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The mind of an enforcer

I’ve been saving this for a weekend because it’s long. But if you want to know the mindset of a government enforcer or occupier, it’s important: “The Checkpoint.”

This piece happens to explore the thinking of Israeli Defense Forces manning a checkpoint to control Palestinians. But … well, it goes way beyond that as you’ll see.

These are people we increasingly meet in Police State America.

(H/T JG)


  1. Woody
    Woody September 1, 2012 8:26 am

    Last week I sent that article to a relative who has been touring solo around Israel for the past few weeks. I haven’t gotten a reply yet. It should be no mystery that people are seriously screwed up by being thrust into a no win situations like west bank checkpoints, where cruelty is part of the job description. It doesn’t surprise me that the military suicide rate is as high as it is.

    On the domestic scene it is even more disturbing because the enforcers are there of their own free will, because they like the job of bullying people. Sociopaths need jobs too, I suppose, and our government has jobs for all of them. Of course all of the restrictions on our lives are necessary to protect our freedoms. Right?

  2. Kent McManigal
    Kent McManigal September 1, 2012 8:48 am

    I’m not finished reading it yet, but I am already feeling sick. Literally sick to my stomach.

  3. water lily
    water lily September 1, 2012 12:44 pm

    Here’s the movie version of the same subject:

  4. Pat
    Pat September 1, 2012 1:40 pm

    Some thoughts at random:

    The author sounds both paranoic and guilt-ridden. Is he baring his soul, or trying hard to justify his actions?

    “Soldiers should always obey orders and regulations,” the colonel says, opening his weekly talk to a hall filled with hundreds of rookies.”

    Nuremberg – again. I wonder if the Israeli colonel realizes how familiar that sounds.

    No wonder the U.S. gov likes Israel so much – it takes its modus operandi from them.

    “When a soldier’s order is defied, it is he, his judgment, that is defied, not merely a rule that he represents. Disobedience, therefore, is always personal at the checkpoint.”

    Sound like anyone we know – at checkpoints, street protests, drug busts, etc?

    “Someone must acknowledge the soldier’s power for him to feel powerful.”

    Exactly. But war is killing, and racial war is chilling, and no people – not even a country’s own people – have an obligation to give soldiers that euphoria.

    P.S. after seeing the video: There is so much arrogance there… Disgusting!

  5. Gus S. Calabrese
    Gus S. Calabrese September 2, 2012 9:18 am

    Kill *everyone* over the age of 1.5 years and have the infants raised by peace loving … freedom loving robots 99guspuppet

  6. neal
    neal September 2, 2012 10:46 am

    I was a soldier, and had no problem with saying hell, no, I am not a number, neither are those other ones. That cost most everything, I have no sympathy for any who sell their souls for a piece of the action.

    And those who steal and kill and occupy what should be shared fairly, and are bothered by the ones that are uppity, should stop, and look to repairing damage, not begging for sympathy, maybe forgiveness.

  7. Woody
    Woody September 2, 2012 2:05 pm

    Judging from the rate of military suicides I think there are quite a few soldiers who find themselves between a rock and a hard place with regard to their orders. I’m glad that you are strong and resolute enough to spit in the eye of your superiors over what you think are unlawful orders. Those who took their own lives get my sympathy none-the-less. I don’t think they deserve your contempt. In case you wonder, I too am a veteran (1968-71).

  8. JG
    JG September 3, 2012 6:14 am

    Some inside info: Military suicide rates have nothing to do with whether or not to follow unlawful orders. The people with the moral capacity to recognize and refuse an unlawful order usually have the moral strength to face down a court martial without resorting to suicide.

