MCViewPoint

Opinion from a Libertarian ViewPoint

An Officer’s Path to Dissent – Antiwar.com Original

Posted by M. C. on March 7, 2019

On a day in Afghanistan in 2011, I realized everything I was doing, and the only thing I still cared about was damage control, protecting our troops from needless death. I basically was phoning it in and should have known it was time to quit, lest I lose more of my soul.

Seventeen years, thousands of Americans still there, and the Taliban control more of the country than at any time since Uncle Sam’s invasion. We may never leave.

https://original.antiwar.com/danny_sjursen/2019/03/06/an-officers-path-to-dissent/

For a while there, I was a real star. High up in my class at West Point, tough combat deployments in two wars, a slew of glowing evaluations, even a teaching assignment back at the military academy. I inhabited a universe most only dream of: praised, patted and highly respected by everyone in my life system and viewed as a brave American soldier. It’s a safe, sensible spot. For most, that’s enough. Too bad it was all bunk. Absurdity incarnate.

The truth is, I fought for next to nothing, for a country that, in recent conflicts, has made the world a deadlier, more chaotic place. Even back in 2011—or even 2006, for that matter—I was just smart and just sensitive enough to know that, to feel it viscerally.

Still, the decision to publicly dissent is a tough one. It’s by no means easy. Easy would be to go on playing hero and accepting adulation while staying between the lines. Play it safe, stick to your own, make everyone proud. That’s easy, intellectually immature—the new American way.

When you take the journey of dissent, you lose friends, alienate family, confuse confidants and become a lonely voice in your professional world. I’ve spent years sitting in military classrooms from West Point to Fort Knox to Fort Leavenworth as the odd man, the outlier, the confusing character in the corner. It’s like leaving the church, becoming an atheist, all while still living in the monastery. Still, the truth is that the military is more accommodating than one might suspect. I wrote a critical book, published some skeptical articles, but it’s not as though anyone ever outright threatened me. The pressure is different, more subtle: veiled warnings from superiors, cautious advice from mentors….

Then there were the patrols. So many patrols. They were mostly useless, of course. Show presence, provide security, don’t get blown up. Then our kids started getting hit. It comes in flashes. Scrubbing your sergeant’s blood out of the Humvee so you can patrol the next morning. Cleaning up another soldier’s skull, fatally penetrated by a copper slug, his face frozen in a look of terror, trash from the filthy east Baghdad street beside his cheek.

The aftermath of car bombs in the marketplace. The haze of smoke and stench of burning flesh. Ordinary Iraqis: the usual victims.

Leaving the war zone. Back home. Alcohol. My driver’s suicide, hanging from a belt in his closet.

Time passes, another mate dead—overdose, prescription pills. Dead kids, my boys, and the wives and mothers I did not have the courage to face for years.

Nothing improved. Not really. The end state was Islamic State, fracture, more death, Trump, a new American crusade on the Euphrates.

Next was Afghanistan, the unwinnable war. The 13th-century irrigation system. Realizing the locals don’t want to live in our image, don’t yearn to be Americans. Knowing most villagers—at least down south—generally agreed with the basic contours of the Taliban agenda. “Allied” sheikhs and “friendly” Afghan government officials who grew the illegal poppy our patrols slogged through. Obtuse American colonels who wanted to wall off or barb-wire Afghan villages as if we were in Baghdad, South Africa or worse.

Discerning, eventually, as I sat on the sandbags of my small outpost—the Alamo of Kandahar province—that we only really held the ground we stood on. Nothing else. Turning down invitations from Afghan “partners” to attend their regular hash-smoking buggery parties. Explaining to U.S.-trained Afghan officers—outsiders from the north who didn’t even speak the local language—that they must stop torturing their own deserters. Appearances and all.

Watching young men lose limbs and lose lives to pad the resumes of aggressive majors who want to be colonels and colonels who want to be generals. Some could hardly spell “Afghanistan.” Still, they mostly succeeded in promotion. Maybe they’ll run the next war.

Seventeen years, thousands of Americans still there, and the Taliban control more of the country than at any time since Uncle Sam’s invasion. We may never leave.

Through it all was the guiding question: Has anything I’ve done—or we’ve done—made Americans’ lives any better? More importantly, has it measurably improved the world? What if we’ve made it worse?…

I’ll likely die a sad man. This much I know.

But for now, I can give voice to a different path, a nobler cause, a chance, at least a chance, of common sense, sober strategy and, just maybe, a semblance of peace—something a whole generation has never known. In my own minuscule way, I’ll try.

We, the few of us who care to question, owe at least that much.

Be seeing you

dying for nothing

Dying for nothing in the middle of nowhere. How is this defending the USA?

 

 

 

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

 
%d bloggers like this: