The Colorado Springs Gazette had two outstanding articles this weekend that went right to the core of what’s wrong with war: it totally messes up so many of the people who wage it.
The articles, which you can read here and here, detail the violence that soldiers from the 4th Infantry Division’s 4th Brigade Combat Team have waged on the communities they returned to.
Here are a few excerpts:
“If I was just a guy off the street, I might have hesitated to shoot,” [Anthony] Marquez [a 21-year-old soldier who shot a man in the heart over a drug deal gone awry] said this spring as he sat in the Bent County Correctional Facility, where he is serving 30 years. “But after Iraq, it was just natural.”
After two tours in Iraq, [Kenneth] Eastridge [a 24-year-old serving time for accessory to murder] was depressed, paranoid, violent, abusing drugs and haunted by nightmares. But because he was other-than-honorably discharged, he said, he was ineligible for benefits or health care. He was no longer Uncle Sam’s problem. He was on his own.
“I had no job training,” he said. “All I know how to do is kill people.”
“I know the Army would like to say it is not responsible for this, that it didn’t train them to do this. But that is bullshit,” Michael Needham said. “They trained them to kill, then when they didn’t have enough men for the surge, they pushed these guys until they broke, then threw them away.”
“There are some good things going on,” said Davida Hoffman, the director of First Choice Counseling, a private clinic that treats about 250 Carson soldiers.
But counseling can do only so much, she said. The quality of treatment is not the cause of the problem. Combat is.
The more combat soldiers see, she said, the more problems they will have. The more problems soldiers have, the more problems Colorado Springs has.
“Soldiers simply cannot handle repeated deployments,” she said. “If these guys keep seeing deployments like the stuff they saw in Iraq, we could have a very dangerous situation.”
[Maj. Gen. Mark] Graham agreed that repeated deployments are tough on soldiers. But the Army has a job to do, he said, and the rate of deployment is not expected to slow for at least 12 to 18 months.
It’s all the more troubling when you stop to think that the lives of these young men, and their victims, have been destroyed because of the charade that was the so-called Iraqi threat. That brings to mind a quote that Nazi officer Hermann Goering made during his Nuremberg war crimes trial:
"Why of course the people don't want war....That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the peacemakers for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country."
And now we're doing the same thing in Afghanistan.