Tuesday, September 27, 2005

The Horror

Neil Shakespeare is trying to make sense of the latest atrocity from Iraq.

He writes: “Support Our Troops? After reading today about "Our Troops" trading death photos for porn I'm not certain why we should support them,” after learning that “[the] lovely, mild-mannered troops have been posting their 'military death photos' on a site called xxxxxxxxxxxx.com …”

[I want nothing to do with that website, so I masked the URL. I’ve seen enough atrocity in my life, I am over-edecuated to the point of despair when it comes to the evil that we humans are capable of inflicting upon one another, and I don’t want anyone going there because they came here to visit.]

It reminded me of the speech by Col. Kurtz (played by Marlon Brando) at the climax of
“Apocalypse Now.”

"I've seen horrors... horrors that you've seen. But you have no right to call me a murderer. You have a right to kill me. You have a right to do that... but you have no right to judge me. It's impossible for words to describe what is necessary to those who do not know what horror means. Horror. Horror has a face... and you must make a friend of horror. Horror and moral terror are your friends. If they are not then they are enemies to be feared. They are truly enemies. I remember when I was with Special Forces. Seems a thousand centuries ago. We went into a camp to inoculate the children. We left the camp after we had inoculated the children for Polio, and this old man came running after us and he was crying. He couldn't see. We went back there and they had come and hacked off every inoculated arm. There they were in a pile. A pile of little arms. And I remember... I... I... I cried. I wept like some grandmother. I wanted to tear my teeth out. I didn't know what I wanted to do. And I want to remember it. I never want to forget it. I never want to forget. And then I realized... like I was shot... like I was shot with a diamond... a diamond bullet right through my forehead. And I thought: My God... the genius of that. The genius. The will to do that. Perfect, genuine, complete, crystalline, pure. And then I realized they were stronger than we. Because they could stand that these were not monsters. These were men... trained cadres. These men who fought with their hearts, who had families, who had children, who were filled with love... but they had the strength... the strength... to do that. If I had ten divisions of those men our troubles here would be over very quickly. You have to have men who are moral... and at the same time who are able to utilize their primordial instincts to kill without feeling... without passion... without judgment... without judgment. Because it's judgment that defeats us."

This is the Oil Mafia’s fault. We tried to tell them what war really is. It isn’t a party. It isn’t a movie. It isn’t glory. War is the Utlimate Horror. Ask anyone who has been in one. They will tell you, “You do not wage war unless you have no other alternative.”

I don't blame Mr. Shakespeare for his feelings of disgust. Just imagining the photos makes me ill. Thinking about the sort of person who gets some kind of thrill by viewing the pictures makes me wish that I could rescind my membership to the human race. But I also don't blame the troops. The blame falls squarely on the shoulders of the evil men who think of war as a tool to increase their power and wealth. Who think of war as a trifle, another business proposition. Who gamble with the lives of our young people, but who have never themselves experienced the horrors of war firsthand.

I hate them.

I feel nothing but sadness for the soldiers who joined the military to defend our freedom, only to be exploited by profiteers in a war of choice. I feel nothing but sadness for those who have been forced to make a friend of horror.


Anonymous blue girl said...


10:07 AM  
Anonymous blue girl said...

You know -- in the run up to the war -- which we knew was going to happen come hell or high water (good phrase for this time in our history) -- I would talk to my mom about it in this context -- I kept telling her not to think of it in terms of our soldiers dying -- which of course is bad enough -- but in terms of them killing and maiming others. And doing other unimaginable things that we'll probably never know about.

They will kill and they will have to live with that. And we as a society will have to live with them when they return and we'll also have to live with ourselves for letting it happen in the first place.

From all my reading through the years about war -- that's the idea that has stuck with me -- the soldiers who have to live with themselves after they've experienced war. They are damaged forever because of it.

I kept trying to get her to think in terms of my son, her grandson being involved in something like that. To really imagine it. I know she has a disconnect and always thinks of our soldiers as "the others" -- but, I'm working on her! (And thank God she didn't see any of that protest on C-span this weekend or I would've lost ground with her for sure...but that's another story for another time.)

