The Washington Post carried an interesting article on Sunday by a photojournalist in Iraq whose photograph of a U.S. soldier carrying an injured Iraqi child at the outset of the U.S. invasion of Iraq made the front page of USA Today. The point of the photograph, of course, was that American soldiers were in Iraq helping the Iraqi people. As the photographer put it, “I knew that this was a moment of American heroism, of American commitment to saving a people and to saving lives.”
After he returned home, the soldier periodically sent emails to the photographer. One of them said, “When I first got back I didn’t really want to talk about being over there to anyone. Now looking back on it, it’s one of the greatest things I’ve ever done.”
Except for one thing. The soldier, Joseph Dwyer, recently died from a drug overdose at age 31. As his mother put it, he couldn’t “get over the war.”
News reports said that Dwyer was suffering from “post-traumatic stress disorder.” My hunch is that it’s much more likely that he was suffering from massive unresolved guilt.
Look at the situation. Most people, especially the young and idealistic ones, join the military because they honestly feel like they want to serve their country. They’re interested in doing a good thing in their lives. They’re well-intentioned. They believe in the president and their superior officers. It doesn’t occur to them that as Americans, they would be put in a position of being on the morally wrong side of a war.
So, what do President Bush and the Pentagon do? They convert these young, idealistic soldiers into aggressors. No matter how much a American human being can try to convince himself that he is doing good when he kills Iraqis, deep down within his subconscious he knows that he is part of a military force that has wrongfully attacked another country—and killed and maimed countless people in the process.
On the conscious level, the soldier believes all the claptrap about why he is killing and maiming people—WMDs, liberation, democracy-spreading, nation-building, etc. But on the subconscious level he knows the truth—he has no right whatsoever to be in this country thousands of miles away from America killing and maiming people.
The soldier can try to suppress the fact that he has killed people in a war of aggression in which he as participated. He can tell himself that he has saved people during the process. He can focus on his heroics. But in the inevitable struggle between himself and his conscience, something is ultimately going to give. That’s what taking drugs is all about—trying to avoid the pain that comes from a deeply disturbed conscience.
Ultimately, the crime of Iraq is the legal and moral responsibility of George W. Bush. But the soldiers who faithfully and loyally followed Bush’s orders to kill and maim Iraqis in this war of aggression and resulting occupation will also pay a price, not only physically but also mentally and psychologically, as so many of them are now discovering,
Meanwhile, in Afghanistan a U.S. air strike killed 47 people in a wedding, including the bride herself along with several children. The U.S. military, not surprisingly, denied any civilians had been killed. They said that they had only killed terrorists. But an official inquiry determined that the U.S. military’s version was false. Of course, if there is ever terrorist retaliation for those deaths, the official U.S. response will be the same as it was after 9/11: The terrorists hate us for our freedom and values, not because our imperial forces have killed their spouses, parents, brides, and children.
Of course, to protect Americans from the threat of such terrorist blowback, it has become necessary to adopt ever-increasing infringements on civil liberties. The new FISA law, which authorizes warrantless spying on the citizenry and grants immunity to companies that breach the privacy rights of their customers, is just the latest example.
A good way to ensure a steady stream of terrorist retaliation, of course, would be to attack Iran, which has become the latest Official Enemy, given that Osama and Saddam no longer serve that function. If that doesn’t work out, then why not stir up old hornet’s nests by threatening Russia with the placement of U.S. missiles and missile interceptors near the Russian border?
Meanwhile, things aren’t going too swimmingly on the welfare-state front either. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the big federally concocted financial institutions that purchase mortgages, are both in danger of going under. U.S. officials are promising to bail them out, although it’s not clear where they will be getting the money to do so given that they’re already running an enormous budget deficit.
By the way, be prepared for the standard claptrap about how the failure of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac reflects the failure of America’s “free enterprise” system. Never mind that these institutions have their roots in Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal, which was inspired by Stalin’s socialism and Mussolini’s fascism.
Meanwhile, the FDIC took control of another large financial institution — IndyMac Bancorp — after a run on the bank by depositors caused the bank to go under. According to the Associated Press, “It is the largest regulated thrift to fail and the second-largest financial institution to close in U.S. history.”
Question: Even if the FDIC can afford to bail out several individual banks, what happens if there is an industry-wide failure? Where does the FDIC get the money to repay depositors of hundreds of banks, especially when its welfare-state expenditures and its warfare-state expenditures are already significantly higher than tax revenues? To repay the depositors their money, wouldn’t it have to first tax the depositors to get the money to pay them back? Oh well, let’s not think about that right now.
By their fruits you will know them: death, destruction, lies, and bankruptcy.