This week guest writer Tamara Nopper wrote a piece here detailing her top concerns for the anti-war’s movement’s growing focus (and deference to) veterans. The Nation has published an excerpt from an upcoming Nation Books project called Collateral Damage: America’s War Against Iraqi Citizens, written by Chris Hedges and Laila Al-Arian. The book, according to Amazon.com is due out this fall.
Many people commenting to Nopper’s piece took issue with her assertion that there are some people who go into the military because they want to inflict harm or even kill people. Well this book seems to be asking soldiers precisely what is happening in those moments when they or other soldiers inflict violence, especially on civilian populations. From The Nation:
Over the past several months The Nation has interviewed fifty combat veterans of the Iraq War from around the United States in an effort to investigate the effects of the four-year-old occupation on average Iraqi civilians. These combat veterans, some of whom bear deep emotional and physical scars, and many of whom have come to oppose the occupation, gave vivid, on-the-record accounts. They described a brutal side of the war rarely seen on television screens or chronicled in newspaper accounts.
Their stories, recorded and typed into thousands of pages of transcripts, reveal disturbing patterns of behavior by American troops in Iraq. Dozens of those interviewed witnessed Iraqi civilians, including children, dying from American firepower. Some participated in such killings; others treated or investigated civilian casualties after the fact. Many also heard such stories, in detail, from members of their unit. The soldiers, sailors and marines emphasized that not all troops took part in indiscriminate killings. Many said that these acts were perpetrated by a minority. But they nevertheless described such acts as common and said they often go unreported–and almost always go unpunished.
As I asserted in the comments section of Nopper’s piece, “the anti-war movement needs to really begin to take seriously the point that people get involved in the military for more than purely economic reasons.”
The photo chosen above while seemingly innocent, illustrates these issues even further. The soldier, grinning, seems to have given these two young boys this sign to hold, which reads “Lcpl. [Lance Corporal] Boudreaux killed my father and he knocked up my sister.”
Whether these things acually happened is unclear, but the outcome is: Murder and rape (even if as a supposed prank) with a photo taken as a souvenir.
Full Disclosure: My book Letters From Young Activists was also published on Nation Books. But that is not why I am writing this blog.