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Are the Horrors of War Making our Soldiers Genocidal?

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I am sure you have been following the stories coming out of Afghanistan involving the killing of at least 16 Afghanistan citizens. I was waiting to get more information before I posted this article, but after hearing that the soldier who allegedly murdered these people had been transported out of the area and returned to the US, I know this situation will not be resolved anytime soon.


Let’s go over what we know at this point. A US soldier allegedly left his camp in the dead of night, went into a village and indiscriminately killed 16 unarmed people, mostly children, and burned their bodies. He then allegedly walked back to his camp and turned himself in. This has now turned into a major international incident with finger pointing and threats of retaliation from the Afghanistan people and the Taliban against our troops and against our country.

Now what happens? Now you will hear different accounts of what occurred from both sides and we will be left to make our own assessments of what actually happened. Will we ever know the whole truth?

So, why am I writing an article about this incident at this time? Because I am very concerned about what is happening to our brave men and women who are putting their lives on the line, day after day, night after night, fighting to help these countries survive. Some of these soldiers have been deployed three, four and even five times to either Iraq or Afghanistan. Then, when they return home to their families, they are preparing and training to go back and kill more people. At least some cold be ticking time bombs who are not getting the proper help to deal with war.

No wonder people and doctors are talking about PTSD, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and identifying it in our military troops returning from a war. How many of our troops have this disorder and are being sent back into military conflict?? If we don’t have a proper mechanism to determine if a soldier is under this type of stress condition, will we have another wave of mass murder of unarmed people and children, and soldiers killing their comrades? What about the impact on their families when they try to assimilate into regular day to day living between deployments?

I think the mental stress and strain put on our troops should be extensively examined and the physiological impact accessed. What would make a soldier, who also allegedly had some brain damage from a previous incident, walk into a village and murder those people in cold blood? Did he feel they were the enemy and they all looked alike? Or did his constant redeployments cloud his judgment to the extent that they were merely casualties of war? Maybe he’s angry at the loss of a fellow soldier and just wanted to get even! I’m not sure we will ever know, because now the wheels of CYA have begun. Why was he cleared for redeployment after brain injury?

If an athlete has a concussion after or during an athletic match in this country, the doctors tell the coach to sit him down and not let him play. I don’t know how long it was after this soldier’s brain injury; but, was one soldier needed so badly that some officer or doctor couldn’t make a command decision to sit him down and take him out of the game? Who is really at fault when something like this occurs?

This Afghanistan incident is not the only incidence of PTSD. I’m not going to attempt to  discuss every such incident that has taken place in the past, but I will remind you of the stressed out soldier who killed five of his own comrades in Baghdad in 2009, and the soldiers in 2010 who testified about their sergeant, who ordered them to kill unarmed Afghanistan civilians. And, we can’t forget the Army major who killed 11 and wounded 31 people in Foot Hood, Texas in 2009!

Is there evidence that suggests war produces a mentality in some that suggests incidences like these are a by-product of war? Most of my career has been in law enforcement; I have witnessed police officers, under stress situations, who overreact in trying to deal with a violent confrontation. More force than necessary is often utilized because of the stressful nature of the incident. Also there is an acute development of a very hostile attitude toward the perceived enemy; in law enforcement, it’s against the criminal. In the military, it’s against the enemy combatant, and in Afghanistan and Iraq, often against anyone who looks like the enemy. In this article I won’t comment on the marine who recently referred to the president as being the enemy, under the alleged umbrella of free speech! What does that tell you about his military discipline?

I don’t want to be overly critical now, but I still remember instances from our past history when war trumped common sense and civility. I don’t know how many of you are old enough to remember the massacre at My Lai during the Viet Nam conflict. My Lai has been called “murder in the name of war.” In it, 347 to 504 unarmed citizens were murdered under the guise of either war or the military attrition strategy, an emphasis on body count and kill ratios.

I mention the My Lai incident to illustrate the coverup that occurred in the CYA scenario to protect those involved. The mass cover up lasted for 18 months and some big named people were involved. As I stated in my blog, when the institution is too big to fail, all bets are off!

Some of these wars are not only costing the lives of our soldiers, but also the prestige of our country. We are being put in a position of fighting for a country that hates us and is looking at our troops not as saviors, but as cold-blooded murderers. If constant redeployments are the issue, and are causing the mental stress that can’t be pre-identified, maybe we should set a limit on redeployment to no more than two occasions. If we then determine we don’t have enough troops, reassess our ability to complete the mission and pull out! We now have had to deal with some of the Afghanistan soldiers turning on our troops and killing them. During a recent trip to Afghanistan, the Secretary of Defense  had a touchy security situation which forced all troops, including US forces, to be disarmed during his visit.

