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One of the common threads from different testimony in Winter Soldier was that it is common for US troops to pose for pictures with the Iraqis killed. Of course, for the dead person, it makes no difference. When you die, you no longer exist as a human being. The killing is worse than the photograph, for the people being killed.

But, what about other people?

Can you imagine the effects of Iraqis furtively peaking through windows to see friends' and loved ones' dead bodies used in campy photographs? This has to be incredibly traumatic, and it has to create enormous hatred for the United States.

It has to be psychologically damaging for the American troops involved too. Any kind of physical contact with corpses would be disturbing. Contact with the dead bodies of people one has killed or who were killed by one's friends has got to be even more traumatic.

The military trains people to kill. The minute killing is treated less as a necessary duty and more like a game, the more damage is done to the troops, the military, and our society in the long run. Panelists at Winter Soldier have pointed out that over 1,000,000 Americans have served in Iraq. The vast majority of them will come back home.

Another common thread is that there is no clear mission for US troops in Iraq. Our troops live in a situation where they are fighting for nothing and face being killed by anyone - an adult male, a child, a mother with children, a village elder, or anyone else.

I have read accounts of WWII. There, people were fighting for the mission. There was a tendency to avoid getting too close to other US troops because they didn't want to get attached to people who might die. Thoughts were more on saving the country and returning home.

Winter Soldier testimony has reinforced what I have read about our soldiers in Iraq. There is no mission, and the war has nothing to do with defending our country. So, the military has worked diligently and successfully to build bonds of intense friendship between members of the same unit. This explains the intense and understandable anger when they see their buddies killed by people of a country that their superior officers and government keep saying US troops are there to help.

Wars of suppressing insurgencies against colonial occupations are notorious for dehumanizing the soldiers for the occupying power. The occupation of Iraq is no different.

 

8 comments

  1. just thought I'd mention that my French husband served in Algeria. What you describe is exactly on target - no mission, no purpose, senseless dehumanization (not that there can be dehumanizing behavior that makes sense.)

     
  2. This generation of young U.S. soldiers mirrors, I think, the mentality of civilians of the same generation: killing is a game. And what more can it be without any sense of purpose?

    I was struck by this very thing in watching the film In The Valley of Elah, a powerful antiwar film about the murder of a U.S. soldier after he arrives home from a tour of duty in Iraq.

     
  3. Anonymous Says:
  4. And this dehumanization is manifesting itself in high suicide rates among US service personnel, and in other acts of extreme violence committed by returning vets. Thanks for this blog. You might be interested in the Yard Sign Project and other work at http://billfisher.dreamhost.com/nohate.html

     
  5. libhom Says:
  6. lee's river: You aren't the first person I've heard mention the similarities between the Iraq and Algerian occupations.

     
  7. libhom Says:
  8. pagan: After listening to the Winter Soldier testimony, I think treating killing as a game is more of a defense mechanism for some of our troops than anything else. Based on what I heard, I don't think it works very well either.

     
  9. yes, dehumanizing the "enemy" perhaps becomes even more important when doubt sets in for soldiers about the merits of this senseless war.

     
  10. dguzman Says:
  11. I read recently that many of the soldiers who were torturing prisoners at Gitmo and Abu Ghraib actually used their torture photos as screensavers and desktops on their computers. Are these soldiers even human anymore? Has this war of lies stripped them completely of their humanity? Surely, BushCo must stand trial not only for ordering and authorizing the torture, but of ruining the lives of our own soldiers.

     
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