Interlude: So now I’ve heard of Steve Gern

This morning I was blessed – blessed – to receive an e-mail FWD from my dad, or rather a message from one of his mates, which he then FWDed to me, I can only assume, for some fuzzy wuzzy leftist peacenik perspective.


I will, as always, be doing my best to break this tirade up and intersperse it with amusing semi-relevant pictures just to keep your will to live hovering somewhere around 50%.

My dad is part of the generation that just cannot reliably deal with the Internet, and yet is for some unfathomable reason still in charge of a lot of the world. So the stuff he sends to me from his mates usually hits my inbox with all their personal details attached.

It’s probably just as well I’m a decent person.

Anyway, this morning was a surreal one.

From: ### [mailto:###]
Sent: Monday, 13 February 2017 11:00 AM
To: ###
Subject: FW: A different perspective on a subject in the news

A different perspective! Ah, so this is going to be some sort of message of tolerance and intelligence and a rejection of fear – oh wait.

Worth a listen.  From a friend in the US.


Alright, so for anyone who doesn’t know yet, this is a video recorded by a marine, or possibly former / retired marine who was still doing “missions” up until quite recently and stationed in Iraq (within five minutes I think I had researched this more thoroughly than my dad or his friends). His name is Steve Gern.

There is a heap of links about him, and at this point it’s just ridiculous to try to figure out what is true and what is propaganda, so I’m working on the assumptions that:

a) He is a real (ex-)marine;

b) He was in Iraq as of the creation of the video;

c) What he was recounting was anecdotally true.

I for one have no trouble believing these points, although obviously I think it will be an uncomfortable thing for a lot of us fuzzy wuzzies to confront. In later news, it was also reported that a few hours after his video went viral, Gern was airlifted the fuck out of Iraq because his life was in danger.

A_DOY (1)

To which my immediate thought was “great, and now what about the rest of them?”

Gern makes an excellent case about the hostility a soldier faces on foreign soil. I know nothing about how that feels, except there are some military men in my family and despite my vastly differing worldview I have great respect and sympathy for their experiences.

I respect, because whatever orders and whatever politics and whatever rhetoric got them to that place (literally and ideologically), they are doing what they think is right, to protect their own and to make things better for the country they’ve been shipped off to. They’re doing something dangerous, and I can only imagine the fear they live with, but they get out there and do it, and sure – I can tip my hat to that.

Are they creating more enemies than they’re protecting us from? Maybe. Not the point at this stage.


Worked for the Romans.

No, I don’t think “invading” US soldiers go over to some other country with an avowed intent to kill everyone, burn villages and rape the local women. Sure, there are some like that – but let’s keep it real, there are small numbers of bad people slipping into our countries from these “under no circumstances specifically necessarily Muslim” countries too. Conservatives are using that fact as a justification for banning immigration, after all. Sooooooo

[space left for drawing of logical conclusions]

Anyway, sure, I respect the soldier who is out there doing his job, even if I have my reservations about whether the job should really be done in certain places and under certain circumstances. Most of them are good people, doing a difficult thing.

I sympathise, because I’ve seen first-hand how that difficult thing can skew one’s view of the world, of people from a certain place, of one’s expectations of a certain culture – one’s view of civilians and activists and basically everything.

Yeah, once you’ve been hated – literally death-wish hated – by a group of people, it’s probably impossible to look at anyone from that group or a similar group and not see a heightened threat. And maybe you’re not even wrong. Also not the point at this stage.

So that brings us to Steve Gern and his experiences in Iraq.

Gern relates a simple story: That he asked his associates over there in Iraq whether he could go down to the local town and just hang out. His associates said no, that was a terrible idea, he would be captured and tortured and beheaded on video. Not by ISIS or militants of any kind, but by normal civilian townsfolk.

The take-away from this was “I can’t live a normal life in their country. Why should they get to live in mine?”



I can only assume that the implication is that the Iraqi civilians entering the US are … what, going to start torturing and beheading people?

Okay, that might be an unfair knee-jerk exaggeration. Maybe the possibility that even one immigrant possibly doing this is enough to justify more vetting, more security checks, and maybe that’s all the ban is about. Maybe. Sure. Okay.

