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A Jarhead At Home

Ex-Marine Anthony Swofford told his story about war in the Gulf. Now he’s talking about the pain at home, in his America.

Author Anthony Swofford (Christia Parravani)_

Author Anthony Swofford (Christia Parravani)_

When U.S. Marines get their buzz cut for training, for battle, they also get the nickname “jarhead”. Ex-Marine Anthony Swofford was a jarhead fighting with Iraq. He wrote about it in the memoir of war that became the movie with Jake Gyllenhaal. Then the jarhead came home.

Like many thousands of vets now from Iraq and Afghanistan, he had to make the adjustment to civilian life. That adjustment can come hard. Witness his own Vietnam veteran father, still on the road, looking for love.

This hour, On Point: Jarhead comes home. Anthony Swofford writes again.

-Tom Ashbrook


Anthony Swofford, a writer and former Marine known for his book Jarhead, published in 2003. His new book is Hotels, Hospitals, and Jails: A Memoir.

From Tom’s Reading List

Newsweek “All across America veterans are committing suicide at unprecedented rates, but no one has been able to answer why. Author and former marine Anthony Swofford gets to the bottom of an epidemic.”

Video: Book Trailer

Excerpt: Hotels, Hospitals, and Jails

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  • Zing

    No wonder Newsweek sold for a dollar

  • Victor Vito

    Maybe the sorrow comes from returning to the US and realizing what you and your buddies were risking your lives and well-being for. 

    • Hidan

       Sometimes returning Vet’s can’t shake the demons. I know a few like that and think that ones who need help should be able to get it. But I also believe that politicians who send our young men and women to war should be held accountable.

  • Yar

    Think about the concept that we are all connected by our brains.
    Traumatic brain injury can be physical and or emotional.  Like a virus, the injury is passed from person to person.  Considering a virus is simply destructive information encoded on a protein then TBI is a virus and TBI is a communicable disease.  We see our own emotional reflection in the response of others, when that becomes distorted, we have a difficult time maintaining our own sanity.  Treatment must start at the family level.  It is necessary for the family unit to participate in treatment for any hope of success.  TBI affects the whole community, this is a real cost of war and we have yet to face up to the degree of injury our nation is suffering.  We might win the war and lose our nation.  While this sounds oxymoronic, unless we treat our society for its war injuries, TBI will eat at our civility like a flesh eating bacteria. 
     Anthony, how much damage have you left in your wake of acting out?  How many people lives have you impacted in destructive ways?I am advocating for an inpatient brain injury center in our town. We should use two years of conscripted public service after high school to assist in care of our veterans.  We can’t afford not to treat Traumatic Brain Injury.

    • Hidan
    • http://riversong.wordpress.com/ Robert Riversong

      TBI is just one of the relics that troops return with, and is the signature injury of our recent wars. But PTSD has been the outcome of every war throughout history, becoming more prevalent the more powerful our armaments and destructive capability.

      We can’t expect to program troops to kill and then have them return to society with no de-programming and counseling.

      The fire of war must be tempered by the waters of tears, emotional release and emotional support if warriors are not to be left brittle and easily fractured.

      • Yar

        PTSD is a form of TBI. We tend to separate physical injury from those of different origins in our judgment of the individual. I am not sure that is valid. PTSD is a real injury. We need to drop consideration on how the injury is acquired and treat the individual with the best practices we can find. Pretending a person is not injured is the worst response we can give. We must accurately reflect their emotional self from a non judging, yet critical and caring perspective. Pity or sympathy can be
        as destructive as not caring. Empathy, understanding the person, and caring for their well-being leads us to tell the person when they are going off the rails. We can’t take the injury away, but understanding it together makes us all stronger. We have to work through this a a true community.

        • http://riversong.wordpress.com/ Robert Riversong

          You’re wrong.

          Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a physical closed or open head trauma resulting in cerebral hemorrhagic or pressure changes that are measurable and show up in diagnosis such as CT scans.

          PTSD is a psychological or emotional trauma caused by the experience of warfare (or other similarly traumatic experiences), that causes persistent impairment of function and inappropriate responses to ordinary stimuli. 

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/Victor-Taylor/655363708 Victor Taylor

            And what about the soldiers that didn’t see combat, but served.  The ones that were tossed about in the system (transferred from here, to there, with no rhyme or reason, provided).  To be lost in the system.

            I found out my unit was mobilizing, by seeing a story about us (the night before our movement) on the news.  When I called my unit to verify, my own Supply Sgt. (I was a 92Y) didn’t even know who I was.I show up at the unit the following morning, just to be left out.  Everyone was leaving, and I was going nowhere.  I wasn’t “on the books”.   It was like I was a part of the Company when it best suited someone else.  It’s not combat…but is there truly such a thing as Non Combat Related PTSD?I entered, as a reservist, back in October 2001.  My pay was late (I had a wife at home, at the time), and after I returned home from training, was when the madness began.  Can a soldier get PTSD as a result of Administrative Fuckery?  I have yet to seek a true evaluation (got out in 2008 – Gen. Discharge With Honor), because I feel ashamed that I didn’t actually see combat.  But I can’t deny the anxiety, depression, (and chronic unemployment) that has plagued me since I put the uniform on.There are vets whom are victims of this war, in more ways than combat, I believe.

          • http://riversong.wordpress.com/ Robert Riversong

            PTSD is specifically caused by intense or prolonged trauma. Many of the survivors and first responders at the Alfred P. Murrah building in Oklamhoma City also suffered from it. 

            Divorces doubled in the fire department and tripled in the police department in the years after the bombing, and there were at least 80 suicide interventions among firefighters.

            But that doesn’t mean you can’t get screwed up in the head by the way you were treated in the military. You’re just a Government Issue piece of equipment to be used and discarded.

            I hope you find the help you need. There’s lots of veterans support groups out there.

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/Victor-Taylor/655363708 Victor Taylor

            Yeah, tell that to my medical insurance carrier.  I called one place to get help, and was told that my insurance wasn’t accepted.  

            And then I was told “Thank you for your service.”  I think it was the combo of the rejection, with the cookie-cutter “Thanks…” that just screwed with my head, even more.

            Still stuck in a rut, but I’m not giving up.

            I just wish someone would thank me for getting out, when I did.

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/Victor-Taylor/655363708 Victor Taylor

            I do want to thank you for the reply.  It’s been hard enough to put these issues out there, to begin with.

            The feedback is is appreciated.

          • Yar

            It is interesting that trauma is in both but you deny that PTSD is trauma to the brain.  Yes, medicine may parse the definition, but that doesn’t change the fact that emotional trauma causes a physical change in the brain. Thus, I call that TBI.  PTSD and other forms of TBI may have a somewhat different treatment regimens, but both are real conditions that need medical care.  What do you think about the concept that these conditions left untreated are contagious diseases in our community?  

          • http://riversong.wordpress.com/ Robert Riversong

            You’re confusing two completely different uses of the term “trauma”.

            In medical usage, as in TBI, it means physical insult.

            In psychological usage, as in PTSD, it means a mental injury.

            You’re also misusing the term contagious as it is both commonly understood or used in the medical field. 

            Having effects on other people is not the same thing as contagion. You can’t get PTSD from contact with someone with the condition.

  • Sam Walworth

     I simply cannot believe this happens. I cannot understand, the nation who sends their young men and women to the harms way with so much fanfare and celebration, when the same heroes come home, they are left alone as rag dolls.

    Why is it that the congress who authorizes war and do represent the people from their constituents turn their blind eyes and continue to do just a lip service, where as these people whose lives have been changed permanently with the war have no where to turn for help.

