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Saving up ASBO’s for foolish generals and road hogs

RICH MAYFIELD
Rich Mayfield
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The images of Abu Ghraib prison abuses still vivid in our collective memory, it was shocking to read the comments of Lt. Gen. James Mattis last week. The decorated general spoke during a recent panel discussion hosted by the Armed Forces Communications and Electronic Association: “It’s fun to shoot some people? Actually, it’s a lot of fun to fight. You know, it’s a hell of a hoot.”Now, I’m always nervous about taking any comments out of context, but when the commandant of the Marine Corps quickly notified all of America that he had “counseled” his lieutenant general on his public relations gaff, you have to figure the quote is pretty accurate.Far more worrisome than the accuracy of the quote is the accuracy of the officer’s expressed pleasure at the prospect of shooting and, presumably, killing other human beings.One wonders if the lieutenant general’s comments are limited to one perverse perspective or indicative of a more generally held opinion. I would hate to think that most of the soldiers fighting in Iraq right now receive this same kind of sadistic pleasure from their soldierly duties.

Indeed, having known a number of men who have served in combat and have never remotely suggested that such service provided similar enjoyment, I dare to believe that this particular officer is an aberration. I certainly hope so.Otherwise we are forced to imagine what might happen when men who have received pleasure from killing others are forced into difficult situations as they readjust to civilian life. Will they seek peaceful means for resolution or will they remember the sentiments of Gen. Mattis?As someone who has counseled and conversed with Vietnam vets, I cringed when I read the general’s remarks. Our nation did precious little to help the soldiers returning from Vietnam reintegrate into society. Given Mattis’ comments, I hope we have a better plan this time.On a much lighter but somewhat related note, recent legislation in Great Britain has created something called the ASBO or Anti-Social Behavior Order. An ASBO is a tool for attempting to control those irritants to a smooth running society that the legal system has neither the time nor energy to manage.

Vandalism, rowdiness, loud music, activities that may not interest the police but certainly capture the attention of neighbors, are the objects of these easily produced edicts that can result in significant penalties including fines and jail time.There is some debate in Great Britain over the potential for the infringement of civil liberties by this recent legislation, but in the meantime, I find myself fantasizing on the implementation of ASBOs on this side of the pond.For instance, if we were to follow the British lead, some of us could petition the appropriate authorities to issue an ASBO to anyone who continues to drive in the left hand lane after five cars have passed on the right. Or an ASBO could be issued to anyone you meet on a mountain trail with a dog unleashed who calls out, “Don’t worry! Killer won’t bite.”Do you see where this is headed? I’d fire off an ASBO to anyone caught tossing a cigarette butt out their car window – or anything else for that matter.

ASBO’s to folks who continue to think any of us are interested in listening in on their cell phone conversations. I’d use my ASBO allotment to indict those parents who are particularly profane at the sporting events of their children. And I’d use a few on the folks who figure their meal entitles them to monopolize conversation for everyone else in the restaurant. Finally, I’d hold one last ASBO for any lieutenant general who forgets that serving his country is a noble and, at times, exceedingly difficult duty and never a license for sick amusement.Rich Mayfield writes a Saturday column. He can be reached at richmayfield@earthlink.net.


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