02 Jul 2011

Guest Post: My Time in the US Navy: “Service” to Whom?

All Posts, Foreign Policy 74 Comments

Editor’s note: In the comments of some blog posts here at Free Advice, Joseph Fetz alluded to his experiences in the U.S. military and his discovery of Austrian and libertarian ideas. I asked him to write up his thoughts more concretely, which he has done below. –RPM

My Time in the US Navy: “Service” to Whom?
by Joseph Fetz

“All warfare is based on deception,” — Sun Tzu

“Enemies are necessary for the wheels of the U.S. military machine to turn.” — John Stockwell

“If some peoples pretend that history or geography gives them the right to subjugate other races, nations, or peoples, there can be no peace.” — Ludwig von Mises

I never in my life would have thought that I would I enlist in the military. Sure, there are a great many reasons that people do enlist, some want money for college, others want a change of pace, yet others had dreamed of it since they were a kid. None of these reasons explains why I joined. In many ways it would dictate my fate.

I grew up in a middle-class Ohio town, went to college for a year, quickly realized that it just wasn’t for me, and began working for a records management service as a delivery/pickup driver pulling in about $27,000 a year. Sure, that isn’t much to some people, but it was pretty good back then for a 21-year-old with no education. I certainly didn’t love my job, but it paid the bills.

On September 11, 2001 all of that changed. I remember where I was when the planes hit, and I remember seeing those scenes of the towers falling, crying and hugging complete strangers in order to console each other in the devastation and horror that that event brought with it. It was at this time that I began talking to a Marine recruiter, but I had not yet made a commitment. When I lost my job that following January, I no longer had anything to prevent my choice. I called my father and told him about my plans. He agreed that it would probably be a good thing, but he had warned against joining the Marines, instead recommending that I join the Navy. That is just what I did.

Off to Bootcamp

I left for Navy Bootcamp in the afternoon of February 26, 2002 and arrived at Great Lakes Recruit Training Center later on that night. There is no describing how much of a change of pace one experiences in bootcamp, and there really is no amount of preparation to really make you ready for it. While it is indeed physically demanding for many, the bulk of bootcamp is entirely mental, it is their job to “train the individual out of you” and to prepare you for service with your Navy’s combat team, to follow orders without hesitation, and to put the needs of your nation ahead of any notion of self. In short, it is eight weeks of brainwashing and it is quite effective.

After I graduated from Great Lakes RTC I immediately flew to San Diego, California to learn my job as a Sonar Technician at Fleet Anti-Submarine Warfare Training Center (FLEASWTRACEN). While the daily routine is not as strict as that found in bootcamp, the daily life at a military training center is certainly very strict by any civilian standard. Most of your day is planned out for you and the training schedule is one of the most mentally challenging that the Navy offers for an enlisted rating. To put it another way, those that washout of the Navy’s ‘Nuclear Power Field’ tend to be put into the next most challenging field, the Navy Sonar program.

I did very well while at FLEASWTRACEN, and was first in my class in my “A” School. Being the “honor-man,” I was given the choice of either a meritorious advancement to E3, or an opportunity to sign on for the Navy’s ‘Advanced Electronics Field.” I got both thanks to a First Class Petty Officer who saw my potential.

I was once again first in my class in my ‘Sonar Operations’ course, and received the ‘Admiral Sides Award’ for academic excellence. I came in second place in the ‘Digital Electronics Training’ part of my training pipeline, narrowly getting beat out by a former NUC program student and electrical engineer; he and I were always running neck and neck in our courses up to this point, but we had to split ways in our training pipeline after this class. I went on to Towed Array Sonar AN/SQR-19/OBT/LAMPS Mk III training, and he went onto Mk-116 Fire Control training.

In the final leg of my sonar training pipeline I choked on my first test of this ten-month course, leaving the two top spots to a former Naval Veteran (who reenlisted) and a computer scientist; I was in last place. Throughout those ten months I went from 14th place to 3rd place, thus allowing me to have 3rd choice of available orders. Since I loved San Diego, I chose orders to the USS John Paul Jones DDG-53 stationed in San Diego. By all measures and accounts I was one well squared-away sailor, and I was ready to go to the fleet.

To The Fleet

I arrived for duty on the USS John Paul Jones in August of 2003 as an E4 and attended further tactical oceanography and system-level training with my newly acquired shipmates. Though I was new, it became apparent that I was quite good at my job and that I was surrounded by some truly outstanding sailors, so much so that we had in fact come in second place to the prior best score in that training scenario. Not only that, but I was getting along quite well with the men in my division, and it seemed that everything was coming into place.

My ship’s crew was to go on deployment in October of 2003, but this was not to be any normal deployment, rather we were to be a part of an experimental program called “SeaSwap.” In this program there were three ships and their respective crews, the USS Higgins, the USS Benfold, and my ship, the USS John Paul Jones. The idea is that the USS Higgins would sail to the Persian Gulf, and instead of another ship taking the journey across the Pacific to relieve it, that the crews would merely be swapped. The crew of the USS John Paul Jones was to be the third and last crew to take over the reins of the USS Higgins, and after that deployment was over, the USS Higgins would become our ship and we would sail it home.

Seeing that we were going to be leaving our ship the USS JPJ to another crew, it was extremely important that we gave them a fantastic ship to work with. We repainted the entire interior/exterior, we ensured that all systems were fully operational, and we compiled turnover logs of any information that we could think of to better prepare the Higgins crew of the subtleties of the John Paul Jones systems. We left nothing out, and did our best to ensure an effortless transition. During all of this hubbub, I also found time to study for my advancement exam for E5. Not only was I painting, doing maintenance, and coordinating with a small contingent of the Higgins turnover crew during the day, but I was spending my nights digging through the classified “Secret” safe in order to be better prepared for the exam. I took the exam in September, just a few weeks before we were to take a 24-hour flight to Dubai to take the USS Higgins as our ship.

Anchors Away

We arrived in Dubai, UAE in October of 2003 and sat along the luggage turnstiles to pick up our belongings. All of the other travelers’ luggage in the airport consisted of a few grocery bags tied together with some string or twine and were marked with permanent marker, then came our big green “seabags” rolling on the conveyor; I can only imagine how those people felt.

We were to stay in five-star resort hotels while the USS JPJ crew did their turnover with the USS Higgins crew, but some confusion came as a young Seaman decided to hang himself in the Aft-IC space. We were all told that he did it because he didn’t want to leave “his” ship, but I knew better than that, this explanation stunk of propaganda. Our turnover only ended up lasting half the time that we were told, and we ultimately took responsibility of the USS Higgins with only a small fraction of the information needed to be up to speed, and we were “underway” with almost no knowledge of the status of the shipboard systems. All in all, our turnover was entirely cut in half, and the information needed was nil, we were on our own.

Our first tactical mission was to sail out of the Persian Gulf (or, the Arabian Gulf as the Navy fittingly likes to call it) and guard the mouth of the Straits of Hormuz and monitor all entering/exiting ship traffic. As soon as we got underway, each and every one of us was on a ship that was entirely foreign to us, one that we had no intimate familiarity with, and one that was so disheveled that it is amazing that we were able to get it up and running. We were now the crew of this ship that was ridden hard and cast aside like an old pair of underwear, but she was now our home.

Haze Grey and Underway

Once we got underway it soon became apparent that all of our combat systems had major casualties which required the flying in of equipment and civilian contractors to repair (my equipment wouldn’t be 100% until ten months later), and that we were extremely unprepared to defend ourselves against any comparable foe; the ship even had a huge dent in its hull caused by a supposed “rogue wave.” We transited the Straits of Hormuz with the only primary defense being our .50 caliber machines guns mounted on the fore and aft. This is quite a scary scenario when you are being told that you will be traveling in an Iranian missile envelope while you are so close to Iran’s shores that you can literally see the buildings and people with a pair of binoculars.

