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Friendly Fire

by DAVID VEST

“Fratricide” is a fancy Latin word used at the Pentagon to refer to the slaughter of our own soldiers in “friendly fire” incidents. Months before Bush Two’s War, high-placed military sources were already cautioning front-line commanders against “an obsession with preventing fratricide.” With good reason, one might say, if the reason weren’t so bad.

During Gulf War One, the last time a U.S. Army was ordered into battle, an unprecedented percentage of the casualties it suffered were self-inflicted.

By Pentagon estimates, the proportion of friendly fire casualties in 1991 was higher than in any previous war — 10 times as high as in any other modern war, said the Washington Post at the time.

More than one-in-five Americans killed in action were butchered not by Saddam’s forces but by their fellow Americans. Imagine if that had been true in the Second World War. We’d have killed hundreds of thousands of our own people.

Among non-lethal casualties in Bush One’s War, according to numerous reports, the most common inflictor of friendly-fire wounding suffered by American combatants was neither gunshot nor bayonet nor shrapnel.

It was rape.

Rape is the other perverse meaning of “fratricide.”

Is it unpatriotic to mention these things? Merely to know them is profoundly unsettling. The “fragging” of officers in Viet Nam pales by comparison. Even in the false logic of our day (do you “oppose the war” or do you “support our people in uniform”?) the rape of uniformed American soldiers by other Americans, under the leadership of officers who have been cautioned not to be obsessed with preventing it, is a sobering thought, especially in light of recent news from Colorado Springs.

More than a decade has passed since the first Gulf War. In the interval, the U.S. Air Force Academy has demonstrably not yielded to an “obsession” with preventing rape. Officials are currently reviewing at least 56 reports of rape and other sexual offenses, and to their credit they’ve gone on record as saying they believe many more such incidents have gone unreported. Nearly all of the rapists are from the class of people who like to be identified as “superior officers” when they have their trousers up.

The Academy’s initial response was to crack down hard on the rape victims for coming forward. Even now, by announcing that henceforward male and female cadets will be housed in separate dorm rooms, the Academy appears to blame the victims, suggesting that they brought it on themselves merely by being present. Apparently the education of our officers is in the hands of people who believe it is unrealistic to expect men to refrain from rape if women are accessible. (And to think, we don’t want Gays in the military because it might make such “men” uncomfortable.)

There were commentators in 1991 who worried aloud on TV about what might happen if a female American soldier fell into the hands of the barbarous Iraqis. So great was the fear that she might be raped that hardly anyone dared mention it directly. No one thought to warn her to stay out of Colorado Springs.

On the streets of Baghdad today they are not overly concerned with American fratricide. They are more likely to be discussing the potential fate of Iraqi women who may fall into the hands of American soldiers. The fear is that “liberation” may be just another word for rape and plunder. On what basis, I wonder, could anyone assure them that it isn’t?

What about “fratricidal” behavior among those who didn’t get into the Academies? Studies show that spousal violence is significantly worse among military families than among civilians, and that it’s also worse among commissioned officers than among the enlisted. The higher the rank, the more slapping and hair pulling.

Odd, isn’t it? The more power people get, the more violently they behave.

So what do you want, Vest? A non-violent military???

Yeah.

DAVID VEST writes the Rebel Angel column for CounterPunch.

He can be reached at: davidvest@springmail.com

For a sneak peek at Vest’s new CD of scorching blues and rock ‘n roll, Way Down Here, visit: http://www.rebelangel.com

 

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DAVID VEST writes the Rebel Angel column for CounterPunch. He and his band, The Willing Victims, have just released a scorching new CD, Serve Me Right to Shuffle. His essay on Tammy Wynette is featured in CounterPunch’s new collection on art, music and sex, Serpents in the Garden.

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