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The Harvesting of Innocence

Updated on November 22, 2011

For the Meat Grinder

It Don't Mean Nothin'

Someone once said that all wars would cease if soldiers simply refused to fight. The politicians and leaders of societies/civilizations never get their fingernails dirty. They pass imperatives down to military commanders who then recruit, muster and send young men and women off to kill "the enemy" -- who are just other young men and women.

Thereafter, the young men and women are indoctrinated into perceiving themselves as fighting (and dying) for a more noble cause than their opponents. If these young men and women were in full pre-possession of the full scope of war -- the way wars are manifested and their aftermath, perhaps it would be possible for them to simply say "no."

In fairness to their education about war, these men and women should be exposed to the full spectrum of the political intricacies that bring war to the horizon, as well as all of its myriad implications. Before recruits sign-up for enlistment in the armed services, fairness would dictate that they be subjected to viewing books and films like "Johnny Got His Gun."

A line on their induction papers ought to question, "Are you willing to risk the possibility of being turned into a thinking vegetable as part of your service?" This same procedure SHOULD be part of the recruitment process for "so called" religious zealots. Exposure to a motion picture like "Johnny" ought to place a question mark in the minds of any recruit anywhere in the world. It's viewing should be mandatory for all would-be soldiers. This should be part of their standard education before they learn how to fire a rifle.

My guess is that with a fully-rounded comprehension of war's less savory aspects, not many individuals would feel inclined to fill the ranks. Then, without armies to serve their whims, what would world "leaders" do to fulfill their ambitions and dubious compulsions?

Knowledge is power. Withholding knowledge from the uninitiated is perverse, criminal and evil. Every son, husband, uncle, prior to signing on the dotted line, should be exposed to the ugly underbell of war via books and film and allowed to think about this information for a few days then measure what they feel against their (probably unconscious and manipulated) notions of patriotism, duty and honor. The men and women who enlist, in short, should merely be given the opportunity to weigh the pluses against the minuses. Without this rounded portrayal, the military is basically leading lambs in to the slaughter.

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    • phdast7 profile image

      Theresa Ast 5 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Hi RJ - This is an important and necessary essay and worthy of serious consideration. My father spent 25 years in the United States Air Force serving and protecting his adopted country (emigrated fro Poland in 1945). He was tough, loyal, a good soldier, and loved America, but...

      Just like you, he was a "thinking" man and did not think all wars were just or necessary, who thought it unconscionable that rich politicians send (not their children)the children of the lower class off to fight in our wars.

      He firmly believed that anyone contemplating military service should (as you so aptly put it) "be given the opportunity to weigh the pluses against the minuses" should educate themselves, understand the dynamics of economic and foreign policy, the history of American involvement around the globe "before" joining the military.

      Although, I do not fully subscribe to all your statements, this is an important Hub and can stand as a corrective or balance to the idea of blind patriotic acceptance of all that one's country does. Worth sharing.

    • rjbatty profile image
      Author

      rjbatty 5 years ago from Irvine

      I lost an uncle in the Korean war. He was a bomber pilot and presumably was shot down -- although to this day there is no confirmation of him, the crew or the plane ever being authenticated as a downed mission. My aunt has tried tirelessly to get more information that might be in the hands of the North Koreans, but, to date, nothing has either been found or offered -- although she persists with her efforts in a small group of families that keep seeking knowledge about POWs in that conflict. My dad, also a pilot, was severely affected by the loss of his brother. He switched from flying fixed-wing aircraft to flying early-day helicopters for search and rescue missions. I believe he thought that someday he might have the chance of rescuing his kin. When he lost his 20/20 vision, the Air Force grounded him, and he went downhill precipitously -- basically drinking himself to death at the age of 42. The results of war have a generational impact. Perhaps there are some wars that are unavoidable. I think America had to get into WWII even though the populace was against it. A Hitler-controlled Europe would eventually portend chaos for the US, as the Nazis were developing intercontinental ballistic missiles. We couldn't afford to ignore what was happening across the Atlantic -- though the country loathed the thought of another world war. Our involvements in Korea, Viet Nam, and the Middle East appear to be conflicts that were chosen. I'm not an authority on the subject, but I do not feel we got much bang for the buck in these later involvements. I've long wondered how a country (in modern times) is able to retaliate against an enemy that doesn't wear a uniform. I guess our Special Operations teams are able to make "surgical" strikes, but sending a massive ground force into an area that doesn't possess strategic strike zones just seems illogical and rather backward. Modern warfare cannot be won by tanks and artillery -- although we did our best to prove otherwise in Iraq. Although our leaders talk about war being the "final" choice, I have read accounts that negate this sentiment. Wars large and small always end up with dead servicemen and grieving families. Men who want to fight should just be given all the information that is available. Judging by the number of men (and women) who return home suffering from PTSD, I'd have to say they were not adequately prepared for what faced them -- and that just isn't fair. Looking back at myself as a lad of 18 years of age, I would have to admit that I knew very little about the world or even about myself. Recruiting volunteers should at least inform the enlistments of the possible consequences. Before I was able to obtain my driver's license at age 16, I had to watch horrible film footage of car wrecks and mangled bodies. It seems like we owe our servicemen the courtesy of an equal knowledge about his/her enlistment. Thank you much for your interest in this post. It's nice to know that I'm not just spitting into the wind.

