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A film on homeless veterans
May 21, 2006 10:29 AM   Subscribe

When I Came Home: Iraq War veteran Herold Noel suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and lives out of his car in Brooklyn. Using Noel's story as a fulcrum, this doc examines the wider issue of homeless U.S. military veterans-from Vietnam to Iraq-who have to fight tooth-and-nail to receive the benefits promised to them by their government.
posted by riley370 (45 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
Man all this Iraq stuff is depressing
posted by beno at 10:54 AM on May 21, 2006



posted by birdherder at 10:56 AM on May 21, 2006


An anonymous donor paid for an apartment for Noel and his family for one year after seeing the documentary, and now it looks like Noel's back on his feet and doing advocacy stuff on behalf of veterans who have found themselves in the same situation. Noel was a a Pfc. in the Army's 3ID, where he served as a fuel specialist supporting front-line troops during the initial invasion.
posted by Alexandros at 11:31 AM on May 21, 2006


"I hate the war — who wouldn't after losing a son?" she said. "But I love the troops and I'll do anything for them, and I think that's where Americans have to be at."

If any MeFi members are in the New York area, you might be interested in stopping by a charity golf tournament tomorrow in Poughkeepsie to benefit Semper Fi Parents of the Hudson Valley, which, despite its name, supports service members from all four branches both during and after deployment.

The group is completely apolitical and wouldn't be able to exist if it wasn't. It was founded by Paula Zwillinger, whose son Lcpl. Bob Mininger was killed by an IED while on patrol near Fallujah.

Coincidentally, Mininger's last hours will be shown on HBO's "Baghdad ER" documentary tonight at 8 p.m.

(Full disclosure: I'm not a member of Semper Fi parents, but my mom is. My brother is a rifleman with the 3rd Marines and will be deploying to Iraq in a few months. I'm new here, but I think I'm working within the rules by posting this, because the topic of this FPP is directly relevant and this group is one of the few civilian organizations doing real and hard work on behalf of our troops. And no, I'm not planning to watch the HBO documentary tonight -- too close to home, too soon before deployment. I already know what could happen and I don't need to see it. But I do think it's important for the people who seem to ignore the human costs of this war.)
posted by Alexandros at 11:57 AM on May 21, 2006


Man all this Iraq stuff is depressing
posted by beno at 1:54 PM EST on May 21 [+fave] [!]


« Those things are secret for a very important reason: they're super-depressing. » - Colbert
posted by zenzizi at 12:01 PM on May 21, 2006


We are all insupport of the troops but truth be told it is the political guys and girls, most of whom manage to keep their own kids out of serv ing who get us into wars that are often questionable or unnecessary and so the innocent suffer and the good people try to support the poor folks who serve what the politicoes have dished up. and so it goes...ever and ever again
posted by Postroad at 12:01 PM on May 21, 2006


Those Support Our Troops stickers piss me off. If people took the words to heart, we would have seen legislation that helped servicemembers. Instead what we get is millions of people using them to push pro-war agendas and drum up support for corrupt politicians.
posted by rolypolyman at 12:38 PM on May 21, 2006


We don't want to fight
But, by Jingo, if we do,
We've got the ships,
We've got the men,
We've got the money, too.
posted by The White Hat at 2:21 PM on May 21, 2006


I always thought america would be more beautiful if people put these on their cars instead:



"Its literally the least you can do."
posted by isopraxis at 3:13 PM on May 21, 2006


For 13 years I hired a homeless Viet Vet to help me with street vending, as well as working with numerous other vets of the Korean War and World War ll. Due to his ptsd, it took him about two years to be able to speak a full sentence to me. He was treated the worst by the Veterans Admin. He couldn't even get an address so he could receive mail. It was only thanks to a church he finally managed that. No mailing address then no phone, then no job, no way to get info or benefits from the government by mail. Ingeniously, he found a phone that took a pre-paid card and also used batteries, rather than a charger (not having a home he had no outlet to charge a phone). Between my hiring him, giving him a place to store his clothes and personal papers, the church's help with an address and his battery run cell phone he was able to find consistent work with others, not just with me and to also receive calls from his long lost family in Kansas, which I helped him find. His feeling of independence meant the world to him. He didn't want charity but needed specific help.

