Sunday, February 28, 2010

A Soldier's Cowardice: Going to War

By Gary G. Kohls, MD
February 28, 2010

An author that every prospective soldier (and their loved ones) needs to read is Tim O’Brien.

Read on.

7 comments:

Mark E. Smith said...

Therein is the real reason that Gen. Norton A. Schwartz and Gen. George Casey think that allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly would "perturb" the troops. Those males who joined for fear of being mocked, disgraced, or ridiculed as "pussy" if they avoided military service, would have to face the fact that they were cowards.

Logic is lacking when it comes to an emotional issue like manliness. If females can serve, why not effeminate males? And truth be told, even a child could sit at a computer monitor and direct an unmanned drone to drop bombs on civilians--it isn't much different from the video war games kids play and doesn't take any personal courage.

It is indeed ironic that the social disgrace that many like Tim O'Brien hoped to avoid by going to war, was exactly what they came home to if they survived.

With our high divorce rates and the skyrocketing numbers of military suicides, I think it tragic that many gays and lesbians are fighting for marriage equality and the right to serve openly in the military. Our fascist society exerts intense pressure on young people to marry and/or go to war, when the healthiest thing would be for kids to seek alternative lifestyle options.

Carl Williams, Wichita, KS said...

Tim O'Brien's line of thinking that led him to make the decision to acquiesce to the cultural pressures from society and allow himself to be forced into the army could be my own story. In 1968, there were four choices for young men of military age: commit suicide, go to prison, go to Canada or go to Vietnam. I chose Vietnam. And, like the young O'Brien, I, too, came back psychologically bruised and battered by the blatantly obvious reality - - to anyone who took the time to observe it - - that there was no chance in hell that we would EVER "win the hearts and minds" of the people of Vietnam. Yet, our government continued to follow the logic that these people (who simply wanted all foreigners to leave them alone) would eventually "see the light" and embrace a corrupt and draconian government that had but one purpose: to allow US corporations to have access to the country's resources.

Of course, we are still functioning under the notion that US corporations' access to other countries' oil is still a goal that people of those countries would embrace if only they could only learn to agree with us that such a relationship is good for everyone - - especially the people of said country. Never mind that the reality entails the death of hundreds of thousands of their fellow citizens and the destruction of virtually all the jobs, agricultural ability, educational traditions - - basically, the death of the very essence of their culture. According to US leaders such as Donald Rumsfeld, those are small sacrifices that they should be happy to make on behalf of American corporate success. As he noted when asked about the plundering of the Iraqi Historical Museum, "Stuff happens."

That, in a nutshell, is exactly the same attitude toward American soldiers who our leaders send off to war. Nothing has changed. The Veterans of World War One were screwed out of their promised benefits when they returned. And the same is true of veterans of the Vietnam War and every war since then. WWII Vets and Vets from the First Gulf War were the only Veterans who actually benefitted from generous and logical Veteran benefit packages - - such as the GI Bill and Housing Loans through the VA - - and then also benefitted from an entire nation urging support of the returning GI's. All of us from other wars just had to grin and bear it. Finally, 40 years after I returned to civilian life after getting out of the army in 1970, I can almost go a full day without thinking about the incredible lies that led us into that war and the futility of all the suffering ...just so British and American oil companies could have access to the oil under the Gulf of Tonkin ...and, oh, lest I forget, as Peter Dale Scott and other courageous authors who have written about American government's involvement in drugs, another reason was to allow our clandestine services to take over from the French, the drug trade in the Golden Triangle. The books, "A Century of War," that connects the pursuit of oil through a hundred years of war; and "The Politics of Heroine" and "The Politics of Cocaine," all follow the influence of drugs in our foreign policies. Good reads...necessary reads for all people who care.

LarryE said...

Tim O'Brien is a few years older than I am and so I had to face the same considerations a couple of years later.

I made the opposite choice (I was a draft resister) but I knew several people who were vets. Some came back whole - but some didn't. What struck me was the guilt so many of the latter carried. I recall one vet at a peace conference who said he couldn't understand why we would even want to associate with him. As is well noted, the wounds of war are not always physical and it is not only the dead who have experienced some part of death.

This is tangentially relevant here, still I thought I would mention it. It's a post I wrote pushing two years ago now on the unfortunate eagerness among too many to make a direct equivalence between "soldier" and "hero."

Anonymous said...

This was a real dilemma for all of us--Serve, do our patriotic duty or be a traitor and coward. I made the choice also to serve out of cowardice, regretted it and became an activist against the war when I came home. The worse part was coming home to find the ones who demanded we serve were the ones to abandon us and want us to go away--The govt., our friends, our families betrayed all of us when we were guilted into being a patriot. Ron Harwell, Miami,FL

snoopy7 said...

Like many times before what gets $, the industrial war machine. And, who doesn't(?)we don't. So if you are desperate for $ where do you go? Join the military, AKA: back door draft, where you will get your $. What an evil group of people we have representing our country. We pay them for killing us, we also give them cart blanch health care...

snoopy7 said...

Like many times before what gets $, the industrial war machine. And, who doesn't(?)we don't. So if you are desperate for $ where do you go? Join the military, AKA: back door draft, where you will get your $. What an evil group of people we have representing our country. We pay them for killing us, we also give them cart blanch health care...

Bill from Saginaw said...

The biographical tag on Dr. Kohl's article claims "Combat-induced PTSD is extremely difficult to treat but simple to prevent."

As a 60's era draftee who survived infantry basic training and a stint in South Korea (thankfully, not a tour in Vietnam) I am intrigued. Is Kohl saying you simply avoid PTSD by staying out of combat? That is self-evident. But if Kohl is saying something different, I really would like to know how the Marines who fought on Iwo Jima, or the Army and US Air Force POW's who endured the Bataan death march could have "simply" avoided combat induced post traumatic stress disorder.

Information, please.

Bill from Saginaw