Trained to Harm: How the Military Abuses Its Own

After the Walter Reed scandal broke, the media fastened on the mold in Building 18 the rodents and bad food and nightmare of paperwork. But it was the Post’s description of formation, the 7 a.m. lineup of injured soldiers necessary to “maintain some discipline,” that most unnerved me. Every morning, regardless of weather, the injured assemble. Umbrellas are forbidden, uniforms required. Some soldiers “are so gorked out on pills that they seem on the verge of nodding off.” Shades of Scarano. They are reminded to keep warm and avoid beating their spouse and children. Sometimes they are berated for the condition of their rooms or their uniforms or their attitude. There were no soldiers with missing limbs or concave skulls or rearranged faces at Fort Sill, but the condescension and barely concealed cruelty were the same. For the injured soldier, formation enacts the military’s ritual of belonging while expressing its disdain. In this single act, the institution tells them that it is taking care of them and that it hates having to do so. read more

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