The more elite the military unit, the more numerous its officer casualties during combat. Many outstanding officers earned posthumous decorations by leading their troops into the teeth of aimed enemy fire. Other, less popular ones were shot in the back by their own troops. Even hounds will sometimes turn on their master.
Paul Lackman notes that 1,000 American commissioned officers were “fragged” by their own men during America’s Vietnam debacle, according to official estimates. Live grenades were wired to their toilet seats or rigged under their cots at base camp, for example. These statistics could be doubled and redoubled by unreported incidents, casualties of accident or battle, plus incidents involving non-commissioned officers (sergeants)—all in all, a large chunk of total American casualties.
Armies tend to chew themselves up in any case. Officially, six percent of American combat deaths in World War II were attributed to accidental, ‘friendly’ fire: equivalent to lining up a reinforced American infantry division of eighteen thousand men and executing them by firing squad.
This is probably just another institutional understatement, (See No. 11 under “Big Lies”). Fighting in jungles, urban areas and other settings of limited visibility and intense close combat often induces much higher the casualty counts friendly fire, a problem aggravated by intense firepower applied to dense combat nuclei. Nonetheless, this is about par for most mechanized armies.
Officially, the US Government executed one hundred and forty-two American soldiers during World War II; a fate that befell at least ten thousand Germans, hundreds of thousands of Soviet soldiers and millions of unarmed civilians. It befell at least two thousand French soldiers during World War I and who knows how many more during WWII, between Free French forces and Vichy Nazi collaborators?
On the “field of honor,” the dark line tends to blur between tragic accident, heroic self-sacrifice and grim execution.
Just imagine you are patrolling hostile terrain with a couple dozen terrified, worn-out and filthy teenagers. They’re draped with automatic weapons and high explosives, and eager to bang away at any threat. They’re backed, in turn, by unimaginable firepower brought down sight-unseen by distant artillerists and pilots equally exhausted, stressed-out and fearful.
A standard American tactic in Vietnam was to lure large enemy formations into air power killing fields and artillery death traps baited with undermanned, isolated Allied units. American generals poured firepower across Vietnam, the way a gluttonous youngster might dissolve mounds of sugar in his breakfast cereal. Districts that contained millions of neutral Vietnamese were turned into free-fire-zones where every target (fixed and moveable) became fair game. Thus, ‘friendly’ fire became proportionately deadlier.
During the 1990 Gulf War, allied friendly fire and accident casualties virtually equaled the mortality from hostilities.
Until recently, crime and punishment, starvation, bad food, dirty water, exposure, (and especially epidemics) killed many more combatants than did battle wounds. Undiagnosed, war-related pandemics still plague modern combat veterans, despite the best efforts of their health officials. More Iraqi children died from embargo-related privation, than Iraqi soldiers from Allied firepower. We have become such conscience-suppressed barbarians, carefully insulated from our unacceptable results by weapon propaganda…
“More than 9,600 of the relatively young Operation Desert Storm veterans have died since serving in Iraq, a statistical anomaly,” wrote Dan Kapelovitz [in 2004] the reporter who interviewed Picou. Of those still living, more than a third – upward of 236,000 – have filed Gulf War Syndrome-related claims with the Veteran’s Administration.
“Research overwhelmingly suggests these ailments and deaths were caused by depleted uranium, a metal the military use in much of their hardware, so dense it can pierce through steel-armored tanks. But this radioactive material has a half-life of 4.5 billion years, according to renowned scientist Helen Caldicott. In Iraq, incidences of cancer, childhood leukemia and rare mutations in newborns have skyrocketed.”
Picture a main battle tank on fire. Its fuel and ammunition explode inside the armored carapace. The flaming wreck gives off a thin white smoke while it burns superhot, then a thick black one you can smell for miles downwind. That which would smoke first, besides the crew’s bodies, would be the vaporized uranium that seared through the tank’s armor to begin with – like a jet of super-hot sand blasting through a chunk of ice – and smears its interior now. That smoke-driven scum coats the landscape where desert rains slowly washes it deeper into the earth and out to sea. Every arid windstorm thereafter lifts a cloud of radioactive dust.
During the First Gulf War, more American troops got seriously poisoned inhaling the vaporized depleted uranium coming from exploded American anti-tank projectiles, than the handful that developed lead toxicity from Iraqi gunfire and bombs.
During the Second, tens of thousands more combat wounds and deaths. I can’t believe I have had to raise this inexcusable number every time I reviewed Learners. Don’t ask me why we've let desperate Iraqis get up close and personal with American troops for so many years.
Losses among the info elite can always be replaced from nearly limitless ranks of the info proletariat. Indeed, the quality of leadership improves as low-order chauvinists are entrusted with carefully narrowed responsibilities. Mercenary martinets are much easier to recruit and control than progressive populists.