Our primary mission at this early stage of the deployment was to board and inspect all ships coming in and out of the Persian Gulf. This is done using VBSS (vessel board search and seizure) teams who use a RHIB (rigid-hulled inflatable boat) to pull alongside a vessel and board it. We had four teams on our ship, and these teams were in operation 24 hours a day, and would perform this duty throughout the entire length of our time in the Persian Gulf.

It really is quite odd that the United States does not see the complete disregard for property and feel that they can board any boat or ship in international waters, take control of the vessel, search through all of its contents, and seize any property that they deem “contraband,” but every destroyer and cruiser of the US Navy does this on a regular basis. Our ship even ran into some trouble during that deployment and caused an international incident when two of my shipmates decided to steal jewelry, electronics, and other personal effects from the sailors of a Philippine merchant vessel. While this is most certainly a horrible crime, how is this any worse than taking control of a man’s vessel and holding his crew hostage while you rifle through everything on-board?

After a few weeks of guarding the Straits of Hormuz and delaying shipping traffic to one of the world’s busiest waterways, we were relieved by another ship. Our next duty was to guard the Iraqi oil terminal called ABOT (Al Basrah Oil Terminal).

We were all told that the purpose of our mission was to prevent “terrorists” from destroying ABOT and disrupting the flow of oil, the oil that was supposedly meant to help rebuild Iraq and keep the Iraqi people sustained through the war. Hmm, I wonder why the “terrorists” might want to destroy their own oil terminal. Only later did I find out that Iraq had no control over the oil flow, did not receive all of the income from the sale of this oil, and that the flow of this oil was brokered between the US and other nations such as Russia. So, in hindsight it is no surprise that as I sat there on my .50 caliber machine gun mount, I saw that every single ship that pulled alongside ABOT to fill their storage holds had US, Japanese, Australian, and Russian flags on their masts. When people say that “Iraq was all about oil,” this scene that I witnessed everyday for three months only lends support to that claim, as does the fact that billions of the dollars that were transacted cannot be accounted for.

There was also something very peculiar happening to the sailors on my ship: They were beginning to refer to the Arabs as “Hadjis,” a derogatory word very reminiscent of those used in the wars of the past. It seemed that the mission to ensure Iraqi freedom was being confused in the minds of the military, that any and all people in this area are “Hadjis” and are thus the enemy. We would watch footage of bombs and missiles destroying Iraqi targets, and everybody would clap and cheer without regard to who was actually being killed. You could show them footage of an elementary school blowing up, and they would still hoot and holler that they “f**ked them ragheads up,” or that “those Hadjis don’t know who they’re f**king with.” Never mind that the people dying often had no ill-intent toward us, they were now all the same, they were now less than human.

This deployment will be forever etched into my mind as one of the hardest things that I have ever had to do in my life. With the equipment casualties, the six-month backlog of maintenance, standing .50 cal watch every ten hours, and the fact that some people in my division were being taken for other duties, most of us were averaging only 2-3 hours of sleep per night for four months straight, only catching up when pulling into Bahrain or the UAE every couple of weeks. The only good thing that I had to take from this deployment is that I had made E5 in only one year and ten months from my time of enlistment, something that usually takes 4-6 years, but there wasn’t much to celebrate. When we finally left 5th Fleet, we all gave a deep sigh of relief as we spent some much-needed liberty in Fiji and Australia on our way back to California.

Back Home

We got back to San Diego in April of 2004 and all of us were looking forward to spending two weeks of leave with our family and friends. We had just spent 6 months on one of the roughest deployments that anybody could remember. While this my first deployment, even the old salts were saying that they couldn’t remember a deployment being this difficult and arduous. So, it was like a slap in the face when our Captain declared SeaSwap to be a gleaming success. It seems that he was only speaking in terms of money, because when it came to morale and operational readiness, this deployment was an abject failure. Guys who were “short” couldn’t wait to get the hell out, guys that were “long” were beginning to question just what in the hell they had gotten themselves into, and those that had spent many years in Naval service were beginning to question whether putting in their twenty years was worth the retirement. This crew was broken down and weary, they had all lost a bit of their heart for the Navy.

For me, probably the worst thing was the fact that we were coming home to an entirely changed America. We had spent that six months being almost entirely shielded from the outside world, with only our Chain of Command and the Armed Forces Network to supply us with information. When we got home people were talking about the lack of WMD evidence, that the intelligence was wrong, and that our leaders just may have lied us into a war with Iraq. While I had never supported the idea of pre-emptive war, this was only putting the icing on the cake. Also, documents starting coming to light that the plan for regime change in Iraq was already put together as early as 1998, and that many of those in the White House’s administration were part of those plans. Further, it was becoming abundantly clear that getting Osama Bin Laden, the guy that many of us had joined the military to help capture, was no longer a top priority.

We also came home from that deployment to find that the government, and most especially the executive branch, was beginning to wield more and more power. I could not tell you how deeply troubling it is to learn that while you are “fighting for American freedom” that those freedoms are becoming fewer and fewer. We all took the oath to support and defend the Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic, only to find that those who are giving you those orders are disregarding entire portions of that document and calling is “just a piece of paper”; this represents quite a problem. Just what exactly was this whole thing all about?

Dead Stick

I remember that when we would pull into port in Bahrain, Jebel Ali, or spend time in Dubai, it was my habit of talking to the local people. Shoot, I even read the Qur’an in order to better understand the Muslim religion (I am an atheist). I would often get into discussions to more fully understand the Arab people, as well as the Muslim faith. In these talks, the subject of the conflict between Americans and Arabs would often arise, and I was very interested in its cause. It came as quite a surprise to me that this history goes back about sixty years to the forming of the State of Israel. The Arabs see Israel as illegitimate, because it was formed by annexing the Palestinian lands for a Zionist State. I can understand the anger of Palestinians. But, that still did not explain the “Jihad” against America from the Arab community. What I did not know is that America was part of the forming of Israel, and that America continues to support the Israeli State through arms, material, and financial support. The picture was beginning to become a little clearer.

In my talks with the Arab peoples and my study of history it became clear that America has been imposing its will upon the people of the Middle East for a long time, has been propping up tyrannical dictators, and has more or less been stirring up a rage amongst the Muslim peoples. It is no wonder that they refer to us as “the Crusaders,” because from their point of view that is exactly what it appears to be; a crusade. Even the fatwas of Osama Bin Laden explains this quite clearly, they don’t hate us for no reason, they hate us because we have been THERE, and we have made their lives a living hell. Every time their overlords gain more power, it is done with the blessing of the United States and its dollars. Every time a bomb drops or a bullet flies, it has “made in the USA” stamped on it. The Arab people only want what everybody else in this world wants, to live a prosperous life, to raise their children, and to enjoy their time here on this earth. Coming to the realization that you are part of the reason that they cannot do that, or that you are enabling the murder of innocent people, is one of the most horrible things that one could ever come to understand.

It is one thing to come to these realizations while being an American civilian, it is quite another to do so when you are a Second Class Petty Officer in the United States Navy. The military is not like any other job in the world, you can’t just quit without some real consequences. The military always tells you that if you get kicked out that you will never be able to get a job (e.g. “you won’t even be able to work at McDonald’s”), that you will never be able to own a home, that your family will forever be disappointed in you, or that you will regret it for the rest of your life; there is a lot of pressure to stay in. But, a person has to have a conscience about what he’s doing, and to believe that what he’s doing is right. I began to lose that belief in late 2004 and decided to go UA (unauthorized absence). But, as I drove eastward toward my hometown, the words of warning that the military gave me began to fester in my brain and I turned back. I went before the Captain where he punished me with restriction to the ship and extra duty, but the realization that what America was doing is wrong never left my mind.

