Friday, December 30, 2011

The Ground Truth - a documentary on war

I just watched a documentary titled, "The Ground Truth". I'm not going to accost you with images of the horrors of war here. I think the words are bad enough. But we need to take care of people when we send them in harm's way. And we have always fallen down on that account.

First let me say, I when I was younger, I was ready to go to war. I wanted to kick ass and take names. Then I got to work in the military with many of the vets who were there in Vietnam, which would have been my war and I only missed going to by a hair's breadth. And I started to understand reality, aside from nationalistic pride and youthful exuberance, foolishness. From that time on I opened my mind and started to see war from the other side.

Every American, should watch this documentary. And every one should be angry at the treatment of our veterans.

I'm not going to tell you all that was in this film, you should check it out yourself. I will say something, however. And if I seem like I'm being "heavy handed", after watching that film, I guarantee you, I'm being rather light handed, compared to how I'm feeling at this time. I'm sure some may have gone to war and come out unchanged, though I don't see how. But that is beside the point, they are not our vanguard in the realm of those damaged by war; those damaged by it are. If you feel what I'm saying is nonsense after reading this, then watch the documentary, or go to a modern day war. Then reread this, especially if you've had a limb blown off, or had to live through these nightmares.

We seem to run on a credit card mentality for every little thing in our life. We go to war, for oil? And claim it is for something else, when we should have finished the war we started over a decade earlier. So ironic that Bush started the Gulf War, and his son, ended it, so much later. We send troops to fight and die but we send them in with second class equipment with the hope of catching up later and if some die, tough beans. We let their families send them protective equipment, and we should be ashamed as a nation. We kill and maim innocent people in the cause of fighting terrorism, when we were in the wrong country. We watch as our young are maimed and die. We do not watch as our "Heroes" return from battles, broken in spirit and body. We do not accept that war and what they have seen and lived through, can cause PTSD, can give them mental problems; we try to dodge the expense that accepting that would cause us because, those soldiers, should just cope, right? Because war is no different than normal life back home. Right? When they return, we expect them to blend into normal civilian life, after giving them license to kill, maim, see horrible things, watch the enemy who are other human beings, die before them; watch women and children die before them, sometimes at their own hands, sometimes accidentally, sometimes on purpose, which is the most damaging.

We do those things. We avoid dealing with those things. We don't want to know we do those things.

I could almost handle that, I suppose. But to then turn a blind eye, and not take care of those who were damaged, sent at our beck and call, those who answered that call with courage and pride in their mind's eye, only to later be disillusioned by the reality of war and our foolish mismanagement; is all far worse than what the terrorists have done in provoking us in the first place.

But we are the "good people". We are absolved of wrong doing, because we are the good guys.

Get on Netflix, watch "The Ground Truth". Watch it with your eyes and mind open. Feel bad for a little while, but don't worry, you will forget it shortly. After all, isn't it the job of those damaged in our wars to remember these things? Because they are the ones who have to hobble around, feel depressed, scare their spouses and children with their duress and outbursts; then perhaps, commit suicide.

But we don't have to worry about it. Apparently, it's not our problem.

When you leave the theater of war (yes, they call it a theater, they don't like to use the word "kill", either), they ask if you have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). If you say yes, they don't let you have the one thing you want more than any other, to go home. They keep you in the country, where the war is on. To get you "healthy" again, before sending you home where you could infect the civilians with what? Reality? Truth? Information about what is going on? If you answer no, then you don't have PTSD, even though it can easily takes a while to sink in and returning home, seeing what is normal once again, would have to trigger that.

One veteran in the documentary mentions how he has seen vets in wheelchairs, rolling from one department, one building, after another, around and around all day just trying to straighten out a paycheck issue. But we take care of our war heroes, our veterans. Right?

Such is our mentality.

It reminds me of our issue with school teachers. Those lowly paid, poorly trained individuals who teach those who will one day run our country and our retired lives. We can't afford to pay them properly, so we just don't think about it. But our children come first. Our veterans come first. We are the good guys.

Or, perhaps we're simply deluding ourselves?

Perhaps, our priorities are messed up. Perhaps. I mean, is that even possible? Have we grown to devalue life so much that we can't see beyond the expense? If we can afford to go to war, why can't we afford to clean up after it? Why does the government try to ignore, devalue, our veteran's claims when they need help? But if we simply disagree that they need help, then we don't have to help them. How economical for us.

If only....

How is it we don't accept PTSD as being as prevalent as it obvious is? How is it, you can think that a normal Human being, can enter into a war zone to see some of those things, close up, where their life is also on the line, and they do not come out of it with a traumatized spirit, with nightmares, paranoia? And their life being on the line is paramount, because watching these horrors is hard enough, but when you are there, experiencing that you may be next, or just almost were, it is an entirely different thing.

Perhaps, if we calculate in the costs of the after war along with the war prep and deployment, perhaps we would go to war less? Surely, when there is genocide happening, every country in the world should send in troops to end it. Immediately. Surely Israel would be first in line when genocide is happening, anywhere in the world? Perhaps if it was generally accepted, I don't know, that genocide is wrong(?), it would be necessary far less than it is? Then those who commit genocide, would think twice if they knew, once they start, the entire world will immediately crush them. After those types of conflicts, wounded vets could return home and even though they are knowingly defective for the rest of their life, they would know what they were doing and why. That can make a great deal of difference in one's attitude. Was that the same for the Middle East recently? Then why do so many vets wonder now, what they are doing there, or why they were there?

Steel sculpture
Above: 70,000 steel ball bearings, representing the projectiles we use to kill each other, were welded together over two years to create the life-size sculpture by Marcus Eriksen. About the motivation for this sculpture, he says:

"On Feb. 24, 1991 a truck filled with a dozen marines making a steady B-line for Kuwait City stopped the convoy when I yelled, “Hey look a body!”  The paralyzed figure of an Iraqi soldier lay 50 feet from the incinerated jeep he was blown from.  His knees were bent, eyes and mouth open,and his intestines poured out from under his shirt.  We were both covered with specks of oil from the fires nearby, and soaked by the rains that made me miserable, yet washed his face clean.  Before he died he must have waved his arms, like the way kids make snow angels. He made wings in the sand.  My angel in the desert."

How can one not be moved by that experience? And as these experiences go, this is a rather light one. 

I would say that we should never go to war, but that I know, is unreasonable. There are bad people out there. There are always, seemingly, new people who want to abuse those under their care. I would ask however, that we only go to war when absolutely necessary. Not when a president or a political party needs a boost in ratings. And that when our citizens, our soldiers are damaged, physically, AND emotionally (CAN you be damaged physically and not emotionally in a war?), that we do something for them, everything we can. And acknowledge their issues and see that they have the help they require. And follow up with them, possibly for the rest of their lives, or at least for the next ten to twenty years. Sounds expensive, right? Tell me, did you actually just have that thought pop into your head?

Maybe if the cost after the war exceeds the cost of going to war, we will start to be smarter about our actions and more circumspect.

I would like to believe that the world is in the throes of the end of adolescence and these wars are fits of growth into adulthood, our possible, only the end of childhood and terrifyingly moving only into adolescence. Either way, I would like to believe that we are closing in on a time when we will no longer have to have wars.

But whether we will continue to have them or not, we still must pay attention when our veterans say in documentaries like, "The Ground Truth", that many still aren't getting the help they need.

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