Monday, January 17, 2011

Fayetteville Soldier Killed in Afghanistan


Illegal and ruinous US invasions and interventions will never end so long as our leaders, our mainstream media, and the public continue to misrepresent “the troops”—their training, their “sacrifice,” and the imperial purpose for which they were killed. An egregious example of this war-perpetuating falsification occurred in an editorial of the Northwest Arkansas Times, January 13, 2011, “In Memory: Ethan C. Hardin” of Fayetteville. Spc. Hardin, age 25, was killed in Afghanistan by “an improvised explosive device and small-arms fire.”
Quickly the writer pronounces his first false claim. The editorial opens with information about the close relationship between Hardin and his minister, and expresses the paper’s “condolences,” and “to acknowledge that the sacrifice was for all of us.” For whom was the sacrifice? Did Hardin go to Afghanistan to be a sacrifice for the people of the United States? I doubt it. Or did our leaders send him to an illegal, catastrophic invasion and occupation against a people who had never threatened our nation, where he was killed? That is the truth. Not for me was he sacrificed. Not for me was he offered up to the nation as to a deity; not for me was he destroyed in a senseless war. Nor was his victimization “for all of us.” You know what we think and feel? This is only the beginning of the editorialist’s astounding statements.
What kind of man was Spc. Hardin? Apparently before he entered the Army, the editorialist writes, he was “a very pleasant, liable, gentle personality. He was always helpful. Always had a ready smile and a laugh.” And lunched with his minister, who knew him since he was “a baby.” But that was before the Army. What happened when he left home and community and joined the Army? The editorialist says nothing about basic training He was doubtfully the same gentle man after basic training for combat. . For basic training seeks to eradicate the loving natures parents and ministers have inculcated in them, because their new function in life is to kill. During WWII not all of our troops fired their weapons. Basic training since then has intensified eagerness or at least willingness to shoot and shoot to kill. The recruiters had not told him the purpose and details of basic training. And had he not been killed himself, had he returned home alive, particularly had he experienced more than one tour in Afghanistan, he might well have suffered from PTSD, especially because he had been a gentle man and had been compelled in combat to commit actions, crimes, utterly opposed to his upbringing, to kill and wound civilians or to see it done, and keep silent (even the most hardened are susceptible to PTSD in these contions). The recruiters had not told him about this either.
But maybe he wasn’t so gentle after all, writes the shifting editorialist: he came from a military family; “he had a typical warrior spirit. His dad was a soldier. His brother spent time in Iraq.” And not only that, all “had a strong desire to keep their country safe.” Safe? Safe from Afghanistan? Extraordinarily poor, tribal Afghanistan? Safe from bin Ladin, we might understand, but what did the people of Afghanistan have to do with 9-11? The editorialist is silent on this question.
The editorialist has argued: Hardin was gentle at home, but became a fighting soldier because he was a warrior at heart (and unmentioned, because basic training performed successfully its task of deformation). And yet, the editorialist’s astonishing argument has not reached its climax. His former pastor and friend, Dr. Bryan Disney, is quoted as saying: “’He was very high on the totem pole in his dedication to Christ.’” This inexplicable, baffling statement, following the preceding argument, would embarrass an ordinary person--unless Dr. Disney makes a distinction between “Christ” and “Jesus,” for the Jesus of the Beatitudes and other passages in the Christian text of the Bible is the farthest one might be from a combat soldier in Afghanistan. But Dr. Disney and the writer seem to mean Jesus as the Christ.
In an attempt to resolve the many contradictions of his case so far, the editorialist now discusses purposefully Hardin’s military unit, the 10th Mountain Division, in which Senator Bob Dole served during WWII, and in which “at least one soldier [was] awarded the Medal of Honor” in 2006. The heroism of gentle, Christ-loving Hardin is exalted by his association with other combat heroes.
How can the editorialist end such a confusing memorialization? He meant well. He wanted to praise the man both as a person we would like to have in our community, have as our neighbor, and as a person who would go off to a war (why did he go is never explained) to kill his leaders’ enemies. But instead of explaining how the two could exist in the same person consecutively because of two powerful indoctrinations—one by his parents and community and the other by the Army--he leaves us stunned by the incomprehensibility of his account.
Pfc. Hardin was taught gentleness—not to kill--at home and cruelty and killing by the Army, and for an illegal and unjust war, and because the editorialist doesn’t see consequences, all he can do is cover it up with his feeble cant and unfeeling formulas of “sacrifice” and “Christ.” Nowhere is there pity for Hardin and his loving family, nor for the loving Afghan families, but only the empty, automatic, ritualistic “condolences.”

Editorial. “In Memory: Ethan C. Hardin.” Northwest Arkansas Times (Jan. 13, 2011).
Bob Caudle. “Fayetteville Soldier Killed in Afghanistan.” NAT (Jan. 10, 2011).

Related Blog Entries:
See the two on Killing especially, and all others related to militarism, empire, and wars.

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