Generals And Wars That Drive People Crazy

Ed Raymond

Why didn’t our generals figure out that putting small-town kids from rural counties for nine-month and one-year tours in “tribal countries” would be hazardous to their physical and mental health? We had a taste of it in Vietnam, but the Iraq and Afghanistan wars were the first major American wars fought without “front” lines, with no relief from facing 24/7 death constantly—a war in 360 degrees, often on much lower ground than the enemy. Friends and enemies wore the same clothes, fighters wore no uniforms, male and female suicide bombers were always threatening to push the cellphone button, and every street and road was a possible death trap armed with Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) left in the country in another big mistake made by our generals. You could be killed by an eight-year-old boy or an eighty-year-old woman in these dysfunctional “countries” formed by European and Asia empires.
A short paragraph written by small-town PTSD victim Adam Schumann in David Finkel’s book “Thank You for Your Service” covers his feelings during his second deployment in Iraq: “I’d get in the Humvee and be driving down the road and I would feel my heart pulsing up in my throat. [Three of his closest friends, Crow, Emory, and Doster, had been killed doing the same thing.] I survived but was wounded in a series of explosions, had a bullet cross my thighs, and would think: ‘I’m still here, it’s misery, it’s hell. Are they going to kill me today? I’ll take care of myself. Why do that? I’ll go out killing as many of them as I can, until they kill me.’”
Finkel describes today’s troops this way: “The way it worked was that they joined the army because they were patriotic or starry-eyed or heartbroken or maybe just out of work. Then they were assigned to infantry instead of finance or public affairs which they had chosen when recruited. Then they were randomly assigned to a combat brigade... then they were assigned to a battalion going to the worst place... so much of war is said to be accidental.”

Mullen: “Relatives Ask, ‘Was It Worth It? Did His Death Mean Anything?’”

In 2013, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen repeated Abraham Lincoln’s line from his Gettysburg Address—“That these dead shall not have died in vain”—in a speech. Mulled said, “Of all the lines—of all the ideas—in Lincoln’s speech, this one resonates most with me. Even now, long after I have taken off the uniform, grieving mothers, fathers, sons and daughters approach me and ask, Was it worth it? Did his death mean anything? No one who dies in the service of his country dies in vain. War is an abomination. It is ugly, dirty, oppressively exhausting... The soldier no more welcomes it than he does any other deprivation or hardship. Neither should the citizen or politician. But we should be quick to remember that war, though never glorious, is sometimes necessary, that the soldier is the servant of the state, not the maker of policy, and that sacrifice, though painful, is the price we pay for freedom. For those of us who advised the president to send troops into harm’s way, these were never decisions taken lightly.”
Yes, Admiral, I agree, but there’s the rub. No decision should be taken lightly, but it must be taken with intelligence, knowledge of the enemy and his territory, an examination of the role of war in national security strategy, and without faulty judgment and deadly carelessness. I’m sorry, politicians, admirals, and generals, but our troops in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Vietnam have died in vain because of the criteria listed above. The Iraqis are now killing each other at the rate of 1,000 per month, and the Taliban is killing fellow Muslims at about the same rate in Afghanistan.

PTSD, Suicides, And Life Among The Two Million Vets Of Baghdad And Kabul

We sent two million young men and women to fight the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, many returning physically and mentally healthy, although returning to 14 percent unemployment for vets. 5,281 returned in caskets (with more to come from Afghanistan), and over 22,000 returned missing limbs and with other serious wounds. But the Veterans Administration just reported that vets of both wars are being diagnosed with PTSD at a rate of 1,000 new cases a week, with the estimate that between 400,000 and 600,000 will eventually suffer from it. The services have produced dozens of programs directed at mental illness, but the experts at the Institute of Medicine say there’s little evidence they work. An Iraq vet whose job it was to find and disarm IEDs is still in therapy, and says, “I still see the bombs, I see bombs all the time.” And the suicide rate among vets continues to climb to the highest levels in Army history. This is the result of being exposed to death constantly for 6,480 hours during a nine-month tour. I remember the Army vet who was killed while in his 12th tour. How many times must a vet tempt fate?
We still have neocons, warmongers, greedy “defense” corporations and contractors, and conservative pissants who have never had a uniform on pleading that we go to war to save lives in Syria. They just don’t seem to understand what is happening in the world. Osama bin Laden brought the 15th Crusade to us at the World Trade Center, and it is now continuing in many countries around the world. We presently have military forces in 134 countries. But as a result of 9/11 and the quagmires in the desert Middle East and Africa, we have Muslims killing Muslims in Iraq, Muslims killing Muslims in Afghanistan, Muslims killing Muslims in Pakistan, Muslims killing Muslims in Syria, and Muslims killing Muslims in many African countries. Why not let them continue the battle between Sunnis and Shias until there is just one Muslim left, then ask her or him whether they are Sunni or Shia? They have been killing each other in civil wars since 700 A.D. Why try to stop it now with our own troops? I admit this sounds cynical, but we live in a cynical world.

