Chanting Points Memo: “How Is A Bowling Ball The Same As A Spoon?”

It’s a scenario that’s launched a thousand “miscarriage of military justice” stories and more than a few movies during and after three wars, now; soldier gets into difficult, ambiguous situation; soldier, believing himself to be threatened, shoots.  Judge Advocate General jacks the soldier up over an arcane technicality in the “rules of engagement”, adjudicated by a bunch of officers and lawyers sitting in a secure base camp, an office or the Pentagon.  And the soldier(s), having followed the rules in all but the one, most arcane, most-technical sense of the term, and having acted otherwise blamelessly, get sent to prison.

Some of the dimmer bulbs on the Twin Cities’ Sorosphere’s intellectual Festivus pole were grunting and argling yesterday about this piece here, from “Think” Progess, by one Jon Soltz, claiming that Florida’s (and by extension, Minnesota’s proposed and vetoed) “Stand Your Ground” laws “gives George Zimmerman more protection than soldiers overseas”.   It’s written by one Jon Soltz, listed as founder and chairman of



The Trayvon Martin case has gripped the nation, and forced the country to re-examine our gun laws. But the horrible affair has struck me in another way, because of my two tours in Iraq. One fact stands out in my mind: The “Stand Your Ground” law in Florida, which may let George Zimmerman off the hook for the killing of Martin, gives more leeway to shooters than our own military gives to soldiers in war.

That sounds serious.  And it is.  Seriously misleading, anyway.

We’ll come back to that. has more than 105,000 members who take a wide array of views on gun control and the 2nd Amendment,

…although the group itself is a left-leaning “veterans” group affiliated with the whacko-left “Center for American Progress”, “”, and which is supported by the Soros-affiliated “Democracy Alliance”.

But this is less about the organization than about the spreading of chanting points in which Soltz is participating.

but the Trayvon Martin case is less about the right to bear arms than it is the “use of force.” It’s impossible to ignore the legal protection George Zimmerman enjoys in suburban Florida vs. the Rules of Engagement that outline when one of our troops can shoot while in combat in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Soltz is half right…

…well, no.  He’s half on topic.  There is something that’s impossible to ignore.

But comparing rules for self-defense among civilians out and about in a civil society is nothing like the rules of engagement for the military in a combat zone.

The U.S. military issues Rules of Engagement (ROE) for every conflict to guide servicemembers’ ability to protect themselves from deadly threats…

…which Soltz goes on to describe in great detail and, I’ll presume, accurately (although I’d love to have some of combat veterans who read this blog go over his version of the ROE just to make sure), he misses a key point.  And by “key”, I mean, “so vital that his entire point makes absolutely no sense if you get it wrong”.


key component of the ROE used during the height of violence in Iraq in 2007 was the requirement to use “Graduated Force” when time and circumstances permit. Section 3.G.(1) states that if an individual “commit[s] a hostile act or demonstrat[es] hostile intent” — meaning he or she attacks U.S. or designated allied forces, nationals, or property, or threatens the imminent use of force against any of them — U.S. Force “may use force, up to and including deadly force, to eliminate the threat.”


A soldier (or sailor, airman or Marine) in a combat has a lot of firepower at hand; a selective-fire assault rifle (sometimes with a grenade launcher), a machine gun (anything from a squad automatic weapon to an M2 .50 caliber or a fully-automatic grenade launcher on top of their Hummer), or more; antitank rockets, grenades, and more.  They can be supported by tanks with cannon with cannon that can pick your nose from a mile away with a depleted-uranium dart that flies at a mile every second and a half and that can go through a foot of armor steel.  They’re a radio call away from calling in artillery – 40-to-100 pound shells in barrages of dozens of shells that can level a city block faster than a  bunch of drunk Detroit Pistons fans – or air support, in the form of Apaches with rockets and automatic cannon, A10s and F16s flying close support,  dropping 2000 GPS-guided bombs that can fly down your toilet more accurately than the Roto-Rooter guy, or even a B52 that can drop thirty or forty of them, if you really need to dig out of a jam.

The rules of engagement are there to make sure that the 19 year old kid with the aweseome responsibility of being at the business end of all that firepower knows how to use it to advance, rather than degrade, America’s interests in the area.

