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July 2009

Volume 6, Issue 2

SOUND OFF Military Counseling Network

Not Willing to


Content: • In their words:

Pentagon officials weigh in on war and peace – page 2

• The business of war­making:

Defense contractors only want to keep people safe? – page 3

• Much more than meets the eye: As

blockbusters get bigger, the military gets involved – page 5 • How to Give,

How to Get:

Contact and donation information for the MCN office – page 6

By Tim Huber

Army Specialist Matt Harju is standing on the cusp of the civilian world. Though he joined the U.S. military with visions of cementing a solid and honorable economic future for himself, the experiences he encountered in Iraq stirred the conscientious objector he never knew resided within him. After completing high school, where he enjoyed photography and spent a few years active in the U.S. Armed Forces’ Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps program, Harju moved out to taste freedom and the working world. Unfortunately, a combination of unreliable jobs and roommates conspired against him, forcing him to ultimately sell his prized camera after a year simply to eat. JROTC wasn’t so bad – especially in such hindsight – and he dreamt of serving in the Army through his childhood, so he went to an Army recruitment office to discuss his options. “Somehow, I completely overlooked the fact that ‘willing to die for your country’ usually also

Conscientious objector Matt Harju was honorably discharged in early June of 2009.

means you're willing to kill for your country,” he said. “... I could fulfill the dream of joining the Army, carry on my family tradition, save some money, and in a few years study photography through the GI Bill.” Fort Knox and an eight­year enlistment soon followed. Mere months after Cavalry Scout advanced training, Harju found himself on the ground in Iraq for much of 2008, first in relatively serene Baghdad, then in Diyala Province. He experienced three improvised explosive device attacks in his first eight weeks in Diyala. In the bloodiest of these episodes, Harju directly witnessed his comrades being ripped apart by the planted bombs, merely due to the uniform they happened to wear. There was no effort by the various sides to understand each

… Continued on page 4 (Discharge)



“This new thinking will take us from a culture of war to a culture of war and peace.” Dr. David Chu, former undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, announcing the Pentagon met its 2008 recruitment goals nearly three months early on Oct. 10, 2008. 185,000 people joined the active­ duty military and 140,000 joined the reserves, the most since 2003. Pentagon officials denied any link to the worsening economy and rising unemployment, and instead tied the increase to a decline in casualties in Iraq and

U.S. Navy Admiral James Stavridis, in an April 2008 interview detailing his push for cultural change at the U.S. Southern Command, which oversees all American military actions in Central and South America. Admiral Stavridis was nominated by President Barack Obama to lead NATO and the U.S. European Command, but did not clarify why the two notions can coexist.

“We do benefit when things look less positive in civil society.”

the recent announcement that newdeployments would be reduced from 15 months to 12. However, the Army announced significant reductions in re­enlistment cash

“I am under a lot of pressure to not diagnose PTSD. It’s not fair.”

Fort Carson civilian psychologist Douglas McNinch, in a June 2008 recording secretly

made by a sergeant experiencing PTSD­like symptoms. The sergeant wanted to learn why the

bonuses in December of 2008and the Navy did likewise in February enlistment cash bonuses in 2009.

psychologist told the medical evaluation board that handles disability payments why the soldier had an “anxiety disorder,” rather than PTSD. A PTSD diagnosis obligates the military to provide more expensive, long­term care, sometimes lasting the rest of a soldier’s life, and sometimes triggers and automatic discharge.


By Daniel Hershberger

With a budget of more than $500 billion dedicated to defense spending, and $1 trillion spent on defense­related items, there is no doubt the U.S has itself invested in war. As producers and exporters of weapons, the U.S leads the world. America is armed to the teeth, and plays a major part in arming the world. While weapons­making is no new art, the evolution of weapons­making into a dedicated industry is new and raises important questions about the possibility of peace. As we moved away from hand­ to­hand combat, our technological advancements sought to take us further and further away from our enemies, or targets. The sword put us at two arms’ length, the spear even further, followed by catapults, guns, missiles, and drones. The distance keeps the attacker safe, yet also lessens the natural human aversion to the killing of our own kind, as the attacker must not stand before and recognize a human enemy. Although our weapons have maintained their primal function of putting ever greater distance between hunter and hunted, there is (at least) one major difference between the weapon­making of old and our current military industrial complex. Never before have humans dedicated so much

