The Morphing of the Military

Today’s Military

By Victor Thorn

Scientists Crafting New ‘Super Soldiers’

• Can psychiatric drugs reduce fear and pain while bolstering violent tendencies?

With murmurs trickling through the grapevine that President Barack Obama’s newly-nominated United States Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel will make an attempt to reduce military spending, one target should be massive expenditures on psychiatric drugs that are used to bolster violent tendencies and aggressiveness in recruits.

In a January 23 article for the Citizens Commission on Human Rights International, Kelly Patricia O’Meara stated, “In an effort to create ‘Super Soldiers,’ the U.S. military spends hundreds of millions of dollars on psychiatric research programs that can only be described as science fiction-esque experimentation.”

In addition to prescribing off-label drugs (i.e., uses and dosages other than what the Food and Drug Administration has approved), O’Meara also recounts how Columbia University has teamed with the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) on a form of Frankenstein-style experimentation. She writes, “Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation involves placing a large electromagnetic coil near the head, generating a strong magnetic field, and inducing electric currents to stimulate nerve cells.”

On September 9, 2010, a Popular Science article by Clay Dillow entitled “DARPA Wants to Install Transcranial Ultrasonic Mind Control Devices in Soldiers’ Helmets” exposed how twisted these endeavors are. “Deep Brain Stimulation requires surgically implanted electrodes to stimulate neural tissues.” These wires run the length of one’s body and are activated by battery-powered generators implanted within the body. Thus, when confronting enemy troops, the goal is to have soldiers merely flip a switch inside their helmet and become wired for battle. When their mission is completed, they push another button and return to normal.

In this sense, the ultimate goal is obvious: produce an almost comic book hero-like indestructible soldier that kills without conscience and can then return, indifferently, to his “normal” alter-ego.

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G.I. Jane

Should women be fighting with her male counterparts on America’s combat lines? According to retiring United States Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and the Obama administration, the answer is yes.

But many others aren’t welcoming their January 23 decision to lift the ban on women in combat. On January 25, AMERICAN FREE PRESS interviewed three individuals that cast doubt on the wisdom of Panetta’s move. John Lilyea, an Infantry-Platoon Sergeant First Class during Desert Storm, told this writer, “I don’t think women are up to it physically, and that means men will have to pick up the load for them on the battlefield. We have the world’s best military. I don’t see why anyone would want to change that by endangering our men.”

Owen Strachan, Executive Director of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood—a religious organization that is dedicated to promoting the notion that men and women are equal in the image of God—offered a religious perspective. “The sexes have equal dignity, but they don’t have the same roles to play in life. Historically, men have been protectors of women. They’re faster, stronger, and possess 11-times more testosterone. Men are ideally suited for combat and fighting.”

He continued, “Women have realistically admitted that they’re not ideally suited for combat. In Afghanistan, Captain Katie Petronia confessed that her body essentially broke down and wilted.”

Indeed, in a July 3, 2012 op-ed, Petronia wrote, “We are not all created equal, and attempting to place females in the infantry will not improve the Marine Corps or improve our national security.”

Thomas Clough, who wrote a March 15, 2011 article entitled “The Case Against Women in Combat,” told AFP, “Because of something called ‘gender norming,’ women are allowed to meet lower physical requirements than men. Standards have already slipped at West Point. This leads to major problems. Armies have always discovered their greatest commanders by subjecting them to extreme stress. That’s when real leaders emerge. You can’t gentrify leadership.”

In his article, Clough supported his arguments with data. Namely, female soldiers are five inches shorter than men while possessing half the upper-body strength and 37% less muscle mass. Moreover, female recruits suffered more stress fractures, sprains, orthopedic damage, ACL ruptures and concussions.

Although equality sounds nice in the theoretical realm, actualities are far different on the front lines. Montana State Senator Ryan Zinke, a former Navy SEAL commander, told Newsmax in an interview on January 25, “The hard truth of combat oftentimes is brutal. It involves face-to-face hand-to-hand close-quarter battle. We [think] that warfare is wrapped up in a two-hour movie featuring stars who always live, but that’s not how it really is.”

Clough interjected a similar perspective. “At ground level, combat is gritty business. You might have to defecate in a plastic bag with another soldier only inches away. The intimacy on battlefields is grueling and unimaginable. Most women don’t want to be in that position.”

Then, of course, there’s the matter of natural impulses that occur between men and women. On April 24, 2012, Scott Tips, an attorney who has written extensively about the perils of women serving in combat, observed, “When women are introduced into a combat arena filled with men, the male mind is virtually always going to be distracted from the military mission to some degree. Male bonding and unit cohesion will be reduced, sexual rivalries and tensions will break out, military discipline will suffer, and mission readiness reduced.”