    This is simply unacceptable.

    • Terry Tree Tree

      ALL the way back to the Bonus Marchers from WWI, the U.S. has recruited Millitary with promises of Money, Health Care, Education, and other benefits, that get pulled back, changed, or taken away, AFTER the ‘war’ is over!
         The G.I. Bill was the best-return Federal Program, paying back $3 for each $1 invested, in taxes returned, etc..   The development of new products, and new businesses from G.I. Bill recipients, was FAR MORE!
         Yet, it got REDUCED, and changed, without warning the vets that earned it.

      • Gerald Fnord

        To be fair, the Bonus for which they were Marching was a proposed benefit they had not been promised (cashing-in of their bonus certificates at face value a dozen years early), but this was at a time when few understood bonds…and your point is a good one.

        I’ll add that the college educations the G.I. Bill enabled helped to keep returning soldiers from adding to the measured unemployed—that and throwing women out of their war-time positions kept the returning forces from becoming an army of the unemployed, which scares those in power but should really scare everyone (see, at the risk of tripping the Godwin alarms: Freikorps).  But I guess we don’t have to worry that much about unemployment right now, and anyway, we know that if you’re unemployed, it’s your own damn fault.

        • http://riversong.wordpress.com/ Robert Riversong

          The bonus wasn’t just a promise.

          The World War Adjusted Compensation Act, or Bonus Act, was a United States federal law passed on May 19, 1924, that granted a benefit to veterans of American military service in World War I.

          The act awarded veterans a certificate based on each recipient’s service, with $1.00 for each day served stateside and $1.25 for each day served abroad, up to $500 and $625 respectively – to be paid in 1945 at 125% of face value.

          In 1932, after years of unemployment due to the Great Depression, 17,000 vets demanded immediate payment of the face value of their certificates.

          Herbert Hoover ordered General Douglas MacArthur to clear the demonstrators, and he used infantry and cavalry supported by six tanks to drive them out along with their wives and children, with their shelters and belongings burned, much as has happened at Occupy encampments). Some of the vets were killed by gunfire.

    • Gerald Fnord

      Shorter: “Vet, your glory is yours and ours; your problems are basically your own concern…too much trouble otherwise.”

      It’s a lot easier to hold a parade, or to cheer as a young person were sent off, than to deal with the often-damaged results, over and over again over time, here where they can annoy us and induce unpleasant feeling of guilt, almost as if the populace in a nominal democracy had any responsibility for what their state did.
      This is especially difficult in our society, which values individual initiative and whose default position (in the face of all reality) is that we each get what we deserve…it’s especially cruel to people who have been damaged by their forced participation, however voluntary it might have been at the start, in the most collectivist institution imaginable.

      I’d like to agree with you that it were “unacceptable”, but we seem to accept it.

  • Terry Tree Tree

    The ‘planners’ and ‘deciderers’ of the last two wars, did NOT plan for the real costs of the wars, and did NOT prepare for the damaged millitary personnel!
       THEY and their CRONIES made MONEY off it, though!
       ‘Conservative’?  Of WHAT?

    • John C

      Pointing your finger at the source and blaming them doesn’t help the veteran trying to readjust to civilian life.

      • J__o__h__n

        Not holding them accountable doesn’t prevent it from happenning again. 

        • John C

          You’re talking about something in the future, avoiding conflict.  Hey that’s great, but it’s off-topic, and does nothing to address veterans’ trying to readjust NOW.

          • J__o__h__n

            We should be able to do both.  Only focusing on short term problems is not wise. 

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/Victor-Taylor/655363708 Victor Taylor

            Look at Iraq and Afghanistan, as an example of supporting your  position, J_o_h_n.

      • Terry Tree Tree

        When face to face, one to one, I DO try to help my fellow veterans re-adjust to civillian life. 
           If you have read my comments, for months, you’d see that I do a bit, as a Volunteer Fire-Fighter, and Volunteer Rescue Squad member, to help my fellow man. 
            WHAT do the GREEDY rich do?

    • http://riversong.wordpress.com/ Robert Riversong

      Not “conservative” but inhumane.

  • John C

    For me, mainly it’s been an issue of being removed from my comfort zone of similarly minded men.  Of being removed from a group who see ourselves as generally morally superior.  Of trying to fit in amongst a large group of people who we find so damned little in common with, but who generally appreciate us but do not understand us.

    Every vet’s experiences are somewhat different, so I can’t speak for everyone else’s, but I left active duty in 1992, and had so much trouble adjusting that I didn’t stay in any job for more than a couple of years.  Just recently has that changed for me.

    And please spare me the political rhetoric and finger pointing.  The left is already held in suspicion by many veterans because of Vietnam, it will find little traction with about 90% of us.

    Semper Fi, Swofford.

    3/6 Wpns Co 1988-1992
    0351 USMC

    • http://riversong.wordpress.com/ Robert Riversong

      The overwhelming majority of Vietnam grunts were actively opposed to that war, and actively supported the civilian anti-war movement.

      Get your history right and don’t pretend to speak for 90% of vets.

      • John C

        Don’t put words in my mouth that I have not said, buddy.  And who did you serve with, may I ask?

        • http://riversong.wordpress.com/ Robert Riversong

          I’m not your “buddy” and I don’t put words in anyone’s mouth.

          You said “The left is already held in suspicion by many veterans because of Vietnam, it will find little traction with about 90% of us.”

          You’re full of shit.

          And I knew enough not to serve in that imperialist war. I burned my draft card and served on the streets, trying to bring our boys home.

          But, unlike you, I know the history of that war. It ended mostly because there was a service-wide near mutiny.

          By 1970, the U.S. Army had 65,643 deserters, roughly the equivalent of four infantry divisions. In an article published in the Armed Forces Journal (June 7, 1971), Marine Colonel Robert D. Heinl Jr., a veteran combat commander with over 27 years experience in the Marines, and the author of Soldiers Of The Sea, a definitive history of the Marine Corps, wrote:

          “By every conceivable indicator, our army that remains in Vietnam is in a state approaching collapse, with individual units avoiding or having refused combat, murdering their officers and non-commissioned officers, drug-ridden, and dispirited where not near mutinous. Elsewhere than Vietnam, the situation is nearly as serious… Sedition, coupled with disaffection from within the ranks, and externally fomented with an audacity and intensity previously inconceivable, infest the Armed Services…”

          By 1972 roughly 300 anti-war and anti-military newspapers, with names like Harass the Brass, All Hands Abandon Ship and Star Spangled Bummer had been put out by enlisted people.

          By 1970 one GI went AWOL every three minutes. From January of ’67 to January of ’72 a total of 354,112 GIs left their posts without permission, and at the time of the signing of the peace accords 98,324 were still missing.

          • John C

            Nice profanity.  I bet you’re real proud of yourself.  And yes, I don’t recall the political right denigrating veterans like you are engaging in _right now_.

            You only prove my point, and advance my argument.

          • http://riversong.wordpress.com/ Robert Riversong

            The political right celebrates war, freely sends young men and women to fight and die for them, and then defunds the VA and other necessary services.

            You don’t recall much since you are too young (and ignorant) to know.

          • John C

            Well gee, thanks for your (non) service. 

            I’m not exactly sure how everything you’ve said does anything to help a single veteran transition back to civilian life.

            Doesn’t seem like you know what it’s like on my side of the fence.

            But considering your arrogance combined with cherry-picked statistics, I don’t think it matters one whit.

