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Just over 50 years ago it was No Gun Ri. Then My Lai. And now Haditha…. and, as (headlines declare), even more mass murders, most recently in the Iraqi villages of Ishaqi, Hamdaniya, Latifiyah, and Yusifiyah; young men fresh out of high school, frustrated by life, with nothing better to do than to sign up as mercenaries ready and willing to kill for their country, yet, as always, afraid to die and angry as hell as a result of buddies (comrades-in-arms) having been killed, everyone of them having been thrown into a world of cultural confusion and death wanting nothing more than an opportunity to return home, body and mind unimpaired. You see, for each of these young men and women, there will be two wars; the first a physical battle to stay alive, the second a psycho-spiritual effort, a struggle to live with what they “had to do” in order to stay alive. In war there are no winners….. only those who lose least!
Isn’t it ironic that just this week the commanders in charge of forces in Iraq, after having suffered the painful blowback, the natural consequences, of having so punctiliously trained our children to kill, having trained them to reflexively disregard the rather inconvenient intrusion of an always present voice reminding one of the value of human life, have found it necessary to reverse the harm they have done, that they need to tighten the slack in their leash on the troops, that it might be better if soldiers did begin to think, did in fact begin to use their minds, before choosing to take the life of another human being. The new training program, technically referred to as “Core Warrior Values,” an effort to enable soldiers to discriminate between who they should as opposed to who they should not be willing to kill; that is…… that it is proper for them to be chomping at the bits to kill the “bad guys,” those armed with guns eager to kill them, but better for them to hold back a bit when it comes to the “good guys,” women, children, the blind, and old men (especially those found to be sitting in wheel chairs). Something like training an American Pit Bull to viciously rip apart, that is, to devour, its prey, and then in midstream, amidst the chaos of an enraged battle, ensuring that the avenger will gently back off choosing to show mercy for those disinclined to fight back.
So many of our children, the vast majority of them Black, Hispanic, and poor, having been cajoled into joining the ranks of the military, all in order to support a country out to “right a world of wrongs.” However, what these young folks are never told is that their primary job will be that of killing people, most often that of the enemy, but sometimes even those of their own buddies (during the first Gulf War nearly one out of four soldiers were shot and killed as a result of “friendly fire”). As part of their training (read: brainwashing) these young men and women will be taught: to stuff their conscience (to forget everything taught to them by their parents, elementary school teachers, preachers, priests, and/or rabbis); how to fire an automatic weapon with deadly accuracy; to loathe the adversary since such animosity will make it much easier to kill the enemy; and to trust the government, to have faith that once the soldier returns home all will be well, that all of his/her memories, the recollections of a buddy’s head having been blown off, the old lady whose guts were splattered on the wall, the insurgent who tried to smile as he lay dying on the street, and the little boy whose body he mistakenly blew apart while running to his mother arms, that the unending nightmares will simply vanish into thin air, for no reason other than the soldier’s assurance that he did the right thing, that he was doing his duty, that he had done what he had been told to do, that he was simply following orders. However, what the soldier is never told is that as a result of having gone to war there is a reasonable likelihood that he will struggle until the day he dies with nightmares depicting the horrors of war, the unrelenting grief, bitterness and resentment, despair, depression, and the anger that will have taken possession of his life; a marriage in which his wife will never understand what he has gone through; attempts to keep a job amidst the chaos of a life still at battle within; and, if all goes awry, that of exile, soldiers having been banished for having found themselves unable to adapt to “the niceties” of a more civilized world, those damned to a world of losers, a sort of depository, a melting pot of homelessness for those who have given up on life.
Our children need to be told the truth. Our sons and daughters need to realize that choosing to be a soldier means a decision to place themselves among “the damned,” since no matter what they end up doing while on the field of battle, they will eventually be damned…… damned if they do and damned if they do not. Realizing that compliance with a superior’s order to shoot and kill the enemy may well lead to the damnation (the self-extirpation) of one’s soul. On the other hand, noncompliance will lead to that of being court-martialed. However, regardless of the chaotic rigors of battle, regardless how terribly difficult it might be to figure out what one ought (or ought not) do, the lowest man on the totem pole, the grunt, rather than his superiors at the top, will be the one held responsible, the individual most likely to spend time in prison, and in some cases, the one most likely to be put to death for having killed an innocent victim. Of course, along with the fact that most recruits will never receive any educational benefits, that their training in the military is for the most part irrelevant to jobs in the civilian sector, that their military recruiter was always a salesman and never a friend, that he was nothing more than “an advanced grunt” trying desperately, and far too often dishonestly, to meet a quota set for him by a military needing more bodies to be placed on the battlefield, the military recruit needs to understand that he is “an expendable,” that his life has little or no value whatsoever for those at the top, that he is nothing more than mere cannon fodder, a redundant grunt filling a slot on the “front lines” of battle enriching the military-industrial complex, a conglomeration of the transnationally rich, felons whose prosperity depends upon the promise of more wars to come!
