Our service men and women are perpetually abused
and misled. Perks like priority airline boarding
won't fix that.
By Dennis Laich and Erik Edstrom
February 11, 2021 "Information
Clearing House" - Joseph Biden just
became America’s fourth post-9/11 “war
president.” He now ends speeches with “May God
protect our troops.” First lady Jill Biden even
penned a children's book
titled, "Don’t Forget, God Bless Our Troops."
Their son Beau was a soldier — and his parents
“burn pit” exposure on his Iraq tour caused the
brain cancer that later killed him. Both Jill and
Joe repeatedly foreground military and veteran
sacrifices — with good reason.
But just what is the best way for Americans to
honor and respect veterans’ sacrifices?
Responses to this question tend to be as diverse
as America itself. There's no single right
answer, but there are plenty of wrong ones. One
thing has become abundantly clear: America’s “thank
you for your service” culture doesn't help veterans
— or society.
Our country’s military is continually misused,
and no amount of pyrotechnics, flag-waving, priority
airline boarding, discount nachos, bumper
stickers or military flyovers can fix that. For two
decades, the U.S. government has knowingly sent its
service members to self-perpetuating and
That’s not patriotism — that’s betrayal.
Deception in broad daylight
A more effective alternative to such lobotomized
patriotism — and a better way to honor veterans'
service — is to get informed about how the troops
are used and to dissent whenever the military is not
used wisely. Historically, veterans sacrificed
plenty to preserve the rights that Americans enjoy.
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- This Is Independent Media
Return the favor. Get informed, demand
transparency, prevent the squandering of such
But respect for our military must begin before
they become veterans — before they’ve sacrificed
limbs, lives and mental health supporting bad
policy. Because by then, it’s already too late.
Instead, respect military service by ensuring that
everyone who dons a uniform — beginning the moment
when minors approach recruiting tables in high
school lunchrooms — has informed consent about what
they’re actually signing up for.
Isn’t it fascinating that many teachers would
never expose children to graphic images of dead
soldiers in classrooms, but those same students can
be misled in broad daylight, at schoolhouses turned
de facto recruiting stations? Consequently, American
youths could unwittingly become those very dead
Informed consent is a critical component of
respect. And if our society believes that images of
amputees or dead civilians — and statistics about
suicide, post-traumatic stress disorder or drug
abuse — are too explicit for underage audiences,
perhaps its military should quit recruiting
Therefore, we advocate for our Pentagon and the
rest of America’s war-making machine — the
ever-euphemistic defense establishment — to adopt a
code consistent with the American Medical
ethics opinion on informed consent: “Patients
have the right to receive information and ask
questions about recommended treatments so that they
can make well-considered decisions about care.” The
AMA guidance further states that physicians — in our
scenario, war doctors — should present relevant
information about the “burdens, risks, and expected
benefits of all options.”
Needless suffering, home and abroad
What, then, are some of the recruiting risks
For starters, a survey by The Washington Post and
the Kaiser Family Foundation reported that the wars
in Iraq and Afghanistan "have caused
mental and emotional health problems in 31% of
vets — more than 800,000 of them."
one of the largest surveys available on
post-9/11 veterans, “40% of veterans polled had
considered suicide at least once after they joined
the military” and roughly 20 veterans and
active-duty service members committed suicide daily
in the past several years — a truly staggering
figure. That’s “more
suicides each year than the total American military
deaths in Afghanistan and Iraq," as a New York
Times editorial board member characterized it.
Divorce, alcohol, drugs, depression, endless
“zombie” medication to mitigate endless deployments
— the whole nine yards. All of it ought to be raised
before any American enlists, but we do not know of a
single instance where a recruiter discussed the
risks of military service.
Likewise, because it is one of the most
traumatic, highly personal elements of combat,
recruits should recognize that America’s war on
has resulted in the deaths, often violent, of
more than 100 Sept. 11's worth of civilians from
Africa to Central Asia. In the final sense, war
offers only needless suffering. Ignorance to its
evils is more needless still.
Taken collectively, burdens and risks seem subtle
and are more easily dismissed. Most citizens prefer
to avert their eyes than view war through honest
lenses of fear, apathy, ignorance and guilt. The
Pentagon, incidentally, seems quite happy with
More money, fewer victories
Americans have hardly exercised informed consent
for their own defense. So few even comprehend the
immensity of Pentagon largesse —
the largest segment of the discretionary budget
— its tradeoffs, or that it’s
more than the next 10 countries combined (many
of them U.S. allies).
Informed consent’s absence extends to the
Overseas Contingency Operations account, a slush
fund designed by defense hawks to circumvent
spending controls imposed on all other government
Such consent-free exorbitant expenditures might
be excusable if they produced positive results. Only
the U.S. military’s win/loss record since World War
II is paltry at best: a tortured
tie in Korea; losses in Vietnam, Afghanistan and
Iraq; and embarrassments in
Somalia — hardly offset by the “big” wins in
small wars like
Panama. That scarcely justifies such
extravagant spending. Yet fearmongering from the
military-industrial-congressional complex, and
cynically crafted cries to “support the troops,”
stifle patriotic dissent.
Demands for informed consent are unlikely to
emerge among Americans long trained to quietly
capitulate to war industry whims. For now, it
might fall on veterans themselves to disavow endless
wars — the death and injury caused — and the
unsustainable spending underpinning it all.
Maj. Gen. Dennis Laich retired from the Army
after more than 35 years of service. He is a
graduate of the Army War College and author of "Skin
in the Game: Poor Kids and Patriots." Erik
Edstrom graduated from West Point and deployed to
combat as an infantry officer in Afghanistan. He is
the author of "Un-American:
A Soldier’s Reckoning of our Longest War." Both
authors are senior fellows at the
Eisenhower Media Network (EMN) — an organization
of independent military and national
security veteran experts.- "Source"
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