Sunday, May 9
Dehumanization and Scapegoating in Iraq
By LUCIA DAILEY, Counterpunch, May 8/9, 2004
One of the main requirements for taking the life of another is to dehumanize and brand them as inferior, evil, stupid; gook, swine, rat, dog, coon, raghead--because the difficulty and psychological pain of killing someone recognizably the same is so great.
Pictures from Iraq showing the dehumanization and sadistic torture of Iraqi prisoners by US and British soldiers have outraged many, and many are wondering how this could happen. [... more]
Much of the verbiage offered by American pundits to a bewildered public claim that such abuses would not happen in a well-run military, because officers would be able to check the more perverse and base impulses of the average Joe and Jane (who suddenly find themselves in the extraordinary and dreadful psychological conditions elicited by war). As if it is better to kill cleanly than torture.
As if killing itself is not the supreme abuse. The grotesque irony of such logic has eluded these analysts, but the psychological problems stemming from turning our young into killing machines--whether "sloppily" or "cleanly," "undisciplined or "disciplined"--will not be eliminated by semantics and wishful thinking. ... [...more]
When I was fifteen my friend and I went to our after-school hangout. At the soda counter two GIs in uniform with nearly shaved heads were sprawled. They looked about eighteen. They struck up a conversation with us and asked if we'd like to see pictures of Viet Nam. One of them pulled two kodak photographs from his shirt pocket and handed them to me. I thought I would see some Vietnamese countryside. The first picture was of a man, Vietnamese, lying on his back on a dirt road in a pale green landscape. A lit cigarette was stuffed in his mouth, painted on him, in blood or something red: WE GOT YOUR ASS. The second picture taken from a different angle showed the entire top of his head missing. I was speechless, weak. My friend and I yelled: "How could you do this?" The soldiers were nervous, laughing, angry: "That's what they do to us."
That day I saw what war does to everyone who comes in contact with it. Boys barely men with blank eyes and faces like masks, full of mockery, anger, horror, fear, cruelty, and the anguish of the mad and barbarous killing our leaders were inflicting on innocent people on the other side of the world. And the fear, anger, and cruelty spread and carried like contagion.
I have sometime wondered what became of those two boys. What of their memories? Are they abusers? Addicts? Dead? Healed? [...more]
The soldiers at Abu Ghraib have said they were following orders to "soften up" prisoners for interrogation by military intelligence. We are rightly shocked by their perverse execution of such orders. If only we were as shocked by the orders themselves, and by the killing of innocent people in an unprovoked war. Then we might demand the removal of those leaders who perpetrated this war, and not be content with a scapegoat offering up of those they sent to do their dirty work.