Here’s something I’ve been wondering about for some time. It crossed my mind again this week while writing about the incident in Iraq where a 42 ID staff sergeant allegedly killed a lieutenant and a captain.
I’m wondering about the term “frag”.
We all know what it means. It has its origins in “fragmentation”, as in “fragmentation grenade”, and during the Vietnam War came to be popularized as a means for disgruntled enlisted soldiers to kill their superior officers.
What’s troubling to me about that previous sentence is the fact that I used “popularized” and that it applies.
One thing that I noticed and nearly commented on was that the MSNBC.com article I linked to went into great depth explaining fragging.
The term usually refers to the assassination of an unpopular member of one’s own fighting unit by lobbing a fragmentation grenade into his or her tent at night. The idea was that the attack would be blamed on the enemy. The term came to include intentionally killing a comrade during combat.
Between 1969 and 1971, the Army reported 600 fragging incidents that killed 82 Americans and injured 651. In 1971 alone, there were 1.8 fraggings for every 1,000 American soldiers serving in Vietnam, not including gun and knife assaults.
As President Nixon drew down U.S. forces in that war, troops felt they were fighting a lost cause they were unwilling to die for.
Such killings are infrequent, said Gen. Wayne Downing, an analyst for MSNBC TV. But he said they are fairly straightforward to deduce.
A matter of forensics
“They can go in and do the forensics on this case,” Downing said. “That’s very, very easy to do — to determine whether it’s a mortar round, an improvised explosive device or certainly if it is an American hand grenade,” he said.
“Once you’ve determined that … then you can go back and examine the events within that unit. It was probably fairly easy to draw up a list of suspects who might want to do something like this,” he said.
Martinez, who joined the New York Army National Guard in December 1990, deployed to Iraq in May 2004. He has been assigned a military attorney and has the option of hiring a civilian lawyer.
At that point I latched on to the deployment date and noted that I thought it was wrong. But in the meantime, I lost my train of thought about the “popularization” of fragging and how I wondered if the term itself was a message of sorts.
A term is a term. But over time certain terms come to have certain connotations, and I wonder if fragging is one of those terms with one of those connotations.
A post on Citizen Smash strengthens my suspicion. Yeah, it’s only Indymedia, but I’ll bet there are posters on DU backing them up. The passage Smash quotes is:
Staff Sgt. Alberto B. Martinez is charged with fragging two goons. Sgt. Hasan Akbar was recently convicted in of fragging some parachute goons in 2002. These two brave men are the only US heroes in Iraq.
Yeah, whoever wrote that has serious issues.
But I wonder if using the term “fragging” adds to the romantic views that many have for such incidents. Does recounting the origins and history of fragging add to this mystique?
Fragging is also a term used by video gamers, usually when they “kill” other players (as opposed to computer-controlled characters) in combat games. In this setting, fragging is a good thing. An action that is to be admired.
There’s no doubt that some who oppose the invasion of Iraq, the policies of President Bush, or the military in general greatly admire this sort of thing, as well. You know it’s true.
But does using the term “fragging” somehow legitimicize the despicable actions of those killing their officers? Does MSNBC.com going into the history of fragging and noting that it was troops who didn’t support the policies of President Nixon that fragged their officers indicate an intent to directly link this war with that war and this incident with those incidents? And do I, by using the term “frag” instead of “murder”, strengthen that link and that legend?
Let me know what you think.