It would be nice to continue to be the world’s policeman, but at what cost? In our political system, we have our war hawks who believe this country should fight tyranny wherever it exists in this world. How many lives of our troops should we sacrifice to satisfy the hawks? What happened at My Lai, when the American public found out what was done, was one of the primary factors that forced an end to the Viet Nam war. The American people protested so vehemently that our troops were eventually pulled out.

I am reminded of the comment in Wikipedia, made by Colin Powell about the My Lai incident, …” in war, these sorts of things happen every now and then”…. and the comment of the Vietnamese general in describing Lt. Calley, the only soldier convicted of the massacre, ” Calley tried to get revenge for the deaths of his troops, in war this is natural”.

Upon hearing these remarks, one wonders, are these statements the type of justification we can expect to support the eventual atrocities which seem to occur in every war in which the US is involved? What are the words of that song again? “War, what is it good for…”

I hope this recent incident opens our eyes, the eyes of our military and the eyes of our government to carefully and judiciously examine this situation for the sake of our soldiers and our country’s well being.

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About Donald W Tucker

  • Igor

    How sweet it is to die for your country.

    Dulce et decorum est
    Pro patria mori.


    ‘Death and After in Iraq’

    By Chris Hedges

    Jess Goodell enlisted in the Marines immediately after she graduated from high school in 2001. She volunteered three years later to serve in the Marine Corps’ first officially declared Mortuary Affairs unit, at Camp Al Taqaddum in Iraq. Her job, for eight months, was to collect and catalog the bodies and personal effects of dead Marines. She put the remains of young Marines in body bags and placed the bags in metal boxes. Before being shipped to Dover Air Force Base, the boxes were stored, often for days, in a refrigerated unit known as a “reefer.” The work she did was called “processing.”

    “We went through everything,” she said when I reached her by phone in Buffalo, N.Y., where she is about to become a student in a Ph.D. program in counseling at the University of Buffalo. “We would get everything that the body had on it when the Marine died. Everyone had a copy of The Rules of Engagement in their left breast pocket. You found notes that people had written to each other. You found lists. Lists were common, the things they wanted to do when they got home or food they wanted to eat. The most difficult was pictures. Everyone had a picture of their wife or their kids or their family. And then you had the younger kids who might be 18 years old and they had prom pictures or pictures next to what I imagine were their first cars. Everyone had a spoon in their flak jacket. There were pens and trash and wrappers and MRE food. All of it would get sent back [to the Marines’ homes].

    “We all had the idea that at any point this could be us on the table,” she said. “I think Marines thought that we went over there to die. And so people wrote letters saying ‘If I die I want you to know I love you.’ ‘I want my car to go to my younger brother.’ Things like that. They carried those letters on their bodies. We had a Marine that we processed and going through his wallet he had a picture of a sonogram of a fetus his wife had sent him. And a lot of Marines had tattooed their vital information under an armpit. It was called a meat tag.”

    The unit processed about half a dozen suicides. The suicide notes, she said, almost always cited hazing. Women, she said, were constantly harassed, especially sexually, but it often did not match the systematic punishment and humiliation meted out to men who were deemed to be inadequate Marines. She said that Marines who were overweight or unable to do the physical training were subjected to withering verbal and physical abuse. They were called “fat nasties” and “shit bags.” The harassed Marines would be assigned to other individual Marines and become their slaves. They would be sent on punishing runs in which many of them vomited. They would be forced to bear-crawl: walk on all fours the length of a football field and back. This would be followed by sets of monkey fuckers, bending down, grabbing the ankles, crouching down like a baseball catcher and then standing up again, followed by a series of other exercises that went on until the Marines collapsed.

    “They make these Marines do what they call ‘bitch’ work,” Goodell said. “They are assigned to be someone else’s ‘bitch’ for the day. We had a guy in our platoon, not in Iraq but in California, and he was overweight. He was on remedial PT, which meant he went to extra physical training. When he came to work he was rotated. One day he was with this corporal or this sergeant. One day he was sent to me. I had him for an hour. I remember sending him outside and making him carry things. It was very common for them to dig a hole and fill it back up with sand or carry sandbags up to the top of a hill and then carry them down again.”

    The unit was sent to collect the bodies of the Marines who killed themselves, usually by putting rifles under their chins and pulling the trigger.

  • Cannonshop

    #8 because war is an inherently destructive activity? There have been only a few times when it’s been the RIGHT destructive activity-and those times the system didn’t support divisive policies-rich college boys really DID serve in the same infantry outfits with poor kids from the back end of Appalachia-in WWII, and Whites DID serve with Blacks in Korea (and after).

    But when the need is cloudy, when the foe is an Optional, rather than Existential, threat, (Vietnam comes to mind) inevitably, the system will be manipulated to let the offspring of the rich and/or Powerful avoid service at the expense of the rest.

    A Draft is only a leveller when the threat is percieved to be existential. The rest of the time, when the fight is Optional, the goals unclear, the mission questionable, the negative aspects of human nature will control the process.