            You’re a blowhard, exercising the right to free speech for which I paid.  So go ahead, trash me some more with personal attacks on me (of who you know precious little of, and obviously don’t care), you are a troll, sir, and I pronounce you irrelevant to this discussion…

          • http://riversong.wordpress.com/ Robert Riversong

            If you think the only way to serve the nation is by killing the people of other nations, then you don’t understand service.

            I’ve given my entire life in service to my community and the world.

            And nothing you’ve ever done has protected my freedoms. In fact, war always undermines domestic freedoms, as we have seen from the Patriot Act and the recent National Defense Authorization Act.

            I have offered historical facts to support my statements, while you offer nothing but ignorance-based opinions.

            When you’re ready to grow up, perhaps you’ll have something to contribute to this discussion and to society.

          • John C

            Your pathetic attempts to pigeonhole me are laughable.  You’re a joke, you assume facts not yet in evidence.   

          • http://riversong.wordpress.com/ Robert Riversong

            I make no assumptions. I respond to what you post. If you can’t tolerate a legitimate response then don’t post.

          • John C

            I asked what military unit you served with since you seem so eager to speak on behalf of Vietnam Veterans.

          • http://riversong.wordpress.com/ Robert Riversong

            I speak on behalf of history, which you ignore and deny.

          • John C

            I could point to many politicians on the left who sowed the seeds for our future military conflict participations (Roosevelt, Kennedy, Johnson, Carter), and argue you point for point on every single statement you make, but it changes nothing about Swofford’s experience, and mine, in coming home, and trying to readjust to the civilian world.

            Stop trying to turn this into a defense of our past military adventurism.  Swofford’s book seems to be an attempt to reconcile the two worlds which every veteran has inhabited.

          • http://riversong.wordpress.com/ Robert Riversong

            Nice Orwellian in version. You volunteered to support US military adventurism. I have opposed every US war since Vietnam.

            So just who here is in defense of our  military adventurism?  

            You made a mistake. Be man enough to own up to it and you might find it easier to adjust to civilian life.

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/Victor-Taylor/655363708 Victor Taylor

            Robert Riversong: ”
            And I knew enough not to serve in that imperialist war. I burned my draft card and served on the streets, trying to bring our boys home.”

            - – And that’s why, as a citizen/civilian, I am ashamed that we didn’t fight hard enough to prevent these wars from happening in the first place.   we say we support our troops, but if we really did I believe that we would have never allowed the invasion of Iraq to happen – period.  

            It is our duty, as citizens, to protect our troops from being used in immoral ways, as much as possible.    

            Is it fair to say that our country let our service members down by letting them go off to a war based on complete and total lies?  

          • http://riversong.wordpress.com/ Robert Riversong

            Remember that the world (including the US) saw the largest coordinated anti-war protests before the war began, but that didn’t stop Bush and Cheney from lying their way into it anyway.

            It was part of the neo-con Project for a New American Century playbook before Bush got elected, and they were intent on implementing global US “full-spectrum dominance” regardless of what we the people wanted.

            So don’t be too hard on yourself. 

          • John C

            Interesting stats, but I served in the All-volunteer military, as did the majority of my peers.

            You are conflating facts with things that do not have any real bearing on veterans transitioning back into civilian life.

        • John C

          And I am not speaking on 90% of veterans.  It’s just that the Left has had a funny way of showing it’s appreciation of the military.  I am a veteran, you are not.

  • Terry Tree Tree

    My best wishes to each and every Veteran!  Non-veterans have little idea what they are talking about.  Just as us Non-combat veterans know about combat.
       The corporations and other people that PROFITED from the wars, need to be taking care of their casualties!   Instead, they  get tax cuts as ‘job-creators’, and DON’T create jobs!  These GREEDY rich leave the costs of their profits to the average working tax-payer!

  • Charles Vigneron

    Robert and Constance Mason have gone down this road. ‘Jarhead’ & ‘Chickenhawk’ being the finest books of war I’ve read. Good program!

    • Charles Vigneron


  • superfinehelios

    Sooo…what is this author doing to help is other marine brothers out? Sounds like he had a lot of money and time and wasted it. Just telling this story and making money off of it really doesn’t count for much in my book. I’d sure like to know if he’s helping out other marines or just profiting off war. FYI..I come from a military family (father in Vietnam, 1 brother in 82nd airborne combat grunt in Gulf War, 1 brother an officer marine corp helicopter pilot in Iraq/Afghanistan.)

    • Cara Stella

       Hi There,

      I happen to know that Tony supports disabled vets through a yearly conference and ski clinic. He also teaches vets how to write their stories and does so at no charge. He has dedicated his life to helping vets.

  • Webb Nichols

    Swofford should consider himself lucky. His creativity, his creative outlet gives him a release, an escape from the tryanny of war which most veterans do not have.. 

    Being alive, being a human being, is not easy for anybody. There is pain, there is suffering along the way. 

    No one’s grief is special or unique it is shared and lived by 
    others who remain unknown in the silence and anonymity of history.

  • Guest

    I’d like to know if forgiveness make up for decades of living with a ‘real bastard’?

    • http://riversong.wordpress.com/ Robert Riversong

      Forgiveness isn’t aimed at helping the perpetrator. It’s about helping you let go of the anger, bitterness and sense of victimhood.

      • brettearle

        I don’t agree.

        Forgiveness can also help the vicitmizer.

        • http://riversong.wordpress.com/ Robert Riversong

          I didn’t say it couldn’t. But that’s not its primary purpose.

      • Guest

        My question isn’t about helping the perpetrator.  My question still stands, does the forgiveness make up for the decades of abuse whether you are victim or perpetrator?

        • http://riversong.wordpress.com/ Robert Riversong

          What do you mean “makes up for”?

          Nothing will change the past. Forgiveness is about accepting the past, releasing the negative baggage that you’re carrying, learning its lessons, and moving on.

  • Kate, Nashville TN

    I’d like to agree with the author, not all military fathers are as cruel as the examples that have been offered. MY father was a Captain in the Army, an engineer and a wonderful man. He never  ran our family like his platoon. When he was home, he wasn’t Cpt. Tom, he was just an encouraging loving dad. My Grandfather saw action under Patton in WW2 and, while he wouldn’t speak about the horrors he had seen in the war, he was possibly, along with my father, one of the most influential and inspirational male figures in my life. My father and grandfather not only endowed me with a sense of pride in our history as a military family, but also set the gold standard for the way a man should conduct himself in life. 

  • Mary

    The author has a 9 month old daughter, and behaved badly around women…. Does he realize that it is Karma’s way of kicking in the (well you know what I mean) …..  for how he behaved towards women..

    • brettearle

      That is a psychobable’s way of explaining behavior.

      It is easy to see karma–everywhere, if you look for it.

      Karma may, indeed, be a real phenomenon–but it doesn’t necessarily mean that it works, in a way, that it often, or sometimes, or always, is going to vindicate the way women are treated….or the way anyone is treated, for that matter.  

  • Hapuchi

    Americans should elect a responsible and mature Commander In Chief (President) who will not start war on the basis of his whims with complete disregards for lives of young men and women and their families. We paid a very high price in terms of Human suffering on all sides for a unnecessary war in Iraq

    • http://riversong.wordpress.com/ Robert Riversong

      Every US war since the Revolution has been unnecessary.

      And all presidents engage in warfare. The United States has engaged in 191 military actions since its inception – almost one for every year of our existence as a nation.

      • brettearle

        Even some Doves wouldn’t agree with you about Afghanistan or Gulf War I.

