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Are Our Troops in the Middle East Victims or Accomplices?
It's No Wonder Our Troops Commit Suicide in Unparalleled Numbers
Are Our Troops in the Middle East Victims or Accomplices?
By Marti Hiken and Luke Hiken
Practically every week, the public watches the charlatan and sunshine soldier, Barack Obama, appearing on military bases with scores of troops behind him. He speaks to audiences filled with hundreds of pre-screened troops at home and abroad at our countless military installations. His wife speaks often of military families, drawing attention to their plight and supposed lack of support. Obama, goes so far as to salute the service members standing at the foot of the stairs of his helicopter and Air Force One as he enters or leaves, just as the previous posturing clown in the White House, George Bush, did. The flowery show of respect and speaking tours in front of troops is not for security reasons, though, but rather it represents a disingenuous staged show of respect and care for our soldiers. Obama touted the line that it was horrible that there was no respect shown for Vietnam veterans when they came home for Vietnam and that this would never happen again. A correction to the record is needed here: rather than supporting our troops when they return from our illegal wars abroad, Obama and his administration turn on them, depriving them of every right and benefit they thought they would receive. Let us review the record:
1) Tolerating Rape and Sexual Assault
Try as the military might to ease the situation, there are a reported 12 sexual assaults/rape a day inside the U.S. military. 1 There are a number of reasons for this. The problem is not the result of inadequately trained women; nor is it because a woman’s mere presence in the military arouses ordinary men to respond with sexual violence. Nor has it been suggested or even argued publicly that inappropriate flirtatious activity by women create the environment for these assaults; in fact, the hormonal make-up of soldiers of both genders appears normal.
Instead, the root cause for these assaults begins at Basic Training, where military members are inculcated with the values and morals needed to go out and kill an enemy. Basic training is designed to break down the individual spirit of the young men and women who enter the service, and rebuild it with a mentality that says obey, kill when told, and respect whatever order or command your leaders give you. Don’t question authority, do what is ordered: the life of your fellow troops depends on your unquestioned obedience to those above you. The violence perpetrated against incoming privates in Basic Training is documented throughout literature, and needs no elaboration here.
Service members repeatedly recite the mantra as to why they re-up and remain in the service: it is not for the increased pay, but rather it is out of respect for their fellow soldiers, i.e. their buddies. They kill and fight to protect the guys next to them. Yet, how can this be when later at night, they might as easily rape a female fellow soldier without any hesitation whatsoever, thereby inflicting terrible violence against the opposite sex? Incidences of homosexual rape in the military are so rarely reported as to be invisible.
Basic Training is the process whereby young recruits learn that killing and violence are what makes them soldiers. At the same time, however, the soldier also learns (and practices daily) to dominate those who are weaker, or “different” from the recruit.
The values engendered in Basic Training: male dominance, violence against weaker races and genders, superiority of U.S. militarism over foreign civilian populations are the very ones that turn our soldiers into rapists and killers throughout their lives. Those who have been in war zones spend a lifetime trying to forget what they saw and did for their country. This is so for soldiers who fought in our legitimate wars, against fascism and Nazism, as well as for the unjustified slaughters we have engaged in for the last 50 years.
2) Denying benefits and medical care to returning veterans.
Suicide rates among military personnel have gone through the roof. The number of suicides in the U.S. Army rose by 80 percent after the United States launched the war on Iraq, American military doctors reported.2 It has come to the point where the number of suicides has resulted in the military’s staging one-day standdowns.3 “Troops are statistically at a greater risk at home than in Iraq,” reports a NYT reporter.4
Yet, when many soldiers end their tours of duty, and prepare to be discharged, they face an obstacle course when it comes to receiving their benefits and medical care from the Veterans’ Administration (VA). The values they were taught as “good soldiers” - obeying orders, accepting the decisions of their commanding officers, and refusing to stand up to authority, result in their being denied rights, and being discharged with “bad paper.” The military does not document or publicly admit that there are thousands of soldier/veterans who are discharged for bogus reasons and stigmatized unfairly with trumped up charges and disciplinary actions immediately before they leave the military or receive their benefits.
By describing the mental deterioration of active duty soldiers as “adjustment disorders,” or as “Other Designated Physical and Mental Conditions” [ODPMC], the military can throw the soldier out of the service with no protections or rights. By misdiagnosing PTSD [Post Traumatic Stress Disorder] or pretending that a soldier’s breakdown is the result of poor performance or conduct, the Pentagon can discard the serviceman or servicewoman like a piece of garbage. No medical care, no benefits – thanks for the service, sucker.