    The suicide rates are a result of constant abuse by superiors. If any of you have lived with an abusive spouse or parent, you would recognize it immediately. Everything has to be better than perfect, or there will be punishment. Of course perfection is subjective to the opinion of whichever windbag is looking at the time. And he can change his mind. Or change the standards. Or decide that he didn’t want that done anyway, un-do it. If you actually make a mistake, may God have mercy on your soul, because DOD won’t. There are no mistakes. You did whatever that was deliberately and with the intent to harm the US government. You will be threatened with everything from extra duty to prison time. If you don’t like it, get out. In 4 years. Or try to leave and end up in prison.

  9. Pat
    Pat September 3, 2012 6:55 am

    JG said, [quote]The people with the moral capacity to recognize and refuse an unlawful order usually have the moral strength to face down a court martial without resorting to suicide.

    The suicide rates are a result of constant abuse by superiors. If any of you have lived with an abusive spouse or parent, you would recognize it immediately.[end of quote]

    I’m not military, never have been, and never will be. (I _have_ lived with an abusive parent, however.) But from all I’ve heard and read, I thought most military suicides (at least those vets returning from war zones) had more to do with what they saw and did, and the stress of noise, fighting and slaughter – all of which is unnatural for most people – than with abuse, per se.

    Can you confirm the cause of military suicide rates? I ask because most reasons given for suicides are speculative anyway (even military ones), unless a suicide note is left explaining the reason. And it seems to me if a person is resilient and determined enough, he can overcome the abuse, too, without resorting to suicide.

    One more point that just came to mind: More abuse may be heaped on a person who does refuse an order than on those who carry out orders without question. So abuse, if it is the cause of suicides, may be the effect of refusing to obey, or of questioning any order.

  10. Oliver
    Oliver September 3, 2012 7:31 am

    By this, fourth paragraph in Part 1, I understood the author was engaging in rationalization:

    “At the same time, West Bank Palestinians are foreign to Israel. They are not Israeli citizens, and Israeli civil law does not apply to them. Israeli martial law—the law that, at least in principle, guides and constrains the IDF—also is not a law for the Palestinians, although it does affect their lives in profound ways. Law does not govern the relations between the State of Israel and Palestinian civilians in the West Bank. Unlike citizens, who obey the police not only because they are powerful but also because they are authoritative, Palestinians obey the orders of the IDF only because it is powerful. Military laws in the West Bank therefore are not laws at all, but merely what the legal philosopher H. L. A. Hart called “orders backed by threats”: the source and limit of their authority depends on the source and limit of particular threats.”

    The reality, of course, is that ALL laws are “orders backed by threats” and law enforcers being “authoritative” has nothing to do with why people comply with them.

    Should anyone doubt it, simply break some minor law in the presence of a law enforcer. Jaywalk, for example. When the law enforcer tries to stop you to give you a lecture or a ticket, say nothing and simply walk away. See how far you get before the law enforcer applies “justifiable force” — perhaps a Taser — to make you comply with his or her orders.

    Without the threat of force, laws would be mere suggestions we could ignore at will.

  11. neal
    neal September 3, 2012 11:20 am

    I was not speaking about suicide. I was speaking about those that remain and rationalize the indefensible.

    Interestingly, it was suicide, or to be precise, the threat that I staged, that finally convinced those in power that cutting me loose was the only option left.

    That was after trying to claim drug addiction, then homosexuality, which did not matter. I do not know if they knew I was lying, or really did not care one way or the other.

    The threat of destruction of government property, and a defective attitude, were charges I am rather proud of.

  12. Matthew
    Matthew September 7, 2012 1:30 pm

    Interesting article, it truly supports the ideal that power is bestowed by the governed. While the author talked about the IDF having power, if your read the entire thing you can see that they had no power, only orders backed by force. The US follows this in much more subtle ways than checkpoints though. Identifiying “under-served” populations and providing “services” is one of the most common. Anything to enforce the constant pressence of the government can be lumped in with what the author was talking about. In a truly free society, the only time one thinks about the government is at election time. Our government is trying to get us to think about, and anticipate it’s reaction to, in every interaction we have. Again, orders backed by force, not true power.

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