, but just as skeptical about people making blanket statements that the media are reporting bullshit when they can’t really know whether that’s the case (his basis for the “no torture” claim is that he didn’t see any abuse in the videos, but it’s likely that that wouldn’t be taped and shown to anyone not directly involved). So there’s something off with his reasoning, even though he may very well be telling the truth about his experience.
        As for whether the LW is self-righteous and idealist in the negative sense, I can’t really tell – but it’s a common assumption non-pacifists make about pacifists, so maybe that’s where you’re coming from? Maybe she IS enjoying being outraged, but I don’t really see any indication of it.

  24. I think you should move on here. You automatically assume that he is glossing things over, or is outright lying to hide the true nature of things. Why can’t HIS experiences be what he said they are? Are you the type to believe the hype you see on specific websites/news outlets to the exclusion of individuals who have actually been there?

    He told you what he saw. What he experienced. You are brushing it off as if he’s being untruthful. Walk away and allow this guy to meet a girl who can accept him and his experiences as fact rather than a government conspiracy. There is no future for you and this soldier. Don’t try to make one. He is not going to be won over into following your beliefs. Not when the truth of what he saw is still clearly imprinted into his mind.

  25. londonlin6 says:

    You should break up with him. So I can date him!

    But seriously, MOA. If you guys even have a different view about the media surrounding the topic, then you need to MOA. The military is part of someone no matter what happens in the future, so you should probably go find someone who is a pacifist, and be with them. The fact that you can’t ask him about what happened in Gitmo (and some times, what they say is a lie, because they can’t say anything or they can get in HUGE trouble) bc you would be “shocked” and “appalled” kind of makes me think you should not talk to anyone who has served. It’s war. People die. Its a fact. Sorry to break it to you.

    1. I’m guessing she knows people die. It’s probably why she’s a pacifist.

  26. The fact that you’re so uncomfortable with this tells me that you should MOA from this guy.

    However, what really stood out to me, LW, is the fact that you don’t once mention anything about who he is outside of being a military man. You don’t talk once about who he is as a person, the whole letter is about Gitmo. Does he treat you well? Do you enjoy being with him? Do you have mutual respect between the two of you? Obviously everyone has their own personal deal breakers, but people can make a relationship work even with differing viewpoints.

    1. Avatar photo iwannatalktosampson says:

      ZOMG but it’s all about Gitmo. This guy is not a person. He’s a vehicle for torture and mass destruction. And we won’t be hearing anything to the contrary! Shenanigans!

  27. Avatar photo Northern Mermaid says:

    LW, I’m also in the MOA camp. Although, I didn’t read you as being as self-righteous as some other people here did. I think his version of the story could certainly be true from his perspective, but I also understand your discomfort. FWIW, during my brief stint in online dating I also avoided men who served in the military. I know that there are lots of reasons to join, and one soldier is not like all of them, but I’ve found that DATING someone in the military is too much of a stretch for me and my personal beliefs. Friends, co-workers, respectful debate partners, all of that I can handle, but not dating.

    I think it’s ok to MOA from someone because you find your values conflicting. It’s true that the major reports of torture came from Abu Ghraib, but I would also find someone who spoke highly and defensively about their time as a guard in a prison where violations of the 4th through 8th amendments difficult to cope with.

  28. Chaotonic says:

    Also there’s a Pizza Hut express, a KFC, an A&W, a sub shop, Taco Bell, Byer’s Ice Cream, and a McDonald’s on base down. There’s an entire Wikipedia article on just the fast food on the base. I’ve never been on a base with a Burger King but McDonald’s is pretty prevalent (Norfolk Naval Base has 3 on it alone). The Wikipedia article also mentions that McDonald’s meals are given to prisoners who have cooperated during interrogations.

