Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Grunt Nation

Over the years I've questioned my 3 sons for feedback on today's military. One son has almost 17 years and 3 Iraq tours, another just signed out after 12 years in MI, and the youngest silly pup, to prove himself to dad and big brothers, has a couple of years. The 3 of them hold strong independent ideas and this is an assessment of their opinions. Their feedback generally agrees on specific points regarding the current active duty military.

They agree officers in the military are paid to speak bullshitalese. It's rare for an officer to speak negative of the military or the CIC, unless he's in a small circle he trusts or he's retiring out. Some officers privately agree the Iraq War is nothing more than neocon ideology, reshaping the ME to secure resources, etc. Some officers have been told that anti-Bush comments could be punished even when spoken in a small group of fellow officers. When an officer admits what is going on is bullshit, he is also likely to accept it as functional necessary bullshit. A standing army is not much use without a war or two going on. A standing army eats a lot but when standing it is not filling the coffers of industry; a significant function whether we admit it or not.

The younger troops, grunts, are the bulk of the armed services, and the dumbest. The older grunts stick with it usually because of too little ambition, a wife and too many kids, debt up to their chevrons, and know that with the skills they possess they will not find a civilian job making the money they need to get by. As one son said, "for most troops the military is welfare with honor." One son stated many soldiers he's spoken with in the last couple of years think the war is bullshit and nothing to do with OBL/terrorists but at the same time its a steady job so go along with the ideology.

What many people don't think about is that, just as in Vietnam, most of those dying in Iraq are combat troops and support personnel. And to date not in great numbers. Many troops come home with stories of palace sleepovers and swimming pools. The odds of dying in Iraq are no where near as high as they were in VN, yet. Which may also be another reason why more troops are not sent, fewer targets, fewer casualties = the longer America's patience. The risks and potential adventure are acceptable to most soldiers. When questioned about similarities between Iraq today and Vietnam my sons tell me: The Shia are similar to the South Vietnamese in that they like where they are: In power. The North VN hard-liners were similar to the Iraq "insurgents", well trained and devoted to their cause. There is similarity in that the US has an enemy which most likely will not be defeated, because it is dedicated and can sustain itself indefinitely. In the end the US will have years of conflict without reaching the goal of a "free" Iraq. As with the North VN, the insurgency shows no signs of slowing down. The Iraq War's outcome will likely be the same as Vietnam.

Success is subjective for some, objective for others, and inside the "iron triangle" of military, big business, and politics success is measured by the ka-ching-ka-ching, not the liberation of peoples that the average American considers backward barbarians. It's the usual combination of money and an insensate American population. We are basically, predominantly still a nation willing to follow without question the politicians finger as he points to a demonized enemy, be it jap, gook, commie, terrorist, or raghead.

The Republican Party is supported by the troops, not because they live richer under republicans but because of the myth that republican presidents and congress hook the military up and the wussy peacenik democrats do not. By "hook" I assume better wages and benefits, etc. Of course we know the bulk of military spending goes to crony defense and armament contractors, not big troop pay raises and perks, but we're dealing with the grunt mindset. As long as the boys in uniform believe that myth they will not support democrats who they've been convinced are not supportive of their vocation, their lifestyle, or their existence.

The 3 sons agree that to start a war with Iran is extremely unlikely, but then Iran could "start" one with us.

Two of my three sons believe that if ordered, troops would open fire on fellow Americans. They tell me they know some in uniform who would have no problem shooting their fellow citizens for no other reason than it meant they got to shoot someone. I write this with no intention of denigrating the troops. I have no malice toward the troops as they include my sons. As a society we need to admit who and what we are as a people.

We like leaders who tell us we're heroes. We like believing when our "resolve is tested" we stand strong. We have no flaws, we make no mistakes. We want to be told we're a beacon of freedom and enlightenment (especially to ancient civilizations), we're strong and never faltering, we will never again hesitate, we are the cowboy in white hat galloping to save the world from its backwardness. It's okay to kill to get what we want and say it's done as liberating peacekeepers.

Tonight Bush gave a speech pushing the right buttons to make the majority of Americans "stay the course." Most will keep quiet because most have no children invested in war and most who do can agree to the trade-off. The criminals that led us into this mess may fall back as the war tolls on, (depending on how the public reacts) but only to serve us another mouthpiece in 3 years, maybe even a Democrat. They will tease us with words of anticipation. Hang in there. Roll the dice, flip the card, we'll win if we just keep playing.


Cynthia said...

I was very moved and fascinated by your comments. I'm a vet of four years of active duty and two of reserves. My husband is also a gulf war I vet. We currently have two relatives overseas fighting. One in Afghanistand and the other in Iraq.

Your words really struck home with me and as harsh as I thought some of them were I honestly can't disagree with any of them. Although I'm not sure if they would shoot on Americans, I can't be positive because the reinforcement of how 'great' we are in uniform was constant.

Knowing what I know now, if I was still in uniform, I don't know how I would feel about what's happening. My husband and I loathe this war. We served proudly and the military benefited us a great deal, but I see now that our military has been abused, neglected and murdered. It disgusts me.

Your words are what we need to hear and to read. Thank you so much for your insight.

Tom said...

Thank you for saying that. It's good to hear from someone more intimately connected to the war than I; I have a godson who was stationed in Iraq for 18 months, but he's not disposed to talk about it much. I do know he was given a choice: reenlist (with two years of his first hitch still remaining)and go home for at least two years, or, spend the majority of that time in Iraq.

He reenlisted. That says a lot.

Anyway. Thanks again. The very best to you and your boys. May everyone come home safe and sound.

Anonymous said...

I stumbled over your blog today during my usual haphazard surf Kate and have added it to my favorites and will be back.

Your preaching to the converted here but still it is so refreshing to read your words.

All the best to you and yours and may your God, whoever she is, keep them safe.

Aussie Phil.

Kate-A said...

Thank you for your responses as I hesitated on posting this particular piece. Your feedback is appreciated very much.

Michael Johnson said...

Hi all,

I worked as an advisor with a group that was hired in the 90's to occasionaly speak etc at CATO institute.
I am an historian and i have watched numbers and averages all of my life.

The number of US dead in Iraq i had estimated at 7,000 in March. The figures the head of US military hospitals in Germany spoke with some aquaintainces of muine in the Red Cross and said 'about 9,200 dead'.

Those numbers bring the occupation of Iraq up to about the same rate of casualties that we suffered in Vietnam.


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