Karl Marlantes, a Former Marine who fought in the war on Viet-Nam, has an article in today’s New York Times, “The War That Killed Trust.” Marlantes has several books out on Viet Nam, and is very invested in that war, and has written one of the saddest and most illogical stories I’ve ever read.
Marlantes applauds the camaraderie of the military, and believes that the reinstitution of a military draft would bring back a feeling of service to the country, and would level the inequality that has taken over the USA. Wrong and wrong- the rich have always gotten out of serving in US wars, and the anti-war protests that covered the country don’t auger well for a renewed draft. The draft was suspended after Vietnam in an attempt to quell the protests, and fear of those protests has led to a poverty draft, in which public high schools and the Department of Education have collaborated with the Department of Defense to assure the military of access to and influence over students. As long as the (decreasing) middle class kids aren’t forced to fight wars, the protests are few.
That cameraderie belief, reflected so well in Studs Terkel’s “The Good War,” is crafted by military training to cause recruits to protect each other. How grim that so many men of war can only recreate bonds to other men in war. How childish and selfish to believe that to be a model for other people….to make bonds of friendship over the mass murder of civilians. This is nonsense.
Nice, Mr. Marlantes, that you had never eaten a tamale or spoken with a citizen from Mexico before Vietnam. These are society’s failings that will not be made better by having more wars, more recruits. Many of us believe we can skip the step of going to war in finding the humanity in all people.
The comments section is also illuminating. Several commenters, always from the military, mention how good going to war was for them. This is something we often hear at schools when counter recruiting- the military was good for me! I got to travel! I built character! It is a self-centered, short-sighted feeling, and not one to build a foreign policy on. Another article in today’s Times was, of course, about former National Guardsmen Esteban Santiago, who fought in Iraq but came back deeply damaged with PTSD, and killed 5 people and wounded 6 others at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood Airport on January 6, 2017. Many Vietnam veterans are living on the streets. Many, many people do not do well after war.
Many of the commenters also mention the toll of the Vietnam War on Vietnam. Thank goodness for some sanity. Mr. Marlantes doesn’t talk about the utter devastation an illegal and vicious war did to that country, and sounds pretty damaged to me, desperately trying somehow to rationalize what he did, what we did.
January 9, 2017. The New York Times today published an article that attempted to minimize the likelihood that Marlantes came back from Iraq with PTSD. This is a public relations move that has been a constant through the war on Iraq and on Afghanistan: PTSD is overstated! Don’t worry! The military has worried so much about the public seeing the effects of war on their own recruits that authorities at my local Ft. Lewis Joint Base McCord Madigan Hospital had over 300 PTSD diagnoses reversed. They were also worried, as described in the same article, about the disability payouts to soldiers diagnosed with PTSD that could cost as much as 1.5 million dollars a person for lifetime treatment.