War changes people

January 17, 2012 • Dear Editor

Dear Editor:
I suppose we’ve all seen the picture of several Marines urinating on the bodies of alleged Taliban terrorists by now and the uproar it has caused.

While I don’t condone that type of behavior, I do criticize what I saw on CNN this morning; a group of reporters. mostly attractive, well dressed, well fed, and well protected young women, commenting and criticizing and expressing outrage at something they know absolutely nothing about. How close to war have any of them been? How many of them even know what kind of environment these young men live in every day. How many of them have been sent into combat day after day and deployed multiple times into war zones where each day might be your last? It takes a toll and changes one’s emotions and outlook. Sometimes they take it out on themselves … witness the high suicide rate among our new warrior class.

War atrocities occur every day on both sides. It’s part of the nature of war. [auth] These young men were caught and will be punished to make Americans think what they did was an aberration. It’s not. I saw things in Korea I would not repeat to anyone. I saw things hidden from the media in Vietnam, the Mai Lai incident not withstanding.

Killing and brutality is the very foundation of war. De-humanizing the enemy is a necessity if you are going to go out and kill them on a daily basis. There is no switch on the back of your neck that turns the warrior mode on and off. And the longer people are put into that environment the longer they have to become inured to what they see and do. There is no training that can make a soldier turn off his emotions and not lash out when his buddies are killed and maimed. Look at what happens in courtrooms sometimes when a family member of a murder or rape victim lashes out at the perpetrator.

I’m not condoning this behavior, simply understanding it. My biggest beef are those who are so willing to have us keep sending the same people to war over and over again and not understand the toll it takes on the human psyche of those who fight those wars on both sides.

In Vietnam the tour of duty was a year. Then it was over. That was longer than the troops in Europe during World War II were in combat. The period between D-Day and the surrender of Germany was less than year. June 6th 1944 to May 8th 1945.

In the Pacific the total number of days in combat during the entire war was about year since each island campaign lasted between 30 and 60 days with long lulls in between them.

Today we have young men who have spent more time in combat than in any war in our history. And it takes a toll on those few of them who have to live it.
This kind of behavior on the part of some of our warriors is to be expected if we are to be a warrior nation with 1 percent of us doing the actual fighting over and over again and 99 percent of us not knowing or even caring what goes on over there until some reporter sensationalizes a particular incident or event. You cannot sanitize war nor can you expect the boy next door to remain the kid who delivered your newspaper after sending him out to kill, day after day and year after year, without changing him. That’s the price you are going to have to pay if you want the “greatest military power on earth” to keep projecting and exercising that power for decades on end.

Defending the nation is one thing. Projecting American power at the point of a gun is something else. They are not mutually inclusive. One can be an advocate of a strong national defense and be anti-war at the same time.

Noel Sivertson

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