        • http://www.facebook.com/people/Victor-Taylor/655363708 Victor Taylor

          Hawks in doves clothing? Even doves can get paid off. After all, they’re still politicians. 

        • http://riversong.wordpress.com/ Robert Riversong

          Any one who was aware of the facts would agree.

          The US instigated the Gulf War by tricking Saddam into attacking Kuwait. We sold Kuwait slant drilling technology so they could steal oil from under Iraqi territory, and made sure that the royal family demanded immediate repayment of their loans to Iraq (for fighting Iran) at a time when the nation was trying to recover and rebuild after eight years of warfare.

          When Saddam (twice) asked the US Ambassador, April Glaspie, whether the US had any strategic interest in Kuwait, he was told “no”, which he took as permission to invade.

          Norman Schwarzkopf engaged in an Iraqi invasion wargame before Saddam invaded Kuwait, and the CIA predicted the Iraqi invasion on the exact date it occurred.

          Then Bush undermined the withdrawal negotiated by King Hussein of Jordan, and began sending troops before Saudi Arabia officially requested them.

          But, like with the fake WMDs a decade later, the Saudis were shown faked satellite images of Iraqi tanks getting ready to invade their country. We needed the permission of our Saudi allies as cover to invade.

          Then, when the Soviet Union negotiated another withdrawal agreement with Saddam, Colin Powell undermined it, forcing a military confrontation (which our troops said was like shooting fish in a barrel). 

          As for Afghanistan, UNOCAL was trying to negotiate a gas pipeline project with the Taliban, but the talks collapsed. So they told the Congress that they would not reopen negotiations until we got rid of the Taliban. We did, on the pretense that they wouldn’t turn over bin Laden, which they had offered to do to a third party if we could show them proof of his complicity in the 9/11 attacks. And then we installed a UNOCAL executive as president of Afghanistan and the pipeline is getting built (with most US bases along the pipeline route).

          • brettearle

            State your sources that the Taliban offered to give up bin Laden to a third party–if they were handed proof of bin Laden’s complicity.

            And if it’s true, how do you know that the US didn’t show documentation of complicity and that US intelligence was misbelieved? 

            Why wasn’t there opposition, at  the UN, to the Right-of-Self-Defense sanction, given to the US, before our troops went in there?

            Given that the pipeline was a major factor–and I think it might very well have been–do you actually believe that the Taliban didn’t offer a safe haven of survival, and development, for Al Qaeda?

            And if you believe that to be the case, do you wish to say that underneath it all, the US couldn’t have cared less for eviscerating Al Qaeda–because the US Government WAS actually behind 9/11?

            Is that where your argument’s ultimately heading?  

            Maybe it isn’t.

            And, if it isn’t, I’m afraid that you would be hard pressed not to recognize that the US had much more at stake than the pipeline, for invading Afghanistan:

            to wit, Al Qaeda.

            Of course the international cooperation, of going after Al Qaeda, I suppose is simply a Wag the Dog Illusion–organized and enabled by the high-tech deceptive techniques of Mainstream Media? 

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/Victor-Taylor/655363708 Victor Taylor

            Do you recall Condoleza Rice saying that we had evidence of Osama Bin Laden’s involvement in the terrorist attacks on 9/11?  I sure as  hell do.  Do you remember when that evidence was produced?  I sure as hell don’t.  We never got it.  

          • http://riversong.wordpress.com/ Robert Riversong

            Apparently, you’re completely incapable of doing independent research (short of watching Faux News).

            Bush rejects Taliban offer to hand Bin Laden over

            Taliban demand evidence of Bin Laden’s guilt


            guardian.co.uk, Sunday 14 October 2001

            President George Bush rejected as “non-negotiable” an offer by the Taliban to discuss turning over Osama bin Laden if the United States ended the bombing in Afghanistan.

            Returning to the White House after a weekend at Camp David, the president said the bombing would not stop, unless the ruling Taliban “turn [bin Laden] over, turn his cohorts over, turn any hostages they hold over.” He added, “There’s no need to discuss innocence or guilt. We know he’s guilty”. In Jalalabad, deputy prime minister Haji Abdul Kabir – the third most powerful figure in the ruling Taliban regime – told reporters that the Taliban would require evidence that Bin Laden was behind the September 11 terrorist attacks in the US, but added: “we would be ready to hand him over to a third country”.

            Why did Bush simply assert “we know he’s guilty” and refuse to turn over evidence of guilt – perhaps because we’ve never had any such evidence. 

            The FBI says on its Bin Laden web page that Usama Bin Laden is wanted in connection with the August 7, 1998 bombings of the United States Embassies in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and Nairobi, Kenya. On June 5, 2006, the Muckraker Report contacted the FBI Headquarters,
            (202) 324-3000, to learn why Bin Laden’s Most Wanted poster did not indicate that Usama was also wanted in connection with 9/11. The Muckraker Report spoke with Rex Tomb, Chief of Investigative Publicity for the FBI. When asked why there is no mention of 9/11 on Bin Laden’s Most Wanted web page, Tomb said, “The reason why 9/11 is not mentioned on Usama Bin Laden’s Most Wanted page is because the FBI has no hard evidence connecting Bin Laden to 9/11.” 

      • jefe68

        Really? So the Civil War was unnecessary?
        I suppose the US should have stayed out WW2 as well and let the nazis slaughter the millions of Jews, Slavs and Gypsies that was the agenda of the final solution.

        What of the Japanese Imperialistic invasion of Asia?
        What of the slaughter of millions of Chinese and other Asian people?

        What is amazing to me about your comment how removed it is from the reality that the US faced in WW2. We really did not have much of a choice, if the US stayed out of it all of Europe would have collapsed into the nazis realm. The idea of that is quite scary, and that you would make such a comment is very telling.

        • http://riversong.wordpress.com/ Robert Riversong

          90% of Americans had no interest in getting involved in another European war prior to Pearl Harbor, which Roosevelt allowed to happen in order to get the American people willing to wage war.

          Many of the most powerful US corporate and financial elites were supporting Hitler, including Ford, General Motors, Du Pont, Union Carbide, Westinghouse, General Electric, Gilette, Goodrich, Singer, Eastman Kodak, Coca-Cola, IBM, ITT, Randolph Hearst, and many American law firms, investment companies, and banks such as the Wall Street law firm Sullivan & Cromwell, the banks J. P. Morgan and Dillon, Read and Company, as well as the Union Bank of New York, owned by Brown Brothers & Harriman and managed by Prescott Bush, grandfather of George W. Bush.

          These are some of the same people who tried to recruit retired Marine Major General Smedley Butler to state a fascist coup against Roosevelt.

          “Fascism is on the march today in America. Millionaires are marching to the tune. It will come in this country unless a strong defense is set up by all liberal and progressive forces… A clique of U.S. industrialists is hell-bent to bring a fascist state to supplant our democratic government, and is working closely with the fascist regime in Germany and Italy. Aboard ship a prominent executive of one of America’s largest financial corporations told me point blank that if the progressive trend of the Roosevelt administration continued, he would be ready to take definite action to bring fascism to America.” – former U.S. ambassador to Germany William Dodd in 1938

          The truth is that we don’t know what the outcome would have been. The Soviet Union made much greater sacrifices and was decisive for victory, and we know that the atomic bombing of two civilian cities in Japan was strategically unnecessary, but merely the first round in the Cold War which was the direct result of US involvement.

          The Civil War was fought to eliminate states’ rights and the Southern agrarian culture (not to end slavery, as Lincoln admitted), to consolidate central federal power, and to open the western territories to industrialism and the republican myth of the upward mobility of “free” labor.