    1. LW, move on. If this guy is literally complaining that soldiers at a base had it “worse” than the prisoners who were brought there without due process, there is no possible way his worldview could align with your values. You do not owe this guy a chance just because he might be a good person — there are billions of good people in this world who aren’t compatible with you and he is probably one of them. Plus, I personally think that statement, that prisoners had it better than the soldiers, indicates that he’s either an idiot or, well, NOT a very good person. As someone said above, you can simply tell him he is great but you feel the two of you are too different.

      I’m surprised at the commenters here calling her idealistic as if that’s a bad thing. If being a realist means being OK with torture and believing that human rights only apply to Americans, well I’ll just be over here hanging out with the idealists, I guess.

      1. chaotonic – I didn’t mean to reply to you, sorry! I must’ve clicked in the wrong place. Awesome that you discovered the Burger King thing is at least conditionally true!

      2. Avatar photo bittergaymark says:

        Yeah, frankly, a lot of the comments on this issue here today both surprised and saddened me. It seems that even bitter old me still, somehow, usually gives people far too much credit…

      3. I’ve heard idealists get the MOST bitter as time goes on. Nothing to be bitter about if you have lower expectations, and whatnot.

    2. fallonthecity says:

      Not that it matters in the least re: Gitmo, but the army installation in Huntsville AL has a Burger King.

  29. rightasrain919 says:

    I have relatives who serve, one as active duty Navy and the other as an MP in the National Guard. They have never been given a choice of when or where their service occurs, but I don’t know if this is true for all servicemen and women. I don’t find the good treatment of prisoners your friend reports surprising since Guantanamo has a high profile in American and global media. I imagine Guantanamo is similarly stressful to service on the DMZ for the soldiers and prisoners there, perhaps even more so considering it is situated WITHIN an ‘enemy’ state rather than just adjacent to and many of the prisoners are charged with acts of terrorism against military personnel and civilians. Based on the reaction you report, it sounds like your friend was probably concerned about how you would react to news of his military service (let alone a tour at one of the most well-known detention facilities worldwide) especially if he knew you were a pacifist.

    Considering how different you feel your ideals are compared to his, this issue needs to be discussed. When I read your letter it seemed like a great outline for an conversation with him. Ask your friend if he’d be willing to tell you more about his military service. Perhaps at the end ask how he felt about his time in the military. He might just volunteer the information you seek about his tours as well as his views towards pacifism. If he questions why the topic came up, be honest and explain your views. If he doesn’t understand why the conflict of values might be a problem, then he may not be right for you.

  30. Regarding fast food at Gitmo, a quick Google search yielded this WaPo story:

    Foreign military bases are maybe not quite as spartan as the popular imagination makes them out to be. 😉

    As for the LW, I agree with one of the above comments… that if you already think he’s lying to you about this, there’s really no point in taking this any further. The news has already told you everything you need to know about his man and his life experiences. Go find a nice man who shares your views on things instead.

    1. I grew up on or near military bases and we always had several American fast food joints — Burger King usually being the most popular, followed by Popeyes, and Pizza Hut.

      1. Probably a stupid questoin, but who works at those places? Or are there usually civilian populations at bases? I seriously have no idea

      2. painted_lady says:

        IIRC, they were civilians, but they had to have security clearance. Bases are almost always located near a town.

      3. Thanks for the insight, Wendy! I was a civilian researcher on a domestic military base that had a Burger King, but I didn’t know if it was widespread or if it extended to foreign bases too.

  31. fast eddie says:

    I’m proud of the 8 years I served in the US Air Force (1960-1969) fixing aircraft electronics. My assignments included Viet Nam which convinced me that I wanted to get out and stay out of anything military. At the same time it was the opportunity for training that drew me to it which served me well afterward with Univac at NASA and the electronic industry. In those days military service was not necessarily a matter of choice. Avoiding being drafted was largely luck with few options for deferment. Some legislators want it reinstated today.

    The LW didn’t say out right if he was no longer enlisted. If so the past is past and there is no reason for him to explain or apologize for doing his duty to anybody. If she can’t accept him for who he is including his past then give him a break and get out of his way. I’m a proud veteran and supporter of all service men and women. Go be sanctimonious elsewhere.

