Could there be any connection between the size of those corporate profits and Washington’s patriotic dedication to eternal warfare? That great transfer of wealth helps explain how the gap between rich and poor in America has become and ever widening canyon. The financial dynamics of war-making are rarely mentioned in connection with America’s woes but from the profiteer’s point of view widening income inequality might be seen as a contribution to national security. During the past 12 year of wars defined from the start as endless the ranks of the poor have increased exponentially while public services like the education system that once enable them to rise have decayed ensuring that a supply of deluded kids impoverished in every way will don the uniforms of soldiers and perform the next round of America’s unnecessary wars….Corporations bring home the bacon, soldiers only medals.”
— They Were Soldiers, Ann Jones, Haymarket Books (2013)
“’Nothing in my experience prepared me for the catastrophic nature of these injuries.’ His first surgical patient three days after he arrived at Bagram was a young soldier who had stepped on an IED triggering an upward blast that destroyed his legs and left his pelvic cavity hollowed out. His urinary system was in shreds. His testicles were destroyed. His penis was attached to his body by only a little thread of skin…To have to amputate that boy’s penis and watch it go into the surgical waste container—it was so emotional.’”
— They Were Soldiers, Ann Jones, Haymarket Books (2013)
Ann Jones’ They Were Soldiers is the Johnny Got His Gun (Dalton Trumbo, 1938) of the 21st Century. Brilliantly and systematically written, Jones’ book is an indictment of politicians, military leaders, corporations and the academic/medical communities and their collective complicity in destroying America’s middle/lower classes and in particular America’s “kids” both male and female alike. What kind of nation and what kind of people promote such insanity, even glorifying current wars in the hopes that more war can prosecuted?
After reading They Were Soldiers, which is a book about the fate of male and female soldiers who return home broken, mangled and raped, the realization strikes that without perpetual overt and covert war, the American system of governance—as it is now practiced–would collapse. That is a frightening thought. Moreover, America’s elite class blames everyone but themselves for the ungluing and subsequent militarization of American society. They, according to one US Army official interviewed by Jones, are con-artists and hucksters. They prey upon youth.
“I‘ve been in the Army twenty-six years and I can tell you it’s a con.” Jones says he doesn’t think much of military bosses or politicians or Americans in general who send the lowliest one percent to make the one percent on the high end “monufuckinmentally rich.” Jones says that the Army official has two sons, 21 and 23, in college. “They won’t have to serve. Before that happens I’ll shoot them myself…War is absurd. Boys don’t know any better. But for a grown man to be trapped in stupid wars–it’s embarrassing, it’s humiliating, and it is absurd.”
The American horror story begins with the propaganda that Americans have created and love to bathe in. That propaganda includes notions such as war fighting is noble and glorious; America takes care of its “fallen soldiers”, America is the guarantor and protector of the world’s freedom; soldiers and contractors, fighting side-by-side, protect the US Constitution; America is the “land of the free and home of the brave.” American “kids” in the 21st Century are heavily indoctrinated into a national security culture in which more is known about weaponry and war than literature and critical thinking.
According to Jones, one veteran of the Iraq war campaign asked himself, “Why did I like carrying an M-16? I waited in line with the others in Basic Training like it was Christmas morning…I was elated to receive the famous M-16. All the movies and video games never showed me what it truly was. During my time in the Army I finally understood what a rifle was all about. It’s a tool of death…I have to be honest. I loved carrying a rifle…After a while it is fused into my skin, bones character and soul…I came from an average all-American family. My mom is a schoolteacher. Our walls are filled with weddings. I open doors for little old ladies…If I am a normal middle-class kid, then something is wrong. Why did I know the difference between an M-16 and an AK-47 before I could compare a Hindu to a Muslim, or a Sonnet to a Haiku?”
Ghastly Leadership: Loves to Hate Women
After so many years of war, American culture is arguably borderline paranoiac, if not outright. Jones points out in her book that the USA is the only culture-nation in the world always looking for a fight. American culture—particularly those who make up the elite class–stinks of irresponsibility and non-accountability. Not convinced? Who in the USA stood accountable for the intelligence failures of 911? How about the senseless blunder of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars? How about the intelligence/police shenanigans and dismal security that led to the Boston Marathon Bombings? Then there is Benghazi Massacre, the Great Recession of 2008, the ruse of health care for all pushed by the Obama administration and its corporate sponsors. Only in America could such a ghastly elite/class absolve itself of responsibility. And yet they promote themselves to higher ranks even though lives and wars are lost. They are reelected again and again for taking America to ruin.
