ClandesTime 161 – How the Pentagon Censors Military Mental Illness in Hollywood
The men and women who are employed by the US military to fight its hegemonic wars often suffer from serious mental illness. Depression, PTSD/trauma, extreme anxiety and stress – these are commonplace among people both within the military and among veterans. In this episode I explore how the Pentagon’s entertainment liaison offices have become less sympathetic to their own troops over time. This has resulted in a policy that effectively excludes realistic portraits of military mental illness from DOD-supported projects, censoring Hollywood for political ends. I analyse how this policy has developed over time, affecting films, documentaries and popular TV shows. I also provide a review and case study of the film A Few Good Men, a film the Pentagon tried but failed to censor.
Before we get into that, I want to say that I know that no one likes to talk about mental illness. Our culture systemically avoids that which is deemed insane, because insanity is highly contagious. Talking to crazy people can make you go crazy. The problem is that this builds up a kind of Pandora’s Box, where all the taboo subjects, the dark elements within the human psyche, are contained and left to fester and multiply. Opening that box, even for a moment, could unleash such horrors that we leave the box closed, for the most part.
For example, our popular culture is replete with chatshows featuring self-help gurus with books and life programmes to sell, and every once in a while they actually touch on the realities of mental illness and say something constructive and useful. But for the most part it’s just recycling the same stories which usually end up being an advertisement for paying for medication and therapy. Not that I’m saying those things are useless, merely that the end result of most coverage of mental illness is an attempt to sell you products and services.
As per usual, I find this attempt to maintain taboos to be self-destructive and so I’m doing my part to elucidate some of the realities of mental illness, in particular as it pertains to the futility of war and the censorship and propaganda activities of the state. Some of you may find this upsetting or disturbing, indeed all of you should find this at least somewhat upsetting and disturbing, because it is. That’s inherent in the topic, which I’m sure is one reason why my lengthy article about this did not prove as popular as it should have. But I take pride in broaching difficult subjects and in nailing people who deny the suffering of others, so this is very important to me personally.
Why the censorship of suicide in Hollywood?
Why did I investigate this topic? Obviously, one reason is that I have suffered from mental health problems at a few different points in my life. I know what it’s like to feel so anxious you cannot move, or to feel so sad that you want your life to end, and even to feel almost nothing, like you’ve been possessed by an evil spirit that is consuming the very essence of your being.
As such, I have a lot of sympathy for people who have fought in these wars and been thoroughly fucked up by the experience. I disagree with the wars, I disagree with their decision to sign up and fight, but it strikes me as all kinds of callous to just discard people on the societal scrap heap. And it’s really stupid to train people to be able to kill, screw up their mental health and sense of well being and then dump them back into normal society with little or no support. It’s a recipe for disaster, quite frankly, and the increase in both suicide and homicide rates seen in the US in the wake of WW2 and Vietnam are not coincidences.
So when I came across this story about DOD Hollywood liaison Phil Strub getting into an argument with Iron Man director Jon Favreau about the line ‘People would kill themselves for the opportunities I have’ I was intrigued. As others have pointed out, it is a dumb line, a piece of Huckleberry bad dialogue, but that Strub would get into a rage about it struck me as significant. So I went back through all the documents, the database, the ELO reports, to figure out what the Pentagon’s policy was when it came to Hollywood films referencing or depicting military suicide, and related mental illness.
What I found is pretty explosive stuff. As the problem of military mental illness and military suicide has gotten worse, the policy has changed from being somewhat sympathetic, to near-total denial that the problem even exists. While you could argue that’s part of a broader trend affecting much of society, and I’d agree with you, it’s clear that the Pentagon is part of the process by which these taboos are censored and redacted from our popular culture.
Our story begins in 1957 with the film Sayonara. It tells the tale of two Air Force pilots stationed in Kobe, Japan, who fall in love with Japanese women. The military code at the time forbade fraternising with occupied people and inter-racial relationships, so our protagonists face racism and opposition. The military brass start ordering all enlisted men who are married to Japanese women home to the US, without their wives. One couple commit double suicide rather than be parted.
This is a sad film, no doubt, but it was accurate. The Pentagon’s database says that the Air Force was ‘initially reluctant to provide assistance because of inter-racial dating and suicide of one of its enlisted men.’ But they ‘ultimately provided planes and equipment’ to help make Sayonara, in spite of this pivotal scene in the script. So back in the 1950s there wasn’t so much of a problem. Veterans of WW2 came home to a booming economy and a culture that called them heroes, and thus the problems of poverty, homelessness and mental illness that afflicted the Vietnam generation were not so prevalent.