    1. tbrucemom says:

      Thank you for your service Fast Eddie. As a Marine mom and ex-wife of a Marine, this letter, and a lot of the comments infuriated me. I think this is my last time reading DW, I am far too old and conservative to read what such ungrateful people actually believe. As far as the LW, MOA you don’t deserve him.

      1. fast eddie says:

        Come on tbrucemom, everybody is entitled to express their opinion. That’s part of why those who serve do so. I came down a bit hard on her but the issue of conflicting ideals is deal breaker that will not go away. For her own sake as well as his, MOA. This relationship can only result in sorrow.

        I thank all of you for the ‘likes’. During the Viet Nam era service personal were very unappreciated. I’m glad that is no longer the attitude of most people.

  32. John Rohan says:

    WOW!!! I never realized DW had so many self-identified pacifists. I am currently in the Army, and that may explain why I’ve received hostile responses on this forum in the past.

    Now, let me make this clear – there is NOTHING wrong with being a pacifist per se, and in fact many military people are pacifists as well. But it also depends on what you mean by that term, because there are many different definitions of “pacifist”, and that topic is so long I can’t go into it right now. But I have a question – do you have the same negative feelings about police? Would you refuse to call the police if you were in trouble? Because at a fundamental level, there really is no difference. Both police and military rely on force to enforce the rule of law or international treaties (yes, they often go outside that mandate, but that’s another subject).

    Now for Gitmo – I have not been there myself, but what he said is consistent with everything I have heard from others who have been there. The prisoners have a gymnasium, go to worship services, etc. Abuses are nearly impossible because there is a PERMANENT Red Cross/Red Crescent group resident there and the media is in and out all the time. This isn’t something recent under Obama, it’s been that way for many years. I strongly advise you to read qualified sources and not get your information from websites like Alternet or

    As far as the relationship goes, who cares about this issue? Really. I swear the M-O-A keys on the keyboards of most people in this forum must be well worn down by now! But I say if you like him, go for it. Politics shouldn’t prevent you from finding someone you are happy with. Yes, you are different, but sometimes vive la difference. I think it would be extremely boring if I dated/married someone who shared my views on every issue. If you cut out everyone in your life that doesn’t share your political views, all you do is insulate yourself, and there’s little opportunity to expand your mind.

    1. (a) It’s possible to disagree with war, or with a particular war, without disliking individual military members personally. I support the individuals without always being thrilled with how the government chooses to utilize them–in fact, I think thinking critically about how to use force is necessary to supporting the individuals. My support of the troops extends to not wanting to see them harmed in a cause I think is wrong or mistaken.

      (b) Who even knew you were in the Army? I sure didn’t. I often disagree with you when you post, but it has nothing to do with the Army. You’re usually talking about something unrelated to the Army and I’m disagreeing with you for reasons that are also unrelated to the Army.

      1. Avatar photo GatorGirl says:

        I completely agree with everything you’ve said. I identify as being a pacifist but do not have an issue with individuals who chose to join the military. I also do not have an issue with police- they do not exsit to create violence, rather to prevent it and keep peace.

        I usually disagree with you John, because we have different world views. Not because you are in the Army. I could careless what you do for a job when I respond to your posts.

      2. John Rohan says:

        I mentioned it a couple times. At least once, someone here made a nasty comment accusing me of being the type of guy who probably sits behind a desk and puts other people at risk (not me, and I have the photos to prove it).

    2. Trixy Minx says:

      Preach it, Rohan!

      1. This is completely off topic but I always read his last name as Ronan and now every time I see it all I will think about is Lord of the Rings.

      2. Avatar photo theattack says:

        I think it’s Rohan in LOTR, not Ronan, so his name IS LOTR-related as-is. Good call! The Riders of Rohan!

