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In this war, the truth hurts


Michael J. McCarthy
  • Michael J. McCarthy

You won't find the full-page Army ad in the Independent that I just read in an NAACP magazine. The ad reads, "You made them strong. We'll make them Army strong."

Besides focusing on vulnerable minority parents, recruiters are nowadays even trolling homeless shelters, their lures baited with offers of $20,000 to leave "home." Further, enlistment standards have been lowered for intellectual capacity, emotional stability and criminal record. These are the homegrown mercenaries, sifted largely from among the poor.

And while troops may sound expensive to muster, they're a bargain compared with the real, live mercenaries we hire for Iraq and Afghanistan. American civilians over there get paid like generals, and foreign workers command princely sums compared to the scrabbly farms or brutal sweatshops back home. Like the Romans and British before us, our imperial military has become totally dependent on private workers. Halliburton and Blackwater are the new Hessians.

Here in Colorado Springs, dozens of heroic-looking young men return from boot camp to enjoy the holiday season before being deployed to Iraq. Many of their fathers are not worried. They survived their own wars. Their sons will probably survive, too.

Maybe. Battlefield care is surely outstanding now, and only about 3,900 troops have actually died at the front. Unfortunately, we don't keep such close tabs on the wounded. Too depressing. If we did publish true figures of the emotionally maimed, or the economically disabled, it might discourage some of our potential cannon fodder from enlisting. That, in turn, could undermine the $700 million we spend each year on recruiters and the $583 million for advertising and promotion.

For Iraqis, of course, the war is infinitely worse. We don't even count their casualties. We just assume everyone we kill is an al Qaeda "suspect." This self-fulfilling prophecy has made plain just how sinister those blackguards really are, enlisting women and small children for their nefarious work. Iraqi wounded are simply assumed to die of their injuries in the privacy of their own battered homes. This is probably not a bad guess, since we have demolished their hospitals and water purification plants, and chased their doctors abroad.

Our own wounded remain nearly as uncounted. Colorado veterans officials have pleaded with the Pentagon and the VA for data on who will be returning in need of care. Unfortunately, such record-keeping conflicts with a White House policy of downplaying the wounded, so as not to sap enthusiasm for the battle.

And now, verifying what we already knew in our hearts, Alan Greenspan, of all people, has confirmed the war is actually just about oil. No kidding. Good thing our potential high school recruits don't read the financial pages. They might begin to wonder just what they're giving "back" to their country.

Don't get me wrong, I "support our troops." That's why I gripe about this senseless war. Cheering them into the grave, or a hospital, disabled for life, isn't support to me. And isn't it ironic that as our elected officials rally behind troop support, fewer than 1 percent of their children are serving in Iraq. Oh, such support can be found all over Colorado yellow ribbons on their SUVs. But no recruitment ads in the Summit Daily News or the Aspen Times. They know better.

When I served four years in the Army as a medic and X-ray tech, I didn't take lightly the commitment to defend our country. If I had been called to a battle I didn't agree with, I would have held my end of the bargain to the best of my ability. But that doesn't mean I'd have to agree with our leaders' justification for the war. Such is the case here. I do support our troops, but I'm still disgusted with the United States getting involved with Iraq in the first place.

Nevertheless, this poisonous oppressing of another country is quietly doing its insidious work on souls our souls. Even in conservative Colorado, we're becoming hardened to dead and dying foreign civilians, and homeless refugees, Muslim-bashing and destroyed cultures.

Such forsaking of conscience is a heavy price for a little more oil and empire.

Michael J. McCarthy, a Colorado Springs resident, is an activist and a writer for social reform. Contact him at

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