Captain, I’m not Reassured

In response to my post on this administration and the simplistic manner in which they try to frame the occupation of Iraq like a game, we heard a word from an Iraq vet, who has apparently served a stint in Iraq not too long back. Captain Sykes confidently assured us that the pacification (interesting that he would use that term;as a military euphemism, it has a rather disturbing history) is moving forward apace, and that the morale of the troops is fine.

I couldn’t help but chuckle at the Captain’s timing, coming as his comments did about 5 days after “Nearly 200 people have been killed in a string of attacks in Iraq’s capital, Baghdad – the worst day of violence since a US security operation began,” a day after a bomb attack on a Baghdad police station killed a dozen and wounded scores more and one day prior to the killing of nine U.S. soldiers in “the volatile province of Diyala,” in what is “the worst single US loss on the ground since late 2005.”

I can’t say that I’ve been inspired…

I’m glad that the Captain feels morale is high. But the Captain cannot speak collectively for the troops in Iraq any more than I am can speak for Utah or the U.S. collectively. I’ll trust that this is true for himself, his unit, and others serving around him. There is a diversity of opinion within the military establishment and those connected with them.

Guy Raz of the NPR show Morning Edition produced “Members of Military Make War Views Known,” yesterday in which he interviewed a number of soldiers frustrated by the occupation of Iraq. He met with Johnathon Hutto, a founder of the Appeal for Redress, which has been signed by almost 2,000 active duty service personnel.

The ranks of soldiers joining The Iraq War Veterans Against the War are growing. The organization opposes the war in part because of the consequences of the multiple, lengthy tours on the soldiers and family.

Many who are not speaking out are still suffering from the effects of participating in the pacification. An LA Times report (posted here on Common Dreams) that more than one in three soldiers returning from duty in Iraq pursued help for emotional issues.” One in eight were diagnosed with serious psychological disorders, such as PTSD. The symptoms of the toil this war is taking on our soldiers is alarming.

Rieckhoff, who spent a year with the Army in Iraq, thinks the survey underestimates the number of problems.

“I had 38 guys under my command. One shot himself in the leg to go home. Seven of them got divorces, one is in a mental institution, and one took his own life a few months after he got back,” he said. “Not everyone comes home with post-traumatic stress disorder, but no one comes home unchanged.”

Daniel Zwerdling of the NPR show All Things Considered reported in December that while military studies show up to a quarter of service personnel have displayed symptoms of serious psychological trauma, the army may have been disregarding the severity of the price the troops pay. In his story “Soldiers Say Army Ignores, Punishes Mental Anguish,” he explored a number of rather troubling stories from Ft. Carson in Colorado. A follow up last month “Military Mental Health Care Under Scrutiny,” demonstrates that the problems on Ft. Carson were not an abberation. Katherine Johnson expressed her grief over what this continued occupation has cost her son.

Johnson says that today, her son sometimes seems like a stranger.

“He gets angry easy,” she says, haltingly, “and he’s also afraid to be alone. But the main thing I’m concerned with is that he’s turned to alcohol, and this was not typical of my son.”

In fact, she says, he gets so drunk that “we’ll call him on the telephone and he doesn’t know who we are.”

“You have no idea what this has done to us,” Johnson says, starting to sob. “I just want my son back.”

I can’t deny that I’m a little concerned about the Captain’s glib certainty that he and the troops are “a-ok.”

Sometimes a nation must pay a heavy price in the blood and tears of her sons and daughters to advance a higher cause. We certainly have plenty of examples in the Book of Mormon of very bloody wars fought in defense against invading armies. But a war of aggression and pacification based on lies is not one such a higher cause. The “isolation of Iran” is not such a higher cause, unless this administration can prove that Iran is a serious and immediate threat without that isolation—and given the dissembling this administration engaged in when last they tried to convince the U.S. about grave peril, the bar set for such proof must be set high indeed.

The administration has again resorted to weak attacks and framing the debate in the prideful form of a contest to win or loose. Rather than discussing the merits of the claims of congressional Democrats, Vice-President Cheney accused Senate majority leader Reid of “defeatism.”

I guess when there are no merits to your argument, you must resort to appeals to churlish pride.

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