      3. haha yeah I thought it was Ronan before so I never made the connection, no idea why I didn’t notice it was an h and not an n!

      4. Avatar photo theattack says:

        Ohhhhhhh I get it. Sorry I misread your comment. That’s awesome that his name is LOTR. I’ve always been a big Rohan fan, especially after watching King Theodon basically come back to life. They’re my favorite group of men in Middlearth for sure!

      5. John Rohan says:

        Lol, thanks! But didn’t you say earlier that you “weren’t a fan of fighting and the violent culture”? The Riders of Rohan definitely embraced that culture… kind of a contradiction there!

      6. Avatar photo theattack says:

        Fantasy vs. real life, John. Nice try though. And anyway, in LOTR Theoden didn’t order the Riders out until they had to in order to defend their own people (and later the people of Minas Tirith). Theoden was hesitant to do so even after he was brought out of his stupor. Big difference between defense and offense, IMO.

    3. fast eddie says:

      You pointed out some really good points John, especially that there will be differences in any sort of relationship. What I read into her letter is that she’s ashamed of what he did in the service. He has no reason to be so and may have not wished his assignment to be what it was. You and I know that service members have no choices whatever in assignments. They say go do this or go there you can only comply. The LW is in my opinion naive and by her own definition idealistic. To continue their relationship will only delay the sorrow that’s inevitable.

  33. This is obviously a culture gap showing here, but I just simply dont understand the disconnect between people not liking the realities of war (death, destruction of culture) and supporting military personnel.
    Is it that there are so many jobs in the military that many are just not about basic fighting (which is what I imagine when I talk about the military, btw. I see people in that camo print and I freak out because I dont know what all the bulges and pockets are for.)
    I am a pacifist because I truly believe that physical violence is never the correct course of action. I dont agree that people have to fight for this right. I think that wars are almost always fought for other reasons, and the ‘noble’ ‘glorified’ reasons are thought up later. I dont respect people who ‘fight for their country’ even less if they joined the army out of necessity. And before anyone says anything, I know this is a cultural thing. I respect politicians, who use their words to create better societies and I know I am often in the minority for this!
    What sort of society is set up so people HAVE to fight and risk their lives in order to put food on their tables for their families?
    I fully understand the instincts of the LW and would be exactly the same. Its as simple as sharing a belief system, which is important to you. I concur.

    1. John Rohan says:

      I think there’s a “disconnect” because while most people abhor war, they recognize that there are legitimate situations when a nation is allowed to defend itself, or take action against someone else that is about to do them harm. I would ask you the same thing I asked above, just out of curiousity, do you also object to police, security guards, or prison guards as well? I’m pretty confident you would call the police any time you felt threatened, even though the basic principles are exactly the same. It’s curious to me how some people’s pacifism is focused on military only, and they don’t feel the same about other uses of violence to defend others or enforce the peace.

      But to answer your question, a great many military specialtiesdon’t involve combat. In fact, MOST don’t involve combat. The military is divided into combat and combat support specialties. The latter include everything from medical personnel, to mechanics, to cooks, to chaplains, to name a few. On a rough estimate off the top of my head, I would guess that about 50% of Army personnel never even left their bases in Iraq or Afghanistan, and of those that did, only about 50% of those saw any combat whatsoever. And if you are talking about Air Force or Navy, the numbers who actually went outside the fence or saw combat are much more miniscule.

      Lunch over – have to go now…

      1. Police officers don’t storm into situations and shoot guns wildly. At least, they sure as hell aren’t supposed to! They have authority because we choose to recognise it, and the justice system backs this up. People go to jail, they dont get smacked about for committing crimes (of course, in theory, and in the countries I’ve lived in.)(And it is sort of besides the point that often police officers use unsanctioned violence. I’m talking about the role they occupy, not their individual actions.)

      2. ele4phant says:

        Um theoretically neither are service members. There is a code of conduct for the military just as in police forces. Unfortunately in both it is sometimes it is ignored, bent, and repercussions for breaking it sometimes minimized. Neither force is free from the issues you mentioned.

