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Subject: BBC: How soldiers deal with killing rss

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Robert Ridgeway
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right on the heels of the earlier post on 'experiential history':

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-13687796
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Lucius Cornelius
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From the article: "If a soldier reasons that his or her cause is just, then killing sits more easily in the mind"

White lies basically are the only solution?
This is why I'm a misanthrope. arrrh
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Robert Ridgeway
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this might be relevant, as well as a perfect opportunity to share yet another astounding war scene directed by G.W.Pabst in his film "Kameradschaft" (1931) where a trapped French war veteran suffers flashbacks during the attempt his rescue him - (skip to 3:35):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qYUS9cD3BBQ
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B. Marsh
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AnalogGamer wrote:
right on the heels of the earlier post on 'experiential history':

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-13687796


LTC Grossman has written serval books on the topic, check out his website.

http://killology.com/

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Kev.
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Commanus wrote:
The act of killing another human being at close quarters leaves an indelible mark upon you. My experience has been that there is no specific training or preparation which lessens the psychological impact of such an event.

The curious nature of the mind allows for compartmentalization of certain experiences. Pressure and stress of combat, which is ongoing with little relief, can keep the compartments water tight. Once the pressure of combat is gone and the stress of survival lessons, the compartments begin to open.

The returning veteran now has time to process the experiences they have had. An unfair critique by the affected veteran shall begin to take place. Returning to the experience minus the relevant facts to process it may lead to false conclusions. Blame if another comrade has been hurt or killed, blame that they could have prevented something, blame that they may not have needed to kill the person they killed.

Guilt associated with killing is a natural thing, given the restraints on western culture regarding the taking of life. Once the smoke has cleared and time has past human thought relating to the person that was killed the family they may have had and any numerous other things may wander through the mind of the veteran. There are some that feel nothing, or relish the act of taking another s life, but this may also be a smoke screen for what ever pain they may be feeling or a sign that they have deeper problems.

When a society deems it necessary to go to war and risk its men and women for a cause they deem worthy they have in fact given a limited license to kill other human beings. Whether up close hand to hand, or at a distance with laser guided munitions the act becomes a stone thrown into a calm pond and the ripples echo in eternity.

Once you have pulled the trigger and watched the aftermath, killing becomes easier. The experience inculcates a sense of being able to influence the world around you which appears to be trying to kill you. Through your own actions you can survive and live through the experience, it empowers the individual and creates a coping mechanism against the almost random experience of life and death in combat.

Some men and women are destroyed by the initial violence of their confrontation up close with an enemy, they immediately deal with the aftermath of their actions. A majority of infantry Combat Arms related individuals who are a part of a team will compartmentalize their experiences as they do not wish to let the team down. Leaders will tend to be even more compartmentalized due to their role of commanding others in combat.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is a term used widely to explain the experiences of people who suffer a traumatic experiences.Whether a violent encounter with another, a traffic accident natural disaster or combat. It is fair to say that any experience which has the potential of taking your life or in which others around you have been injured or killed is traumatic. The disorder usually incapacitates the veteran where they are unable to cope with the world around them due to emotions which run through their mind. The situation can be minor or be bad enough to require hospitalization.

Dealing with these problems must be done on an individual basis . Decompressing experiences and understanding the context of the experiences is a helpful undertaking. The process must be a form fitting garment as any size does not fit. If underlying personal issues which a man or woman may have had before the traumatic event is not dealt with,then the actual event itself has no chance of being under stood and disposed of.

Culture which surrounds the military does not accept weakness easily, it simply cannot accept failure in what ever mission it is given. The culture has changed over the last ten years but remains virulent to major change.

SLA Marshall wrote about Men Under Fire, it began a study of those in combat and how to encourage a better infantryman. The study has had its critics. Grossmans On Killing have been a resource for many looking for the under lying reasons behind combat and the mind and how to overcome the problems combat presents a lot of it is well researched theory. For me the theory supplants experience only if the experience confirms the theory.

