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Monday, March 19, 2012

Piss on some corpses, burn some Qurans, shoot some kids

Gen. Patton once told his troops that war is man's greatest adventure.  What he did not tell them in that speech is that war kills people, innocent as well as soldiers doing what they are told, and it also kills that part of human nature that aspires to higher, peaceful things.  

Liberation of Dachau
When American troops liberated Dachau, they found piles of dead Jews and barracks filled with emaciated people.   Their reaction was to line up about a hundred German guards against a wall and machine gun them down. In the killing spree that followed, more than 500 German troops were reported executed, some by liberated camp inmates who killed them with their bare hands.  The troops that did the machine-gunning were referred to Gen. Patton for possible war crimes prosecution.  Gen. Patton dismissed the charges and absolved the men of wrong-doing.  They simply did, he said, what they were trained to do.  

Then comes the 38-year-old Sergeant Robert Bales last Sunday in Afghanistan who is accused of leaving his post on his base, walking into nearby villages, and shooting down 16 people, including nine children.   The sergeant was on his fourth tour of combat duty in his 11-year career.  The previous three were in Iraq, where he incurred a brain injury when a vehicle he was in overturned from a roadside bomb and where he also lost part of a foot.   No officials have offered any informed conjectures about why Sgt Bales may have done what he was accused of.    Some initial responses from the military indicate he had been drinking and just seemed to snap. Reports also claim that the day before the massacre, Sgt. Bales was next to a colleague when the colleague's leg was blown off.   A man who joined the Army in response to 9/11, serves four tours of combat duty in 11 years does not suddenly snap.  The issues that bring him to the point where, like the liberators of Dachau, he guns down a bunch of people are long in the making.   They are issues, however, that the advocates and perpetrators of war cannot and will not face.  Those who see war as a patriotic glory cannot afford to confront the insidious insult of an 11-year combat veteran being thanked for his service.  They refuse to consider that what is being said to the troops when thanked is heard as, "Thank you for your service, you fucktard.  Now shut up and do the obscene and insane things you are trained and told to do, and we'll support you with stupid bumper stickers and phony expressions of gratitude."

Oh, and by the way, it would be most convenient if you would get your fucktard head blown off so we don't have to hear and feign concern about any post traumatic stress bullshit.  We'll give you a fucking hero medal to put on your grave marker.  Thanks for your service.  

 The military services do an excellent job of training the troops in the arts and sciences of killing.  That training includes some measures for survival, but little consideration is given to psychic survival, how to deal with the results of rage and violence that are part of the combat experience.  When the American troops liberated Dachau, the combat troops who entered the camp were not prepared for the boxcars full of dead inmates or the grotesque emaciation of the living.  Their revulsion and rage over what they encountered induced the need to eliminate the cause of the atrocities they witnessed.  Atrocity was met with atrocity.

 The war on terror has not been fought in the primary area that acts of terror are intended to attack.  While acts of terror may inspire fear and intimidation, their most pronounced effect is to disorient their targets, intellectually and morally.  Much talk and blame-placing has been expended on whether the U.S. government should have anticipated and prepared for the 9/11 attacks, but as I mulled them over with other veterans, we all shared an incredulity that 19 men could be found who would volunteer for suicide missions.  We found the idea ludicrous that a commander could ask for 19 volunteers to step forward from his troops and volunteer for such a mission.  Such a request would be met with derision.   The idea of such a mission was so far outside of western culture and history that we regarded it as an absurdity.

America and the rest of western culture regarded the Muslim religion as just another creed that promoted peace, goodwill, and rules of behavior that avoided what it defined as sins.  We chose to overlook the fact that many tenets of Muslim practice are in direct opposition to the rights and freedoms conferred by American democracy.  Our thinking was so entrenched in the idea that America's enemies would come from political organizations, such as communists and fascists, that we could not conceive of the idea that the most successful attacks to be waged against America would come under the auspices of a religion.  Many Americans, particularly those of us on the left, have cautioned against equating all Muslims with the Islamic jihad.  We have insisted on full exercise of the First Amendment,  denying that the insidious forces that gather to kill do their organizing  under its protection.  We've allowed sects which exist for the destruction of everything America stands for to exist and develop under the rubric of religious freedom.  If any political group were to openly plot sedition, treason, and destruction of the Constitution in such a way, all the possible strictures of law would be applied to suppress and expel it. 

