In the last few years the number of suicides involving active duty American troops has skyrocketed. In addition to engaging the enemy, a growing number of our soldiers are fighting themselves. And they’re losing.
The Army’s new solution is “resiliency” training. Instead of completely eliminating the back-door draft or reasonably limiting the number of deployments a soldier and/or his (or her) family has to undergo, Uncle Sam is simply trying to make sure our warriors can better stomach the strains and inequities we have required them to endure.
Clearly, the logic seems to be that there is nothing wrong with what we’re asking them to do; they’re simply ill-equipped or not up to the task. As noted in the New York Times, the “resiliency” program will be offered in weekly 90-minute classes, the sessions designed “to defuse or expose common habits of thinking and flawed beliefs that can lead to anger and frustration.”
Wow. “Flawed beliefs that can lead to anger and frustration?”
Arguably, the “flawed beliefs” that lead our soldiers to thoughts of anger and frustration and, for that matter, rage, revulsion, self-contempt, etc., don’t originate from an individual belief system gone awry so much as an ill-considered, insidious conflict. If your friends or your fellow platoon members die on the battlefield or the grounds of an occupation or simply transporting gas or materials to a no-bid, over-budget Halliburton project, you’d like to believe they died for something noble, something important or even something understandable. But in our current wars this “something” isn’t sufficiently articulated or demonstrably real. Our troops are caught up in spuriously concocted pre-emptive wars that are so laced with lies and propaganda that, in the end, they almost appear to be the very thing our men and women in uniform should be fighting against.
Our soldiers can’t sincerely claim they’re defending our country. That’s a joke. And if they shipped out with the old “my-country-right-or-wrong” mentality, many have learned how insufferable and spirit-crushing blind patriotism can be.
In Iraq, we’ve fought, killed and died for a handful of stupid lies, defined, redefined, denied and then disavowed by the very malevolent agents who introduced them. The same thing happened in Viet Nam. The same thing will happen in Afghanistan. We’re simply prolonging the inevitable.
And our soldiers’ and our nation’s troubles won’t end then we finally leave Iraq or Afghanistan. As Stephen King once put it, wars don’t end at truce tables “but in cancer wards and office cafeterias and traffic jams.” Wars die a piece at time, a soldier at a time. And if our leaders make the grim decision to sacrifice our young men and women, scramble their psyches and tax or exhaust the limits their humanity, and all this for oil or profit margins or corporate imperialism or spiritual prejudice, then the sacrifice is made shabby, sad and criminal and our soldiers will have lived and died on distant battlefields as pawns in an enterprise of villainy. The repercussions will be immeasurable and the attendant grief will reverberate throughout our culture for generations to come.
Before we counsel our soldiers, then, on their resilience in the face of madness and lies, hadn’t we better assess the sanity of their dispatchers?
If you tell me America has been attacked and knowingly send me to a country that had nothing to do with the attack and have me unknowingly slaughter innocent people who also had nothing to do with the attack, I will eventually find myself alienated from you, my community and myself. I will lose my center, become unsettled and feel undermined. It’s one thing to be made a fool of; it’s quite another to be reduced to a murderous fool and a pathetic, discarded marionette.
If it is the U.S. Army’s intent to bolster our troops’ resiliency in the face of such absurdities, that’s fine. Good luck. The plan obviously addresses the symptoms of the problem instead of the problem itself, but our servicemen and women need all the help they can get. My hope is simply that we don’t stop there.
Our leaders need to be scrutinized and held accountable and we, the public, need to be chastised for our ignorance, apathy and frightful gullibility. In fact, as the troops receive treatment and training for their psychological maladies, we could stand to be screened for our own potential neuroses, particularly of the collective or communal varieties. We elected and continue to elect low representatives who usurp young Americans to perpetrate mad acts. Clearly, our soldiers are not the only folks whose sanity we should be concerned about.