[This is an email that I sent to Danielle Forrest, who addressed the adjunct faculty at an administrative meeting at the beginning of the fall semester at Front Range Community College, in her capacity as the administrator of a new program, Veteran Services, August 16, 2012. She spoke rather strongly against singling out veterans in class, which I can understand; but she crossed the line when she said that “liberal minded” instructors should “keep their opinions to themselves” about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. So I wrote her this email the following day…]
Dear Ms. Forrest,
I am an adjunct faculty member in the Behavioral and Social Science department at FRCC’s Larimer campus, and attended the required in-service meeting last night, where I heard your presentation about the new veteran services that is being offered. I have taught environmental economics there since fall 2009.
While I agree this type of service is needed and will help some veterans, I was offended by your calling out “liberal” instructors who might make some comment in class against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. I would never single out any veteran in my class out of compassion at a human level, and sympathize with the human condition of people who have fought in combat. However, the tone of your delivery bordered on asking us to self-censure ourselves regarding our opinions of these tragic, and very wrong, actions of our American military — and that is the wrong position for you to be in as an impartial service administrator.
I hope you are aware of the news stories on military suicide statistics; I just googled it, and got over a million hits. To quote one such article, published June 2012:
“NATO combat operations in Afghanistan are expected to draw to a close by the middle of next year and the U.S. completed its withdrawal of troops from Iraq last December. But while fewer American soldiers are in the line of fire each day, new Pentagon statistics show that an average of one military suicide occurred each day in the first six months of 2012, the fastest pace in the past ten years. The statistics reported by The Associated Press show that military deaths from suicide outweighed combat deaths by a two-to-one ratio, a dramatic uptick since 2010 and 2011 when military suicides decreased from previous years.”
I am no expert, but I suspect this is without precedent in military history. It is a continuing saga that saddens me personally; but what saddens me more is the blindness of Americans who are in denial as to the source of the problem. More than twice as many military deaths from suicide than from combat; why? Because these people, many of whom are quite young and without much life experience, have been put into the impossible position of fighting in a war and occupying these countries on a huge scale that makes no sense in the first place. That is what causes them to turn to drug addition, to violence against their loved ones, their community, and ultimately themselves.
Our country should never have invaded Iraq and Afghanistan in the way that it did. It was a stupid and impulsive reaction to the 9/11 bombings that appealed only to the basest instincts of wanting to fulfill an outlet for our hurt and pain, but in a way that amounted to bullying and fueling a bloodlust. It laid waste to these countries’ economies, devastated their infrastructure and their environment for decades to come, caused the deaths of tens of thousands of innocent civilians and has never come close to fulfilling the empty promise of rebuilding those countries as we declared we would do. It has only made the problem that much worse, creating a breeding ground for the hatred that fueled the attacks against America in the first place. If we fail to learn from these mistakes, such violence will continue to perpetuate itself.
I will never cease to speak out against these unjust wars, and the violence that our military continues to inflict on the world and the environment. The military-industrial complex that powers the Pentagon is a huge and tragic economic waste, and those resources would be much more productive if directed elsewhere — in way that makes human sense, instead of human destruction.
Front Range Community College