Archive for the ‘Military’ Category
I found this article, “A Common Language: Ron Capps served in Rwanda, Darfur, Kosovo, Eastern Congo, Afghanistan, and Iraq. When he got back, writing was the only thing that could truly bring him home again.” in Believer, by Kristina Shevory, to be extremely interesting (and very powerful). I was struck by this paragraph:
“Healing happens only in community, and it’s mainly a community of veterans, a circle of people you get to trust and understand your experience,” said Dr. Shay. “You can’t define what it means to be understood, but it sure as hell matters. The heavy lifting is done by and for the veterans. Time itself doesn’t heal.”
I was struck by the thought that one is healed by communication and a community. This struck with extra force because I just watched the (excellent) interview I blogged in this post, which talks about how efforts to go it alone do not work.
Shay is the author of two excellent books that I’ve read: Achilles in Vietnam: Combat Trauma and the Undoing of Character and Odysseus in America: Combat Trauma and the Trials of Homecoming. Both are well worth reading. (Links are to inexpensive secondhand copies; new copies are, of course, readily available from on-line vendors such as Amazon.) These were early entries in a growing field: book written to deal with the reality of the terrible psychological, moral, and spiritual damage that war does to those involved. Some examples:
Soul Repair: Recovering from Moral Injury after War
Warrior’s Return: Restoring the Soul After War
Killing from the Inside Out: Moral Injury and Just War
Afterwar: Healing the Moral Wounds of Our Soldiers
There are many others. I have not read these, but the Amazon reviews are 5-star or close to it (greater than 4-star).
The growing number of such books is some indication of the toll America’s non-stop wars have had on those who fought it, but course the damage and deaths from such wars goes far beyond the damage to the US: for example, look at Iraq today.
Why has the US constantly waged war in recent decades? Perhaps because those who make the decision to go to war do not fight in it and (of late) have never fought in any war and thus lack any read understanding of the costs of war. Similarly, the pundits and news analysts who comment on US decisions to wage war also lack war experience for the most part. When you think about how the Iraq war inaugurated by the Bush Administration, based on deliberate falsehoods, and about how the cost and consequences of that war continue to reverberate, it should make you question the wisdom of war.
UPDATE: From another article (also well worth reading) this chart hints at the suffering our wars cause our own troops.
Digby blogs at Hullabaloo:
Chelsea Manning, the US army soldier serving a 35-year military prison sentence for leaking official secrets, has been threatened with indefinite solitary confinement for having an expired tube of toothpaste in her cell and being found in possession of the Caitlyn Jenner Vanity Fair issue, according to her lawyers and supporters.
Manning, a Guardian columnist who writes about global affairs, intelligence issues and transgender rights from prison in the brig of Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, has allegedly been charged with four violations of custody rules that her lawyers have denounced as absurd and a form of harassment. The army private is reportedly accused of having showed “disrespect”; of having displayed “disorderly conduct” by sweeping food onto the floor during dinner chow; of having kept “prohibited property” – that is books and magazines – in her cell; and of having committing “medicine misuse”, referring to the tube of toothpaste, according to Manning’s supporters.
The maximum punishment for such offences is an indeterminate amount of time in a solitary confinement cell.
The fourth charge, “medicine misuse”, follows an inspection of Manning’s cell on 9 July during which a tube of anti-cavity toothpaste was found. The prison authorities noted that Manning was entitled to have the toothpaste in her cell, but is penalizing her because it was “past its expiration date of 9 April 2015”.
The “prohibited property” charge relates to a number of books and magazines that were found in her cell and confiscated. They included the memoir I Am Malala by Nobel Peace Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai, a novel featuring trans women called A Safe Girl to Love, the LGBT publication Out Magazine, the Caitlyn Jenner issue of Vanity Fair and a copy of Cosmopolitan that included an interview with Manning.
Also confiscated was the US Senate report on torture. It is not clear why any of these publications were considered violations of prison rules – a request by the Guardian to the army public affairs team for an explanation of the charges received no immediate response.
I’m going to guess it that report on torture that really set them off. After all, these prisons practice torture every day so they probably believe that a prisoner reading such material is automatically insubordinate.
Solitary confinement is torture.The Center for Constitutional Rights says:
The devastating psychological and physical effects of prolonged solitary confinement are well documented by social scientists: prolonged solitary confinement causes prisoners significant mental harm and places them at grave risk of even more devastating future psychological harm and at times, these harms were found to be permanent or persist even after one was released from solitary.
Researchers have demonstrated that prolonged solitary confinement causes a persistent and heightened state of anxiety and nervousness, headaches, insomnia, lethargy or chronic tiredness, nightmares, heart palpitations, fear of impending nervous breakdowns and higher rates of hypertension and early morbidity. Other documented effects include obsessive ruminations, confused thought processes, an oversensitivity to stimuli, irrational anger, social withdrawal, hallucinations, violent fantasies, emotional flatness, mood swings, chronic depression, feelings of overall deterioration, as well as suicidal ideation.
