March 28, 2014
Veterans Are Being Threatened and Silenced by the US and UK Militaries | VICE United States

From the article:

Recently, when I visited Toronto to help start a new project called Front Lines International, I met soldiers facing long prison sentences for speaking out. For me, Jules Tindungan, 26, and Chris Vassey, 27, were virtually impossible to tell apart from the average Canadian, but both of them are American soldiers on the run and applying for asylum in Canada.

They were experienced, door-kicking infantrymen in the US 82nd Airborne when they went to Afghanistan. After 15 months they returned home changed men. Both of them believed they had been involved in war crimes and fled to Canada—Jules first, then Chris—where they would be able to speak out. Men like these do not refuse lightly.

Chris told me that whenever his patrol took incoming in Afghanistan “it was no holds barred… the day after, when people come to your base saying you shot up their home, tractor, farm… all we would say was, ‘Well, the enemy was on the run… don’t let them fire at us from your backyard and this won’t happen again,’ as if they had condoned it.” He saw Afghan national army soldiers “butt-stroke” local women in the face with their rifles during raids. It was, he was told, how thing were done in Afghanistan.

Jules explained that after one firefight his platoon recovered remains—bodies and body parts. These were strapped “to the hoods of trucks and driven through local towns as a sort of warning.”

Both men have been vocal in the Canadian antiwar movement. They will suffer for their words if deported. “Dudes who speak out get harsher punishments,” Jules told me. “Statements made to the media, as well as in social media, are used as evidence against you when you are sentenced.”

Jules also told me that one soldier who ended up back in the US phoned him from military prison, warning him to clear his Facebook posts and emails of any criticism of the military or the war. “They compiled a very thick docket of his Facebook statements and emails as evidence against him,” Jules said.

Chris is now an ironworker but easily slips back into telling expletive-filled soldier stories about his long months spent doing “illegal shit” in “A-stan.” He confirmed what Jules had said about the risks of speaking out: “Video or audio of you speaking out is used against you—usually guaranteeing a stiffer sentence.”

Also, this, from a former U.S. drone pilot:

Heather still honors the non-disclosure agreement that came with her security clearance. Having been involved in numerous kills she suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, but she says that she cannot claim the veteran’s benefits she is entitled to because she can’t detail to doctors the missions that saw her develop the condition. If she does, she risks jail. Heather is 24 years old.

March 23, 2014
"With moral courage comes persecution. The American army pilot Hugh Thompson had moral courage. He landed his helicopter between a platoon of U.S. soldiers and ten terrified Vietnamese civilians during the Mai Lai Massacre. He ordered his gunner to fire his M-60 machine gun on the advancing U.S. soldiers if they began to shoot the villagers. And for this act of moral courage, Thompson…was reviled."

Chris Hedges

See Also: Wikipedia - Hugh Thompson Jr.

March 4, 2014
American War Crimes & PTSD

One of the more frightening prospects about America’s wars overseas is how many war crimes are committed that we’ll never hear about.  Here’s a veteran recalling his experiences overseas, from HONY:

"It took me getting into a lot of fights before I was diagnosed with PTSD. I have something called ‘hypervigilance.’ I get really nervous around people. Especially people from the Middle East."

"What were some traumatic things that happened to you?"

"I was in a vehicle when a mortar round exploded in front of us, and we fell into the crater and got trapped. There was a burning oil rig near us, so it was like being in a microwave. And we couldn’t get out. And I also saw a lot of hanky shit. Mostly from our side. Everyone was really revved up from 9/11. We did a lot of bad things. I saw decapitations, and that was our guys doing it.”

"What happened?"

"We were supposed to bring POW’s back to the base. But instead we gave them a cigarette to calm them down, and told them to get on their knees. One of our guys was 240 lbs, and he’d taken this shovel we’d been issued, and he’d sharpened one of the sides until it was like an axe, and he could take off somebody’s head with two hits."

"How many times did you see that happen?"

"Three."

When people are placed in inhumanly stressful situations, they can succumb to their darker influences and do terrible things.  But whether you view the soldiers who commit these terrible acts as evil or victims of circumstance, it remains true that America’s political discourse sanitizes this reality with the language of patriotism.  There is a brand of hero worship associated with soldiers that plays a role in covering these stories up.  The idea that all soldiers are heroes makes it harder for us to acknowledge that some of our “heroes” are actually committing war crimes, and they should be held accountable, not praised for their service.

