Thursday, March 13, 2008

UNIFORMS - March 13th, 2008

Here in Britain the commandant at an RAF base has instructed his troops that when they go into the local city they are not to wear their uniforms. He says that those who did were insulted and he does not want to subject them to that kind of treatment for “serving their country”. The story mirrors one that Reagan used about vets returning from Vietnam, and like that one no one knows what truth there is in it. The Observer newspaper sent a reporter in an RAF uniform to the most ethnically Arabic district in London and he was received more than civilly. But that is not the issue. There are certainly some people who will equate the troops with the mission on which they were sent and while many are supporters of their government’s action, that is far wide of the mark. One can feel only pity for the young people who are persuaded to entrust their lives (and the lives of others) to the adolescent fantasies of glory on the part of such seekers for sainthood as Bush and Blair, not to mention maniacs like Cheney and Wolfowitz. It is easy to take advantage of their starry-eyed devotion to fuel the imperial ambitions of their country’s rulers. In some cases, they come from families that have been doing their governments’ dirty work for generations and genuinely believe the lies by which governments create crises that will win them the leeway for other projects, using the appeal to support the troops. But these young people are being taken advantage of, not only on the battlefield but also by the callous indifference of those same leaders if their wounds are too great for them to be repaired and sent back to again kill and maybe be killed, or more thoroughly maimed the next time. On the battlefield, they have been the beneficiaries of wonderful new techniques of repair and reconstruction, but once discharged, they are treated like last week’s garbage. The GIs of WW II did not have the same surgery, but those who could come home were treated with all the benefits a grateful nation could bestow. I did my first two years of college with the veterans and it was two of the best years of my life. I was happy that our government would then do its duty by them.

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