A basic tenet of the Muslim religion permits violence and warfare in the pursuit of sectarian goals.  This difference was emphasized during the heyday of the civil rights movement, when Martin Luther King, Jr., cited Christ in his nonviolent, passive resistance to Jim Crow while Malcolm X said, "I am not against using violence in self-defense. I don't call it violence when it's self-defense, I call it intelligence."  

Let it be acknowledged that there is a constant in the history of Christianity where atrocity is committed in the name of the Christian god.  In America, it begins with the destruction of the Pequod Indians at Mystic, Massachusetts.  It raged during the prolonged violence between Irish Catholics and Protestants.  And it was the motivating force in the Bosnian War when the Serbian Orthodox Christians not only exterminated the Muslims, but also the Croat Catholics.  In our country, those who lust for violent dominion ensconce themselves in Old Testament passages on vengeance, and choose to ignore The New Law laid down by Christ in the New Testament.  However, the mainline Catholic and Protestant denominations give at least lip service to Christ's mandate for reconciliation, peace, and good will.  That said, the fact is that damned few Christians take Christ's words seriously,  although some subscribe to convoluted theological obfuscations to justify their need for  violence.  

Despite the doctrinaire hypocrisy of American religious faiths, Americans cling to  a vague, vestigial notion of respect for diverse life, probably in the hope that if they cannot muster it themselves, other people will give them respectful regard.  And it is clinging to that notion that makes 9/11 and the constant atrocities of the Jihad so effective.  In Iraq, when the local forces weren't setting of bombs against the NATO troops, the Shiites and Sunnis were bombing each other.  And when they could, the Islamic forces would video tape a beheading for the edification of their enemies,  It is the constant killing of anyone at any place by Muslim factions that so wears away at the American pretense for tolerance and justice.  It is hard for people to believe in tolerance and justice in circumstances where such concepts are systematically derided and denied.  This is the huge psychological force that works constantly on our troops, and it makes it seem absurd for Americans to cling to the concepts of just and fair conduct when those concepts have no  relevance to their lives and are used to mount attacks against them.  

The damage that war inflicts upon the human brain is not only from explosive devices.  It is also caused by the constant denial of moral standards as operative forces.  However, the effectiveness of Islamic assaults comes not through just the constant mindless violence.  it also comes when the country that soldiers believe they are fighting for demonstrates a hypocritical treachery.  When political campaigns turn from the critical discussion of national goals and policies for achieving them into the ad hominem assaults against character and intellect,  the tactics of the Jihad easily displace the moral certitudes for which the country makes claims. The outrage at the burning of Qurans seems preposterously absurd in the  face of mass suicide bombings and the subjection of women to unspeakable denials of humanity. To those soldiers who have been designated as expendable human beings by their countrymen, responding to atrocity with atrocity seems part of the way the world is working.

America has  no coherent battle plan for dealing with the disorientation delivered through atrocities delivered in the name of Allah.  The mental health of the troops are not much of a consideration.  And the problems become worse when the country they return to is largely dysfunctional.  Maybe we can finally learn something about war from Sgt. Bales.   Most likely, not.  May as well take a wiz and burn a Quran or two.

What the troops are fighting for.

No racism here. 


Bob Newland said...

This won't win you any friends, but it was a precise bit of observation. I would have written something like it, except it wouldn't have been as good.

John said...

Nice post. Spot on. SSG Bales was on his 4th combat tour. Recall Taliban members are on their 1st. It's also worth recalling that greatest generation soldiers used Bedouins for target practice in North Africa. Atrocities are as old as war. Any political hack or general, but I repeat myself, who thinks s/he's immune is delusional.

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