07 May 2007

You don't build trust roughing up the neighbors.

Back in the days of Vietnam, they called it "winning the hearts and minds of the people." At least that was the program, but even Colin Powell recalls in his memoirs shooting at civilians for sport (he doesn't use those words, but let's just say he recounts shooting at civilians because maybe just maybe they weren't civilians). Needless to say, massacres like My Lai didn't do much to win too many hearts and minds.

Now in the days of Iraq (now in its fourth year...it's a far cry from the "roses strewn at the feet" beliefs of Cheney and Wolfowitz) we don't really have a name for it. But we do have abuses and massacres (though none, so far thankfully, on the scale of My Lai), and it's not unsurprising given the recent survey of ethics standards among the US troops. It's sort of hard to get the populace to trust you and work with you when your attitude toward them is pretty bad:
In addition, about two-thirds of Marines and half the Army troops surveyed said they would not report a team member for mistreating a civilian or for destroying civilian property unnecessarily. "Less than half of Soldiers and Marines believed that non-combatants should be treated with dignity and respect," the Army report stated.

War is hell, sure, but is there a need to make it more hellish? Who actually thinks you get further by terrorizing the general populace on the one hand while claiming to protect them on the other? However, while the low-level infantrymen and marines will most likely be the scapegoats, these attitudes and actions are the result both of poor training and poor policy on the part of the military higher-ups. Repeated and extended deployments are limiting the troops' abilities to recuperate, straining military families and individuals who are trying to cope with the daily stress of combat deployment.

And the military's not doing its veterans any favors, either. As The Nation reported a few weeks back, the military's new game is to deny medical claims for post-traumatic stress disorder by arguing that the claimants are suffering from "pre-existing personality disorders." Here's a sample:
A six-month investigation has uncovered multiple cases in which soldiers wounded in Iraq are suspiciously diagnosed as having a personality disorder, then prevented from collecting benefits. The conditions of their discharge have infuriated many in the military community, including the injured soldiers and their families, veterans' rights groups, even military officials required to process these dismissals.
They say the military is purposely misdiagnosing soldiers like Town and that it's doing so for one reason: to cheat them out of a lifetime of disability and medical benefits, thereby saving billions in expenses.
I should hope that only the most blindly nationalistic proto-fascist could fail to see the cynicism behind the cost-saving mechanism of discharging soldiers for "pre-existing conditions." And what's more, they're discharging these veterans untreated into the general population, where many may end up homeless, sunk into deeper bouts of mental illness, or violent.

It's the height of arrogance and symptomatic of the "gated community mentality" held by the power brokers in this country that the flag-waving cheerleaders for war such as G.W. Bush and Dick Cheney, their own children safe with "other priorities," can talk out one side of their mouths about "supporting the troops," while on the other side, the money side, they close their fists tight to the veterans.

These are sad times indeed.


Neil Diamond. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Momentary Academic said...

It is really creepy that things are just getting worse and worse.

Reya Mellicker said...

I can't imagine how anyone deployed in Iraq could make sense of anything going on. Behaving ethically? The idea itself must be surreal.

A friend recently recommended the book about that famous and awful experiment at Stanford U., where one group of students was given the role of prison wardons, while the other students were assigned the task of being the prisoners. The wardens became so unbelievably cruel so quickly, they had to stop the experiment.

I think the book is called The Lucifer Factor.

Strangely, today I was listening to that sad Irish ballad, There Were Roses.