But the video draws a clear parallel between the danger faced by a US soldier in war-torn Iraq at the hands of its citizens, and the danger faced by a US citizen in the US at the hands of Iraqi immigrants.


This guy is a soldier. Now, I just got through telling you how I respect and sympathise with the soldier’s experience. Where I draw the line, however, is in thinking the experience of a soldier on foreign soil has any overlap with the experience of a civilian in his or her homeland.

So what’s the difference?

Why would Gern be tortured and beheaded in an Iraqi town, while Iraqi immigrants in the US might be entirely innocent and harmless? Is there any possible explanation, or are Iraqis just that dangerous, regardless of the provocation or context? Do the native Iraqis just not like big beards? No, that can’t be it.


It’s just a mystery.

So I sent the above reply to my dad and to the original e-mail FWDer, just because I could do it (I had the technology).

Why should Iraqi immigrants and refugees get to live in the US, Steve? Because your job was to liberate them and give them a life of peace. Because your country prides itself on taking in the less fortunate and giving them a chance.

Because if Iraq is so bad that Iraqis are trying to get into the US, Steve, you have failed.

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13 Responses to Interlude: So now I’ve heard of Steve Gern

  1. dreameling says:

    “I can’t live a normal life in their country. Why should they get to live in mine?”

    Sounds like a textbook case of false equivalence.

    • stchucky says:


      I just don’t understand how he thinks a heavily-armed Iraqi soldier would survive a day in a little town in, say, the south of the US.

      I’m also a little concerned at how he would apparently be tortured and beheaded on video – not by ISIS or other militants, but just by normal citizens? Why would they videotape it? YouTube clicks? Is there an amateur film festival going on? What sort of town does he live near?

      • dreameling says:

        There’s also just the general disconnect between “US soldier in crisis-torn Iraq” and “Iraqi civilian in peace-time US”. Too completely different contexts. Not equivalent.

      • stchucky says:


        I don’t want to get into the counter-productive conspiracy / setup side of it (not that this is super-constructive as it is, but you know). But it worries me that a marine wouldn’t recognise this lack of equivalence. I don’t like to think that soldiers, even USian soldiers, are that blind.

        And he goes on the record saying we civilians are naïve?

      • dreameling says:

        Soldiers are just people. They’re not special. They may have perspective on things that we civilians do not, but that doesn’t make them any less prone to prejudice or narrow-mindedness.

        I imagine a soldier’s perspective is equally skewed by the violence and other shit they experience on-the-job as a civilian’s perspective is skewed by not being exposed to said shit.

  2. C Itkonen says:


    Can I share this to my facebook so my racist relatives pee themselves?

  3. brknwntr says:

    I know this is only semi-related, but this seems the best place possible for me to express it.

    I WANT to be a pacifist. My religion and moral code from my upbringing, teach tolerance and peace, and a strict, DO UNTO OTHERS policy.

    My personality, life experience, and general world view lead me down a more “it would be awfully sad that lots of innocents would die if we carpet bombed vast swaths of the planet simply to ensure we got that one mother fucker. But if I KNEW it would ensure peace and safety for the people I want it for…. I would kill them in a heartbeat” sort of path.

    It’s a hard hard place to be.

    • brknwntr says:

      Which after further thought was not clear enough for the reader to follow my train of thought.

      I see both sides. And i actively want to be on either side of the fence at various times.

      And neither one is simple or straightforward.

      • stchucky says:

        He’d never really understood the deep-seated human impulse to die fighting now rather than pass an issue on to some future generation that might actually solve said issue. He tried not to let prejudice answer this riddle for him, but sometimes his experience with humans got in the way of this noble sentiment. That was when he became incapable of seeing it as anything but raw, howling, teeth-bared monkeyhate. Confront a group of humans with a challenge that could be solved by immediate violence or by generation-spanning thought, and they would go for the violence every time, with a relish that Decay usually considered funny but he knew the Molren had found deeply disturbing from day one.

        Sounds like the human condition to me.

      • brknwntr says:

        Yeah, that’s pretty much all I needed response wise.

        I’m studying calculus, reading a fiction book about cryptography that was written by a choreographer, drinking my fourth cup of black coffee, and medicated to slow my brain down with a medicine that seems to have the exact opposite. Today will not be a rational or logical day.

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