War in Six Parts

1.

I woke up tired in half a shipping container. After a quick workout on a floor caked with Afghan ditch mud, among other things, I popped on my PT gear, grabbed my plastic box of personal hygiene supplies, and walked to the closest bathroom shipping container. I shaved, showered, and came back to put on my uniform and strap on my gun.

My team held a morning meeting and I went over to the Afghan side where my Afghan brother, who sexually molested me every few days, was waiting. We had a good conversation about key control, filling out consumption reports, and an upcoming inventory of the ammunition we’d provided our partner unit. He didn’t molest me until the end when he insisted on a close hug and quick crotch grab.

I walked with my friend back to the American side and told my team leader about my molestation difficulties. He suggested I grow a beard because Afghan men don’t usually molest other men with beards. This was a good suggestion, but unfortunately I wasn’t authorized to grow a beard because I didn’t have an exception to policy memo signed by an 0-6 or higher prior to deploying.

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2.

I woke up tired in half a shipping container. I popped on my PT gear, grabbed my plastic box of personal hygiene supplies, and walked to the nearest bathroom shipping container. I shaved, showered, and came back to put on my uniform and strap on my gun.

My team held a morning meeting and I went over to the Afghan side, but my Afghan brother hadn’t shown up for work. I went back to the American side and got ready for a low-visibility movement to the Afghan National Supply Depot. When we arrived, the vehicle I was in, driven by a young Ranger, was stopped by the Afghan security team guarding the entrance.

After being told to wait multiple times, my driver, a young white boy I’d only ever seen angry, decided not to listen and drove forward. I ordered him to stop, but Rangers only listen to Rangers and anger, so he kept going. The Afghans pointed their weapons at us and ordered us to stop. After a moment of consideration, the Ranger decided to stop.

We used our leverage as a national mission unit to circumvent the logistics system we’d created and forced the Afghans to use. We successfully cajoled a few supplies from a depot where Afghan officers hoard warehouses worth of US military hardware.

On the drive back through Kabul we ran into traffic. The traffic was caused by a dead boy’s body sprawled out in the road. His mother was weeping over him and his little brother was smiling and waving at passing cars. I waved back.

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3.

I woke up tired in half a shipping container. I popped on my PT gear, grabbed my plastic box of personal hygiene supplies, and walked to the closest bathroom shipping container. I shaved and came back to put on my uniform and strap on my gun.

My team held a morning meeting and I went over to the Afghan side where my Afghan brother and I discussed the importance of filling out proper consumption reports for fuel usage. While showing me why a form with 23 separate signatures from the Ministry of Defense had been rejected this time, my Afghan brother put his hand on my inner thigh. Whenever this happened I was never sure whether it was molestation or a cultural practice my prudish American sensibilities didn’t enjoy.

We had a mission that night. During the mission our Afghan partners found military aged males on target, though none matching the description of our named objective. Our commander ordered the Afghans to bring them all back. The Afghans refused, saying there was no derogatory information on these farmers and we’d only make enemies. Our commander ordered the Afghans to bring them all back. The Afghans objected. Our commander ordered the Afghans to bring them all back. The Afghans brought them all back, we interviewed them, and sent them on to be processed through the Afghan legal system.

I woke up tired in half a shipping container. I put on my PT gear and shaved. Then I came back, put on my uniform, and strapped on my gun.

I had no morning meeting because the mission went late into the morning.

I prepared for our daily afternoon update in our joint operations center. During the update we discussed the military aged males taken off the objective the previous night. Our commander ordered us to name the military aged males with target series nomenclature so they’d count in our official statistics of killing or capturing enemy targets.

We included the farmers in our official statistics and he included those statistics in his Officer Evaluation Review. He was later promoted to full Colonel.

When they couldn’t find any derogatory information on the men, the Afghan police released the farmers and gave them American money for a car trip back to their village.

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4.

I woke up tired in half a shipping container. I popped on my uniform and strapped on my gun.

My team held a morning meeting, during which we were told our commander had yelled at the Afghan commander the previous evening and threatened to have him fired. There’d never been a green-on-blue incident with our partner unit, so we categorized our personal risk as low. We walked over and had normal meetings with our Afghan brothers.

