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Top Gun vs. the Axis of Evil


We all know that the American Way of War is to use our technology to pour firepower on the enemy from a safe distance. Implicit in this is the central myth of precision bombardment that dates back to at least to the Norden Bombsight in World War II. The theory of precision firepower is a seemless part of the larger warfighting theories of close control and surgical strike in the chaos of combat, as well as the necessary corollary belief that unintended damage — euphemistically called collateral damage — is morally acceptable, because it is self-evidently an unavoidable and irreducible cost of waging a precision business.

Of course this is all hogwash, as the conduct of the Iraq War has proven once again. Real war is always uncertain and messy and bloody and wasteful and accompanied by profound psychological and moral effects. But these preposterous theories are central to the American Way of War, because they justify the maintenance of a high cost hi-tech military which is so essential to the welfare of the parasitic political economy of the military – industrial – congressional complex that is now seamlessly embedded in our political culture.

Yet, as is now becoming clear, this doctrinal nonsense also has profound psychological effects on American soldiers and policy makers, as well as average citizens. It has created a self-referencing myth of antiseptic war that can be likened to a bloodless video game, and its dehumanizing effects now permeate popular American culture. Doubters need only recall the gushing newspaper coverage of “Shock and Awe” which was spoon-fed to the American people prior to bombing of Iraq, together with the ridiculous predictions of the Iraq war being cakewalk where Iraqis would welcome us with flowers after we bombed them, to feel the disorienting power of its pervasive psychological effect.

The following email adds substance to this disorienting abstraction by illustrating its ugly underbody at the most microscopic level — the level of the individual aviator waging precision war at a distance. It is from a Marine F-18 pilot in Iraq. In it, he describes the joy of killing “mother fuckers”, which is, in his words, “like a hobby.” His sweeping categorization proves that he doesn’t have a clue who he is killing and maiming — he implies they are enemy combatants but they might be women, or old men or those prepubescent mother fuckers otherwise known as children.

Sent: Saturday, February 10, 2007 9:07 PM
Subject: Bats Sitrep From Iraq–Expletives not deleted

Dogs, Marines and friends,

Here’s the latest from the BATS. Looks like they are still doing some good work over there, and Cave is getting even more descriptive. I will let you know when I have a definite date for the fly-in to Miramar.

Forwarded Message:
2/6/2007 6:12:31 AM Eastern Standard Time
Sent from the Internet (Details)

Finally went over 3,000 in the Hornet and 400th combat mission.

The fellas from 121 started showing up the other day. It’s starting to sink in……. I’ll have to go home, the opportunities to kill these fuckers is rapidly coming to an end. Like a hobby I’ll never get to practice again. It’s not a great war, but its the only one we’ve got. God, I do love killing these bastards.

Well, the government in Baghdad has been telling the Shii that the Americans are coming big, look the fuck out…. So, the bad guys have begun moving out of the city. Business is beginning to pick back up for us. I think the Iranians are going to pick things up to help give CNN some ammunition to show the buildup is a failed idea.

The other day, “Puddy” Shoop got 3 nice passes with the gun and rockets on some Muj in a little town called Karma, which is just Northwest of Fallujah. I firmly believe they are implants from the “big city.” Looked as though they were in the process of trying to attack the Iraqi Police headquarters. I wonder why the insurgents would be attacking the Iraqi Police………… CNN says the IP are ineffective. Funny, the “ineffective” IP stood their ground and called in 3 strikes. Only 1 confirmed kill.

Had a great 5″ rocket attack last week. 5 Muj emplacing an IED…. rockets can be like a box of chocolates sometimes…. You never know what you’re gonna get. Allah was with these jack asses, as the rockets hit all around them. These fuckers get up, brush themselves off and take off hobbling across a farm field. The ground commander never expects survivors, so it takes them a while to coordinate a follow on attack. In the mean time, the idiots stay together in a pack, carrying their parts through a small palm grove. Ground commander finally gets his act together and clears a follow on gun run to finish them off. Roll in and just as pilot is about to go “hammer down,” a herd of sheep and family members appear at the top of the pod video and the run is aborted. Went home thinking they had gotten away…. Some pipe bustin’ Fellas from the QRF (Quick Reaction Force) rolled up on the farmers and apprehended all of them, along with their bomb making materials. they said the Muj tried to say their HE burns were from a tractor rolling over of some shit. As an aside, you will never be shown the aborted attack, which saved atleast 5 unarmed family members and their livelihood……

I hope they show a before and after picture of Baghdad. I think you will be quite surprised at the effort. An order of magnitude more than anything they have ever seen before. Should be interesting to watch. I’d really like to stick around and see how the extra ass effects the ops in some of the more obscure areas.

