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iPods at War 364

phaedo00 writes "Ars Technica has put together an outstanding piece of journalism about the use of personal technology in America's military and how these devices along with blatant piracy is causing new problems in the face of war: "While soldiers once deployed with little more than a backpack and a rifle, today's crop of infantry troops pack along MP3 players, digital cameras, DVD players, video games, movie collections, and computers of their own. The personal electronics have made modern American warfare the most comfortable it has ever been, but they've also brought a new set of problems onto the battlefield.""
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iPods at War

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  • by yagu ( 721525 ) * <> on Monday August 21, 2006 @02:31PM (#15950140) Journal

    From the fine article, first page, a paragraph:

    The entertainment industry has yet to sue soldiers in Iraq for copyright infringement, but perhaps it should if it's serious about stopping piracy. An MP in Afghanistan, who goes by the forum handle SirEverlast, tells Ars, "Every country I've been to has disregarded the MPAA and sold bootleg DVDs that soldiers buy for next to nothing."

    First, please let this be tongue in cheek on the author's part (I'm assuming it is).

    That aside, it's an interesting notion. Yeah, let the MPAA and RIAA go after the piracy of media by soldiers afield. The stipulation would be that the RIAA and MPAA must confront the accused personally, i.e., make them go the active front... after all, they've claimed they themselves are engaged in a war. What better way to experience that reality?

    Anyway, if you've read Joseph Heller's Catch 22, soldiers' ingenuity to make their insane world a little more liveable is Milo Minderbinder redux. More power to them for making it through.

  • It's still war. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Rob T Firefly ( 844560 ) on Monday August 21, 2006 @02:35PM (#15950177) Homepage Journal
    The personal electronics have made modern American warfare the most comfortable it has ever been
    That's rather like saying we've invented a form of molten lead that's more comfortable to have poured onto you than normal common or garden variety molten lead. These soldiers aren't exactly enjoying an evening at Chuck E. Cheese, for pity's sake!
  • by antifoidulus ( 807088 ) on Monday August 21, 2006 @02:41PM (#15950213) Homepage Journal
    in Apocalypse now, " As long as our officers and troups (sic) perform tours of duty limited to one year, they will remain dilletantes in war and tourists in Vietnam. As long as cold beer, hot food, rock and roll and all the other amenities remain the expected norm, our conduct of the war will gain only impotence. (In the document, but not read aloud - The wholesale and indiscriminate use of firepower will only increase the effectiveness of the enemy and strengthen their resolve to prove the superiority of an agrarian culture against the world's greatest technocracy...The central tragedy of our effort in this conflict has been the confusion of a sophisticated technology with human commitment. Our bombs may in time destroy the geography, but they will never win the war...)...We need fewer men, and better; if they were committed, this war could be won with a fourth of our present force..."

    While I have been against the Iraq war from the begining, I wonder how much truth there is to this. Are short stints and relatively comfortable surroundings really not motivating the troops to do their job? A quote from Captain Willard: "Charlie didn't get much USO. He was dug in too deep or moving too fast. His idea of great R and R was cold rice and a little rat meat. He had only two ways home: death or victory."

    Just take the above quotes and replace "Vietnam" with "Iraq" and "Charlie" with the insurgency and you have quotes that apply as much to this war as it did 'Nam....
  • Re:Off on a tangent (Score:2, Interesting)

    by ohearn ( 969704 ) on Monday August 21, 2006 @03:00PM (#15950322)
    Technically if you are an active member of the military (active duty, or guard or reserve that has been called up), you can legally drink at 18 with your military ID.
  • by JD-1027 ( 726234 ) on Monday August 21, 2006 @03:06PM (#15950354)
    "There's a fairly robust grey market run by the locals wherein a person can pick up movies which are still in theaters for a paltry $3.00," he says. "They aren't the best quality, usually, but things like series which have already been released (Sopranos, Buffy, FireFly) are also available at the $3.00/disk pricepoint and are ripped from the actual DVD sets. The quality of those items is right up there with the legitimate stuff, and all the stupid warnings and previews are usually done away with."

