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22 October 2008


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Patrick Lang


An interesting array of views.

The seminar I was at yesterday in NYC (Fordham U.) had much to do with the effect on the popular mind of ignorance and propaganda and its reflection in the misbehavior seen in recent years toward prisoners.

This soldier would have benefited greatly from exposure to leadership that educated him as well as led him.

All of you clever young people out there who are attending good colleges in something other than trade schools studies should consider whether or not Sp4 Fortunato would have benefited from having you as a leader.

I can hear the whining from here----

ROTC? Me? How awful an idea! I have better things to do! Let Fortunato do it.

When I was 22, I commanded 43 good men and true, all armed to the teeth. A lot of them were like Fortunato.


John Hammer

"People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf."-G. Orwell


"Emotion," someone once said, "has taught us to think," and so I think we ought to cut this young man some slack given that young men in particular have always tended to be more familiar with the former than the latter.

Ironically, however, I also think that with his wonderful youthful bluntness he at least tried to directly confront something that for all its tremendous importance this society tip-toes around and that is the culture war that we have been experiencing for quite some time now.

Every man's death diminishes us supposedly, but the death of a young boy like this can somewhat seem to shame us too.


anna missed

Unfortunately, this soldiers story is sad, and has become the typical and updated "love it or leave it" narrative I see often as a defense mechanism. Its sad because it's largely a lament, in that it expresses a kind of alienation more than anything else. On the unanchored and evanescent.

Larry K


Sentences like these from you -- "When I was 22, I commanded 43 good men and true, all armed to the teeth. A lot of them were like Fortunato." -- are why I visit every day I can. The intensity of thought and feeling in those few words can't be separated from the way they point in several directions at once. Which reminds me -- what is the subject of your next novel?

anna missed

Post above obviously got truncated.

Filling in... I think the soldiers story is sad in that he seems alienated. Alienated from a culturally opaque enemy he has zero understanding of. But more importantly, alienated from his his own countrymen. That he sees many/most Americans as shiftless self centered couch potatoes, that have no real appreciation for his task at hand. But then he goes farther, disengaging also from any responsibility for; proportional use of force, corporate war profiteering, political corruption, and rampant incompetence.

While all soldiers that die for their commitment, do so for certain ideals. It strikes me as sad, that this soldiers ideals are so disconnected and alienated and as a result, are unanchored and evanescent.


Poor deluded soul! What a shame there are so many who think as he does.


May the family of Army Specialist Stephen R. Fortunato find peace. I know what they are going through. Thoughts and prayers to them.

Others serving may have other opinions than Stephen
-- maybe those in this Aug 2008 USA Today article?
Military donations favor Obama

"Among soldiers serving overseas at the time of their donations, 134 gave a total of $60,642 to Obama while 26 gave a total of $10,665 to McCain. That was less than the amount received by Republican Ron Paul, who collected $45,512 from 99 soldiers serving abroad, the report said."


The feelings expressed in this young man's letter reflect to a large degree the feelings I had as a Marine in Vietnam in'69. He had so much more to learn about life and people and I would've hoped that his feelings would become more clear to him as he matured as mine did. As for me, I take pride in wearing my "Veterans for Peace" t-shirt and thank those that compliment me on my pride in this group. My regret is that I didn't do enough to dissuade other young men and women. Too many, too many for so little gains.


I'm sorry.
I'm sorry Spc. Fortunato died.
I'm sorry there was such a chasam between our individual understandings of America and her role in the world.

I don't know what else to say. I don't know what else would be appropriate to say.
What should a civilian do? I was always given to understand that civilian oversight of the military is a vital hedge against tyranny. I always thought that freedom of speech is a right, albeit one which should be guided by a sense of duty and responsibility.
Perhaps I'm wrong. And even if I'm not, my lack of service would seem to render the question moot.