On the other hand, the law regarding civilian self-defense is there to judge whether homicide is justified or not.  In every state, the questions are  “is the citizen’s fear of death, rape, maiming or other injury reasonable enough to justify using lethal force”, “was the citizen a reluctant participant”, “was the force they used reasonable” and in some states, “did the citizen make a reasonable effort to retreat”.  In some states, the citizens have to prove all of the above; in others – Florida – the state has to prove they didn’t.

We’ll come back to that.

Soltz gives an example of how Rules of Engagement caused a problem for one soldier:


In fact, Richard Allen Smith, the vice chairman of, recently told me a story he had heard during his time in Afghanistan, which illustrates this point.

The Scout Platoon leader for Richard’s Battalion was in a situation in 2007 where they detained someone, but he managed to get out of their truck and flee. While he was running away, the Platoon Leader fired at him and caught him in the thigh. They called for a medevac, but he bled out before the bird could get there.

Under military law and rules of engagement, the Platoon Leader was clearly in the wrong: he pursued an unarmed guy who wasn’t posing a threat to U.S. Forces and shot him to death. He was charged (although he was never tried because he was injured a few days later when his truck was hit by an IED and he was deemed mentally incompetent to stand trial).

I’m not sure why Soltz brings this up: does he think a citizen would skate on shooting a fleeing attacker?  As a rule, they would not.

But Soltz is slowly cutting to the chase, here.  He starts out with an honest admission:

Of course, comparing the Trayvon Martin case to a war situation is neither fair nor clean, and we still don’t know all of the facts surrounding Trayvon’s death.

But the facts end there:

But insofar as what I’ve read about the case, it sounds to me that if Trayvon had been an Iraqi soldier, and George Zimmerman had been a U.S. Soldier, there would have been an immediate investigation, and most likely a manslaughter charge, and victim’s family financially compensated for wrongful death.

And that goes to show you the risks in going by “what you’ve read” when, as a lefty (and I’ll be charitable and assume that Soltz isn’t purely reciting the party line, which, given his groiup’s funding, is probably more charitable than warranted, but I’m a uniter, not a divider), the stuff you read is produced  by groups that are trying to use the Martin case to fan racial tension to boost the President’s fortunes – or lefty-vetted “Experts” who are, in fact, not.

If Zimmerman was attacked, then under either military law (as Soltz recited it) or under criminal law, he was arguably justified in shooting.  I say “arguably” because these things do need to be investigated.

Was it?  Do we know the facts?  As Soltz himself allowed, we do not.

Which doesn’t justify just making up facts to fill in in place.  LIke this:

But Zimmerman is a civilian in Florida where, as the country now knows, a shooter is often immune from criminal prosecution and civil liability if he believed he had been threatened with deadly force.

But only if the investigation shows that the evidence warrants that conclusion.  After – y’know – due process, according to the law passed by the relevant legislature.  Same as in the military!

Yes, I did say “making stuff up”:

One of the striking components of Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law — or, more appropriately, “Shoot First” law — is that it eliminated the “duty to retreat” embedded in centuries of common law about self-defense. Traditionally, a person had the duty to retreat from dangerous situations if they could, and the use of deadly force was justifiable self-defense only if a person could not have otherwise safely gotten away.

Except that’s both not true – it’s not “embedded in centuries of tradition”.  It’s a feature of some self-defense laws.  Not others.  They vary.  And simply saying “it was part of common law” isn’t a carte-blanche guarantee of validity; slavery was a part of “common law”, until it wasn’t anymore.

“Duty to Retreat” is not a feature, it’s a bug; it means that the citizen is supposed to make a “reasonable” effort to disengage (which, when you’re a civilian with a carry permit, is always a good idea even if it’s not a legal requirement).  Reasonable according to whom?  If you have a bad knee and your attacker is 18 and faster than you?  If you are outnumbered?  If you are in a stopped car and someone points a gun at you?  What is the “reasonable” course?  The answer – under the law in half of the states – is ambiguous, and entirely at the discretion of a county attorney.  It’s ambiguous.

And ambiguity makes bad law – just as it makes for lousy orders for soldiers. Which is why Rules of Engagement are so detailed.

Soltz claims that “Stand Your Ground” gives citizens more protection than it gives soldiers in the field.  Leaving aside the apples-and-axles non-sequitur of trying to compare the situations, he’s 180 degrees wrong; “Stand Your Ground” removes ambiguity from the citizen’s case, giving them a similar standard (not “the same” – combat and self-defense are not the same) as the soldier has.