    God Bless America

  • by speedlaw ( 878924 ) on Monday August 21, 2006 @03:19PM (#15950440) Homepage
    anyone who has been to ANY third world country, or anyplace where the USA is not the govt, will have noticed that $5 is all you need for any software...Windows XP Pro, Photoshop, or any game you can imagine. $5 is all you need for anything at all. Computer sellers outside the us make the money only on hardware, not software. So our Troops, stationed in a third world country, with hard currency, have access to what ? I'm an American, but I know that the USA is not the world, and outside our borders, things are different...not better, not worse, just different. Even tho' they should NOT be there, if any of the poor bastards sent forth by the chickenhawk asshat cabal (mis)"running" our country finds some fun or escape in a bootleg copy of "Buckaroo Bonzai" or a recording of some rock,rap or country, I'm all for it. There are bits of the USA in Iraq, protected zones. That's because they didn't welcome us with open arms, as we were lied to by Cheney and Rumsfeld. Really, the RIAA is as laugable as our War on Drugs. Sure, some people get hurt by it, but mostly it is ignored or used as a payoff to the local warlords, who use it to deliever up a local who is out of favor with the ruling junta.
  • Re:bzzt (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Pope ( 17780 ) on Monday August 21, 2006 @03:39PM (#15950625)
    No it wasn't. It was mainly supported by Liz Dole trying to prevent drinking and driving accidents among college students, as well as to stop college kids in 21-age States from driving to 18-age States, drinking and driving drunk on the way home, possibly killing themselves or others.

    Also, your claim of "it works" is completely invalidated by the number of drunk high school kids out there.
  • Don't forget, (Score:2, Interesting)

    by iceperson ( 582205 ) on Monday August 21, 2006 @03:48PM (#15950714)
    While members of the military do probably take a lot more 'niceties' to the field now than they did in the past, they are also leaving a lot more of what they have come to be accustomed to behind. While my grandfather didn't have an i-pod in WW2, he didn't really have a lot 'luxuries' he left behind here in the states. I guess what I'm saying is, it's all relative.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 21, 2006 @03:48PM (#15950719)
    Have you picked up a newspaper lately? Half a million Iraqi citizens dead

    Please provide some statistics to backup your claim. In looking at this site [], the total is nowhere near what you claim. [] has the civilian totals for civilian casualties between 40,000 to 45,000. Not a small number by any means but nowhere near the amount you claim.

    The country is in complete, total, utter chaos.

    Been subscribing to one of the far left theories I see. Sure, parts of the country have problems but if you look a bit, you can find other references to success in Iraq. I'm sure I could present a pretty picture of Iraq without any facts, very much like what you did, but then I'd be labeled on the far right. I'll stick to my "center of the road" ways.

  • Hi, you're wrong (Score:3, Interesting)

    by BitterAndDrunk ( 799378 ) on Monday August 21, 2006 @03:52PM (#15950742) Homepage Journal
    A source. []

    Not the only source, but a half-assed google search found the AMA with an article on page 1. Lots of goodies there, here's one:
    "A higher MLDA results in fewer alcohol-related problems among youth, and the 21-year-old MLDA saves the lives of well over 1,000 youth each year (Jones et al, 1992; NHTSA, 1989). Conversely, when the MLDA is lowered, motor vehicle crashes and deaths among youth increase. At least 50 studies have evaluated this correlation (Wagenaar, 1993)."

    Thanks for playing.

  • by x2A ( 858210 ) on Monday August 21, 2006 @03:52PM (#15950749)
    "I don't think someone has a right to criticize the military unless they've been a part of it"

    That's absolute crap. Intelligent humans have this ability called "conjecture", that allows them to make informed judgements about things based on their own, different experiences. Now, maybe your experiences will be different enough to mean that judgements can be made poorly, but that's not always the case, there are 'universals' that people can discover by themselves without having to experience the thing ("I'm not gonna jump in that fire, because it will burn. I know this, even though I've never jumped in a fire before"). The same goes for certain morals; a soldier killing someone is *just as* wrong as anybody else killing somebody. What changes is the necessity: is that person about to blow you up? Then necessity outweights.

    At the end of the day, people don't want soldiers to be "too comfortable" because going out and killing people shouldn't be nice, you should never be comfortable doing it, so you only do it when it's really necessary to. The thought of it being comfortable, rightly or wrongly, makes other people (aka "society") uncomfortable. Not sure whether I agree, but it's certainly understandable.

