Monday, May 25, 2015

Moral Injury

--White Rabbit from Alice in Wonderland
(Zwerger) --
He's a little late

Forgive us now for what we've done
It started out as a bit of fun
Here, take these before we run away
The keys to the gulag
--O Children, Nick Cave

Torture is not just a matter of policy;
it is an addiction, a deadening mindset,
a point of identification, a form of moral paralysis,
a war crime, an element of the spectacle of violence,
and it must be challenged in all of its dreadful registers
--America's Addiction to Torture,
Henry Giroux

It took until 1980 for the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) to include post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a diagnosis, thereby validating the recurring trauma which many returning veterans from the Vietnam War experienced. Today, "moral injury" is the new designation on the medical radar.

Surely the concept of moral injury is solid. However, Ranger takes exception with a Special Forces Lt. Col. Bill Russell Edmonds (then a Special Forces captain) who has written a book about his moral injury in the Phony War on Terror (PWOT ©) based upon his experiences witnessing torture and in which he felt complicit.

Edmonds "volunteered for duty in an ad hoc organization, the Iraqi Assistance Group, which the United States military created to supply advisers to the nascent Iraqi military. He was sent to Iraq, given a brief training course in Baghdad and then loaded into a convoy to Mosul, where he would spend the next year on a small compound Sad­dam Hussein had called the Guest House" (God is Not Here).

Forgive me if Edmond's claim of suffering moral injury does not move me, but as an SF officer he was trained and conversant in the Geneva Conventions and the Rules of Land Warfare. He knew what he was doing, and he chose to "just follow orders."

Moral injuries are real, devastating and corrosive, and characteristically fall upon the average soldier unprepared for what he experiences. It is too much to believe that an SF Captain would go along to get along yet once safely awarded his LTC rank, finally wake up to smell the coffee. It sounds like bandwagon-hopping to this retired SF officer.

As Edmond was purportedly injured when a Captain, he was later rewarded for his transgressions as he is now an LTC. How can one be morally injured and yet still wear the beret and revel in the rank awarded you for your subservience?

Further, what was an SF trooper doing  in the bowels of an Enemy Prisoner of War (EPW) compound running amok with captured  personnel? Is this what JSOC and SOCOM hath wrought both to our Army and society?

There was a time pre-JSOC/SOCOM when interrogations were handled by military intelligence specialists and tip of the spear guys, where the rubber meets the road guys never got involved with enemy prisoners of war. Why was an SF officer performing this duty?

Clearly, the Military Intelligence types would not prostitute themselves by torturing and insisted on following the Rules of War. (At least, Ranger hopes there was an enclave of legality somewhere in this otherwise immoral war.) So, the Special Forces assumed the illegal function.

In short, the Captain insured his own moral injury by playing fast and loose with the morality of soldiering. His self-perversion earned him a promotion, retention in active duty, and a book detailing his experiences. Sorry, but this does not go down well.

Nobody ever said that SF guys were stupid.

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Blogger mike said...

That nytimes book review is garbage. Ms Robinson asks where was his leadership, as if Captain Edmonds was a Pfc. Indeed, where was the leadership of the books author?

Tuesday, May 26, 2015 at 12:37:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

we can ask this question of both the civilian and military leadership.

Thursday, May 28, 2015 at 7:10:00 AM GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a life-long tree-hugging civilian, "CavDad" (my "call-sign" in adopting a band of Troopers, some now downrange, others in garrison and a number with the coveted DD-214), is now left to scratch his head. Read the LTC's book and have been haunted by two lines: "What is unhappiness? It's emotion using reason to understand this world", and "(g)oing to war should never be an easy, or easily forgotten, choice". With respect to the first, what the COL assets still rings true to CavDad's admittedly tin and naive ear, even after reading your assessment that the SF LTC, as a then CPT, essentially "should have know better" and thus, if I am digesting your line of reasoning correctly, essentially the agent of his own moral injury. CavDad initially became very defensive at the idea a US Army Officer being maligned, and further that CavDad had been so throughly hoodwinked by this Officer, but then allowed your assessment to sink to a deeper place, yielding what was at first a startling revelation: if a member of CavDad's beloved E-4 Mafia had made such an argument to command in defense of his actions/inaction, he'd be lucky if he didn't end up eating off a tin plate at Leavenworth, correct? I mean, the CPT is as bound as they are by The Soldier's Creed, to include "living the Army values" generally and to be "disciplined, physically and mentally tough, trained and proficient in my warrior tasks and drills...(to) always maintain my arms, my equipment and MYSELF (emphasis added)...(to be) an expert and... a professional." So, does this all reduce to a simple case of the CPT making "poor choices" and now compelled to live with the moral consequences, period? If so, then the second quote from the book becomes even more chilling, seeing military intervention has become the de facto US foreign "policy" of first resort, be it cloaked in the Bush Doctrine of so-called "preventive war" or the Obama-Clinton claim of a US "responsibility to protect", which is just the Bush Doctrine wearing a fleece of sheep's clothing. Far from enhancing stability in the world, our actions are contributing to precisely the opposite reality, and from my vantage point doesn't seem to be promoting anyone's freedom or security, and most certainly not that of the United States. Perhaps this tree-hugger needs to read more and understand better, as there is the suggestion CavDad is becoming transfigured as a poor version of rangeragainstwar, making us brothers from a different mother?

Tuesday, August 30, 2016 at 9:55:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Lisa said...

welcome.jim sending
my only reply is that all the crap started when warrior hood became dominent over soldiering.
my opposition to this is deeply felt and oft stated.i'd suggest you believe no one who is selling books. it seems that all spec ops troops are now issued a book agent upon completion of selection.
any way,
jim hruska

Wednesday, August 31, 2016 at 9:43:00 AM GMT-5  

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