For what it's worth, I wanted to be an officer. I was lining up a slot at Quantico and fighting to get myself in shape but a lung-damaging bout with whooping cough took care of that. Failure to serve was not my choice but I can't help but feel it was still a failure.

God be with Spc. Fortunato's friends and family.

Patrick Lang

Larry K

It is the second book of the trilogy. It carries the story forward down the bloody roads that Claude is following. pl

Richard Armstrong

I sure hope no one thinks it improper of me to point out that this fallen soldier was quite incorrect to call Freedom of Speech a "privilege".

Freedom of Speech is right enumerated in the U.S. Constitution.

Having always been politically very left of center, I frequently express views about my government that would land me in jail in many other nations. It is not ironic that my right to do so is why I love this country.

When I enlisted in the Army some 30 years ago I swore an oath not to defend this country or it's people, but to defend the Constitution. Not only to defend but also to bear true faith and allegiance to the same.

Richard Armstrong

One other item solely related to WIC.

A surprisingly large percentage (over 20%) of military personnel with dependents qualify for and take advantage of the WIC program.

In fact, a special version of the WIC program was implemented in 2000 to allow qualifying service members to continue to benefit from this program while they and their families are posted overseas.


I considered both joining the Navy and joining ROTC around the ages of 17-19. But being a debater for years familiarized me with many of the facts (and lack thereof) regarding the recently named "axis" nations. I found it very difficult in high school and early college to accept the mounting "narrative." I decided I'd better serve my country (myself too, sure) studying science+engineering towards finding an alternative to oil. I admit I will never know if I had the courage necessary for a military life.

I have never said "let someone else do it." On the contrary I feel a troubling moral dilemma; if I am right to think my nation's divining powers corrupt users of their volunteer military, then I surely owe it to my countrymen in service to dispel them of these myths. If I misjudge the powers that be, then I am a coward for not volunteering myself.


I imagine that even at 22 you would have educated as well as lead your men.
Was this Vietnam? Does education of one's men include detailing the possible ulterior motives and/or unseen ramifications of your operation?

Kevin Fallon

It was poignant..and his death is tragic.

It's driving me a little crazy though that I keep hearing the line that we owe our freedoms to the military, when in fact it's the US Constitution that guarantees my freedoms- and I'd go a step further and say that I was born free "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights". If the US was defeated militarily at home and the US was no longer a country I would still be a free man- whether I had defenders or not. There were free men who lived in Stalinist Russia- they didn't need a country or a piece of paper to make it so. Defending you and yours is a virtue but I don't know who this young man was defending.

It's all just too tragic. I weep for my country


Terrible waste of space here at SST and also a terrible waste of a life. The unfortunate man who lost his life is delusional.

"a stark comparison to places where leaders just line their own pockets with gold while allowing the people who gave them their power and privilege to starve." Please. Here is a good man and nothing more who wants to shout others down because his argument can't be won on its own merits. Silly.


Thank you for posting this. It exposes so many of our frailties and pieties.

On your supplemental

'All of you clever young people out there who are attending good colleges in something other than trade schools studies should consider whether or not Sp4 Fortunato would have benefited from having you as a leader.'

I can't speak for the US forces, but I personally flirted quite seriously with joining the Territorials here in the UK. I think the cultural forces which keep a certain kind of person in or out of the officer corps (not just class an background - I can tick those boxes - but attitudes) are quite strong. Once you are in, the culture is strong and naturally it shapes you (it has to be that way, doesn't it?).

Having considered your question, I conclude that the British equivalents of Sp4 Fortunato would not particularly have benefitted from knowing or being led by me, rather I would probably have been shaped to think more like them.

Not a terribly comforting conclusion.



I found the note exceptionally uninspiring and I did not like that dude.

I have seen much more impressive soldiers interviewed on TV. I prefer to think of them when I think of America.


(FYI: Today marks the 25th Anniversary of the bombing of the US Marine Barracks in Lebanon. Wondering if they will celebrate in Iraq.)