I was not the only Sailor on my ship that felt that maybe we were on the wrong side of things, many were beginning to see the light but could not voice their opinion. People handle stress in many different ways, and the way I handled it was by questioning every single thing in an outspoken way and refusing certain orders. My immediate Chain of Command understood that I was having a conflict of conscience, so they would often insulate me from the higher ups. Trust me, it is a very odd thing for your superiors to take that kind of action, and probably the only reason that they did so was because they liked me, that I was good at my job, and that they had some of the same problems with the state of things as I did. Unfortunately, when you’re on 500 feet of steel floating in the ocean, you can only hide for so long, and during my second deployment I once again had to face the Captain and take my punishment of more restriction and extra duty. This time, however, the “old man” also restricted my liberty. I was told that if I went in front of the Captain again that I would be kicked out of the Navy. When we got back from my second deployment, the conflict in my mind came to a head, and I finally decided that I was not going to follow any orders. We were doing a weapons offload in Seal Beach when I decided that I was going to go out and have fun some with friends, come in late, and then sleep the day away. That is exactly what I did, and the very next day I was told that I was no longer needed by the Navy. A few weeks later in April of 2006 I was demoted to E4 and was separated from the Navy with a ‘General (Under Honorable Conditions)’ discharge. I was free.

Of Liberty and Peace

Shortly after I was discharged from the Navy I soon learned that everything that they told me was a lie. There were no limits to my employment, and in fact my time in the military only served to increase my job prospects even with a General discharge; employers can’t care less what it says on your discharge papers. There are no limits to my getting credit, and if fact, I am still a veteran and am eligible for the VA Loan, as well as all veterans benefits. As far as the opinions of my friends and family, they were all extremely happy that I was out, because they also believed that what we are doing is wrong. I cannot tell you how happy it made me that when I told my father the full story, that I stood with my conscience, that he turned to me and told me, “I have never been more proud to call you my son.” My father is not a man to hand out compliments, so to have him say this to me is one of my happiest memories in life.

About a year after my discharge the presidential campaigns began to get into swing. Never before had I paid any attention to political candidates or their platforms, but this time I was all ears and one candidate immediately caught my attention—this candidate was Ron Paul. Everything this man was saying made complete sense to me and I knew that he was correct about our foreign policy. But, what also caught my attention was the fact that the man did not care if other people agreed with him, he stood with his conscience and principles, and that was all there was to it. He was talking about liberty, he was talking about blowback from our foreign policy, and he was talking about the Constitution and the rule of law. It is no surprise that he got more support from veterans and active duty military than all of the other candidates combined, because he was saying the same thing that they knew to be right and just. He always maintained that he never had any real hopes of winning, that he was merely trying to spread ideas and stand on principle. I don’t know if he will ever know how successful his campaign really was, how many people he influenced and how he began a movement that may just be an historic event in American history. One thing that I will always remember him for is the fact that he introduced me to libertarianism and Austrian theory.

I began to read the articles on LewRockwell.com and Mises.org, I began to buy books written by Mises, Rothbard, Hayek, Menger, Hoppe, Hazlitt, etc, and I began to come to a fuller understanding of the world around me as I never had before. There simply is nothing like having all of the questions that you have been asking yourself being answered and explained to you in such a logical way. Aside from studying economics and political philosophy, I began to study history and began to see that what we are experiencing today is inherent to the State, that it is not something new or unknown, that the State acts in the interests of those who control it and will lie, and will even kill, to get what it wants. I also learned that the business cycle is not something inherent to a capitalist economy, but is rather caused by the effects of inflation and artificially low interest rates on the capital structure. Even the simple libertarian principles of private property and non-aggression show how certain actions of the State cause disruptions in both the economy, as well as society. I could now see how collectivist ideas could result in the nationalism that brought us into war, the racism that pits group against group, and the false worship of the state apparatus. Simply put, finding libertarian philosophy and Austrian theory was probably the biggest “aha” moment in my entire life, and I owe a great deal of gratitude to one lone Congressman from Texas for introducing it to me. I just wish that other Americans and I didn’t have to pay such a hefty price to find it.

The Battle Begins

Today we are mired in probably the worst economic depression that the world has ever faced (it is not over) and we are war-weary after having been the occupiers of two nations for the past 10 years. The time for the American people to come to grips with reality and realize that there is a better way is now upon us. As more and more people see our accelerating imperialist policies spreading to nations like Pakistan, Yemen, Libya and beyond, the more these people will open their eyes and minds to a policy of liberty and freedom. However, this realization does not come without its hardships. As things progressively worsen and people question their government’s actions more and more, and assert their power as the people of America, then the more that the government will clamp down on its citizens. We are seeing this already when we go to the airport, when we watch the videos of police brutality, when we see our natural rights being stripped away, and as “we the people” become the target of the “war on terror.” If anybody thinks for a single moment that the horrendous actions of governments in places like Bahrain could never happen here, then you are completely ignoring the history of governments throughout all time: governments have only one goal, to increase and retain their power over the people. Once they start to lose that power the people become the enemy.

I look back on my time in the Navy and ask myself, “What was it all for?” Today, veterans are the number one target for possible “domestic terrorism” while at the same time being praised as “heroes” by those looking to further their own political career. Many of these veterans will have to deal with nightmares and mental disorders for the rest of their lives, while still others are missing limbs or are living on the streets, all due to the self-interest of those who control the levers of power in Washington. Meanwhile, there is no shortage of “new meat” to be pushed through the military system because of our wrecked economy. Do these kids know what they are getting themselves into? No, they don’t. Will they come to learn that they are being used for the benefit of a few? Maybe a few will.

The only benefit that I can find from my military service is that it made me open my eyes to the real world around me. It showed me that we are all looked upon as pawns to further the interests of our overlords, that there is no limit to the lies and distortions that they will create in order to benefit themselves, and that they will pit the pawns against each other to further those aims. It’s funny, when people find out that I am a US Navy veteran, they often say to me, “Thank you for your service.” My reply is always, “service to whom?” Some people give me an odd look when I say that, but more often, many people are today beginning to understand exactly what I mean. This gives me hope.

74 Responses to “Guest Post: My Time in the US Navy: “Service” to Whom?”

  1. James E. Miller says:

    Wow, this was fantastic. Thank you for sharing Joseph.

  2. Jonathan M. F. Catalán says:

    Great story! It’s more honorable than my own time in the infantry.

  3. Mattheus von Guttenberg says:

    Wonderful story, thanks a lot.

  4. Robert says:

    What a true hero you are. Thank you so much for your courage and for sharing your story with us.

  5. Fred says:

    You have two things that are incompatible with the Military; a conscience and a brain.

  6. David Morse says:

    You are more courageous than I am. I was on my ship’s VBSS team and I also found it presumptuous that we would board fishing dhows and rifle through their things. It frightened me how my team mates would “wish one of them would act up” so he could shoot him. How those “Hadjis” in Iraq attacked us on 9/11 abd this is their payback. How I was called unpatriotic when I would point out their error. Moreover, we’re putting more and more kids thru the military grinder, who will see things that they must rationalize in order to be sane, which will result in them (many of them) deciding that we are good and they are bad and they will vote for the Hawks. I’m glad I discovered libertarianism but the certainty I have about the correctness of the philosophy makes me very pessimistic for America. Ignorance certainly is bliss.

  7. Carl Herman says:

    Nice, Joseph. Keep moving forward. The wars are Orwellian unlawful. I explain and document here: http://www.examiner.com/nonpartisan-in-national/2011-independence-day-declare-emperor-s-no-clothes-facts-of-us-tyranny-today

    Your Oath of Enlistment to support and defend the US Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic, demand US military refuse all orders with these unlawful wars.

    It takes about an hour to read war law, compare with the US government accepted facts, and see these wars are as close to lawful as a baseball pitch ten feet over everyone’s head is close to a strike.

  8. M. Rocknest says:

    Quite simply THANK YOU and I wish every potential recruit into the military could read this.

  9. RJ O'Guillory says:

    ….for kids with no future, no school, job, or role model, the military can be a focusing and productive period in life for such a young man or woman. However, for someone who has found, or will be finding their soul, their nature and their life’s meaning,… these kids will see the military for what it is very quickly.