The books Achilles in Vietnam and Odysseys in America confirmed my individual experiences about returning from war and the things which take place in your life and the effect it has on others. Time can cure many of the wounds of war, emotional and physical, the trick seems to be able to allow that time to pass without becoming; an alcoholic, dependent upon drugs, divorced,jailed or living under a bridge.

The sense of purpose which drive young men and women who volunteer for hazardous duty defending their fellow citizens needs to be maintained past their return from combat. Veterans are released into the puzzling free world of reality based TV, oblivious college students and academia, sports mad fans who know every statistic about their team and could not tell you what the body count is in the countries their fellow citizens are deployed.

If the man or woman can hold on and is able to get past the initial opening of those compartments then there is a good chance of surviving the experience. Religion, friends , family the love of a spouse or girlfriend/boyfriend can mean a lot to survival. Emotional cocooning and screening issues with mind altering substances or being angry with the world only leads to compartmentalization from the world.

How do soldiers deal with killing? They get by with a little help from their friends.


Thanks for writing this very thoughtful post. I/We appreciate your service and I know you dont know me but I respect your comments and thoughts and wish you well.

Best Regards

Kevin







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Andrew Kluck
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Brian, that was enlightening.
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Wasp Factoryman
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Joanna Bourke's book, An Intimate History of Killing (Face-to-Face Killing in Twentieth-Century Warfare) has some interesting insights.
Worth a read...
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Steven Mitchell
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sullafelix wrote:
From the article: "If a soldier reasons that his or her cause is just, then killing sits more easily in the mind"

White lies basically are the only solution?
This is why I'm a misanthrope. arrrh


One can reason that a cause for killing is just without it being a white lie. One possibility is that it actually is just (which would require subscribing to a worldview with which you probably don't agree). Alternatively one's reasoning may be mistaken, though one doesn't realize it; lots of people genuinely believe false things.
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Michael Dorosh
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Commanus wrote:
The sense of purpose which drive young men and women who volunteer for hazardous duty defending their fellow citizens needs to be maintained past their return from combat. Veterans are released into the puzzling free world of reality based TV, oblivious college students and academia, sports mad fans who know every statistic about their team and could not tell you what the body count is in the countries their fellow citizens are deployed.


It's different in Canada, but I would say the "body count" is an insidious, stupid, and backwards way of doing things. Rereading Summers' account of military strategy in the Gulf War (there is another thread running currently about his book on Vietnam so this seems strangely pertinent) this week, I am struck by Schwarzkopf's insistence that they not make the same mistake of adopting a "body count" mentality in Kuwait-Iraq in 1991. This was with regards to enemy soldiers, but the "body count" is employed now with regards to national losses. In Canada, it is mostly a left-wing rallying point for opposition to the war, and resisters and opponents can quote you the figure with great clarity. Every time a soldier is killed overseas, the media reports that the "nth" soldier has been lost, as if they are keeping score.

The obsession with this grisly statistic is something new, and twists the cost out of proportion. Not that we should be unmindful of the human costs, but there is little real debate about what benefits the sacrifices our troops are making have brought to Afghanistan and other places like it. We now face a similar debate with regards to Libya.

It's nothing I want to debate here. But rest assured the "body count" mentality does live on, if somewhat different than the way commanders or the press practiced it in Vietnam.
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Steven Mitchell
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Peso Pete wrote:
Commanus wrote:

Underlying agendas and unspoken national interests abound in this war. Our representatives decide the issues of when and where we fight, how long and under what rules.The job of the armed forces is to fight where they are told and win where they fight.


Perhaps I'm going to start a flame war here, but I think only a person who has experienced war should have the authority to send someone else to go fight another war, Just my opinion.


Descriptive v. Prescriptive
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I have been a Marine a little over a decade. In that time I have been in firefights. Maybe I am an exception to the norm, but I don't think I have had any lasting adverse effects as a result. It's much more difficult to deal losing fellow Marines.


