Guest Commentary

Hey, kids: Look at all the facts before considering enlistment

Consider this an open letter to Tucson high school students, after the fourth anniversary of our invasion of Iraq.

Your government is increasingly interested in employing your services in its armed forces. To that end, it has gone to great lengths to maintain access to your personal information, practically to the point of violating your 14th Amendment right to privacy.

Depending on your proximity to graduation and your family's socioeconomic status, you may have already been contacted or individually courted by military recruiters. Perhaps the educational and career opportunities they have offered are appealing, and you are considering enlistment. Well, here are a few more points to ponder before making a decision.

Obviously, military service can no longer be glamorized as a free ticket to a tropical paradise.

There is a war on, of sorts, a war that can only be characterized as a counterinsurgency quagmire rooted in naked imperial aggression, to use some possibly unfamiliar phrases. In simpler terms, think Vietnam, without the arguably compelling motivations of a global communist enemy. Think blood for oil: your blood, Iraqi oil.

Should you choose to serve, your government will most likely send you to Iraq with inadequate armor and no clear strategy objectives. You will remain there until such time as you are injured, killed or permitted to return safely home. You might be told to do anything from building schools to torturing prisoners. Whatever it is you end up doing, rest assured, you'll be doing it with a large target painted on your back.

Should you become a casualty, your government will work to ensure that you do not augment the death toll. The military has made great strides in the area of battlefield triage and evacuation, not the least reason for which is that sending boys and girls home in body bags is just plain bad for the war business. However, while your chances of surviving your service in Iraq may be much higher than in Vietnam, you will stand a greatly increased chance of coming home without your legs, arms, skin, genitals or sanity. Such are the consequences of counterinsurgency warfare.

Should you leave Iraq maimed or debilitated in any number of ways, you can be sure that from that point on, your government will neglect you, or worse. You may have seen headlines recently about some stuffed shirts in Washington suddenly expressing outrage over the state of health care for veterans. The timing of this is, of course, largely a political ploy, like most of what emanates from D.C. It has been a painfully obvious, studiously ignored fact that health care for veterans has always been substandard, and the stuffed shirts have never remedied this problem, no matter which party was in control of the government.

The reason for this is clear: Once your usefulness as a soldier has ended, you become nothing more than a budgetary liability to the suits in Washington. They will resist paying for your physical and mental health care, deny that your conditions exist, and even manipulate medical research and lie about the effects of your service, including what sort of toxic materials you were exposed to, the true effects of the vaccinations you were given, and so on. The masters of war will stop at nothing to deny the true impacts of their battlefield technologies--like Agent Orange in Vietnam, and depleted uranium munitions in more recent conflicts--on you as a human being. To them, you are an expendable piece of meat with an expiration date that corresponds roughly to the end of your tour of duty.

But you needn't take my word for it. Check out any of the excellent documentaries that have been made about the current occupation of Iraq, including The Ground Truth, Occupation: Dreamland and many others. Or go to the Web sites of groups of returning veterans who are speaking out against the war, such as Listen to the voices of soldiers who have been there and are questioning the reasons why they were sent and the way they've been treated.

Consider all of this very carefully before making your decision, because the Democrats, despite their campaign rhetoric, are already demonstrating that they do not have the spine to end this war anytime soon. Should you choose to serve anyway, then stay safe, and may whatever god you reach for in desperate times have mercy on your soul.

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