Playing on this sentiment, historian Gary North claims that women may actually endanger men due to their protective impulses, or chivalry. North warned, “A soldier in the field will tend to disobey orders to defend a woman in the ranks when he would not be equally ready to disobey an order to protect another male.”

Considering their diminished physical readiness in comparison to men, one undeniable fact must be accepted: a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, and since every military unit relies on shared risks, Zinke is especially troubled by the Obama administration’s policy change. “I think it is hasty and will result in unintended consequences that will lead unfortunately to a loss of life.”

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Lower Recruitment Standards Now the New Normal

The lowering of recruitment standards for women in basic training appears to be the new normal in today’s armed forces. Although some of these compromises are self-inflicted, they also reflect changes in society itself. For example, with high school students becoming increasingly heavier due to sedentary lifestyles, all four branches of the service have had to compensate. This quandary regarding an overweight military reached such distressing levels that on December 11, 2012, The Huffington Post’s Ron Dicker reported, “Through October, the Army has dismissed 1625 soldiers this year for failing fitness requirements—15 times the number dismissed in 2007.”

By lowering the bar, the entire complexion of our current all-volunteer military has been altered, often in frightening ways. On August 31, 2012, Matt Kennard of the London-based Guardian made an especially harsh assessment: “Gone are the days of the all-American army hero. These days, the U.S. military is more like a sanctuary for racists, gang members and the chronically unfit. Overweight, unfit, ex-con, racist: meet the modern American army.”

Although many veterans in this country will disagree with Kennard’s view, possibly even seeing them as fighting words, the data does paint a troublesome picture. As far back as 2008, the Army admitted 25% more recruits with criminal records, including drug offenses, than in previous years. Also included in this mix are individuals hindered by various medical problems, or those ranking lower on aptitude tests.

On January 24, 2008, war correspondent Fred Kaplan noted, “New Army recruits with high school diplomas has plunged from 94% in 2003 to 83.5% in 2005 to 70.7% in 2007. The Pentagon’s longstanding goal is 90%.”

Former U.S. Representative Martin T. Meehan (D-Mass.), while the chairman of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight, stated in 2007: “Our armed forces are under incredible strain, and the only way they can fill recruiting quotas is by lowering standards. By lowering standards, we are endangering the rest of our armed forces and sending the wrong message to potential recruits across the country.”

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Suicides Hit Tragic New Highs for U.S. Soldiers

• For first time, soldier suicide numbers top those killed in battle in Iraq, Afghanistan 

A tragic blemish mars the state of today’s military: In 2012 the number of soldiers that committed suicide surpassed those killed on battlefields. This trend has so alarmed the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) that in 2009 they were compelled to begin a suicide-prevention campaign. Even with these efforts, suicides still rose by nearly 10% in the past three years.

To place this matter into perspective, the Veteran’s Administration revealed that one in every 20 American suicides is comprised of soldiers that served in either Iraq or Afghanistan.

As DoD struggles with this problem, the biggest question is: why are so many enlisted men killing themselves, particularly when one-in-three of those that commit suicide never fought in battle? The top factors appear to be lowered recruitment standards, increased re-deployments in theaters of war, the use of illegal drugs, and the military’s over-reliance on prescription medications.

In an October 11, 2012 article that refers to the combination of war and pharmacology as a “suicide mission,” Kelly Patricia O’Meara wrote, “From 2001 to 2009, the Army’s suicide rate increased more than 150%, while orders for psychiatric drugs rose 76% over the same period.”

Two specific cases are especially heartbreaking. When 28-year-old Brandon Barrett left Afghanistan, he stayed with his parents in Tucson, Arizona for approximately four weeks. Consumed by depression, Barrett inexplicably suited-up in his combat gear one day and traveled to a Utah motel. There, with rifle in hand, he waited for police to arrive before exchanging gunfire. All present concluded that Barrett’s intent was to die via “copicide” (i.e., suicide by law enforcement). Afterward, the Army told Barrett’s parents that their son had been “absent without leave” for a month, yet no one had notified them of his status.

In Florida, 23-year-old Army Ranger William Busbee took his own life after returning from Afghanistan. As a member of the Special Forces, Busbee’s mother described what her son endured. “[William] told me how he picked up body parts and loaded them onto helicopters so families would have something to bury.”

Overcome by grief and hooked on medications that triggered hallucinations, Busbee shot himself with a .45 handgun. An autopsy report disclosed that present in Busbee’s system was a dozen different pharmaceuticals, including Percoset, Oxycodone and Paxil.

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Victor Thorn is a hard-hitting researcher, journalist and author of over 30 books.

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