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Solipsist Invaders

Published by marco on

The article Risking Lives in Endless Wars is Morally Wrong and a Strategic Failure by Jesse Jackson (CounterPunch) makes good points that are summarized in the title.

It also cites very specific numbers for war dead on the U.S. side in Afghanistan and Iraq since 2001.

“VA data reveals that almost two Afghan and Iraq veterans die by suicide each day on average. That adds to an estimated 7,300 veterans who have killed themselves since just 2009, after coming home from Afghanistan and Iraq, a number greater than the 7,012 service members killed in those wars since 2001.”

This bookkeeping will age very poorly.

The numbers pale in comparison to the suffering and death inflicted on Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001.[1] The precision is especially galling when one considers how vague and hand-wavy the number of war-dead in the invaded countries is ( “about a million” in Iraq with no accounting of the millions of lives ruined as IDPs[2]).

There are other things wrong with the numbers of U.S. war dead: they’re far too low, of course. The U.S. does its level best to lie about the impact of its imperial wars—on both sides. If a soldier can be transported alive out of Afghanistan or Iraq, but then succumbs in Rammstein, then they don’t count as having died in a war theater. If their lives are completely incapacitated by injury, then they don’t show up in any official statistics. The heart has to stop beating to be noted.

Jackson’s article is about hearts that stop beating by their own hand: veteran suicides. Veterans of just the Iraq and Afghanistan wars kill themselves 20 times per day, with the suicide-prevention hotline established in 2007 preventing an average of 30 more per day.

“Hoh, wisely in my view, offers a broader explanation: that veterans suffer from a moral injury — a shock to their own sense of themselves, their basic moral values from what they have done or have not done in combat: The killing of the enemy, the failure to save the life of a comrade, the mistaken shooting of the innocent.

“Thou shalt not kill is a basic precept of all religions.

“In war, the state gives soldiers the mandate to kill. The military has perfected ways of conditioning young men and women to be able to kill in combat.

“Yet, Hoh argues, the conditioning does not prevent some from seeing themselves in the enemy, from feeling deeply the violation that comes from violence.”

I suppose it’s somewhat reassuring that at least those directly involved in the combat—those that confronted the so-called “enemy” dead-on—are still capable of empathy, of feeling guilt at what they took part in. Those who sent them do not. Those who sit idly by, mouthing military and jingoistic platitudes, do not. Over 50% of discretionary[3] spending goes to these wars; the U.S. actively funds them with its taxes and never raises a stern word. Quite the opposite: raucous and nigh-unanimous support for every coup, every insurgency, every invasion, every belligerence is heard from the people, its politicians and the media.

I suppose if those people can’t be brought to care about the wholesale and utterly purposeless[4] slaughter of others, then perhaps Jackson can awake enough pity for U.S. veterans to get people to stop war? It seems quite roundabout, but might be the only thing that even has a prayer of working. Unfortunately, only a tiny percentage of people in the U.S. even know veterans, much less are veterans—and they have no power whatsoever.[5]

Of note as well is how Jackson is forced to express himself in order to be heard at all.[6] In the passage below, he fails to even mention that the fallen soldiers of the other side—or even the countless innocent civilians callously designated “collateral damage” by U.S. military statistics.

“War is hell. It is hell for those who fall in combat — and for their families and friends suffering their loss. It is hell for those who survive it — and for their families and friends dealing with their struggles on return.”

He only mentions U.S. soldiers, veterans and their friends and families. I don’t fault him for it: I’m sure an initial draft had a few extra lines. But he probably cut them in the hope that his essay would gain a bit of a wider reach in a hostile intellectual[7] landscape where any morality that appeals to sympathy for our murder victims is considered tantamount to sleeping with the enemy.

[1] Also, we’ll retain this arbitrary starting point from the article. U.S. malevolence stretches back decades further in both countries. Also in other countries, like Vietnam or Cambodia, where the official numbers are also scandalously vague.
[2] Internally Displaced Persons
[3] In case it’s not clear, that means that this is the money that is “available for use as needed or desired”. It’s like the money you use to go to the movies or on vacation. This is what America does for fun, after all the bills are paid.
[4] It wouldn’t be justified if there was a purpose, but it’s often so diffuse. It’s supposed to make some people rich, I suppose, but that’s no purpose at all. The purpose is to extend the reach of an empire that’s denied to exist. It’s like Derrida or Kafka is Secretary of State.
[5] Neither does Jackson, for that matter, who the media has routinely pigeonholed as an ineffective whiner to silence his opinions over the decades.
[6] It’s Jesse Jackson, so the press has been ignoring him as a wild-eyed negro radical since his run for president so many decades ago.
[7] If it can be deemed that.