Nonetheless, there were problems for some. Ira Hayes was one of the Marines depicted in the famous photograph, Raising the Flag at Iwo Jima. He has been portrayed in multiple films, including one where he played himself. But he never enjoyed his fame, and descended into alcoholism and depression following the war. He once told a reporter:
I was sick. I guess I was about to crack up thinking about all my good buddies. They were better men than me and they’re not coming back. Much less back to the White House, like me.
One night in January 1955, Hayes died of exposure to cold and alcohol poisoning, after a particularly heavy drinking session. In 1961 the film The Outsider – named in part because Hayes was Native American, the only Native American of the six in the photograph – portrayed his life and death. While not a suicide, it’s clear that he died as a result of sicknesses brought on by his experiences in the war.
The DOD supported the film, even though it, ‘showed how the Marines, the military and the government used Hayes to raise bonds for war effort but did not help him when he became alcoholic.’ The database goes on to note that the film-makers ‘toned down the death of Hayes’, presumably in exchange for military support. This helped minimise the public outcry at the DOD failing to look after one of their own, even as they exploited him for publicity purposes. This is the first sign of a shift in the DOD’s approach to the subject, just as the Vietnam war was becoming inevitable.
Fast forwarding to the post-Vietnam war period, when suicides among veterans were 1.7 times higher than the general population, and the new mindset had solidified. The 1977 film Rolling Thunder was denied military support. The DOD database records that:
Air Force refused to provide assistance. Claimed no POW had returned from Vietnam schizophrenic which is description they put on William Devane. Also showed unfaithful wife.
Likewise, the 1978 war drama Coming Home tells the story of a woman played by Jane Fonda whose husband is away, fighting in Vietnam. She falls in love with a severely wounded Vietnam veteran played by Jon Voight. Another veteran struggles with his mental state, and ends up committing suicide by injecting air into his veins.
The DOD’s database records how the film was denied production assistance because it, ‘Contained reference to Leathernecks in Vietnam cutting ears off dead Vietcong, portraying an officer suffering a breakdown from his war experiences and committing suicide, and a paralysed Vietnam vet attacking the Marines.’ It does comment that if the final script has been submitted that they may have supported the film.
The database also says that the file on the film is in the library in Georgetown, the same library Matt visited a few months ago. But the file he found contained nothing except a draft copy of the script, with no annotations, no internal Pentagon memos, no communications with the film-makers. So it seems this is one of the files where the material was simply too controversial or revealing. Matt and I strongly suspect that someone went through those files and removed the most compromising documents before they were made accessible to the public.
The Pentagon’s attempts to censor A Few Good Men
Where things get really interesting is with the 1992 movie A Few Good Men. I’m sure most of you have already seen it but for those of you who haven’t – get a copy and watch it. If you don’t like it then feel free to email me and I’ll tell you why you’re wrong. I love this movie so to make this episode a little less depressing I’m going to do a quick case study of it. I think everything in this film is pulling in the same direction – Tom Cruise and Demi Moore are excellent leads, Jack Nicholson gives the best supporting performance you’ll ever see, it is Aaron Sorkin’s best script until the Social Network nearly 20 years later.
I also think that the film-makers, including Rob Reiner, deserve some credit for refusing to bow to the DOD’s demands, which would have made it a worse movie. This was back in the days when Reiner had a backbone, these days he’s hobnobbing with Leon Panetta and Max Boot on the advisory board of the Committee to Investigate Russia. So, fuck that guy, but back in the day he had some balls.
Basically, two marines stationed at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba go into the bedroom of a third marine, William Santiago, and stuff a rag in his mouth and tape him up. Santiago dies, leading to the two marines – Dawson and Downey – being charged with murder. Tom Cruise and Demi Moore are the defence lawyers, the prosecutor is Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.
It emerges that Santiago found Marine Corps life very tough and had repeatedly tried to get transferred out of Gitmo. He even went outside the chain of command to report Dawson for firing a shot across the fence line and into Cuba, so Dawson potentially had a motive to seek revenge. It also emerges that when the commanding officer Colonel Nathan Jessup finds out about all this, his number 2 Lieutenant Colonel Markinson recommends Santiago be transferred, but Jessup insists he be ‘trained’. The attack on Santiago was the result of Jessup’s number 3 Lieutenant Kendrick telling Dawson to give him a ‘code red’, as per Jessup’s instructions. A ‘code red’ is where members of an infantry platoon discipline their own men to get them in line.
