What are the true costs of war in Afghanistan? Our guest, writer and photographer Ann Jones, has written an impactful book titled They Were Soldiers: How the Wounded Return from America’s Wars, that chronicles a world mostly hidden from the public. Ann Jones has spent nearly a decade working with Afghan civilians and writing about the effects of war on their lives, but in the last couple years, she focused on the human toll on and off the battlefield as U.S. soldiers return back from war zones with permanent mental damage, missing limbs or as quadruple amputees.
I live in Norway, where peace is taken for granted, as it is in Europe.
The United States looks crazed, the way we send our forces out all over the world, always looking for a fight.
Any unit of any size has a special unit within it that does mortuary affairs because all combat units are losing soldiers all the time and even soldiers who never leave base may be victims of this war–suicides, for example.
The job of the soldiers assigned to mortuary affairs is to protect the other soldiers from knowledge of those deaths.
Their job is to go out and retrieve the pieces of soldiers who very often in Afghanistan have literally been blown to pieces and bring those body parts and remains back to the base, to thier little secret part of the base and try to match up and put them in “transfer cases” – to transfer them home to Dover, Delaware where they are repackaged, gussied up to be put in coffins and sent on for families for burial.
Landstuhl Regional Medical Center is very close to Ramstein Air Base in Germany. There are special air ambulance services that go out from there to Africa, to Asia, to pick even individual casualties. The individuals are often members of the CIA or private contractors or military special ops people.
The suicides have been increasing year by year. Many of those suicides take place in the field. There have been a number that have been documented as a result of hazing and sexual assaults.
A great many more take place here at home when soldiers return and find that they can’t live with themselves.
I think what’s really troubling now is the number of soldiers and ex-soldiers who aren’t really counted in this statistic who are taking their lives under the influence of opioid painkillers, that have been pushed upon them by Big Pharma.
They’re shown to be highly addictive, particularly in young people, and to be heavily implicated in suicide.
The rate at which soldiers under treatment in the V.A. are taking their lives should be a national scandal.
It’s estimated that 1 in 3 women soldiers have been the victim of sexual assault.
In fact, the number of male soldiers victimized is even greater. The percentage is less but the number is greater because men still represent 85 percent of the personnel in the military.
Congress is supposed to vote on military appropriations for 2014 very shortly. Kirsten Gillebrand, the senator from New York, is leading the campaign to attach an amendment to that budgetary appropriation that would remove the prosecution for sexual assault, the reporting and the decision about the prosecution and the prosecution itself from the chain of command and place it in the hands of specially trained military and civilian legal units.
Who joins? It’s kids, from poor families, from dysfunctional families. Mainly from the South and the “rust belt” and urban centers who see very little, if any, opportunity for their ambitions and their idealism in their home communities.
Guest – Ann Jones, a journalist, photographer, and the author of ten books of nonfiction. She has written extensively about violence against women. Since 2001, she has worked intermittently as a humanitarian volunteer in conflict and post-conflict countries in the Middle East, sub-Saharan Africa, and central and south Asia. From Afghanistan and the Middle East, she has reported on the impact of war upon civilians; and she has embedded with American forces in Afghanistan to report on war’s impact on soldiers. Her articles on these and other matters appear most often in The Nation and online at www.TomDispatch.com. Her work has received generous support from the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University, where she held the Mildred Londa Weisman Fellowship (2010-2011); the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation (2011-2012); and the Fulbright Foundation (2012). She lives in Oslo, Norway, with two conversational cats.
The Black Misleadership Class Versus the Movement and Its Legacy
We go now to hear Glen Ford speaking at the Black Agenda Report 7th anniversary gathering at Harlem’s Riverside Church. The theme of the event was ““The Black Misleadership Class Versus the Movement and Its Legacy.” Ford gives strong criticism of newly elected New Jersey Senator Cory Booker as the essence of Black misleadership, showing the many ties of the current Newark mayor to corporate America.
Guest – Glen Ford is the executive editor of Black Agenda Report.
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