Obama is so contemptuous of GI rights that he ordered his administration to appeal a lower court decision holding that GIs could sue the Veteran’s Administration for failing to provide them with adequate care and support [Veterans for Common Sense v. Shinseki]. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals held that lower courts had NO power to hear claims of systematic failure with the VA system. The lower court decision had found that medical care provided by the VA was so inadequate as to violate due process. The Obama administrations challenge to that ruling was a total success. As civilian military lawyer, Jeff Lake, writes, “By disclaiming jurisdiction to hear cases involving delays or inadequate care by the VA, the panel, led by Judge Jay Bybee—of George W. Bush-era torture memo infamy – placed veterans in what a dissenter called a ‘Catch-22’ situation because they are stuck petitioning the very entity that is delaying care, its system for hearing such claims leaving them nowhere to go.” 5
3) Multiple Tours of Duty
Repeated tours of duty also show the lack of regard for American troops. One would have expected that the military, understanding this, would have limited the number of consecutive years in a row soldiers would be placed in combat zones. Of course not.
As John Curtis reported:
“If the U.S. learned anything from Viet Nam, you can’t deploy troops for multiple tours of duty without causing mental breakdowns in otherwise well-adjusted U.S. troops. Every soldier has a breaking point. Unlike Viet Nam that used a draft, today’s voluntary military does not have enough personnel to stop redeploying troops on multiple tours of duty. When the Army investigates the history of the soldier-perpetrator, they’ll find the same post-traumatic stress transforming an otherwise adjusted soldier into a homicidal maniac. There’s only so much stress any normally adjusted soldier can take before going over the edge. Keeping soldiers on extended stays with multiple deployments increases the chances of ballistic episodes. Military psychologists know all too well what happens with extended stays and multiple deployments: The eventual mental breakdown causes suicide and violence.
U.S. military officials bury their heads in the sand when it comes to predictable mental health problems in the armed services. They know firsthand that no soldier in the combat zone is immune to mental health problems.”6
All service members up and down the ranks are supposed to have the highest respect and compassion for their military comrades – it’s allegedly why they fight. This past month a costly, professional commercial was aired on national television that depicted three soldiers during combat, under fire, probably in Afghanistan. The middle soldier turns around and faces the camera, saying that the reason he is there are these two guys next to him.
So, the backlog of thousands of Vet cases in the VA as well as other claims against the maltreatment of the U.S. military members by the U.S. military will continue unabated. But so will all of the major issues facing service members, namely the rapes, the suicides (PTSD), the multiple tours of duty and the terrible and inadequate care at the VA. Serving in the military, whether it is as a grunt or as a special forces assassin, will be a sacrifice to the service members’ families and to themselves. The U.S. military and government will not live up to its end of the bargain – it will forever put the procurement of weapons and advancement of technology first and foremost. Remember this when Obama and other government officials appear at your base.
This article has focused on the abuses and manipulative policies foisted upon our servicemen and women by an ungrateful, opportunistic government. But no discussion would be adequate that did not also focus on the abuses perpetrated against others by these very same “victims” described above. As Obama arrogantly, outside public purview, makes the decisions in his oval office as to who is to who is to live and who is to die, our robot service members, including airmen at Creech Air Force Base and in Florida push the button that will exterminate countless civilians 12,000 miles away. In the last 10 years, American soldiers and mercenaries have slaughtered no fewer than one million Muslims, 99% of whom had virtually anything to do with the perpetrators of 9/11. If our troops in fact rape our own soldiers at the current rate, just imagine what we are doing to the defenseless women of the countries we are occupying. These are all war crimes.
That our country could so manipulate and distort the truth to the American people as to get away with these cold-blooded murders is nothing short of tragic. That only a relative handful of our soldiers and mercenaries have been killed in battle is a testament to the shamefully one-sided nature of these conflicts. The Muslim countries we are assaulting simply have no meaningful capacity to fight back. We regularly drop unmanned drone bombs upon them while they sleep in their homes at night.
In such a context, slogans such as “Support Our Troops” and “Bring Our Heroes Home” not only ring untrue, but are reminiscent of the parades given for flag-waving Nazis returning home to Berlin during the early years of World War II. Our troops are not brave, protective warriors; they are killers, pure and simple, preying upon a defenseless group of predominantly unarmed civilians.
During the Vietnam War, conscious soldiers “turned the guns around” and supported the Vietnamese against the invading Americans. There were 52 fraggings a year during the height of the war. Instead of fighting back against their U.S. masters, our “brave heroes” of today complain because they don’t have better working conditions while they perform their deathly tasks.
That these men and women would kill innocent people on demand for a paltry salary and minor benefits reflects poorly on our entire nation. While the problems set forth at the beginning of this article call upon us to sympathize with their plight, in many ways, it is a matter of the chickens coming home to roost. If given the choice between being a citizen of Fallujah, destroyed by our carpet bombing of that city, or a GI, subjected to the abuses set forth above, it is obvious that the cowards way out lies with the soldiers.