          • brettearle

            Back up your claims about corporate sponsorship of Hitler with credible sources.

          • http://riversong.wordpress.com/ Robert Riversong
          • brettearle

            Back up your claim that such Corporate sponsorship tried to start a fascist coup against Roosevelt. 

            Name your sources.

          • http://riversong.wordpress.com/ Robert Riversong

            How about the Congressional Record?

            General Smedley Butler
            testified before the McCormack-Dickstein Committee in 1934 about the attempted coup against FDR (this is on the Congressional Record). In their final report, the Congressional committee supported Butler’s allegations on the existence of the plot, but no prosecutions or further investigations followed, and the matter was mostly forgotten.

            Butler said that the Liberty League (The Tea Party of that time, funded by the du Pont family, as well as leaders of U.S. Steel, General Motors, General Foods, Standard Oil, Birdseye, Colgate, Heinz Foods, Chase National Bank, and Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company) was behind the coup attempt.

            Butler’s testimony was corroborated by a number of people, including Veterans of Foreign Wars commander James E. Van Zandt.

          • brettearle

            Name credible historians who agree with your assumption that the Hiroshima and Nagasaki strikes, respectively, were attacks for the sole purpose of confronting a post WWII, Cold War.

            I suppose that all documents, in this area, are so remarkably classified that nothing has ever leaked out that would back up your claim?

            And I suppose that invading the mainland of
            Japan, of course, and losing, on the order of 1 million US troops, had nothing, but nothing to do with it?

            Name your sources. 

          • http://riversong.wordpress.com/ Robert Riversong

            “…in [July] 1945… Secretary of War Stimson, visiting my headquarters in Germany, informed me that our government was preparing to drop an atomic bomb on Japan.  I was one of those who felt that there were a number of cogent reasons to question the wisdom of such an act. … first on the basis of my belief that Japan was already defeated and that dropping the bomb was completely unnecessary, and secondly because I thought that our country should avoid shocking world opinion by the use of a weapon whose employment was, I thought, no longer mandatory as a measure to save American lives.  It was my belief that Japan was, at that very moment, seeking some way to surrender with a minimum loss of ‘face’.
            - Dwight Eisenhower, Mandate For Change, pg. 380

            On May 28, 1945, Hoover visited President Truman and suggested a way to end the Pacific war quickly: “I am convinced that if you, as President, will make a shortwave broadcast to the people of Japan – tell them they can have their Emperor if they surrender, that it will not mean unconditional surrender except for the militarists – you’ll get a peace in Japan – you’ll have both wars over.”
            - Richard Norton Smith, An Uncommon Man: The Triumph of Herbert Hoover, pg. 347.

            “…the Japanese were prepared to negotiate all the way from February 1945…up to and before the time the atomic bombs were dropped; …if such leads had been followed up, there would have been no occasion to drop the [atomic] bombs.”
            - Herbert Hoover, quoted by Barton Bernstein in Philip Nobile, ed., Judgment at the Smithsonian, pg. 142

            In early May of 1946 Hoover met with General Douglas MacArthur. Hoover recorded in his diary, “I told
            MacArthur of my memorandum of mid-May 1945 to Truman, that peace could be had with Japan by which our major objectives would be accomplished. MacArthur said that was correct and that we would have avoided all of the losses, the Atomic bomb, and the entry of Russia into Manchuria.”
            - Gar Alperovitz, The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb, pg. 350-351.

            “It is my opinion that the use of this barbarous weapon at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was of no material assistance in our war against Japan.  The Japanese were already defeated and ready to surrender because of the effective sea blockade and the successful bombing with conventional weapons.

            “The lethal possibilities of atomic warfare in the future are frightening.  My own feeling was that in being the first to use it, we had adopted an ethical standard common to the barbarians of the Dark Ages.  I was not taught to make war in that fashion, and wars cannot be won by destroying women and children.”
            - William Leahy (Chief of Staff to Presidents Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman), I Was There, pg. 441.

            MacArthur biographer William Manchester has described MacArthur’s reaction to the issuance by the Allies of the Potsdam Proclamation to Japan: “…the Potsdam declaration in July, demand[ed] that Japan surrender unconditionally or face ‘prompt and utter destruction.’  MacArthur was appalled. He knew that the Japanese would never renounce their emperor, and that without him an orderly transition to peace would be impossible anyhow, because his people would never submit to Allied occupation unless he ordered it.  Ironically, when the surrender did come, it was conditional, and the condition was a continuation of the imperial reign.  Had the General’s advice been followed, the resort to atomic weapons at Hiroshima and Nagasaki might have been unnecessary.”
            - William Manchester, American Caesar: Douglas MacArthur 1880-1964, pg. 512.

            Norman Cousins was a consultant to General MacArthur during the American occupation of Japan.  Cousins writes of his conversations with MacArthur, “MacArthur’s views about the decision to drop the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were starkly different from what the general public supposed.”  He continues, “When I asked General MacArthur about the decision to drop the bomb, I was surprised to learn he had not even been consulted.  What, I asked, would his advice have been? He replied that he saw no military justification for the dropping of the bomb.  The war might have ended weeks earlier, he
            said, if the United States had agreed, as it later did anyway, to the retention of the institution of the emperor.”
            -Norman Cousins, The Pathology of Power, pg. 65, 70-71.

            “I have always felt that if, in our ultimatum to the Japanese government issued from Potsdam [in July 1945], we had referred to the retention of the emperor as a constitutional monarch and had made some reference to the reasonable accessibility of raw materials to the future Japanese government, it would have been accepted.  Indeed, I believe that even in the form it was delivered, there was some disposition on the part of the Japanese to give it favorable consideration.  When the war was over I arrived at this conclusion after talking with a number of Japanese officials who had been closely associated with the decision of the then
            Japanese government, to reject the ultimatum, as it was presented.  I believe we missed the opportunity of effecting a Japanese surrender, completely satisfactory to us, without the necessity of dropping the bombs.”
            - John McCloy (Assistant Sec. of War) quoted in James Reston, Deadline, pg. 500.

            Bard asserted, “I think that the Japanese were ready for peace, and they already had approached the Russians and, I think, the Swiss. And that suggestion of [giving] a warning [of the atomic bomb] was a face-saving proposition for them, and one that they could have readily accepted.” He continued, “In my opinion, the Japanese war was really won before we ever used the atom bomb. Thus, it wouldn’t have been necessary for us to disclose our nuclear position and stimulate the Russians to develop the same thing much more rapidly than they would have if we had not dropped the bomb.”
            - Ralph Bard (Under Sec. of the Navy) – War Was Really Won Before We Used A-Bomb, U.S. News and World Report, 8/15/60, pg. 73-75.

            “I proposed to Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal that the weapon should be demonstrated before it was used.  Primarily it was because it was clear to a number of people, myself among them, that the war was very nearly over.  The Japanese were nearly ready to capitulate…Secretary Forrestal agreed wholeheartedly with the recommendation…” Strauss added, “It seemed to me that such a weapon was not necessary to bring the war to a successful conclusion, that once used it would find its way into the armaments of the world…”.
            - Lewis Strauss (Special Assistant to the Sec. of the Navy) quoted in Len Giovannitti and Fred Freed, The Decision To Drop the Bomb, pg. 145, 325.

            “The plan I devised was essentially this: Japan was already isolated from the standpoint of ocean shipping.  The only remaining means of transportation were the rail network and intercoastal shipping, though our submarines and mines were rapidly eliminating the latter as well.  A concentrated air attack on the essential lines of transportation, including railroads, would isolate the Japanese home islands from one another and fragment the enemy’s base of operations. I believed that interdiction of the lines of transportation would be sufficiently
            effective so that additional bombing of urban industrial areas would not be necessary.