Exposure to such life-shattering conditions clearly constitutes cruel and unusual punishment – in violation of the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Further, the brutal use of solitary has been condemned as torture by the international community.
Manning is a political prisoner being held as an example to others. And they are apparently contemplating torturing him. For reading about the United States torture program. . .
Molly Redden reports in Mother Jones:
Mother Jones obtained more than 450 police department requests for armored tactical vehicles from the Pentagon. Did your police force request one? Browse all of them here.
One year ago this week, hundreds of camouflaged officers in Ferguson, Missouri bore down on residents protesting the police shooting of an unarmed black teenager named Michael Brown.
Riot cops, their faces sometimes concealed by gas masks, fired off tear gas canisters, and as they stood on top of hulking, mine-resistant vehicles, they appeared to train their assault rifles on the crowds. On some nights, they greeted demonstrators with a storm of rubber bullets.
Images of this chaos provoked a furious debate over the billions of federal dollarsthat have helped local police forces amass combat style weapons, trucks, and armor. Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), echoing concerns from across the political spectrum, fumed that “lawful, peaceful protesters did not deserve to be treated like enemy combatants.”
Law enforcement agencies responded by stoking old fears. No community, they argued, not even the smallest one, is safe from worst-case scenarios like mass shootings, hostage situations, or terrorist attacks. The use of this military equipment has resulted in “substantial positive impact on public safety and officer safety,” Jim Bueermann, the president of the Police Foundation, a research group, said in a 2014 Senate hearing on police militarization. He cited hostage situations, rescue missions, and heavy-duty shootouts where the vehicles had come in useful.
But in private, police justify these same programs in radically different ways.
Mother Jones obtained more than 450 local requests, filed over two years, for what may be the most iconic piece of equipment in the debate over militarizing local police: the mine resistant ambush protected vehicle, or MRAP.* And an analysis of these documents reveals that in justifying their requests, very few sheriffs and police chiefs cite active shooters, hostage situations, or terrorism, as police advocates do in public.
Instead, the single most common reason agencies requested a mine-resistant vehicle was to combat drugs. Fully a quarter of the 465 requests projected using the vehicles for drug enforcement. Almost half of all departments indicated that they sit within a region designated by the federal government as a High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area. (Nationwide, only 17 percent of counties are HIDTAs.) One out of six departments were prepared to use the vehicles to serve search or arrest warrants on individuals who had yet to be convicted of a crime. And more than half of the departments indicated they were willing to deploy armored vehicles in a broad range of Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) raids.
By contrast, out of the total 465 requests, only 8 percent mention the possibility of a barricaded gunman. For hostage situations, the number is 7 percent, for active shooters, 6 percent. Only a handful mentioned downed officers or the possibility of terrorism.
Very interesting post by Kevin Drum, and I think he’s right on how fables—false accounts—take hold and shape our perceptions.
A normal person suffers a considerable psychic toll from killing hundreds of strangers, watching them as they die. Motherboard has a report on one such person:
One of the supposed advantages to the United States’ drone program is that by distancing pilots from their targets, the psychic scars of killing don’t form so easily. But even separated by thousands of miles and a computer screen, former drone pilot Brandon Bryant felt the shock of all 1,626 kills.
“I felt like it destroyed my soul,” Bryant told Motherboard. “For the longest time.”
And drone programs are proliferating. While only a few countries currently own armed drones, the eventual spread of drone technology is inevitable, and Germany is next in line. German Motherboard correspondent Theresa Locker tells us that “the combat drones of the Bundeswehr will be ready in ten years, at the latest.” German Minister of Defense Ursula von der Leyen cites the usefulness of drones as protectors of ground troops, with an ability to safely surveil a large area. But it’s naive to believe that it will end there.
“I stopped sleeping, because I started dreaming about my job. I couldn’t escape it,” Bryant says. And when he spoke out about his experiences, he says “I had people calling me a traitor, telling me I should eat a bullet.”
One of the last straws for Bryant was . . .
Kevin Drum points out who is trying to break the sequestration deal:
The LA Times reports today that we might be headed for another government shutdown. Big surprise. But these paragraphs are very peculiar:
President Obama has signaled his intention to bust, once and for all, the severe 2011 spending caps known as sequestration. He’s vowed to reject any GOP-backed appropriation bills that increase government funding for the military without also boosting domestic programs important to Democrats such as Head Start for preschoolers.
The Republican-controlled Congress is also digging in. Since taking control in January, GOP leaders had promised to run Congress responsibly and prevent another shutdown like the one in 2013, but their spending proposals are defying the president’s veto threat by bolstering defense accounts and leaving social-welfare programs to be slashed.
