I Died For Our War Crimes

DanielSomers

Troops are the new disposable items of a militarized consumer society that devours without care for consequences. There are always consequences. The destruction wrought by the U.S. on other nations, comes back home. This is a consistent fact of all wars, and it is especially true of imperial wars of choice. “Thank you for your service” is an excellent way to insult and discard those sent by empire to kill and maim others who never attacked the U.S. That phrase can be a subtle, implicit reminder of the new social pact that dominates North American society: war is produced and presented as a given; the ruling elites cart off the troops because what is unstated is that it is the troops’ primary purpose to advance and defend the reputations, revenues and careers of those who order them to war; meanwhile, the majority that is not drafted and never has to face the bloody consequences in person, can agree to play along with pompous salutes and “support the troops” ribbons, a small price to pay for someone else’s sacrifice. This is a system that is unsustainable–it is literally terminal, for millions abroad, and for returning troops. If there is any “consolation” in any of this, it is that increasingly we see that the U.S.’ counterinsurgency public relations program is falling to pieces, the presidential “peace prize” winner never held in such contempt worldwide as now, patent fraud that he is, and a vast reservoir of indignation kept deliberately hidden by the so-called “free press” comes to light. 

What follows is a suicide letter from Daniel Somers (reproduced from Gawker), who fought in Iraq and took his own life on June 10, 2013. Some of the most poignant political points of the letter stand out:

The simple truth is this: During my first deployment, I was made to participate in things, the enormity of which is hard to describe. War crimes, crimes against humanity. Though I did not participate willingly, and made what I thought was my best effort to stop these events, there are some things that a person simply can not come back from. I take some pride in that, actually, as to move on in life after being part of such a thing would be the mark of a sociopath in my mind.

To force me to do these things and then participate in the ensuing coverup is more than any government has the right to demand….

…Why isn’t the president standing with those families [the families of veterans who commit suicide at the rate of 22 each day] at the state of the union? Perhaps because we were not killed by a single lunatic, but rather by his own system of dehumanization, neglect, and indifference….

And for what? Bush’s religious lunacy? Cheney’s ever growing fortune and that of his corporate friends? Is this what we destroy lives for?

…The fact is that any kind of ordinary life is an insult to those who died at my hand. How can I possibly go around like everyone else while the widows and orphans I created continue to struggle? If they could see me sitting here in suburbia, in my comfortable home working on some music project they would be outraged, and rightfully so.


[From Gawker] Daniel Somers was a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom. He was part of Task Force Lightning, an intelligence unit. In 2004-2005, he was mainly assigned to a Tactical Human-Intelligence Team (THT) in Baghdad, Iraq, where he ran more than 400 combat missions as a machine gunner in the turret of a Humvee, interviewed countless Iraqis ranging from concerned citizens to community leaders and and government officials, and interrogated dozens of insurgents and terrorist suspects. In 2006-2007, Daniel worked with Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) through his former unit in Mosul where he ran the Northern Iraq Intelligence Center. His official role was as a senior analyst for the Levant (Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Israel, and part of Turkey). Daniel suffered greatly from PTSD and had been diagnosed with traumatic brain injury and several other war-related conditions. On June 10, 2013, Daniel wrote the following letter to his family before taking his life. Daniel was 30 years old. His wife and family have given permission to publish it.

I am sorry that it has come to this.

The fact is, for as long as I can remember my motivation for getting up every day has been so that you would not have to bury me. As things have continued to get worse, it has become clear that this alone is not a sufficient reason to carry on. The fact is, I am not getting better, I am not going to get better, and I will most certainly deteriorate further as time goes on. From a logical standpoint, it is better to simply end things quickly and let any repercussions from that play out in the short term than to drag things out into the long term.

You will perhaps be sad for a time, but over time you will forget and begin to carry on. Far better that than to inflict my growing misery upon you for years and decades to come, dragging you down with me. It is because I love you that I can not do this to you. You will come to see that it is a far better thing as one day after another passes during which you do not have to worry about me or even give me a second thought. You will find that your world is better without me in it.

I really have been trying to hang on, for more than a decade now. Each day has been a testament to the extent to which I cared, suffering unspeakable horror as quietly as possible so that you could feel as though I was still here for you. In truth, I was nothing more than a prop, filling space so that my absence would not be noted. In truth, I have already been absent for a long, long time.

