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Murder Is Not an Anomaly in War

Posted on Mar 19, 2012
Illustration by Mr. Fish

By Chris Hedges

(Page 2)

War perverts and destroys you. It pushes you closer and closer to your own annihilation—spiritual, emotional and finally physical. It destroys the continuity of life, tearing apart all systems—economic, social, environmental and political—that sustain us as human beings. In war, we deform ourselves, our essence. We give up individual conscience—maybe even consciousness—for contagion of the crowd, the rush of patriotism, the belief that we must stand together as a nation in moments of extremity. To make a moral choice, to defy war’s enticement, can in the culture of war be self-destructive. The essence of war is death. Taste enough of war and you come to believe that the Stoics were right: We will, in the end, all consume ourselves in a vast conflagration.

A World War II study determined that, after 60 days of continuous combat, 98 percent of all surviving soldiers will have become psychiatric casualties. A common trait among the remaining 2 percent was a predisposition toward having “aggressive psychopathic personalities.” Lt. Col. Dave Grossman in his book “On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society,” notes: “It is not too far from the mark to observe that there is something about continuous, inescapable combat which will drive 98 percent of all men insane, and the other 2 percent were crazy when they go there.”

During the war in El Salvador, many soldiers served for three or four years or longer, as in the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, until they psychologically or physically collapsed. In garrison towns, commanders banned the sale of sedatives because those drugs were abused by the troops. In that war, as in the wars in the Middle East, the emotionally and psychologically maimed were common. I once interviewed a 19-year-old Salvadoran army sergeant who had spent five years fighting and then suddenly lost his vision after his unit walked into a rebel ambush. The rebels killed 11 of his fellow soldiers in the firefight, including his closest friend. He was unable to see again until he was placed in an army hospital. “I have these horrible headaches,” he told me as he sat on the edge of his bed. “There is shrapnel in my head. I keep telling the doctors to take it out.” But the doctors told me that he had no head wounds.

I saw other soldiers in other conflicts go deaf or mute or shake without being able to stop.


Square, Site wide
War is necrophilia. This necrophilia is central to soldiering just as it is central to the makeup of suicide bombers and terrorists. The necrophilia is hidden under platitudes about duty or comradeship. It is unleashed especially in moments when we seem to have little to live for and no hope, or in moments when the intoxication of war is at its highest pitch. When we spend long enough in war, it comes to us as a kind of release, a fatal and seductive embrace that can consummate the long flirtation with our own destruction.

In his memoir “Wartime,” about the partisan war in Yugoslavia, Milovan Djilas wrote of the enticement that death held for the combatants. He stood over the body of his comrade, the commander Sava Kovacevic, and found:

“… Dying did not seem terrible or unjust. This was the most extraordinary, the most exalted moment of my life. Death did not seem strange or undesirable. That I restrained myself from charging blindly into the fray and death was perhaps due to my sense of obligation to the troops or to some comrade’s reminder concerning the tasks at hand. In my memory, I returned to those moments many times with the same feeling of intimacy with death and desire for it while I was in prison, especially during my first incarceration.”

War ascendant wipes out Eros. It wipes out delicacy and tenderness. Its communal power seeks to render the individual obsolete, to hand all passions, all choice, all voice to the crowd.

“The most important part of the individual life, which cannot be subsumed in communal life, is love,” Sebastian Haffner wrote in “Defying Hitler.” “So comradeship has its special weapons against love: smut. Every evening in bed, after the last patrol round, there was the ritual reciting of lewd songs and jokes. That is the hard and fast rule of male comradeship, and nothing is more mistaken than the widely held opinion that this is a safety valve for frustrated erotic or sexual feelings. These songs and jokes do not have an erotic, arousing effect. On the contrary, they make the act of love appear as unappetizing as possible. They treat it like digestion and defecation, and make it an object of ridicule. The men who recited rude songs and used coarse words for female body parts were in effect denying that they ever had tender feelings or had been in love, that they had ever made themselves attractive, behaved gently. ...”

When we see this, when we see our addiction for what it is, when we understand ourselves and how war has perverted us, life becomes hard to bear. Jon Steele, a cameraman who spent years in war zones, had a nervous breakdown in a crowded Heathrow Airport after returning from Sarajevo.