Later, while reading the news, I saw that an Afghan man had driven his motorcycle into a volleyball game and blown up 40-some children.

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5.

I woke up tired in half a shipping container. I popped on my uniform and strapped on my gun.

A Special Forces unit at a base down the road overheard an Afghan truck driver say over the phone there was a truck full of explosives on its way to our base. They called members of our base’s team to warn them.

Later that day our Explosive Ordnance Disposal specialist popped into his armor and went to investigate a truck parked outside our gate that matched the description. While investigating the truck in full kit, he met with the Afghan Deputy Commander, who’d walked out to the vehicle in his cloth uniform.

Inside our wooden office hut on our base, I watched one of the pirated movies the US government allows the military to steal from the entertainment industry during deployments. I checked Facebook and saw lots of posts from Americans arguing over the color of a dress.

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6.

I woke up tired in a barracks room in Kandahar.

We were in the middle of a multi-day combat operation following an unsuccessful hostage rescue. I walked to the joint operations center and relieved my friend so he could sleep. I spent the rest of the day with my Afghan brothers monitoring the situation from intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance platforms.

When our team returned, I spoke with another friend and interpreter about his experiences. When his team landed next to the target house, a man ran out holding a young child in front of him with one arm and an AK-47 with the other. Our team and partner unit yelled at him to stop multiple times, but he kept running towards them. When they took the shot his vest exploded.

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To Restore Justice

Western retributive justice is barbaric. When a human breaks the laws of its civilization, retributive justice posits that that human should be given a punishment proportional to their crime. In reality this manifests as an arbitrary punishment created ad hoc with no universal standard for what constitutes proper retribution. The arbitrary retributive constructs of one civilization may be entirely different from the arbitrary retributive constructs of another; one person’s forty lashes is another person’s $40 fine. This is not justice, this is arbitrary retribution reflecting popular local cultural constructs. Though temporally democratically popular, like slavery and war, this is an outmoded concept.

In addition to the arbitrary nature of retributive punishment, the idea that a society benefits from further traumatizing individual members who’ve transgressed is based on a faulty understanding of psychology and neurology. Individual human consciousness is heavily impacted by its environment, and definitively claiming humans have sole propriety over personal physical actions is tenuous. All actions are influenced by environmental chemicals, social inputs, and whatever neurological interpretation of reality the individual perceives at any given time. To believe justice is served by punishing a human for how their brain has been impacted genetically and socially is both barbaric and self-defeating.

Society is not better served when humans are traumatized and then stigmatized for their trauma. This practice perpetuates destructive cycles that keep large numbers of human brains in biological survival mode. Fueled by exacerbating chemicals like caffeine, opioids, sugar, dopamine, adrenaline, and alcohol (among many others), human populations absorb trauma, do not adequately address the trauma’s psychological impact, and then passively watch trauma transform and manifest itself in other ways, often as depression or a neurotic expression of unaddressed rage. This process can occur both individually and collectively, and the two are inextricably linked, creating cycles and new constructs based in trauma.

The most obvious example is our conception of safety and national security after 9/11. Our collective trauma manifested itself in bombings, invasions, and rage all over the world, and even caused us to declare a war on being afraid. This trauma is so banal that most citizens have no conception of the impact their civilization’s rage has had on the rest of the world. But personal ignorance of the full extent of inflicted trauma doesn’t mean the effect of that trauma is lessened. Trauma, defined as an expansive sliding scale of negative outcomes, is concentrated emotional energy and cannot be destroyed, only transformed.

The environment created through external actions is directly related to how an individual brain perceives its external environment. Create a trauma-saturated environment and the brain will perceive and absorb trauma, create a happiness-saturated environment and the brain will perceive and absorb happiness. The creators of trauma expose themselves to a trauma-saturated environment of their own making (as far as anything they do is independent and not simply repeating the cycles they learned), then bring absorbed trauma home to their families and friends where, unaddressed, it usually expresses itself through depression or rage. Retribution is not justice, it’s rage hijacking human rationality to construct a complex and opaque system that codifies its own goals. Don’t underestimate unpruned human anger, especially your own.