    • UnnamedHarald profile image

      David Hunt 5 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa

      Along with all that (which, since knowledge is power, as you stated, therefore will not likely be ceded by those in power), true images and videos of wars should be shown on the news. If it upsets families, remind them that war upsets families. That's not likely to happen either-- our leaders don't want anymore defeatist images like we saw in the 60s and 70s. How antiseptic is the Afghan war, given the censorship in effect? Sorry for the cynacism-- we can hope for better, but I'm not going to hold my breath. Great article.

    • aethelthryth profile image

      aethelthryth 5 years ago from American Southwest

      I have spent some time talking to a veteran of Iwo Jima who got more combat experience in a month than most career military do in a lifetime. He is VERY clear that war is horrible. He is also VERY clear that there are worse things, and that was what they fought, successfully, to stop. He also thinks WWII was pretty much the last war that we actually fought to win, and that has been the problem ever since.

      One thing about recognizing that something is terrible and horrible, but sometimes has to be done, is you do it as rarely as you can and do what you have to do get it over as fast as possible.

      But there is also the factor that it is not in the nature of 18-year-old men to think that anything bad will ever happen to them until it does.

    • phdast7 profile image

      Theresa Ast 5 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      RJ - Thank you for your lengthy and helpful response. I think we feel much the same way. World War II was necessary war, but I am not convinced that the ones since then have been. War does have generation consequences which often go unrecognized. You make an interesting analogy - we prepare our teenagers for the possible horrors of a car accident far better than we prepare them for the terrors and atrocities of war.

      I also think you are correct, we need to build a different kind of army for the (hopefully) "limited conflicts" of the future. I have read a few articles which suggest that some of the top military leadership have realized this and are moving in that direction.

      Thanks again for an important message.

    • feenix profile image

      feenix 5 years ago

      I am a veteran of the Vietnam War. In fact, I was so dumb and ignorant back then, I volunteered for tours of duty in that conflict.

      And do you know something? I am just as dumb and ignorant today as I was in 1967 when I first went to Vietnam as a combat infantry soldier. And if I were about 25 years younger, I would volunteer for military service in Afghanistan or some other dangerous or unstable region in the world.

      You see, if it were not for ignorant dummies like I am one of, the contemporary citizens of this country would not have it nearly as good as they do. They would not be able to do such things as go on leisurely shopping trips to their local malls and sit back comfortably in their well-furnished homes and crank out hubs.

      It is nice to dream, but one must never forget that a dream is just a dream. The world is a rotten place that is what it is, and that will never change.

      Thus, in order for the majority to remain reasonably safe and secure, there will always be a need for ignorant dummies who are so backwards they are unaware that all wars, including World War II, are wrong and absolutely unnecessary.

      And that is because if the day ever comes when all Americans become too wise and well informed to fight in wars, the enemies of this country will still be dumb and ignorant enough to go right on launching their attacks against the U.S.

      And those enemies will prevail, quite easily, because such things as being well informed and having "good minds" are no match for assault rifles, machine guns, artillery pieces, fighter jets, nuclear submarines, cruise missiles and long-range bombers.

    • rjbatty profile image
      Author

      rjbatty 5 years ago from Irvine

      I'm sorry that you have felt dumb and/or ignorant for so many years due to a pretense. I do not agree that the world is a "rotten place." I believe that people can and do make it a miserable place, and it is all the worse if these negative-minded people happen to be in positions of power. But, if the world were nothing but a "rotten place" we'd be jumping off cliffs in hordes, like lemmings.

      I also do not agree that the majority requires "ignorant dummies."

