I am watching a special on the Holocaust. I have seen many before. This time, however, it’s striking me differently. I’m realizing how many German soldiers involved in it apparently didn’t consider the reality of what they were doing. They couldn’t have believed they were killing real people. I’m reminded of stories I’ve heard from US war veterans who tell of things like playing soccer with the heads of dead Iraqis. At the time, it was “normal.” But then they returned home, and the reality of what they did kicks in. They wonder how they could have done such a thing.
Many people believe the only men who would do this have a predisposition to this kind of horrific action. I do not believe this. I believe there is something about the war machine that changes the soul of a human being. In the US, part of basic training consists of de-humanizing the enemy. When a soldier can be convinced that a “gook” or “raghead,” or whatever disgusting nickname our current enemy is called, is not a human being, it is easier for the soldier to kill. Basic training is really a hate training camp.
The latest version of this mindless killing mentality involve drone operators, who drop bombs on the other side of the world, from the safety of their office in Nevada. They probably go out to places like Applebee’s for lunch, and maybe are on a bowling league at night. During the day, while doing nothing more complicated than playing Pac Man, they are killing people tens of thousands of miles away. We all know they are killing civilians. Part of them must know it, also. Whether a person is a German soldier, or a drone “pilot,” it’s all about dehumanization and murder. I’ve already heard about drone “pilots” developing post-traumatic-stress-disorder (PTSD). I say – good – it means they have a conscience. It means they realize what they did. It is their soul screaming out for healing. I think this whole train of thought of mine started when I started wondering if any German soldiers developed PTSD after the war. I suspect, since they, too, are human, a certain percentage of them must have. I can only hope.
I believe the only way of ending wars is for people to truly understand what goes on in a war zone. Although I was spared that experience, I have read many personal accounts of war, and have spoken with many veterans who revealed the horrific things they were involved with, and the pain they have had to live with their entire lives ever since. They didn’t understand what they were involved with, until it was too late.
I believe an understanding of this should be a requirement for anybody in a position to wage war.
I think if Americans understood what we subject our soldiers to, they’d stop the platitudes about thank yous and yellow ribbons, and actually do something to stop it.
Diane Rejman is a Army veteran, and a lifetime member of Veterans for Peace. She holds a MBA in International Management from the Thunderbird School of Global Management, and her biography has been listed in Who’s Who in the World. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org