On the occasions when his identification papers were stolen while he was sleeping, the Veterans Admin made it very hard for him to get his papers back again, partially due to the fire that happened in the 1973 Military Personnel Records building fire. He died last year, age 51, homeless.
posted by nickyskye at 3:15 PM on May 21, 2006 [1 favorite]


Support Resistance!
http://www.bringthemhomenowtour.org/

They can take money for the war-killing, but we have to throw bake sales to support the vets? They can hysterically wave flags, but we should ignore the vets who are walking wounded amongst us?

When will they ever learn ... when will they ever learn ....

The REAL war (for "freedom and democracy"):






posted by Surfurrus at 3:19 PM on May 21, 2006


This is a hard comment to write, and probably a controversial one for Americans to read, but it is something I've been thinking about a lot lately. What I'm wondering is, "When is it time to quit supporting the troops?"

I ask this question because I've come to think that there is a morally different answer to the question, depending on the circumstances of enlistment of the troops in question. More and more, I contrast the situation of American soldiers in the Vietnam era, who by and large were drafted, or who volunteered in an era colored by the probability that they would be drafted involuntarily, and the "all volunteer force" of today, in which every combatant has chosen to be a participant, presumably in return for pay and benefits promised.

In the first case, that of drafted troops, the bargain of support is, in my mind, of greater moral certainty, and broader scope and duration. If we as a country have drafted someone into military service, we have become responsible for their welfare, and owe them whatever support is reasonable, for as long as it will be needed, to do as Lincoln enjoined us in his Second Inaugural:
"...to bind up the nation's wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan--to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves, and with all nations."
But today, we as a country, with an all volunteer force, are much closer to being employers of mercenaries, even to the point of hiring our soldiers under enlistment contracts. The contract bounds our moral responsibility to the hired, along with whatever body of law is otherwise generally directed to the provision of veteran's affairs, most of which has been, and will be, subject to revision at any time, for the convenience of the nation.

This is an important distinction, not only for moral certainty of the citizens of the country in such issues as raised by this FPP, but for the practical aspects of determining how the voters of the United States can and should act towards their elected government in a time of an increasingly unpopular war. If we are employing mercenaries, we should be able to expect and demand acceptable performance, and not be expected to pay for poor performance, or performance which is actually detrimental to our national welfare. As a result of failing to support failing mercenaries, we may not have as many mercenaries available to hire. In military managed as a market economy, this is desirable, as market economics should determine our ability to prosecute bad policies, while those in power avoid the responsibility for outcomes.

It's tough to say, but the reality is, that if we want to stop the insanity in Iraq, it is time to quit supporting the troops.
posted by paulsc at 3:45 PM on May 21, 2006


So, proportionally, are vets more likely to end up as homeless than the rest of the population?

I think it's interesting that concern about homeless veterans automatically and implicitly shows less/no concern for homeless non-veterans.
posted by wilful at 3:47 PM on May 21, 2006


paulsc: Do you think these "mercenaries" join for the money? That $13,000/year basic pay for enlisted members sure is a hell of a payday, isn't it? Why oh why are we talking about homeless vets? With that kind of cash, these guys should be buying their own private islands!

Your point about "poor performance" is also horribly misguided. The people on the ground do not decide the rules of engagement. They're responsible for tactics but not overall strategy. They have no say when it comes to manpower and equipment. And we all know they have absolutely no say in the debate over whether our country goes to war or not.

Jesus. You make it sound like soldiers and Marines are out for treasure hunting and adventure. Go spend three months sweating through every pore of your body for 18 hours a day on Parris Island, months more in SOI with sleep deprivation, being treated like garbage, freezing your ass off at night trying to sleep in the rain on field exercises between 50-mile marches. Willingly give up your right to privacy to live in shitty barracks with hundreds of other guys, your every waking moment governed by a team of pissed off DIs. And then get a week of leave and your $400 a month before you leave for Iraq, and tell me if you think you'd be doing it for the money.
posted by Alexandros at 4:28 PM on May 21, 2006


The best way to support the troops is to use them only in times of direst need.