Wages of Rebellion: The Moral Imperative of Revolt, By Chris Hedges, Truthdig Columnist and Winner of the Pulitzer Prize -- Get Your Autographed Copy Today Also Available! Truthdig Exclusive DVD of Chris Hedges' Wages of Rebellion Lecture The World As It Is: 
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Anarcissie's avatar

By Anarcissie, March 19, 2012 at 9:46 am Link to this comment

EmileZ—I just asked a question.  It wasn’t a rhetorical question.  We’ve had a regular old Chris Hedges preachment about war.  Applause and cheers followed.  Now I would like to know what people are going to do about the subject, whether ‘it’ is one or more of the present wars, the country’s predisposition to start wars, or war in general.  Besides, of course, getting on a leftish web site and writing ringing denunciations of war in the comments section, along with fantasies which would require godlike powers to realize.

I mean what, just assuming for the moment that you can’t single-handedly change the Constitution of the U.S., the U.N., the material universe, the psyche of man, etc. etc. etc.

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John Best asks,

By John Best asks, "What IS Progress"?, March 19, 2012 at 9:45 am Link to this comment

balkas, than ks for clearing that up.

I wonder what’s under this transposition of a post by By EmileZ, March 19 at 7:27 am “......a culture of fear and an addiction to conflict.  It has permeated our economy, our culture, our political discourse, our entire way of life.”  Yes, it’s a rearrangement of her words, but done in the spirit of her intent I think.  And I think an examination of the scope of the reasons for this ‘permeation’ would show who is responsible for the path we’ve been on.

And a general comment, if we don’t start teaching to use logic properly to separate the good from the bad in all the arbitrary groupings we create and tolerate, we’ll never accomplish anything.

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By gregorylkruse, March 19, 2012 at 9:42 am Link to this comment

The purpose of endless war is to avoid the difficulty of starting one and the trauma of ending one.  It’s just like trying to moderate the boom/bust cycle in the economy or the ebb and flow of cash in a business.  There is a whole world out there full of people who passionately believe that war is inevitable, and should only be controlled, not eliminated.  You could meet some of them at the NATO summit.  All the more reason to treasure Hedges’ resistance to the concept from moral grounds.

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By balkas, March 19, 2012 at 9:34 am Link to this comment

john best,
i see now that you pointed out to me this utterance of mine and not the other one which a
repeated in my previous response to you:
“we shld not even posit a premise that we waged wars, say, 15 k yrs ago…”
clearly, by implicatory structure of language, the utterance appears as a premise, supposition,
thesis, inference, etc., and not as fact.
why call an assumption “arbitrary” or “unsupported”? why not posit one of your own premises,
theses, etc? so, u have proof when the first war was waged? i don’t! thus, only the assumption
about it!
btw, there is no distinction between the ‘glitterati’ and ‘illuminati’. one is clearly a synonym of
the other. they both mean the same thing.
or to wit: most teachers, experts; nearly all MSM people, politicians, plutocrats, priests, cia/fbi
agents, judges we may include in the ‘illuminati’. [the words under single quotes denote their
false to fact symbolic value]
these people appear most fervent chickehawks and sellers of wars.

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By Ed Romano, March 19, 2012 at 9:30 am Link to this comment

If I may be allowed to comment without bringing a ton of slander down upon my head- children are not blown to pieces in the “abstract”.
  It is easy to discuss war in pseudo prilosophic terms while sitting safely in an easy chair, but in the modern era most wars are born in the regally fitted rooms of psychotics and capitalists.
  Please don’t take offense ( I know that’s a ridiculous request ) but if you’ll reread you post in a cooler moment I think you’ll have to agree that it doesn’t give a reader anything substantial to hang their hat on.

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By Jeff N., March 19, 2012 at 9:15 am Link to this comment

Shenonymous, no I don’t mean die for it in the sense of engaging in war.  I have not read war and peace, Tolstoy seems to have regarded his earlier works as inferior for some reason, and thats a good enough reason for me to skip a 1000 page book haha.  His essay ‘the kingdom of god is within you’, related to christian anarchism, is a pretty good portrayal of the non-violence and pacifism I’m talking about, turning the other cheek essentially.  But if we turn the other cheek, will we always just be dominated and exploited?  Should we then become the oppressor in order not to be oppressed?  I don’t think so personally, but you raise a very interesting argument.

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John Best asks,

By John Best asks, "What IS Progress"?, March 19, 2012 at 9:10 am Link to this comment

“ man even if in command, cannot be held responsible for the actions of many men.”  Perhaps, and I don’t suggest individual morality be put aside, but somewhere in the middle there is the modern soldier who has been schooled (a euphemistic term) for many years in a morality which prepares them for the final psychologies of modern basic training and the bonding which results on the battlefield. 

