Ground Truth, part one

February 16, 2007 by barbara

by barbara

Last night, I attended a MoveOn event, one of more than a thousand nationwide. It was hosted in a private home in south Minneapolis. Our principal agenda was to view the film, "The Ground Truth." The movie focused briefly on the recruiting, training and deploying of U.S. military troops to Iraq. It did not shy away from deaths'"ours, theirs, calculated, accidental. However, the film's main focus was on women and men who physically survive the Iraq War, with or without all of their limbs, facial features and internal organs intact.

The "lucky ones" look much as they did when they left for war. But they're not. To some extent, they're soul-scarred humans who are sent home after their literal involvement in the killing stops. They are forever changed. They're also trained killers who have seen and participated in the worst the world has to offer. They must attempt to distance themselves from all of that when they come "home," however that is defined.

Just so you know, I'm not going to do a synopsis here. "The Ground Truth's" message is a visual thing, which is why it's a film and not an IPod broadcast. Click here and here for more information and to view a trailer.

It's not the best movie ever made, Oscar nod notwithstanding. But its message is profoundly important. Shortcut: "What the hell are we doing?"

"The Ground Truth" combines live footage of carnage and chaos in Iraq, interspersed with commentary from multiple military vets and a few mental health experts. The troop commentary was very moving. As was the additional commentary from some of their spouses and parents. Lives upside down and hind-side to. This is sacrifice that is rarely if ever mentioned, and certainly not by the Bush administration or the DOD.

Frankly, I wasn't sure I'd be able to handle this film. I don't do very well with graphic violence. It was hard to watch brutality, murder of children, a soldier whose face was completely disfigured by fire. Bodies and blood. Plenty of both. The things of war.

So why watch it? I can only answer retrospectively. I now believe it is incumbent upon every American man, woman, and child whose parents believe they can handle it to watch "The Ground Truth." That includes our elected officials. All of them. It is not enough to hear platitudes ("On behalf of a grateful nation and the President of the United States . . .") nor to see video of the occasional vet who has rehabbed from a lost limb. Oh, no. Not even close to enough.

George Bush's war has killed something approaching 100,000 Iraqis and roughly 3,100 Americans. But that's just for starters. How many inner lives and relationships have been utterly destroyed in the wake of George's war?

According to "The Ground Truth," to some extent, virtually every American assigned to an ultra-dangerous 24/7 war zone like Iraq returns a different person from the one who was deployed. Some of them are able to eventually manage their fear, rage and self-loathing. Many are not. And they may struggle with the aftermath of war for the rest of their lives. Or they may choose to end their lives. Some do. Sound familiar? Can you say "Vietnam"?

Do not tell me I'm an angry liberal. I already know that. The greater issue here is this: Why isn't everyone furious about this war and the one being ginned up as its successor? Why isn't everyone doing everything in their power to protect and defend our military from George Bush? If not us, then who? This is a humanity issue. And so I echo the refrain, "What the hell are we doing?"

Here's the real deal. George Bush sends American troops into the bowels of Iraq from his "beautiful White House." And each time he does, he is sentencing them to death. If not death of the body, then degrees of death of the spirit. If they do manage to survive, in whole or partial bodies, there is no bridge long enough to close the emotional chasm between the Iraqi war zone and home. Upon discharge, troops are required to answer (then and there) such questions as: Do you have PTSD? Do you have thoughts of suicide? Do you have thoughts of murder? etc., etc., etc.

Give me a break. Who can possibly answer questions like that with any degree of accuracy until there is some distance from war? And even if they can, admission that they may be experiencing some stress/distress means they will be held by the military for some indeterminate period of time and won't get to go home. What would you choose after six months, a year, two years in Iraq?

And so it is that our military heroes--and all of them are heroes--find themselves back home with little or no support from the government that sent them to hell.

I wept as I watched. What we have done to Iraq is tragic. What we are doing to our own troops is appalling.

I need to consider what I'm going to say to "my" legislator who voted for the war, voted for escalation, generally votes for whatever Bush puts forth, and refuses to meet with his constituents. Remember this name: John Kline. I have more to say about that. Later.