February 24, 2014
Pentagon Plans To Reduce the Size of the Army

From the article:

According to the Times, the new Pentagon spending proposals, which have been endorsed by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will ensure that the U.S. is capable of defending itself while being too small to engage in long-term foreign occupations like those in Iraq and Afghanistan.

From theTimes:

The proposal, described by several Pentagon officials on the condition of anonymity in advance of its release on Monday, takes into account the fiscal reality of government austerity and the political reality of a president who pledged to end two costly and exhausting land wars. A result, the officials argue, will be a military capable of defeating any adversary, but too small for protracted foreign occupations.

Of course, one shouldn’t mistake this language for the idea that the U.S. will be withdrawing from foreign missions overseas.  We wouldn’t want Iran to think it was sovereign over its own borders or anything.  But it’s a good step in the right direction.

February 14, 2014
Military Scientists Create Pizza That Lasts for Three Years - NBC News

I feel like the right questions aren’t being asked here.  Like “should” pizza last that long, and “what” are they putting in it to make it last that long…

6:13pm  |   URL: http://tmblr.co/ZMMjnx17Q43dm
  
Filed under: politics military 
February 6, 2014
Pentagon Slush Fund Must Be Drawn Down

govtoversight:

How can you tell the war budget is a slush fund? When 2 wars end but the budget goes up.

LTMC: That commentary.

January 5, 2014
MDMA (Ecstasy) Is a Lifesaver for Vets with PTSD: It's Time to Bring It Back as a Legal Therapy Tool

From the article:

When Tony Macie returned from Iraq in 2007, he knew deep down something was wrong. The former Army sergeant, who served 15 months in Baghdad as a scout, struggled to readjust to civilian life… .  Macie went back to college, but his nervous system was stuck on high alert. He was irritable, moody and sometimes paranoid, reliving memories of buddies dying in combat. He drank heavily. He swallowed five or six pills at a time—oxycontin, Xanax prescribed by military doctors, and painkillers for his back injury. He stopped showing up for class.

[…] Macie tried therapy, but nothing worked. Then he discovered a clinical trial lead by Michael Mithoefer, using MDMA-assisted psychotherapy to treat chronic PTSD. MDMA is the active ingredient in Ecstasy, the popular dance drug. But due to controversial publicity over the decades, its credibility as a therapeutic tool has largely been ignored.

Macie joined the trial, and after only one session, stopped taking his meds. “It was a paradigm shift. I want all vets to have the same tool at their disposal.”

November 16, 2013
"The biggest problem with the Army Values is how they are sloganeered. By simply saying them, we soldiers frequently delude ourselves into thinking they make us more ethical, like they are a talisman. Indeed, they can actually set the stage for unethical action by inspiring moral complacency and allowing us to justify nearly any action that appears legal."

"The Myths We Soldiers Tell Ourselves," by Lt. Col. Peter Fromm (Ret.), Lt. Col. Douglas Pryor, & Lt. Col. Kevin Cutright.

Via Tom Ricks

November 11, 2013
"

WAR is a racket. It always has been.

It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one
international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the
losses in lives.

A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of
the people. Only a small “inside” group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit
of the very few, at the expense of the very many. Out of war a few people make huge
fortunes.

In the World War [I] a mere handful garnered the profits of the conflict. At least 21,000 new
millionaires and billionaires were made in the United States during the World War. That
many admitted their huge blood gains in their income tax returns. How many other war
millionaires falsified their tax returns no one knows.

How many of these war millionaires shouldered a rifle? How many of them dug a trench?
How many of them knew what it meant to go hungry in a rat-infested dug-out? How many of
them spent sleepless, frightened nights, ducking shells and shrapnel and machine gun
bullets? How many of them parried a bayonet thrust of an enemy? How many of them were
wounded or killed in battle?

Out of war nations acquire additional territory, if they are victorious. They just take it. This
newly acquired territory promptly is exploited by the few — the selfsame few who wrung
dollars out of blood in the war. The general public shoulders the bill.

And what is this bill?

This bill renders a horrible accounting. Newly placed gravestones. Mangled bodies.
Shattered minds. Broken hearts and homes. Economic instability. Depression and all its
attendant miseries. Back-breaking taxation for generations and generations.

