Day of the veteran

November 11, 2012

Even now after nearly half-a-century, one Vietnam vet still works to get a grip:

Wright died in 1968 when he stepped on a land mine, Atwood said, and Wright’s mother always blamed him for her son’s death.
He’s never been able to bring himself to visit his friend’s grave, he said.
On Saturday he found Wright’s name on panel 44E, row 60, and he ran his fingers over it, shaking his head.
“I’m still in the blocking stage.
I want to go somewhere and sit down and think a minute,” he said after seeing Wright’s name.
“All I can see when I was touching and reading his name was his mother’s face telling me I got her son killed.”

This took place yesterday at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in DC — a recurring war theme, two best friends enlist, one is killed.

(Illustration: A lithograph in Salvador Dalí’s Biblia Sacra‘ series found here).

And on this Veterans Day an example of how ugly US history, not from long ago, but nowadays.
Two Americans tortured in Iraq can’t sue Don Rumsfeld — himself an asshole-criminal extraordinaire.
Via HuffPost last week:

Two American citizens cannot sue former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld over allegations that they were tortured by the U.S. military in Iraq, a federal appeals court ruled on Wednesday.
Donald Vance and Nathan Ertel had said Rumsfeld and unnamed others allegedly developed, authorized and used harsh interrogation techniques against them in Iraq.

The decision overturned decisions by a three-judge panel of the same appeals court and a federal judge in Illinois, which had allowed the suit to proceed despite efforts by the Bush and Obama administrations to get the case dismissed.

The 8-3 ruling by the full 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, posted Wednesday afternoon on the court’s website, found there’s no law granting the men rights to sue Rumsfeld or others in the line of military command.
In such a vast bureaucracy, the ruling says, he couldn’t be responsible for subordinates who end up crossing legal bounds.
“The secretary of defense has more than a million soldiers under his command,” the ruling says. “People able to exert domination over others often abuse that power; it is a part of human nature that is very difficult to control.”

The majority opinion, authored by Chief U.S. Circuit Judge Frank Easterbrook, also warns that making Cabinet members financially liable for subordinates could distract them “from management of public affairs” and lead them to worry instead about “the defense of their (personal) bank accounts.”
In a strongly worded dissenting opinion, U.S. Circuit Judge David Hamilton notes someone tortured by foreign military forces has clearer legal avenues to sue their alleged torturers in the United States.
He said the majority judges were erecting hurdles for U.S. citizens to do the same when tortured by the U.S. military abroad.
“That disparity attributes to our government and to our legal system a degree of hypocrisy that is breathtaking,” he wrote.
A judge who voted with the majority but who wrote a separate opinion condemned the interrogation methods used on Vance and Ertel, which allegedly included sleep deprivation, so-called “walling” – in which they were blindfolded and then walked into walls – and subjecting them to extreme temperatures, sustained loud music and solitary confinement.
“This shameful fact should not be minimized by using euphemisms such as the term `harsh interrogation techniques,'” U.S. Circuit Judge Diane Wood wrote.
“In my view, (the methods) must be acknowledged for what they are: torture.”

My underline above to emphasize the war machine no matter who’s in charge — President Obama is a major war guy, in terms of striking out at the perceived enemy, no matter who’s damaged, and way-similar to the Romney-advisor-guy blubbering last summer their message won’t be “… dictated by fact-checkers,” so is Obama’s surgical war games all over the globe, 24/7/365, in violation of long-time international laws, both statue and moral.

And this particular military-veterans day takes place in wash-water swelling off a major military scandal: David Petraeus and the people who love him.
Or how the media deceived itself into believing its own lying eyes.
Glenn Greenwald, now with the UK’s Guardian, posted an interesting piece yesterday on the fawning and blushing of the US MSM, supposedly even folks who proclaim to know better, and who promoted King David to near-deity status.
Money quote:

Of all the heinous things the CIA does, the only one that seems to attract the notice or concern of our media is a banal sex scandal.
Listening to media coverage, one would think an extramarital affair is the worst thing the CIA ever did, maybe even the only bad thing it ever did (Andrea Mitchell: “an agency that has many things to be proud about: many things to be proud about”).

