COMMENTARY: What Have We Wrought?

By Joseph J. Honick
Joseph J. Honick
Joseph J. Honick

Editor's Note: This commentary originally ran on this site Nov. 22, 2009, but the recent and continuing tragedies in Afghanistan prompted author Joe Honick to request that it be reprinted, with the hope others will register thoughts to those seeking to lead the nation. Also to those who have been business beneficiaries from the conflict. "Neither political party -- and certainly none of the candidates of those parties -- can escape responsibility," Honick added.

What have we done here in America in the guise of government and societal policy? And what are we reaping day by day?

The answers are not only complex but sad and a bit angering and dangerous at the same time.

Among other things, by creating something called an All Volunteer Armed Forces, we have created two separate societies both within America…..a society of military men and women deployed, redeployed and deployed again, sometimes as often as four times to dangerous zones of conflict for wars that seem to have little to do with American security, but an awful lot to do with the economic security of a small army of defense contractors, public relations firms and lobbyists.

This smaller band of defense contractors, PR outfits and lobbyists have been taking in close to a trillion dollars since the invasion of Iraq and succession of combat in Afghanistan and seem quite happy for those operation to continue indefinitely despite government assertions of a desire to bring them to conclusion.

Moreover, this happy band of business seems to have the ears and hearts of enough people in Congress to have approved new and huge budgets not to curtail our efforts in Afghanistan but to build 74 new bases over the next five years!

Furthermore, by creating the totally volunteer armed forces operation, we are both attracting mostly young men and women who see such involvement as ways out of poverty without understanding they are being mostly trained to go somewhere to risk their lives while killing a lot of people whom they will never know or get time to dislike.

Is that something to worry about? You bet.

Just this year alone, with two months to go, suicides in just the Army have exceeded 200 young lives, substantially up from last year. An Army psychiatrist, apparently known to colleagues as less than qualified or perhaps driven to mental collapse by the stories of returning veterans, somehow got hold of a powerful automatic weapon, sneaked by security personnel at Ft. Hood and knocked off 13 innocent people and wounded many more.

These data are but the surface of what must be many more statistics, stats we are hardly being told about that include sloppy communications among the very agencies responsible for our security, foreign and domestic.

What you also do not read about is the conflicts in the Middle East are draining the ranks of National Guard units who are also often called upon for state and local protection.

To make all this to be more acceptable to Americans, tons of public relations efforts are being generated to hype attention to our men and women in the military and to publicly mourn those killed in action and to superimpose the idea these casualties were to protect America. There is no doubt at all the men and women who have enlisted and gone to fight believe they are doing that. I certainly did over a total of 14 years of Regular Army and Reserve enlisted and commissioned service.

What is not mentioned very much is that most of those doing the PR work to sell these wars and help recruit these men and women have never served and probably would not be interested in running to the nearest recruiting station.

Both tragic and comic or perhaps tragically comic are the icons of the far right who righteously demand continued support for war but who worked hard to keep from any involvement themselves.

Rush Limbaugh, for example, reportedly got himself rejected for military service due to one of the most innocuous of ailments: a pilonidal cyst, a problem that can be solved in a treatment that take about 45 minutes. I know. I had it done.

The so called College Republicans for the (Iraq)War, when asked if they would go from their conference right to the recruiting stations to sign up, broke out in laughter and went back to their cocktail party.

As we move forward, we are also becoming aware of the level of fraud by those who have profited most from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the most recent is an all alleged $8.5 billion just from the outfit that has been the food supplier in Iraq. Add to that the $1 billion related to the now infamous Blackwater operation and another $1 billion that went to private public relations firms to help “market” the wars….so far.

So what have we wrought?

The national debt increased during the Bush years alone by more than $5 Trillion and another $1.5 Trillion during the Obama administration. And all this has occurred while the financial industry has been accusing consumers of contributing to our economic collapse by overstating their incomes when buying homes or otherwise buying more than they could afford.

This is the same financial industry now shelling out billions in bonuses who could not conduct necessary credit checks in the hot years to keep consumers from getting unsupportable mortgages…the same industry that has gotten all sorts of taxpayer help to survive….the same bunch that has more than ever proved the truth of President Eisenhower’s warnings against the military-industrial complex.

In the final analysis, it is not just what we have wrought but what those with the responsibility to do something will shoulder their responsibility.

What will our industry do to help?

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Joseph J. Honick is an international consultant to business and government and writes for many publications, including He's based in Bainbridge Island, WA. Honick can be reached at:


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