You can’t handle the truth!
Chances are you’ve heard this line from a famous scene in the 1993 film A Few Good Men. Conservatives love to use it against liberals, or the line “you want me on that wall, you need me on that wall.” It’s considered a go-to line when justifying unjustifiable military actions (ironically, the military is becoming more and more of a social justice warrior club, so this may change if conservatives ever snap out of their Stockholm Syndrome).
A brief context to this scene: Kaffee (Tom Cruise) is defending two Marines accused of murdering a fellow soldier in their barracks at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The Marines claim they were ordered to give the soldier, Santiago a “code red” (hazing ritual) by their commanding officer. Kaffee and his colleagues believe Jessep (Jack Nicholson) ultimately gave the order himself.
Prior to this speech/rant, Kaffeee has been doing his best to get underneath Jessep’s skin; deep down, he knows the colonel wants to admit he gave the order and hates having to pretend otherwise.
The reality is that Jessep did give the “code red” order against Santiago, who was suffering from health problems that were the true cause of his death. The officers had dismissed his condition as a sign of poor morale.
Similar to my analysis of Charlie Chaplin’s Great Dictator speech, I thought it’d be interesting to analyze his speech from a libertarian perspective and show how applicable the philosophy is when interpreting the fictional events.
Jessep’s dialogue is in italics. Mine is in regular text.
You can’t handle the truth! Son, we live in a world that has walls, and those walls have to be guarded by men with guns. Who’s gonna do it? You? You, Lieutenant Weinberg?
The world does have walls. And often walls are needed to protect a country. However, the wall you’re referring to is not along your country’s border. It is located within Cuba, a foreign country whose people do not want you there. You and your entire military outfit is there against their will. So you are not defending a wall as much as you are maintaining an illegal occupation of another people’s nation.
Clearly whatever lesson there was to be learned from your tour of service in Vietnam, you ignored.
I have a greater responsibility than you can possibly fathom. You weep for Santiago, and you curse the Marines. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know — that Santiago’s death, while tragic, probably saved lives; and my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives.
Santiago died unnecessarily because he shouldn’t have been in Cuba in the first place. It was also unnecessary because you didn’t bother to investigate whether his inability to carry out his duties had anything to do with a physical problem rather than a bad attitude. The doctor who gave him a clean bill of health and failed to diagnose his condition is also responsible.
Speaking of responsibility, you have a responsibility to assume liability for your decisions. You ordered the code red, yet when it resulted in two Marines’ arrest, you said nothing. You were silent. Worse, you lied about it and committed fraud to cover it up.
Your order cost a man his life and destroyed the reputation of two soldiers acting under your orders in good faith. You didn’t save lives because there is no need for you to be in Cuba. Even if you were stationed along a border wall with a hostile neighboring country, it wouldn’t have changed the fact that you lied about what happened.
You don’t want the truth because deep down in places you don’t talk about at parties, you want me on that wall — you need me on that wall.
No, we don’t want you on that wall any more than the East Berliners wanted the Stasi on the Berlin Wall. You just need to think you’re wanted to reassure your own conscience that your immoral actions were justified.
We use words like “honor,” “code,” “loyalty.” We use these words as the backbone of a life spent defending something. You use them as a punch line.
Pure projection. You “honorably” let two Marines take the fall for your decisions. You showed your “loyalty” to them by saying nothing as they were charged with the murder of a man whom you knew had died from health problems. Your “code” had you falsify military documents to whitewash your leadership. A close colleague of yourself killed himself out of remorse for his involvement in your scheme.
What exactly did you defend, other than your own skin?
I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom that I provide and then questions the manner in which I provide it.
Then explain yourself to the two Marines whose lives would otherwise be ruined because of your deceit. If in fact you did hold a blanket of freedom over America, they’re were ones who knit it.
By the way, no one asked you to provide them with that alleged blanket, which you’re paid to do through money coercively taken from those whom you claim to keep free.
I would rather that you just said “thank you” and went on your way. Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a weapon and stand the post. Either way, I don’t give a DAMN what you think you’re entitled to!
Mere distraction; you failed to adhere to the motto of your own Corps: Semper Fi. You were not faithful to your own men. Had you lived up to that code, you would have admitted you gave the order and protected them from any charges because they were your men. You would have taken the rap for it, possibly been demoted or transferred.
You left men under your command behind for the sake of your own skin. You are the very word “coward” made manifest.
It could have happened anywhere. But it happened on a base located in a country you had no business occupying. The death didn’t save lives because any lives lost there would have been needlessly spent.
You also took an oath to defend the Constitution. How did you uphold that oath?
If anyone is entitled, it’s you. You’ve convinced yourself you’re so vital to America’s freedom that you can pass on the consequences of your actions to men who adhered to the code you pretend to live by.
It’s the truth, whether you can handle it or not.