My body has become nothing but a cage, a source of pain and constant problems. The illness I have has caused me pain that not even the strongest medicines could dull, and there is no cure. All day, every day a screaming agony in every nerve ending in my body. It is nothing short of torture. My mind is a wasteland, filled with visions of incredible horror, unceasing depression, and crippling anxiety, even with all of the medications the doctors dare give. Simple things that everyone else takes for granted are nearly impossible for me. I can not laugh or cry. I can barely leave the house. I derive no pleasure from any activity. Everything simply comes down to passing time until I can sleep again. Now, to sleep forever seems to be the most merciful thing.

You must not blame yourself. The simple truth is this: During my first deployment, I was made to participate in things, the enormity of which is hard to describe. War crimes, crimes against humanity. Though I did not participate willingly, and made what I thought was my best effort to stop these events, there are some things that a person simply can not come back from. I take some pride in that, actually, as to move on in life after being part of such a thing would be the mark of a sociopath in my mind. These things go far beyond what most are even aware of.

To force me to do these things and then participate in the ensuing coverup is more than any government has the right to demand. Then, the same government has turned around and abandoned me. They offer no help, and actively block the pursuit of gaining outside help via their corrupt agents at the DEA. Any blame rests with them.

Beyond that, there are the host of physical illnesses that have struck me down again and again, for which they also offer no help. There might be some progress by now if they had not spent nearly twenty years denying the illness that I and so many others were exposed to. Further complicating matters is the repeated and severe brain injuries to which I was subjected, which they also seem to be expending no effort into understanding. What is known is that each of these should have been cause enough for immediate medical attention, which was not rendered.

Lastly, the DEA enters the picture again as they have now managed to create such a culture of fear in the medical community that doctors are too scared to even take the necessary steps to control the symptoms. All under the guise of a completely manufactured “overprescribing epidemic,” which stands in stark relief to all of the legitimate research, which shows the opposite to be true. Perhaps, with the right medication at the right doses, I could have bought a couple of decent years, but even that is too much to ask from a regime built upon the idea that suffering is noble and relief is just for the weak.

However, when the challenges facing a person are already so great that all but the weakest would give up, these extra factors are enough to push a person over the edge.

Is it any wonder then that the latest figures show 22 veterans killing themselves each day? That is more veterans than children killed at Sandy Hook, every single day. Where are the huge policy initiatives? Why isn’t the president standing with those families at the state of the union? Perhaps because we were not killed by a single lunatic, but rather by his own system of dehumanization, neglect, and indifference.

It leaves us to where all we have to look forward to is constant pain, misery, poverty, and dishonor. I assure you that, when the numbers do finally drop, it will merely be because those who were pushed the farthest are all already dead.

And for what? Bush’s religious lunacy? Cheney’s ever growing fortune and that of his corporate friends? Is this what we destroy lives for

Since then, I have tried everything to fill the void. I tried to move into a position of greater power and influence to try and right some of the wrongs. I deployed again, where I put a huge emphasis on saving lives. The fact of the matter, though, is that any new lives saved do not replace those who were murdered. It is an exercise in futility.

Then, I pursued replacing destruction with creation. For a time this provided a distraction, but it could not last. The fact is that any kind of ordinary life is an insult to those who died at my hand. How can I possibly go around like everyone else while the widows and orphans I created continue to struggle? If they could see me sitting here in suburbia, in my comfortable home working on some music project they would be outraged, and rightfully so.

I thought perhaps I could make some headway with this film project, maybe even directly appealing to those I had wronged and exposing a greater truth, but that is also now being taken away from me. I fear that, just as with everything else that requires the involvement of people who can not understand by virtue of never having been there, it is going to fall apart as careers get in the way.

The last thought that has occurred to me is one of some kind of final mission. It is true that I have found that I am capable of finding some kind of reprieve by doing things that are worthwhile on the scale of life and death. While it is a nice thought to consider doing some good with my skills, experience, and killer instinct, the truth is that it isn’t realistic. First, there are the logistics of financing and equipping my own operation, then there is the near certainty of a grisly death, international incidents, and being branded a terrorist in the media that would follow. What is really stopping me, though, is that I simply am too sick to be effective in the field anymore. That, too, has been taken from me.

Thus, I am left with basically nothing. Too trapped in a war to be at peace, too damaged to be at war. Abandoned by those who would take the easy route, and a liability to those who stick it out—and thus deserve better. So you see, not only am I better off dead, but the world is better without me in it

This is what brought me to my actual final mission. Not suicide, but a mercy killing. I know how to kill, and I know how to do it so that there is no pain whatsoever. It was quick, and I did not suffer. And above all, now I am free. I feel no more pain. I have no more nightmares or flashbacks or hallucinations. I am no longer constantly depressed or afraid or worried

I am free.