            “While I was working on the new plan of air attack… I concluded that even without the atomic bomb, Japan was likely to surrender in a matter of months.  My own view was that Japan would capitulate by November 1945.”
            - Paul Nitze (Vice Chairman, U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey) , From Hiroshima to Glasnost, pg. 36-37

            The U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey group, assigned by President Truman to study the air attacks on Japan,
            produced a report in July of 1946 that was primarily written by Nitze and reflected his reasoning:

            “Based on a detailed investigation of all the facts and supported by the testimony of the surviving Japanese leaders involved, it is the Survey’s opinion that certainly prior to 31 December 1945 and in all probability prior to 1 November 1945, Japan would have surrendered even if the atomic bombs had not been dropped, even if Russia had not entered the war, and even if no invasion had been planned or contemplated.”
            - quoted in Barton Bernstein, The Atomic Bomb, pg. 52-56.

            “…when we didn’t need to do it, and we knew we didn’t need to do it, and they knew that we knew we didn’t need to do it, we used them as an experiment for two atomic bombs.”
            - Brigadier General Carter Clarke (The military intelligence officer in charge of preparing intercepted Japanese cables – the MAGIC summaries – for Truman and his advisors), quoted in Gar Alperovitz, The Decision To Use the Atomic Bomb, pg. 359.

            “Prof. Albert Einstein… said that he was sure that President Roosevelt would have forbidden the atomic bombing of Hiroshima had he been alive and that it was probably carried out to end the Pacific war before Russia could participate.”
            - Albert Einstein, Einstein Deplores Use of Atom Bomb, New York Times, 8/19/46, pg. 1.

            After Germany surrendered, Szilard attempted to meet with President Truman. Instead, he was given an appointment with Truman’s Sec. of State to be, James Byrnes. In that meeting of May 28, 1945, Szilard told Byrnes that the atomic bomb should not be used on Japan. Szilard recommended, instead, coming to an international agreement on the control of atomic weapons before shocking other nations by their use: According to Szilard, Byrnes was not interested in international control: “Byrnes… was concerned about Russia’s postwar behavior. Russian troops had moved into Hungary and Rumania, and Byrnes thought it would be very difficult to persuade Russia to withdraw her troops from these countries, that Russia might be more manageable if impressed by American military might, and that a demonstration of the bomb might impress Russia.”
            - Leo Szilard (The first scientist to conceive of how an atomic bomb might be made), quoted in Spencer Weart and Gertrud Weiss Szilard, ed., Leo Szilard: His Version of the Facts, pg. 184.

          • jefe68

            I stated that WW2 was a war our nation had to fight due to the rise in fascism and nazism in particular. Most Americans were struggling with surviving the Great Depression and not interested in understanding the nuances of the political ramifications of this insidious ideology that was spreading throughout Europe in the 20′s and 30′s. That said it was clear to enough people in the political spheres that the rise of Fascism throughout Europe was a threat to Democracy. As your quote from ambassador Dodd clearly states.

            As to the notion that FDR let Pearl Harbor happen, well I don’t buy into that. What caused that was a lot of bad political communication between the US and Japan in dealing with there needs and desires as an expanding empire.

            Interesting spin on the history except you completly left out what was going on within the Japanese Imperial military as well as the expansionism that was leading the Imperial Japanese government at that time. The US and Japan had been heading towards a possible war since the 1920′s way before FDR became president. Both nations had contingency plans for this possibility.

            You also left out the divisions between the Imperial navy and Army.
            Admiral Yamamoto was against invading Manchuria and China and he was stead fast against getting into a war with the US, which he thought would be a folly. Admiral Yamamoto was also against signing the treaty with Fascist Germany and Italy in the late 30′s. Yamamoto was saved from assassination by be appointed Commander-in-Chief of the Combined Fleet on (30 August 1939).

            So much so that prior to Pearl Harbor Admiral Yamamoto was most likely to be purged due to his reluctance to go along with the extremist of Tojo’s ilk.

            The US stopped oil shipments due the Japan’s invasion of French Indochina. The plan to attack Pearl Harbor was in place as part of Japan’s strategy to conquer Southeast Asia without interference.
            They wanted to deal a huge blow to US moral and keep the US from entering the war. It did not work, as Yamamoto had warned, which is interesting as it was his plan.
            He was always against attacking the US.

            Your take on history is kind of skewed to bolster your point of view.

            I was well aware of the industrialist who not only endorsed Hitler, but who were in congress with his ideology. Ford is one good example. It should be noted that Charles Lindbergh was also a nazi sympathizer. Most of this was fueled by Antisemitism.

            You over simplification of the events that lead to the Civil War is astounding.

          • http://riversong.wordpress.com/ Robert Riversong

            I don’t “skew” history to “bolster” my point of view. My point of view comes from a thorough and unbiased study of history.

            Yours, quite clearly, comes from the mainstream historical mythology which is intended to justify abuses and cover up the real history.

            A perfect example of that is that you turned the Dodd quote upside down. He was not saying that we needed to go to war with the European fascists to protect democracy at home – he was saying that we need progressives to fight off the American financial elites who desire fascism in America. The real enemy has always been domestic, and it was not about anti-Semitism so much as about “the merger of state and corporate power” (Benito Mussolini’s definition of fascism), something that the American corporate and financial elites have now achieved.

            The BBC did an excellent documentary called Sacrifice at Pearl Harbor. Here are just a few points of fact:

            “…everything that the Japanese were planning to do was known to the United States…” ARMY BOARD, 1944

            President Roosevelt (FDR) provoked the attack, knew about it in advance and covered up his failure to warn the Hawaiian commanders. FDR needed the attack to sucker Hitler to declare war, since the public and Congress were overwhelmingly against entering the war in Europe. It was his backdoor to war.

            FDR blinded the commanders at Pearl Harbor and set them up by -

            1) denying intelligence to Hawaii (HI)

            2) on Nov 27, misleading the commanders into thinking negotiations with Japan were continuing to prevent them from realizing the war was on

            3) having false information sent to HI about the location of the Japanese carrier fleet.

            1940 – FDR ordered the fleet transferred from the West Coast to its exposed position in Hawaii and ordered the fleet remain stationed at Pearl Harbor over complaints by its commander Admiral Richardson that there was inadequate protection from air attack and no protection from torpedo attack. Richardson felt so strongly that he twice disobeyed orders to berth his fleet there and he raised the issue personally with FDR in October and he was soon after replaced. His successor, Admiral Kimmel, also brought up the same issues with FDR in June 1941.

            7 Oct 1940 – Navy IQ analyst McCollum wrote an 8 point memo on how to force Japan into war with US. Beginning the next day FDR began to put them into effect and all 8 were eventually accomplished.

            11 February 1941 – FDR proposed sacrificing 6 cruisers and 2 carriers at Manila to get into war. Navy Chief Stark objected: “I have previously opposed this and you have concurred as to its unwisdom. Particularly do I recall your remark in a previous conference when Mr. Hull suggested (more forces to Manila) and the question arose as to getting them out and your 100% reply, from my standpoint, was that you might not mind losing one or two cruisers, but that you did not want to take a chance on losing 5 or 6.” (Charles Beard PRESIDENT ROOSEVELT AND THE COMING OF WAR 1941, p 424)

            March 1941 – FDR sold munitions and convoyed them to belligerents in Europe — both acts of war and both violations of international law — the Lend-Lease Act.

