War stories

I listened to too much Chicago Public Radio today as I was busy wrecking my nerves over my stats final project. First, there were readings from soldier blogs on This American life and then this provocative interview on ATC stemming from Rep. Murtha’s bold resolution and its gutting by the Republicans. This interview (I think the RealAudio should be up in a few hours) interviewed two veterans with very different views on Murtha’s resolution. One vet feels that the military works with timetables, and as a military commander, he owes his soldiers a timetable. The other feels that a timetable would mean that the mission gets left undone, that soldiers feel that they don’t have their country’s support if people start talking about withdrawal. So. Its important to complete the mission, but we shouldn’t set a timetable for it and we shouldn’t say in concrete terms what completion looks like, which of course means that the mission won’t ever be completed.

America will need to resolve this massive hamster-wheel thinking before the Iraq can be resolved. NeoCons perpetuate this frame of course, but I think a lot of poor souls who want to live for a higher purpose, believe in it for sanity’s sake.

Soldiers sign up for all sorts of reasons, often because there are few job or education opportunities for after high school. In boot camp, are disciplined and trained to obey authority. They hand over moral decision making, to some degree, to their commanding officers. So they go to war because they have to. And for the sake of preserving their own humanity and self-dignity they have to believe that their mission is important and moral. Otherwise, their injuries, deaths, heartache would all be for nothing. But more importantly perhaps, the blood on their hands would be for naught. And if they had to look at their souls in the quiet of night, they wouldn’t be able to look. They would regret their decision. They would cry that they hadn’t peered into their souls for directions. And too many of them—as happens—wouldn’t be able to deal with the trauma and the guilt, to live on with belief in their own good.

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