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They Didn’t Know What They Were Getting Into

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Posted on Nov 8, 2013
isafmedia (CC BY 2.0)

By Ann Jones, TomDispatch

(Page 3)

The first veterans of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq returned to the United States 10 years ago in 2003, yet I’ve never spoken to a damaged soldier or a soldier’s family members who thought the care he or she received from the Veterans Administration was anything like appropriate or enough.  By the VA’s own admission, the time it takes to reach a decision on a veteran’s benefits, or simply to offer an appointment, is so long that some vets die while waiting.

So it is that, since their return, untold numbers of soldiers have been looked after by their parents.  I visited a home on the Great Plains where a veteran has lain in his childhood bed, in his mother’s care, for most of the last decade, and another home in New England where a veteran spent the last evening before he took his own life sitting on his father’s lap.

As I followed the sad trail of damaged veterans to write my new book, They Were Soldiers: How the Wounded Return From America’s Wars—the Untold Story, I came to see how much they and their families have suffered, like Afghans, from the delusions of this nation’s leaders—many running counter to international law—and of other influential Americans, in and out of the military, more powerful and less accountable than themselves.

Like the soldiers, the country has changed.  Muted now is the braggadocio of the bring-‘em-on decider who started the preemptive process that ate the children of the poor and patriotic.  Now, in Afghanistan as in Iraq, Washington scrambles to make the exit look less like a defeat—or worse, pointless waste.  Most Americans no longer ask what the wars were for.

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“Follow the money,” a furious Army officer, near the end of his career, instructed me. I had spent my time with poor kids in search of an honorable future who do the grunt work of America’s military.  They are part of the nation’s lowliest 1%. But as that angry career officer told me, “They only follow orders.” It’s the other 1% at the top who are served by war, the great American engine that powers the transfer of wealth from the public treasury upward and into their pockets. Following that money trail reveals the real point of the chosen conflicts. As that disillusioned officer put it to me, the wars have made those profiteers “monu-fuckin’-mentally rich.” It’s the soldiers and their families who lost out.

Ann Jones has a new book published today: They Were Soldiers: How the Wounded Return from America’s Wars—the Untold Story, a Dispatch Books project in cooperation with Haymarket Books. Andrew Bacevich has already had this to say about it: “Read this unsparing, scathingly direct, and gut-wrenching account—the war Washington doesn’t want you to see. Then see if you still believe that Americans ‘support the troops.’” Jones, who has reported from Afghanistan since 2002, is also the author of two books about the impact of war on civilians: Kabul in Winter and War Is Not Over When It’s Over.

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook or Tumblr. Check out Nick Turse’s Dispatch book The Changing Face of Empire: Special Ops, Drones, Proxy Fighters, Secret Bases, and Cyberwarfare.

Copyright 2013 Ann Jones


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