It’s another entry in the library of chanting points the left is trying to use to keep the Martin case alive as a wedge issue.

Read Soltz.  Judge for yourself.

29 thoughts on “Chanting Points Memo: “How Is A Bowling Ball The Same As A Spoon?”

  1. Love the headline: “George Zimmerman Had More Legal Authority To Shoot And Kill Than Our Troops Do At War”.
    What a strange, mangled construction. Since soldiers are permitted to kill people that aren’t threatening them, with no duty to retreat, they could just as accurately written the headline “Our Troops at War Had More Legal Authority to Shoot and Kill Than George Zimmerman”.

  2. Where to start?

    First, graduated force is only used when there is NOT a clear threat, or to de-escalate a crowd situation. The Army teaches the 4 S’s, Show (your weapon and readiness to use it), Shout (verbal warning), Shove (physically push someone to move them away from you), Shoot (pull the trigger, center mass). But that doctrine only applies when the other guy is not yet presenting a clear threat.

    Second, ROE has always been simple on one point-if you feel that you, a fellow soldier, or a civilian are in danger of great bodily harm or death, you shoot. The only burden of proof is that you can explain that you had reason to believe the above situation applied, even if the facts did not bear it out. So if an Iraqi kid pulled a gun and points it at you, you engage, and it turns out to be a toy gun, you still did the right thing. That is a much wider latitude than any civilian in the US has, let alone most police officers.

    Third, obviously soldiers have no duty to retreat. Just the opposite, we usually have a duty to advance.

    Fourth, Soltz ignores the blindingly obvious-ROE wasn’t the problem in his second hand story-the soldiers inability to follow the rules of engagement was the problem. Shooting a fleeing detainee is pure Hollywood, and the fact that the soldier was not court martialed for it (if accurate) again disproves Soltz’s intended point that soldiers have less protection than civilians.

    Fifth, VoteVets has 105,000 members only in the sense that anyone who ever signed up for a newsletter is considered a member. By their own admission, in 2007 they had 20,000 ‘members’ but less than a thousand who were actually veterans of Iraq or Afghanistan.

    For more info on VoteVets, check out the great milblog This Ain’t Hell, which has been all over Soltz for years.

  3. Well gee, since Florida is now charging Zimmerman will we see lefty stories about how the system works?


  4. Did anyone seriously think the extremists would put the pitchforks down? Zimmerman is a witch!!!!! Burn her!!! else YOU are a misogynist!!!

  5. Pingback: This ain't Hell, but you can see it from here » Blog Archive

  6. I think Zimmerman had a jones carrying around his piece. He confronted Martin, who was walking down the street “about to cause trouble, probably casing out the area.” So Zimmerman was going to do a bit of preventive maintenance out of a combination sense of civic duty, reinforced by assuming some self-given police powers earned without having to bother with doing much more than getting a permit. Much less take the advice of a dispatcher who spends hours dealing with life/death matters. So Zimmerman confronts Martin and Martin feels threatened and they go toe-to-toe with words, then shoves, then grappling. Martin is quicker, stronger, and feels far more threatened than Zimmerman because all Martin has done is walk down the street and cannot imagine why he is being accosted except that he is a young black male. But Zimmerman is losing, and now he is in fear of being whupped. Zimmerman’s gun becomes visible, they fight for it, and Martin ends up dead, shot by the guy trying to prevent a potential future crime he supposed could happen because that kid said something or looked like he didn’t belong there. Zimmerman is the bouncer who on the slow night creates a problem so he can fix it. You can’t start a fight with someone who is doing nothing wrong, then when you’re losing the fight you unnecessarily picked, kill the guy with a gun. Martin wasn’t invading anyone’s castle. Zimmerman goes to jail, as he should. Never bring a fist to a gunfight.