We Need The Draft Back Quick

I served in the Marines during draft days. One thing about draftees over volunteers: they voice their limits quick. If a draftee refuses to go up a foreign hill because it serves no possible military or political purpose in his mind, he ain’t going. As the draftee would say, “What are they going to do to punish me? Send me to the front?” As an example of officer incompetence and distrust, Army officer Norman Schwarzkopf fought for a transfer to Vietnam during the war so he could be promoted ahead of other officers. He succeeded in getting promoted, but he achieved the reputation of the kind of officer who could get you killed quick because of his own ego.
General Norman Schwarzkopf was the big hero of Desert Storm during the Gulf War, but he was known by fellow officers and enlisted as a short-tempered “overbearing bastard,” even by his superiors. Can you imagine that even Dick Cheney didn’t like him, himself an “overbearing bastard”? Schwarzkopf was well-known for treating all of his subordinates like “shit,” as one of his junior officers said.
A “no deferment, no excuses” draft for two years or more of national service would not only solve some of our military problems, it would also mitigate some of our social and economic problems. Compulsory military service is still alive in parts of Europe. In 2013 the Swiss voted to keep their draft. The government urged the retention of the draft and the following propositions received 73 percent approval: (1) Military service teaches people how to live and work with compatriots from all regions, all linguistic groups, all economic levels, and all social strata, (2) Sacrifice and service creates a national cohesion, (3) Such service reinforces the idea of putting country before self-interest, (4) Such service will increase the possibility of compromise among groups, and (5) Such service is necessary to create a national identity in a land with 26 cantons (provinces) and four official languages. Such a draft would remove the “chickenhawks” in the Republican Party who have never put on a uniform—but always want to send the offspring of the poor and the middle class to fight their wars.

Generals, Chefs, Shoe Polishers, And Uniform Ironers

The world spends $1.7 trillion on military expenditures. That’s $236 for every man, woman, and child on the planet. Our share is 41 percent of that total. China, considered to be one of our immediate rivals, spends only 8.2 percent. Russia is at 4.1 percent. The rest of the world spends 46.7 percent. This means that each of our 316 million citizens pays about $2,200 annually for military expenses. This does not account for the many billions spent on support services of the CIA, NSA, and a hundred other departments with similar acronyms.
Generals and admirals cost a lot of money. In WW II we had 2,000 of them commanding over 12 million troops, or one for every 6,000. Now there are 900 for 1.4 million (1 for every 1,500). In today’s Army we have 97,000 officers commanding 427,000 troops, or about one leader for every four followers.
Each general or admiral costs us about $1 million for staff. Top commanders have their own C-40 jet with beds. Personal staffs include drivers, security guards, chefs, secretaries, and the shoe polishers and the uniform ironers. They also get free housing. General David Petraeus was famous for his six-minute mile runs. His aides were stationed along his route so they could pass him water bottles at measured intervals. He also demanded fresh pineapple slices before going to bed. Well, we now have 1,422 billionaires in the U.S. that demand the same treatment.

Does Our Military Really Need Ten Different Uniform Camo Patterns?

The generals and admirals spend taxpayer money like everybody is a member of the One Percent. Symbolic of this gargantuan effort to spend is the fact that Congress is considering a bill to limit the development of more camo patterns for field uniforms. Evidently the Pentagon leaders have all read Shakespeare’s “Hamlet.” In Act One, the old windbag Polonius gives “sage” advice to his son Laertes: “Costly thy habit as thy purse can buy. But not expressed in fancy—rich, not gaudy, for the apparel oft proclaims the man.”
In 2002 the military shared just two patterns: forest green and desert brown. Now we have ten. The Army even has a special uniform camo for Afghanistan that cost $2.9 million to design. The Air Force spent $3.1 million on an “Airman Battle Uniform”—that they couldn’t use in Afghanistan! My Marines went the cheap route, only spending $319,000 on their camos. The four services spent a total of $12 million developing new camo uniforms, and added additional millions to procure and distribute the uniforms around the world.

How About Building A New Jet Fighter That Can’t Fly In The Rain Or In Clouds?

  Now we’re talking real money. Not only do the Pentagon and its generals run 234 golf courses around the world, even one at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, but the Pentagon owns the Eisenhower Blue Course at the Air Force Academy, where the toilet seats cost $400 each. But these expenditures are peanuts. I must write about the F-35 fighter jet, the most expensive plane that doesn’t fly in history. The generals and admirals decided back in 2001 that maybe one jet fighter could serve all four services. That was crazy to begin with. The same fighter landing on a desert runway or an aircraft carrier bouncing in 20-ft seas? The same fighter dropping nuclear weapons from 40,000 feet and providing close air support for Marines storming a beach?
But we taxpayers are going to buy 2,400 of these ostriches for $1.5 trillion, of which we have already spent $400 million! Lockheed-Martin has built 100 of them—but none of them have been certified for flying or combat. So far, because of equipment and design problems, the F-35 can’t fly at night, can’t fly in clouds, and can’t fly near lightning. Nor can it fly in close formation or perform aerobatics, and if it stalls in flight, it will probably fall like a rock. It is being tested while it is on the assembly line so that changes can be made. Perhaps Wilbur and Orville Wright should be called at a séance by a designer-psychic to advise the generals.