Campaigns of political violence and terror favor political extremists over moderates until revulsion overwhelms the survivors. Then, for the sake of Peace, the worst genocidal murderers are granted amnesty. The Leaders take their bloody gains into luxury exile; the spear-carriers go back home and terrorize their peaceful neighbors. Everyone grows old nursing gory nightmares.
I wonder what life would seem like if half of our surviving neighbors were unpunished murderers and a third of our people were their dead or mutilated victims—as in Rwanda. What a waking nightmare! One endured by each of us during past lives.
There are so many of them out there, there seems to be no satisfactory way to educate them before the deed, or punish and rehabilitate them after. Learners will have to find new means to do just that, before this necessity reappears, God forbid. A valid Learner precedent for this mind-numbing task may be Reverend James Tutu’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission of 1995 in South Africa.
The Routine of Evil is weapon management’s most spectacular obscenity.
The contemporaries of Lot and Noah, as well as the fabled Atlanteans, are said to have perished from unforeseen consequences of the Routine of Evil. Once they embraced it, no alternative remained for them but annihilation. A thousand years after the Atlantis disaster, (ten thousand years? Such terms are thought to be interchangeable in ancient languages), I vaguely recall hearing that this society had indulged in arcane energy technologies that went astray—sound familiar?
It wasn’t Sodom and Gomorrah’s sexual gymnastics that God had condemned, per se. Rather, He didn’t appreciate the fact that humans began believing that the upright were fools, and evil, cool.
The visionary Edgar Cayce described the Atlanteans’ final conflict as a civil war. They had created human-animal chimera mutants that served them as slaves and intelligent beasts of burden. According to Cayce, two expressions of Atlantean social philosophy emerged: one forbade sexual relations between pureblood humans and these chimeras, whereas the other sought to permit it.
I suspect it was a little more complicated than Cayce’s narration. The first group probably instituted permanent apartheid, whereas the second advocated civil rights and equal opportunity for the chimera. As usual, their arguments sank to the level of: “We will never allow our sisters and daughters to marry their kind!” Cayce, a Virginian of the old school, reduced the argument to familiar racial-sexual terms and stood squarely on the side of the advocates of apartheid. Both sides destroyed each other in any case.
Read Paul Di Filippo’s book, Ribofunk, for brilliant short stories on the outcome of trans-human technology.
Whenever permissive criminality and institutional brutality become seriously profitable; when doing good becomes somehow effeminate, impractical and unwise; when political monologue begins to ennoble evil and impair our sense of right and wrong (the ultimate design of weapon mentality); meaningful activities grind to a halt.
In most cases, public morality helps to guarantee group survival. The wages of sin is death, and every sinner dies, one way or another. But societies only succumb to their internal contradictions, once they institutionalize their worst brutality. Here we are.
No one knows what (high) proportion of concentration camp guards were certifiable sadists and psychopaths; the rest were petty criminals, stupid opportunists and mediocre conformists who took advantage of brutal opportunities offered by their certifiable superiors.
Those superiors, in turn, carefully insulated their clean hands and dainty reputations from the brutality they had instituted. They established multiples tiers of bureaucracies to run a complex paper chase of pain, misery and murder. They were very careful to remove themselves from the process, both physically and emotionally. Only rarely would a few of them go slumming among their victims and pick out a few to torture and kill, as temporary diversions and an example to set for their subordinates.
Indeed, the harshest concentration camp tasks – barracks discipline, stoking the gas chambers and ovens with bodies, and then disposing of remains – were relegated respectively to kapos and Sonderkommandos: concentration camp trustees, on the one hand, and inmate untouchables on the other. Both groups, absolute victims of the camp system.
Thanks for the reminder, Micheline Petrouchevich, my mother’s best friend forever. She took me to see movies like Alexander Nevski and The Tank on childhood birthdays, to show me that Russians were a just people and just as capable of heroism, beauty and virtue, too, while my country was busy turning them into boogey-men fit only for radioactive world war.
Basically, concentration camps were designed to keep SS goon squads – handpicked from gutters and prisons of the Reich – from going insane. This mental failing was far too frequent.
If concentration camp guards had had to live, eat and sleep in barracks with their charges, the way army drill instructors have to nowadays, with their platoon, most of them would have developed protective feelings. Many of them did anyway, if only for a few beneficiaries.
Instead, personal feelings had to be compartmentalized. One mental ‘box’ stored thoughts of family, friends and nation; the other, a new universe of unbelievable cruelty.
We do much the same thing in our own heads, since we live in a global concentration camp that we refuse to recognize. We apply long-familiar double standards to minorities, foreigners and the homeless. Basically, those unlucky enough to stand outside our ‘good box’ don’t merit the consideration we give our pets.
Learners won’t let anyone else into the ‘bad box’ – at least not in real space-time. In imaginary, ritual and theatrical spaces, more likely.
As sang Elvis Costello, “What’s so funny about peace, love and understanding?”
Plus, he sang: “Every day, every day, every day, I write the book…”
Sing it, man, sing it to me loud and clear!
LEARNERS: On the Move from WeaponWorld to PeaceWorld