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Elected Officials and ‘Boots on the Ground’

By Robert Fantina - Posted on 06 October 2014

               As the United States’ armchair warriors sit in their comfortable homes and offices and decide on which country it is time to invade, attack or bomb, little consideration is given to those that must carry out their decisions. Sound bites for the evening news are far more important that human suffering.

               The U.S. is forever inventing threats that can be used as an excuse to bomb someone. And now ISIS is the current bugaboo. Of course, where this threat came from is under a rather questionable cloud. “According to a report published in Reuters, the Syrian rebel group was trained in Jordan over the last two years by U.S, government officials and military experts.”[1] What the U.S. was thinking at that time is anybody’s guess. That is no clearer than what it is thinking now.

               This, however, is not unusual. In short-sighted attempts to overthrow governments that displease it, generally because they somehow stand in the way of U.S. economic or military advancement, the U.S. has been known to create other monsters. The Foreign Policy Journal, in January of 2014, reported the following: “With America’s massive and indispensable military backing in the 1980s, Afghanistan’s last secular government (bringing women into the 20th century) was overthrown, and out of the victorious Moujahedeen arose al Qaeda.”[2]

Additionally: “During this same period, the United States was supporting the infamous Khmer Rouge of Cambodia; yes, the same charming lads of Pol Pot and The Killing Fields.”[3]

               It has been said that preparation for war causes war; this is patently true for the U.S. Military contractors have powerful lobbies in the U.S., so the government must keep the citizenry sufficiently frightened to maintain a powerful army, navy and air force, along with a sizable reserve to be called out whenever the U.S. decides there is a ‘national emergency’, or when not enough scared citizens sign up for the U.S.’s version of contemporary slavery, generally misnamed military ‘service’.          

               The U.S. spends more on its military than the next eight nations combined (China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, France, United Kingdom, German, Japan, India: total $607 billion; U.S. total: $640 billion)[4]. This keeps military contractors, and the members of Congress whom they have bought and paid for, very happy. Unfortunately, in order to subsidize these contractors with tax breaks, money has to come from somewhere, and since the poor and hungry don’t have powerful lobbies, the U.S.’s already tattered safety net is cut further for the benefit of ‘national security’.

               So with more people hungry, what are young people, without the funds for higher education, and with jobs at a premium, to do? Well, the lies that military recruiters tell them are very attractive, as most lies are. ‘See the world’, they will say. ’Gain tuition benefits, all the while defending the precious liberties that only the U.S affords its citizens.’ ‘Help a struggling people overcome an oppressive dictator, and gain those same liberties every U.S. citizen enjoys’.  For a naïve and desperate youth, these lies can be very convincing.

               Once they sign on the dotted line, things are a bit different. The ‘cherished liberties’ they are supposedly fighting for are denied to them. The ‘oppressed people’, they often discover, that they are supposed to be liberating, are, in fact, being oppressed by them. The world they see is that of death, destruction, unspeakable violence and injustice to an unimaginable degree. And, should they survive to return home, those tuition benefits are minimal, and any help for post-traumatic stress disorder, which many soldiers suffer from, is almost non-existent. It is no wonder U.S. veterans are committing suicide at a rate of 22 per day.

               The above-mentioned armchair warriors pronounce lofty statements about the bravery and valor of the troops, how they are fostering democracy in this or that troubled nation, blah, blah, blah. They neglect to say that the nation’s troubles often started with a U.S. invasion, or some covert activity to destabilize or overthrow the government. But these pronouncements seem hallow and hypocritical, when these politicians refer to the soldiers as ‘boots on the ground’. Ultimately, to those who send young people into harm’s way in order to protect corporate profits, or soften up a nation so its leaders will agree to house U.S. military bases there, or for some other financial or imperial goal, all they are to them is ‘boots on the ground’. And, like any pair of boots, if one wears out, another is quickly purchased to replace it, with the worn out pair being immediately discarded and forgotten.