Our media has developed an near-obvious Orwellian bent, militarily speaking, of course.
Even those I’d considered a decent writer/reporter, such as Spencer Ackerman at Wired‘s Danger Room blog, allowed the light to shine down from King David — maybe like those beams from the alien space ship in ‘Close Encounters,’ burning shit into the brain of Richard Dreyfuss in his stalled pick-up at that railroad crossing — and helped create a military myth.
In a post this morning, Ackerman to some credit, explains how he was ‘drawn‘ up into the light, but in real-time reality, the problem is an already-programmed mind-set:

None of this is to say that Petraeus was actually a crappy officer whom the press turned into a genius.
That would be just as dumb and ultimately unfair as lionizing Petraeus, whose affair had nothing to do with his military leadership or achievements.
“David Petraeus will be remembered as the finest officer of his generation, and as the commander who turned the Iraq War around,” emails military scholar Mark Moyar.
But it is to say that a lot of the journalism around Petraeus gave him a pass, and I wrote too much of it.
Writing critically about a public figure you come to admire is a journalistic challenge.

My underline again, just for emphasis, of course.
And another of my notables, Juan Cole at his Informed Comment blog, saddened with this yesterday on the Petraeus affair:

What I had been concerned about, despite my admiration for Petraeus, is that he wasn’t the right person to head the CIA when among its major tasks was to evaluate the counter=insurgency effort in Afghanistan.
Since Petraeus authored that strategy and oversaw a stage of that war as commander, it actually was not fair to have him head the evaluative effort, and he shouldn’t have been put in that position.

How could one admire an ambitious asshole?

First off, of course, is the dumb-ass debacle of the the 190,000 missing-weapons episode in Iraq: But the GAO said weapons distribution was haphazard and rushed and failed to follow established procedures, particularly from 2004 to 2005, when security training was led by Gen. David H. Petraeus, who now commands all U.S. forces in Iraq.
And before that was Mosul.
One of the best war correspondents around, Patrick Cockburn, wrote in 2007:

The long-term failure of Petraeus’s efforts in Mosul would not have been quite so glaring if the media had not trumpeted his virtues and successes a year earlier.
Even, so it was noted more by Iraqis than Americans.
Petraeus had moved on to another job and was in charge of the training and recruitment of a new Iraqi army, heading an organisation called the Security Transition Command.
He wrote an opinion piece for The Washington Post in September 2004 saying: “Training is on track and increasing in capacity. Infrastructure is being repaired. Command and control structures and institutions are being re-established.”
To say the least, this was misleading.

Yes, indeed to say the least.
And back to the un-tortured Don Rumsfeld, he who blubbered in answer to a GI’s pleading question of why US military hardware was so-dangerously shitty: “As you know, you go to war with the Army you have. They’re not the Army you might want or wish to have at a later time.”
What later time?

Waging war without recognition of war.
Last month, more of the Rumsfeld legacy: The Department of Veterans Affairs has quietly released a new report on post-traumatic stress disorder, showing that since 9/11, nearly 30 percent of the 834,463 Iraq and Afghanistan War veterans treated at V.A. hospitals and clinics have been diagnosed with PTSD.
One doesn’t have to be Nate Silver to do the math and see that’s a shitload of people.
And remember, that’s just the guys and gals who’ve seen a doctor and ‘diagnosed‘ — there’s probably another shitload of vets with PTSD that haven’t visited a medical facility.
A lot of war wounded — but WTF.
Nearly-now almost a decade and a half of nothing but continuous war — what did one expect?

And for this Veterans Day 2012 — official one today, tomorrow the federal holiday — a reader’s letter at the Brooklyn Daily:

It is no wonder that so many of these veterans come home and continue to suffer daily.
Trauma envelopes their inner life and the war never ceases for them.
Suicide among veterans is a horrible plague, as is their inability to function in healthy ways around their families, their jobs, and in society.
The phrase one often hears is that we have to honor these veterans, the ones who protect our freedoms.
The thing is, did the wars during my lifetime protect my freedoms, or simply keep the cost of gasoline down?
I’m confused, and sad.
No more war!

Maybe then we could call it No More Veterans Day?

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