Just yesterday I discovered that a new bill, HR 4752, The Universal National Service Act of 2006 (a fancy name for a bill that would bring back “the draft”), has been introduced to The House of Representatives. Because the United States government (meaning the Bush-Cheney administration) is on the verge of militarily invading Iran, a conflict that might well lead to all out war in the Middle East, the United States Congress is not taking any chances. Such a bill “on the table,” and ready to be passed (enacted) when necessary, will authorize the United States government to once again initiate a military draft for each and every man and woman aged 18 to 42. Although most of the people I have discussed this matter with have told me that there is no way our government would reinstitute the draft since such would no doubt represent political suicide. And they are right. However, there is one thing that trumps the need to avoid political self-immolation, and that is the need to have an adequate supply of soldiers on the ground to fight the next war, the “Battle of Iran,” a conflagration likely to draw in the remainder of countries in the Middle East, partisans who may well begin to realize that we, as a nation, had no business meddling in the affairs of the Middle East, no right to have sent our soldiers a world away in order to occupy that of another country.
Consequently, since the war in Iraq is no doubt illegal, it is destroying the social fabric of our people, the economic infrastructure of our nation, it has nothing whatsoever to do with the spreading of peace and democracy around the world, the fact that the president lied in regards to why we went to war, the conflict in Iraq has created a world of greater danger, our warring posture has given the world even more reasons to hate us, I am proposing that it is time for young folks to pull their heads out of the sand, that they come in from the dark, that they begin to pay attention, that they realize that their brothers and sisters have been used (more likely even, abused) by the government, that, before it is too late, they need to tell the military establishment that they will not go to war! Our youth need to understand the tremendous power they have, that war is simply not possible if they refuse to fight, if they make it clear that they will not take up arms. Because our country has become the world’s leading producer as well as supplier of military weapons and technology, the world’s primary advocate of war, a warmongering nation that requires the destruction of all who threaten its right to dominate the world, our children need not presume that they have a moral responsibility to support the military establishment. I realize that our time has not yet come, that the tipping point, that of the military draft, has yet to become a reality. But when forced conscription into the military becomes inevasible, I expect young people, at least those able to comprehend the significance of their place in history, to take a stand against the tyranny of war…… forces of evil cryptically embedded within the polity of a nation having gone wrong. I am calling upon the youth of this country to say no to war, to tell their leaders that they will not obey the government’s request that they take up arms, that they will not go to war for the purpose of killing the enemy.
So many of our young folks have been brought up to believe that being a good person has something to do with that of having a good reputation, being liked by everyone, being held in high esteem by others, even that of being a patriotic citizen, but such has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with that of being a truly decent person. I beg the young people of this nation to consider the ominous proposition that, as it was in the days of Nuremberg when the Nazis were held responsible for crimes against humanity, when the leaders of the German nation dressed their children “in brown shirts” reminding that they had a moral obligation (a national duty) to fight for the Fatherland, it will be the same for the leaders of our nation, as well as for those who blindly allow themselves to be coerced into fighting for our country, a nation having come under the nefarious control of malefactors convinced that our nation has been given the right, the God-ordained responsibility, to oversee the planet, to, in fact, rule the world.
So someday when you reach the end of your days, when you become rather old, and are no doubt ready to die, realize that no one (at least no one of any significance) will ever choose to ask if you were a good citizen, if you were a patriot, if you were loyal to your country. You will never be asked if you wore a uniform with distinction. The only thing for which you will be held accountable, by “those who count,” is that of having chosen to become a decent human being, that of having chosen to live your life according to the laws of humanity (the principles of justice, peace, and love), the Law of God, which demands but one, and only one, thing…….. that we love one another.
G. Doug Soderstrom, Ph.D.