I am saying to be individually moral in this environment, after a lifetime, a lifetime, of values conditioning, is a lot to expect of a soldier, and certainly, to come home without a serious case of PTSD is a miracle.

Like many issues, the most ‘tru-ish’ situation is in the middle.

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Airborne855's avatar

By Airborne855, March 19, 2012 at 9:05 am Link to this comment

Brilliantly conceived and eloquently conveyed.

The depravity justifying war is deeper than the oceans of blood filling the chalices of the unholy communions of death.

Christianity was still yet new to the world when demonic monsters of Satan’s hosts perversely conceived the concept of “just wars” in the name of Jesus Christ. Now, wars are celebrated and blessed on quiet, sunny Sunday mornings in the mausoleums of the dead.

Jesus never killed anyone. He made it perfectly clear to Peter on the night of his arrest that he had the power to destroy the Roman Empire, yet he laid down his life rather than kill and commanded his disciples to follow his example. Martyrdom has since silenced the truth.

Now, nations of Christendumb wage wanton war as harpies sing hymns and prostitutes utter lies from the pulpit.

Hell is never full and war’s lust is never sated.

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John Best asks,

By John Best asks, "What IS Progress"?, March 19, 2012 at 9:02 am Link to this comment

balkas, it’s a challenge, not an attack.  You challenge some dates, and offer others and there’s no proof given of either.  What’s the point?

That I challenge mushy speech is certainly no proof that I am one of the ‘bad guys’.  Additionally, you have made good points at various times and I encourage you to do so with integrity of reason.

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By balkas, March 19, 2012 at 8:58 am Link to this comment

john best,
by merely attacking me, you have proved that you’re wrong. and misquoting and
misinterpreting [in this case, probably deliberately doing so] what a person said
is a big piece of evidence that you’re not a person for peace and free flow of free
i said: “one shld not even posit the premise that we waged wars 20g yrs ago, let
alone 200k. clearly, the statement, itself, appears as a conclusion, wish,
suggestion and not as a fact. so, would you ban postulates, assumptions,
suggestions, etc? and keep condemnigg person who posits them? and you think
i’ll read your comments of that type?

such thinkers, i think, are trying to justify present wars [and those waged by US,
afortiori] by tacitly implying [they are to chickkenhawkish to say it explicitly] that
we we’ve always [or since 200 k y ago] had wars, we can’t do anything about
them, they are willed by god.
and now, please, shut up! case closed and stop crying! are you one these

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By Shenonymous, March 19, 2012 at 8:52 am Link to this comment

Jeff N., March 19 6:03 am

Well, when looking at it in absolute terms like this, ending
mankind’s warring is quite a tall order,  yes. But it is a goal
to work towards, like democracy.  It’s going to come in stages,
but we have to actually take some steps down that path before
we can say it can’t be done.  To me it is a cause worth dying for.

Does that dying include engaging in a war?  Some people do not have
the same regard for human life as perhaps you do.  Why exactly is
hanging a lot of people not a very humanistic way to think?  I mean
aren’t they criminals?  Public executions is the style of certain cultures. 
Americans kind of hide their executions euphemistically in prisons
behind glass walls with a small audience, and a lot of talk about it in the
media.  That way we don’t get the thrill of it all!  Nor do we as a society
have to “feel” anything about it!  Right?  Isn’t it foolish and naive to be
humanistic?  Isn’t the earth overpopulated?  Or isn’t that just a claim to
justify the exploitation of others, to force and coerce certain beliefs on
others, and to use up their resources?  Don’t confuse my questions for
what I believe.

John Best asks What IS Progress -  March 19 at 6:20 am

If the leadership was moral and the top-down guiding
morals (or ‘un-morals’) could be resolved by individual soldiers
against their ‘natural morals’, perhaps they would come home

Part of the problem is that psychologically, the soldiers are
trained to have extreme group cohesion to the complete
exclusion of any other sense of right and wrong.