For a great many years, as a soldier, I had a suspicion that war was a racket; not until I
retired to civil life did I fully realize it. Now that I see the international war clouds gathering,
as they are today, I must face it and speak out.

"

"War Is A Racket," By Major General Smedley Butler (1935).

Happy Veteran’s Day.

October 16, 2013
On The “Salute Seen ‘Round The World”

There is a picture of a wounded U.S. soldier circulating the web, wherein the soldier, upon being presented with a purple heart in his hospital bed, struggles to salute those presenting the medal.  The soldier’s name is Army Ranger Cpt. Josh Hargis.  He can be seen in the picture below:

image

Inevitably this picture has brought out the patriotic fuzzies in many Americans.  ”What a hero!”, people exclaim, as yet another person clicks “share” on their facebook page, affirming their respect and solidarity.

I don’t think what happened to Josh Hargis is heroic.  I think it is tragic.  Josh Hargis was wounded in a dying conflict that has been going on for 12 years.  That conflict, the War in Afghanistan, was at one time literally the forgotten war—an August 2012 headline for NBC news literally starts with the quote "No one really cares."  This was the preamble to announcing that U.S. deaths in Afghanistan had hit 2,000.

The War in Afghanistan is unwinnable.  It has been unwinnable since it began.  It was easy enough for U.S. forces to topple the Taliban.  Trivially so.  But since then, thousands upon thousands of U.S. soldiers have been cycled into and out of that Afghanistan, occasionally committing unspeakable horrors which guarantee that insurgents in Afghanistan will have no shortage of recruits at their disposal.  

And we should not ignore the sad irony that America’s largest intelligence agency trained many of the same terrorist operatives that are currently shooting at U.S. forces in Afghanistan.  One could reasonably argue that the CIA has Josh Hargis’s blood on their hands.

There is a rebuttable presumption in America that any soldier who is wounded is combat must’ve been protecting our freedom.  The reality is that Josh Hargis was wounded in an unwinnable conflict that most Americans have forgotten about and which has long been a black hole for U.S. blood and treasure.  He is no longer protecting anybody’s freedom in Afghanistan.  In fact, the mission he was carrying out in Afghanistan makes us less safe, not more.  No American is more secure or more free as a result of the fact that Josh Hargis, or any other U.S. soldier, was shot in Afghanistan.  None of us wants to believe that Josh Hargis bled for nothing.  But when U.S. soldiers are wounded in unwinnable, forgotten wars, one struggles to find meaning in the sacrifice.

And that’s the crux of the matter.  Josh Hargis is a victim.  He is a victim of a misguided foreign policy which uses the blood of American soldiers to grease the wheels of public opinion.  Calling him a hero makes it difficult for us to "call things by their right names," as Irish PM Clare Daly said in June.  Hero worship of the military undermines American Democracy and prevents bad soldiers from facing justice.  Under America’s current cultural milieu, every dead or maimed soldier is celebrated as a hero.  Seeing images of wounded soldiers makes the American electorate weak in the knees.  Our eyes well up with pride as we see one of our sons or daughters laying prostrate in a hospital bed, and we all thank him/her for their sacrifice.  The ritual is almost mandatory: anyone who tries to get people to think critically about the ritual is immediately shouted down.   

Meanwhile, as the public is busy heaping patriotic love on our wounded heroes, more U.S. soldiers are getting their bodies thrown in front of the cannons in Afghanistan by their civilian handlers in Washington.  Anyone who questions whether the blood of U.S. soldiers is making a positive difference in Afghanistan is accused of betraying the country and hating America.  It’s an impressive racket.  One which encourages people not to ask whether the conflicts that these troops are being shot over actually do protect our freedom.  

So when we see the image of Josh Hargis struggling to salute from his bed, we should be filled with emotion.  But not because Josh Hargis is a hero who risked his life protecting our freedom.  We should be filled with emotion because Josh Hargis was unnecessarily placed in harm’s way.  We should be filled with emotion because his body was shattered for no good reason.  His blood was spilled in vain in an unwinnable conflict that does nothing to improve our security.  Hargis and his family are victims of U.S. foreign policy, and of the civilian leaders who put him in harm’s way.  If we could get that message to be heard around the world, maybe the next Army Ranger Captain to fill Josh Hargis’s shoes will be able to stay home with his family rather than bleed in a hospital bed.

Liked posts on Tumblr: More liked posts »