However, Kendrick and Jessup successfully cover up their role in events, while Markinson disappears, so Tom Cruise and Demi Moore are up against it to prove their clients were following orders, and therefore not guilty of murder. Markinson reappears and blows the whistle on what happened, but he kills himself before he can testify at the court martial. I won’t give away the ending, but it’s powerful stuff.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the DOD did not like this script. One public affairs official wrote to Phil Strub after reviewing the screenplay saying ‘I would not be inclined to support this without major, major revisions.’ The Pentagon’s objections are too many to list but they didn’t like Demi Moore, who had recently appeared naked while heavily pregnant on a magazine cover. They didn’t like Tom Cruise’s character objecting to wearing Navy whites. They felt the Marine Corps characters were all negative portrayals, they didn’t like the idea that Marines were bound by a code which justified ‘code reds’ and similar behaviour. One memo asks ‘who are the few good men’ in the story?
The producers hired John Horton – an ex-military guy who had spent decades working in Hollywood as a liaison with the government. They negotiated, they changed Tom Cruise’s character (one of the good guys) to a Marine Corps lawyer instead of a Navy lawyer, they made the judge a Marine and made other changes to try to win the Pentagon’s favour. It didn’t work. After one meeting with Horton a DOD memo says, ‘He is looking at changes in degree; I believe we need changes in nature in order to support this endeavor.’
One of the big problems was Markinson, who is a good guy in that he blows the whistle on violent bullying and on the cover-up, but he ends up killing himself. The DOD tried to remove this plot point from the script, but Reiner refused. The Pentagon even sought to rewrite his suicide note, to have a ‘strong and positive’ message. Which is absurd, since suicide notes aren’t known for their uplifting positivity. The fact they tried to turn this scene into some kind of PR for themselves just shows how callous they are towards their own men suffering from mental illness.
Ultimately, the film was made with only minimal military support – a few establishing shots – but it proved a huge success that had audience members identifying with many of the military characters. The truth is, both the Marine Corps and the Navy come off pretty well – as intelligent, disciplined people, often moved by moral principle. Even Colonel Jessup, played by Jack Nicholson, is quite likeable even though he’s clearly a bit of a psycho. As to the ‘few good men’ of the title, I think one scene really stands out, when a junior officer at Gitmo is on the stand at the court martial:
I think this guy comes across really well, in some ways he’s a poster boy for the Marine Corps. He’s humble, honest, funny. I find it strange that the DOD didn’t recognise that in scenes like this they actually come across really positively, and their employees seem like the sort of people a society can be proud of. I think they misjudged this film, which is evidenced by the fact they have a massive movie poster for A Few Good Men on the wall of the entertainment liaison office in the Pentagon.
Nonetheless, this represents another attempt by the Pentagon to use their power to censor a military suicide from a movie script, in line with the post-Vietnam policy. One final thing before we move on – the Pentagon produced extensive Public Affairs Guidance, i.e. prepared answers to media questions, on why they didn’t approve the film for full support. One potential question asked whether the casting of the movie made any difference, with the prepared answer saying no, it’s purely the merits of the script. This is a lie, because they specifically objected to Demi Moore in internal memos, and likely in conversations with Horton and Reiner.
Censorship of suicide in post-9/11 films
In the post-9/11 period Hollywood has tended to shy away from war films, preferring to replace the Arab hordes with giant robots or Russian spies. Films like Green Zone and The Hurt Locker were made for relatively small budgets and without Pentagon support. One film that came close was 2006’s Home of the Brave, starring Jessica Biel, Samuel L Jackson and 50 Cent. It tells a story of four Army Reserve soldiers who return home from Iraq and have trouble adjusting back to civilian life.
The Army ELO reports refer to this film in detail, showing how the script was rewritten multiple times to try to qualify for support. One entry comments that, ‘While there is a vein of suicide, attempted suicide, domestic violence, chemical and alcohol abuse, and depression — as well as a healthy dose of political commentary by characters who are not soldiers — running throughout the script, the writer and producer think this is a good movie for the Army.’ Problems included the portrayal of PTSD, and a scene where Jackson’s character is pacing in his office, gun in his hand, contemplating suicide.
