Most of us raised in relatively humane societies experience a deep aversion to killing or wounding innocent people.  We are trained to shoot only in self-defense or to defend others.

An interesting phenomenon discovered by our military during the Korean war was that a significant number — possibly a majority — of our front line soldiers were not shooting at the enemy.  They were either shooting to miss intentionally into the air or not shooting at all.

This discovery led to significant changes in military training so that by the time of the Viet Nam war our soldiers could be expected to shoot at enemies.  But then came a further dilemma — our enemies were not dressed up in military uniforms and, thus, were indistinguishable from civilians among whom they were blended.  Many an American soldier, it is reported, freaked out when he discovered that he had killed innocents.  One particularly grim story involved a young soldier firing into the dark of a cave only to discover that he had blown away a young mother and her newborn baby.  The upshot of this war was great tension and resort to drugs.  Some 300,000 of our troops were released with undesirable discharges because of their drug use, striking out against a superior officer, whatever upshots of the terrible stress that the war had placed upon them, including our massacres — e.g. My Lai:

I was serving on an ACLU advisory committee following the war and was asked to argue the case for forgiveness of the 300,000 soldiers — now many drug addicted or suffering what we now call post traumatic stress — so that they could receive the medical assistance from Veterans support systems denied to those tossed out as ‘undesirables’.  The ACLU board supported this amnesty, but our administrations and Congress did not.  The upshot was a generation of homeless and an expanded prison population as these wounded ones staggered through American life towards early deaths.

Now with our present Middle East engagements we are watching psychopaths of two types — the terrorists willing to kill innocent civilians — at the urging of their chief one, bin Laden.

But at the other end of the spectrum those of us who use the weapons of modern warfare to kill innocents or who have stimulated madness in the cultures which we have attacked are also psychopaths in our denials of the horrors that we are engendering and inflicting.  We are approaching 3,400 American troops killed in Iraq, a number of thousands wounded, and hundreds of thousands suffering post traumatic stress untreated per the latest reports.  And it takes but a bit of imagination to realize that we are inflicting even greater harms upon the people whom we have chosen to attack and occupy.

Saddam Hussein was a bad guy, but he had established relative order in Iraq prior to our invasion.  Now all hell is breaking loose there.  We hear that roughly 10% of our military are freaking out and attacking innocent civilians — and the majority of their buddies are reluctant to report them.  So we must imagine that the killings and woundings are far more extensive than the scattered official reports that come our way via our news media — between scandals of celebrities or whatever natural catastrophe has hit here, there, and elsewhere around the globe.

The psychopaths are among us.  We see them joking regularly with the press at their exculpatory press conferences!

“A war is just if there is no alternative, and the resort to arms is legitimate if they represent your last hope.” (Livy cited by Machiavelli)

Ed Kent  718-951-5324 (voice mail only) [blind copies]

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