Tuesday, March 20, 2012

If You Think This Wasn't Predictable, You Live in a Fantasy World

I am old enough to remember the terrible atrocity at My Lai. American soldiers, essentially driven mad by the demands of their role on the ground in Vietnam, butchered scores of innocent men, women, and children. It played no small role in turning the citizenry against the war.

That war was a bit more egalitarian than the current wars. Men from a broad spectrum of American life were drafted to fight in that war (excepting a handful who gamed the system because they had "other priorities"), and they usually only served one tour in the steaming jungles of Vietnam.

Now volunteer soldiers, mainly representing working class Americans, man the front lines of our wars. They often serve multiple tours in war zones, returning after being wounded, after multiple concussions, after being promised they wouldn't have to go back to the daily horror of warfare.

When Bush and Cheney and Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz and all of the other Neo-Cons decided to use 9/11 as an excuse to invade one of the most unsettled places on earth, when they chose to massage intelligence to create a pretext to send our troops into a country having nothing to do with 9/11, they let the genie out of the bottle and it will never go back.

They betrayed our fighting men and women for political and personal psychodramas.

A soldier with concussions, grievous wounds, a shaky job, a shaky marriage, an underwater mortgage - all the result of his repeated tours in the middle east, on his 4th tour in a war zone snapped. Innocents were butchered. I bet Bush and Cheney and all the rest are sleeping like babies each night. This is the predictable harvest of what they sowed.

Blame Shared by All
By David Horsey - LA Times
Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales is accused of murdering 16 villagers in Afghanistan. It is alleged he quietly walked from his base to two nearby villages and, unprovoked, started killing innocent human beings, including nine children.
This atrocity appears to be the act of one man, but the blame can be shared from coast to coast.
Our all-volunteer Army has been fighting for a decade in Afghanistan, and in Iraq as well, for most of that time. The burden of battle has fallen mainly on a tiny number of Americans -- men like Bales, who was on his fourth combat deployment. Multiple journeys into the hell of war have taken a terrible toll. The number of suicides among service members has skyrocketed, and incidences of post traumatic stress disorder among returning soldiers are so common they seem almost the norm.
As a society, we have tried to make up for the fact that so few of us share in the killing and dying by putting our troops on a pedestal. They are warriors, we say. They are the best of us. They are heroes, every one. We slap stickers in the shape of yellow ribbons on the backs of our cars and trucks, ribbons trailing the message, "Support Our Troops." Any president can win a standing ovation from Congress with a single mention of "our men and women in uniform."
Yet all this adulation and easy rhetoric conveniently glosses over the harsh truth. These men and women are not a warrior class. They are not uniformly heroic. They are not necessarily better than those who do not don a uniform. Excluding singular exceptions -- the Navy SEALs, for example --  our soldiers are people not all that different from any of us. They are well trained, but they are human, and war can and does sear the human soul and subvert the sane mind. Coping with brutality, fear, constant danger and hideous forms of death can change anyone and the longer a person is exiled in a house of slaughter, the harder it is to come back.
According to men who served with Bales, he was not an aberrant person. In a Facebook message quoted by the Seattle Times, Capt. Chris Alexander asked that Bales be kept in people's prayers. "I know his alleged crime is terrible, but he is not terrible," Alexander wrote. "He is one of the best guys I've ever served with."
If one of our best can snap and commit such a terrible crime, we should all ask ourselves if the soldiers who come from among us are being pushed to sacrifice far too much while the rest of us sacrifice nothing at all. A volunteer Army lets us off the hook. Even worse, it makes it too easy for the politicians. They speak with bravado about standing up to tyrants and bearing any burden for the sake of liberty. And then, to make good on their bold words, they find another place to take the nation into war.
Except it is not the nation that goes. It is a few men like Robert Bales, and all the yellow ribbons on all the pickup trucks in America cannot save him from the horror he has seen and the things he has done."
Volunteer army makes war too easy