  7. Much less take the advice of a dispatcher who spends hours dealing with life/death matters.
    The only advice the dispatcher — who may have been on the job for less than a day for all we know — had was “you don’t have to do that”. He didn’t advise Zimmerman of anything other than that he was not required to follow Martin.

    when when you’re losing the fight you unnecessarily picked
    No evidence at all that this is the way it went down. Has the disadvantage of requiring Zimmerman to confront Martin when Zimmerman knew the cops were on the way.
    Zimmerman’s story is more believable here because, if he knew the cops were coming, it was logical for him to follow Martin, so he could advise the cops of his location, but not to confront Martin.
    Although every story I’ve heard has mentioned that Martin was unarmed, it is wise to remember that Zimmerman had no way of knowing Martin was unarmed, and to the extent that Zimmerman believed Martin was a bad guy, Martin would be more likely to be carrying a gun.

  8. Gee, Terry. I almost want to believe Zimmerman was slowing down Martin to buy time for the cops because Martin was about to commit a crime while walking down the public sidewalk or street after going to the store in a neighborhood where he belonged, which would be any public street or sidewalk in the America I know. But there wasn’t any crime and you know it. By the end of your logic you have the wrong guy possibly carrying a gun he didn’t have. Next time I’m in your neighborhood walking to my car after buying some Skittles and having my hood up because it’s raining or because I wear it that way even on a hot day, please don’t confront me because you’d have to kill me, because I would certainly kick your rump one on one, or unlikely, you might kick mine. And I would be in the right. Or you might be. Bottom line is that like it or not, you can’t let this thing go without the Court being involved.

  9. Gee, Terry. I almost want to believe Zimmerman was slowing down Martin to buy time for the cops
    Wrong. I did not say that. Seems to be a problem with libs — it is called a “strawman argument”. Is that you again, Peev? Running out of aliases?
    you have the wrong guy possibly carrying a gun he didn’t have Wrong. Try again. Clumsy construction. You are Peev, aren’t you?
    Who is the “wrong guy”? Your words, not mine. Another strawman.
    Next time I’m in your neighborhood walking to my car after buying some Skittles and having my hood up because it’s raining or because I wear it that way even on a hot day, please don’t confront me because you’d have to kill me, because I would certainly kick your rump one on one, or unlikely, you might kick mine.
    Hyper-aggressive, just as you accuse Zimmerman of being. Or do you think that Zimmerman knew that Martin had only been to the store to buy candy? Why do you think that? You might want to look up the word “epistemololgy” in the dictionary.
    Bottom line is that like it or not, you can’t let this thing go without the Court being involved.
    F*ck you and your “bottom line”, Peev. You are part of a lynch mob. Once again, F*ck you.

  10. I regret making that last comment. A little bit. I’m sure that “Old Johnnie” loves his mother and warm puppies, etc., and that he will go to heaven when he passes away. But make no mistake. “Old Johnnie” is peev-boy.

  11. Can’t find “epistemololgy” anywhere in the dictionary. But if you’re talking about suppositions about what happened, I offered one same as you: a theoretical “what happened” that could be totally wrong but it as possible as any other. That you didn’t like it and cursed me, then felt bad, doesn’t change a thing. Currently I may believe that Zimmerman could have avoided the whole thing and used lethal self defense because he was getting his rear end kicked. The lynch mobs are the stupid idiots running around offing people because they can’t wait for the courts to do the thing they do. Al Sharpton and Jessie Jackson are race baiting, glory seeking knuckleheads who seem pleased this thing happened so they could appear relevant. And now Sean Hannity may end up on the witness stand as well, because of his own version of epistemology; not sure if Sean will like the attention of having to answer a question without being able to escape to a commercial break. Read your own posts and I am more than happy to go away and leave you to your warm world of making all issues either on or off, black or white. By the way, my college grade in pistol marksmanship was H, and that’s higher than A.

  12. If Sean Hannity is called to the stand, he can use the same defense for not answering their questions that other reporters do; I can keep my sources and the discussion confidential. Quite frankly, the fact that, at least for now, Hannity is honoring his promise to Zimmerman not to discuss their conversation, is quite admirable. I would bet that no libturd reporter would have such scruples. By the way, we don’t know that Martin actually had any tea or Skittles on him. That is only what his family told the media he was doing and their stories about why he was in the neighborhood changed at least once. I believe that the one that his family agreed on (maybe with the assistance of the media) was that he was visiting his dad’s girlfriend. I suspect that Ms. Corey and her team has done their due diligence and that Zimmerman’s new attorney will do his, so that the real story emerges during the trial.