Paulsc, blaming the troops for the Iraq clusterfuck is completely unreasonable. These guys aren't mercenaries for profit; their salaries barely amount to lunch money. There are a lot of reasons why people join the armed services, but the pay certainly isn't one of them.

You seem to think that the enlistment contract is somehow meaningful. It isn't. Once that person signs that contract, he is in a completely one-sided relationship that he has no control over. The government can, at will, change the terms of the contract, and the soldier cannot. That's not a contract, that's indentured servitude with a different name.

It's NOT THEIR FAULT they're in Iraq. And it's not their fault it's going poorly. That's what the leadership is for. The finger should point at Bush et al, not the grunts.

Support our troops.... vote the Republicans out and get them home where they belong.
posted by Malor at 4:49 PM on May 21, 2006


It's NOT THEIR FAULT they're in Iraq.

Yes, it is. They didn't get drafted. No one forced them to sign a contract that basically hands control of themselves over to someone else.

It's like saying it wasn't a drunk driver's fault he ran over than kid. He was drunk, and not in control.

Like drinking and driving, joining the military is irresponsible behavior.
posted by iconjack at 5:25 PM on May 21, 2006


It's NOT THEIR FAULT they're in Iraq.

Just for the sake of argument, why isn't it? I can't intellectually or morally go quite as far as paulsc, as I know there are extenuating economic circumstances for why someone would join the military (as opposed to move out of his/her depressed rural/urban rust belt environment to an area that has some possibility of offereing a decent job or chance for advancement), but I have similar questions. In the post WWII era, where soldiers have gone to fight not to "defend democracy" but to further the often shady objectives of the U.S. government foreign policy, why do the soldiers get a free pass in terms of the moral accountability for all this? Is ignorance an adequate defense?

I had thought the American soldier took an oath to preserve, protect and defend the U.S. Constitution, but on this day, in 2006, the American soldier appears to be doing nothing of that. He/she is moreover acting out the will of an oligarchy who doesn't seem willing or capable of articulating why we find our armed forces in occupation of what should still be a sovereign nation, despite our misgivings about it.

No, I don't blame the troops for this, and I do think they are getting a raw deal, both "over there" and back at home where they are not well cared for. I just did want to posit a few ideas and see what others thought. People say "support the troops" so frequently (on all parts of the political spectrum) without given the slightest thought to what it means.
posted by psmealey at 5:25 PM on May 21, 2006


There are a lot of reasons why people join the armed services, but the pay certainly isn't one of them.

It is for some. My downstairs neighbor enlisted in November, knowing he would have to go to Iraq, but saying "I need the money." It was a done deal and he was moving out at the time, so I didn't ask why he thought that. My father enlisted in 1972, when he was 18, when he suddenly found he was going to have to support a wife and kid.

And for lots of these kids, the armed forces are the only way they see to get out of poverty. They see an opportunity to get training and experience that really will count for something with employers, etc. They may see it as their only opportunity - and a lot of them are right. Those reasons have become more compelling with the decline of good blue-collar jobs, or good jobs that don't require a college degree. They're happy that their enlistment comes with all the high-minded ideals about patriotism, but for that chance of advancement, they'd take the risk anyway.

Unfortunately, they often believe what the recruiters tell them they'll be able to do, and that the military really will take care of them, and maybe they even believe what FOX news tells them about the world. They're not necessarily going into it with their eyes open. And given the sorry state of education and the media in this country, particularly in the poor or rural areas that are going to supply most of the recruits, they can hardly be blamed for that. They don't know they're being lied to, and they don't know how they're going to get screwed.
posted by dilettante at 5:27 PM on May 21, 2006


But today, we as a country, with an all volunteer force, are much closer to being employers of mercenaries, even to the point of hiring our soldiers under enlistment contracts.

If the forces weren't being recruited out of the poorest regions and sectors of society, out of places where there is simply no other option and the promise of an education is too golden a goal, you might have a point. It might be a "volunteer force" on the face of it, but in reality it's largely being staffed by people with no social safety net and no hope for the future, who were plucked out of of high school by vultures recruiters who knew that this was the best deal these kids would ever see.

