Thursday, March 19, 2009

Musings: The Ugly Side

Well, it’s been six years since the U.S. began its “shock and awe” campaign to destroy Iraq and oust Saddam Hussein on those bogus “weapons of mass destruction” claims.

My how time flies — except for those guys and gals who keep having their tours of duty extended, and the Iraqis still living under the American occupation.

For the American public, it’s apparently turned into one big yawn:

"This is already one of the longest wars in American history. There's nothing new in Iraq," said Steven Roberts, a professor of media studies at the George Washington University. "We've read the stories of instability in the government a hundred times. Every single possible story has been told, and so there is enormous fatigue about Iraq."

Yes, let’s skip all that and get into the really interesting stuff, like the latest celebrity to enter rehab and Michelle Obama’s penchant for sleeveless dresses.
.
Never mind those tedious details, like the $800 billion price tag and the 4,261 Americans killed in the war — a figure that I’m not sure includes the alarming suicide rate among ground troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. Oh yeah, and then there’s the Iraqi casualty count, which CNN says is “harder to ascertain because of the lack of formal record-keeping.” But it’s “reached at least 128,000,” by CNN's tally.

And let’s just totally gloss over the torture thing.

Democracy Now! had an interview yesterday with author, journalist and professor Mark Danner, who this past weekend broke the story that two years ago the International Committee of the Red Cross concluded in a secret report that the Bush administration’s treatment of prisoners “constituted torture” in violation of the Geneva Conventions.

In hearing the account of what happened to Abu Zubaydah, including beatings, cold temperatures, sleep deprivation, being kept in coffin-like boxes and waterboarding administered over the course of many weeks, I couldn’t help but think about what happened not only to the prisoner, but to the men who were doing the torturing.

I mean, what kind of mind set do you have to be in to systematically mistreat someone in such horrendous ways? How do you gear yourself up to go to work when that’s your job? And how do you ever go on to live a normal life?

Yeah, all of the above is the ugliness of war, the downside that most Americans don’t see and think about — and don’t want to see and think about.

Perhaps if they did they’d find it just a little bit inappropriate to have the crew of a target boat visiting Kalahelo elementary school as part of a “career development program.”

A photograph of a kindergartener being shown a piece of military equipment accompanies the story, in which Principal Erik Burkman chirps:

“It’s all about showing the students what kinds of opportunities are available to them once they leave school.”

OK, that’s fine, but while you’re also showing kids the war mongers dressed in their “smart black headwear, khaki-colored shirt and smartly pressed black slacks with black socks and black shoes,” how about showing them some of the amputees, or the guys who will never leave the VA hospital because of head injuries or the homeless vets living in the street or the ones whose lives are forever screwed up because they’ve got PTSD?

How about showing them photos of the kids just like them who are blown up and maimed and orphaned by American soldiers, sailors, Marines and suicide bombers fighting the occupation of their nation? How about showing them what happens to real people when the joy stick they’re operating isn’t controlling a video game, but a Predator drone?

But that kind of education might distress and depress the poor keiki, and perhaps even require parental permission. Far better to fill their heads with propaganda and nonsense to prime them at an early age to fight the next imperialistic war.

29 comments:

Anonymous said...

i hate to be partisan, but we could have been such heros in iraq if it were not for the bush admin handling that so badly for so long.

you can put some of the current economic stuff on pre-bush 2 events, and the credit happy and low savings nature of americans, etc....but iraq is his baby alone

it will take several decades of measurable assistance, and at least a couple of generations, to redeem ourselves as to our iraq adventure. i hope we are honorable enough to stick with them, and not leave em in the dust like we did with the afgans in '88

Anonymous said...

Weird how you can have the military in the classroom but not God.

nunya said...

Thank you Joan for keeping it floating because we must never forget what our dollars did.

And for so aptly putting the REAL story behind the photo of the flesh under the uniform and the child (who looked a little traumatized and unaccepting of the whole charade) This morning I studied that picture because it was disturbing me for some reason.

What would it take to show the reality of war to kids. A parent opt-in?

