Saturday, April 25, 2009

S.E.R.E. Sucked

{Cheney in his outfit: Real cowboys don't 'frighten easily'}

Here is a very specific request: If you know anything about S.E.R.E. training in the 1960s, please let me know at joesharkey2@comcast. net, as I am working on a magazine article about this.

My first business trips, so to speak, were as a dumb young man in the military in the second half of the 1960s. (By the way, Delta Air Lines always treated servicemen very very well in this era and I always have had a warm feeling for Delta because of that.)

But I digress. Early in 1968, as a young NCO, I had orders to report to Saigon, Vietnam — just in time, as it would turn out, for the Tet Offensive.)

But before going, I was required to report to the Naval Amphibious Base at Little Creek, Va., for a 3-week training course called Survival Evasion Resistance and Escape (S.E.R.E.), which turned out to be an exercise in being subjected to torture and mind-blowing confinement in a simulated Prisoner of War camp after spending four days without food in the godforsaken Virginia or Maryland mountains (they never told us where we were) in the dead of winter, while trying to avoid capture by Navy SEALS posing and dressed as Chinese Commie soldiers.

This being winter in those miserable mountains, there was no food, nor were we supplied with any. After some days and nights of “evasion,” we poor hungry, cold, disorientated slobs all were “captured” by Navy SEALS (and who knows who else, under whatever contracts). They were dressed in war paint, but also in Red Chinese uniforms. Disoriented and hungry, we were confined for days in a simulated, very real looking POW camp (they had built it like a Hollywood set), where we were beaten and “tortured” day and night. The torture was real. I left with several broken ribs. There is an indelible image in my head of a Navy captain (a Navy captain is the same rank as an Army colonel) being humiliated for an hour in front of the rest of us, refusing to crack, and then thrown stark naked into a barbed wire fence. I see that man’s bloody body to this day, He extricated himself from the barbed wire crying, blood-soaked, utterly ruined.

Today, I read a credulous report in the paper that blithely stated that SERE was “created decades earlier to give American pilots and soldiers a sample of the torture techniques used by Communists in the Korean war.”

That’s the lie created about S.E.R.E. by the military and the C.I.A. and its complicit hired psychologists and psychiatrists — hired hands who all were an integral part of the crimes we confront today.

The reason for S.E.R.E. was to see if torture worked, on whom and under what circumstances. Sleep deprivation, severe physical strain, beatings, being tossed into walls and fences, water-boarding, naked exposure to extreme cold, endless "questioning," sensory shakeups, confinement in small airless boxes that were pounded on with sticks, abject humiliation -- all were part of the S.E.R.E. "training." It's a shame Cowboy Dick didn't get to experience it first-hand, but oh, that's right: Cheney wangled five successive draft deferments at the time when other young men of his generation were being sent to a vicious, seemingly endless war, and 55,000 of them came home in coffins while Cheney tended to his "other priorities."

I’ll follow up with a personal report. Meanwhile, if you were there too, let me know at …

[Update: On Rachel Maddow tonight, Lawrence Wilkerson, the former chief of staff to former Secretary of State (and four-star combat general Colin Powell,) described the creepy former vice president, Dick Cheney, as a “man who frightens easily” and, — whoa, Wilkerson even mentioned Cheney’s successful craven attempts to obtain “five deferrals” from Vietnam military service back, when Warrior Dick insisted he had “other priorities.”)

Dick Cheney as described by Gen. Powell’s top guy: “A man who frightens easily.” Cheney, of course, was one of the main drivers behind the torture techniques used on prisoners and based, we now know, on what was learned from SERE.

Don’t you love that cowboy hat Cheney wears? You ever seen that fat-ass on a horse? My guess is that Cheney is as afraid of horses as his pal Bush famously is. He’s a man, after all, who frightens easily.


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