  • Nothing new.... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Chanc_Gorkon ( 94133 ) <> on Monday August 21, 2006 @03:56PM (#15950783)
    This is not all that new. A friend of mine in college had a kick ass computer (a 386 when I had a 286) and had every game imagineable. All of which he got when in the military. One thing you have, if your single, when your on active duty is money. Yuo don't have to pay for clothes or food when your on active duty. Yuo still get paid and thus can buy alot of stuff at teh PX or on Personally, I agree with others.....this war in Iraq is now about 3 years old and it's time for us to exit, or make sure we swap in fresh troops on a regular basis. Give the ones who have been out for a while a long leave. If this is impossible, then at least make the off duty hours comfortable.
  • by FiveDollarYoBet ( 956765 ) on Monday August 21, 2006 @04:01PM (#15950834)
    Been back from Iraq for less than a year. We lived in steel containers with windows, a door and an AC unit cut into the sides. Our water tank was outside and non-potable so you didn't shower if you had a cut. In the winter the water was cold. In the summer it was too hot to shower after 7AM. About half the guys in my platoon had laptops. All but a few had iPods.

    It's nice to be able to listen to some tunes or play some NCAA with the AC going full blast when it's 130F outside. You do it to try to bring back a feeling of normality. You know that in two hours you're going out for a patrol and you know that your sector is averaging an IED every other day but for that short time beforehand you can almost imagine that you're back home.

    Is a $3000 plasma screen excessive? An entire DJ booth over the top? In my opinion yes, but to that soldier it's probably still not enough to make them feel like they were home.

    One thing of note.... the PX who supplies most of the crap that soldiers buy is a monopoly. They stock that $3000 plasma that a buck private probably can't afford knowing that they'll take the money and run. In my opinion they were bigger cheats than the Haji shop on base that tried to sell you Rodex watches.

  • Re:Iraq (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 21, 2006 @04:32PM (#15951089)
    A serious note on this one. We're allowed 15 minute, or so, calls back home. Occasionally a mortar attack would start and the alarm would go off. To keep from alarming our family members we'd just make up excuses as to why we had to get off the phone. We'd say "oh, calling card is running out, gotta go! :)" or "the guy says I don't have any more time."
  • by oofoe ( 709282 ) on Monday August 21, 2006 @04:38PM (#15951130) Journal

    On specific instructions from the Chuck E. Cheez top management, a large number of these had their fur disposed of and their endoskeletons/mechanics cut up with blowtorches. A friend of mine used to work at one of these places when the order came down. He managed to rescue one of them (sans fur) from the cutter and I wound up with it when he no longer had space for it. It's a very interesting device, all pneumatically actuated using a low pressure air line. He also managed to grab a programming console for it, which you can use to drive it manually. All you need is an air source (a truck inner tube will do) and you can drive it around. Since this one was the lead guitar player (I think), it has a reasonable number of degrees of freedom.

    The most striking thing about it is the beautiful blue eyes. Seeing it for the first time is quite a shock since the rest of it is quite Terminator-esque.

    It's currently standing guard in my basement, waiting for the rise of Goog... I mean SkyNet...
  • As seen in 2000 (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Pseudonymus Bosch ( 3479 ) on Monday August 21, 2006 @04:49PM (#15951200) Homepage
    But the chips in those Playstations could be used for Saddam's weapon systems []!
  • by niliin ( 945722 ) on Monday August 21, 2006 @04:58PM (#15951257)
    Now while I am no fan of joining the military, nor am I a fan for normal human traits(stupdity, selfisnous, greed). However, your comment is rather... out there. Yes, a soilder gets paid to go "kill" and see places, but your missing the downfalls to that. I'm not saying whatever your job is, is difficult. I'm saying your not even trying to understand what they go through, now either be it because of a personal exeperenice in some way with armed forces, or just plain a bad outlook on life. A soilder as it were has the 'choice' to sign up for military service which they did. I say 'choice' with caution because for some of these people, there choice is rather small in options, now I have a pretty decent life so I chose not to join up, however when your choice is join the military or stay in your gang ridden neiborhood with no jobs and no money to better yourself or even live (yes this is one of the bad cases) there is a lack of choices for instance's like these.