    Actually, if there is no war or conflict, if you are not an infantry soldier, being in the military gives you the chance to see things, experience places and people you would never get to see otherwise. Unfortunately, when you mix the competitive american nature and the hil-billy-video-game element, you can get some really bad examples of american soldiers….I worked for DoD in multiple countries as a civillian, so I’ve seen a lot of the abuse..

    …the author does not seem to be one of those…


    RJ O’Guillory

    • Joseph Fetz says:

      When I was discharged I got many calls from the “headhunters” of the military industrial complex, many offering quite substantial salary and benefits packages. I turned them all down.

      I work in the demolition and environmental remediation industry today and there are quite a lot of those people that you speak of. They’ve never actually met the people that they hate, they have never been anywhere but their hometown, and they do not even have the slightest clue about the intricacies of the foreign policy situation or political philosophy. I honestly had a young man that I work with, who after finding out that I am a vet, told me that he has been thinking of joining the military so that he can “blow away some ragheads”.

      Society is very much like a feedback loop, that what gets disseminated is often reestablished amongst the population (or, vice versa), and is then fed back into the system, thus perpetuating a certain belief and ideology about the reality of our surroundings. This loop has had a small breakdown in its operation, but it is still there. My goal in life is to get people to think logically and make certain associations about the world around them, and to ultimately recognize that a great portion of what they see as reality is manufactured through this “loop”.

      I tend to think that human knowledge and consciousness is a combination of both a tabla rasa and environmental affects (as well as individual cognitive abilities). While there are certain innate characteristics that are innate to humans and the societies that we create, there is also a great environmental influence that cannot be ignored. Only the use of logical reason can change these latter influence.

      • Joseph Fetz says:

        Typo, it should be “tabula rasa”.

  10. Joseph Fetz says:

    Thanks guys. I am not much of a writer, but I figured that I would give it a try. Obviously, there is a lot more that could have been said, but I didn’t want to end up writing a novel. Just to clear up any confusion that may arise, when I said that “the old man also restricted my liberty”, I was referring to shore leave. In the Navy, anytime you are allowed to leave the confines of the ship it is referred to as “liberty”. “Liberty” is not to be confused with “leave”, nor is it to be confused with “restriction”. Let me clear up these terms…

    Liberty is any period away from the ship for 90 hours or less. If your liberty is restricted, then you are typically allowed to leave the ship during certain hours, and must return by a specified time, usually midnight (Cinderella hours).
    Leave is any period away from the ship that exceeds 90 days, and is usually taken in weeklong blocks. In the military you earn 30 days of leave per year, and must request leave for any specified time period away from the ship. All days of leave are subtracted from your accrued leave balance.
    “Restriction” is a punishment laid out by the Captain of a ship, and it essentially means that you cannot leave the ship at all for a specified period of time (45 day maximum). While liberty can be restricted, it is not the same as “Restriction”. “Restriction” to the ship can only be handed down through what is called the ‘Non-Judicial Punishment’ (AKA NJP, Captain’s Mast, or Article 15 of the UCMJ), and is similar to being grounded when you were a kid.

    When one goes to Captain’s Mast (I went 3 times) the Captain is limited to these punishments:
    -45 days of restriction
    -45 days of extra duties
    -A fine of half a months pay for two months
    -Confinement (solitary), diminished rations, and/or of rations of bread and water (only applicable to E3 and below), and can be levied for up to 15 days.
    -Separation from enlistment

    The restriction of liberty, as well as other punishments, can be handed out at the Captain’s discretion without Captain’s Mast.

    • Joseph Fetz says:

      Oops, I forgot, another punishment that the Captain can hand out at Captain’s Mast is reduction in pay grade (rank). I went to “Mast” 3 times, the first two I was given “restriction” and “extra duty”, though my liberty was restricted on my second trip to Captain’s Mast. My third and last Captain’s Mast I was given restriction, extra duty, and a reduction in pay grade, as well as separated from my enlistment. However, during this last period of “restriction”, I was sent to the Brig (military jail) until I was processed out of the Navy (about 2 weeks).

      The craziest part about my time in the Brig was that about a third of the guys there were “old salts” who had broken the fraternization rules or the Navy alcohol rules, another third were lower enlisted who “popped” on their wizz-quiz (drug test), while the rest were violent offenders awaiting Court-Martial. Here I was in the Brig for speaking my mind and questioning my superiors; not a single guy believed me when I said that was why I was getting separated.

      • Ironpossum says:

        To be fair, you didn’t simply “speak your mind and question your superiors” as you admitted that you openly skipped out on your responsibility to offload weapons to go paint the town red, return after curfew, and then further neglect all duties the next day so you could sleep it off. (it’s possible I misunderstood some of your wording, but you didn’t spend much time elaborating on this part of the story. Further clarification is appreciated if I’ve completed misinterpreted something). I’m not saying your reasons for doing it are wrong, I’m just saying it wasn’t as innocent as you make it seem. These offenses are right up there with failing drug tests and breaking fraternization or alcohol rules. Those are the actions that were done, sure, but did you ask them why they did those things? Did that matter to you? According to you it’s okay for you to do what you did because it was your way of protesting. What if those other sailors were protesting the same thing, but chose to do it a different way? Does it make it any more right?

        I know I seem to conflict myself a bit, but the thing here is that I agree with a lot of what you said – more than that, the vast majority of what you said (drawing parallels from my own experience in the military), but that doesn’t excuse your behavior. I believe that you could have dealt with the situation in a way that didn’t involve you neglecting duties, thus leaving them for someone else to do, while you went out and had fun and slept in. I’m pretty sure no employer (civilian or military) would condone such intentional behavior.

        So whereas I truly understand your frustrations (as I still live through them every day), I feel that you took the selfish way out. Though, at the time, I’m sure it felt like the right thing to do and I can take my time to sit here and reflect on a situation to my hearts content. After all, as they say, “hindsight is 20/20”.

        Ron Paul 2012!

        • Joseph Fetz says:

          Yes, I did omit some parts of what happened at Seal Beach, but there was good reason. I didn’t want to make it appear that I was making excuses for my actions.

          What actually took place is that my division had completed our offload, helped other divisions complete theirs, and we had finished all of our maintenance for the week. I said to my Division Officer, “he that means we have tomorrow off, right”. He said, “sure, take the day off. You guys earned it”. Now, I should have gotten a liberty chit signed and approved, but I didn’t. I had been in long enough to know that if you don’t get something in writing, it never happened, but I just said to myself, “screw it”. I had an inkling that this was going to get me a trip to see the old man, but at that point I just didn’t care anymore. Sure enough, I got a trip to Mast for that one, and that was that.

          With the exception of the time that I went UA, if I had just kept my mouth shut during my enlistment, I could have skated through the other infractions without a problem. But, I spoke my mind often and questioned the reasoning of my superiors; that is frowned upon in the military. In fact, I was recommended for the Navy Achievement Medal on seven separate occasions, I never got a single one.

          It is not like I was some loose cannon that just did whatever he wanted, I was great at my job and was well-liked by my immediate chain of command. They used to tell me that if I would just keep my mouth shut that I would have no problems. I couldn’t do that, and I lived with the consequences.

          The Captain could have easily given me an ‘Other than Honorable’ discharge, it was completely within his power to do so. He wasn’t completely blind to my accomplishments, or how my chain of command felt about me, so he upgraded it to a General (Under Honorable Conditions). I often think back and ask if I could have done things differently. Sure, I could have. But, sometimes you have to just go with what you feel and not give a darn about what anybody else thinks. I earned the respect of my peers and chain of command, and that is what matters to me. I have no regrets.