Anonymous said...

First off, I was at Kalaheo School for this K thru 5th grade event and not as a teacher, student or member of the Military.
Last week the police brought a car by and the students loved the siren and and the gun and everything. Go ahead, take a "journalistic" cheap shot with that too. The week before that it was the Fire mongering Department and the week before that it was a Rancher with animals. I'm sure he was a Factory Farming monger and indoctrinator.
So, Lt. Prince is a warmonger?
According to............?
It will certainly surprise you to know that not all Military personnel think alike.
I am not only a Military Veteran of the Vietnam era, I am a veteran of the antiwar movement of the same era. It only took a handful of people, spitting on soldiers at an airport, to discredit the entire movement. I still hear about that rare event. You, Joan Conrow, are "spitting on soldiers" and you're better than that. You have written thoughtful and even objective arguments in the past. This was neither of those. That doesn't mean you always have to be thoughtful and objective; but, it does mean that you can determine a horrific cheap shot when you proof read one.

Anonymous said...

To: March 19, 2009 8:50 PM.

Iʻd say this last writing from Joan was just that: thoughtful and objective. Because you donʻt see it doesnʻt mean itʻs not so.

Youʻre background doesnʻt have a hell of a lot to do with anything in respect to this article she wrote.

Sorry for what you may have endured thatʻs obviously torturing you but frankly, I feel MORE sorry for the people that got ʻdidʻ by you and other troops. I also feel sorry, genuinely, that you got duped into believing WHATEVER it is that hit a nerve with you.

And by the way, fire fighters donʻt illegally invade other peopleʻs countries and murder innocents (including U.S. soldier boys) in the spitworthy name of democracy.

Anonymous said...

Wow, thank you for writing this!

Anonymous said...

sorry just curious - anybody posting above know well and recently met with face to face a middle east national and/or worked or lived in the middle east in the last year or two? or just me (?)

sans military people

any takers?

or are you just talking from the bench?

ya


March 19, 2009 12:10 PM

Katy Rose said...

In the 2005 book "The Spitting Image," sociologist Jerry Lempke offered research that many say cast considerable doubt on stories of returning soldiers being spit upon.

But the spitting question is a bit of a red herring anyway.

Regardless of individual positions about soldiers themselves, the real issue is our collective stance on militarism.

When military recruiters, JROTC and others promote a career in the military in our public schools, it seems logical that an alternative point of view on such an undeniably controversial topic should be presented as well.

This is so logical, in fact, that "equal access" for counter-recruitment is actually the law of the land, though most public schools here have not lived up to it.

I hope that more of us will meet the challenge of presenting an alternative and anti-militarist position in public schools. Whether or not to join the military is one of the most important decisions a young person will be faced with (especially young working class people of color) and they deserve to be presented with as many sides of the story as possible, including one which questions whether our military adventures are defensive or offensive, the reality of death and destruction, and the often dishonest tactics of military recruiters.

Anonymous said...

Dishonest tactics, Rose? Dishonest Tactics? How about calling a specific person you don't know and haven't talked with a Warmonger? If that's not a dishonest tactic in an argument then let me know what your
bulls--t definition is and how it only applies to one side.

Katy Rose said...

There was a general "stand down" of recruiters a few years ago as a result of incidents of dishonesty, including instructing potential recruits to falsify high school diplomas and cheat on drug tests, and telling recruits they could be arrested for not showing up for appointments. Later reports have indicated that such dishonesty has continued. Certainly, many students have reported that they were told they could not get out of the Delayed Enlistment Program, though this is a lie. Other students have told about being "promised" ceratin positions in training programs by recruiters, when the military doesn't operate this way at all and assigns people where needed, not according to a recruit's preference.

Even when recruiters aren't engaging in fraud like this, they are still "selling" young people on the military, and I think it's important that students get the benefit of critical perspectives before they enlist.

Anonymous said...

man no takers on March 20, 2009 12:06 AM? shocking

but hey so anybody claiming there is no honor to be had in joining the US military or that on the net, over the last, oh, say 100 yrs, that the US military has not operated honorably?