    And more to the point, NO I don't believe they should get any special treatment, however that includes BOTH POSITIVE AND NEGATIVE treatment.

    Also please, if your going to post a rant of your personal belief's, do it as your self instead of being scared of what others would think and posting anonymously
    *Yes I have incorrect spelling and bad grammer.
  • by DJCacophony ( 832334 ) <v0dka@myg0[ ]om ['t.c' in gap]> on Monday August 21, 2006 @05:08PM (#15951316) Homepage
    No, when I chose my job, I intentionally chose a job that didn't include being shot at.
    Some people chose differently. That's their choice, I don't see why they should be congratulated on such a foolish decision.
  • by MBC1977 ( 978793 ) on Monday August 21, 2006 @05:47PM (#15951606) Journal
    Gents and Ladies,

    Regardless of what side of the coin you follow (democrat or republican, liberal or conservative), if you are not putting your
    life on the line don't criticize others that do. In addition, as to servicemembers allegedly listening to music or watching videos
    illegally, I would ask you to consider the morale factor. If you know you can possibly die at anytime, do you really think that we care
    (during our deployment in a hostile country) that the RIAA is going to come after us? Whatever my fellow servicemembers and I need to
    maintain our calm in a chaotic situation is what matters plain and simple. Because the simple matter is lives are at stake, namely ours.
    Irregardless of whether this war is a good or bad action to undertake.

    Another way I'll put is like this: If the RIAA wants to fight terrorism in Iraq before it comes to our shores, I'll gladly hand my M16A4
    over to one of the cushy (or pudgy in somecases) lawyers and they can stand post. I don't mind sitting on my ass collecting big checks from
    overpaid, overhyped artists (whom the majority can't sing or act anyway). At least I won't harrass dead people's families, college students,
    and children. (Not to mention, all that gear hurts my back any damm way).


    (US Marine, College Student, and Good Guy)

    Please note: The following comment is personal and not an official US Marine statement
  • Re:Problem? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by ClamIAm ( 926466 ) on Monday August 21, 2006 @05:50PM (#15951627)
    why do people join up in the US knowing the direction of current foreign policy?

    Short answer: they don't. I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that most recruit-age Americans who understand the consequences of our foreign policies are generally not the ones heading off to Basic. In the interest of disclosure, I consider myself part of this group.

    Now we get to the fun (read: scary) part. The US nowadays claims to have a "volunteer" military. This is technically true. However, the reality is very different.

    Over the past 30 years, wealth in this country has become extremely concentrated. The obvious effect here is that fewer people own things (home, business, stock, etc), and as a result fewer have financial freedom. Another important effect here is the one of education. Local taxes are used to fund public (state-run) schools, so poor communities often have low-quality schools. This end result is a bunch of people who have no financial freedom and are not very educated (no marketable skills, etc). Those who are smart enough to overcome poor schooling don't have a good chance of making it into and through college.

    The military is a pretty attractive option at this point. It's a steady job, provides training (and money for school), and has the bonuses of seeing far-off lands and playing with fun toys (tanks, planes, etc).

    The really scary part is the little conspiracy theorist voice in my head is telling me this was the plan all along. The kings and nobles who have all the wealth need people to grow their empire. Vietnam was a PR disaster, which means the draft is going away. Instead, let's squeeze the working classes so many of their sons and daughters are enlisted. Next comes Support The Troops. If you don't Support The Troops, you're a terrorist.

    I realize that last paragraph may be seen as inflammatory, but really it's not. This has nothing to do with any political ideology. What it has to do with is the balance of power in this country, and why our current situation is very scary.
  • by Cederic ( 9623 ) on Monday August 21, 2006 @09:07PM (#15952736) Journal

    Actually your soliders are increasing the risks to my life. If every American soldier fell over dead tomorrow I would be personally delighted.

    If there was a big button to press to make it happen, I'd be joining the queue.

    Support your troops? No.

  • Thank you, kind sir for putting it in perspective.