    Mind that I’m only basing this on observation and history, I don’t have a real window into the souls (if they exist) of people, but it fits, and not just here. VERY few sons of Politburo members or high-ranking Apparatchiks, were sent to Afghanistan in the eighties that didn’t want to go, so it crosses national lines, this trend I’m speaking of.

  • roger nowosielski

    To add to Cindy’s list, here’s the link to Hedges’s latest article on the subject:

    on TD

  • The term “genocide” is overused and misused more often than is helpful.

    Genocide refers to the systematic mass killing of people solely on the grounds of their nationality, race or ethnicity.

    If an army rolls into town and slaughters all the inhabitants on suspicion of harbouring enemy combatants (as happened at My Lai), that’s mass murder but it’s not genocide.

    Now, if you were to transport this Afghanistan Rambo back in time and space to a German village in 1945 under the same circumstances, chances are he’d do the same thing.

    If we must have an emotive term for what he did, then how about “atrocity”? Because what he committed wasn’t genocide.

  • Okay, Roger.

  • the Deferments happened as a direct result of human nature, and the natural tendency for parents to try and protect their offspring

    Everything you see from humans is human nature. It is also human nature to care about putting the children of others in harms way.

    I find the question to ask then is: Why does this system foment those aspects of human nature which are selfish and destructive over those which are not?

  • roger nowosielski

    Cindy, email me. Got something to tell you.

  • Cannonshop

    #4 Roger, the Deferments happened as a direct result of human nature, and the natural tendency for parents to try and protect their offspring. Most of those deferments did not, and would not, touch the lower 80% of americans whom do not have much political swing even on a local level. Reinstitute the Draft, and you’ll see the Deferments come back, mostly oriented toward important pressure groups and/or the demographic groups most often connected to whichever party happens to be most influential at the time.

    What you will NOT see, is any sort of increased caution about involving American troops in purely foreign adventures. Military actions are too often used as a distraction by Presidents, from Johnson to Nixon to Carter, to Reagan to Bush, Clinton, Bush, and Obama-foreign wars draw the attention of voters away from domestic failures.

    Especially if they’re not “Wars”, and Congress can be counted on to fund them.

    AND Congress WILL-because no Congressman sitting, is going to go on record as cutting off money while American kids are getting shot at, regardless of the WHY involved.

  • roger nowosielski

    No disagreement, of course, Cannon. But even with the universal Draft intact, there were still enlisted women and men, so there was some balance. Now there’s none.

    The deferment issue was bureaucratic in creation, which isn’t to say it couldn’t be fixed with commitment to fairness.

    In any case, I’m not at that in favor of “efficiency” when it comes to military conscription (unless we’re facing a national emergency). Some “inefficiencies” might provide just the necessary stopgap in slowing down the impulse to embark on military ventures.

  • Cannonshop

    #1 Roger, do you remember WHY we went to an all-volunteer force in the 1970s? IIRC, a “universal Draft” turned out to be pretty damn selective with all the Deferments available, and we spent ten years in a certain region of SE Asia fighting what many characterized as an “Unjust War”.

    If you REALLY want to stop the Wilsonian Adventures, you need to insist on candidates that oppose military action that isn’t in the National Interest-i.e. you need to select politicians who don’t cry when the News shows brutal scumbags in third world hell holes doing what third world brutal scumbags do.

    AS for soldiers: Glenn’s right on the mark there-People TEND to snap, especially if their job is hard, futile, and ultimately pointless-which is the correct description of trying to institute western/U.S. democratic principles in the third world at gunpoint. The more pointless and futile a mission is, the more likely you are to have troops who lose it.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Donald –

    That’s one of the things that keeps me here on BC – the incredible variety and depth of the knowledge and experience of the contributors!

    I consider myself an amateur historian with an emphasis on military history, and I have to strongly agree with Colin Powell’s statement – “in war, these things happen”. He’s not justifying My Lai (which I remember though I was young at the time), but he knows that in war, the occasional soldier will snap. Such is the occasional nature of combat – but thankfully, in the modern world it happens less and less often, and the higher the standard to which the military force is held, the less such atrocities occur.

    But they will occur.

    Disclaimer: I’m a Democrat, a strong liberal, but I said then and now that I would vote for Colin Powell in a heartbeat. I have great respect for a man who voluntarily walks away from great power (for he surely would have won) because of the respect he has for his wife’s words. That man has real courage and real honor!

  • roger nowosielski

    It’s the kind of wars we’re fighting of late, Donald, not to mention the built-in selectivity bias because it’s “all volunteers” now.

    The honest thing to do would be to re-institute the draft. Any nation that professes itself to be democratic would rely on draft, if only to make certain whatever wars or conflicts it may embark upon are “just.” But of course none of our pols have the gumption.

    Rumsfeld’s contention concerning new and leaner, specialized armed forces is no justification. It only provides an excuse for imperialistic ventures.