Eventually the writers produced a version that was acceptable and the movie qualified for full DOD support. But then they sneaked a scene back into the script and the Army found out, and pulled out of the project completely. The film-makers did try approaching some military locations directly to try to get permission to film there, and even snuck people into a Soldier Appreciation Day at a training base to distribute fliers and try to get soldiers to attend screenings.
As a result of the negotiations the Army did manage to dilute a script that was more critical of the military in its earlier versions. However, the finished film did include the scene where Jackson contemplates suicide, so I’m betting that is the scene that caused all the trouble when the writers put it back into the script.
The absence of authenticity provided by the DOD, and the lack of any military endorsement of or promotion for the film meant that it got limited distribution and didn’t make any money in the US. However it was pre-sold to foreign markets, presumably because they knew that trying to sell an anti-war film to the US domestic market at that point in time was a non-starter.
Where the Pentagon’s policy on military suicide becomes particularly acute is on documentaries. For example, when they viewed the rough cut of the 2012 PBS documentary Afghanistan: The Surge, they concluded:
Overall intent behind the movie seemed to be a condemnation of policy and of the USMC’s mission in Afghanistan. The overall tone was failure and hopelessness despite the efforts of the Marines and Navy corpsmen. LA PA is re-engaging Production Company to discuss rough cut corrections.
The following year a National Geographic series called Hispanic Veterans of War also ran into trouble at the rough cut stage. An ELO report comments:
Show implies that those who join the military and go to Iraq or Afghanistan come back either physically or mentally broken. Notified the producer that the DOD was disappointed with the final product. We will send a letter instructing the production company to exclude any DOD involvement.
As far as I can tell, this series never broadcast. However, other documentaries that showed current or former service members getting medical treatment and other help had no such issues. Halfway Home and Mind Zone: Therapists Behind the Front Lines both qualified for full support, with no problems, because they focused on the military’s efforts to eliminate suicide within their ranks. This policy was made explicit when the organisation One Mind for Research approached them with an idea for a similarly-themed film. The ELO commented:
We should approach this documentary as an opportunity to steer the discussion away from merely recounting the tragic deaths of our soldiers and toward the efforts the Army is making to prevent suicide in our ranks.
That, in a nutshell, is their policy. You can only portray veterans and active troops suffering from these problems if you turn your film into an advert for how the military are trying to help. If you take an unvarnished look at the futility of the war on terror, and the resulting mental illness it causes in the people trying to fight these wars, you will invariably run into trouble with the DOD.
One final example – a 2011 Marine Corps ELO report says they rejected a request for support on the independent film War Machines. The entry reads:
“War Machines” – Independent Film: LA PA denied support for this film, which centers around Justin, a former Marine who struggles to adapt to civilian life after leaving the Corps. Economic adversity and psychological trauma from his time in combat lead him and three former Marines with whom he served in Iraq to plan a bank robbery. A central plot point focuses on flashbacks that reveal how the men murdered a mediocre Marine in their squad when they became stranded in a remote area of Iraq. They beat up and give the Marine to an Iraqi drug lord who wants to use the American to gain favor with the insurgency in trade for a truck. Essentially, the overt implication in the film is that the Marine Corps and combat turned these men into dysfunctional sociopaths.
As far as I can see, this film was never made.
Pentagon censorship of military suicide on TV
This policy doesn’t just affect films and documentaries – even popular TV shows have been subject to it. In 2011 Fox TV approached the Army about doing an episode of Bones followed by a Public Service Announcement (PSA) on military suicide. The reports from the Army’s entertainment liaison office say:
Their office called us looking for help developing a military suicide awareness PSA to run immediately after the 12 Nov. episode of Bones. This episode will have a veteran theme in honor of Veterans Day and they wanted to make sure they were steering viewers to the right place.
The episode revolves around the Bones team trying to identify remains which turn out to be from a Gulf War veteran who became homeless, but heroically rescued people at the Pentagon on 9/11. He was apparently on the ground outside the Pentagon when the plane crashed, was injured, but still managed to rescue three people from the rubble before succumbing to his injuries days later. The team eventually figure all this out, and the episode finishes with the remains being given a full military funeral at Arlington National Cemetery.
Now, aside from the obvious, massive plot holes involved in having some random military vet being right outside the Pentagon, one of the most secure buildings in the world, at the exact same moment as the plane hit, this was basically free advertising for the DOD. The reports go on:
Our suicide prevention messages will receive millions of viewers and similar paid advertising cost for that PSA at that time slot would have cost the Army thousands of dollars.
