War II Syndrome?
Equipment and "Pneumonia"
By STAN GOFF
article originally appeared in Counterpunch, www.counterpunch.org - reprinted with
permission, Stan Goff)
understand the official military response to the mysterious "pneumonia" breaking
out among American troops in Iraq, we have to understand that troops
the unremitting vexation of Donald Rumsfeld and his "network-centric" techno-groupies,
troops are articles of equipment whose preparation
and maintenance prove troublesome. They have to be
coaxed into "service" with Army-of-One-style Madison Avenue pitches and educational bribes, enculturated to discipline and punctuality, taught how to
perform their various functions, then kept
in the job through a system of economic and psychological
rewards. Troops are the only part of the "tables
of organization and equipment" (TO&E is the
military's term to describe its units, not mine) that
have to be indoctrinated.
are a couple of troublesome aspects to this for the
politicians who control the military. First, troops
are not equipment. Second, indoctrination narratives
are perishable as circumstances change.
to harp about this, having been military for so long
and now being a very politically active leftist, but
no member of the armed forces is ever transformed into
the unthinking, unfeeling, lethal robot that thrills
the right and haunts the left. These men and women
start and end as human beings exactly like all of us.
They experience the same range of emotions, desire
the same outlets for their creativity, seek the same
human companionship, and are driven by the same intellectual
curiosity. They are not computers that can be programmed.
They feel loneliness, awe, pain, lust, confusion, mirth,
dread, appetites, and obsessions just like every last
one of us, and they exist in the same uncontrollable
mix of potentially subversive facts that we do. They
are the same combination of goal-directed willfulness
and unmanaged acting-out as the rest of us. They are
part of the same system as you and me, in which Wal-Mart
workers and soldiers are both necessary and expendable.
Like the rest of us, they can also get mad when they
find they've been had.
have to be given a special status, reinforced by popular
media, that equates their subservience to heroism.
They are dressed up in crisp uniforms so they can be
properly recognized and adored, and rewarded with colorful
medals and badges that hang like fetishes all over
those uniforms, and convinced that they are serving
some sacred purpose even when they are only slaking
Wall Street and the Dollar with their blood and sweat.
might be bewildered, as we all are, by ideologies of
chauvinism, consumerism, gender, and so on, but they're
still exposed to all that contradictory stuff that
life presents them. In fact, troops are often exposed
more directly to the charlatan character of official
horseshit than the rest of us. As middle class white
America comforts itself with the cake-and-ice-cream
of 'liberation' in Iraq, for example, the troops who
are the instruments of this wretched folly are confronted
each day with the generalized hostility of an occupied
people, and with the glaring fact that their senior
officers--whom they've been told to trust as leaders--are
now professional hucksters assisting with the sale
of war to voters and taxpayers.
troops often haven't had yet, and what many don't have
until after their tours of duty, is the epiphany that
they are equipment. Equipment with
an expiration date.
Department of Defense does not care if a soldier retires
and dies three weeks later. In fact, the Veterans Administration
bean counters would see that as positive. The Department
of Defense does not care if a soldier who was getting
out anyway, finishes his or her three or four year
hitch, then comes down with mysterious and debilitating
ailments, as long as that ailment can plausibly be
denied as "service-connected." Note how many
millions have been spent by the US government to deny that Gulf War
Syndrome existed, and how hard they've fought liability
for Agent Orange.
there is a "pneumonia" breaking out among
the troops, which may very well be related to inhalation
of microscopic particles of the highly toxic and radioactive
depleted uranium, a heavy-metal slag used in another
bit of expendable military equipment, US anti-tank ammunition.
press, as per standing operating procedure, is collaborating
with the Department of Defense in completely evading
the possibility of DU as a causative agent for the
respiratory malady that has already killed two perfectly
healthy young men and has dozens of others hospitalized
with some on ventilators. CNN's medical reporter, Dr.
Sanjay Gupta, has made the claim that the morbidity
rate is average for the population, a claim copied
directly from the Defense Department playbook. This
idiotic assertion, of course, accepts the premise that
this is one of the communicable pneumonias we all know
and love, in the face of clear evidence to the contrary.
There are no disease clusters to indicate that an organism
is responsible for the problem at all, but this doesn't
stop the spin machine.
of the over 100 cases have shown strep, and this is
boldly emphasized while the fact that ONLY two have
shown strep (which could very well be coincidental
or opportunistic infections) is underplayed. And the
boilerplate pre-emptive argument against toxic exposure
as the source of this outbreak is that there is "no
evidence of toxic or chemical exposure." What
is not stated is that when the most obvious etiology
is deliberately overlooked, the "evidence" is
unlikely to appear on its own. The military made its
mind up some time ago that DU is not toxic or carcinogenic--flying
directly in the face of scientific fact as effortlessly
as the military's political bosses stated the bogus
case of al Qaeda-Iraq connections and WMD's.
target audience for this kind of chicanery is generally
the US civilian population, but in this
case it is also the troops themselves. They cannot
be allowed to develop a preoccupation about the very
dust they are relentlessly exposed to every day, because
that might degrade their ability to perform their primary
or not this deadly inflammation is the result of DU
or some other environmental hazard, the troops are
being exposed to DU and a lot more nasty shit every
day, just like the troops from Desert Storm and its
aftermath, and they will likely eventually be disabled
at more or less the same rates--that would be upwards
of 40 percent. Troops have become a target audience
for the pneumonia spin, because their expiration dates
are any time after Uncle Sam can extricate himself
from this tar baby he has encountered in Iraq. Until then, just to cope with this
arrogant overreach, Bushfeld is
offering bribes all over the world for spare troops
and activating the Individual Ready Reserve--a measure
normally associated with direct defense of the nation
or general war.
March the sandstorms dead-lined their helicopters.
Now something is dead-lining the troops. But the troops
are NOT equipment, in spite of what Donald Rumsfeld
and his whole techno-fascist entourage might like.
We can tell them--and I am telling them--you are being
Stan Goff is the author of "Hideous
Dream: A Soldier's Memoir of the US Invasion
of Haiti" (Soft Skull Press,
2000) and of the upcoming book "Full Spectrum
Disorder" (Soft Skull Press, 2003). He is
a member of the BRING THEM HOME NOW! coordinating committee,
a retired Special Forces master sergeant, and
the father of an active duty soldier. Email for
BRING THEM HOME NOW! is [email protected].
Goff can be reached at: [email protected]
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