As we prepare to get out of here, I have to think back to what this place was like when I was leaving 2 years ago…… The convoys would be attacked by small arms fire every night… All night long. Today, we rarely ever see a convoy attacked by small arms fire. When the Marines take any fire, they turn and attack, so the Muj have determined its not a money play and stopped (besides, killing a KBR worker won’t make it to CNN back in the states). I used to spend most of my on station time investigating Mortar and Rocket points on origin from counter battery radar hits. I think I’ve received about 6-8 of those missions in 6 months. Camps in Ramadi and Fallujah used to get indirect fire all day and night…….Now, its rare. Our base here in Al Asad used to get rocketed every 12 days……… We’ve been rocketed once in 6 months.

During my first 3 tours here, I never saw a single Iraqi Army unit. This tour, they have taken over significant portions of the Area of Operations. Hell, I’ve nearly bombed them on atleast 3 occasions because of their aggressive patrolling (they fail to tell anyone where they are going). They still have a ways to go: The retards I was providing overwatch for this morning, were trying everyone’s patience. But, they were engaged in the arena and patrolling a dangerous area on foot. How can we possibly abandon these people now?

Another thing that struck me the other day is how much better the US Army has become. 7 years ago, they were a bloated lazy mess…. I believe most didn’t know how to use their personal weapons very well. Poor at convoy ops and patrolled in their HMMWVs. Now, they are lighter, more expeditionary, mobile, better armored. They patrol on foot and aggressively pursue contact with the insurgency. I think they still have a ways to go to be better at coordinating fires, but they are more Marine like than ever. As long as their version of a Forward Air Controller (FAC) continues to sit in a command post and “control” air fires from a computer terminal, they will never get it right (SEAL and Marine FACs are embedded with the infantry company).

Advon for the Bats left this morning. We should be wandering into the overhead around the 1st. I’ll be able to give you a better “charlie time” in a couple weeks.

Morale is high, the Marines can smell the barn. It’s hard to keep them focused. I still have 20 days of kill these motherfuckers, so I don’t wanna take even one day off.

Big Mama is charged up for the homecoming.

The cruise plaque (etched mirror behind the bar in the Miramar O’ Club) unveiling is still scheduled for april 27th. The pukin dog logo will be proudly adorned. Hope you can get some of the fellas to join us. I’ve seen the fucking Dogs come out of the woodwork at the prospects of free booze (& there will be free booze). Change of command is still scheduled for May 4th. Hope you can stop by for that, as well.


Here is a “warrior” who brags about killing for killing’s sake, but the people he kills that are just spots on the ground that disappear in clouds of explosions. He describes the joy of war at a distance and sees nothing its horrors — you won’t find any descriptions of blood, broken limbs, trauma, or destruction in this email. You won’t even find reference to his own feelings of menace or fear, not to mention their noble counterweights courage and esprit, just braggadocio on the subject of killing. Of course, his targets are all insurgents … no sense of any human capacity for doubt on that point.

Bear in mind, this is but one email that reveals a lot about the confused moral state of one aviator. Here is a person who probably thinks of himself “noble warrior” and a patriot, yet by his own words, he describes himself as a soulless machine with no appreciation of nobility or honor or even what it takes to face a dangerous adversary up close and personal. By his own words, he makes himself into a caricature more like Pac Man than John Rambo, let alone a honorable soldier like Alvin York, a courageous Marine like Chesty Puller, or a sensitive soldier-writer who understood horror and banality of war like Eric Marie Remarque.

Hopefully, the man who who wrote this ghastly thing is an aberration and not at all representative of the men and women in our military. But note in the introductory email that at least one other person thinks he is doing “good work.” …

Which begs the question: Since the Bushian Surge (BS) strategy of winning the trust of Iraqis by providing them with more security will be reinforced by a more generous dose of airpower, together with its whacky theories of precision and surgical destruction, how widespread is an outlook that reduces doctrinal BS to JKMF (just killing mother fuckers)?

Franklin C. Spinney is a former Pentagon analyst and whistleblower. His writing on defense issues can be found on the invaluable Defense in the National Interest website.


Franklin “Chuck” Spinney is a former military analyst for the Pentagon and a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, published by AK Press. He be reached at

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