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ANATOMY OF WAR March 20, 2012

Posted by wmmbb in Modern History, Peace.

Chris Hedges article at Truthdig is summarized by the headline: “Murder is not an Anomaly in War”.

The context of this article is the alleged murderous rampage of the “deranged” American soldier, Robert Bales. The facts of the case may not be as reported, but let us inquire how a normal human being could do such things. The behavior is so disturbing it demands an explanation. It demands the truth. What sticks in my mind is the report that he had the presence of mind, despite everything, to gather bodies together and burn them, which I take to be evidence of deep conditioning suggesting to me previous experience. His lawyer reported that he could not remember what he had done.

I do not have any believe in the integrity of the American Justice System, careful as we must now be not to mention “judicial process” or indeed “due process” in the same breathe. The truth will elude us as it has the Afghans, bin Laden, and before them Saddam Hussein. The spin cycle and the news cycle have become as one, with the processes of government falling into alignment.

As a war correspondent, who reported upon such matters in different place, perhaps Chris Hedges might be a truth teller. He writes:

War perverts and destroys you. It pushes you closer and closer to your own annihilation—spiritual, emotional and finally physical. It destroys the continuity of life, tearing apart all systems—economic, social, environmental and political—that sustain us as human beings. In war, we deform ourselves, our essence. We give up individual conscience—maybe even consciousness—for contagion of the crowd, the rush of patriotism, the belief that we must stand together as a nation in moments of extremity. To make a moral choice, to defy war’s enticement, can in the culture of war be self-destructive. The essence of war is death. Taste enough of war and you come to believe that the stoics were right: We will, in the end, all consume ourselves in a vast conflagration.

A World War II study determined that, after 60 days of continuous combat, 98 percent of all surviving soldiers will have become psychiatric casualties. A common trait among the remaining 2 percent was a predisposition toward having “aggressive psychopathic personalities.” Lt. Col. Dave Grossman in his book “On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society,” notes: “It is not too far from the mark to observe that there is something about continuous, inescapable combat which will drive 98 percent of all men insane, and the other 2 percent were crazy when they go there.”

During the war in El Salvador, many soldiers served for three or four years or longer, as in the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, until they psychologically or physically collapsed. In garrison towns, commanders banned the sale of sedatives because those drugs were abused by the troops. In that war, as in the wars in the Middle East, the emotionally and psychologically maimed were common. I once interviewed a 19-year-old Salvadoran army sergeant who had spent five years fighting and then suddenly lost his vision after his unit walked into a rebel ambush. The rebels killed 11 of his fellow soldiers in the firefight, including his closest friend. He was unable to see again until he was placed in an army hospital. “I have these horrible headaches,” he told me as he sat on the edge of his bed. “There is shrapnel in my head. I keep telling the doctors to take it out.” But the doctors told me that he had no head wounds.

I saw other soldiers in other conflicts go deaf or mute or shake without being able to stop.

War is necrophilia. This necrophilia is central to soldiering just as it is central to the makeup of suicide bombers and terrorists. The necrophilia is hidden under platitudes about duty or comradeship. It is unleashed especially in moments when we seem to have little to live for and no hope, or in moments when the intoxication of war is at its highest pitch. When we spend long enough in war, it comes to us as a kind of release, a fatal and seductive embrace that can consummate the long flirtation with our own destruction.

War is the systematic practice of violence to assert dominance and control. In retrospect it beggars belief that the First World War could have been framed as “the war to end all wars”, although “mutually assured destruction” seemed to move war from the centre stage to the periphery. Industrial, non-nuclear war to strategic conflicts that have no apparent, or admitted purpose, but to engage in domination on specious argument of waging war against terrorism. Now this is a rationale that Nazis could be sympathetic to, because it was one they used. The more curious thing is that these wars have become vicious assaults on non violence.

So much for reporting on war. Those that propose it, and those that readily support it, either have no imagination or belief that they will be affected by it. They can be left to freely give vent to their hatred of the imagined others, who could not exist as a human beings. And we do not hear reports of the conditioning that makes a person ready to kill another. The task may be easy in part because the young are vulnerable. Such conditioning has to be thorough, otherwise soldiers as in the past will shoot over the heads of the enemy.

If, as reported, Bales became engaged with the blowing off the leg of a mate by improvised explosive device, he would not be the first to react in that way. Then there is something that happens to us when we are part of, or merely witness, violence. That says something about human nature and who we are.

To be at peace is a state of grace, to use a religious analogy.

Chris Hedges is also opposing the National Defence Authorization Act (NDAA) which was recently signed into law by President Obama. He is interviewed at RT:

In 2007, at UC Santa Barbara, Chris Hedges gave an address, “War is a force that gives us meaning“:


Paul Woodward at War in Context observes:

But when it comes to the difference between Robert Bales, the American, and the people he killed, perhaps the most telling fact is that while the press dutifully waited until it got the go ahead to tell his story, no one bothered even attempting to tell the stories of the dead.

The Afghan government has not as far as I am aware been withholding anyone’s name, yet it appears that only one of the dead has been named: Muhammad Dawoud, a 55 year-old farmer.

Of the rest of the victims we know no more than these sparse details: that 11 belonged to the family of Abdul Samad. He lost his wife, four daughters between the ages of 2 and 6, four sons between 8 and 12, and two other relatives. The other victims were in the home of Hajji-Sayed who lost his wife, nephew, grandson and brother.*

Sixteen lives and this is as much as we are likely to ever know about them.


Because they are not Americans.

* Even these details are unclear. Another report said the four victims were in the home of Habibullah Khan who lost his wife, sisters and a baby nephew.

This report is even sadder when all the other victims of the wars of terror are taken into account. It is not necessary to make exceptions, while recognizing that those that perpetrate violence suffer, and that participants from both sides too often act inhumanely, with no doubt what they regard with justifiable anger and vengeance. As human beings we can do better, and we should expect of ourselves.

Perhaps the suspect was indeed drugged. He may have taken an anti-malarial drug with side effects as reported on Democracy Now:



1. Support for Whistleblowers – Truth Telling In War | The GOLDEN RULE - March 20, 2012

[…] Anatomy of War (wmmbb.wordpress.com) […]

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