        • Joseph Fetz says:

          I should also mention that when I went in front of the Captain, I told him that my DIVO had told me that I could have the day off. The DIVO was there and was honest, he told the Captain that he indeed did give me the day off. But, then the Captain asked me if I thought that I should have gotten a liberty chit signed. I said, yes. He then asked me why everybody else showed up? I said, because they didn’t have a liberty chit in hand (which was the correct response). By being honest and admitting that I knew better, I completely gave up my defense. Now, had I kept my mouth shut during those past 2 years, it probably wouldn’t have even gone to the Captain. But, the upper chain of command was pretty much sick of me by this point. They wanted me out, I wanted out, it was a win-win.

          • Ironpossum says:


            Thanks for clarifying that for me. Those were important details, indeed. My apologies for being presumptuous, but that’s how it sounded based on the information given.

            Thanks for sharing your story.

            • Joseph Fetz says:

              Yes, it could have been better explained. In fact, there is a ton of stuff that could have been elaborated on, but it was only meant to be an article, not a book. I had to pare down a lot of stuff in order to get to the broader substance of the article. If I went off in too many tangents explaining every detail, then it would have never gotten to the point. I am sure that you understand.

            • Joseph Fetz says:

              I will say this, they did try to get me out of my rack and I refused. They even sent the duty master at arms, I refused. There is a combination of reasons that I refused. First, I took the DIVO at his word; second, I was pretty darned tired (I didn’t get it in until 5 am); third, and the most important, I had decided that I didn’t care and that I was not going to follow any more orders. I knew that this would get me in trouble, but I just didn’t care anymore. I could not see myself continuing to be a part of the war. The conflict of conscience had really taken its toll on me over the past 2 years at this point, and I decided that they could do whatever they had to do to me, but I just wasn’t going to be a part of it anymore.

  11. Shon Love says:

    Thanks for sharing your experiences. I wept when you started talking about Ron Paul. I often feel alone in my deep respect and appreciation for than man and the service he is providing to us all.

  12. George A. says:

    Lucky for joe fetz– he got out of the military.Many stay for the lust of killing arabs. Only stupid ones believe that Arabs did Sept 11 2001 attacks,but most know it’s a Kosher lie and pretend other wise.Oh ! the thrill of pressing triggers and drone buttons and never had the opprtunity to clean up the arab body parts. Americans are today’s modern pirates. did you know that England funded and used pirates againist spain and the dutch?
    Marines–what a sick way of sucking kids in the military—All never fight in the water—call them instaed
    Sandbagbangers :^/

    • Tel says:

      Americans are today’s modern pirates.

      The old word for pirate is “freebooter” which originally comes from the Dutch, meaning free trader.

      Funny old world huh?

      • Joseph Fetz says:

        Correct, it was the Dutch who had bypassed the ‘Navigation Acts’ during the time of American colonialism, bringing many goods to/from both America and mainland Europe. The word “pirate” is very much a governmental term applied to those who would bypass the laws of the privy council and the King. The term as it is used today has almost no connection to its past usage.

  13. Tom Insko says:

    Joseph, you have written an excellent account of your experience in the U.S. Navy. I would challenge you, however, to deepen your understanding of the history of Palestine and Israel. In the fullness of time, and with self-education, you will find that Bin Laden and the Palestinians are not the heroes that you portray them as in your essay.

    • Joseph Fetz says:

      I never portrayed Palestinians or OBL as heroes. Nice straw man, though.

      • Tom Insko says:

        So, if I understand your thesis correctly, if the U.S. disavows it’s alliance with Israel, and sides with the Wahhabists and Hamas, peace will miraculously break out in the Middle East. Good luck with that.

        • Joseph Fetz says:

          Once again, you put up a straw man. Boy, you’re quite good at that.

        • Pete says:

          Tom, did it occur to you that perhaps America could “side” with neither? What good do we do Israel when, while we give them monetary aid, we give their sworn enemies MORE monetary aid? Our relationship with Israel mimics that of a parent and it’s child. We tell them how their peace negotiations must go, if/when they can defend themselves, how strong their retaliation can be…

          Israel can take care of it’s self. All we do is make them a bigger target (and ourselves), by partaking in the picking favorites game. Use your brain and understand that we aren’t always right.

          • Joseph Fetz says:

            Hey, thanks Pete. I am glad that somebody gets it. Obviously, there is a lot more involved, but that is the gist of what I am saying.

    • zee says:

      like Mr. Fetz said, nice strawman.

      by the way, who groups an entire nation of people into one category, whether hero or non hero? OBL is one guy, but among palestinians, there are people who are heroes, and people who are terrorists. everyone is an individual.

      not to put words in Mr. Fetz’s mouth, but if I understand him, he’s saying that palestinians have legitimate grievances too, not that all of them have responded to those grievances with gandhi like character.

  14. RA S says:

    Thank-you for your courage. I was in the Navy for 10 years. I only experienced Desert Shield from the deck of the Aircraft Carrier Dwight D. Eisenhower as an “O” level AX. Then 3 years of shore duty “I” level. Then Desert Storm and it was becoming increasingly clear the the example of the USA was a wolf in sheep clothing. Then I worked for Lockheed Martin till 2000. It seems that the American public are “willfully” blinded to the Dragon that really lurks underneath the Lamb like appearance that the USA tries to portray itself as being. When 911 took place it wasn’t long before I could see that these were all manipulated circumstances in order to perpetuate a change on a global scale. Most significantly to undermine the Republic of the United States. The outward appearance is that of a feeding frenzy on the part of the corporate sector and the military industrial complex but, the truth is that this is much darker. I believe that God is allowing for these events to take place because of mans Godlessness and it is time…….God be with you and His Son Jesus Christ.

  15. JimS says:

    I’m sorry, but I must be the divergent voice. I am always amazed by people who join the military to do anything other than that which is the military’s mission’s. For me, in the Marine Corps, it was to close with and destroy the enemy by close fire and support. Put more simply, it was to kill. You are a fool to join the military for any other reason. The idea that you will be complicit in a percieved act of immorality to gain funds for an educaation where by you will become enlightened is ludicrous. You join to perform the intended mission, which often means to kill.

    There was never mention, upon enlistment, of choice or the allowance for differrence of opinion. The only reason one should sign on to do any job is because they believe in it or the love it. If you do not agree with your employer’s mission you do not take the job; to do so would create a great source of displeasure for all involved.

    It is rather evident, throughout history, the function of a military. To believe that you will never be involved in a less than moral act is niave at best. Every conflict in history has had unintended casualties. It is also evident that one does not get to choose causes while in the military; you get the war you are contracted to go to. If you grow to dislike what you are doing, there are ways out that are not disruptive.

    To be disruptive in a combat unit is extremely dangerous and most threatening to the members of the unit and the success of the mission, which often means the well being of the unit members. A disruptive member is akiin to an engine running with a non-firing cylinder. Many of the units I served in, the author’s life would have been in jeopardy given his attitude and behavior (This is not to condone such behavior, only to point out that it exists and is life threatening).

    I am not writing this to say the military is always right, that our government is right, that we must demand patriotism, or that the conflicts we are involved in are proper. I am not even disagreeing with Fetz’s snetiments in his essay. I’m certainly not advocating killing either. Many here are pacifists. That is fine, do not join the military. When I wore my uniform in public, children would ask how many people I had killed. My point is, if a child knows the function of the military, that its purpose is to kill, and that service members are called on to do some very nasty things, regardless of propiety, how can an adult not fathom this? I have no sympathy for an idealilst or disillusioned adult who signs a military contract with alterior motives who later becomes dissatisfied.

    Thanks for posting Fetz’s essay, it was most interestng, and thanks for letting me have my say. You run a nice site, Dr. Bob.


    • Joseph Fetz says:

      Jim, I certainly was not ignorant of the facts that you speak of, although I must admit that I was naive in that I thought that our mission was directed toward those that had actually harmed us. As you know, the military is an entire world all its own, and that permeates your entire life.

