Wednesday, September 04, 2013

War, Rape, and Propaganda

A few weeks ago, I was lunching with an old friend who is a war veteran. He started talking about his service and how he feels about those experiences. He told me that he's always embarrassed when people on the street thank him for his service--that's something I've always done when I see a soldier, by the way. He feels like no one should thank him for the actions he carried out overseas. He feels like the military used him. He recalled an incident during training when they watched a PowerPoint presentation and one slide showed "our" military with a bunch of muscled US soldiers posing for the camera. The next slide showed "their" military and it was a picture of dead bodies strewn on the ground. He was so sickened that he had to leave out. Afterward, he told the presenter that he felt like it was an insult to their intelligence to use that kind of sick propaganda to promote the wars they were being sent to fight.

I didn't even know how to respond to what he said. The things that the military did to him were only slightly better than the things that they had him do to others. I've known this guy since I was in middle school. He served in both the army and the Air Force and was discharged honorably. I trust him and believe him. Though the things he said were terrible, I think that anyone who saw and heard what he said would believe him, too.

After thinking about that conversation over the past couple weeks, I saw this:

U.S. Army Private LaVena  Lynn Johnson, RIP
According to the U.S. Department of Defense, Private LaVena Lynn Johnson killed herself on July 19, 2005, eight days before her twentieth birthday. Exactly how did she end her life? She punched herself in the face hard enough to blacken her eyes, break her nose, and knock her front teeth loose. She douched with an acid solution after mutilating her genital area. She poured a combustible liquid on herself and set it afire. She then shot herself in the head. Despite this massive self-inflicted trauma, she somehow managed to drag her then fully clothed body into the tent of a KBR contractor, leaving a trail of blood along the way and set the tent ablaze in a failed attempt to cover up her crimes against herself.
What can anyone say that would excuse or justify what was done to this woman? All I can do is provide an explanation. The US military is a corrupt system. It is incapable of providing justice. There's a part of me that wants to amend that first sentence by saying that the US military is now a corrupt system. After all, like a good American, I was brought up with a certain amount of reverence for the military. The best I can say is that not all soldiers are corrupt. Not all soldiers rape and kill. However, it's necessary to recognize that these rapes are almost always acceptable in militaries where there's prolonged war. In the killing of POC around the world, they're already committing atrocities and having those atrocities excused. Right now, one in three women serving in the military are sexually assaulted by other service members. What happened to Private Johnson is simply another atrocity committed against a POC during wartime. We should expect nothing less, nothing different, in this situation.

1 comment:

Athomas said...

Thank you. War is by nature barbaric and I feel uncomfortable thanking someone for quite possibly killing another human being who is most likely not innately evil but also being used by their government to promote an agenda. Not like thanking nurses, doctors, firefighters, EMTs and police and others who are about saving lives, not extinguishing them.