            23 Jun 1941 – Advisor Harold Ickes wrote FDR a memo the day after Germany invaded the Soviet Union, “There might develop from the embargoing of oil to Japan such a situation as would make it not only possible but easy to get into this war in an effective way. And if we should thus indirectly be brought in, we would avoid the criticism that we had gone in as an ally of communistic Russia.” FDR was pleased with Admiral Richmond Turner’s report read July 22: “It is generally believed that shutting off the American supply of petroleum will lead promptly to the invasion of Netherland East Indies…it seems certain she would also include military action against the Philippine Islands, which would immediately involve us in a Pacific war.” On July 24 FDR told the Volunteer Participation Committee, “If we had cut off the oil, they probably would have gone down to the Dutch East Indies a year ago, and you would have had war.” The next day FDR froze all Japanese assets in the US cutting off their main supply of oil and forcing them into war with the US. Intelligence information was withheld from Hawaii from this point forward.

            14 August – At the Atlantic Conference, Churchill noted the “astonishing depth of Roosevelt’s intense desire for war.” Churchill cabled his cabinet “(FDR) obviously was very determined that they should come in.”

            18 October – diary entry by Secretary of Interior Harold Ickes: “For a long time I have believed that our best entrance into the war would be by way of Japan.”


            As for the purpose of the Civil War, it could not be more evident to anyone who studies the history:

            In an address to a special session of Congress on July 4, 1861, Lincoln stated, “I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with slavery in the United States where it exists”, repeating what he had said at his inauguration earlier in the year. Seccesion, he said, was the real issue, for the Union must be preserved at all costs (the Union Congress passed resolutions endorsing all of this). Lincoln already made it clear that he did not favor social and political equality for blacks “in any way” and was a major proponent of repatriating them to a colony in Central America. For other Republicans, moral opposition to slavery was a non-issue.

            Union soldiers saw themselves as fighting for the Union and against what they regarded as treason. Only a minority had an interest in fighting for black freedom. A popular Northern war-time ditty went:

            A willingness to fight with vigor,
            for loyal rights, but not for the nigger.

          • jefe68

            So your viewpoint of history is not skewed and mine is. Interesting.

            You then on to about about fighting fascism in the US with progressive ideas while ignoring the facts of what was happening in Europe.
            You use history to bolster your argument. You did it again.

            Do you really think that by ignoring Hitler he would have left the US alone? Clearly you are mistaken on that front.
            Your view points are quite astonishing and you seem to think that it was FDR who was the bad guy here. He was terrible with foreign affairs before the out break of WW2 and spent money on New Deal projects while ignoring the need of the modernization of the military. Which was a contradiction as FDR was very aware that the US would one day be at war with Japan.

            I love this one:March 1941 – FDR sold munitions and convoyed them to belligerents in
            Europe — both acts of war and both violations of international law —
            the Lend-Lease Act.

            So Hitlers invasion of Europe was OK in your eyes, one would say that as soon as Hitler invaded Poland and then France a year later that the idea of world war was pretty much in the mix.

            By the way German submarines had already been engaged in acts of war by sinking US merchant ships as well as violating our sea lanes.

            What I see here is an isolationist view point.  

            My mothers family came from Poland, some got out but 80% did not. They died in the death camps, that’s real history, it’s not some made up history skewed to make an argument, it happened. It happened because governments and politicians did nothing to stop Hitler.

            In 1937 during the invasion of China by Japan, the Japanese attacked the city of Nanjing slaughtering over 300,000 Chinese.

            Your exclusion of the slaughter of innocents and the insidiousness of what these regimes represented in context to world events is astonishing.

            I’m also left wondering why someone who is having the legal problems that you do is so intent on being so public about them. That does not seem to be a good idea.
            I don’t know what make of it, but after reading some of your blog I have to say that whatever the truth is your are deep doo-doo.

          • http://riversong.wordpress.com/ Robert Riversong

            Your logic is as atrocious as your grasp of history.

            I don’t know what my alleged legal issues have to do with your failure to understand history, but my life is an open book. It’s you who is hiding behind a pseudonym.

            Too many skeletons in the closet? Afraid to be accountable for your statements?

  • Victor Vito

    I wish the takeaway from all this is that war should be avoided in every instance possible.  The cost on both sides is higher than can easily be calculated.

    • brettearle

      I’m afraid that you are going to have to fundamentally change human behavior–before you can avoid war.

      • http://riversong.wordpress.com/ Robert Riversong

        It has nothing to do with innate human behavior. It’s about American exceptionalism coupled with the capitalist consumer culture.

        Recent neurological and cognitive research corroborates what anthropological evidence indicates: that the human brain is wired for cooperation and empathy, and that aggression, competition and violence are learned behaviors. 

        • Paul

          I think it’s pretty hard to connect war to our capitalist consumer culture. Certainly mindless consumerism is not a good thing but history shows us that war appears to be something pretty ingrained in humanity. Whether it be fighting amongst native American tribes pre-arrival of the Europeans (which I hardly think can be attributed to capitalist ambitions) or ethnicity/cultural based wars like much of what was seen in the Balkans at the turn of the century (which would seem to support the idea that humans look to attack the “other”) war seems to be something that humans a drawn to. War is something awful that we must rise above, but I think we need to admit that doing so likely requires us to address human behavior. 

          • http://riversong.wordpress.com/ Robert Riversong

            Are you kidding me! Every US war has been for either territorial expansion or control of the strategic resources needed to fill the demands of the consumer culture.

            You forget that the human evolutionary story began more than 2 million years before written history, which was after the start of civilization.

            Civilization has always been violent and warlike, but prior to that homo sapiens behaved just like any other large primate. We battled for territory or mates, but never engaged in genocidal warfare. That is a relatively modern invention, in the long scheme of things.

        • brettearle

          I suppose ethologists and behavioral scientists can try to determine if homo sapiens are totally devoid of innate traits of aggression–characteristics that are wired into a majority of animals who have ever survived on the planet.

          But I would argue that flight-or-fight is not only wired in our endocrine system–but there are any number of neural locales that have the predetermined capacity for aggression and violence.

          If human beings didn’t have these capacities, then we wouldn’t be seeing these behaviors.

          INNATE human behavior and LEARNED human behavior are two forms of behavior.

          You addressed innate behavior, as reflecting non-aggression; I addressed behavior, in general.

          Your conclusion was presumptuous because you wished to be adversarial– without recognizing the parameters of the issue.

          If man’s brain hadn’t developed over many, many eons, to program an intrinsic capacity to harness and to learn aggression, violence, and flight-or-fight, than we would see cooperation, no matter what. 

          But we don’t.

          Learned behavior arises from man’s interaction with his environment.  The loss of innocence, cooperation, and compassion is almost immediately contradicted by elements beyond a clan’s, society’s, and culture’s control–especially early on, when a clan or society is figuring out how to survive.

          Weather, predators, resource shortages, and contact with, “The Other”, are all threats that instill fear and anger.

          All of these things are remarkably inevitable–and they sometimes lead to  skirmishes, battles over territorial rights and vital resources….and can be magnified into wars.

          These matters have been an ugly mainstay of humankind–forever and everywhere.

          You don’t know what you’re talking about.   

          • brettearle

            It would be clearer to say above,
            in the fifth to the last paragraph,

            “Innocence, cooperation, and compassion are almost immediately threatened by elements beyond a…..”,

            instead of,

            “The loss of innocence….by elements beyond a…..” 