      You seem to feel that we need a segment of our society to be ignorant of the consequences of war in order to keep some self-perceived meat grinder churning.

      And you missed the main point of my Hub. If all soldiers (of all countries) were informed about the horror of war, if they were fully educated about its consequences -- for themselves as individuals, for their families, and for the nation as a whole, I propose that the services would have many, many fewer enlistments. If the politicians and the generals asked their soldiers to go risk their lives, and the soldiers (as a block) simply said, "no," what would the politicians and generals do? Would they meet the enemy on the field themselves? Not very likely. Perhaps some conflicts are unavoidable -- I don't know, but I'm sure some of them are. What are wars fought over? Land. Resources. Ideology. And who benefits from the sacrifices -- certainly not the servicemen themselves. The last "attack" on the US did not use any of the weapons you listed. We were attacked by our own commercial aircraft. The days where the US or other countries commit to ground assaults are OVER. We have incredible weapons in our corner right now that will probably never be used in actual combat.

      And if we do not possess "good minds," how can we even judge the validity of our actions? If everyone was playing with a full deck, I think our "leaders" would have a far more difficult time making a radio address or appearing on TV and boldly announcing that "he" was committing our combat forces for such and such reasons.

      There is no excuse for an ignorant soldier. Every soldier, regardless of rank, has the right, no, the obligation of ignoring an order perceived to be as immoral. They have that duty even while in combat. I am saying that if our servicemen were NOT ignorant they could make better informed decisions, which they should be allowed to do -- just out of a sense of decency. You have apparently swallowed the whole pitcher of Kool-Ade that switches normal human beings into willing, proud, killing machines for the sake of mom, apple pie and the girl next door.

      An intelligent soldier must be able to distinguish from government propaganda and an unavoidable threat. If he or she cannot (or will not) use the better half of their brain, then nothing will ever improve. Governments will always be able to send their little wind-up tin soldiers off to do the dirty work, and they will often die in the service of gray-haired old men who do not know squat about how to negotiate or who simply want to flex "their" muscles.

      No, there is never a good reason for ignorance or reflexively obeying the commands of men whose intentions are unclear.

    • feenix profile image

      feenix 5 years ago

      rjbatty,

      Quite frankly, I made a huge mistake by responding to this hub. I should have just read it and moved on.

    • peoplepower73 profile image

      Mike Russo 4 years ago from Placentia California

      I liked this article but it leaves me a little preplexed. I served four years in the Air Force in the 1950's during the cold war. I joined at 17-1/2 with my parents consent. I don't regret one minute of my time served. The Air Force taught me discipline and electronics and how to maintain and repair radar sets. I was always stationed on remote radar sites in the states and in Japan. I learned a trade that took me through 40 years of a high-tech career. But I did not serve in combat.

      I believe WWII was the last conventional war that we fought. People were patriotic because our enemies were a direct threat to our existence. Since then warfare has become more abstract with each war we engage in.

      Today, we have an all volunteer force, that is essentially privatized even though they wear uniforms while the enemy doesn't. When we invade a country, we don't control the land mass, like we did in WWII. The media only shows us the glamorus side of warfare. We use remote controlled drones to surgically remove the bad guys. But the average person is far removed from the realities of war. The enemy today uses force mulitipliers to scare the hell out of us. They use crotch bombs that don't even have to work. But each time they do it, we lose a little more of our freedoms.

      The average person says they are patriotic and supports the troops. However, where real patriotism begins is with caring for the broken soldiers that come home with parts of their bodies missing. These are the forgotten souls who really need our help. Great article. It got me thinking. Voting up, Useful and Sharing.

    • rjbatty profile image
      Author

      rjbatty 12 months ago from Irvine

      I suppose part of my "dream" is that "ignorant dummies" can be informed (should be informed for the sake of decency). I understand your sentiment, and it's wounding. I don't think the world can afford "dummies." It is part of my dream that the society as a whole educates "dummies" so that they balk at the idea of fighting for a confusing, uncertain outcome. The world has become too complex -- socially, economically and more dangerous with advanced technology. From time immemorial, nations have drafted or otherwise brought "dummies" into war situations where they just face other "dummies." This is untenable. Somehow, someway, we have to get beyond the sense of nationalism and rid ourselves of unfounded paranoia and the egregious proliferation of the military industrial complex. Without this evolution in our thinking and practices, what can we expect? Can we expect "conventional" wars with China or Russia -- should it come to a shooting match? And if either side finds themselves in a losing contest, what would they do?

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