The disdain with which America’s Political-Military-Corporate-Academic Elite treat male and female soldiers (and US civilians too) is criminal. Nowhere is this more evident than in the treatment of soldiers who return from America’s many wars both large (Iraq and Afghanistan) and small (drug wars in South America, terror wars on the African continent). The US government/military largely dispenses with those soldiers who have “invisible” injuries such as trauma, depression, panic and anxiety caused by the external experience of death, wounding or rape which, in turn, becomes internalized, part of the soul. The soldiers return with nearly no support base to traumatize families and communities, sometimes by murdering relatives or strangers. Women are the target of much of this aggression which displays itself before the homicide takes place.
Commanders have routinely condoned the “rough” treatment of women making the environment for rape and other sexual misconduct a friendly one. Real men slap women around seems to be the unwritten rule in the military ranks. One commander in Iraq told Jones that he was happy that US women soldiers were in his command because “the Afghan women are dogs.” The implications of that statement are clear. In another instance the US military tried to downplay a string of murders perpetrated by soldiers stationed at Fort Carson, Colorado. “Only after the ninth homicide at Fort Carson did the Army start a local inquiry into the murders,” writes Jones. “The general in charge said they were ‘looking for a trend among the homicidal soldiers. Something happened through their life cycle that might have contributed to this.’ An Army prosecutor asked, ‘Where is this aggression coming from.’” No mention is made of the fact that these “kids” were trained to kill and that the US political and military establishment doesn’t give a damn—beyond lip service–about their reintegration into American society.
Sometimes the military dumps the injured men and women quickly back into civilian care before they can complete a process that qualifies them for government benefits. Mostly, benefits or not, they end up with a cart full of prescriptions ranging from Zoloft to Oxycontin prescribed by government contracted doctors in the Veterans Administration and assorted medical facilities on US military bases around the world. Pharmaceutical corporations know that perpetual war and the propaganda of fear are great for business.
Noonan’s Deep State (she knows about Turkey’s experience)
The effect of 12 years of war against ghostly enemies has distorted American culture bringing it to the doorstep of fascism. The silent war of surveillance (exposed by Edward Snowden) that is being waged by the elite class of America against American citizens and independent journalists/whistleblowers is evidence of that. Peggy Noonan writing in the Wall Street Journal alludes to a secretive Deep State in America that likes war and subterfuge. “I have come increasingly to think of as the deep state—again, the vast, unfathomable and not fully accountable innards of the permanent U.S. intelligence and national-security apparatus…the ways, needs, demands, imperatives, secrets and strategies…stay pretty much the same, except for one thing: They always want more. The dynamic is always toward growth, toward more reach and more power.”
To increase power, to silence critics is a tool of the Deep State. Returning soldiers are subject to its will too. Many US soldiers—male and female–have come to bear a “moral revulsion” for the actions of the USA in the premeditated destruction of the planet’s cultures and nations. They must be silenced.
“A Marine veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan told me that a Veterans Affairs therapist labeled her with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder though she had neither experienced nor complained of a traumatic event. Instead she had spoken of feeling a kind of moral revulsion from life in the US after seeing how people in the rest of the world live. Many returned soldiers have that same feeling coupled with a smoldering rage at having lost the lives that once, in their innocence, would have contented them—the family trips to Walmart and the Happy Meals at McDonald’s with all the kids. That’s a world they can’t fit into anymore because as the Marine veteran said. ‘We’ve seen the price the world pays for the American Way of Life.’ They are unable to resume their old lives not because of injury or trauma, though that’s part of it for some, but because they know too much. She said, ‘Try to get a little help for hypervigilance and the VA hands you a medical diagnosis and a bunch of prescriptions to shut you up. We’ve seen a lot and learned things Americans ought to know. But we are the last people they want to be on the loose—the ‘crazy vets of Vietnam back again.’”
John Stanton is a Virginia based writer. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org