Ben
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Michael Dorosh
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Peso Pete wrote:
Commanus wrote:

Underlying agendas and unspoken national interests abound in this war. Our representatives decide the issues of when and where we fight, how long and under what rules.The job of the armed forces is to fight where they are told and win where they fight.


Perhaps I'm going to start a flame war here, but I think only a person who has experienced war should have the authority to send someone else to go fight another war, Just my opinion.


It's a poorly formed opinion. You're suggesting people base decisions on emotion rather than intellect.

Hitler's war experiences did not make him a very good judge of what was "good" for his people. Douglas MacArthur's did not either, if one thinks that his urging of nuclear brinksmanship with China would have foretold his political ambitions.

Presidents don't act in isolation, anyway. The good ones take counsel of experts. That includes acting on the military advice of those who, presumably, have served or at last understand the culture.
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Michael Dorosh
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Peso Pete wrote:
okay. I kinda see where this is heading, so I will try (maybe unsuccessfully) to head this off before it does become a flame war. Let's ignore my above post and move on to the OP's post. I really don't want to see a meaningful discussion devolve into something else.


Might be a good RSP topic. If you believe in such things.

Which I don't. whistle
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Michael Dorosh
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Commanus wrote:
Michael, the body count issue I spoke of was related to the attention of others towards the war in general, not to dwell on the statistic in particular. Drawing attention to our body count does have political ramifications and is pregnant with other meanings for both sides of the argument.

What benefit we bring to the countries in which we are fighting is less relevant to me, personally, than the benefit it brings to my nation. I fight for my countries freedom, if this allows others to be free so be it, I wish all the blessing that such an emancipation can have upon them.

The logistical argument is that you cant manage what you cant count. The statistician looks towards numbers in place of critical analysis and seek to graph complex problems into a period table.


I have no hardship with the military counting its logistical components. Personnel are one of those components. I have a harder time with the media paying undue attention to that matter of accounting, and political games being played with these mathematics.

Quote:
I fight for my countries freedom, if this allows others to be free so be it, I wish all the blessing that such an emancipation can have upon them.


No, you don't. You fight for a decent salary, the GI Bill and other veteran's benefits, the respect of your buddies, money for college, food for your family's table, and a thousand other reasons. Your country's freedom is a rationalization wrapped up in there out of necessity. It's the same rationalization that lets you feel that killing people that have been identified to you as "enemies" is less criminal than killing a 7-11 clerk to feed that same family - or yourself.

Quote:
In a system which can only count defined items in isolation.It is the context in which we place these items which gives any number a meaning. War has too many variables to consider easily, the type of war we now fight has added variables given the cultural and political elements inherent to a counter insurgency.

Yet you just attempted to boil it all down to a war for freedom in just one sentence. And in a few sentences, you'll try and do it again.

Quote:
Underlying agendas and unspoken national interests abound in this war. Our representatives decide the issues of when and where we fight, how long and under what rules.The job of the armed forces is to fight where they are told and win where they fight.

I have seen enough of the world to be convinced that freedom for my country is worth the risk of my own life. Our world is awash in tyranny and despotism, the savagery of the middle ages lies beyond our shores and is not just a horror movie or footnote in a history book.


I've not left my own country in the service of it - not operationally, at any rate - but have talked to those who have and I should be clear that I support fully the WoT and those who take an active part in it. But I wouldn't classify it as a nationalistic crusade, and characterizing it as being about American freedom is something that would, I think, come as something of a surprise to the majority of the participants currently serving in places like Afghanistan or Iraq.
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Robert Ridgeway
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Michael Dorosh wrote:
[q="Commanus"]I fight for my countries freedom, if this allows others to be free so be it, I wish all the blessing that such an emancipation can have upon them.

