Warning – I’m going to say some pretty blunt things here that are on my mind. I’m saying them for myself mostly. I know I will offend some with what I will say but that is not why I am posting it. I am sorry for the offense but this concern is too dear to my heart to be silent about.
I really need to quit watching the news about what is happening in Iraq. The more I hear, the more I want to pack and move to Canada. I am so ashamed of my country and I hate myself for paying my taxes. I feel like a coward and a traitor to everything I believe in.
What has upset me tonight is watching a clip from CNN that was posted on InformationClearingHouse.info. It shows an Iraqi man be killed by American soldiers. The Iraq was on the ground writhing in pain but they shot him anyway and right after shooting him the group of soldiers in the unit began to cheer.
May God have mercy on us all.
I read on to see the transcript of what was said in the clip and then link over to another page on the site that gives the full context of the CNN program “Fit to kill” and I can’t help feel that we are all going to hell, everyone of us for our role in such awful things.
Here’s one part that jumped out at me…
- CROWLEY: In a controversial study of World War II infantrymen, an Army researcher found that at most, 25 percent — only one in four infantrymen — actually fired at the enemy.UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What he found was, in his research, there were certain leaders or certain ones that would fire their weapons, and would be natural, instinctive leaders and would fire. But many others, because of perhaps the way they were trained in the military, or by their ministers or by their families, failed to pull the trigger.
CROWLEY: Confronted with evidence that many soldiers were, in effect, conscientious objectors precisely when they were needed in battle, the Army changed how it trained for combat.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The problem in World War II was that we were firing at bull’s eye targets most of the time. But most of the time we weren’t making a realistic depiction of what we were doing. We were teaching marksmanship skills and not killing skills.
CROWLEY: After World War II, the Army began using targets shaped like human beings and eventually pop-up targets to get soldiers used to the idea of hitting the real thing.
By Vietnam, firing ratios approached 100 percent. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It made a tremendous difference, because now, conditioned stimulus is a man-shaped silhouette pops up in the field of view. Conditioned response, you have a split second to engage the targets. With stimulus feedback, you hit the target, the target drops, stimulus response, stimulus response.
And what we’ve done is, we’ve made killing an unthinking, conditioned reflex.
CROWLEY: But if killing is an unthinking reflex, the aftermath can hijack your thoughts.
The statement about WWII says volumes to me. If 75% of WWII infantrymen found it impossible to pull the trigger in a situation that many would feel was a “just war” then maybe that is the good in them as human beings, being made in the image of God, that kept them from killing other fellow human beings that are also made in the image of God.
But today it is different… as the story said about the firing ratios (I’m assuming the percentage of soldiers who fire their weapons) is now near 100%. That tells me that military training has become more efficient at dehumanizing us, taking away the God-given conscience and revulsion that I think we are born with that tells it is wrong to kill another man or woman. I know humankind is a violent people and do bad things, but I also think most of us rise above that and that more of us would if we as a society challenged one another to live in that kind of way.
In fact, I wonder if the military establishment isn’t behind the many violent video games are children are playing today. I remember as a teenager when these games first came out. They were different than the video games of the past (i.e. Atari, Nintendo, etc.) in that they placed the player in the eyes of the shooter, so that you were now killing people that looked like real people, with blood and sounds, and weapons all too real. It became a game, a game without consequences other than points, and I think it desensitzed us and made it even easier for the next of recruits at Basic Training to have that much less moral qualms with killing.
- CROWLEY: In Vietnam, the cause was being questioned back home. But MacGowan faced his ambiguity about killing with the certainty that the enemy was a different kind of being.MACGOWAN: You go through a progression, a stepwise regression, and sort of like, well, that’s an enemy of my country. Those people — they’re trying to kill me. They’re subhuman. They’re animals. They’re going to rape our women and kill our children. Save our children. They’re in the way. Kill them.
CROWLEY: Who knew that Iraq would invade Kuwait? That the reality of combat would come to another generation of Americans?
Sheehan-Miles found himself in the deserts of Iraq. Peering into his scopes, he saw things.
SHEEHAN-MILES: It’s really hard to shoot at somebody who you identify as a person, as a potential father or mother or child.
When you’re in a tank battalion, you’re not shooting at vehicles with four people in it. You’re shooting at tanks. We kill tanks, not people. . .
CROWLEY: It was nighttime in Iraq. Charles Sheehan-Miles was asleep inside his tank when his commander radioed about oncoming Iraqi trucks.
SHEEHAN-MILES: I wake up and I jump up to my machinegun and I can just barely see these two trucks. It was dark.
One of the tanks opened fire and hit one of the trucks and it burst into flame and it splashed fuel all over the other truck. And men came running out on fire.
So we started shooting.
I fired at one. And then a second guy came running out, and I shot and killed him. And then more came.
And one of them — you know, the gunner fires the main gun. And he’s also got a machine gun next to him. And he’d forgotten to switch it back from the main gun to the machine gun. And so he fired and hit a man with a main gun round — 120-millimeter tank round — and cut him in half.
And it was over, you know. We had, you know, killed these people in 60 seconds.
CROWLEY: Sixty seconds running on pure instinct.
SHEEHAN-MILES: I don’t know how many there were. I don’t know who they were.
What I do remember, and this eventually led to me getting out of the Army, was that when I fired that machine gun and hit that guy and he fell down dead, I felt this sense of exhilaration, of joy.
And that was immediately followed by a tremendous feeling of guilt and remorse. And this was half a second. It was one right after the other.
And that picture of that guy running, you know, on fire as I shot him, stayed with me as I closed my eyes for years and years and years.
What are we doing to our young men and women? I just don’t believe in it at all and with every ounce of my being I wish there was something I could do to stop it but I don’t know what it is. I know I need to pray more but I sometimes wonder why God would care when it seems like He has let so much bad stuff happen.
But then I think of those 75% of WWII Infantrymen who couldn’t find it in themselves to shoot their guns in combat and I think maybe that’s where God is, in that moment when those soldiers couldn’t go against their conscience, that something kept them from taking the life of another young man on the other side of the battle, that kept them from killing an innocent woman or child, and think maybe there is hope.
Sometimes (like right now) I don’t see that is hope is really there but I keep hoping that there is hope and in weird way find hope in the hoping, in the refusal of my own heart to give up on the potential goodness of humankind.