of their time and resources towards the waging of war. The Bronze and Iron ages did see the rise of societal complexes geared towards the making of weapons. But the same systems set up for weapons also had a peacetime function. The iron worker was not strictly a weapons maker, and weapons production was not seen as the base product. A sword maker during times of war could produce plowshares in times of peace. Weapons were made as need arose, with times of peace bringing about a change in product. In the 19th and 20th centuries weapon­making began to require a subset of the industrial system dedicated to warfare, making and stockpiling arms even in times of peace. This trend continues. To produce the complex weapons systems of today – such as missile shields, aircraft carriers, and fighter jets – planning cannot and does not take place strictly in a time of war. Peacetime becomes simply preparing for the next war, as the superpowers of the world dedicate and maintain parts of their economies solely for the purpose of defense and war. This trend of coupling some industries toward military activity gave rise to the concept of a “partnership” between the military and private enterprise. There are corporations that specialize in the waging of war: There are those that help break things (Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman), those that

PAGE 3 help fix what is broken (Bechtel and Halliburton), and those that protect the ones that are breaking and fixing (Blackwater). Without war, these corporations would not exist as we know them. Along with this connection has naturally come the guiding principle of private enterprise – namely – the bottom line is the bottom line. Like any other industry, the war industry must stay relevant. As a business, weapons must continue to advance, and the case for the need for weapons must continually be made. The newest and shiniest tanks, fighter jets, aircraft carriers and missile shields must all be wrapped in a glossy sales pitch, touted as defending our freedom, or keeping us safe. As more weapons are made, more and more weapons must be sold, exported and used. A shiny new fighter jet is a bad investment if it is never flown. Five hundred­pound “smart” bombs are not manufactured as paper weights. With billions of dollars spent on making bullets and bombs, the bullets and bombs must be used to keep the system humming along and the economy happy. As long as so much of our peacetime is spent with weapons on the mind, there seems to be very little room for real peace. With war this profitable, we are only going to see more of it.

MILITARY COUNSELING NETWORK Discharge … Continued from page 1

other; each participant was merely following their destructive orders. For Harju, the thing that separates us from other beasts of the world – the gift of a brain that can think freely – was absent. “The simple nature of war clearly proves that it does nothing more than demote the human mind to a level somewhat closer to a machine or computer in order to be effective in a combat zone,” he said. “Almost every aspect of war consists mainly of action and reaction, ‘muscle memory’ as most soldiers like to call it. There is no room for error, thus leaving little or no time for what humans learn from and do best: Think.” The indifferent IEDs got Harju started on that process, but rather than further American deaths, it was an Iraqi death that sparked the conscientious objection seed within him to life. Minutes after returning to his Forward Operating Base from a patrol, Harju and his convoy received word from their relieving platoon that a civilian vehicle had been hit. An eight­ wheel­drive Stryker vehicle had crushed and dragged a car some distance before

finally coming to a stop. When Harju arrived on the scene to assist, a pulse was still present somewhere within the Iraqi occupant. However, plodding and impassive radio chatter extinguished what little chance that pulse had of continuing through the night. “He was killed, nearly mutilated by the negligence of soldiers. The ignorance and incompetence of people who are said to be professionals cost one poor, innocent man his life. For all I know, this man was coming home from work to his family or going to buy food,” Harju said. “More shockingly, no effort was made to try and save this man whatsoever. However, when an American gets injured or killed all the proper procedures are done immediately in order to at least make an attempt to save a life. “His right to live was completely ignored and his right of equality was nonexistent at the time of his death. And what was the end result? Sworn statements, just another day closer to home for the Americans and a now ruined family who will never be able to understand the circumstances in which their loved one died. Only who was responsible for it. And worst of all, after it was all said and done, the only thing a certain staff sergeant had to say


about the incident was, ‘Oh well. He was probably a terrorist anyway.’ ” Harju’s unit returned to his base in Germany shortly afterward and he commited his post­deployment leave to assembling a C.O. application packet, which he submitted at the beginning of 2009. Six months, three interviews, and countless hours of superfluous desk duty later, he learned his application was approved by the Department of the Army Conscientious Objector Review Board in Virginia. “Today is probably one the best days I’ve seen in years,” he said after hearing the news from his commander. “It’s probably the greatest feeling I’ve had to know that I’m going home to my friends and family, getting married, and then leaving the Army.”