11:06 AM  
Blogger Neil Shakespeare said...

V: I most certainly agree with you that it is the "Oil Mafia" with Bush, Cheney & Co as frontmen that are responsible for this made-up war and, on top of that, the condoning of torture and dehumanization and then the turning of a blind eye to the atrocities committed by our troops as a result. They set the tone. But they couldn't do it without the complicity of the American people. And it is this highly touted "Culture of Life" that produces such animals and sends them off to represent us. Maybe they ARE America's finest. In which case I'd say we are in deep trouble.

12:37 PM  
Blogger Kevin Wolf said...

Good and tough post. I do think that the soldiers bear responsibility. There's a clear moral choice to be made at each step: Question authority? Join in the call for an immoral war? Indulge in torture? Etc etc.

I know it's hard to put oneself in another's boots but I can't let people off the hook who help make the whole mess in Iraq happen - who in fact are the #1 tool making it happen. (Which of course explains the casualties our troops have been taking - they're the ones over there doing this war.)

It's clear Bush Inc doesn't really care what's happening to these men and woman, outside of cliched rhetoric. Meanwhile, here at home, the cost of war and its aftermath are not being discussed nor dealt with at all beyond stupid slogans. (Support Our Troops!)

It's all a collossal waste, as wars tend to be.

3:47 PM  
Blogger Nobody said...

No matter how much you think you've seen, and how low you think society can sink, there's always somewhere further down for it to go. There simply is no 'hitting bottom'.

Come on Bird Flu! Thin our ranks!

4:38 PM  
Anonymous blue girl said...

Well said Simon -- and oh so sad. This is NOT as drastic a fall as war -- but I can't get over that they are shutting down schools for two days to conserve energy in GA. (Al -- what do you think of that??)

What a weird logic -- stop educating to conserve gasoline -- what are we coming to? Think about that idea taken further and further --

4:46 PM  
Blogger The Viscount LaCarte said...

Blue: Good personal comment.


> But they couldn't do it without the complicity of the American people. <

They got that complicity by manipulating the American people with fear and lies.

>And it is this highly touted "Culture of Life" that produces such animals and sends them off to represent us.<

That is the ugliness of war. There is no humanity, no compassion. How does one behave in such dire circumstances? I've never been to war, and I'm glad of it, but I don't know what I would've done. It isn't a football game where everyone says, "nice game - see you next time." It is about KILLING.

>I do think that the soldiers bear responsibility. There's a clear moral choice to be made at each step: Question authority? Join in the call for an immoral war? Indulge in torture? Etc etc.<

I agree to a point. The thing is, all of these things happen in war, that is what war is, and that is why it should only be entered into as an absolute last resort.

Our country needs a trained and effective military. They are not supposed to question auhtority, nor are they to judge the morality of the the war (whatever that means.) That is why it is imperitive to have strong and wise leadership. Leaders that will not send our military into a war of choice.

There are always atrocities in war. The difference this time is that they were condoned from the top. Sickening.

Good comments all. Thank you.

4:48 PM  
Blogger XTCfan said...

A new term has been coined for what Neil has pointed out: "warnography"

Apparently, the army's looking into it, and hopefully will do something to try to stop it. More info here.

8:09 AM  
Blogger Lance Mannion said...

Back when I was teaching freshman comp, I had an older student who was a Vietnam vet. He wrote a beautiful essay on Thomas Hardy's poem The Man He Killed. The essay was about the man he killed, the first man that he knew he killed, who he saw dead. It was over 15 years since the war but he still felt awful about it. Not guilty awful, not self-loathing awful, but humanely, decently, soul-fully awful. We talked about his experiences one day during my office hours and it turned out he'd been a little nervous that kids in the class wouldn't believe he'd been to Vietnam or actually killed anybody---so he'd brought in pictures. He had snapshots of himself standing over the body of the VC he'd killed.

Quaint and curious war is. It turns decent young people into vicious killers. Thankfully, usually, civilization turns them back into decent young people when they get home.


7:33 AM  
Blogger XTCfan said...

A recent development on this story can be found here.

8:02 AM  

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