Friday, March 04, 2005

Thinking of Smedley

Whenever I read about Marine veterans like this person:
The man was beside himself with fury. He accused me and the AFSC of being
shameful and that the AFSC wanted to see all of our soldiers in Iraq "tried for
war crimes." I just sat at the hospitality table trying to let the veteran blow
off some steam – I couldn’t answer his concerns at that point anyway – I felt
his accusations were for the representatives of the AFSC.
The very, very
angry man finally screamed one thing that I couldn’t ignore. He was practically
frothing at the mouth when he roared: "You people are all cowards. You wouldn’t
die for anything."
That’s when I had had just about enough of Mr. Marine. I
stood up to him and I said: "You are wrong about that, sir. I would have gladly
gone to Iraq instead of my son. I would have died in his place without

I comfort myself by remembering Smedley Butler:
I have visited eighteen government hospitals for veterans. In them are a
total of about 50,000 destroyed men-men who were the pick of the nation eighteen
years ago. The very able chief surgeon at the government hospital at Milwaukee .
. . told me that mortality among veterans is three times as great as among those
who stayed home. Boys with a normal viewpoint were taken out of the fields and
offices and factories and classrooms and put into the ranks. There they were
remolded; they were made over; they were made to "about face"; to regard murder
as the order of the day. They were put shoulder to shoulder and, through mass
psychology, they were entirely changed . . . Then suddenly, we discharged them
and told them to make another "about face"! This time they had to do their own
readjusting, sans mass psychology, sans officers' aid and advice, sans
nation-wide propaganda. We didn't need them any more . . . Many, too many, of
these fine young boys are eventually destroyed, mentally, because they could not
make that final "about face."

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