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The Bergdahl Thing
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It is so easy to gull the: the pack, the herd. It just takes a bit of theater. A brass band on the Fourth of July, flags whipping in the wind, young soldiers marching down Main Street, rhythmic thump-thump-thump of boots. There comes that glorious sense of common purpose, the adrenal thrill of collective power, thump-thump-thump. Martial ceremony is heady stuff, appealing to things deep and limbic. When Johnny comes marching home again, hoorah, hurrah. We are all together now, made whole, no petty divisions. The fanged herd.

Always the herd. It is in the genes. The herd. Basketball championship night, in a rural high-school: Bright lights, electrified crowd, cheerleaders twirling, skirts riding high. “Johnny, Johnny, he’s our man, if he can’t do it, nobody can!” Wild applause. Striplings dash onto the court, swirl into smooth fast lay-ups, cocky, confident. Long jump-shots, swish! Yaayyyy! Common purpose, unity.

For the seniors, next year in Afghanistan. Johnny comes rolling home again, hoorah, hoorah, minus his legs. From this we avert our eyes.

The herd. In a thousand Legion halls across the nation veterans gather on Memorial Day to make patriotic speeches. There are are clichés about the ultimate sacrifice, defending our freedoms, God, duty, and country, our American way of life. Legionnaires are friendly, decent people, well-meaning—now, anyway. If there were an earthquake, they would pull the wounded from the rubble until they dropped from fatigue. They are not complex. They listen to the patriotic speeches with a sense of being a band of brothers. And if you told them they were suckers, conned by experts, used, they would erupt in fury, because somewhere inside many have suspected it.

The herd. The pack. Whip’em up. It’s for God, for democracy, onward Christian soldiers. We are a light to the world, a shining city on a hill, what all the earth would like to be if only they shared our values. We, knights in armor in a savage land, we fight fascism, Nazis, terror, Islam, it doesn’t matter what as we can always find something to fight, some sanctifying evil.

We are very like our enemies. We do not notice this. Carefully we do not notice. Guernica, the Warsaw ghetto, Fallujah, Nanjing—they are all the same. Soldiers are all the same, wars the same. All are fought on the most irreproachable moral grounds. We fight for peace, for freedom, for Allah, for the Fatherland, the Motherland, for the Homeland, for white Christian motherhood. We do not fight for Lockheed-Martin, or for oil. Oh no. Even the suckers might revolt at dying for low-sulfur crude, or Caspian pipelines.

People are squeamish these days, so we hide the horror of what we do. The public might gag and say, “No. No more.” Besides, we do not want to discourage recruiting. In our Fallujahs we do not show the rotting corpses, or footage of the disemboweled as they try to crawl, god knows to where, while they bleed to death.

And we do not show Johnny with his new colostomy bag, or blind, or with three stumps and one partial arm, or paraplegic or, never, ever, the quads, paralyzed below the neck, lying on slabs, turned over from time to time to avoid bed sores. The public does not see—though I have seen—the seventeen-year-old sweetheart of the young Marine from Memphis, when she first sees her betrothed irremediably blind with half his face a hideous mass of mangled flesh—and her obvious thought, oh Jesus, Johnny, oh Johnny, how can I do this? Onward Christian soldiers.

In my day we girded our loins against the Soviet Union, the Evil Empire, that spied on its citizens, tortured people it didn’t like, and committed atrocities in Afghanistan, where it had no business being. We loved the Afghans. We wanted to save them from the godless communist invaders.

To protect people from communism, we killed millions of them, only incidentally making McDonnell-Douglass rich. Today we spread a swath of destruction across the planet, this time protecting people from Terror by murdering them with drones.

But let us not think of these things. At all costs we must maintain patriotic unanimity, the idea that Our Boys are selflessly Serving America. Actually they do it because they have no choice. Offer them a chance to come home without penalty and see what happens.

To make them fight we have heavy punishments for desertion, for treason, and for mutiny. Escape comes quickly to the minds of men compelled to die in wars that mean nothing to them in remote countries that mean less. Escape must be prevented. Thus the cries of “Traitor!” and “Commie!” and “Coward!” The pack instinct runs strong, but self-preservation runs stronger. It must be suppressed ruthlessly.

Flags whipping in the wind, thump-thump-thump, brass band, Stars and Stripes Forever, maybe a few F-16s howling overhead to set hearts a’pounding, unity. Politicians will speak of gratitude to Our Boys.

Except of course that there is no unity, and few are grateful. Most of the country isn’t interested in the wars. A majority don’t know where Afghanistan is. The wealthy, the Ivy students en route to careers in I-banking, and for that matter most college kids have never seen a military base and don’t want to. The small-town, lower-middle class South and West—the suckers grow thickly there. Yale has never heard of Farmville. And doesn’t want to, and won’t.

There is another reason why veterans rage at any deviation from the tales of nobility and sacrifice. Two choices exist for a man who has been mutilated in the hobbyist wars of Washington’s neocon pansies. He can believe desperately that he became a lifelong cripple in a worthy cause. God. Duty. Country. He can believe that he is appreciated. He can hope, or pray, that it was somehow worth it.

