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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 8/8/11

They Died in Vain; Deal With It

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As for his superiors, it was Army policy to do everything possible to avoid diagnosing PTSD. And so, Kirkland ended up becoming a new entry on a little-known statistical table; namely, the one that shows that more active-duty soldiers are currently committing suicide than are being killed in combat.

Not a problem for Maj. Keith Markham, Executive Officer of Kirkland's unit, who put the prevailing attitude all too clearly in a private memo sent to his platoon leaders. "We have an unlimited supply of expendable labor," wrote Markham.

And, sadly, he is right. Because of the poverty draft (aka the "professional Army"), more than half of U.S. troops come from small towns like Jackson, Missouri and the inner cities of our country. In both these places, good jobs and educational opportunity are rare to nonexistent.

I suspect that one factor behind the very high suicide rate is a belated realization among the troops that they have been conned, lied to -- that they have been used as pawns in an unconscionably cynical game. I would imagine that corporals and specialists, as well as high brass like the legendary two-time Congressional Medal of Honor winner, Marine Gen. Smedley Butler, often come to this realization belatedly, and that this probably exacerbates the pain.

Butler wrote "War is a Racket" in 1935, describing the workings of the military-industrial complex well before President Eisenhower gave it a name. It is not difficult for troops to learn that the phenomenon about which Eisenhower warned has now broadened into an even more pervasive and powerful military-industrial-corporate-congressional-media-institutional-church complex. Small wonder the suicide rate is so high.

And for what? Please raise your hand if you now believe, or have ever believed, that the White House and Pentagon have sent a hundred thousand troops to Afghanistan for the reason given by President Obama; namely, "to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat" the 50 to 100 al-Qaeda who U.S. intelligence agencies says are still in Afghanistan.

And keep your hands up, those of you who fear you might throw something at the TV screen the next time Gen. David Petraeus intones that wonderfully flexible phrase "fragile and reversible" to describe what he keeps calling "progress" in Afghanistan.

Troops returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan know better. It must be particularly hard for them to hear the lies about "progress," and then be ridiculed and marginalized for having PTSD. It seems a safe bet that some of those have read Kipling, and on occasion wish they had found release by following his morbid advice -- awful as it is:

"When you're wounded and left on Afghanistan's plains,

And the women come out to cut up what remains,

Jest roll to your rifle and blow out your brains

And go to your gawd like a soldier."

The Establishment Church

I added "institutional church" into the military-industrial-corporate-congressional-media-institutional-church complex coined above because, with very few exceptions, the institutional church is still riding shotgun for the system -- and the wars.

I find that most men and women of the cloth avoid indicting "wars of choice," even though such wars were quite precisely defined at the post-WWII Nuremberg Tribunal as "wars of aggression" and labeled the "supreme" international war crime). They know that in such wars thousands upon thousands die -- civilians as well as military.

But then fear seems to walk in, for preachers all too often fall back on platitudinous, fulsome praise for those who "have given their lives so that we can live in freedom." And, as the familiar phrase goes, they say/think, "I guess we'll have to leave it there."

And there continues to be relatively few outspoken folk like Cindy Sheehan, painfully aware that courage and truth are far more important than fear, even when that fear includes the painful recognition that the life of a beloved young son was ended unnecessarily. There are some who dare to point out that the mission given our troops has made us less, not more, safe at home, and ask what is so hard to understand about Thou Shalt Not Kill? The FCM ignores these Justice folks, so all too few know of what they say and do.

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Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, the publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. He was an Army infantry/intelligence officer and then a CIA analyst for 27 years, and is now on the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS). His (more...)
 
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