There is nothing to be gained by losing sympathy for these people.
posted by Hildegarde at 5:31 PM on May 21, 2006


If "the grunts" had a set of balls among them, they'd refuse to continue participating in this sad little quagmire.

They make a conscious decision every time they pick up a gun in this cause (if you can call it that), and that decision is the wrong decision. Period.

It's sad, but they are part of the problem.

These poor young people are merely good followers, willing to let others, no matter how inept or malignant, do their thinking for them. Adults, their parents, our culture, someone failed them along the way, and they became merely....mostly incompetent, occasionally immoral...tools.

PTSD piled atop lifelong guilt, without any worthwhile skills. What a wonderful gift to a portion of our young people.
posted by fold_and_mutilate at 5:42 PM on May 21, 2006


If "the grunts" had a set of balls among them, they'd refuse to continue participating in this sad little quagmire.
s/grunts/taxpayers
s/participating in/funding
posted by verb at 6:04 PM on May 21, 2006


I'm not for the war, but I support our troops - especially since I was one of them not so long ago. It's true, people join for a lot of different reasons. I probably had a litany of reasons myself.

One of those reasons, and this is something that I shared with every person in the miltiary I ever met, was a desire to SERVE MY COUNTRY.

That 'country' includes you - even if you don't support me. So you see, don't blame the soldiers if things aren't going your way. Blame the people who run the government.

The soldiers will still be in existence even after this "War" is over, and acting on behalf of their country.

I didn't see any of you bitchting about an Aircraft Carrier being off the coasts of Tsunami stricken territories, acting as the only supply of fresh water and emergency medical care.

The military carries out the orders of the President. That's how a millitary works - it's NOT a democracy. Study a little bit of history and you'll be hard pressed to find a democratically run military that was ever a success at ANYTHING. So again - don't blame the troops. Support them. They sure as hell support you.
posted by matty at 6:26 PM on May 21, 2006


I wonder if there has been, and I'd be really interested to see, some kind of survey amongst American service members of their reasons for joining up. I have ex-US Army friends who joined because it was a family thing, and I've met some who did it out of a sense of duty, or a lack of options, and I recall vividly that This American Life episode where they went onboard an aircraft carrier and ended up talking to the guy who joined up to avoid a prison sentence. There are probably a multitude of other reasons besides, some more noble than others.

I really wonder what the numbers are like.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:38 PM on May 21, 2006


if we want to stop the insanity in Iraq, it is time to quit supporting the troops.

I'm not American, so grain of salt, but I'd suggest that before one withdraws moral support (because that's all it really comes down to for most people, given that you have no option but to pay taxes) from the soldiers in the field, one might take active legal measures to remove from power the politicians who put them there. How to do that, of course, is the $64 question.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:47 PM on May 21, 2006


The original poster makes an excellent point, and subsequent posters, in my opinion, do, too.

People DO join the military for financial reasons or lack of opportunity. Yes the pay is lousy but the military provides a lot to people with little, provided they don't get shot up. Others join because they really do see this as a chance to serve their country, which would make Iraq even more wasteful of their lives and commitment.

We are creating a mercenary class quite separate from the rest of us because there is no draft, and who knows what the long-term consequences of that will be? And at some point, I think many of us will stop saying automatically, and in response to Vietnam, that we support the troops.

Because while they have to go where they're told, they don't have to keep re-enlisting and they can, with admittedly serious consequences, resist.

At some point, we're going to stop calling them heroes, probably as we find out more instances of brutality.

I want them all to come home safe, be treated well but not as if they are all heroes because they're not and because that's too much to put onto an ordinary person.
posted by etaoin at 6:48 PM on May 21, 2006


> They sure as hell support you.

And if you don't...
posted by PeterMcDermott at 6:53 PM on May 21, 2006


There's always a McDermott trying to stir things up.
posted by disgruntled at 6:57 PM on May 21, 2006


"Nearly 300,000 veterans are homeless on any given night, and almost half served during the Vietnam era, according to the Homeless Veterans coalition".

"More than half-a-million experience homelessness over the course of a year."

"According to figures provided by the US Department of Health and Human Services, up to 600,000 men, women, and children go homeless each night in the US."