There is also this scene from the episode, showing that Fox had more than one agenda in producing this double-whammy.
Now, I have no problem with Fox voluntarily doing a PSA on military suicide awareness and encouraging those suffering from suicidal thoughts to contact a support organisation. That’s exactly what they should be doing. I do have a problem with them combining this with an effort to debunk any and all scepticism about 9/11, especially in a plot that makes no sense.
When I was going through the US Navy entertainment liaison office reports I came across another example of censorship. On an episode of NCIS – for which the Navy reviews and provides script notes on every episode, regardless of whether they request military support – they changed a storyline where a military character commits suicide. He loses a bunch of money he won on the lottery and his wife leaves him, so his suicide has nothing to do with combat or military life, he just happens to be a military character. So the Navy changed him, ‘from active duty Chief to civilian working at a low level job on the Navy base after NAVINFO West/OSD discussion with show runner/writers.’
Finally there’s the reboot of Hawaii Five-0. Army script notes show that they were in lengthy discussions with the writers for the first season, suggesting they make the protagonist McGarrett an ex-Navy SEAL, helping determine how old he was and so on.
The 7th episode of the new season features a military veteran who is accused of murdering his wife. He is chased by the authorities – which were civilianised in a script change by the DOD – before running on board the USS Missouri, which is anchored in Pearl Harbor. He takes some hostages – tourists on a tour of the ship – so McGarrett goes in to try to talk him down while the rest of his team try to find out what really happened with the wife. Spoiler: it turns out she was murdered by her Russian ex-husband.
The DOD requested ‘big changes’ to the script, mostly around making the veteran character more sympathetic and improving the relationship between him and McGarrett. At the end of the episode we see the veteran, who McGarrett has talked down without anyone getting hurt, telling his daughter he’s going to get the help he needs. So again, you can feature military or veteran characters suffering from mental illness, but only if they are shown being supported by the military.
The effect of all this censorship is to minimise the discussion of how military life, foreign policy and people’s experiences in combat can cause very serious mental illness. Given that our media and pop culture already avoids these topics this further isolates the people who are suffering, which can only make their suffering worse. Imagine you joined up, got sent to Iraq, saw some horrible stuff, maybe lost people who were close to you or saw them get terribly injured, maybe saw your colleagues doing awful things or found yourself doing awful things. You come back home, to a very different place, full of people who are mostly unaware that any of this even happened, let alone how often. The news media isn’t interested in you unless you’re willing to play the patriotic hero, Hollywood doesn’t give two fucks about you unless you’ve got a camera-friendly story to tell. The DOD is actively working to ensure the news media and pop culture doesn’t refer to people like you, doesn’t discuss or sympathise with your problems.
Is this likely to make you more suicidal, or less suicidal?
Of course, that’s a stupid fucking question and the answer is obvious, but such is the deafening silence on these issues that almost no one even asks this question, let alone answers it. For people who are already feeling isolated, like no one knows what they’ve been through or they know and just don’t care, to be able to turn on the TV and see a film or drama that treats them with some kind of empathy, for them to be able to feel that someone out there cares, is the least we as a society should be able to offer. To have your own employer, or former employer, cast your pain on the scrap heap and censor any reference to it that they can, is callous to the point of being psychotic.
The Alternatives (TV shows that depict mental illness honestly)
It would be remiss of me to conclude this episode without talking about some of the TV series that I think depict military mental illness in an honest, sympathetic and/or realistic way. Naturally, none of these were government-sponsored, certainly not DOD-sponsored, so if you’re looking for a more subtle and understanding approach to this topic then there are some options out there.
One series, which I really should review on this podcast, is The Wire. For those who haven’t seen it, it is an epic drama about the drug trade in Baltimore, told from the perspectives of the dealers, the police chasing them, the drug addicts and the ordinary people who are affected by all of this. As the series progresses it includes the docks where the drugs are smuggled in, city hall and city politics, the education system and the local media. There isn’t another drama that has such a broad scope, showing how all these things interconnect and affect one another, and how sometimes one small thing going wrong ripples out and has massive consequences. It is truly a masterpiece of television.