          • http://riversong.wordpress.com/ Robert Riversong

            “Your conclusion was presumptuous because you wished to be adversarial”

            The only one here being presumptuous is you, since you have imagined motives which weren’t present.

            “You don’t know what you’re talking about.”

            In fact, it’s quite clear that I have a far deeper understanding of this topic than what you’re demonstrating.

            The amygdala “fight or flight” response has nothing at all to do with either aggression or violence. It is purely a defense mechanism against perceived threats – such as other people’s aggression or violence. Self-defense is not aggression.

            Similarly, it’s patently false that “innate traits of aggression [are] characteristics that are wired into a majority of animals who have ever survived on the planet.”

            If that were true, then animals would have died out eons ago from unchecked aggression, leaving perhaps one last creature standing.

            What all mammals do share, however, is an innate instinct for nurturing, to help the next generation survive and well as in support of one’s mate. All “wild” animals, including the most apparently ferocious, are known to play. And much of what humans mistake for aggression is fear and timidity.

            Black bears, for example, hoot when they’re afraid and will never attack except to protect their young. The common instinct among pack animals, like canines, is altruism and mutual cooperation.

            You didn’t just address generalized human behavior – your asserted a need for “fundamental” change in human behavior, implying a change in the fundamentals of human behavior, and that reflects a very common modern misunderstanding about  what is fundamental to human behavior – a misunderstanding which you clearly share.

            Even Darwin recognized, at the end of his life , that cooperation – not competition – was the primary driver of animal and plant behavior. As animals, the same is true for humans, as has been demonstrated in many academic disciplines.

            Learned behavior does not “arise from man’s interaction with his environment” (if, by that, you mean his natural environment), but from his cultural environment. Put a child in the woods by himself and he will learn only how quickly death comes. Humans are sociable pack animals, and learn from one another, having developed complex symbolic systems and technologies to store and transmit that  learning.

            True warfare, genocide and gratuitous violence are entirely cultural, and part of the evolution of civilization, not humankind. They did not begin until there were well-defined territorial boundaries (nation-states), religious institutions, a need for resource acquisition and accumulation, and the division of labor that’s inherent only within an exploitative, cultural paradigm.

  • JLL

    Terrific topic.  I can relate to author’s experiences, as can many others.  He was fortunate his dad wanted to take the Winnebago trips with him.  As a military brat whose mom also survived the WWII Dolittle air raids on Tokyo, my siblings and I regularly relate to the experiences described in the ‘The Great Santini’.  Our dad served in WWII, Korea and Vietnam, and when he retired, encountered severe problems with 4 kids and a wife to support.  The family was forced onto welfare for years and the emotional costs made life tough on all of us.  Like one of the callers, I too abandoned interests in the arts for a military career that spanned post-Vietnam, the Cold War and included the 1990 Gulf War.  A practical job. I met my first husband in the military, and we ended up divorcing over the pressures of dual career with children which was a ‘new’ trend.  When I re-married, it was to another military person, who was retired. We have struggled to let go of the affects of ‘military thinking’.  It can infect family practices related to perfectionism, efficiency over relationship and communication, love of winning, inability to deal w/failure.  We have worked to be aware of WHAT it is and to broaden ourselves w/a focus on the kids and community service.  None of our 5 children chose a military career, all are military brats. Three of the five looked closely at signing up. None did, but have friends who joined.  Thus far, they have no regrets. My brothers both served and my sister would have if she could have.  Just before I retired, I learned of corporations polling the military because of the multi-generations of families with military service. These big corps wanted to emulate this ‘culture’ and create something similar.  While multiple generations serving makes good story, we might consider whether the burden of service should be born by the same families – in effect, creating a ‘warrior class’.  We should consider carefully what impact this has on our democracy when the cost of war, human and material, can be ‘outsourced’ to just a ‘few’.  Contractors serving in previous military roles further  disguises the breadth and magnitude of the ‘warrior class’ as vets can get direct access to federal and contractor jobs. The culture and attitudes of the military follows contractors into their families and communities – some to good affect, but many times, to the detriment of the family, and because of the amount of outsourcing, is no longer confined to the uniformed military personnel.  Many contractors are returning from their tours w/less benefits and support than our uniformed people.  For all these reasons, vets, uniformed and contractors, feel separate for good and bad reasons.  

  • ted

    When are you planning to do your annual summer
    reading show??

  • Jajmc

    Hooah!  (That tells you something from the git go; specifically, US Army, Vietnam, ’67-’68.  Brother, you tell it as it is, as it always will be if we brothers and sisters fail to take the lead.  In Nam we were being thrown away, and when we returned we were treated like trash.  As a founding member of Vietnam Veterans of America at the local, state and national level, I am here to testify, WE DID SOMETHING ABOUT THAT.  Go to the next level, Brother, to encourage this new generation to ORGANIZE.  The government must be pushed by vigorous, practical advocacy, and WE, not they, are the experts.  As an interesting sidelight:  I appreciated your description of your relationship with your father.  Here is an opposite side of that coin.  My ol’ man was a batterer and a drunk. When I returned from Nam, he quickly learned there was one dog he would not dare kick again.  To conclude, I will quote the character of Chris Taylor at the end of PLATOON:  “But be that as it
    may, those of us who did make it have an obligation to build again. To teach to
    others what we know, and to try with what’s left of our lives to find a
    goodness and a meaning to this life.”  KEEP THE FAITH, BRO!

  • http://twitter.com/mandosally Sally Gore

    One thing I’ve not heard discussed regarding the prevalence of mental health issues, addiction issues, anger issues, etc. in veterans returning from war today is if there is any correlation between the high rates of these conditions/issues and the type of individuals enlisting today. In other words, when we had a national draft, the makeup of our military was representative of a much wider spectrum of our society than we observe today. Sadly (and wrongly) our troops today are too often comprised of individuals who turn to the military because they don’t have anywhere else to look for employment and/or money for college. War, in and of itself, is insane. If we are sending men and women into such an environment who are already lacking some of the mental health and/or mental skills to deal with it, can we expect anything different than a high rate of depression, addiction, violence, etc. upon their return? I don’t know the answer, but just wonder if anyone has done any research and/or reporting in this area.

Aug 22, 2014
Attorney General Eric Holder talks with Capt. Ron Johnson of the Missouri State Highway Patrol at Drake's Place Restaurant, Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2014, in Florrissant, Mo. (AP)

The National Guard and Eric Holder in Ferguson. ISIS beheads an American journalist. Texas Governor Rick Perry gets a mug shot. Our weekly news roundtable goes behind the headlines.

Aug 22, 2014
In this image from video posted on Facebook, courtesy of the George W. Bush Presidential Center, former President George W. Bush participates in the ice bucket challenge with the help of his wife, Laura Bush, in Kennebunkport, Maine. (AP)

The Ice Bucket Challenge: ALS, viral fundraising and how we give in the age of social media.

Aug 22, 2014
In this image from video posted on Facebook, courtesy of the George W. Bush Presidential Center, former President George W. Bush participates in the ice bucket challenge with the help of his wife, Laura Bush, in Kennebunkport, Maine. (AP)

The Ice Bucket Challenge: ALS, viral fundraising and how we give in the age of social media.

Aug 22, 2014
Attorney General Eric Holder talks with Capt. Ron Johnson of the Missouri State Highway Patrol at Drake's Place Restaurant, Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2014, in Florrissant, Mo. (AP)

The National Guard and Eric Holder in Ferguson. ISIS beheads an American journalist. Texas Governor Rick Perry gets a mug shot. Our weekly news roundtable goes behind the headlines.

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