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Posted on Jun 30, 2007 in Front Page Features, TIAOW

The Incorrect Art of War [Episode 31] – Patton Pending

By A J Summersgill and Jim H Moreno

Yes my Lord, we’ve recently had a spate of unexplained injuries amongst the lower ranks. Extreme bruising, jaw injuries – it’s most perplexing. And then I read your recent memorandum on discipline in the Army…

Ah yes! The very reason in fact that I am here!

Yes, and that’s why I…

There’s no time General, I have to crack on – I’ve got three more parades to do before midday. But you can stay and watch by all means.

But…but…

(Doctor Sinister strides off, black velvet cape flapping behind him and heads for the first line of assembled troopers. An aide follows him, wheeling the shopping cart. The two cats twirl around General Menace’s shins, and he glances nervously at them before peering up again to see that Doctor Sinister is looking the first man in line up and down before raising his hand and slapping him sharply across the face)

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You’re a coward!

(The man reels and clutches his cheek before standing painfully back to attention. General Menace looks on, astonished. Casting a quick glance at the cats, he sees that one of them is chewing his shoelaces. He tries to shoo it away but is distracted as Doctor Sinister heads to the next man and repeats the slap)

You’re a sniveling waste of space!

(The second trooper stifles a small yelp and glares resentfully at Doctor Sinister who heads for the third man. General Menace makes to move toward the Doctor, but his shoelaces have become mysteriously tied together and he trips up, landing on his face in a heap. Meanwhile, the Doctor has removed the glove from his robotic left hand. He strikes the soldier with the glove)

You’re a pathetic excuse for a man!

(The third soldier’s cheek visibly glows red but he says nothing. Apparently satisfied, Doctor Sinister returns the glove to his hand and turns back to the aide behind him, before removing a cricket bat from the cart. He raises it high in the air but General Menace, now bootless, leaps in front of him before he can strike the next soldier in line)

My LORD! Stop! Please! What on Earth are you doing?

Doing? DOING? Why, I’m instilling discipline amongst the troops – improving morale.

But…but…HOW?

Oh come come now General, I’ve been doing a spot of reading you know. In fact, I’ve been reading all about one of your countrymen – the great General Patton. His troops loved him you know…

Well, yes, he was greatly respected. His nickname was "Old Blood and Guts".

Precisely my point General! A great man, not afraid to get stuck in when the going got tough. I got to the chapter that concerned that little incident in Sicily – General Patton slapped two of his men for cowardice.

Ah yes, Patton was visiting wounded soldiers and came across some men who appeared to be uninjured. Nowadays of course we might recognise the symptoms of "shell-shock" or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, but Patton thought them to be cowards.

Yes indeed. I stopped reading from that point on – it was clear to me that if one of the greatest Generals in history could be so loved, I should adopt his tactics, get the men to learn to respect me. I sit in my office and I’m sure no-one really knows who I am – you’re the day to day point of contact, I should get involved more.

But, your Excellency…with respect…I fear you’ve got the wrong end of the stick. General Patton was relieved of his command following that incident. It nearly cost him his entire career.

Stop trying to pull the wool over my eyes General – I happen to know for a fact that the incident in question occurred on August the 2nd, 1943 – and Patton served as a General throughout the entire war, which, if I’m not mistaken, ended two years later. Now, get out of my way, I’ve got to attend to the rest of the men here and it’s running late. (He raises the cricket bat again)

My Lord, please, I implore you, no more of this – you’ve no idea how much damage you are doing. I’ve got fifty-three men in the medical section right now with severe neck injuries, and another twelve have lost teeth. You’ve slapped your way through fifteen hundred soldiers and there’s dissension in the ranks – please, stop this, now.

Dissent? Dissent? But the men love me!

Well, yes, you do pay them well, but this is nothing less than assault. You’re inflicting serious injuries here, at this rate we won’t have an army by the end of the week!

Then how did General Patton get away with it?

That’s what I’m trying to tell you, sagacity, he didn’t. He was nearly sent home in disgrace, he was denied a major command and forced to apologise to those involved – it tainted his entire career.

You know – I’m disappointed in you General. Here I am, taking an active interest in the well-being and morale of our troops and you come along with a bucket of water and dampen my enthusiasm. As usual. Why do you always do this to me?

Excellency, I apologise, it’s nothing personal – I just don’t think it does any good to go around abusing the troops. Next thing you know we’ll be whipping them or stoning them to death. In Roman times, a defeated unit could even be punished by decimation.

Decimalisation? You mean they forced them to use the metric system or something? That’s obscene General…

No my Lord, decimation – every tenth man was put to death. Although these days, the term has come to mean something else… Whilst we’re on the subject of the Romans – if there was ever a mutiny, legions would be disbanded completely, and if their standard was lost in battle, the soldiers would be stripped of all honour and would have to lead the rest of their lives in disgrace. The purpose of severe discipline was to assure loyalty and obedience; though severe, punishments were rarely necessary. With respect, you appear to have embarked upon a course of inflicting physical pain on our troops on the basis of reading half a book. I’d really urge you to read the rest of it. There are better ways of turning the troops into a fine, honed fighting force. For one thing, you might consider an apology yourself.

Hmmm…I shall have to investigate this General – but don’t for one moment think this is over!

No my Lord, but I assure you, when you’ve read the rest of the book, you’ll see it all in context – what you’ve been doing is not good for morale, and now I’m left to sort out the mess because of all the injuries you’ve caused.

You haven’t seen the worst of it General – the first couple of men I slapped, I forgot to use my real hand.

You used your cybernetic hand?

I did – nearly took their heads off it did. So let that be a lesson to you General.

Erm…sure.

And don’t let me see you doing anything like this again.

I beg your pardon?

(Doctor Sinister returns the cricket bat to the trolley and waves the aide away)

Dismiss the troops General, I’ll be in my office.

Very well my Lord.

And…where are your boots?

(General Menace looks over to see the two cats tearing his army boots to shreds)

I’m afraid I don’t know my Lord.

General, you’ve got a real nerve dictating to me about trooper morale and discipline when you can’t even be bothered to show up wearing your boots.

(Doctor Sinister walks away, shaking his head in exasperation)

(Sigh) Yes, my Lord.

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Will General Menace get a new pair of army boots?

Will they be lined with cat fur?

And how much will they cost?

Find out in the next bewildering episode of…The Incorrect Art of War!!

A J Summersgill and Jim Moreno.

andrew@armchairgeneral.com

jim@armchairgeneral.com

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