Wednesday, April 18, 2012

hearts and minds

Joshua 6:21 And they utterly destroyed all that was in the city, both man and woman, young and old, and ox, and sheep, and ass, with the edge of the sword.
1 Samuel 15:14 And Samuel said, What meaneth then this bleating of the sheep in mine ears, and the lowing of the oxen which I hear?
War used to be a complete destruction of those that opposed you. If you went to war, you fought until everyone on the other side was dead. If they ran away, you chased them and killed them. When you killed them all, you won. War was for one purpose, land acquisition (and the resources that came with it). If you were there, in the place that I wanted, you (or I) died. That was war. There were no insurgents afterwards, they were all dead.
Gradually, the process went from killing absolutely everything, to killing only the men (keep the women, and everything else).
The US Civil War was a gentlemanly battle (mostly). There were distinct places where people fought. It wasn't that big an area, have you been to Gettysburg? Thousands of men died on a field, just walking towards each other shooting. There's a town right next to it, but they fought in a field. (fuck that). The ground gained was a field. Except the battle wasn't for ground (well not that land), it was for a REASON (well, several reasons). The actual place of the battle didn't matter, it could have been a field anywhere, that's just where the two armies happened to meet up at the time.
In WW1, there were set battle lines, everyone knew where the front was, there was a trench, there was no man's land, then there was the other trench. Guys would jump over the top, run towards the other side, and try to kill someone before they died. No civilians were on the battle field, it was evident where it was.
In WW2, things changed a bit more (this war evolution happened quickly), the advent of better tanks, and aircraft changed things drastically. Instead of fighting for a few feet, armies fought for miles in a day.
Next came Korea, the communist north wanted (and still wants) to take the south. We went there to help some buddies.
Vietnam changed almost everything. The troops didn't know what they were fighting for, (communist expansion, right?) They didn't care, losing Vietnam didn't mean anything to them. The Vietnamese don't look like them, don't talk like them, and are just different.
The last time the US fought a war for actual territory was the original 91 Desert Storm. Saddam took land, we took it back.
Modern wars are totally different, we aren't fighting for ground. We kill people for reasons, not for property. It's ideology. We are right, you are wrong. We don't like how you are behaving. It's a little more violent than just misbehaving, but basically, you are doing something so bad, that we have to kill you.
Because war has changed from killing everything, to just simply trying to kill the people who don't like you, it's allowed people to become sensitive. Since we are pretty good at just killing the bad guy while leaving everyone else intact, we become outraged about civilian casualties.
Here's why I'm writing this.
Modern society wants us to treat the enemies with respect. The current scandal with the military is of US troops posing with dead bodies of insurgents.
Top U.S. military and civilian officials rushed to condemn the soldiers' actions Wednesday, calling them repugnant and a dishonor to others who have served in the conflict. The Army said an investigation is under way.
When people in the military kill, they are either killing one of two things, an enemy (who is a thing), or an actual person.
Why is there so much post traumatic stress disorder? Because most people have an aversion to actually killing a person. Killing an enemy, who is a thing, them, the bad guys, something less than us; is much easier to do, than actually having to kill a living breathing human.
When does the enemy who is hated and deserves to die, switch to something that must be treated with respect? At the point of death?
Soldiers used to take trophies of their kill. This gruesome prospect has been outlawed. With modern phones, and cameras, it's much easier to just take a picture.
If I had to go from just killing a thing that was beneath me, to suddenly respecting the corpse, that might be a difficult transition to make, especially if that thing was trying to kill me (and had probably killed one or more of my buddies). Fuck that guy.
Do you think the German soldiers who had to kill Jews had difficulty at first? They were taught to think of them as less than human. The first few would have been tough, but after a while, they are just a thing… Jews. They had to have felt they were beneath them. Killing millions of people would be difficult to do. If they are nothing more than ants that need to be exterminated, that makes it easier to do.
So, now we've got a bunch of people in the armed forces who have spent multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan killing our enemy (and they are called all sorts of things, just so that they aren't identified as HUMAN) and we back home get outraged when our guys do something that we don't like.
There are rules to war, but it is bullshit. Short of killing everyone we can never win over there. Anyone over there who sympathizes with the way an enemy combatant is treated after death is a sympathizer with their cause. For us to win a war, those people must be killed. Anyone over here who thinks that the troops did something bad, needs to stop thinking of the recently killed enemy as a human; and needs to think of them as a thing. Something like a used pizza box that deserves to be thrown out with the trash.
Do you think our enemy will treat our casualties with anymore respect? Do you think they would hesitate to "desecrate" a corpse of one of our guys?  Do you think our enemy thinks of us as humans? (If we are not Muslim then we are less of people and deserve death anyway).
I have a friend who had several kills in Afghanistan, including stabbing an enemy. He was a normal kid who played the drums in high school. He joined the National Guard (probably for the tuition benefits), then he got sent to Afghanistan. Look at any high school yearbook from 2000. Most likely, there's someone in it, who has killed someone in a war. Which one from that yearbook do you think it is?
Killing people isn't normal. Was that person normal? If you talk to them about that, did they think of the person they killed as an actual human or as something else. (Don't bring it up unless you are willing to resurrect some old memories that they probably don't want to deal with and have difficulty dealing with).
Is posing with a dead enemy any different than posing with a deer that you killed? Be thankful that they are just taking a picture, and not doing like hunters and having the thing mounted in their living room.
We've created nearly a generation of killers. We can either let them behave like people who killed a thing and let them sleep at night. Or we can try to get them to believe that they killed a human, who had dreams when they were growing up, probably wanted to have a wife and kids, probably wanted to have a house, wanted an education… and turn our guys into serial killers.
Which would you rather deal with? Your friend who killed 13 humans, or your friend who killed 13 baddies (or whatever other word they used to describe them)
Since we aren't just going to level the whole place, that is why we are going to lose Afghanistan. We are too concerned about the "hearts and minds" of people who live there. In order to win a war, you have to go back to Jericho. Kill them all. Let them be less than human in the eyes of our boys. If you don't, and get outraged when our guys do something that you wouldn't expect (like treat enemy as less than human)then we are creating serial killers.