By SPC Michael Anthony
By Richard E. Noble
Mass Casualties takes the reader for a tour of duty within the battle zone in Iraq. The author kept a journal of his tour and we get the week by week and at times, the day by day report. But we are not in the foxhole or behind an automatic weapon roaming around a rough mountainous terrain or busting down doors in some inner city stronghold. We are in the OR (operating room) or a barracks. We are experiencing the war from the inside out. We are getting a review of “our” side and our people.
We don’t see a lot of enemies or dead mangled bodies. Instead we are introduced to the nurses and doctors, the lab techs and the semi-skilled, militarily trained OR assistants like, the author, Michael Anthony and his cohorts.
But nevertheless the picture is not pleasant and certainly not heroic.
I’ll give a few quotes from the book:
“In the OR we only do three surgeries at a time because that’s the number of beds we have.”
“This is bullshit. I joined the Army to help people, not to be treated like shit.”
“CSM Ridge calls the meeting … but get this. He’s drunk at the meeting. No one is allowed to drink in this entire goddamned country and this guy is totaled. He says that if anyone files a complaint against the unit or specifically him, he’ll get them shipped to a frontline unit where they might not make it back”
“What an outfit: people in their thirties, married with children, all of them having affairs. One was a heroin addict; the other has slept with eleven men in the past three months. One guy tried to kill himself and another kidnapped a drug dealer. Alcoholics, chain smokers, compulsive gamblers ...”
“At the mention of that I laugh. I know it’s inappropriate, but sending a suicidal Satanist to a priest to make him feel better doesn’t seem to be the best thing to do.”
“The Army can’t order me to put something in my body.”
“Dude, the U.S. Army can do whatever they want to you. You signed a contract; you gave up your rights.”
“In Iraq and in our unit, it is the reverse (from past war situations). The men stayed home, and while the women are away they get pregnant.”
“I wish I could forget everything and go back to thinking that everyone in the military is an American hero. I wish I still had someone to look up to, although I know it’s impossible. None of it seems to make sense, and I can’t understand how people can do what they do.”
“Melatonin takes too long, and I have to take too many pills to fall asleep, other pills aren’t effective, Benadryl leaves me restless, and NyQuil leaves me drowsy the next day. The majority of our hospital is taking some type of sleep medication.”
The book paints an even worse picture than these few excerpts illustrate – alcoholics, the misuse of medications and drugs, inappropriate sex – straight up and perverted by officers and enlisted personal – inept, disgraceful leadership by officers and low level superiors. The book is full of threats, bullysm and illegal harassment even by the Uniform Code of Military Justice standards. The whole situation appears not only a joke and a farce but a disgraceful catastrophe that no young American youth should have to endure.
After reading this book, I have no doubt that the young soldiers watching the “don’t ask; don’t tell” debate here at home are spitting up with laughter. And granted, some of what the author sees is the product of the idealism of youth and he will continue to experience more of the same as he goes on in the civilian world. But come on … we must be able to do better than this.
Sadly this is a far cry from what we see and hear in the T.V. recruitment ads or out of the mouths of our military and political leaders.
This book should be mandatory reading for any young adult contemplating a career in the military – their parents also.