      As I said, I read the Qur’an. I did not do this because I am religious, I did this because it made sense to me that if this particular religion wants out heads, then I should understand it. I got a lot of crap for reading that book, and it soon found its way to a round-file somewhere (or, was deep-sixed) by the hands of one of my shipmates. I did get another copy on our next port call, the same one that sits on my bookshelf today.

      I absolutely knew that there would be some morally ambiguous activity during my time in the military, this was a great contemplation when I joined. But, I had no idea that the entire operational reality of military force would turn to that of complete immorality. Essentially, the entire focus changes, and the subsequent missions were unrelated to any sense of defense.

      Let me put it to you this way:

      If Jim lives in county A, and Bob lives in county B, and Bob kills a portion of the inhabitants of county A for some reason. Would it be justifiable for Jim to now kill unrelated inhabitants of county B (as well as Bob), and then to occupy the areas of county A? Of course not, the inhabitant of county A (the Jill’s, Joe’s, Mike’s, Eric’s, Julie’s, Sarah’s, etc) had nothing to do with this quarrel.

      Further, lets say that the initial position that I posed stands (B attacks A). Is it not entirely justifiable for the inhabitants of A to protects their own property from the invasion of B?

      It often helps me to see the situation from the perspective of both sides of the exchange: the aggressor as well as the defender. Defense is always justifiable, aggression is not. It often helps to turn the tables and imagine that it is your property that is being seized. Are you not justified in protecting your own private property?

      Yes, there are many pacifists that frequent Bob’s blog (he is also a pacifist). I am not a pacifist and am of the believe that countering force with force is entirely justifiable, just so long as such force is directed toward the same individuals who projected force upon you. Unfortunately, that is most assuredly NOT the case with our current foreign policy. There is no longer any justification for our aggressive actions.

      • Joseph Fetz says:

        “and then to occupy the areas of county A? Of course not, the inhabitant of county A”

        Sorry, those “A’s” should be “B’s”. My mistake.

      • JimS says:

        Some good points, Mr. Fetz. Sorry I do not have any clear answers, but I do have an observation or two. I’ll steer clear of the A and Bs as it reminds me too much of algebra.

        Many thought and still think the German citizenry was responsible in large part for what happened regarding two world wars, and particularly in their allowing Hitler to rise to power. Should punishment for the sins of the parents be visited upon the children? An interesting question. I think the old testament would say yes. Are there some purely innocents that are caught up in this whole mess? Yes, absolutely. It is horrible and regrettable. It is certain that our decisions affect our children. Lilkewise, a country’s actions may have horrible consequences for its citzenry.

        While economics cannot be applied in whole toward the conduct of war, it is clear that war has, and we have, become much more efficient and I would say this is by demand. We have certainly improved over our fire bombings of Japan and Germany.

        As for a purely defensive actions and offensive actions never being permissible; history has repeatedly shown that the advantage is to the offense. Nearly every action of WW II bears testament to this. I do not have any personal qualms with preemptive action. On this point I may be ignorant, but not niave; there are a great many machinations that we are not privy to that cause countries to act aggresively, many of them immoral. That service members are used as pawns and tools is most certain; war, afterall, is an extension of politics. Most service members cannot fathom the extent of this, nor does it really matter when the fight starts, as your focus narrows considerably.

        I would add that there are many nations that would have vested interest in preventing Iran from possessing nuclear weapons and I do not believe an aggressive act toward Iran, in this regard, would be wrong, but I digress.

        I do think it is wrong to be condemned for reading the Koran, assuming one is not proselytizing, in fact, I think all troops should be well read in many aspects of their potential adversaries. I think such condemnation is resultant of a poor command. I was fortunate enough to serve under commands that encourage the reading of potential adversary’s religious texts, cultural concerns, literature, arts and entertainment. They encouraged this so we would not underestimate, but also so that we would have some respect and understanding, which would serve us well in preventing unjust actions. In fact, I think this is where the conservative versus modern liberal versus llibertarian battle falls short; no one truly attempts to understand and appreciate the others paradigm from within. It is sort of reduced to preemptive attacks and name calling, fun as all that may be. Most who fight face to face against an adversary have gained a certain respect and appreciation for the adversary. You are a fool if you don’t. Furthermore, the so called terrorist and their minions have provided an interesting model for any other would be revolution to come.

        Thanks again.


        • Tel says:

          As for a purely defensive actions and offensive actions never being permissible; history has repeatedly shown that the advantage is to the offense. Nearly every action of WW II bears testament to this.

          I’ll not debate you on moral matters, but in terms of history I seem to remember that operation Barbarossa was the largest military offensive ever attempted by humans, but victory went to the defenders. What’s more it was without doubt the single decision that broke the back of the German war machine and turned the tide of the war.

          Don’t underestimate the damage that military suffers by over extending itself.

    • Dan says:

      If you knew the purpose was to kill, why join? I am genuinely curious. Was it because you believed it was necessary to kill those who were deemed our enemies? If so, do you still believe in the mission or did you become disillusioned with it at some point?

      I have friends in different areas of the military and most joined because they felt they needed some way to better their lot in life and thought the military could provide them with that chance. They also thought it would be noble to protect their country from our enemies. I’m not aware of any of them joining to kill people. I’d wager most would’ve prefered to never have to take a life but were willing to if it was for our country.

      • Joseph Fetz says:

        It is funny that you mention that, Dan. I remember when I was in bootcamp the RDC asked the division “how many of you are here to die for your country?”. To my surprise, almost half of the division raised their hands. The RDC was taken aback and said, “WTF, you aren’t here to die for your country, you’re here to kill for your country”.

      • Jonathan M. F. Catalán says:

        When I joined the infantry I didn’t do it to kill people, even though logically that’s part of the job. I chose the infantry because I thought it was the “coolest” job. Most people are detached from the implications of their decisions. Killing people was not in my mind, at the time. I just simply didn’t think about it.

  16. LIZoomi says:

    Mr. Fretz,

    USAF E-5 1985-1992 – ELINT ….You’re writing strikes a chord big time. Even the Atheist part. Ron Paul too.

    People never understood me when I defended those who burned our flag on US ground in protest. My response was and always will be….I fought for them to have that right, freedom, and liberty. Never stated whether I agree with their cause or issue…..just that they should be able to make a passive statement like that….if they felt it would allow them freedom of expression and speech or create awareness and change.

    When I had to tell my first child that there is no Santa Clause…..it really made me wake up and put things together. 9/11 really scared me…..not because of the attacks…but because of the lies. I made up stories like that when I had to convince my children there WAS a Santa Clause…..

    I, you, we are not going crazy. We’re not conspiracy theorists. We’re not alarmist/doom and Gloom types.

    We’re realists who are seeing the truth. There is no Bliss anymore for us.

    The military now fights to enable Bliss for the rest of them who refuse to give up on the fallacies taught to us.

    There is no Santa Clause…….8 year old’s get it….why can’t US citizens.

    How can we get more people on board with the truth? FB, Twitter and Social Media only makes a small dent and will be too late if this is our only venue.

    Ron Paul, although a great hope, will not have the clout to take on the US Military Industrial complex and I fear for his safety because of it.

    Plus, “Hope is Not a Strategy”. what can I do to affect change?

    Frustrated and angry!

  17. Marcos says:

    Being a former paratrooper who’s seen combat, I’d have to agree with Jim above. This is not to say of course that I don’t agree with much of the essay. I certainly agree with the blowback effect of our failed foreign policy as well as the country’s meddling in the affairs of others. But I do believe an individual should realize what they’re signing up for when it comes to the act of killing.

    As for the “all hadji’s one and the same and less than human”, I can only speak from my personal experience. Though, we were cautious of all “haji’s” my unit maintained professionalism. We respected the civilians and in turn they helped us a lot in providing information. It were the insurgents attacking the civilian population with suicide bombers and us running in trying to save as many of them as we could. Again, this is just my experience in my unit. Not all soldiers were bloodthirsty bigots to the iraqi populace. Ignorance on politics and a sense of duty got these kids into service, but I think its the experience that teaches them the truth.