UPDATE:

LeftyMN just sent me a Thursday post by Mary at The Leftcoaster. It's about John Murtha's pending legislation that will set strict rules about troop deployment, forcing George Bush's hand and, it is hoped, forcing the return home of U.S. troops. Here's how Mary's post begins:

George W Bush is known for trying to blackmail his political opponents by telling them they must support him and his funding needs or they are betraying the troops. Those who have been criticizing him for years have complained that it was George W Bush who seemed to have a problem supporting the troops. First he sends them into a war of his choice, without the equipment they need, to be supported by crooks like Halliburton who can provide polluted water and other services on the cheap, without sufficient healthcare funding for after they are home, requiring them to serve long after they were promised, putting the bill for his expensive wars on the backs of their children and grandchildren (and ours) while his cronies accumulate more and more of the wealth of the country. And then he carries on about how the Congress must give him his emergency funding for his surge or they will be accused of not supporting the troops.

I believe that qualifies as telling it like it is. Click here to read the whole post.

Posted in

Comments

Earthian (not verified) | February 17, 2007 - 1:50pm

Your article estimates 100,000 Iraqi deaths. That is not a good number. Look up the study in The Lancet, the British medical journal. From 3-2003 to 6-2006 their estimate is 655,000. Extrapolate to the present. It is close to 800,000. Dead. Innocent. Iraqis.

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Babs (not verified) | February 17, 2007 - 4:28pm

Eight. Hundred. Thousand.

Oh my god.

I want you to be wrong. But Lancet is generally spot on, so I fear you're right.

My heart hurts.

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Babs (not verified) | February 17, 2007 - 4:30pm

One more thing, Anon. My 100,000 figure reflects DOD guesstimates. There's a big, bad message in that discrepancy that likely reflects big, bad messages pretty much across the board. Budget x 8, etc.

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susan | February 17, 2007 - 9:31pm

I had a piece in the Strib a while back in which I used a low number, not the Lancet number, and the howls from the Left sounded from coast to coast. It surprised me how furious my own peeps were with me: "If you can't get your numbers right don't waste valuable space in the Strib." "What are you, the mouth piece for George Bush? Shame on you." and so on. I had taken that number from Iraq Body Count which even today gives a much lower number, estimating between 56,000 and 62,000 Iraqi civilans killed by military intervention.

So I did some research, and came to the conclusion that the numbers are all over the place, and plenty of excellent anti-war people are on the record taking issue with the Lancet's methods and final count.

So I decided that the number is almost immaterial, and before you have a hissy fit, here's why I say that. If we use Hitler as the easiest example, the fact that he put forth the ideas he did and managed to get a nation to go along with him, stuffing train cars with living men, women and children and building ovens to incinerate them, is such a horror in and of itself that whether 6 million people were murdered, or 600,000, is almost beside the point. (Not if you count your relatives among the dead, and I do not make light of the enormity of that number.) The concept itself is so heinous, and yet a nation went along with it.

I feel the same way about the invasion of Iraq. Some day -- I hope sooner rather than later -- the dust will clear and there will be a definitive count of who died and by what means -- some by direct military action, others due to extreme hardships -- lack of water, medicine and so on -- as a result of the war. And whether it's 60,000 or 100,000 or 650,000, it's an obscene number of lives.

So I grieve the loss of life no matter what the number, but I also grieve the loss of my country, and wonder how it came to be that so many people were bamboozled long enough to let it happen. When I was growing up we were all taught to question what happened to the good Germans. I don't think we ever expected to have to ask the same question of ourselves.

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Babs (not verified) | February 18, 2007 - 5:54pm

"When I was growing up we were all taught to question what happened to the good Germans. I don't think we ever expected to have to ask the same question of ourselves."

Oh. My. Dog. How chilling is that?! And it is absolutely true. Which underscores the need to rise up off our potato couches (see Susan's mummified TV watcher post) and do something. Yes, me, too.

In the grand scheme of things, 3,100 "official" deaths is not a vast number, statistically speaking. More than the World Trade Center, less than annual national highway fatalities (don't go looking this up! I'm guessing).