1 Korb,Lawrence and Bhagwati, Anu, “Rape in the ranks -- To combat sexual assault in the military, victims need access to civil courts,” 5-9-2012,
“Only 13.5 percent of military sexual assaults are reported….At the military academies, only 10 percent of victims report [the rape].”
“Pentagon Works On New Plan To Curb Sex Assaults,” by the Associated Press, January 18, 2012
“WASHINGTON (AP) — The Pentagon is preparing a series of new initiatives to try to curb sexual assaults in the military, the defense chief said Wednesday, calling the problem a stain on the honor of the armed forces.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said there were 3,191 sexual assaults reported in the military last year, which would be a slight increase from the 3,158 reported in 2010. But he said that because so few victims report the crime, the real number is closer to 19,000 assaults.”
2 Yahoo News: “US Army suicides rose 80% after start of Iraq War: study:”
"This increase, unprecedented in over 30 years of US Army records, suggests that 30 percent of suicides that occurred in 2008 may be associated with post-2003 events following the major commitment of troops to Iraq, in addition to the ongoing operations in Afghanistan," says the paper.
Those who died were overwhelmingly male, young, white, in the lower military ranks and likelier to have had a history of depression and other mental disorders.
In 2008, nearly a third of the suicides occurred among troops who had never deployed, which highlights the need to provide counseling for young soldiers facing pre-combat stress, it adds.
--The study was headed by Michelle Canham-Chervak of the US Army Public Health Command, using information from the Army Behavioral Integrated Data Environment. This is a data bank that combines several national military sources, including details about medical consultations, diagnoses and treatment.”
3 Everstine, Brian, staff writer, 1-30-12, “Rise in Suicides Leads to 1-day Standdown”
“The Air Force has begun 2012 with a spike in suicides, prompting leadership to direct bases to stand down for resiliency training even as additional airmen have taken their lives.
As of late January, the Air Force has recorded 15 suicides — including active duty, National Guard, Reserve and civilians — up five from the same period last year. The increase in the beginning of the year led Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz and Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force James Roy to issue a memorandum to major commands requiring that all units schedule a one-day standdown to “refocus on resiliency.”
Our Airmen are too important to lose in this manner, and the costs to individuals, families, friends, co-workers, and our mission are beyond measure,” the Jan. 12 memorandum states.
Suicides through Jan. 26 total almost half of the 29 active-duty suicides in 2011. No January in the past eight years has had more than 10 airmen commit suicide.
In 2011, the Air Force confirmed 29 active-duty suicides, along with 27 in the National Guard and Reserve. An additional 13 active-duty cases were still pending confirmation.
The memorandum directing the stand down includes all bases, including those in the area of operations, “at a time appropriate for the mission,” said Lt. Col. Gregory Laffitte, headquarters Air Force resiliency branch chief.”
4 Williams, Timothy, 7-13-10, NYT, “As a Brigade Returns Safe, Some Meet New Enemies”
“FORT BLISS, Tex. — The soldiers of the Fourth Brigade, First Armored Division, have been home from Iraq for three months now, the danger of snipers and roadside bombs no longer a threat, the war for them over.
But the odds that some of them will die violent deaths continues, so just as he did when his battalion was operating in Iraq, Command Sgt. Maj. Sa’eed Mustafa constantly warns his soldiers about the perils of letting their guard down where they are supposed to be safest — in their own homes.
We talk about the enemy here, which is different from the enemy downrange, but which is just as deadly,” he said, using the military term used for a combat zone.
In fact, given the brigade’s record at Fort Bliss of suicide, murder, assault, drunken driving and drug use, its troops are statistically at greater risk at home than while deployed in Iraq. During the past year, only one of the unit’s soldiers died in combat, but in 2008, the last time the brigade was home from Iraq, seven soldiers were killed and six others committed crimes in which at least four civilians and soldiers from outside the brigade died in a little more than a year.”
5 Lake, Jeff, “Ninth Circuit to Vets: Tough Luck – Court Backs out of Benefits Case on Separation-of-Powers Grounds,” On Watch, The Newsletter of the NLG Military Law Task Force, 6-2012, p. 10.
6 Curtis, John M., “U.S. Soldier Goes Postal in Afghanistan,” LA City Buzz Examiner,
Marti Hiken is the director of Progressive Avenues. She is the former Associate Director of the Institute for Public Accuracy and former chair of the National Lawyers Guild Military Law Task Force. She can be contacted at info [at] progressiveavenues.org, 415-702-9682.
Luke Hiken is an attorney who has engaged in the practice of criminal, military, immigration, and appellate law.
The Progressive Avenues website, http://www.progressiveavenues.org, is regularly updated in the “What’s Added, What’s New” link on the Home page, at http://www.progressiveavenues.org/Whats_New_Added.html