Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Support Our Annual Fund Drive! CounterPunch is entirely supported by our readers. Your donations pay for our small staff, tiny office, writers, designers, techies, bandwidth and servers. We don’t owe anything to advertisers, foundations, one-percenters or political parties. You are our only safety net. Please make a tax-deductible donation today.
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

War, Not Deserting, Is Demoralizing

by

The May 31 prisoner of war exchange of five Taliban officials held unlawfully at Guantánamo Bay, in exchange for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl has moved several Republicans to attack the exchange as “demoralizing.”

Rep. Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama said, “It’s got to be demoralizing for our allies. It’s got to be demoralizing for our soldiers.”

Mr. Sessions seems to know from demoralizing. He evidently believes that providing health care to US veterans is an “entitlement” that the United States cannot afford. In response to calls for improvements at VA hospitals — after news of sometimes deadly appointment delays for 57,000 veterans (and complete inattention to 64,000 other vets) — he said, “I feel strongly we’ve got to do the right thing for our veterans. But I don’t think we should create a blank check, an unlimited entitlement program, now.”

Sen. Sessions may be right about demoralization among our GIs, but morale has not been crashed by the five-for-one POW transfer, which in any case was inevitable in wartime and a military tradition dating to the Revolutionary War. Dozens of warring states make POW exchanges. Israel traded 1,026 Palestinian prisoners for a single one of its own, and another time swapped 1,150 Palestinians for three of theirs.

The obliteration of military morale in Iraq and Afghanistan is a direct result of the launching of both illegitimate and unconstitutional wars of aggression.

A short review of US militarism over the course of our Quagmires Squared does more to explain devastated morale among US troops, and disillusionment among US allies, than a simple POW swap. Consider:

– The absence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and the subsequent incursion by Al Qaeda and the Islamic State in Iraq & Syria;
– Iraqi and Afghan civilian war dead in the hundreds of thousands;
– Flabbergasting numbers of suicides by returning and active-duty US soldiers;
– Thirty-two thousand US soldiers wounded in Iraq, and 19,000 wounded in Afghanistan;
– Abuse and torture of detainees by US troops and interrogators in Iraq, Afghanistan and at secret sites;
– Staggering numbers of rapes and other sexual assaults in the ranks;
– Hundreds of tons of toxic, radioactive depleted uranium munitions contaminating civilians and veterans alike;
– Mass unwarranted wartime national security surveillance of “free” Americans’ phone and email records;
– “Green-on-Blue” murders of US military trainers by their own Afghan trainees;
– Desecration of enemy corpses by US commandos;
-Abuse and indefinite detention without charge, due process, or Geneva Convention protections at Guantánamo;
– Cash bribery of Afghan President Karsai with US millions;
– Defilement of sacred Islamic texts; and
– $25 billion in US funds spent training the Iraqi Security Force which has totally collapsed in the face of attacks by the “Islamic State.”

These criminal outrages of occupation and the current chaos they’ve ushered in are truly morale busting. They have reaffirmed the US’s singular status as an Uber Rogue State, turned our own forces into outlaws, and chased away allies.

Of course the mistaken bombing and killing of our own people — don’t call it “friendly” — most recently five commandos blown up June 10 by a B1 bomber, is demoralizing for our soldiers in the war.

40,000 desertions ignored over possibility of one

Chest-thumping over the possibility that Sgt. Bergdahl may have deserted his post June 30, 2009 … has to be compared to the relative silence over the tens of thousands of desertions that preceded Berghdahl’s unauthorized absence.

The Air Force Times and the Chicago Sun Times reported July 5, 2006, that “Since 2000, about 40,000 troops from all branches of the military have deserted, the Pentagon says.”

I couldn’t find more recent figures. But those 40,000 deserters would rather face a life of exile or risk court-martial than go into or return to Afghanistan (or Iraq up to Dec. 2011).

These 40,000 human beings decided that the mass destruction, criminality and corruption of the US military occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan are too meaningless to justify — and chose not to incriminate themselves.