Homeless Shelters & Soup Kitchens by state or province.
posted by nickyskye at 7:21 PM on May 21, 2006


Good points all around.

I work with a few Iraq war vets. Mostly they are quiet and/or bitter about their tour (and deeply hurt). Sometimes they speak out. Sometimes they speak truths to the students who have been obediently mouthing slogans. These vets have seen that I have never supported the war (At one point, I nearly lost my job over my politics.) They do not now either -- and they are now the best anti-recruitment voices out there.

It is interesting ... I have long pointed out to my students, "How many of the faculty or admin here send their kids to war? How many of YOU have family and friends at war? Think about that. This is as much a war against poor as it is against Iraq."

My students have read Martin Luther King's 1967 address: Beyond Vietnam -- A Time to Break Silence It has been a part of my curriculum since 2003. I tell them how nine years of a corrupt war wounded a country for generations.

I have never said I 'support the troops' unless I added ... ENOUGH TO FIGHT AGAINST THIS WAR! I love these men and women; feel deep pain for what they went through. They hurt from the deceit as much as all the rest. They do not need to answer to us ... this is the country that cheered them off with waving flags. We failed them.

We continue to fail them every time we tell them to be heroes and 'sign up to fight for freedom'. We cannot allow any more lies. We must stop the cycle of young people having to re-learn the same lessons over and over and over and over. When will they ever learn ...

War is hell.
posted by Surfurrus at 7:37 PM on May 21, 2006


People say "support the troops" so frequently (on all parts of the political spectrum) without given the slightest thought to what it means.

So what does "support the troops" mean? I think we all agree that the made-in-China magnetic ribbons are worse than useless, in that those who display them seem to think they're therefore absolved from any further interest or responsibility. But what's your opinion of "support the troops" as in Any Soldier? Is that support okay with you? What kind of support isn't?

They make a conscious decision every time they pick up a gun in this cause (if you can call it that), and that decision is the wrong decision. Period.

It's sad, but they are part of the problem.

As are you, my friend.

You're demonstrating the mirror image of Bush's irrational "yer with us or aginst us" thinking. It's no more useful coming from the left than the right.

* How many troops typically "pick up a gun" during their regular duties? Do you even know the percentages? Are the support troops equally complicit? If so, why? If not, why not?

* Do all the troops have access to the same information you do? Given the variability of personal opinion, how likely is it that all the troops would interpret the information in the same way you do?

* Is it possible that the troops have access to different and more immediate sources of information? Not "more truthful" or "more moral" but far more pressing, in a truly existential way.

These poor young people are merely good followers, willing to let others, no matter how inept or malignant, do their thinking for them. Adults, their parents, our culture, someone failed them along the way, and they became merely....mostly incompetent, occasionally immoral...tools.

Whereas you, the independent thinker, are unfailingly competent and moral. And never, ever a tool of outside forces.

Troops are trained into a deference to authority that you (and I) would find unbearable -- which does not mean that you and I, the "does not play well with others" population, has a lock on truth or virtue. No military organization could function without the trained deference. Feel free to argue against the need for a standing military (as many have) but if you accept the premise -- that deference means that the ranking officer is, or should be, held responsible for the actions of his or her troops. That's No. 259 on the list of things that enrage me about this cataclysmic global ratfuck of a disaster. Diseased specimens, such as SPC Graner, et al., are rightly prosecuted -- but the responsibility stops there. Those prosecutions are held up as proof that "the system works." Wrong. Wrong in countless ways.

fold, it's easy to imagine yourself protecting Anne Frank or shielding the Little Rock Nine, or throwing down your weapon when ordered to fire upon a group of hapless Iraqi women and children who have nothing to do with the deadly insurgents, as documented in a lengthy investigative piece published months later in the Sunday NYTimes. (Front page! Plus jump! How could you miss it?)

Which is fine. Just acknowledge it as a fantasy.
posted by vetiver at 7:55 PM on May 21, 2006


We are creating a mercenary class quite separate from the rest of us because there is no draft, and who knows what the long-term consequences of that will be? And at some point, I think many of us will stop saying automatically, and in response to Vietnam, that we support the troops.

