Build into this training the military’s age-old bias and resentment of women. Even with a force that now includes women, gays, and lesbians, and rules that now prohibit drill instructors from using racial epithets and curses, drill instructors still routinely denigrate recruits with words like pussy, girl, bitch, lady, dyke, faggot, and fairy, and still portray wives and girlfriends as out to take your money and sleep with your friends. The everyday speech of ordinary soldiers is still riddled with sexist and homophobic insults, and troops still openly peruse pornography that humiliates women and sing the misogynist songs that have been around for decades:
“Who can take a chainsaw
Cut the bitch in two
Fuck the bottom half
And give the upper half to you…”
The gist of the article by Helen Benedict is that Iraq (in early 2009, when she wrote this) was producing the most violent veterans of any US conflict. More even than Vietnam, per capita, where US troops suffered higher casualties than US troops in Iraq. Violence here meaning assault, homicide, suicide.
I have to ask, does this suggest that its not the (generic) trauma of war that produces (generic) behavioral problems in veterans? World War II vets were not as violent as Iraq (and now Afghanistan) vets are, statistically speaking. Doesn’t this suggest, in fact, that the latitude one is given as a soldier to mistreat people will correspond to the now-learned-and-practiced application of violence later on?
Two threads back, we were discussing some of these things, but this connection between expressive misogyny and war-violence (in and out of the field) deserves its own space. So does the consideration of the likelihood that the New Great Game is cranking out a toxin that will microdiffuse through the entire culture in terrible ways. We might be building a new generation of gansters. The suicides? Collateral damage?
Here’s and old TIME article opn violent vets:
For Harvard Sociologist Charles Levy, whose testimony saved the veteran from a murder conviction (he was acquitted), the bizarre case underscored the kind of psychological disorientation suffered by many G.I.s long after returning from Southeast Asia. Over a two-year period, Levy has studied a randomly selected group of 60 ex-Marine combat veterans in an Irish working-class neighborhood of Boston. Through interviews, rap sessions and conversations in bars, he discovered a common tendency on the part of his subjects to carry into civilian life the unbridled violence that served them well in combat. “They have learned to react violently, spontaneously and without premeditation,” says Levy. “It’s a situation that keeps them alive over there, but gets them into prison back here.”
The bald-faced criminality of these wars seems to stagger me anew every day.
NY Times April 12, 2010
U.S. Troops Fire on Bus in Afghanistan, Killing Civilians
By RICHARD A. OPPEL Jr. and TAIMOOR SHAH
KABUL, Afghanistan — American troops raked a large passenger bus
with gunfire near the southern city of Kandahar on Monday morning,
killing as many as five civilians and wounding 18, Afghan
authorities and survivors said.
The attack infuriated Kandahar leaders and could harm public
opinion before perhaps the most important offensive of the war, a
campaign that is intended to take control of the Kandahar region
from the Taliban this summer.
Hundreds of demonstrators gathered around a bus station on the
western outskirts of Kandahar, shouting anti-American chants and
blocking the road for an hour, according to people in the area.
The American military confirmed the shooting but there were
disputes over details, including whether the troops who fired on
the bus had first shot flares and warned the driver to stay back.
One of the bus passengers and a man who identified himself as the
driver said that an American convoy about 70 yards ahead of the
bus opened fire as the bus began to pull to the side of the road
to allow another military convoy traveling behind to pass.
The two convoys and the bus were on the main highway in Sanzari,
about 15 miles west of Kandahar city. All of the windows on one
side of the bus were shot out.
Troops opened fire on the bus just after daybreak as it was taking
dozens of passengers to Nimruz Province, said Zalmy Ayoubi, a
spokesman for the Kandahar provincial governor.
Some of the wounded were in critical condition, and the death toll
could rise, local officials said.
Mr. Ayoubi said five civilians had been killed, including one woman.
The Interior Ministry in Kabul issued a statement saying four
civilians had been killed and 18 wounded, blaming “NATO forces”
traveling in front of the bus for the shooting.
An American military spokeswoman put the toll at four dead —
including one woman — and said five people had been wounded.
The military spokeswoman confirmed that a convoy traveling west,
in front of the bus, had opened fire, but said the second convoy
was traveling eastbound toward the bus.
She also said that immediately before the shooting the troops
fired three flares toward the bus to warn the driver he was
following too closely, and that one soldier raised his fist in the
air as another warning. She also said the driver of the bus was
However, the man who identified himself as the driver said the bus
did not violate any signal from the troops.
“I was going to take the bus off the road,” said the man, Mohammed
Nabi. Then the convoy ahead opened fire from a distance of 60 to
“It is a huge bus full of passengers, and if they think we were a
suicide bomber, we are sad that the Americans have killed innocent
people,” he said. “We don’t feel safe while traveling on the main
highways anymore because of NATO convoys.”
Mr. Ayoubi, the provincial spokesman, said, “We strongly condemn
this action carried out by NATO forces, and we want a thorough
investigation of the incident, to find out why they targeted the
If the Afghan government’s casualty toll is correct, it would
suggest that troops fired scores or even hundreds of rounds. It
was not clear why such a large fusillade would have been directed
at a passenger bus.
“An American convoy was ahead of us and another convoy was
following us, and we were going to pull off of the road, and
suddenly the Americans opened fire,” said one passenger, Nida
Mohammed, who suffered a shoulder injury.
“We were not close to them, maybe 60 yards away from their
convoy,” Mr. Mohammed said.
A helicopter evacuated some of the wounded, he said.
“This bus wasn’t like an a suicide bomber, and we did not touch or
come close to the convoy,” Mr. Mohammed said. “It seems they are
opening fire on civilians intentionally.”
Richard A. Oppel Jr. reported from Kabul, and Taimoor Shah from
Kandahar, Afghanistan. Sangar Rahimi contributed reporting from Kabul.