  13. Never bring a fist to a gun fight

    Actually, you shouldn’t bring a gun to a fist-fight. Trouble is, you can’t know which it’s going to be in advance. If I were Zimmerman, acting as a neighborhood watch, I would never have left my truck unless I had seen Martin harm or possibly threaten someone.

  14. Why would Hannity have to testify? Did he witness anything relevant? Any testimony that Hannity would have would be hearsay. Doesn’t matter what Zimmerman may have said to him, it wasn’t under oath.

  15. oldjohnnie said:

    “Can’t find “epistemololgy” anywhere in the dictionary”

    For you and other waifs floating helpless about the Internet:

    And while making up “facts” about this particular story may seem entertaining to you, it’s marks you as more a follower than a leader. *shrug*

  16. Peev wrote:
    By the way, my college grade in pistol marksmanship was H, and that’s higher than A.
    Sounds like a threat to me.

  17. Well Troy, it’s like this: Terry didn’t spell the word correctly while “educating” me, and your own post has problems. So who is the waif? My “facts” aren’t facts: they’re speculation and just because it doesn’t fit your politics you got me all figured out. Nobody told me what went through Old George’s head when his “Hey you, get out of here” escalated into whatever, but I’m kind of thinking that after his aquittal he won’t be joining any more citizen patrols. I’ve never heard of Peev, but if that’s who I am for Terry than good on him. Now I don’t know if I am a leader or a follower, but if I spent all day immersed in only one side or the other side and ignored the middle, I’d be as angry and frustrated as y’all who find prurient satisfaction through mutual yack on websites. Tell a joke, like Mitch. Two peanuts got into a fight. One was a salted.

  18. “My “facts” aren’t facts: they’re speculation”

    Considering that you turned my words: “Zimmerman’s story is more believable here because, if he knew the cops were coming, it was logical for him to follow Martin, so he could advise the cops of his location, but not to confront Martin.”


    “Gee, Terry. I almost want to believe Zimmerman was slowing down Martin to buy time for the cops”

    Following someone is not the same as slowing them down. One requires interaction, one does not. This is a vital issue in this case, and you don’t seem to understand the difference between them. You are a perfect candidate for lynch mob organizer.

  19. Being annoyed at you for blabbering on and on about what you’re baselessly speculating at the moment isn’t a political position, oldjohnnie. It’s “been done” and the oldjohnnie version just isn’t all that entertaining.

  20. And you, Terry, apparently do not understand hyperbole which is what that “slow down” comment was. Have you ever hunted or trapped? I do and I am very good at it. You hunt long enough and you can walk right up to something and take it while the guy next to you trying to do the same thing spooks them and gets nothing. And when you trap, you also stalk, but the animal isn’t there. Sometimes you have to take the opposite tactic: do something outlandish and the frozen moment allows you to get the upper hand. I’ve been at it for close to 50 years and I can tell you it ain’t about you: it’s about the thing being followed, or lured. Or slowed down. Primal stuff that I understand. So maybe you’ll understand my view of this as one of those “never hunt for something that could kill you if you miss” things. Somehow you continually make this “game-set-match I win” statement at the end of your replies. Not necessary.

  21. You’re inability to tell the difference between following someone and slowing them down must make you a great hunting partner, oldjohhnie. Do they let you use real bullets?

  22. Enough about me. It’s back to Troy and Terry. I remembers you boys from the last campaign. That’s you fellers, ain’t it? CLICK! And you knuckle draggers even get to stay on the page.

  23. Holy Crap!! It’s like being hunted by a cross between Ernest Hemingway and Teddy Roosevelt! What’ll I do? OMG!! He won’t fall for the old burmese-tiger-trap ploy, he’s too clever for that . . . But wait! I have a plan that just . . . might . . . work . . . (to be continued).

  24. To win this cruel game the hunted must become the hunter.
    I will commune with my spirit animal, become one with it.
    Not the trickster Coyote.
    Not the swift Deer.
    Not the brave Bear.
    Not even the mysterious Crow, guide to the Land of Shadows.
    My spirit animal, born with me, is the rarely seen, sometimes photographed, never captured alive — Jackalope.
    My nostrils flare. I run swiftly, though I am burdened by my horns. I shall not lose this contest.
    I am glad that this night has a hunter’s moon.
    (to be continued)

  25. Don’t worry your pretty head about me, oldjohnnie. As irrational as you are, you’re not that big of a problem.

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