Joe Davis, a spokesman for the Veterans of Foreign Wars, confused cause and effect when said to the Sun Times about mass desertions among our soldiers, “None of us can choose our wars. … They’re letting their buddies down and hurting morale — and morale is everything on the battlefront.”

No Joe. Morale is destroyed by war. War’s objective reality always blows to smithereens not just the civilians it is supposed to protect, but the political, economic and chauvinistic rationalizations that get soldiers to kill in the first place.

John LaForge is a co-director of Nukewatch in Wisconsin and edits its Quarterly newsletter.

John LaForge is a Co-director of Nukewatch, a peace and environmental justice group in Wisconsin, and edits its newsletter.

More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

Weekend Edition
September 30, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Henry Giroux
Thinking Dangerously in the Age of Normalized Ignorance
Stanley L. Cohen
Israel and Academic Freedom: a Closed Book
Paul Craig Roberts – Michael Hudson
Can Russia Learn From Brazil’s Fate? 
Andrew Levine
A Putrid Election: the Horserace as Farce
Mike Whitney
The Biggest Heist in Human History
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: the Sick Blue Line
Rob Urie
The Twilight of the Leisure Class
Vijay Prashad
In a Hall of Mirrors: Fear and Dislike at the Polls
Alexander Cockburn
The Man Who Built Clinton World
John Wight
Who Will Save Us From America?
Pepe Escobar
Afghanistan; It’s the Heroin, Stupid
W. T. Whitney
When Women’s Lives Don’t Matter
Julian Vigo
“Ooops, I Did It Again”: How the BBC Funnels Stories for Financial Gain
Howard Lisnoff
What was Missing From The Nation’s Interview with Bernie Sanders
Jeremy Brecher
Dakota Access Pipeline and the Future of American Labor
Binoy Kampmark
Pictures Left Incomplete: MH17 and the Joint Investigation Team
Andrew Kahn
Nader Gave Us Bush? Hillary Could Give Us Trump
Steve Horn
Obama Weakens Endangered Species Act
Dave Lindorff
US Propaganda Campaign to Demonize Russia in Full Gear over One-Sided Dutch/Aussie Report on Flight 17 Downing
John W. Whitehead
Uncomfortable Truths You Won’t Hear From the Presidential Candidates
Ramzy Baroud
Shimon Peres: Israel’s Nuclear Man
Brandon Jordan
The Battle for Mercosur
Murray Dobbin
A Globalization Wake-Up Call
Jesse Ventura
Corrupted Science: the DEA and Marijuana
Richard W. Behan
Installing a President by Force: Hillary Clinton and Our Moribund Democracy
Andrew Stewart
The Democratic Plot to Privatize Social Security
Daniel Borgstrom
On the Streets of Oakland, Expressing Solidarity with Charlotte
Marjorie Cohn
President Obama: ‘Patron’ of the Israeli Occupation
Norman Pollack
The “Self-Hating” Jew: A Critique
David Rosen
The Living Body & the Ecological Crisis
Joseph Natoli
Thoughtcrimes and Stupidspeak: Our Assault Against Words
Ron Jacobs
A Cycle of Death Underscored by Greed and a Lust for Power
Uri Avnery
Abu Mazen’s Balance Sheet
Kim Nicolini
Long Drive Home
Louisa Willcox
Tribes Make History with Signing of Grizzly Bear Treaty
Art Martin
The Matrix Around the Next Bend: Facebook, Augmented Reality and the Podification of the Populace
Andre Vltchek
Failures of the Western Left
Ishmael Reed
Millennialism or Extinctionism?
Frances Madeson
Why It’s Time to Create a Cabinet-Level Dept. of Native Affairs
Laura Finley
Presidential Debate Recommendations
José Negroni
Mass Firings on Broadway Lead Singers to Push Back
Leticia Cortez
Entering the Historical Dissonance Surrounding Desafinados
Robert J. Burrowes
Gandhi: ‘My Life is My Message’
Charles R. Larson
Queen Lear? Deborah Levy’s “Hot Milk”
David Yearsley
Bring on the Nibelungen: If Wagner Scored the Debates
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail
[i]
[i]
[i]
[i]