Because while they have to go where they're told, they don't have to keep re-enlisting and they can, with admittedly serious consequences, resist.


I'm not sure the people at the infantry and combat support level are re-enlisting at the levels the others are. I can only support my point anecdotally, but I know in some units most of the guys are doing their four years and not giving a second thought to getting out. And that causes their NCOs, the guys who have 8, 12 years in the service, to try to make them persona non grata in their units during the last few months these guys are on active duty.

So you have people who signed up after Sept. 11 out of patriotism or a sense of duty -- whether you agree or not, if they're willing to get shot at, it's hard not to call it genuine -- went to war at least once, maybe two or three times for their country, and they're already being treated like shit before they leave the military.

Any way we look at it, this all goes back to the problems with leadership, honesty and total lack of post-war planning. And let's be honest -- if we didn't have volunteers, we'd have a draft, and no one wants to go there.
posted by Alexandros at 8:06 PM on May 21, 2006


You guys know Shakespeare's Caesar, Act III right? The "dogs of War" and all.

Hang on. Let me back up before I get to that.

Ok. I suppose in order to agree to "support the troops" one must first decide if one supports the concept and need for a
standing national armed forces at all? If you don't. Well. You're a fool in my opinion, but at least you start from a consistent point of view.

So if you DO agree there is a need for a nation to have an armed forces then you define for your self how it's made? Volunteers? Or conscripts/citizen soldiers?

You have understand there are reasons and arguments - both equally weighted morally - for both types of soldiering. Personally I favor conscription with NO exceptions (except physical) because then all segments of society are represented. However, I understand that some people can never agree to serve for personal moral reasons and in a Democracy that must be weighed heavily.

The fact is that we currently have a Volunteer military. So that leads me to ask you if you think one should NOT support the troops in Iraq because they all volunteered, then do YOU favor conscription? If not. Then what?

So next I suppose one has to define WHEN and WHY one uses military force. This is the stickiest proposition of the lot. I am in a knee-jerk sense NOT opposed to "offensive" or preemptive warfare. But for me the Iraq war never supplied a solid enough case for it. I can't think of any instances that could off hand.

From a personal anecdotal perspective I have fought "preemptive" fights that I think were ethically legitimate. IE: If I wasn't the "firstest with the mostest" me or some other innocent party was gonna get beaten up by a much bigger foe. So maybe there are reasons for waging a Preemptive war. I guess.

This war with Iraq is an "optional" war. It did not HAVE to be fought. Iraq could not much alter are way of life with direct military force. We know this now. The arguments that we had no choice but to invade Iraq in 2003 are extremely thin as to be non-starters and rely largely on disproved propaganda to support.

But this is irrelevant to the soldier. Optional war. Defensive war. He MUST trust his command structure or he cannot fight either. He/she does not choose wars.

We civilians define when and where to unleash the Dogs of War. That is our job.

It is WE who failed these guys. They did not fail us. Let me ask you this - how many of you KNEW the war was based on a pack of fucking lies? Huh? From the get go. How many? Since you're all smart people I'd say MOST of you.

Well. Where were you during the war daddy? Putting "Impeach Bush" stickers on your Volvo?

Look. If you weren't laying it down on the Bush's door step camped out in the Mall for the last three years doing everything - pledging your "lives, your fortunes and your sacred honor" to stop this war, then you have no business blaming the average Soldier. If you were, then blame away and I will support YOU as well.

And to my shame I didn't march down the White House door either. But we SHOULD have.

The soldiers job is to NOT question combat in the big picture sense. On their field they do have the moral authority to question a specific direct command if they believe it is immoral. And they do. But largely they are already unleashed knee deep in split second life-or-death decisions. Figuring out who to shoot once the shooting starts paralyzes their effectiveness.

Believe this: our soldiers are being hamstrung by rules of engagement more ethically bound and strict than any the history of Human warfare. The civilian deathtoll in the Iraq conflict is amazingly low. Yes. There will be atrocities. Yes they are killing innocents. But these are fewer than ever before in our history. We raised our children well.

They kill, though. They destroy. They are the Dogs of War. And that is what they do. And when we DO need it, if you believe we ever do, then that is how you want them.

