Cadences about how Napalm sticks to kids, and how much fun it is to massacre Haji children were commonplace. All of us were repeatedly told that if we didn’t “man-up” and stop acting like “pussies” we were never going to be able to complete our training. The truth is that when you teach soldiers to dehumanize “the enemy,” you dehumanize the soldiers themselves as well. Basic training was a way for them to switch our emotions off and keep us focused on following orders. Critical thinking was not allowed.
I left Basic Training and went to the Department of Defense Information School. I was to be trained as part of the Personal Relations sector of the Military. We were treated as the elite; with our high tech facilities only a stone’s throw from the NSA. What I learned there changed my perception of our Military forever. As I was taught to spin images and stories to suite the Army’s political needs I realized how much of what I had been taught as History in school was propaganda. Basically, we were taught to stay on the sunny side of war. Civilians only mattered when they made the soldiers look good; you were never allude to the existence of dead civilians.
Our cultural addiction to technology has left us emotionally disconnected from the realities of war. While drones drop bombs like video games, my generation sits at home transfixed by digital illusions.
I understand now that there is no sunny side of war. Ninety percent of all deaths in any war are civilian deaths. Nobody prospers from war, except the elite who capitalize off it. When one country sends its poor people to slaughter the poor people of another country, nobody wins but the weapons manufacturers. With our own social programs facing budget cut after budget cut, our government is assuring that it will always have fresh crops of troops gambling their lives and mental health for health-care and a steady paycheck.
My time in service was filled with much emotion, much friendship, and much tragedy.
Today while our Vietnam Veterans continue to suffer and die from the effects of Agent Orange poisoning, a new cohort of soldiers returns home from Iraq with Depleted Uranium contamination. One of the biggest propaganda campaigns I encountered was the myth that our troops are overseas to help liberate women. Dropping bombs on women is not liberating. Using Depleted Uranium munitions on civilian populations deprives the women of their most basic humanity by robbing them of their reproductive capabilities. There are regions in Iraq where eighty to ninety percent of the infants born are dying within the first year of life from exposure to DU weapons. Under the U.N.’s Article II of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide, this qualifies our aggressions as genocide.
Great atrocities are being met with great indifference.
Most of all I hope to learn enough to find a way to show others the need to end all of our illegal and immoral aggressions. It is time for us to work together, to spread awareness and to spare future generations from having to live through this massive systematic abuse of power.