I sat and listened to Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich tell his story on tonight’s 60 Minutes, the story of how in Haditha, Iraq, he and his squad were doing what they had been trained to do: responding to a perceived threat with legitimate force.
The VietNam War, with its various My Lai-type atrocities, made many of us peaceniks so angy that we too easily ignored the fact that both the perpetrators and the murdered were victims. Between now and then, we have learned more about how our soldiers are “brainwashed” into being amoral killing machines.
Apparently, it all began after the World War II, when United States Army lieutenant colonel named S. L. A. Marshall wrote “Men Against Fire: The Problem of Battle Command in Future War.” I got the information about Marshall’s suggestions from a chilling article by Dan Baum that appeared in The New Yorker on July 5, 2004 and appears on the Not In Our Name website. That article includes the follwing:
“We are reluctant to admit that essentially war is the business of killing,” Marshall wrote, while the soldier himself “comes from a civilization in which aggression, connected with the taking of life, is prohibited and unacceptable.” The Army, having just fought the Second World War, embraced Marshall’s findings.
Within months, Army units were receiving a “Revised Program of Instruction,” which instituted many of Marshall’s doctrines. It was no longer sufficient to teach a man to shoot a target; the Army must also condition him to kill, and the way to do it, paradoxically, was to play down the fact that shooting equals killing. “We need to free the rifleman’s mind with respect to the nature of targets,” Marshall wrote. A soldier who has learned to squeeze off careful rounds at a target will take the time, in combat, to consider the humanity of the man he is about to shoot. Along with conventional marksmanship, soldiers now acquired the skill of “massing fire” against riverbanks, trees, hillcrests, and other places where enemy soldiers might lurk. “The average firer will have less resistance to firing on a house or tree than upon a human being,” Marshall added. Once the Army put his notions into practice, they bore spectacular results. By the time of the Vietnam War, according to internal Army estimates, as many as ninety per cent of soldiers were shooting back. And some were paying a price.
If you Google “American soldiers trained to kill,” you’ll get lots of additional enlightening articles.
As I’ve said before on this blog, war requires testosterone stirred to the extreme.
I have come to believe that what Sgt. Frank Wuterich needs and deserves is not a court martial, but rather intense deprogramming and compassionate psychotherapy. You might want to listen to this.
Actually, what the major leaders of this country also need and deserve are intense deprogramming and psychotherapy (with or without compassion).