I ask that you be happy for me for that. It is perhaps the best break I could have hoped for. Please accept this and be glad for me.

Daniel Somers

10 thoughts on “I Died For Our War Crimes

  1. The one thing that must be added, Max, is the reason so many men and women choose to enlist in the US military is to get those “benefits” that simply are not available to the real working class and the unemployed poor families and individuals in the USA.
    I see them at the VA Hospital in San Francisco; my only medical care also: amputees, mental patients, spinal injuries in wheel chairs; young black woman with one eye and useless lower body. And, we old soldiers sleep in the barracks called the Hoptel, for free; in the most expensive city in the USA; and are fed free meals; and spend our days in the nicest environment in San Francisco, the entire coastline from the Cliff House to the Presidio being owned by our Socialist Society that is only available to those who “serve”.
    It’s the one place in the USA where I feel the concensus that “we are all in this together” the media having ripped that fabric to shreds in “civil” sociey with its playing of the polarizing issues and competition good; collectivism bad kinda worldview.
    So, until a crisis is reached as was with this soldier, it seems that that is, once inside, the best of all possible worlds; especially after you get inside the contracting game.
    Those are the reasons the solders “re-up” and make a career; nothing can compare in corporate civil “jobs”.
    Too bad civil society en el norte, including public universities can’t follow this model.

  2. David, concuerdo. this isn’t news any more; and yet like truffle dogs trained to sniff out truffles the anthros who are “investigative anthros” continue to do what they are accustomed to do; like when you keep house-hunting scanner going for months after you bought your house.
    We do now have a clear picture; enough “data”. Now …. ? Should the anthros just keep gathering proof of the obvious, or, providing anthro input to providing what Tariq Ali said is the other vital half; an alternative, and how to get there from here.
    As I wrote to David Price earlier today:
    Any anthro schoolboy knows about system stability and the notion of limits to growth long gone far beyond. It seems to me that that should be the main track; returning to a balance with the whole life-system of this planet, not experimenting with the hope of achieving mastery over it, engineering of it as our cow.

    Small is Beautiful, like all answers, solutions, will be transient; but will not pass nearly so rapidly as will this train if it is not given new data for a destination that is not simply positive feedback into a runaway engine; an engine that is NOT the engine of the revolution, but the Engine of The Final Solution …. as discussed overbearingly and borderline coherently in most of my ZA stuff.
    To me, that is a more fruitful discussion to persue, now that WE KNOW ENOUGH regarding the nature of the system that is domesticating us.

    The problem is an alternative, and a path to get from here to there.
    Snowden, Manning, Assange, Allison, etc get attention, and all the poor ones like the suicide note in Max’s article today who don’t get that victorious feeling of providing forbidden pictures and words to The People get wheeled legless into the glorious sunlight of the large solarium dining room of the VA cafeteria overlooking the Pacific Ocean at the mouth of the Golden Gate into the Bay, to sit and eat watching Fox or such channel giving moment by moment interpretations of government “news” releases on the recent suicide attacks in Paktia Province …
    Yes, this Master’s House must come down; but, but, but,
    Then WHAT? that SHOULD BE The Question. See Tariq Ali quoted by me at The End.

  3. I disagree somewhat, not only because I don’t see any definition of “news” here, but because it certainly is very rare to get mass circulation for a story that accuses the U.S. government of war crimes, in a nation where millions still loudly proclaim their innocence and inherent goodness, and that on 9/11 it was “the whole world” that was attacked. Come on. That is still an uphill battle and it is not over yet. “Data” will be needed for as long we need to make arguments that try to be credible and convincing, rather than blowing a lot of hot air in people’s faces. The job of educating is far from over…I wish it were.

    Some of the solutions you are looking for are at the very least implied here, without needing a full manifesto: a revitalized anti-war movement, campaigning against militarism, and converting expenditures on war costs and private contractors to social spending and defence of common, public goods. Not slamming into every other nation on earth, and keeping your fist jammed under everyone’s noses to remind them of just how American you are, requires cultural change, on your end. This is all work that is being done, slowly, invisibly, by disparate actors who often do not even know of each other’s existence. You keep persevering. But what we don’t need to first act is some neat little blueprint for the future: the future has a way of turning blueprints into lining for new hamster cages.