      3. When you draw a distinction between idealized use of police force vs abuse of police force, I think it’s important to realize that there’s also an idealized use of military force and an abuse of military force. I think contrasting the idealized use of one vs the misuse of the other is fundamentally flawed. Police storm into the wrong home at times and shoot homeowners who are mistaken for other people. Police freak out and shoot the person they intended to arrest if the person makes an unexpected move (or sometimes even if they don’t). Police abuse their power, police make mistakes, police overreach.

        It’s the same with the military – there are rules to war, and there are times when individuals act against those rules or politicians overrule those rules, leading to abuse of power. It should not be forgotten that the military is a tool of the politicians, who you’ve characterized as using their words. Their words are a tool, but the words are backed up by a military. The military is commanded by people we’ve voted into office. Admiring the politicians while despising the military isn’t honestly possible, I think, in any country that uses their military as a diplomatic avenue.

        Tl;dr, the military also has authority because we choose to recognize it, and it also has rules that govern its conduct. There is very little distinction to be made between the military and the police in those two regards.

    2. ele4phant says:

      That’s an interesting question – how to respect people who volunteer for something you find inherently immoral? Frankly I used to share your opinion – although I never thought about it critically until my little brother joined the army.

      Here’s how I’ve come to see it – while I think war and use of force is generally always wrong the act of putting oneself’s personal safety and very life on the line for others is incredibly admirable. You don’t have to agree with the way it expressed, but the sentiment is completely selfless. Would I have preferred my brother to join the peace corps or something similar to express that selflessness? Yes of course. But none the less I admire his convictions. It’s not something I could do, not even in the peace corps scenario.

    3. Avatar photo Chaotonic says:


      I’ve been in the Navy almost 7 years, here’s a list of what the bulges in camo pockets usually are.

      1) A candy bar, they’re the perfect size snack that fits snuggly in the pocket by my knees, close enough to be reached, but not be melted or squished when I move or sit down.
      2) Cigarettes. We used to fold them into our coveralls but once the camo’s came out we just shoved them into our arm pockets.
      3) A can or bottle drink. When I need my hands free for something my pockets are big enough to hold either a can of Coca Cola or a 20 ounce bottle of Cola.
      4) A can of dip.
      5) Various snacks, just in case you miss breakfast, lunch, and /or dinner. A hungry sailor has to eat, ya know?
      6) A pocket knife, whether it’s a swiss or a gerber almost all of us carry one just because they are handy as hell for odd work related needs.
      7) Paper work. I can’t tell you how much rolled up paper work I can shove into my leg pockets so I don’t lose them throughout the day.
      8) My cell phone, iPod, mini-iPad, hell I’ve even managed to wrangle in my kindle fire once or twice.

      You know what’s not in those pockets?

      Guns. Do you know how dangerous that would be to the service member? Pepper spray, yes. Guns, grenades, machetes, and bazookas, no.

      The only downside with having all those pockets and squirreling away my stuff is when I can’t find my ID card. There’s literally 10 pockets with four of them being super deep and stretchy that could have swallowed my ID card. And that’s 10 minutes of searching pockets that I’ll never get back.

  34. Not sure if anyone posted this already, it’s very common to get American fast food on bases. Not always, and they may install / take out the service based on what’s happening at that particular base. BUT, pizza hut, BK, orange Julius, etc. have most definitely been available on military bases overseas.

  35. You clearly like this guy, and enjoy spending time with him, but if you feel like his military service is something that will always bother you, it’s better to break things off with him now before the relationship gets serious.

    You deserve to feel comfortable with the person you’re dating – and so does he! Think about it: will you be happy if you spend half your time wondering about what he did while he was serving, and on the flip side, would he be okay with a relationship where his past is under constant scrutiny? The question to both answers is probably no, so move on before anyone’s feelings get hurt.

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