How can we humans make as much progress as we have yet still resort to killing each other in an attempt to solve our problems? Private First Class Matt Harju


The battle for hearts and minds By Tim Huber

Product placement has had its place in radio, television, and cinema pretty much since each medium’s inception. Hershey’s chocolate appeared on the silver screen in 1927. Soap operas in

radio’s Golden Age were so­named due to being underwritten by actual soap companies and the same was true for early television programs of the 1950s. As this concept has moved into the contemporary age, the U.S. military simultaneously moved from the draft to an all­volunteer force. This meant an increase in advertising, which brought with it an unprecedented focus on image, branding, and marketing. Though Hollywood is often considered left­leaning, the war movie will always be a box office staple. The military is aware of this, and has taken proactive steps in

how American service members are depicted. Rather than employing tactics used in Pakistan’s Swat Valley and Baghdad’s more dangerous neighborhoods, the Department of Defense opts instead for the soft approach. Tucked somewhere into the Pentagon’s recesses is the Special Assistance for Entertainment Media office, which benevolently offers Hollywood “script input” for accuracy and lends “assistance” when it sees fit. The office – as well as sub­level

offices for each of the four branches in Los Angeles – offers “information regarding U.S. military assistance in producing feature motion pictures, television shows, documentaries, music videos, commercial advertisements, CD­ROM games, and other audiovisual programs.” That’s right. Even music videos. For some reason, pro­military films Top Gun and Iron Man made the grade, while somewhat more critical Crimson Tide and Apocalypse Now couldn’t seem to grasp the military’s loving (and financial) embrace. “I think they see it as a recruitment

PAGE 5 thing,” said director Michael Bay while promoting the first Transformers film in 2007. And he’s okay with that. He estimates the second installment of his Transformers franchise (now in theaters) saved $10 million by involving General Motors and the U.S. military. In an improbable bit of serendipity, almost all the shape­shifting alien robot Autobots (the good guys) routinely scan only GM vehicles for their earthly disguises. “People say it’s whoring out, but it’s not,” said Bay in Forbes magazine. “Advertising is in our lives. It’s unavoidable. To think you can’t have it in a movie isn’t real life.” So just what is the form of the military’s “assistance” when it comes to the Transformers films? Bay and his crews utilized free Apache, Chinook, Pave Low, and Osprey helicopters. Free Raptor ($143 million each), Thunderbolt, Fighting Falcon, AWAC, Nighthawk, C­130 Gunship and Hercules, Globemaster, Predator, and Air Force One aircraft. Free Mine­ Resistant­Ambush­Protected vehicles, Humvees, Abrams and Bradley tanks, armored personnel carriers, and missile­ launching vehicles. Free battleships, aircraft carriers, and even a submarine. “As far as I know, this is the biggest joint military operation movie ever made, in terms of ...Continued on page 6

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Transformers ...Continued from page 5

Army, Air Force, Navy, and Marines,” said Transformers Army Liaison Lt. Col. Gregory Bishop. “I can’t think of one that’s bigger.” Military personnel from each of the four branches were used, including even the Golden Knights parachute team. When Bay filmed an AWAC crew attempting to follow the Decepticon (those are the bad guys) Starscream – who had ironically scanned an American F­22 Raptor as his disguise – he didn’t bother giving them lines, instructing them instead to just do what they do for the cameras. Navy SEALs were on set, both to be filmed, and to be advisors. These personnel, their equipment, the ordinance they are firing, and the fuel they are burning is all provided to the movie studio for free, as long as they are being used

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in training exercises. That silhouetted helicopter against a sunset? That jet pounding incendiary rounds into Scorponok? That was training. Bishop said the films “cost the taxpayer nothing … the training he films would happen whether or not his crew is there to shoot it.” I sleep better knowing our military trains and is prepared for a potential encounter with a hostile alien robotic scorpion. However, I do not sleep better knowing this is how the military approaches the entertainment industry; especially in terms of a film that is rated PG­13 and fundamentally exists because of a toy line geared for children even as young as two years old. Sure, this is dealing only with fictional events, marking an unfortunately subtle distinction between script approvals and embedding journalists. However, the interplay between the for­ profit entertainment industry and the dangling of pro­military financial incentives (bankrolled by the American taxpayer) is serious. To borrow a phrase from my beloved childhood toy line, what the Department of Defense does with the military budget is all too often “More than Meets the Eye.”

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◊ MCN Staff – Daniel Hershberger, Marius van Hoogstraaten◊

Sound Off, July 2009  

In this issue: Not willing to kill; Pentagon officials weigh in on war and peace; The business of making war; As blockbusters get bigger, th...