Those who have military experience will have their own memories. Given the nature of the beast, most of those will be less than pleasant. The vast majority of us have no such background, with well less than 10 percent of the population having ever served. That leaves a huge void when it comes to perceptions about war and the military itself.
Unfortunately, as the saying goes, nature abhors a vacuum. Despite all evidence to the contrary, people aren’t necessarily the airheads they seem. It’s just that what they fill their minds with is too often not factual or helpful. In fact, misinformation and fantasies can lead to dire consequences.
A good example is this country’s military-industrial complex and historical record when it comes to endless war. Whether suffering from a practical agnosticism or a fervent patriotism, society at large either remains silent or actively “supports the troops.” The emotional appeal and typical nationalistic pride highlight our noble presumptions while obscuring the darker truths behind the scenes.Whether suffering from a practical agnosticism or a fervent patriotism, society at large either remains silent or actively 'supports the troops.' The emotional appeal and typical nationalistic pride highlight our... Click To Tweet
War Stories – Profiles in Absurdity
Only those who have actually been in the trenches can tell us what it is really like and few do that. One who is willing to is Danny Sjursen, a retired US Army officer and regular contributor to many publications. Major Sjursen served combat tours with reconnaissance units in Iraq and Afghanistan and later taught history at his alma mater, West Point.
His work appears often on Antiwar.com, where he has begun a series telling his stories and sharing his thoughts. Here is a note where he tells us something about that.
“Series note: It has taken me years to tell these stories. The emotional and moral wounds of the Afghan War have just felt too recent, too raw. After all, I could hardly write a thing down about my Iraq War experience for nearly ten years, when, by accident, I churned out a book on the subject. Now, as the American war in Afghanistan – hopefully – winds to something approaching a close, it’s finally time to impart some tales of the madness. In this new, recurring, semi-regular series, the reader won’t find many worn out sagas of heroism, brotherhood, and love of country. Not that this author doesn’t have such stories, of course. But one can find those sorts of tales in countless books and numerous trite, platitudinal Hollywood yarns.
“With that in mind, I propose to tell a number of very different sorts of stories – profiles, so to speak, in absurdity. That’s what war is, at root, an exercise in absurdity, and America’s hopeless post-9/11 wars are stranger than most. My own 18-year long quest to find some meaning in all the combat, to protect my troops from danger, push back against the madness, and dissent from within the army proved Kafkaesque in the extreme. Consider what follows just a survey of that hopeless journey…”
You can read the first piece in this series at Profiles in Absurdity: Remembering the ‘Terror’ Wars.