Or he can realize that he has been suckered, snookered, conned. This can be hard to bear, very hard. It will get worse when a few years have rolled by and the new generation begins to ask, “Wasn’t there some kind of war in Afghanistan or somewhere? Maybe it was Africa.”

Men engaged in killing for petroleum can develop a suspicion that what they do is just wrong. Soldiers are trained, conditioned by experts, to do things that the civilized finds abhorrent. If a veteran begins to doubt the justness of the war, then he becomes no more than a hired murderer. This is not pleasant. Thus no one must be permitted to say it. A contagion might result.

God forbid that soldiers begin to think. Independence of mind is dangerous to militaries. Training is chiefly a means of preventing it. Infrequently a soldier has the courage to see that what he is doing is both stupid and immoral, and walk away from it. Bowe Bergdahl did. I say, speaking as a former Marine in Viet Nam, and as a life member of both the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the Disabled Veterans of America: You have my admiration, Sergeant Bergdahl.

(Republished from Fred on Everything by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: American Military, Bowe Bergdahl 
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  1. Dave37 says:

    If I was suckered by Viet-Nam at least I had some backing from people. When I was suckered by Bank of America, I lost my house; when I was suckered by my workplace, I lost my job and the bosses got extra money; now I’m dealing with HMO’s and I don’t expect anything different; for those kind of events I’m pretty much by myself.

  2. Thanks for that Fred, and Ron for publishing it. I can’t believe how the colon-suckers are coming down on this kid. He thought he was joining the “Worldwide Force for Good” and found out he was working for the Mafia. Contract voided by fraud. Screw you, chicken hawks! (I’m talking to you, Denninger). Hold your head high, Bowe; you owed those bastard liars nothing, and neither do we.

  3. Rod1963 says:

    We should have never been in Afghanistan and Iraq period. Once we destroyed AQ’s bases we should have skedaddled out never to be seen again. We didn’t, instead we stayed and thought we could do some nation building. Well Afghanis thought differently, they liked the way they live and didn’t like us intruding. We didn’t pay attention as usual, much like Crassus ignored the threats of the Partians when he invaded their state or the Brits who thought Afghanistan would make a lovely possession.

    Here’s a tip, if the states main sports are feuding and a game where dragging a headless goat’s body around for days and weeks on end. You really shouldn’t mess with them.

    Iraq prior to our invasion was a tolerant secular state that allowed secularists, Christians and others to live peacefully. We did away with that, Christians and secularists got slaughtered thanks to our “liberation” and now the most favorite hobby of people is blowing each other up with car bombs.

    Of course our Neo-Con leaders and their obedient generals didn’t listen, didn’t think, didn’t do much of anything resembling cognition in regards to what we doing there and condemned many men to their deaths and others maimed for nothing.

    The sad thing is, we are ready to repeat this in Ukraine and Russia. Our troops will go off to their deaths with a smile on their face, knowing they are bringing “democracy” to the world.

  4. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    This article enough truthful bullshit to make it sound rational; it is, however, deceptive propagandizing from the progressive liberal playbook and no one party has been more adept at ‘pulling the wool’ over the eyes of the sheeple than the self-same, self-serving liberal pundits.
    People don’t fight wars because evil corporations ‘trick’ them into it.
    Iraq, prior to our invasion, was not a tolerant secular state that allowed secularists, Christians ‘n others to live peacefully. It was a state divided, ruled by a despotic thug that raped, pillaged ‘n murdered his population rather indiscriminately.
    The absence of weapons of mass destruction that liberal pundits as proof of the Bush lie doesn’t begin to hold water if one only takes the time to look for the foundation. Saddam had already used wmd against the Kurds.
    I could go on, but calling out these idiotic liberals is pointless. They are content in the freedom they enjoy on the backs of those they profess to despise.
    I’m reminded of the old saw, “if you constantly find yourself meeting jerks, you should look to your mirror.”

  5. Rex May says: • Website

    I agree with this whole thing, as I usually do with Fred, except he’s too quick to assume the best of Bergdahl. I’ll wait till his motives are clear. I blather about all this here:
    Let’s not be sheep. Let’s be wolves.

  6. Fred is correct. Some Other people need to stop drinking the Kool Aid.

  7. SFG says:

    I don’t know.

    I’ve never been in the military, so maybe I shouldn’t comment, but:

    My understanding is if you desert, you betray your colleagues. It’s not as if he refused to gun down Iraqi children or something like that. He theoretically put his fellow soldiers at risk at the time, and apparently other soldiers did die looking for him.

    I actually agree with the other stuff Fred says about war and hired killers and so on; there’s no honor in fighting for Shell Oil. But it sounds like he genuinely was a bad actor.

  8. Hunsdon says:

    SFG: I pretty much agree with everything you said there.

