We've talked about the fact that the Trump administration wants to house thousands of asylum seekers, refugees and other legal migrants within what amount to modern-day concentration camps, inside the secure perimeter of military installations. Doing so will not only ensure that the migrant's chances of finding their way to freedom is significantly hampered, but also keep the detainees far from the prying eyes of protesters and the media. For a nation once renown for fighting to ensure freedom and democracy at home and abroad, this is bullshit. Worse still, it spits in the eye of every solider who join the military with those ideals in mind; those who come from immigrant or migrant families (that'd be most of us) and anyone who wears the uniform whilst carrying a moral compass. As The Daily Beast reports, many veterans and those still serving are very not ok with this:
Active-duty and retired U.S. military officers and enlisted personnel are expressing a sense of moral emergency over the Defense Department setting up detention camps for undocumented immigrants on military bases.
“It smacks of totalitarianism,” said Steve Kleinman, a retired Air Force colonel and military intelligence officer.
Raf Noboa, an Iraq War veteran and former Army sergeant, said he was astounded by the “enormous moral offense” the camps represent and which the military will be ordered to support.
“America’s military once liberated people from concentration camps,” Noboa told The Daily Beast. “It beggars the mind and our morality that it might be used to secure them.”
“I knew something bad was going to happen. I have always taken [President Trump]’s rhetoric at face value and right now, I’m not banking on the president having good will towards people of my nationality,” said an active-duty military officer of Mexican descent currently stationed at Fort Bliss in El Paso, one of the sites under consideration for the detention camps.
It's a terrible position for a professional soldier to be in.
As noted by The Daily Beast, placing the camps on military bases places the nation's military personnel "... in an agonizing situation that pincers soldiers and airmen between the need for military discipline and a policy harking back to the infamous detention of Japanese-Americans during World War II or the forcible separation of children of native nations after Wounded Knee." Even if a solider is able to sleep soundly with this knowledge, the civilians who the military stands to protect may not. Bases built near the Mexican border are serviced by towns and cities full of people of Mexican, South and Central American descent. Trust and respect for a uniform associated with the incarceration of individuals who come from the same countries as their families did could become a stretch.
Those who joined the military, for whatever reason, did not do so to be put in contention with their nation's people. They did not join to find themselves reviled for having a part in tearing apart families or detaining refugees seeking nothing more than safety. For a solider to say that they were simply following orders has not been enough to shield them from fault since the end of the Second World War. The policy of housing detainees on military property is putting the men and women of America's armed forces in harm's way – moral injury will be unavoidable. It goes without saying, but let's say it: no good will come of any of this. How The West responds to the hatred and vilification and othering of minorities will decide our era's standing in history.
Right now, we're looking pretty shitty.
Image via U.S. Army, courtesy of Staff Sgt. Corinna Baltos