    Many soldiers that I know believe we should all come home and our foreign policy is a failure and are avid supporters of Ron Paul. But when they’re sent into battle the only thing on their mind is protecting each other. Politics go out the window, the only goal is to protect the guy next to you and live long enough to get back home. They’re just stuck between a rock and a hard place. You can’t fault them for not all throwing down their arms and refusing to fight.

    I do appreciate the essay and to an extent relate to certain feelings you’ve developed through your experience.


    • Joseph Fetz says:

      I fully agree with you, Marcos.

    • Dan says:

      Why can’t we fault them for not throwing down their arms? That seems like a great idea for those who believe as Ron Paul does that are serving.

    • Jonathan M. F. Catalán says:

      Well, let’s be honest. The reason we use the word “hadji” is to dehumanize the enemy. The military has just narrowed down the enemy to “insurgents”, as opposed to all Arabs. But, the purpose of the word is the same.

  18. Ben says:

    As someone who is about to join the Israeli army, let me thank Mr. Fetz for a veteran’s take on such issues. I have given such questions some thought myself, although I have reached no good answers.

  19. gyugyu says:

    miltary – the biggest organized crime enforcers for mega corporations and false royalty

    USS Kearsarge – all they ever did was lie. Could you imagine if some reporter or web site was able to take a clear look at ALL the illegal operations going on by the USA military and UK and others, what that would look like? How close to the illusion of “defending freedom” would it be?

    They showed me the America most of society believes in was always a myth

    I don’t like being lied to and I work for and seek a higher society that doesn’t feel the need to kill innocents and enforce their will and thievery on the people of other nations.

  20. gyugyu says:

    Oh yeah also, as I’m sure you know, you can get your discharge upgraded with proper jumping through the proper hoops

    • Joseph Fetz says:

      Yes, I am aware of that, but it really isn’t a concern of mine. As I see it, there is no benefit, nor it there a detriment, to what is listed on my DD214. It is what it is, and I am content with it (my veteran status is upheld). Sure, if I was seeking public office, then I might care, but I am not and will not. I know my accomplishments while in the Navy, as do my shipmates, that is that I care about.

  21. Steve Fox says:

    Thank you, Joseph, for your candid story of your gradual awakening to what’s going on in the country. I spent 14 years in the Nav as a fire controlman…I got out in ’97, and got to see how much things changed after Tailhook, how corporatized the Navy had become, and realized it wasn’t for me. I’m glad I wasn’t in for the post-9/11 shenanigans, I would have probably had a stroke.
    Thanks again…

  22. JJ says:

    Sorry fellas you’re missing the point. “War is a racket” plain and simple. Don’t fool yourself for 1 minute in thinking you were killing and dying for some greater so called demoratic cause. Not in our lifetime. Not in many prior lifetimes of brave and patriotic suckers who were unknowingly fascillitating the international bankers and corporations who own this country to this day. The brain washing and propaganda begin from day 1 so who can balme any of us. It takes a lot of work to see through all the bullshit. I applaud you Joe on your awakening.

  23. bin dead for awhile says:

    one mans terrorist is another’s freedom fighter.

    • yahya says:

      i think you have to be careful not to oversimplify the situation. just because he had legitimate arguments against american foreign policy doesn’t mean his methods were acceptable. he still encouraged murder of innocents. two wrongs don’t make a right.

  24. DToM says:

    Joe Fetz,

    You are a brave and honorable man. I wish I had had your conscience and your sense of right and wrong in Vietnam. As Marine General Smedley Butler said , and it was the title of his book, “War Is a Racket.” If all the folks in the military who felt as you did nd said, “Enough, we won’t fight in your wars anymore, we won’t kill innocent people for fun and profit.” That is what the troops started doing in Nam.

  25. gyigyi says:

    I guess my post was censored, completely agreeing with the topic at hand. Not appreciated, “shipmate”

    • Joseph Fetz says:

      This isn’t my blog it belongs to Dr. Murphy. I just wrote the article. To be honest, this blog has been having some problems with regard to comments, a few days ago we couldn’t post any comments at all. Dr. Murphy wrote about the problems with the comments section in a post called “More Comment Poltergeists” (posted on the 29th). Trust me, Dr. Murphy is not one to censor people, he keeps the comments section pretty open.

    • bobmurphy says:

      Really gyigyi, what did you think happened? That either Joseph or I decided not to run your comment that was complimenting the post? Why would we do that?

  26. Mark Twain says:

    Requesting Daniel Kuehn’s take on this story.

  27. william wert says:

    First, let me post the full Oath of Enlistment:

    I, (NAME), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.

    Although I agree with the premise of your epiphany, I completely disagree with the manner in which you chose to display your displeasure with the government of the United States. You swore an oath. Not only to support and defend the Constitution…, but to “obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over (you) according to regulations and the uniform code of military justice.”
    You may believe your word means nothing, but you also signed a legal binding contract. The oath is not a hook for statists to keep you oppressed. It is your word you swore (or affirmed) to the people of the United States and it is what Americans have been doing since before July 4, 1776. Even George Washington swore an oath for his Commission as General of the Colonial Army and then again as President of the United States. It says nothing about how YOU interpret the Constitution. Orders are not suggestions or guidelines. They are orders. Whether they come from The President or officers appointed over you delegated down to others by those officers (as per regulations and the UCMJ), they are not open to interpretation to how you are feeling or what you feel is right or wrong on any given subject or any given day. Had you fulfilled your commitment as a man with integrity and left with an Honorable Discharge, THEN had your epiphany and motivation to look deeper down the rabbit hole of creeping statism and collectivism for the State Capitalism of Progressive (if not Socialist) America, then I would find your article had much more credibility. But your story seems to me one of a snot nosed puss who is now hiding behind a justification of his actions. Do your six and get out. Say “thanks, but no thanks” and continue your life. Hell even become an anti-war anti-statist activist. Who cares? That is the beauty of this great nation. But you gave your word and I for one would not do business with you because you have no notion of honor, integrity or commitment.

    • bobmurphy says:

      Mr. Wert, I understand what you are saying to Joe here, but you are literally using the “I was just following orders” defense. Are you really saying that no one in the United States military should ever refuse to obey an order, no matter how despicable it might be? Or are you saying that what Joe is describing wasn’t anywhere near that threshold?

      • JimS says:

        As I Marine, I was taught that it was my duty to resist unlawful orders. Just because something is risky or dangerous does not make it unlawful. If there is an order that is in direct violation of the ROE or the standard rules, you must resist such an order.

        During a field exercise, I was tasked with guarding some prisoners. Toward the end of the operation, a new lieutenant had me and two other jumnior Marines march the prisoners off. I assumed they were being taken somewhere to remove them from the field of operation or for interogation. Instead, the LT had us stop in a secluded area and ordered them shot. I told the LT that wasn’t funny. He said he wasn’t joking and ordered them shot. Long story short, we ended up before command and I was exonerated. It was an unlawful order.

        Are there circumstance under which prisoners may be shot? Perhaps. I feel if we had been over run and they could have been the tipping point in the action resulting in our loss, if they attempted a violent revolt or escape, if a prisoner harmed another prisoner (this is actually common), I would shoot the offending prisoner if I had no alternative.

        Generally speaking, a professional soldier only wishes to engage other professionals or bad guys. I do not know of a single Marine that would intentionally shoot or harm civilians, women, children, livestock, pets, wilfully destroy property. Most I know are absolutely sickened by collateral or unintentional deaths. Most view such things as a partial mission failure.

        Generally speaking, units in which unlawful orders are given and/or followed and units in which atrocities occur nearly always lack some basic fundamentals in leadership. This is why development of junior leaders and NCOs is critical.

        One final note, just because someone does not have a weapon does not mean they are not a combatant. Depending on the situation, people running messages or supplies (food/ammo), people with communication devices, people at manufacturing or storage centers for munitions may be possible targets, depending on the situation and the ROE.


