Some people would say that this is a mentally ill person and in dire need of help to return their mind back to normal. Their logic is that a normal sane person would not do such a terrible and senseless thing. So what I am trying to do in this book is to illustrate how we can engage in a war that is filled with insanity but throughout it all, we remain normal and not be crazy. Let me explain this concept by rationalizing logic used in the world today.
We live in a world of views that express, decide and judge these things as being insane but not crazy. As you can gather from this logic, the distinction between evil and being mentally ill is a matter of significant concern as for many, it is purely subjective in matter. For this purpose, crazy is linked to evil and if the act was not evil, then we are not crazy.
The world’s patterns of thinking, justifying and explaining these anomalies in life are filled with biases, morals, ethics and other norms are culturally created. One major point of concern in this matter is the burden of responsibility and accountability and the correct way to a person who has done something terrible such as committing a crime against another human being, race or country.
If a person acts from mental ill rather than evil, then it seems somewhat reasonable to regard or judge them to be not accountable for the action(s) or at least, to the degree the person is ill. After all, if something terrible occurs because a person suffers from a physical illness, or a mechanical failure, the person is generally and sometimes legally, not held accountable (exceptions noted).
For example, immediately after doing a tour in Nam, I was stationed at Fort Knox, Kentucky at the 42nd Field Hospital as a dispensary medic. I had the privilege to have my personal vehicle on post when I had a malfunction with my car’s accelerator – it got stuck and caused the car to veer out of control almost hitting a group of officers standing on the sidewalk. Since I was driving normal when the car malfunctioned, and the fact that I didn’t stomp my foot down deliberately or to press the accelerator down to speed up, I had an unexpected seizure of my ability to control it. At least, that is how the adjutant general attorney explained it to me. However, I was not completely vindicated of the act, as I was demoted from E-5 to E-4 for a violation of our Military Code of Justice. Something I didn’t understand clearly but it was much better than a criminal charge and facing charges as that was told to me at the beginning of this investigation.
Oddly, when the car rocketed down the street, smashing into another car and coming to a stop in someone’s back yard after barely missing the pedestrians, I could have been charged for attempted vehicular manslaughter or other kind of crimes, as the car could have easily plowed over the officer, injuring or killing some of them.
However, since I was not physically in control of my own actions (and they had no reason to think I would do such an act on purpose) I was not held morally accountable. That is, I did nothing wrong. I hope you see where I am going here as this is all based on perceptions and subjective thinking. If a person had intentionally tried to murder this officer with a car, then that would be seen as an evil action. Unless, perhaps, the driver was mentally ill in a way that disabled him in a way comparable to a stroke and since a stroke may cause the car to veer out of control, much like a mechanical failure, a case might be made that the driver might be as “innocent” as the afflicted victim.
There seem to be at least two ways that a mentally ill person might be absolved of moral responsibility (at least to the degree he is mentally ill). Regardless, the person appears to be suffering from what could be classified as a perceptual or interpretative disorder or malfunction.
That is, he may have mental defects that cause him to perceive and interpret reality incorrectly. For example, a person suffering from extreme paranoia might think that some stranger intends to steal his brain, even if there are no such intention. I am hoping you are staying with me as I detail how we become not just institutionalized in our thinking patterns, but also fall to the games of the ‘establishment.’
In such a case, it seems reasonable to not regard the person as evil if he tries to harm someone —after all, he is acting in what he thinks is legitimate self-defense rather than from a wicked motivation. In contrast, if someone who wanted to kill me to carjack my car or just for fun would be acting in an evil way.
Put in general terms, mental conditions that distort a person’s perception and interpretation of reality might lead him to engage in acts of wrongful violence even though his moral reasoning might remain normal.
Again, strangely, it seems sensible to consider that such people might be following their conscience as best they can, only they have distorted information to work with in their decision making process and this distortion results from mental illness.
Second, the person might be suffering from what could be regarded as a disorder of judgment. That is, the person’s ability to engage in reasoning is damaged or defective due to a perceived mental illness.
The person might (or might not) have correct information to work with, but the processing is defective in a way that causes a person to make judgments that would be regarded as evil if made by a “normal” person.
For example, a person might infer from the fact that someone is wearing a blue hat that the person should be killed or maybe in the case of the Vietnam War, a person is wearing black pajamas and therefore, should be killed.
One obvious point of concern is that “normal” people are generally bad at reasoning, no anomaly during the war, and commit fallacies with alarming regularity. As such, there would be a need to sort out the sort of reasoning, that is merely bad reasoning from reasoning that would count as being mentally ill.
One-point worth considering is that bad reasoning could be fixed by education and awareness, whereas a mental illness would not be fixed by learning, for example, logic and should be treated by diagnosis and medication or therapy.
A second obvious point of concern is discerning between mental illness as a cause of such judgments and evil as a cause of such judgments. After all, evil people can be seen as having a distorted sense of judgment in regards to value. In fact, some philosophers aka Kant and Socrates regard evil as a mental defect or a form of irrationality.
