Hi - I thought I would post something from a friend who works for the military. This is a thoughtful and I think sensitive view, sort of from the inside, of life on a major base. Let us know what you think.
"The size of the US military as a whole leaves me speechless and overwhelmed. From my perspective at ground level, it's not possible to perceive the whole of which I am a part. It's almost unbelievable that a machine with so many moving parts can actually DO anything. It all seems unspeakably inefficient and wasteful. And because the Defense budget is sacrosanct, this has been the case for many years. I can't imagine the actual cost per soldier on the ground in Afghanistan when you add up all the logistical costs, vehicles, housing, armaments, training, food, security, health and educational benefits, family support, recreation etc. which back up those soldiers and Marines ... not to mention the rest of the million-plus number of uniformed personnel scattered around the world and all the government employees and contractors paid for their additional goods and services.
Then there's the fact that the Taliban is able to operate effectively and efficiently on a fraction of these monetary and technological resources because they live locally and are inspired by nationalistic and religious zeal. And it makes me laugh (tearfully and with anger) when I hear US military strategists opine that with sufficient pressure, the enemy will retire from the field, will sue for peace, will come to the table etc. I saw one report on television where a Taliban was laying his weapon on the ground with a grin on his face. A seeming surrender could only be a strategy. Our so-called "war on terrorism" is self-perpetuating and is doomed to bankrupt our country.
So that's why when I talk to infantry soldiers returning from this situation who are angry about having to sit in positions while mortar rounds fall around them, who are angry about their friends being killed, who are angry about the limiting rules of engagement, and who continue to be revved up and wanting to just go back in there and finish the fight ... I feel helpless and sad. Everyone who goes there is changed. Some face more blood and trauma, some face frustration and anxiety, all are trained to kill and many wish they could just do the job they trained for. Is it any wonder that when they return they do not easily fit back into the complacency of the civilian world, where war is a distant abstraction? These guys are very decent, honorable people who are asked to do a dangerous yet absurd and impossible job. Are we surprised when for some, their anger spills over into drinking, driving too fast, violent behavior, and desperate acts of self-destruction?
I'm including here an image of a stuffed toy, a beanie-baby version of a coffee bean dressed in battle gear, wielding a machine gun in one hand and a coffee cup in the other. I found this icon fascinating because it seems to capture something of what I feel when I look into the innocent young faces of soldiers who the Army tries to convert into "killers." So which is it -- are they sweet young men or are they killers? Is it a soft squishy friendly coffee bean or is it a weapon of war?