You want killers.

So. Ok. Supporting the troops in this war.

I say yes. If one defines supporting the troops by bringing them the fuck back home. NOW! And one they are here reach out to them. Healing them. Helping them. Showing compassion. This is one way how we can rectify OUR failure and complicity in this tragedy.

If history is any indication it is their truth that will define what happens in this country politically in 10 years. We need them on our side.

I am volunteering at the a VA hospital. If any of you are interested I suggest you do the same (PS. they drug test and run you through aa security check). See these guys for your selves. look them in the eye - if the have one. And tell them they're to blame.
posted by tkchrist at 8:08 PM on May 21, 2006


War is hell.
You cannot qualify war in harsher terms than I will. War is cruelty, and you cannot refine it; and those who brought war into our country deserve all the curses and maledictions a people can pour out.
--Major General William T. Sherman, Letter to Mayor James M. Calhoun and others of Atlanta, Georgia, September 12th, 1864.
Cadets of the graduating class, Boys, I’ve been where you are now and I know just how you feel. It’s entirely natural that there should beat in the breast of every one of you a hope and desire that some day you can use the skill you have acquired here.

Suppress it! You don’t know the horrible aspects of war. I’ve been through two wars and I know. I’ve seen cities and homes in ashes. I’ve seen thousands of men lying on the ground, their dead faces looking up at the skies. I tell you, war is hell!
Gen. William T. Sherman, Address to the Cadets of the Missouri Military Academy, June 19th, 1879.
posted by eriko at 8:21 PM on May 21, 2006


"... Paulsc, blaming the troops for the Iraq clusterfuck is completely unreasonable. These guys aren't mercenaries for profit; their salaries barely amount to lunch money. There are a lot of reasons why people join the armed services, but the pay certainly isn't one of them. ..."
posted by Malor at 7:49 PM EST on May 21 [+fave] [!]


As this thread has developed tonight (relative to where I live, in the eastern U.S.), I watched an HBO Documentary entitled Baghdad ER. Basically, an hour documentary about a military trauma unit in the Green Zone of Baghdad, treating U.S. troop casualties, and seriously injured Iraqi civilians and some insurgents.

One of the cases involves a sergeant in U.S. Army, brought to the unit by helicopter, after an improvised explosive device went off under his Humvee, killing the driver, and wounding him, mangling his hand terribly. In a case follow up shot, taken a day or so following the amputation of his thumb and a finger, he is talking about what he might have done differently that might have saved his driver, who was clearly not only his comrade in arms, but his friend, and he concludes there was nothing he could have done. And then sitting there, with the camera shooting over his bandaged hand, up to his face, he says, point blank, that he just joined the Army to pay off his debts, so that he could buy his family a house.

I'm not saying that the only reason people join the U.S. military is money and benefits. I'm not saying that the values of duty, honor, and altruistic service mean anything less (or more) to this current military than they ever have. I hate that, as always in armed conflicts, there will be people making money building weapons, making films, and doing all the things around the conflict, that are incidental to the reasons, if any, that caused the conflict in the first place, or any higher justice that fighting it may, or may not, create.

But what I hate most is that ultimately, again, as it happened in 1968, setting the limits of operation for this military engine will again come down to the common sense and quietly expressed self-interest of thousands of 19, 20, and 21 year old people, who somehow have to understand that it is not only sensible, but morally defensible, and even important to say "Hell no, I won't go."

But damn it, sometimes it's the only way to stop a war.
posted by paulsc at 8:33 PM on May 21, 2006


paulsc most of our soldiers in Iraq joined BEFORE 2003.

Anyway their individual reasoning for doing so is irrelevant. We put them there. We decide to bring them home. We decide which wars to fight or not fight.

You want to end this war then YOU end it.
posted by tkchrist at 8:53 PM on May 21, 2006


When I read Lapdogs last week, I found it very interesting the way he detailed the press coverage of casualties during the 2004 election cycle. Soldiers were still dying, but the main news outlets were ignoring them. There's a lot of blame to go around.
posted by overanxious ducksqueezer at 9:09 PM on May 21, 2006


We put them there. We decide to bring them home. We decide which wars to fight or not fight.