This has some intuitive appeal—after all, people who do terrible and senseless things would certainly seem to have something wrong with them. Whether this is a moral wrongness or health wrongness is, of course, the big question here. For many war veterans, this is linked to their experiences and perception during their time of service.
One of the main reasons to try to sort out the difference is figuring out whether a person should be treated (cured) or punished (which might also cure the person). As noted above, a person who did something terrible because of mental illness would (to a degree) not be accountable for the act and hence should not be punished (or the punishment should be duly tempered).
For some it is tempting to claim that the choice of evil is an illusion because there is no actual free choice (that is, we do what we do because of the biochemical and electrical workings of the bodies that are us).
As such, people should not be punished, rather they should be repaired. Of course, there is a certain irony in such advice: if we do not have choice, then advising us to not punish makes no sense since we will just do what we do.
The adverse impact of this rationale is the fact that when you apply this to government, there is no distinction made. government is not held accountable or responsible for what they do, carry out or engage in especially when it comes to making war.
So how do you introduce a subject as tender as the Vietnam War without offending anyone who fought this conflict with all his or her body and soul? Why would you even write about things that were so atrociously violent, brutal, mind boggling and controversial and what would justify speaking out against the flow of main stream media and history books when the dust has still not settled.
Controversy causes doubts of whether or not you know the truth in these matters. Can we trust the history books to tell us the truth? Perhaps to some extent, it would be the appropriate source to mention and refer to for war statistics, facts of battles, chronology, and other factual matters that verifiable by military records.
If we understand the truth correctly, without the extra perceptions, was the was a necessary evil or was it justified of being as close to ‘normal’ as life gets?
On the other hand, does the government allow the truth to be printed or would it rather conceal the deception and lies they provided over a long period of time to justify their use of one of the world’s mightiest armed forces in such a small country called the Republic of South Vietnam.
As a war veteran, I mourn the loss of my teammates daily without exceptions. As a former warrior, I seek condolences and forgiveness for what I was a part of during my one-year tour as a medic. It is a fact that for over forty years I carried a lot of guilt inside me.
One such guilt was survivor’s guilt, another kind of guilt was my own conscious, fighting my own morality and mortality. In the end, I suffered no more and no less than most Vietnam Veterans, except that I was spared the agony of Agent Orange and other visible wounds.
How I survived does not matter anymore as that stands for the record to be satisfactory and successful in both family and career paths. What I did or underwent during my recovery time, is now, not much of an issue as it has brought me full circle with life and my heart.
There is nothing more to say except to tell the truth as I have known it to exist. Is it wrong and does it point the blame somewhere else? Yes, I think so; I think the blame belongs to the ‘establishment’ that sent us to a war that was never fully justified.
At least, in my mind, that is how I see it after it was all over and done with and as I visit the Wall in DC to see the names of my fallen comrades, I realize that over 58,307 men and women lost their lives because of the bureaucracy that wanted a war fought in a foreign land under the pretense of stopping communism at the front door and not letting it be fought on American soil.
The hypocrisy in this message is stronger than the truth itself. Our country shamed us into believing we fought a good war, an honorable war and a justified war.
To some, including me, it was an honorable war but not a good war to be fought. This is a paradox that will never be clear to anyone who experienced this warfare.
This war was full of hate, racism, class warfare, political pandering and foreign policy meddling to control the power of the world while sending young men into battle. Battles that were mostly won but not sufficient to win the war.
Politics took a front seat over military victories. The entire conflict was riddled with political agendas and corporate greed that served the rich and punished the poor. Punishment that came in the form of death, injuries, maimed bodies and screwed up minds.
So now it comes down to what we know to be an insane war fought somewhere most people today have already forgotten. Why are American soldiers who engaged in a brutal war for years being punished for their loyalty and devotion to God and Country? Why does duty have such a bitter taste in my mouth, or is it the guilt that puts the salt in the wounds and cause us to suffer until eternity?
It is with high hopes that after reading my book, you become somewhat better educated, aware and cognizant of how the soldier’s mind was twisted, tortured and damaged by the war and its visual, mental and physical distortions as well as the fact that no human being can endure such an assault or onslaught on their humanity and morals without denting or impacting their reality where they have been and what they have endured.
This does not mean that I am making excuses for those who became criminals under our system of laws. The laws are there for a purpose. At the same time, the laws should distinguish the difference between mental illness and evil. I believe there are too many veterans locked up in jails and prisons who are not evil but in their own world, did things that they thought were normal or without malice or indiscriminate harm towards others.
Excluding those who plan or commit premeditated crimes, I believe many others are victims of a subjective prosecutor, jury or judge who do not understand how the mind breaks down when exposed to harsh and toxic conditions day after day, year after year, without rest, sleep, a relief of psychological guilt or anxiety and more.
On a case by case basis, we would find many veterans who served with honor during their tour of duty, who gave their all in any way they could or felt it should have been delivered or done but labeled evil and put away for crimes, punishable by many years behind bars with no chance for treatment or recovery of their own losses.