Tag Archive for U.S. military

What price combat?

vietnam_injuredThe final step when I reported to the Army intake center in Roanoke, Va., in February 1966 was an interview with a doctor. That day is memorable not only as my first one in the Army but also one observing draftees being inducted who were illiterate; others couldn’t speak English.

In a desperate attempt to increase the ranks of its fighting men in Vietnam, the Army had lowered its mental requirements. Physical qualifications were a moving target as I discovered during that interview with the doctor. A young man was brought over for an expert medical evaluation to determine his ability to serve. The specialist held up the boy’s arm bent permanently at a 90-degree angle and asked with obvious doubt, “Is this enough to disqualify him?” The doctor’s reply was a disgusted “yes!”

Looking back, I felt that at least one person had enough sense to send that draftee home. The Army could not enlist someone physically disabled. Yet, what happens to our combat veterans disabled mentally or physically?

I was disgusted by the May 20 article in this paper, “Report finds combat troop discharges rising sharply.” The AP article quoted from an investigation by the Colorado Springs Gazette: “The number of soldiers discharged from the Army for misconduct has risen to its highest rate in recent times, and some are wounded combat troops who have lost their medical care and other benefits because of other-than-honorable discharges.”

This is morally unacceptable to me, so I researched the full article through the Internet. The report got worse. Combat veterans diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder are among those being discharged. Several top generals are quoted saying how much discipline counts to maintain an effective military and that our troops are important. Convinced? Me neither.

PTSD diagnosis is the tip of the iceberg. Combat damages and ruins untold thousands. We’ve only named it recently. After their release from Union and Confederate armies, many Civil War veterans simply “walked into the west,” unable to adjust to civilian life after observing the slaughter of the battlefield. Nothing compares to it.

Perhaps the most thoughtful words in the report were spoken by Lenore Yarger, a veterans advocate near Fort Bragg, N.C. She said, “We have gotten very efficient at getting people to fight wars but are not prepared to deal with the aftermath.”

In my opinion, we have never been prepared to deal with the aftermath. Also, I firmly believe that once a young man or woman is sent into combat we can never do enough for their maintenance afterward. To my thinking, it is unconscionable to discharge anyone and deny them benefits if they have faced combat. What is the value of discipline once you’ve sold your soul?

Estimates range from $5 trillion to $10 trillion spent on defense in the past 50 years. The Obama administration has increased funding for veteran support and there are still waiting lines sometimes hundreds of days long. In my lifetime, no president’s administration has done enough to maintain our veterans.

In Rachel Maddow’s book “Drift,” she details how every president from Johnson to the present has diligently tried to avoid congressional approval needed to send our troops into combat. Corrupting the power of their “commander-in-chief” role, presidents have outright lied and bent analyses to have their way with our military. It is an equal-opportunity corruption shared by presidents from both political parties. And worse, staunch defense-minded politicians, a euphemism for hawks, have even argued that since we have invested so much in our military we might as well use it. Fight on.

Obviously, this conundrum demands a change in thinking. Active citizenship requires each of us to question our country’s penchant for war. We must ask a tough question. How much defense do we need? Not how much can we spend on our military to keep our economy strolling along.

In my view, for every dime we invest in new weapons we should spend millions on the humans ruined by war. And we must ask, what is the cause for dismissal from service? Can anyone know the contribution of combat?

Shame on us.

Bill Ellis is a local author and can be reached at contact@billelliswrites.com.

 

 

 

Some want the military to target Americans

US Military firing on US citizens?

US Military firing on US citizens?

When Congress returns from the Thanksgiving recess on Monday, the Senate will be voting on a bill that will direct American military resources not at an enemy shooting at our military in a war zone, but at American citizens and other civilians far from any battlefield – even people in the United States itself.

As currently written, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012 (S. 1867) gives this president – and every future president – the power to order the military to pick up and imprison without charge or trial civilians anywhere in the world.  The bill was drafted in secret by Sens. Carl Levin (D-MI) and John McCain (R-AZ) and passed in a closed-door committee meeting, without even a single hearing.

The White House, the Secretary of Defense, and the Attorney General have all said that the indefinite detention provisions in the National Defense Authorization Act are harmful and counterproductive.  The White House has even threatened a veto. But Senate politics has propelled this bad legislation to the Senate floor.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) explained that the bill will “basically say in law for the first time that the homeland is part of the battlefield” and people can be imprisoned without charge or trial “American citizen or not.”

Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO) is offering the Udall Amendment that will delete the harmful provisions and replace them with a requirement for an orderly Congressional review of detention power.  The Udall Amendment deletes the provisions and sets up an orderly review of detention power.

If enacted, sections 1031 and 1032 of the NDAA would:

  1. Explicitly authorize the federal government to indefinitely imprison without charge or trial American citizens and others picked up inside and outside the United States;
  2. Mandate military detention of some civilians who would otherwise be outside of military control, including civilians picked up within the United States itself; and
  3. Transfer to the Department of Defense core prosecutorial, investigative, law enforcement, penal, and custodial authority and responsibility now held by the Department of Justice.

The United States is rapidly heading down the road to fascism.  It’s bad enough that corporations have almost complete control of our political system.  Now those same interests want to deputize the military against our citizens!

I don’t care which political party has control over the American military; this proposal is disgustingly out of line with who we are and who we have been since our inception.  Our criminal justice system has served us reasonably well over the 222 years of our existence.  It can and will continue to do so.  There is no moral, legal or security justification for turning our military on our own citizenry.

Contact your senators and urge them to vote in support of the Udall Amendment. And if the amendment should fail, urge them to vote against the entire National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012 (S. 1867). The Senate needs to clearly understand that the American public also can and will “draw a line in the sand.”