Thrill Killers In The Military


What this man did was wrong.

We all know that killing civilians during war is wrong.

Does it happen?  Absolutely, all the time.  Unfortunately, punishing one officer will not stop it.  It will continue as long as we train and send soldiers into war.

If you or I were sent to a place where terrorist and guerrilla type warriors wanted to kill us, we would be scared.  Moreover, we would be deemed “crazy” if we were not scared.

Military training is designed to suspend fear.  It has to be, because scared people don’t fight.  If they can be coerced to fight, they are unlikely to be talented fighters.

Early in military training, soldiers take on a group identity.  They chant in unison while marching.  Auditory signals hit their brain-stem.  They walk in tempo, as if each unit has a single common step.  They jump out of moving airplanes — after a lot of chanting. Individual identities are lost during the activity which is idealized.

I was surprised at first, before I understood.  Idealism was used to reassure worried families.  The few times I was invited into the home of a paratrooper, I would see a composite photo of a kneeling paratrooper in full uniform with John Wayne in the sky above him.  A few had a picture of a Christ with outstretched arms in the sky above — instead of John Wayne.  The pictures with Christ were more often meant for sending home, as families could relate to Christ better than to John Wayne.

From what little I knew, I thought Christ talked peace.  Perhaps he protected people on both sides of the war?  I didn’t say anything, however, for I had a weird fear that if I did I would be clobbered with a gun butt.

I knew the opinions of Jews were rarely religiously validated.  I recall making a cursory attempt to discuss it with a Rabbi. He told me that he loved to find wives with sewing machines who could sew camouflage yarmulkes, or skull caps. He had also found a bunch of Israeli prayers for paratroopers to chant while he was with them in the plane, pushing them out.

It took all I had to avoid throwing up on his shoes.

I could only think of that verse I had always loved about beating swords into plowshares from Isaiah — as described in the bible.

Clearly, I was not in line to become a career soldier.

Taking care of soldiers, however, I had to know what was normal.  The normal soldier was something called “spirited.”  He wanted to see “action.”  I actually read military journals at that time, trying to understand.  Pride in individual strength was capital – such as how long and far could a soldier carry a backpack.  Anybody could carry it farther than me.

Frankly, I think this great nation was well served by the fact I never saw action, for I would not have been much help to anybody.  I would have been happy and excited to help save lives – of people from either side of the conflict.  The Doctors’ Oath was long before this.

People sometimes cannot stop doing what they have been trained for, especially when it has been necessary to build a “spirited” soldier.  In the heat of battle, a guy with weapons will think of saving his buddy, saving himself, and killing others.  These, and the suspension of the ideologies behind them, are engrained through training.

We all know that killing civilians is dead wrong.  But we postulate about this from climate controlled houses, in relatively peaceful places on United States map.

However, it will not stop until we decide, like in the spiritual song, “We Ain’t Gonna Study War No More.”

The veteran pacifists are the ones to listen to.  They, more than anyone, know what they are talking about.

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