In a functioning democracy, this would be true.


It is uncertain that the government in the United States qualifies as such. Whether the blame for such a situation (if indeed it is that bad) can be laid at the feet of toothless lapdog media, of corporate-lobby money shitting up the works, of bad and corrupt leadership, of a weak (and therefore disloyal, in the parliamentary sense) opposition, of systematic marginalization and criminalization of dissent, of fear-mongering (or justifiable fear) in the wake of terrorist attack, or of a poorly-educated and apathetic citizenry -- or a combination of all of these and more -- is unclear.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 9:10 PM on May 21, 2006


(And, yeah, I know the American system isn't parliamentary -- I was riffing.)
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 9:13 PM on May 21, 2006


I watched Baghdad ER too. The culture displayed by all military personnel in the documentary is why people join the military. Those people are motivated. They care - about the mission, each other, the country, the military, etc. Most people who join the military end up enjoying future successes (after they get out) because of the discipline and motivation they learned. In the USA, productivity is a good thing. Everyone respects the troops - this is why.
posted by b_thinky at 10:59 PM on May 21, 2006


Wow, that's an awesome bit of cheerleading b_thinky.

With all that success and discipline and motivation just around the corner, why then the spike in suicides?

Why the 1 in 3 rate of ptsd, anxiety, depression . . . etc?

We're not talking about homeless vets here, they're just highly motivated urban campers living the american dream!1

Everyone respects the troops ???

I can't say it's respect I'm feeling right now - Mostly I just feel sorry for the poor bastards who grease the gears of the war machine with their own blood.
posted by isopraxis at 12:19 AM on May 22, 2006


There is nothing to be gained by losing sympathy for these people.

I think, at the end of the day, this is where it comes down to for me. As a senior in college, even with my letter of appointment to the USNA from Sen. Bill Bradley, I went through a fairly complex set of moral and ethical tests before I ultimately made decision not to go. I can't enforce the same process on everyone.

I think of all the military engagements the US has undertaken in my lifetime (1967-present), roughly half of them have arguably been for honorable reasons (Beirut, Haiti, Somalia, Bosnia, Afghanistan) even if our blunders had in some way triggered the need for responses in most of these areas. But I understand how people can be persuaded that all of these conflics (including Panama - eek!) were honorable.

I mostly do blame the press and the dis-loyal opposition for permitting/facilitating that. As for blaming it on the US citizenry, I am just one person, but I did all I could to persuade others in 2002/3 that this engagement in Iraq was wrong-headed and potentially disastrous, but these protests fell mostly on deaf ears (of those who weren't on board with this already).
posted by psmealey at 4:19 AM on May 22, 2006


senior in college high school
posted by psmealey at 4:21 AM on May 22, 2006


But what's your opinion of "support the troops" as in Any Soldier? Is that support okay with you?

Yeah, that is okay with me. I write to my buddies in the Service all the time, and don't really hold back on expressing my political views on what's going on, nor would they want me to, I suspect. But, to me, supporting the troops is more along the lines of what tkchrist has written. Getting them the fuck out of that situation. It's almost comically hypocritical of people to want to put our troops in harm's way, and then accuse others of not supporting the troops when they disagree.

There are definitely good reasons for going to war. There weren't good reasons for this one, and you did not have to have a Ph.D. in International Relations in 2002 to know that we were being led down the garden path. I don't possess any special gift of insight, but it was pretty easy to tell, post 9/11 that all roads would eventually lead to Baghdad, whether Saddam had anything to do with it or not.
posted by psmealey at 6:22 AM on May 22, 2006


“If "the grunts" had a set of balls among them, they'd refuse to continue participating in this sad little quagmire.” -
posted by fold_and_mutilate

I’m assuming all ya’ll folks who argue that the guys in the field should oppose the war this way aren’t pay taxes, on principle - since YOUR TAXES go to support the war.
I mean if they can stand up to bullets or a 20 year stretch in Levenworth, you can stand up to the IRS right?
Right?
posted by Smedleyman at 11:46 AM on May 22, 2006


Word.
posted by tkchrist at 4:34 PM on May 22, 2006


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