Final Text of Iraq Pact Reveals a U.S. Debacle

WASHINGTON, Oct 22 (IPS) - The final draft of the U.S.-Iraq Status of Forces agreement on the U.S. military presence represents an even more crushing defeat for the policy of the George W. Bush administration than previously thought, the final text reveals.


The collapse of the Bush administration's ambitious plan for a long-term U.S. presence in Iraq highlights the degree of unreality that has prevailed among top U.S. officials in both Washington and Baghdad on Iraqi politics. They continued to see the Maliki regime as a client which would cooperate with U.S. aims even after it was clear that Maliki's agenda was sharply at odds with that of the United States.


Strudel & Shotguns

Ah, to be 25 again and not know what I know now ...


Kevin Fallon wrote:

"It's driving me a little crazy though that I keep hearing the line that we owe our freedoms to the military, when in fact it's the US Constitution that guarantees my freedoms....
"There were free men who lived in Stalinist Russia...."

Interesting definition of "freedom." Brings to mind Samuel Johnson's quip about the need to count your spoons after being visited by people who see no difference between virtue and vice.

And I'd be interested in just how you think you got your constitution, Kevin? If memory serves it wasn't with sweet reason and zen koans, it was with those rough men of Orwell's exposing their meat and bone to iron and steel at places like Yorktown.

Again the fundamental thing that Fortunato addressed was the culture war that's been going on in this country, and in particular and at most extreme end of the spectrum those who wish us to trust that the world doesn't still and won't always have people in it who want to be the dog that eats other dogs.


Mad Dogs

Death has no favorites. It comes to us all. Sometimes young, sometimes old.

When I was Fortunato's age, I had just completed my 4 years of service.

I remember one of my brothers-in-arms who was 3-4 years younger than Fortunato.

While he shared few of Fortunato's political beliefs, he certainly shared the same demise.

And like oh-so many down through the millenia, I wonder "what might have been?"

You can't argue with the dead. No matter how hard you try.

Jim V

The last time I felt as sad as I do after reading this post was many years ago, when I saw a news video from South Africa. Apartheid was in the process of being overthrown, and the video showed a group of white protesters. One of them was a cute, blond-headed boy of about ten. The reporter put a microphone in front of him, asking why he was protesting.

"Because Blacks want the same rights as Whites ... and I don't think that's right!"

I could debate facts and logic with young people like the Afrikaner and Mr. Fortunato, but what could I do to counter ingrained beliefs and prejudices?

(I was drafted for the Vietnam war but flunked the physical due to extreme near-sightedness. The recruiting sergeant who told me the result said, upon seeing my reaction, "What's the matter, you didn't really want to get your ass shot off in Vietnam did you?"

"No," I replied, "but it seems like there are lots of things I could do."

"That's true," he replied, "but the Army has a rule that everyone must be fit for combat.")


When I saw "Fortunato," I thought the Col. was pulling our leg as in Leon Fortunuato, the characther in "Left Behind," but this is about one Stephen.

It would be hard to have seen Stephen doing population oriented COIN. His mind set seems to have been geared toward kinetic operations. His allegiance seems to have been toward his commander rather than to the Constitution.Sad.

Harks back to the 60's & 70's- Okie from Muskogie & America- Love it or Leave it!

Duncan Kinder

To all the pampered and protected Americans who feel it is their duty to inform me that I am not fighting for their freedom, and that i am a pawn in Bush's agenda of greed and oil acquisition: Noted, and Fuck You.

It is never appropriate to speak ill of the dead and it certainly is politically incorrect to criticize "the troops."

Nevertheless, I can see no purpose for this communication other than to generate hostility to those "pampered and protected Americans" to whom he said, "Fuck you."

Unfortunately, the purpose of the military is to serve ALL Americans, including "pampered and protected" ones. To suggest otherwise is - frankly - quite disturbing.

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