Who Can’t Handle the Truth?

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.

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5 Responses to Who Can’t Handle the Truth?

  1. Jared Myers says:

    Pretty much what I was thinking when I watched that film.


  2. Quartermain says:

    Excellent analysis, like Jared, exactly what I was thinking when I watched it.

    Jessup wasn’t being a patriot, he was being a petty tyrant. He wasn’t a warrior but a cowardly loud mouthed bully.

    Kudos, five stars and two thumbs up for your analysis.

    [The Question: Thank you!]


  3. I haven’t the foggiest idea how much money was spent on this particular film. It’s disturbing that any amount of money spent clearly suggests just how brainwashed we are as a nation. The idea that there are millions who have seen this motion picture, and will yet continue to watch it, some times more than once, is disturbing to me, not to mention paying exorbitant sums of money for the “privilege” of watching this government propaganda.

    War is such a money-maker, a trillion dollar industry in the land of the free and the home of the brave. This is not only true of the people who fund wars, such as the Rothschild family, but also true of the people who voluntarily go over seas and wantonly kill people they don’t even know, just because they are told by pig politicians that it is the right and necessary thing to do. To add insult to injury, these hired killers often do these despicable crimes for mere paltry pittances, “grub” and a bunk to sleep on, a place to live.

    As Yakov Smirnoff so often has said: “America! What a country!


  4. Man I wish you were the prosecuting attorney in that movie! It would have been a much better movie and a much better scene.

    The argument that soldiers provide us our freedom and we should thank them is just absurd. Its analogous to the argument that the government, or constitution grants us our freedom. If I am to be grateful to anyone or anything for my liberty it is the american people themselves. They are the ones who kept the government wolves at bay, not the military, or the police, or the politicians.

    The libertarian analysis of the soldier is a difficult one to bear, especially if some of your childhood friends went that route. I have one I’ve known since 1st grade who is a recruiter for the Army. He simply needed a job and couldn’t find a decent one elsewhere. Me and him have never had it out quite yet, but I’m sure that if we did, it’d be the end of our friendship. I’m willing to accept him as an employee of a vicious and parasitic organization, even as he recruits more youngsters into its web, but if I ever pointed out this fact to him, I’m sure he’d just go blind with hate and shed all ties. I suppose I shouldn’t judge before it has actually happened, but I’m fairly confident I know how the situation would play out. At the end of the day, I’m fine either way.


    • The Question says:

      The libertarian analysis of the soldier is a difficult one to bear, especially if some of your childhood friends went that route.

      I’ve written on this before, but I had several friends join the Marines and the Army. I’ve also got relatives in different branches.

      It is a very difficult issue to unpack, because while we don’t want to endorse what happened overseas most of them did indeed suffer one way or another. It’s something a lot of libertarians seem to forget in the entire debate. The combat soldier suffers from the wrong side of war; the profiteers do not. We want to find meaning or value in their suffering, but by itself there is none. The best value is to use it as a lesson so others don’t make the same mistake.


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