  9. Hunsdon says:

    Justin Other Smith said: Iraq, prior to our invasion, was not a tolerant secular state that allowed secularists, Christians ‘n others to live peacefully. It was a state divided, ruled by a despotic thug that raped, pillaged ‘n murdered his population rather indiscriminately.

    Hunsdon said: And now? Better in any way?

  10. I agree on the whole notion of our foreign escapades. All of them. Going back much further than Vietnam. Brave testosterone filled kids are pumped up with propaganda by evil bastards who will only gain by their deaths. Sent off to die for someone else’s issues and profits.

    But Bergdahl gets no sympathy. He signed the contract knowing he would go to the war zone. He went there knowing other dumb kids would risk their lives to save his. He agreed to do the same for them. And then he ran straight to the arms of the guys trying to kill these American kids. He didn’t run away in Germany or in Kuwait. He waited until he got into the worst part of Afghanistan and then bolted with full knowledge that some other mothers’ sons would risk their lives to come rescue him. He knew this. And yet instead of taking himself out without risk to others, by going to his command and accepting court martial for refusing to fight, he chose to endanger these other kids. Bergdahl deserved to die at the hands of the Afghans. He deserves to be shot for treason. Not for treason against the corrupt government, but for knowingly and deliberately acting in a manner he knew would get other American kids killed.

    Fred, I typically agree with virtually everything you write. But this is a step much too far. This bastard was directly responsible for the deaths of other American kids, kids who were out looking for him and trying to rescue him. He is as bad as the warmongers in Washington – maybe worse.

  11. Loud Zoo says:

    Mr. Reed and I belong to the same cohort and share many ideas and beliefs, but if Mr. Bergdahl did indeed “just walk away” (in the memorable words of Lord Humungous of “Road Warrior”), barring a nervous breakdown, there is a strong case for the “desertion” allegation, but it is not for me or in my opinion any one else here to judge allegations.

    The movie “The Deerhunter” should be mandatory viewing in any home with youngsters nearing military service age. After the movie, have them listen to Kenny Rogers singing “Awww, Ruuu-by, don’t take your love to town”. The late Major Gen. Smedly Butler’s book “War Is a Racket” would make for good reading for those young who have managed to maintain an attention span of more than ten minutes.

    In the words of a Viet Nam vet friend, a tank commander: “The service? Yeah, well when the Eskimos cross the Connecticut border, I’ll re-up, but not before”. Wise words, wise words indeed.

  12. Al says:

    Justin Other Smith mentioned a bunch of facts about Saddam’s Iraq… but forgot to explain why any of that was America’s business.

  13. Young heartland bucks should join the U.S. army for the same reasons and with the same realism Alaric and Stilicho served Rome.

  14. I’ll never forget the confused look and pathetic response I got from a “Proud Vietnam Vet” friend of mine when I asked him if he could explain to me the purpose of Vietnam War. With the verbatim answer (following a long pause) being; ‘Well, I don’t know – I reckon we were over there trying give them people some freedom or something.’

  15. SFG says:

    Alexander Irwin: I’d point out that Stilicho was actually loyal and was double-crossed (as far as we can determine after 1500 years).

    But it’s a point for the aspiring WN: command an army you can secede to form a white nation? I think the army’s too mixed by now. You wouldn’t have a set of troops whose loyalty could be trusted for that.

  16. The point was not ethnicity–the point is that serving Rome gave them state-of-the-art training that let them develop their own, varying strategies. Silicon stayed inside, but was outmanoeuvred; Alaric went rogue and exploited the confusion following Stilicho’s ouster. But neither would have had more than a handful of tribal rabble behind him if he hadn’t made a name following the eagles first.

    WRT to tribal loyalties, I think that only matters after the existing imperious has disintegrated to the point that the soldiers no longer expect the state to pay them. Polyglot legions were just as loyal to their aspiring Caesar commanders as the German mobs as long as they could expect payment. When the Roman economy seized up and all there was to fight over were feudal rents from the endeared peasantry, then we begin to see tribal loyalties overwhelm the preference to work for a Roman commander who looks like a winner.

  17. Autocorrect hates me. Above should read “Stilicho” instead of Silicon, “imperium” instead of imperious, and “enserfed” instead of endeared.

    I am filled with shame. 😛

  18. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    @Justin Other Smith. Have you served in Iraq or Afghanistan? Are you in the military? Have you ever served in a war?

    Speaking as a someone who has never been in the military, I am unwilling to send those who are willing to risk their lives for bullsh**t. Perhaps you aren’t so squeamish, though?

  19. If there were a draft, some of this ranting would make sense. But Bergdahl signed up of his own free will. Judging by his father’s public statements, it is more than possible he signed up just to cause trouble and screw up the war effort. That’s pretty pathetic. But it is not much of a surprise that his fellow soldiers hated him. Most young men join the military with no deeper thought than to get in on a good thing and prove they’re really men. Political philosophy has nothing to do with it. It has ever been thus and always will be. And young warlike men are always betrayed by truly evil politicians. The innocents killed by the five Taliban released by Barack Hussein will pay the price for Bergdahl. He and his father will probably laugh.

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