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US veteran: Remnants of an 'unnecessary war'

US veteran: Remnants of an 'unnecessary war'
From Al Jazeera - November 14, 2017

More than20 million US militaryveterans are currently living in the US. After years of serving their country and waging war overseas, many of them struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), homelessness and addiction.

Adrian Bonenberger is one of them. This is his story in his own words.

I do not go out to parties very much anymore. I ca not remember the last time I was at a party where there was lots of alcohol or drugs, because I know for a fact using either of them would be bad for me. Not because they are illegal, necessarily, but because it would not be good for me. They would put me in a bad place.

I was never medicated for post-traumatic stress disorder, but I did go through a lot of therapy. I still go back occasionally if I am in a bad place.

I joined the US army in 2005 and served until 2012. I went from second lieutenant to first lieutenant and then from first lieutenant to captain.

We had never really seen the US [military] go into a place long term. The governing understanding of war was that we'd gotten involved in Vietnam, we learned that was a mistake and we were going to avoid situations like that.

So I'd seen the US go into a foreign country for a couple of weeks or a month or a couple of months, and then the United Nations (UN) or some international peacekeeping body would take over and we would not be there anymore.

Until George W Bush was re-elected, it seemed that would probably be what was happening in Iraq. If Kerry was elected he would get us out of Iraq. When Bush was re-elected, however, we were seeing this new, multi-generational, long-term warfare commitment.

I am an American citizen and I voted for this democracy, so it felt to me that I needed to participate in whatever it was the country was doing - right or wrong. On an individual level, participating in a democracy that was under threat seemed like the right thing to do.

I was deployed twice to Afghanistan on combat tours as a result of my decision to enlist.

'The war was illegal'

Is there a purposeful way to die in war?

I guess. Maybe you die to hold off the enemy with a machine gun and grenade, heroically. Maybe there's a way you die that's full of purpose, when you give the aircraft time to knock out the enemy, for example.

You could probably construct a scenario where it is plausible to say that this person's death is meaningful.

I think about the guys who died in Iraq for - as far as I could tell - no reason. The war was illegal. For anything that happened in Iraq, there is no good reason that it happened, so it was for nothing.

With Afghanistan, it was a little bit different.

At least, when I was there, the thinking was that this is a nation-building mission. There is some type of logic behind it. It was not Iraq, it was not illegal. There was something about Afghanistan - a feeling that they had come after us. They had refused to give bin Laden back. So it felt like the Taliban had asked for it.

A lot of money was being spent on Afghanistan. But very little has changed there, and those things that have changed seem disturbing.

'You have to make choices that are incompatible with civilisation'

When you are on the kind of deployment I was on, you have to kind of live like an animal and make choices that are totally incompatible with civilisation. You are trying to kill people. You ca not really think that way and live that way when you are back in civilisation.

'America's a quietly sad place to be'

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