Bring Em Home

August 6, 2007


Many people want to bring our troops home from Iraq and Afghanistan all at once and right now. Many opponents of this proposed action point to the possible horrible consequences - suddenly without external support, slipping into chaos and violence. But no one seems to recognize the effect this would have on our troops and our nation if we do bring these men and women home.

It is an attractive proposition to most, bringing our troops home from the perils of overseas occupation from Iraq and Afghanistan. They point to the pointlessness of putting our troops in harms way without clear, achievable goals and objectives.

They question the rightness of killing more young men and women to occupy unfriendly foreign countries when it is precisely our occupation that creates and continues the hostilities against us. They also cite study, after study by intelligence experts and respected international study groups, that describe how our continued occupation of these countries supports and encourages international terrorism, providing justification and validation of organizations working to undermine our interests throughout the world.

But no one seems to want to ask what effect, bringing these troops home, will have on us here at home. After all, many of these young men and women have been away from home for years and we should at least know who we're bringing back home into our communities. Who goes into the armed forces and gets posted to Iraq and Afghanistan these days?

They're mostly people with few skills or education. They show a higher than average propensity for violence and a lower than average aptitude for cooperation and compromise. They also represent some of the most gullible and impressionable members of their generation.

Once inducted, these impressionable young people are indoctrinated in intolerance and violence - taught to indiscriminately murder people to achieve tactical objectives. They are taught to see violence as the answer to a problem. They are taught to believe that those in charge are not to be questioned.

They are told that they are heroes, saving the world from whichever villains are currently not on our side. They are sent out to maim and kill in the name of peacekeeping. They watch their friends lose lives and limbs, and again tomorrow, and again next week.

A six month tour turns into twelve, and at the very last moment, when home is so close that they can taste it, six more months. They cannot trust that they will not have to remain in harms way until death or severe injury takes them all. Intolerable insecurity becomes their ever present reality.

It is small wonder that many of these young people suffer severe and lifelong psychological effects. Many of these soldiers have been accused of horrific crimes against the people in the occupied countries. Abu Ghraib, Felluga, and Qandahar provide many examples of how these people have adapted to violent, irrational situations where psychosis means safety.

The Romans had a very effective policy when conquering and occupying a new country. They set up a permanent legion that was sent to the occupied territory to stay there. The legion never went back home. Since they were sent to the occupied territory for the rest of their service lives, they had a stake in their new home and had every interest in making it into a good place to live and raise a family. The only stake that our troops have in an occupied country is surviving to get out. Their day to day objective is not to fix the broken dysfunctional country, but to leave the country behind and go home.

Unfortunately, you can never go home. What you do in that country stays with you. It stains you and sticks to you. It affects everything you will ever do from that day forward until the day you die. We call it lots of things: nightmares, post-traumatic stress disorder, psychotic break, combat neurosis, and others. The government has never allocated sufficient funds to rehabilitate the returning veterans to their home environments, or to overcome the harm done to their bodies or their psyches. The armed services do the best job they can, but have been limited by their understanding of the problem and the budget available. The military mindset does not always see far enough ahead to understand that some problems can not have "cut and dry" solutions with a definite end point.

Now, don't misunderstand me, it is not their fault that our citizens have been abused and damaged in a war, which only profits powerful special-interest groups back home. But you might almost as well import plane loads of terrorists and dump these damaged people back into their neighborhoods without adequate support. If the rest of the returning veterans match those already repatriated, almost one in five will be a serious suicide risk. Spouses and children will suffer physical and mental abuse from returned veterans who are maladjusted to their home environments. It is not their fault, but is it really prudent to take these damaged people, en masse, out of combat situations and put them back in our neighborhoods? Social services infrastructure will not be able to keep up.

Before we start bringing these men and women home, we need to recognize their needs and make provisions for their special circumstances. We can't just bring them home and discard them into their communities. Their communities are not prepared for these heroes' return.

Valid XHTML 1.0 TransitionalCreative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Unported License.