What really matters, as Susan noted, is what this symbolizes, i.e., an indifferent nation and elected officials asleep at the wheel. My "representative" continues to vote for George Bush's Iraq War II. And but for a small but persistent band of activists and a handful of snarky letters to the editor (including mine), there are no consequences for his appalling votes. None. This district actually re-elected this neocon sycophant.

"Where were the good Americans?" Is that what our grandchildren and their children will be asking about us? Oh. My. God.

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Anonymous (not verified) | February 18, 2007 - 7:30pm

"When I was growing up we were all taught to question what happened to the good Germans."

Sure you were. Want to buy a bridge?

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Anonymous (not verified) | February 18, 2007 - 7:31pm

"When I was growing up we were all taught to question what happened to the good Germans."

Sure you were. Want to buy a bridge?

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susan | February 18, 2007 - 10:39pm

Actually, Sonny, I was. I am old, the same age as George Bush, and some of us were raised by parents who encouraged us to think.

I remember seeing a man working in a dry cleaning shop who had numbers tatooed on the inside of his lower arm. When he saw that I noticed them he pulled his sleeve down over them, as if ashamed. We didn't see tatoos on every ankle and shoulder in those days, so this was odd and I asked my mother about it.

She told me about Hitler and the concentration camps and said this man must have survived such a camp. And she said it with such a trembling voice that it impressed on me that something truly terrible had happened. This was probably around 1954, in the height of the post war boom and the happy days with Ike, when it seemed only goodness existed in the world, especially if you were 8, as I was.

So I asked her why the German people didn't stop Hitler, and she said something like, "That's the question we all have to ask."

So yes, Sonny, it was on people's minds, and perhaps more on my parents' minds because they were friends with a writer named Milton Mayer, who around the same time was working on, or had just published, a book titled They Thought They Were Free, about why "good" Germans became Nazis. After the war, Mayer, a Jew, went to Germany and spent time with ten "ordinary" German Nazis to try to understand what had happened. I think the book is still in print, and eerily relevant today.

Studying how such an educated and civilized nation as Germany could be so easily subverted was also a staple of every high school curriculum, so that we could make sure it would never happen again, and certainly not here. Apparently we weren't very good students.

But thanks for challenging me on it, Sonny, because it reminded me of Milton Mayer's book, which I'll now try to locate and purchase. Never too late to learn. You might try it.

Here's an excerpt from They Thought They Were Free:
What happened here was the gradual habituation of the people, little by little, to being governed by surprise; to receiving decisions deliberated in secret; to believing that the situation was so complicated that the government had to act on information which the people could not understand, or so dangerous that, even if the people could not understand it, it could not be released because of national security. And their sense of identification with Hitler, their trust in him, made it easier to widen this gap and reassured those who would otherwise have worried about it.

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St John (not verified) | February 19, 2007 - 12:54am

From where I am, 62 years, a Vietnam vet from 1968 who returned physically unscathed, I have a perspective that seems unique from what I am reading here and elsewhere: each of us is 100% responsible for everything we experience and how we perceive it. We are all One; there is no Them and Us. From the President of the United States to every dead Iraqi civilian, our choices have brought us to this moment in time. If you haven't watched The Secret www.thesecret.tv, then this probably seems like complete nonsense. Watch The Secret. It presents a point of view that is so unique to mainstream America that it may shock you. It is absolutely true and congruent with the most advanced Quantum Physics theories being developed today. These ancient Truths are so relevant to today's global environment that once you grasp the simple truth, you will have a totally new perspective of what is possible for you as an individual as well as what is possible for humankink. Start with the one reading this piece. No change can occur "out there" until it occurs "in here". A very famous quote from M. Gandhi Is: "You must be the change you wish to see in the world." I offer this information knowing that someone who reads this will follow the suggestion and watch The Secret. Ophrah has already devoted 2 shows to it within the past week, and Larry King has had some of the people from the DVD on his show, with the most positive responses he has ever had to any show. So, take a risk. I am willing to bet that you know someone in your life who has a copy of the DVD. Or, go online and for $4.95, you can watch it online.
That is my contribution to this topic.
Blessings,
St John

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