Sunday, February 18, 2007

Who Will Protect and Defend Our Military From the Bush Administration

Published on Saturday, February 17, 2007 by

Who Will Protect and Defend Our Military From the Bush Administration?

by Barbara Miller

Last night, I attended a MoveOn event, one of more than a thousand nationwide. Our principal agenda was to view the film, "The Ground Truth." The movie focused briefly on the recruiting, training and deploying of U.S. military troops to Iraq. It did not shy away from deaths-ours, theirs, calculated, accidental. However, the film's main focus was on women and men who physically survive the Iraq War, with or without all of their limbs, facial features and internal organs intact.

The "lucky ones" look much as they did when they left for war. But they're not. To some extent, they're soul-scarred humans who are sent home after their literal involvement in the killing stops. They are forever changed. They're also trained killers who have seen and participated in the worst the world has to offer. They must attempt to distance themselves from all of that when they come "home," however that is defined.

Just so you know, I'm not going to do a synopsis here. "The Ground Truth's" message is a visual thing, which is why it's a film and not an IPod broadcast. Click here and here for more information and to view a trailer.

It's not the best movie ever made, Oscar nod notwithstanding. But its message is profoundly important. Shortcut: "What the hell are we doing?"

"The Ground Truth" combines live footage of carnage and chaos in Iraq, interspersed with commentary from multiple military vets and a few mental health experts. The troop commentary was very moving. As was the additional commentary from some of their spouses and parents. Lives upside down and hind-side to. This is sacrifice that is rarely if ever mentioned, and certainly not by the Bush administration or the DOD.

Frankly, I wasn't sure I'd be able to handle this film. I don't do very well with graphic violence. It was hard to watch brutality, murder of children, a soldier whose face was completely disfigured by fire. Bodies and blood. Plenty of both. The things of war.

So why watch it? I can only answer retrospectively. I now believe it is incumbent upon every American man, woman, and child whose parents believe they can handle it to watch "The Ground Truth." That includes our elected officials. All of them. It is not enough to hear platitudes ("On behalf of a grateful nation and the President of the United States . . .") nor to see video of the occasional vet who has rehabbed from a lost limb. Oh, no. Not even close to enough.

George Bush's war has killed something approaching 100,000 Iraqis and roughly 3,100 Americans. But that's just for starters. How many inner lives and relationships have been utterly destroyed in the wake of George's war?

According to "The Ground Truth," to some extent, virtually every American assigned to an ultra-dangerous 24/7 war zone like Iraq returns a different person from the one who was deployed. Some of them are able to eventually manage their fear, rage and self-loathing. Many are not. And they may struggle with the aftermath of war for the rest of their lives. Or they may choose to end their lives. Some do. Sound familiar? Can you say "Vietnam"?

Do not tell me I'm an angry liberal. I already know that. The greater issue here is this: Why isn't everyone furious about this war and the one being ginned up as its successor? Why isn't everyone doing everything in their power to protect and defend our military from George Bush? If not us, then who? This is a humanity issue. And so I echo the refrain, "What the hell are we doing?"

Here's the real deal. George Bush sends American troops into the bowels of Iraq from his "beautiful White House." And each time he does, he is sentencing them to death. If not death of the body, then degrees of death of the spirit. If they do manage to survive, in whole or partial bodies, there is no bridge long enough to close the emotional chasm between the Iraqi war zone and home. Upon discharge, troops are required to answer (then and there) such questions as: Do you have PTSD? Do you have thoughts of suicide? Do you have thoughts of murder? etc., etc., etc.

Give me a break. Who can possibly answer questions like that with any degree of accuracy until there is some distance from war? And even if they can, admission that they may be experiencing some stress/distress means they will be held by the military for some indeterminate period of time and won't get to go home. What would you choose after six months, a year, two years in Iraq?

And so it is that our military heroes--and all of them are heroes--find themselves back home with little or no support from the government that sent them to hell.

I wept as I watched. What we have done to Iraq is tragic. What we are doing to our own troops is appalling. An image from "The Ground Truth." Boot camp. Soldiers in formation, row upon row. A four-beat cadence. (1) face forward; (2) chin drops to chest; (3) hold for one count; (4) chin snaps up, face forward. Repeat, shouting the following: (1) Let's (2) pray (3) A (4) men.

Barbara Miller lives and writes in Eagan, Minnesota. She blogs at