March 19, 2009 12:10 PM

March 20, 2009 12:06 AM

Anonymous said...

sorry just curious - anybody posting above know well and recently met with face to face a middle east national and/or worked or lived in the middle east in the last year or two? or just me (?)

And your point is????????

Anonymous said...

Go ahead and try to change the subject to the honesty of recruiters; but, the subject really is the dishonest cheap shot by Joan Conrow (PMRF's Lt. Prince is a warmonger, and by implication and inuendo, so is the staff at Kalaheo School).

Anonymous said...

BTW...no recruiters were on the campus of Kalaheo Elementary School, only the boat crew based with PMRF and operating out of Port Allen - 5 min. drive from the school.

Joan said...

No, Anonymous, the subject really is giving kids both sides of the story when it comes to a military career.

Sandhya said...

Thank you for writing this thoughtful piece, looking at the many human costs of war.

Anonymous said...

"And your point is????????"

-- if the answer is "no" then you are "just talking from the bench" as to where middle east geopolitics intersect with the US military or policy

but at this point id love a response on:

"but hey so anybody claiming there is no honor to be had in joining the US military or that on the net, over the last, oh, say 100 yrs, that the US military has not operated honorably?"

Anonymous said...

if the answer is "no" then you are "just talking from the bench" as to where middle east geopolitics intersect with the US military or policy

nobody was talking on that.

Anonymous said...

"nobody was talking on that."

i hear ya, but it smelled (to me) like it was headed in that direction (see end of March 19, 2009 9:28 PM)

Anonymous said...

"sorry just curious - anybody posting above know well and recently met with face to face a middle east national "

Ya to you.

As a matter of fact, living on Oahu and on travels, then and now I treasure those associations.

Refreshing to have such intellectual and non-petty friends. What impressed me most about them is their high standards and morals.

Anonymous said...

March 19, 2009 9:28 PM
March 20, 2009 4:32 PM

These posts are both from me. Looks like youʻve locked on.

Signed,
Calling it as I see it.

Anonymous said...

"What impressed me most about them is their high standards and morals."

--- wow see now that is really interesting

my internal take away, after some in-country observation, was "ya, man, most of these devote muslim guys are like, ideal neighbor material." i almost wish they drank :)

and thank you for your reply

Anonymous said...

fine fine

- it was an illegal invasion (either of us can cite objective enough intl law guys to call it either way; so ill leave this alone)

- and you are saying there were enough straight-up premeditated assassinations of known innocents in iraq and/or afg in the last 5-7 yrs or so to paint large portions of the US operation as "murder"...? sorry im not seeing it. wrong word, but i get why one might want to use it. still, that is not to say that such did not happen (and more often than we know, i would bet)

and id March 19, 2009 12:10 PM

Anonymous said...

Actually, I spent a part of January in Turkey and Egypt. I think that counts as Middle East. While I was riding a camel near the Step Pyramid, it turned to me and said "I heard Joan Conrow is the biggest cheap shot artist on Kauai!" I said no; but, she is in the top five!"

Anonymous said...

You see, none of the middle eastern associations Iʻve known would speak in such a demeaning way.

You just painted yourself for what you are: a crude and ugly amerikan. Kind of like Andy Parx; the guy can send shivers up your spine.

Signed,
Calling it as I see it.

Anonymous said...

March 20, 2009 8:19 PM


--- ohh man that was pretty funny. my compliments

but hey so what exactly was/is being cited as demeaning, crude and ugly?

Anonymous said...

"but hey so what exactly was/is being cited as demeaning, crude and ugly?"

I guess thatʻs a point: pitifully, you wouldnʻt know it if it slapped you in the mouth.

Signed,
Calling it as I see it

Anonymous said...

"I guess thatʻs a point: pitifully, you wouldnʻt know it if it slapped you in the mouth."

-- ohh woe is me. nice vague cop out tho. any sorry but i cant guess as to what your particular sensitivities are

Anonymous said...

The problem with "Calling as I see it" is that "calling as I see it" is blind.