In the fifth and final season a lot of the focus is on the newsroom at the local paper, the Baltimore Sun. At one time a highly respected bastion of investigative journalism, like all newspapers the Sun has declined both in circulation and in quantity and quality of news coverage. As the dialogue states, the news pond is shrinking, the fish are nervous. This leads one young and ambitious reporter to start manipulating his news stories – initially just tidying up quotes and adding minor details to make the stories more dramatic. Then he starts making up witness statements, and even fabricating entire stories. So far, so fake news.
Where things get especially fucked up is when he interviews a homeless, alcoholic ex-Marine who was in Iraq.
The reporter takes this and adds a firefight after the bombing, turning in into a Black Hawk Down story. The Marine reads the story and confronts the journalist, who lies to his face. So this is a much more sophisticated and understanding depiction than any of those in the DOD-supported productions.
Another series I’ve enjoyed that explores this topic is Patriot, produced by Amazon. It tells the story of John Tavner, a CIA spy and assassin who is obviously suffering from depression and PTSD. He is living in Amsterdam, getting high and recording folk songs about his time murdering people for the US government. But he is drawn back into the undercover world, and has to get a job at an oil pipeline company in order gain access to Iran. He knows nothing about oil pipelines, leading to a lot of ridiculous situations including him pushing the other interviewee for the job in front of a truck.
While Patriot is broadly a comedy, it is quite dark and most of the humour doesn’t come from the central character, who is clearly very depressed. He is carried along by events and by other people, doesn’t really make his own decisions or have much motivation. It’s a very curious way to write a show, with an emotional chasm at its heart. As such, it’s a very realistic portrait of depression, without being especially depressing to watch. There are some very sad moments but I found it weird and touching and very original.
There are a couple of other TV shows worth mentioning here. The first is Barry, a so-called comedy that I watched largely because it was created by Alec Berg, one of the main guys behind Silicon Valley. I say it’s a ‘so-called comedy’ because it really isn’t very funny. Essentially, it’s about a military veteran called Barry who is working as a hit-man, but he wants out. One day, on a trip to Los Angeles to murder someone, he decides he likes the town so he moves there, and gets involved in the local theatre arts scene. The premise is much funnier than the execution, which mostly worked very poorly for me. The central character is very emotionally withdrawn, and while it might sound like it would be funny to watch such a person attending theatre classes and trying to do stage acting, the joke wears off very quickly. Nonetheless it is an interesting, if not particularly entertaining show.
At the opposite end of the spectrum there’s the TV remake of Lethal Weapon, which centres around ridiculous over-the-top action and some good banter between the lead characters Riggs and Murtaugh. Riggs in particular is a former Navy SEAL (where have we heard that before?) who is traumatised by the death of his pregnant wife. In the first season we see his alcoholism, depression and grief manifest in a careless attitude towards his own life. He takes stupid risks, forever putting himself in danger. Sadly, the writers chickened out of this storyline and basically resolve it by the end of the first season, so in the second season they had to shoehorn in a boring backstory about his violent alcoholic father. Because they really couldn’t think of anything more original in order to keep the Riggs character a bit crazy. There were also some arguments and accidents on set, leading to the actor who plays Riggs getting fired and being replaced by a guy playing a traumatised ex-CIA assassin.
So just like with the Vietnam war, it took a few years but the entertainment industry has started making products that recognise the vast number of people who fought in the war on terror who are now suffering from mental illness. While some of these are a bit cliché or hit and miss in their execution, it has to be a good thing that this taboo subject is getting portrayed in a somewhat realistic manner.
To conclude, I think mental illness is one of the most under-recognised problems in our societies and all the statistics show that military employees and veterans are among the most common and frequent sufferers. The DOD is clearly in denial about this, and is using the entertainment liaison office system to dilute and censor an already diluted and censored discussion of mental illness. One of the answers to this would be to burn down the entertainment liaison offices, and while I’m not advocating that, if a group of traumatised veterans happen to find themselves at a loose end then I’m certainly not going to criticise them for taking that action.
I also think that this is an area where the Left should be very prominent – pointing out the hollowness of the ‘support the troops’ rhetoric coming from the Right. That phrase usually translates to support them only inasmuch as they are the footsoldiers of empire, but don’t support them when they come home and actually need support. It is only Leftist hypocrisy that prevents them from winning this part of the debate hands down, where they fail to show the same sympathy towards people in the military that they show for the victims of the military. So I say, reserve your anti-military hatred for the people in command, and for the PR robots denying the suffering not just of the targets of the NATO empire but also the suffering of the people they employ to do the targeting.
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