In the specific barbarism of this event, a child was traumatized through the horrifying American foster system, then she was impregnated. Then she birthed another child at 15, and finally she killed that child 19 months later. The psychologists (there is a segment of the psychology profession that specializes in judging sanity, according to US law, for money) deemed that despite the context, this human understood the basic functions of the legal bureaucracy, therefore, as experts, they consented to punishing her using that legal bureaucracy. After a lifetime of trauma, did this person’s consciousness have real control over her actions, or was her self under the sway of unaddressed neurosis? Does it particularly matter? Another traumatized person is most likely going into the US prison system, in this case because she stabbed her own baby five times.

Restorative justice sees this case in a different light. Rather than believe the best solution to trauma is more trauma, restorative justice, at least the version I believe in, seeks to find the most beneficial solution for both the community and the individual human. How? By identifying sources of trauma, creating systemic infrastructure specifically focused on addressing those sources, and deliberately intervening in order to interrupt cycles. A human being who creates trauma is not a monster, but rather a victim themselves who should be helped and understood.

In practice, a system of restorative justice would support thousands of panels of diverse individuals whose entire job is discussing the most beneficial solutions on an individual basis. Though arbitrary and dependent on any number of human variables, this system returns the humanity to justice. Rather than prisons, individuals a panel deems traumatized enough to justify temporary separation from society are sent to resocialization centers, where they are helped through their neurosis and given resources to develop skills and plenty of creative outlets to enhance their imagination and happiness. Amalgamations of this system already work in plenty of civilizations, but certainly not the United States.

Due to the mental state of large portions of the US population, true restorative justice would most likely not work. This is interesting to note and speaks to the high incidence of childhood trauma and lack of mental health infrastructure within the US. I define sanity as being mindful of and in balance with personal emotions, individuated from formative authority figures and constructs, confident in a personal ability to change the self in a chosen direction, and not desirous of negative outcomes for other beings. Unfortunately ideas that rely on sane humans to help other humans become saner don’t work in a society with a scarcity of sane humans.

Democrazy

Democracy!

Fun with demographics, US election contributions, and stats!

I got an email from the Democratic Socialists of America with a bold claim:
“Fewer than 16,000 donors were responsible for HALF of all federal campaign contributions in 2016. To put that in perspective, there were 3.2 million donors in 2016. Yet half of all financial support came from just 0.5% of them.”

That’s pretty shocking for a country that considers itself an example of democracy. But I’m always suspicious of how people use stats, so I put in some research time.

2016 US election contribution totals from the Center for Responsive Politics: No automatic alt text available.

.1% of the total US adult population gave over $2,700. Here’s a chart from Pew to visualize that breakdown:

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In other words, a large percentage of that .1% of donors giving over $2,700 are wealthy and have checked the education blocks our culture rewards. “Those who earn more also tend to donate more. Among those who donated, 27% of those with family incomes of $150,000 or more said they contributed more than $250, while 16% of contributors with incomes between $75,000 and $150,000 gave at least $250.”

If we view money as a component of the electorate’s overall feelings of efficacy, those with more money in the United States have more access to political efficacy. This canalizes thinking and behavioral patterns, as portions of the electorate with strong feelings of political efficacy are more likely to perpetuate a system in which they feel powerful. In part, this is why the world looks so different for those with and those without consistent feelings of personal efficacy.

From WaPo:

“Gilens and Page analyze 1,779 policy outcomes over a period of more than 20 years. They conclude that “economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while mass-based interest groups and average citizens have little or no independent influence.”

“In their primary statistical analysis, the collective preferences of ordinary citizens had only a negligible estimated effect on policy outcomes, while the collective preferences of “economic elites” (roughly proxied by citizens at the 90th percentile of the income distribution) were 15 times as important. “Mass-based interest groups” mattered, too, but only about half as much as business interest groups — and the preferences of those public interest groups were only weakly correlated (.12) with the preferences of the public as measured in opinion surveys.”

“A political organization contacted 191 congressional offices requesting meetings to discuss a pending bill. The organization’s members were randomly identified either as constituents or as campaign donors. Of the people identified as donors, 19 percent got meetings with the member of Congress or a top staffer, but only 5 percent of those identified as constituents (not as donors) got similar access.”