It’s true that Obama has proposed doing away with the sequestration caps. But his budgets have routinely been described as DOA by Republican leaders, so his plans have never gotten so much as a hearing. What’s happening right now is entirely different. Republicans are claiming they want to keep the sequestration deal, but they don’t like the fact that back in 2011 they agreed it would cut domestic and military spending equally. Instead, Republicans now want to increase military spending and decrease domestic spending. They’re doing this by putting the additional defense money into an “emergency war-spending account,” which technically allows them to get around the sequester caps. Unsurprisingly, Obama’s not buying it.
So how does this count as Obama planning to “bust” the sequestration caps? I don’t get it. It sounds like Obama is willing to stick to the original deal if he has to, but he’s quite naturally insisting that this means sticking to the entire deal. It’s Republicans who are trying to renege. What am I missing here?
Sen. Lindsay Graham is running a pro-war campaign and his biggest contributors are military contractors
“You have to spend money to make money”: I imagine a lot of military contractors are saying this as they give checked to Sen. Graham’s campaign, counting on his promises to increase defense spending and go to war in more places. Lee Fang reports in The Intercept:
The Super PAC supporting the presidential campaign of Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., raised $2.9 million through the end of June, a significant portion of which came from defense contractors that stand to gain from Graham’s advocacy for greater military intervention around the world and increased defense spending.
As Graham tours the early primary states, he tells voters that he is running to boost U.S. defense spending. “My goal is to make sure the next president of the United States, the next generation of war fighters have the capability and capacity to do the job required to keep us free,” Graham said in South Carolina earlier this year.
Graham’s Super PAC, called “Security is Strength,” received $500,000 from billionaire Ron Perelman, whose company MacAndrews & Forbes owns AM General, the manufacturer of Humvees and other products for the military. In December of last year, AM General won a $245.6 million contract with the Army. . .
And of course the money buys votes. Jon Schwarz in The Intercept has a very interesting piece on politicians who admit that the money they receive shapes their votes:
One of the most embarrassing aspects of U.S. politics is politicians who deny that money has any impact on what they do. For instance, Tom Corbett, Pennsylvania’s notoriously fracking-friendly former governor, got $1.7 million from oil and gas companies but assured voters that “The contributions don’t affect my decisions.” If you’re trying to get people to vote for you, you can’t tell them that what they want doesn’t matter.
This pose is also popular with a certain prominent breed of pundits, who love to tell us “Don’t Follow the Money” (New York Times columnist David Brooks), or “Money does not buy elections” (Freakonomics co-author Stephen Dubner on public radio’s Marketplace), or “Money won’t buy you votes” (Yale Law School professor Peter H. Schuck in the Los Angeles Times).
Meanwhile, 85 percent of Americans say we need to either “completely rebuild” or make “fundamental changes” to the campaign finance system. Just 13 percent think “only minor changes are necessary,” less than the 18 percent of Americans who believe they’ve been in the presence of a ghost.
So we’ve decided that it would be useful to collect examples of actual politicians acknowledging the glaringly obvious reality. Here’s a start; I’m sure there must be many others, so if you have suggestions, please leave them in the comments or email me. I’d also love to speak directly to current or former politicians who have an opinion about it.
• “You have to go where the money is. Now where the money is, there’s almost always implicitly some string attached. … It’s awful hard to take a whole lot of money from a group you know has a particular position then you conclude they’re wrong [and] vote no.” — Vice President Joe Biden in 2015.
• “Lobbyists and career politicians today make up what I call the Washington Cartel. … [They] on a daily basis are conspiring against the American people. … [C]areer politicians’ ears and wallets are open to the highest bidder.” — Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, in 2015.
• “When you start to connect the actual access to money, and the access involves law enforcement officials, you have clearly crossed a line. What is going on is shocking, terrible.” – James E. Tierney, former attorney general of Maine, in 2014.
• “Allowing people and corporate interest groups and others to spend an unlimited amount of unidentified money has enabled certain individuals to swing any and all elections, whether they are congressional, federal, local, state … Unfortunately and rarely are these people having goals which are in line with those of the general public. History well shows that there is a very selfish game that’s going on and that our government has largely been put up for sale.” –John Dingell, 29-term Democratic congressman from Michigan, in 2014 just before he retired.
• “When some think tank comes up with the legislation and tells you not to fool with it, why are you even a legislator anymore? You just sit there and take votes and you’re kind of a feudal serf for folks with a lot of money.” — Dale Schultz, 32-year Republican state legislator in Wisconsin and former state Senate Majority Leader, in 2013 before retiring rather than face a primary challenger backed by Americans for Prosperity. . .
Continue reading. The list continues.