               Let’s look at some historical examples of the U.S.’s ‘regard’ for its soldiers.

·        A young man who didn’t identify himself wrote that, in 1887, he decided to join the army. Arriving at the Jefferson Barracks in Missouri, he and his fellow recruits were “met by uniformed ruffians, and assigned to quarters with as much severity as though we had been prisoners guilty of some atrocious crime.” The food, he said, “… was the vilest I ever saw,” and “…would have nauseated a hungry dog.” Yet at dinner, officers’ tables were “supplied with milk, sugar and butter.”[5]

          After losing twenty pounds in four weeks, and becoming desperately ill, he eventually sought medical attention at the base hospital, known as the ‘Human Slaughterhouse’. Said he: “The army doctor paid no more attention to the sick soldiers than to so many flies to be got rid of.” Due to this illness, one morning he was unable to dress on time, and was incarcerated as a result. “No murderer,” he said, “was ever treated with greater brutality.”[6]

Let’s look at more modern examples:

·        In 2004, Army Spc. Tyson Johnson III was dunned by the Pentagon for reimbursement of his enlistment bonus. While on duty in Iraq, Mr. Johnson lost a kidney in a mortar attack. Following surgery at the Walter Reed Medical Center, he received a notice demanding repayment of $2,700.00, because he didn’t fulfill his 36-month military commitment.  This ‘bill’ was shown as unpaid and overdue on his credit report. As a result, he was unable to rent an apartment, so he was recovering from his injuries while living in his car. The Pentagon eventually dropped its demand that he repay the money.

·        In her book, Growing Up Empty: The Hunger Epidemic in America , written in 2002, Lorretta Schwartz-Nobel said this: “To my astonishment, I found that hunger exists among enlisted personnel in every branch of the United States military. I learned that not only do our soldiers stand on our front lines, they and their wives and their children also stand on our food stamp lines and our free bread lines.”[7]

Two years later: “It has been reported that families of American soldiers working abroad, mostly in Iraq, have been left in poverty. According to American news channel CBS News, the majority of families are living below the poverty line, living off welfare benefits and charity.”[8]

·        In December of 2006, with the Illegal and immoral Iraqi war raging, then President George W. Bush made his annual photo-opportunity trek to the Walter Reed Medical Center. There, he said this: “We owe them all we can give them. Not only for when they're in harm's way, but when they come home to help them adjust if they have wounds, or help them adjust after their time in service.”[9] Yet his pretty words hid an ugly truth: “In early 2007 the true conditions at Walter Reed were exposed: suffering veterans languishing in roach-infested rooms, lying under rotting ceilings amid walls coated with black mold. Their needed treatment was often neglected, as records were lost and the victims ignored for weeks at a time.”[10]

              But what does any of this matter, since we are only talking about ‘boots on the ground’? Boots are inanimate objects; they feel nothing, they are only there to serve a purpose. Like guns, tanks and any other supplies, they should be maintained as long as they have some serviceable life left in them, but once they are no longer needed, they are to be discarded.

               This is what U.S. officials mean when they refer to ‘boots on the ground’. If they were to talk about human beings, it might be more difficult to invent enemies and start wars for them to fight. There might, although it is unlikely, be some hesitation, some recognition that these young men and women are not so different from themselves.

               But no, where would such a notion come from? Do these young people regularly dine with powerful lobbyists? Do they earn large incomes for very little work? Do they get their picture in the papers with presidents and other world leaders? No, they are dispensable, simply ‘boots on the ground’, useful while in good condition, but disposable once they are no longer needed.





[3] Ibid


[5] Fantina, Robert. Desertion and the American Soldier, 1776 – 2006. Pages 203 - 204.

[6] Ibid, 204.

[7] Schwartz-Nobel, Loretta. 2002. Growing Up Empty: the Hunger Epidemic in America, p. 29.




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