Michael Dorosh wrote:
No, you don't. You fight for a decent salary, the GI Bill and other veteran's benefits, the respect of your buddies, money for college, food for your family's table, and a thousand other reasons. Your country's freedom is a rationalization wrapped up in there out of necessity. It's the same rationalization that lets you feel that killing people that have been identified to you as "enemies" is less criminal than killing a 7-11 clerk to feed that same family - or yourself.

Reasons for fighting?: any one, combination of, or all of the above reasons -- NOT to the exclusion of "fighting for one's country" (as if any of the other thousand rationalizations are somehow valid by some [conveniently] indefinable virtue...).
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Robert Ridgeway
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Vietnam War Marine, Karl Marlantes - On What It's Like 'To Go To War':
http://www.npr.org/2011/08/30/140060702/veteran-recounts-wha...
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Robert Ridgeway
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sgtstinky wrote:
LTC Grossman has written serval books on the topic, check out his website.
http://killology.com/

His book "ON Killing":
http://www.amazon.com/Killing-Psychological-Cost-Learning-So...
"From Publishers Weekly
Drawing on interviews, published personal accounts and academic studies, Grossman investigates the psychology of killing in combat. Stressing that human beings have a powerful, innate resistance to the taking of life, he examines the techniques developed by the military to overcome that aversion. His provocative study focuses in particular on the Vietnam war, revealing how the American soldier was "enabled to kill to a far greater degree than any other soldier in history." Grossman argues that the breakdown of American society, combined with the pervasive violence in the media and interactive video games, is conditioning our children to kill in a manner siimilar to the army's conditioning of soldiers: "We are reaching that stage of desensitization at which the infliction of pain and suffering has become a source of entertainment: vicarious pleasure rather than revulsion. We are learning to kill, and we are learning to like it." Grossman, a professor of military science at Arkansas State University, has written a study of relevance to a society of escalating violence.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Library Journal
Grossman (psychology, West Point) presents three important hypotheses: 1) That humans possess the reluctance to kill their own kind; 2) that this reluctance can be systematically broken down by use of standard conditioning techniques; and 3) that the reaction of "normal" (e.g., non-psychopathic) soliders to having killed in close combat can be best understood as a series of "stages" similar to the ubiquitous Kubler-Ross stages of reaction to life-threatening disease. While some of the evidence to support his theories have been previously presented by military historians (most notably, John Keegan), this systematic examination of the individual soldier's behavior, like all good scientific theory making, leads to a series of useful explanations for a variety of phenomena, such as the high rate of post traumatic stress disorders among Vietnam veterans, why the rate of aggravated assault continues to climb, and why civilian populations that have endured heavy bombing in warfare do not have high incidents of mental illness. This important book deserves a wide readership. Essential for all libraries serving military personnel or veterans, including most public libraries.
Mary Ann Hughes, Neill P.L., Pullman, Wash."
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Gordon Reynolds
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Sadly it is far easier to "train" the under-privileged, un-educated and low income youth recruiters prey upon.

The US military has spent billions to perfect these training techniques, far more than the defense budgets of the next five nations combined.
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Robert Ridgeway
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rgordon44 wrote:
Sadly it is far easier to "train" the under-privileged, un-educated and low income youth recruiters prey upon.
The US military has spent billions to perfect these training techniques, far more than the defense budgets of the next five nations combined.

 
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Adam Siler
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It isn't a sign of a healthy culture that actually has to ask this question. Duty is something a soldier is taught and any feelings that he has about the duty are either from a lack of masculine resolve or an overabundance of negative, outside interference.
Just talk to a Korea veteran, if you can. They aren't going to shed many tears or ask forgiveness for sending scores of the enemy across the river styx. I don't have any particular hatred for any one enemy force out there today, but I don't buy into the zeta-male practice of coming to terms with the fact that we shot better.
 
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rgordon44 wrote:
Sadly it is far easier to "train" the under-privileged, un-educated and low income youth recruiters prey upon.


Ah, the old myth...
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