|Remember this guy? That should have been enough to scare you away from the military.|
When I was nine years old, some friends of mine and I snuck into a showing of Apocalypse Now, which was an "R" rated movie in the theaters at that time.
Remember that little kid-friendly movie?
It takes place during the Vietnam War. It follows the exploits of Army Captain Willard (played by Martin Sheen), who is also a CIA assassin, as he heads up river from Vietnam to Cambodia to murder Colonel Kurtz, a US Special Forces commander who has gone insane and is directing his troops to commit atrocities against the local population.
The movie graphically depicts an unrelenting series of confusion, botched plans and straight-out fuck-ups, most resulting in widespread slaughter and misery for everyone involved.
It was a mind-blowing experience for a nine-year-old, especially on the big screen. The movie fascinated me, and I've watched it many times since then. It made me realize from any early age that one organization I would never involve myself with was the military.
Later, I learned that the movie wasn't an "accurate" portrayal of the Vietnam War, see, because it was actually based on a book called Heart of Darkness, which was written in the 1890s.
But I don't agree. I think there are elements of that movie that remain accurate to this day.
I think the premise of the movie is that the American military is basically an insane and destructive force, and it can't help but poison or demolish whatever winds up in its path. It is, in short, a total clusterfuck.
A few(!) recent developments seem to back me up on this. Where to even begin?
Clusterfuck #1 - the VA Hospital Scandal
Well, let's start with the Department of Veteran's Affairs, shall we? That's VA, for short. The VA is tasked with taking care of the health and well-being of our brave soldiers and soldierettes when they come back from the front lines of whatever war we're fighting at any given time.
By now, you probably know that the VA Hospital in Phoenix, Arizona, systematically delayed health care for at least 1,700 veterans by employing a convoluted secret or "unofficial" waiting list.
Apparently, they did this so that it would appear on official records as though wait lists were shorter than they actually were. This would boost performance measures at the hospital, which would in turn result in performance-based bonuses and salary increases for the hospital administrators.
The official hospital records show that new patients waited an average of 24 days for an appointment. In fact, the accurate, secret number was around 115 days.
I don't know about you, but if someone tells me I need to wait 24 days to see a doctor, that's a whole lot of Next. 115 days? Eh, that's almost four months. Hell, no. I could be dead in four months.
Indeed, in approximately 40 cases, patients, American veterans, died while waiting to see a doctor. At that one hospital in Phoenix. All so some people could get their bonus checks.
Lest you think this is some isolated incident, reporting by CNN and now the military's own audit has determined that the practice is common at dozens of VA hospitals throughout the country, resulting in delayed care for thousands of veterans.
Last week, the unfolding scandal led to the resignation of the Obama-appointed Secretary of Veteran's Affairs, Eric Shineski. If you think that will solve the problem, I don't think you've been paying attention.
Clusterfuck #2 - The Fort Hood Prostitution Ring
|American hero Sergeant 1st Class Gregory McQueen. Oh yeah, he's a pimp, too.|
I suppose this one is darkly ironic. 37-year-old Sergeant 1st Class Gregory McQueen is under investigation for organizing a prostitution ring at Fort Hood in Texas.
The ironic part is that Sergeant McQueen was working as a sexual harassment and sexual assault response and prevention coordinator at the time. When women came to him for help, he used that as an opportunity to recruit them into his prostitution ring, which allegedly served higher-ranking officers.
He specifically targeted women who were cash-strapped, especially single moms. In one case, when a woman refused to become a prostitute, he sexually assaulted her instead.
Um, did I mention that he worked in sexual assault and harassment prevention?
Clusterfuck #3 - the Case of Bowe Bergdahl
|Bowe Bergdahl, while a Taliban prisoner of war.|
In June 2009, Specialist Bowe Robert Bergdahl was a 23-year-old American infantry soldier stationed at a combat outpost in Afghanistan called Mest-Malak.
He had been raised to believe that the United States military went to other countries to help the people they found there. Apparently, he got this quaint idea from his father, who has since changed his mind.
During his time in Afghanistan, Bowe Bergdahl became disillusioned by his work. He sent his parents an email that reads as follows:
"The future is too good to waste on lies. And life is way too short to care for the damnation of others, as well as to spend it helping fools with their ideas that are wrong. I have seen their ideas and I am ashamed to even be american. The horror of the self-righteous arrogance that they thrive in. It is all revolting."
"In the US army you are cut down for being honest... but if you are a conceited brown nosing shit bag you will be allowed to do what ever you want, and you will be handed your higher rank... The system is wrong. I am ashamed to be an american. And the title of US soldier is just the lie of fools...I am sorry for everything here. These people need help, yet what they get is the most conceited country in the world telling them that they are nothing and that they are stupid, that they have no idea how to live. We don't even care when we hear each other talk about running their children down in the dirt streets with our armored trucks... We make fun of them in front of their faces, and laugh at them for not understanding we are insulting them...I am sorry for everything. The horror that is america is disgusting..."
I know, I know. The email makes you wonder - what kind of pantywaists is the Army recruiting these days? In any event, three days after writing those words, Bergdahl disappeared from his unit. He allegedly told one of the other guys that he planned to "walk to India." Which is actually possible, if not entirely feasible.
In other words, he deserted his post. Naturally, he didn't make it to India, and instead was captured by the Taliban in about four nanoseconds. He spent the past five years as a Taliban prisoner of war, only being released as part of a prisoner swap a few days ago.
So where's the fuck-up in this?
Well, for one thing, to get Bergdahl back, the Obama administration traded five high-ranking Taliban, who were busy being water-boarded and electrified at Guantanamo Bay. And they did it without alerting Congress 30 days in advance, so it appears they broke their own law against doing exactly that. In fact, Senator Dianne Feinstein claims that the administration deliberately kept the Senate in the dark for two years about the Bergdahl negotiations.
For another, at least six of his fellow soldiers died while searching for him.
Soon, Bergdahl will be back in the States. And among other things, he'll face the rage of his fellow soldiers, the ones who went out looking for him after he disappeared.