  4. I have no question that maintaining an active “intelligence operation” of the alternative group, but, I do again counter with Tariq Ali’s caution as quoted in John’s Final Epistle Pt II at the very end, when I hoped to present, not some fixed ideological model, but some general prinicples for such a model, as triangulated by Ali, Bateson and Schumacher.
    These merely provide some “experts'” and some well informed deeper thinker notions of general guidelines.

    Schumacher was a respected economist who worked with John Maynard Keynes and John Kenneth Galbraith, and for twenty years as the Chief Economic Advisor to the National Coal Board in the United Kingdom. He was opposed to the tenets of neo-classical economics, declaring that single-minded concentration on output and technology was dehumanizing. He held that one’s workplace should be dignified and meaningful first, efficient second, and that nature (like its natural resources) is priceless.

    Schumacher proposed the idea of “smallness within bigness”: a specific form of decentralization. For a large organization to work, according to Schumacher, it must behave like a related group of small organizations. Schumacher’s work coincided with the growth of ecological concerns and with the birth of environmentalism and he became a hero to many in the environmental movement.

  5. Smedley Butler said it all many years ago, and has been largely cut out of history.The most shameful aspect for the flag-wavers is that they adore Money and , at a mundane level, the comforts such as knowing how good and innocent they are (!!) and, especially, the day-to-day anesthetising comforts of bread and circuses.With the centenary of WW1 next year, there will be a concerted effort by the media and “leaders” ( including, God help them, Establishment historians and religious leaders) to distort the nature of that conflict.
    Many military intellectuals admit openly to war-crimes, but say the are not actually crimes, since they ( the professional “sword and shield of the Republic” ) are mandated by the people to do anything necessary or expedient to defend “our” way of life. The indisutable fact that the “way of life” is also, very much, a way of death for lesser breeds and for many ex comrades-in-arms seems to be irrelevant to the narcisssistic “heroes” of the “Pro patria” industry and securopaths.
    We must be afraid for our children and grand-children, some of whom will probably end up like this tragic man – anti-war does also mean anti-militarist , and all should try to dissuade the young from enlisting . As Smedley Butler said, the only legitiamte call to arms is to defend the nation’s territory (not Guam, for example…) and the Bill of Rights.Young Americans have to be taught that killing people is, in general, wrong; period.

  6. Daniel Somers went “over the edge” by the consequences of his voluntary participation in war crimes produced by the state apparatus of the United States—a fascist political economy which he (probably false-unconsciously) “loved”. But it is not clear whether the agency of his suicide was the unbearable moral burden of being “made to participate in things, the enormity of which is hard to describe; [w]ar crimes, crimes against humanity” in Iraq or because of his frustration with his criminal government’s inability or unwillingness to provide him with “immediate medical attention” for “the illness that (he) and so many others were exposed to” during committing war crimes in the lands of the Others in Iraq and/or Afghanistan. Somers would still be beathing oxygen if his criminal master had not “turned around and abandoned” him; and if his criminal employers had offered “help” and had not blocked his “pursuit of gaining outside help via their corrupt agents at the DEA”.

    The causal complexity of Daniel Somers’ suicide is provided—not far from the surface—in the morphology and syntax of his thoughts of “doing some good with (DOD taught) skills, experience, and (consciousness of) killer instincts”; being simply “too sick to be effective in the field” (of war!) and “[t]oo trapped in a war to be at peace. Too damaged (as a soldier!) to be at war” (parentheses added).

    The chances of Daniel Somers taking his own life would have been significantly reduced and the prospects of ”a revitalized anti-war movement, campaigning against militarism” in the United States would have been enhanced if the armed forces of the United were dependent on universal conscription (as during the Vietnam war) rather than drawn from the pool of voluntary labor incentivized with material (college tuition, free life insurance, low mortgage rates, free healthcare, free burial, etc.) and symbolic (“veteran”, “war hero”) capitals. The vast majority of these laborers come from the bottom third of the American class structure. Large numbers of these volunteer soldiers are high school dropouts; thousands of convicted criminals are serving t their jail sentences in the delusional American “war on terror” currently engaged in war crimes and crimes against humanity in Afghanistan. My title for Daniel Somers’ suicide note would have been “I Died of Our War Crimes”.

  7. Jamil’s comment, as usual, is so precise in his slices near to the bone.
    I would really appreciate a more expansive article from Dr Hanifi; liberating his understanding to flow forth and let the reader sort it out or ask for clarification. My sense is that there is a world there awaiting the interest of USan minds open to Afghan Realities. That education in another perspect upon the world today, if respectfully queried, might open doors.

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