This creates a specific context for voters and their elected representatives. My hypothesis is that an inordinate use of money as efficacy leads to ineffective or unsustainable governing mechanisms due to the sociological factors involved in consolidating and wielding concentrated power in the context of inequality. This is particularly concerning when considering the methods individuals who’ve consolidated money into fortunes used to do so and the personal toll of that psychological impact. A change in personal wealth is a significant psychological experience and can impact behavioral patterns, the severity of unaddressed neurosis, and an individual’s ability to impact the world around them.

By catering to individuals with wealth-enhanced political efficacy, we narrow the diversity of effective interests, creating a feedback loop of efficacy and success within wealthy demographics. Additionally, as noted in Chart 1, there is a major disparity between male and female participation, further skewing priorities. When power is so grossly imbalanced within a society, a government that effectively represents those power imbalances will continue to widen the gap with its myopic policies created in conjunction with its most politically effective citizens.

The History of Warfare

War used to be a bunch of dudes running around hitting one another with whatever they could find.

Then.

War used to be a bunch of dudes running around hitting one another with objects they made out of whatever they could find.

Then.

War used to be a bunch of dudes running around hitting and shooting one another with objects they made out of material they refined out of objects and animals they found or farmed.

Then.

War used to be a bunch of dudes running and riding around hitting and shooting one another with objects they made out of material they refined out of objects and animals the found or farmed .

Then.

War used to be a bunch of dudes running and riding and flying around shooting and bombing and hitting one another with objects they made out of material they refined out of objects and animals they found or farmed.

Now.

War is a bunch of dudes of all genders working in a vast industry built to support small groups of dudes running and riding and flying around killing and capturing whoever their government orders anywhere in the world and other dudes of all genders sitting in rooms around the world using technology to fly bombing drones or spy drones somewhere else in the world to bomb or spy on whatever their government orders.

And.

Human progress marches on.

Hey Sports Professionals

You’re exploiting the potent combination of human desire and mass communication very well, but not only is the result destructive for the poor schmucks who attach sports to their personal value and spend money they don’t have buying your addictive products, it’s terrible for your own bodies and minds. You’re being exploited by powerful rich people who force giant taxpayer-funded non-profit stadiums on everyone else.

Sports for money does not require the simultaneous attention of millions. You’re very talented, but please be reasonable. If you’re a well-paid professional athlete, you’re very well-paid by any standard. Pool some of that money with other players and set up a new organization for all your sports and play inside a building you own. Please play in reasonable sized places that integrate well into your city so your games don’t disrupt everyone else’s lives..

Next, create a pipeline program that replaces college and high school sports. Prospective future sports professionals will train and compete here safely under professional guidance and instruction as they prepare for their career in sports. Have after-school programs for prospects during high school, relieving schools and taxpayers of the need to fund professional sports. Create a robust selection process and hire prospects from high school directly into your company, where, while providing various administrative and logistical assistance, they will participate in full-time training camps and life skills programs until and after they’re selected for a professional team. For those who wish to concurrently take college classes, plan to set aside money for tuition assistance and other benefits. Pay fair salaries and treat athletes like respected employees. Make salaries standard across the league to prevent wealthy teams from determining the location of talent and allow for the self-incorporation and official induction of exceptional and organized externally created teams.

Your organization can be a multi-tiered multimedia and sports company that liaises with communities to nurture prospective sports talent (please do not gouge poor communities with prices, there’ll be plenty of money), reports on league activities through your own channels and publications, broadcasts and sells licensing rights to games, licenses player and league merchandise, and serve as the major player-owned sports league.

With your current salaries you could complete your contracts, pool a proportional percentage for seed money and immediately attract a swarm of international investors dying to do business with you. Retain a solid majority control and steer the organization to be the best sports league in the history of humanity.

Please stop exploiting human frailty to feed your own ego. You have the power to create a better situation for yourself and future sports professionals.