    Piracy is the least of our concerns here. In fact, piracy is mostly the ONLY way we are able to get music and movies to bring a little comfort into our lives. I'm stationed in Iraq now, and have been so for the past 10 months. Let me tell you - we soldiers swap movies and music amongst ourselves all the time. The PX'es have a small selection of music and movies, and so we turn to other avenues (like swapping music and movies) or buying pirated CD's and DVD's from Iraqis. We can get whole TV series (Babylon 5, Sopranos, Simpsons) and if they are DVD rips, the quality is pretty good. We can even get movies when they're still in theater - of course, the copy is pretty crappy, but sometimes it'll do. Piracy is rampant here and I wonder if the RIAA knows about it. To put it quite simply, none of us are really bothered - we're mostly trying to make sure we stay alert and alive. To be honest, I find that if I hear some music from a band/artist I like, I buy their CD's. For example, I recently got a song or two by Death Cab For Cutie from my friend. I liked their music, so I bought their CD.

    I'm waiting for the day when the *AA sends their representatives into the battlefield to make sure piracy isn't running wild amongst the troops - I'd laugh. I wonder if they'd have the balls to do that or to prosecute soldiers/marines/seamen/airmen who are simply trying to make their lives a little more comfortable.
  • by sgtrock ( 191182 ) on Tuesday August 22, 2006 @07:59AM (#15954503)
    Kurtz was wrong on several counts. "Apocalypse Now" was a hell of a movie, but it disregarded a hell of a lot of facts to tell a story.

    Let me state for the record that I think the war in Iraq should have been fought, but we fought it for all the wrong reasons. Saddam needed to be booted out, and should have been in '91 when we had a better force for the purpose on the ground. Failing that, Saddam's wilful flaunting of all of the UN sanctions combined with the wholesale slaughter of his own people demanded that he be removed. By force if necessary. Realistically, that was the only way he was leaving office.

    In any case, a better model for Iraq post 2003 should have been Germany at the end of WWII. Our senior leadership should have recognized that we were going to be seen as an occupying force, /not/ liberators. The British, French, Russian, and American forces on the ground in 1945 faced several years of sabotage, assasination attempts, etc. IOW, guerilla warfare at its worst.

    Why did we eventually win the peace? Because we had enough boots on the ground from the beginning to provide true security throughout the country (and to act as unofficial US ambassadors with the locals), we were in place for at least a decade to make sure that the last of the Hitler's fanatical supporters had been run to ground, and we had the Marshall Plan in place from the beginning to begin rebuilding the infrastructure of Europe.

    Contrast that with Iraq and our current leadership. Before the war started, Rumsfeld fired the generals who told him the real scale of what he really needed on the ground, Bush&Co. were clearly surprised that we weren't welcomed with open arms by the locals, Rumsfeld had no plan to deal with the inevitable insurgency, Rumsfeld /still/ doesn't have anywhere /near/ the number of troops in Iraq that we really need (IMO he needs at least triple or quadruple the current number in country just to begin restabilizing things), Cheney let Halliburton leech off the federal teat instead of making sure that dollars spent on Iraqi infrastructure were actually fixing things.

    So what has 3+ years in Iraq gotten us? Bogged down, spending money and lives like a drunken sailor, and we can't even keep the capitol secure for people to buy groceries. The relatively few Iraqis who do come in contact with US forces frequently end up with a negative impression of us because the only time they see us face to face is when they're at the wrong end of an M16. And I haven't even mentioned this administration's apparent complete disregard for anything remotely resembling moral, ethical, or legal treatment of prisoners.

    I could see much of this coming in 2002. Although I never would have predicted Abu Ghraib or transferring prisoners to Egypt for torture! I thought Bush understood what country he represented.

    I consider myself to be a small 'c' conservative and generally vote an independent or split ticket. I tried to warn my friends who consider themselves to be Republicans that they were being sold a bill of goods by their party's leadership. I warned them then that we were in Iraq for at least 8 years if we were going to really win. Most scoffed. A couple of them believed me. Even the believers felt that what I thought was necessary to win wasn't going to be politically possible. My response then was that we'd end up looking at another Vietnam if we didn't.

Executive ability is deciding quickly and getting somebody else to do the work. -- John G. Pollard