American Military Atrocities and War in General
I remember being a young Marine recruit. We unlearned civilization. How to clap a hand over a sentry’s mouth while inserting your Kbar in his kidney; agony, shock and instant blood loss prevent a struggle. We ran in formation shouting “Kill! Kill! Kill!” We learned flame throwers, how to burn the enemy alive. We learned to use white phosphorus, WP, Willy Peter or other names less printable, to cover enemies in burning goop that you can’t put out.
We learned to be what human beings shouldn’t be. We felt an exhilarating freedom, of not being subject to moral constraints. We learned to suppress conscience, morality, and empathy. This, more than the use of weapons, is the goal of military training.
It is not hard to direct the instinctual combativeness into hatred of any desired foe. Tribalism is innate in humanity. But the hostility cannot be precisely focused. Typically the soldier is young, not too bright, poorly educated, and not real sure what the war is about. You cannot train him to hate the enemy according to fine distinctions. They are all gooks, dinks, slopes, zipperheads, sand niggers, towel heads. That much used slogan of the Albigensian wars, “Kill them all, God will know his own,” becomes emotional bedrock to soldiers. And so he comes to hate them all.
And so the atrocities come. Always. Inevitably. In every war. The military’s response to a discovered atrocity is to lie about it if possible. If lying doesn’t work, spin, spin, spin. In the latest atrocity by US forces, in which a GI killed sixteen Afghan civilians for fun, or maybe from boredom, the Pentagon is saying that he had suffered a head injury.
But when you have trained men to behave in a certain way, don’t be surprised when they do.
[Excerpts of article by Fred Reed, who worked on staff for Army Times, The Washingtonian, Soldier of Fortune, Federal Computer Week, and The Washington Times.]