Abdication

war is over

The Korean peninsula would benefit from a lack of US involvement. It’s time for Russia, China, South Korea, North Korea, and Japan to move beyond historically tenuous regional relationships and petty maritime border bickering. It’s time to find a solution to nuclear weapons in North Korea without the American Wild Card. It’s time to end the war on the Korean peninsula and remove a foreign military force that abuses the South Korean population, supports crime networks and human trafficking, and destabilizes the peace. War on the Korean peninsula will be one of the great cataclysms of our age. We, as humans, can prevent it from ever happening.

It’s time for America to become one nation among many nations. The false stasis of Pax Americana thoroughly disproved and the prophets of the miserable World Order (their words, not mine) revealed as cynical mouthpieces for their exploitative tribe. They who sold the illusion of stability, progress, liberty, and equilibrium as they handed out small pox blankets and nuclear guarantees.

Our hallowed elite, sitting in mahogany halls.

We are observed in rot-filled homes forming mutinous mouths.

Our hallowed elite, opinions weighted with fortune.

We are observed in hole-filled streets grasping at the future.

 

Their walls climb above our heads until they own the sky.

Our lives are bought and sold as holy consumption dissolves on the tongues of the faithful.

Their deaths electrify our minds and topple our world.

Our lives are programs we run to complete blocks of time worth what the market pays.

 

Our hallowed elite, caressed now by Asclepius.

We are observed in sick-filled offices loving our pills.

Our hallowed elite, outsource empathy for comfort.

We are observed in our shame-filled weakness,

We are observed in our anger-filled failures,

We are observed in our trauma-filled relationships,

We who lack the will to triumph over all beings.

 

Their halls are the halls we build for them,

Our homes are the homes they told us to build.

Their opinions are the opinions we lend value,

Our futures are the futures they told us to have.

 

The walls that overtake us are creations of our mind,

Those lives we consume in delusion are creations of another’s.

The deaths that control us are creations of our mind,

Those lives we complete in deference are creations of another’s.

 

Their nourishment is the nourishment we provide,

Our sickness is the sickness they told us we could cure.

Their empathy is the empathy we forgive,

Our weakness is the weakness they told us would lead to ruin.

 

We are hallowed.

Our lives are hallowed.

We are elites.

Our world is what we allow.

Collective abdication our legacy.

Sexual Violence in Afghanistan

Trigger Warning: Sexual Violence

“American efforts at recruitment have been marked by a 30,000-foot perspective that focuses on numbers, but lacks a sense of the realities for Afghan women on the ground: Many families are wary of allowing their daughters to enlist, acutely aware of cultural notions that women in security forces are “loose” because they work so closely alongside men. A false rumor is all it can take for a male colleague, or neighbor, to undermine a woman’s career — and even cost her her life.”

I can personally confirm nearly everything in this op-ed. Within the Afghan unit I advised for a year I knew male Afghan soldiers who routinely harassed, assaulted, and raped female Afghan soldiers. We, the advisers, could not stop this practice because if we talked about this reality to anyone or even mentioned that we knew it occurred, the women would most likely have been killed in retaliation by the male Afghan soldiers, or out of shame/honor by the families of the female soldiers, who were often unaware their daughters were serving. Having to drink tea and shake hands with active rapists to keep up appearances, not offend their fragile masculinity, and prevent them from killing women you have no power or authority to help is a moral quagmire I wouldn’t wish on anyone.

In this context, I had ISAF/RS advisers focusing on women’s empowerment in Afghanistan visit our camp. Their major focus was making sure all the female soldiers had the proper boot sizes. Unfortunately, the Afghan boot factory had burned down a few years before, so we had to inform them that we were having trouble locating boots for the female soldiers, but had placed an order for the needed boot sizes with an American manufacturer. While this satisfied ISAF/RS temporarily, we had to give weekly updates on the status of the boot order to ensure women were empowered in Afghanistan.

For the record, the violence and trauma inflicted on everyone in Afghanistan is not because of some innate cultural or religious issue present within the many diverse ethnic groups that make up the region. The cause of violence and trauma in Afghanistan is the violence and trauma that has been inflicted on the people of Afghanistan for their entire lives. Their psyches, like all psyches raised with trauma, have developed coping and survival mechanisms, many of them horrific, as a response to the extreme trauma of their environment.