This is Dark Cloud on Wednesday, October 20, 2004.
In the old days, like during the world wars, there would have been only a small problem if a dangerous but pedantic job needed doing, like loading ammo ships. The military was segregated, and they’d simply use barely-trained African American units to load or unload ammo poorly packed, or to ferry it to some risky sector. If, during the process, some of the ammo or entire ships exploded and kill hundreds, the Brass could blame the incident on human error, which is to say on the blacks, although it wasn’t really an error by the people doing the work, who’d never been trained how to do it. They simply didn’t know safety procedures, or sometimes even what they were unloading, and the brass only cared because of the lost bombs.
When black units figured this out, they mutinied at Port Chicago north of San Francisco in 1944 after a huge catastrophe killed hundreds. The explosion, lasting one minute and heard two hundred miles away, was so huge that a 1200 foot pier and several of the ammo ships moored to it vanished along with sections of a railroad yard. No trace of some large ships remained. Planes at 9000 feet saw white hot pieces of metal described as big as a house still heading up as they passed them.
Oddly, survivors of the black units demanded - these spoiled, cowardly near-men – to be trained as if they were white and allowed the time and equipment to do the job right and safely and said they would not go back to work till that happened. Some fifty were charged with mutiny and imprisoned. Many were court-martialed for failing to obey an order. But, because they were so clearly in the right, the Navy eventually relented and began the annoying process of treating some sailors as well as they did others. That this saved money, conflict, and time in the long run as well as raised morale was an unexpected by-product. Who’d have thought?
But militaries, even the ones that try hard to be fair and honest, are often misused and overused by their governments, and as the war drags on people get shell shocked and tired, people get angry and stretched, and bad decisions are made, defended, the predictable results turn out bad and are covered up, reports are fabricated to prevent punishment even as those in charge honestly promise not to let it happen again while they repeat the procedure to stay on schedule. Eventually, some units mutiny against procedure over point and safety. It happens all the time everywhere without exception. It looks like it just happened in Iraq.
An American support unit refused to drive their unarmored vehicles with questionable armed support to their destination because, they thought, it was a suicide run to no constructive purpose. They had no protection, even notional, against rocket propelled grenades, the Saturday night special of insurgent forces, and the route they would have to take was full of enthusiastic insurgents with just that sort of weapon. Although the military doesn’t trumpet it, we’ve been suffering about five casualties a day for some weeks, mostly on these sorts of missions.
Further, supposedly the helicopter fuel they were ferrying was tainted, meaning the vehicles for which it was destined would have unexpectedly crashed at some point. The soldiers went on the offensive and used cell phones to call home, to send email, to circumvent the normal procedures that the U. S. Army prefers, which is silence and the mysterious world of military law. Not this time. We’ve been put on notice by our soldiers that stupid decisions are being made to no clear purpose.
This made the news because the parents and the emails got attention. But you notice, nothing much about it for a while in the media. Have changes been made? Charges filed? Were the soldiers right in what they did? We don’t, officially, know. War, you see.
If this small mutiny is any indication, and all the talk about the Draft is any indication, we’re not heading in any direction that makes sense for any of us, and especially not the military. This is the sort of mistake that takes place when things aren't going well. You cannot maintain morale fighting a war with no clear criteria for declaring victory, and Bush hasn’t given us that, and his criteria for initiating it were palpable lies.
Our military is beginning to show the signs of misuse and exhaustion that leads to nothing good. It isn’t their fault, they’ve done their jobs. The civvies at the top have not.