    • Joseph Fetz says:

      A few things, I felt that my contract had already been broken by the other party when the President had broken his oath to his office by attacking a foreign nation that had never attacked us. There is also the question of the increase of governmental power without regard to the bill of rights, as well as the Executive operating outside of the parameters of Article II of the Constitution. If my oath was to defend the Constitution from all enemies, foreign and domestic, then that includes those at the top who disregard their oath. Remember, the orders to be followed must be lawful orders, if they are not, then anybody in the armed forces is justified in refusing those orders. If the orders of the officers appointed over me are in service of unlawful acts, even if those orders are not directly unlawful, then there is justification to refuse them.

      It was my opinion that not only were the actions of our military illegal, but that the President had disregarded his oath, and became an enemy to the Constitution. As such, all orders in service of the illegal war, or operations in support of such war, are in themselves unlawful.

      You say that my interpretation of the Constitution isn’t relevant, and that the orders are not open to my interpretation or opinion about the correctness of them. That’s entirely erroneous. I am an individual, and as such it is only my interpretation that is relevant. I am the one that must live with my actions and the consequences thereof, not you.

  28. Paul says:

    Hey ex STG Fetz, really good article, You sound like you are on the same path many of us have taken. My awakening came from the book by Edward Luttwak, “The pentagon and the art of war” What we are doing is crazy.
    I was a sonar tech and spent a lot of time in the multiblue building in San Diego. Most of the guys in my division really saw the lunecy and could not wait to get out. I did my time. You have courage.
    I am going to send this article to some of my friends.
    I bet sailors all over the navy are reading this and getting some encouragemnt.
    All the best

    • Joseph Fetz says:

      Thanks, Paul. I was lucky enough to have this article published elsewhere, as well. The response that I am getting from vets and active duty is overwhelmingly positive. I am even getting emails from Chiefs, Senior Chiefs, Lt. Commanders, Captains, etc all saying that they completely agree. Many of the old salts are telling me that once this whole debacle that we’re in now began that they began to start questioning their career. Sure, they weigh the options, and most just keep their mouth shut and wait to finish their career. But, they have all made it abundantly clear that they are feeling the same exact thing that I was feeling.

  29. SOA AX3 says:

    Yo, Joe, thanks for the piece.

    I joined the USN back in 1962 because my uncle Mike was aboard the USS Helena when she went down and survived and I would lay in bed at night and listen to him tell my father sea stories. I also watched every episode of “Victory at Sea” and somehow got propagandized into thinking it was my duty to go kill commies in the ‘Cold War’.

    I feel a sense of comradeship since I also attended the Fleet ASW School in San Diego. I got the dubious honor of carrying an M1 Carbine around the fence there during the Cuban Missile Crisis. I graduated there as a SOA (Airborne Sonar), later to be called AX (Aviation Antisubmarine Warfare Technician)

    It took me 26 months to make E5 but in those days Vietnam was starting up so the Navy told us that in order to make the next pay grade we would have to have at least 24 months to serve in that level. I would have had to extend for 3 months. Sorry, keep your stripe.

    I had a short timer’s attitude with 30 months to go.

    I was not faced with the moral dilemmas such as you were since I got sent to the Atlantic Fleet and VN was far, far away.

    I could rationalize because as a helicopter crewman/ sonar operator in addition to ASW we also did non warlike stuff like Space Shot Recoveries, Search and Rescue, and personnel transfers .

    My squadron, HS-5 (Helicopter Antisubmarine Squadron 5) is still active and I understand that they deploy aboard the USS Eisenhower when they go to the Middle East.

    They still do a lot of CSAR but I understand that now they have machine guns on their Helos.

    I could still rationalize the guns if they were used defensively whilst doing a rescue. Maybe.

    • SOA AX3 says:

      edited to add……….

      I got the article on LewRockwell.com

      • Joseph Fetz says:

        Yeah, that surprised the heck out of me. I was just doing Bob Murphy a favor and was thinking that maybe it would get a few hits, but then the next day he tells me that Lew wants to publish it. Now I am getting emails left and right. I am trying to answer them all, but its getting kind of hard. Now I understand why I don’t get responses from some authors.

  30. Rettoper says:

    What this young man does not understand is that benevolent American hegemony largely gained by force of arms has created peace, stability, prosperity, and freedom to over 1.5 billion innocents.

    Take a look at the map of freedom (http://www.freedomhouse.org/uploads/fiw10/FIW_2010_MOF.pdf) and note that the areas of the geopolitik that are most free are under the benevolent umbrella of American hegemony.

    Europe is more free, peaceful, and stable than at anytime in its tumultuous past, similarly South America and the Asian Pacific Rim.

    In sum, it is amusing and somewhat paradoxical that anarchists reject the utility of armed force to obtain desired and just ends when their ideology has remained on the ash heap of history, largely because it’s handwringing pacifist adherents are incapable of engaging statist threats in a substantive coercive manner, save considerable whining, moralizing, complaining.

    • Dan says:

      Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and American Indians you’re welcome for your freedom. USA USA USA, we’re number 1!!!

      • Rettoper says:

        What Dan doesn’t understand is that the bombs dropped on Japan saved millions of Japanese lives that would have been lost in a conventional campaign.

        In sum, the bombs unequivocally and quickly ended the war thereby resulting in far less loss of life.

        the enemy has begun to employ a new and most cruel bomb, the power of which to do damage is, indeed, incalculable, taking the toll of many innocent lives. Should we continue to fight, not only would it result in an ultimate collapse and obliteration of the Japanese nation, but also it would lead to the total extinction of human civilization.

        ‘Such being the case, how are We to save the millions of Our subjects, or to atone Ourselves before the hallowed spirits of Our Imperial Ancestors? This is the reason why We have ordered the acceptance of the provisions of the Joint Declaration of the Powers.’ — Emperor of Japan, 15 August 1945

        Lastly, if Dan thinks the Indian Wars were unjust then why is he directly benefiting from its outcome ? Isn’t that an example of grand hypocrisy to criticize something while enjoying its fruits? This is typical of the anarchist ideologue — they are a contradiction, wrapped in a hypocrisy, tied with a bow of irrelevance.



        • Dan says:

          I’m with Rettoper, even the Japanese emperor knew we would murder millions of innocent men, women, and children if they didn’t surrender and possibly destroy the whole world. See how benevolent we are? You’re welcome Japan.

          And to all of you who think the genocide of the Indians was wrong you are a hypocrite. We don’t admit to mistakes in this country losers. Like Tupac said, “My 44 makes sure all your kids don’t grow.” That’s the benevolent American way.

          USA USA USA, we’re number 1!!!! America, f**k yeah, coming to save the motherf**king day yeah.

        • Rettoper says:

          What Dan doesn’t understand is that the U.S. war with Japan was motivated by a desire to halt Japanese aggression and atrocities against hundreds of millions of innocents from Nanking to Pearl Harbor.

          Dan is a faith-based pacifist who rejects the utility of coercion to obtain desired goals even if those goals are beneficial to societal health and well being. Moreover, like the sheep all pacifists like Dan can offer to deter and counter aggression is incredulous bleating while being led to the slaughterhouse.

          Indeed, Native Americans were guilty of the same atrocities that Dan accuses Americans of committing. Also, the inferior native American cultures would have been destroyed by the Spanish, Russians, English, French, et al in the absence of American predation anyway. Better that an emerging liberal democracy capture the squandered and mismanaged wealth of the native American tribes than a despotic monarchy.

          In sum, natural law does not guarantee failed cultures unlimited use of scarce resources if their societies do not have the means to defend these valued resources coveted by more profit-driven, capitalist societies like the United States.

          For better or worse, this is natural law whether Dan likes it or not.

  31. Guest Post: “Revising Patriotism” by Adam House says:

    […] he has written up below. His full bio appears at the end of the article. For a similar story, see Joseph Fetz’s guest post on his time in the Navy. […]