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War on Trial-PTSD

March 21, 2012

The lawyers for Sergeant Robert Bales have indicated that they are to present a defense putting the War itself on trial.  I’ve been thinking about this and of course I believe that there is no excuse for his behavior but it may have some merit.  However because everyone involved in this War have not behaved in the manner that he did, it lessens the possibility that this defense can succeed.

Let’s look at it in another way.  I’m sure that everyone has heard the argument about prison.  That sentencing a relative innocent to prison does more harm than good since it puts this felon in direct proximity to a prison full of hardened criminals and the only way for this innocent to survive is to become a hardened criminal too.  Rehabilitation become less likely and more becoming more dangerous becomes the norm.  The likelihood of prisoners returning to prison, even after their term of incarceration is complete, is magnified.  They are changed forever and not necessarily in a good way.

Let’s look at the military.  The training in the Military, from personal experience, is one where the main goal of the training is to make the soldier a compliant instrument in the cause.  The Esprit De Corp, the “Follow Me” attitude leads no place for the individual thinker or the conscientious objector.  The object is to obey orders unquestioned.  This, of course, has been dramatized in the film, ” Apocalypse Now”, but also in real life at the Mi Lai massacre where dozens of innocent Vietnamese  people were killed by young soldiers who thought they were doing their duty and acted accordingly. They were ordered to do so and so they responded without question..

Sgt Bales’ wife said recently “this is not the actions of the man I love and admire”  Something had happened to this husband and father who had already served numerous tours of duty.  Is it not strange for us to believe that all these innocent soldiers will not have experienced things that will change them forever.  The scars on the soul are never going to be healed.  Some will ultimately snap and act out in ways that we will all condemn for their actions.  Even though many will have pronounced from the safelt of their homes “Lets support the troops” this is just another way of saying lets support the policy of War.  If we really cared we would all be doing more to demand that these young people be brought home.

Does the uniqueness of War make it OK to do things that we, under normal circumstances, would never dream of doing normally.  For me the answer is a resounding yes.  I look back on my year in Vietnam and I cannot believe that I was that person doing those kinds of things and never felt that I was doing anything wrong.  Others in my group were doing them too and is many cases laughing and bragging about them.  Could any of us urinate on other people or burn their holy books or even worse?  Could we humiliate someone by making them strip naked and make them simulate doing sexual acts on each other as we have done while the Iraquis were our prisoners.  Then they took pictures of these things and sent them back to their loved ones at home as a tribute to their war involvement and something to be proud of.

We are spending $Billions of dollars to train a new generation to kill, maim, rape, and  pillage other people.  If they are not doing it personally, they are witnessing these terrible things and doing nothing to stop it for risk of receiving the wrath of others acting with the mob mentality. 

How do we expect these same people to return to normal once they get back home.  Statistics show that 20%-35% of returning Veterans will suffer from PTSD and the rest will forever be changed in ways that are not good.  Bring the troops home.