As Tolstoy observed in War and Peace (which is quite fitting here as
an analogy for the nature of war and the nature of warmakers), one man
(in his case Napoleon) even if in command, cannot be held responsible
for the actions of many men. Also, “Man’s mind cannot grasp the causes
of events in their completeness, but the desire to find those causes is
implanted in man’s soul. And without considering the multiplicity and
complexity of the conditions any one of which taken separately may
seem to be the cause, he snatches at the first approximation to a cause
that seems to him intelligible and says: “This is the cause!” It is a free
read and a review of at least part of War and Peace might do some souls
here some good.

balkas, March 19 6:24 am – balkas you are being picayune.  Skirmishes
was more like it in the days your ancestors dwelled in caves.  I made that

Ed Romano, March 19 6:37 am – True, Hedges is talking about
this war (in Afghanistan), but in order for humans to begin to work
on ending wars, whether just or not (is there such a thing as a just war?),
war has to be looked at in the abstract so that thinking about it is in a
direct trajectory, toward reality and does not remain defused in chaos,
for if chaotic,  no strategy for eliminating it in our society can even begin
to be drawn up. It is a defeatist view.  So you like my metaphor of
Hershey bars, eh Ed? hahaha

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By Resister, March 19, 2012 at 8:52 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I say this of Sergeant Bales: “He showed them!”
I mean the military establishment, not the victims.

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By balkas, March 19, 2012 at 8:32 am Link to this comment

the ‘communist bosses’ of yugoslavia who started wars against slovenia and croatia in ‘91, against bosnia ‘92,
and against kosovo ‘87 [abrogation of its autonomy constituted a casus belli] were not, imo, socialists or
i do not view milosevic [head of serbia] and tudjman [croatia] socialistic, just, prudent, peace-loving, etc.

both had also nazilike, fascist traits as well. each had tried to destroy—and managed to do it—almost
completely all vestiges of what socialist-egalitarians/communists had achieved from the ruins since ‘45.
above else, there was peace, interethnic marriages/tolerance, etc.
however, what had prevailed after tito’s death ‘80, was the old ultranationalisms in both the serbia and
it had been fired up mainly by fascistic media, ‘illuminati’, and churches and i do not think that even one
genuine socialist in Y. ever wanted break up of yugoslavia—least of all by warfare.
tudjman himself, tho in name a communist and partizan general—who stared his own war against bosnia in
‘93-94—deeply hated socialist Y. and upon coming to power in croatia in ‘90, immediately started privatizing
and stealing from people everything he could. 
milosevic, karadzic, jovic, kadijevic, adzic, mladic, seselj, cosic, plavsic, tudjman, communists?? or just nazis
and butchers?
i’ve noticed that CH avoids to assign any negative role to the churches and priestly class for ills that befall us.
thanks, bozhidar b.

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By Sodium-Na, March 19, 2012 at 8:30 am Link to this comment

“I am not usually a fan of Chris Hedges. Are his words,this time,sharp reminder of our brutal nature? I think we need to be reminded constantly,so I am grateful he did.”


Thank you for being so honest with yourself and honest with those who may read your posts,including me.

I wish other critics of the writings of Hedges stop criticizing,just for once,and be honest with themselves as you have been.

As far as I am concerned,Chris Hedges has already talked the talk and walk the walk and deserves my unequivocal support.


Again,thank you for your thoughtful comments. It is good reading for a change. Have much appreciated.

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EmileZ's avatar

By EmileZ, March 19, 2012 at 8:27 am Link to this comment

I think we are in Afghanistan from the momentum of the war machine. It has permeated our economy, our culture, our political discourse, our entire way of life.

(Same goes for Vietnam)

We must have permanent war. The resources are more of an afterthought in this case. It is more a way of keeping people in line here at home and throughout the world. Preventing real democratic societies from emerging. Creating a culture of fear and an addiction to conflict.

It is in keeping Thanatos’ cleeted boot on implanted solidly on the neck of Eros that we fight these wars and distribute our arms across the globe.

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TAGGLINE's avatar

By TAGGLINE, March 19, 2012 at 8:22 am Link to this comment

And the Truth will set you free.
Read this and weep…same as it ever was…and, yeah…the
‘troops’ who are so ‘valiantly’ helping restore order and
send up the flag of democracy (while serving this country by
“Keeping America Free”...from all enemies…real or imagined)
are accountable for their actions…there is no draft, the
soldiers/marines, et al…are ALL volunteers who buy into
this horse-shit about “Valor-Honor-and The ‘Murican
Way”, in for a penny, in for a pound.
Then, after you/we do a close reality check, and see the
Truth for what it is…End this idiotic Occupation of
Afghanistan, today!
All that lockstep BS about how difficult it would be to simply
“leave”...and all the crap about “Power vacuum” (the only
power vacuum this country needs to worry about is 1. In
our own shallow halls of Congress OR 2. The new Hoover
Model 2012) Hell, Karzai is calling OUR shots!! How stupid
must we be to buy into all this hyperbole coming from
If one can remember it didn’t take too damned long to
amass 400,000 troops, and materiel in the “1st” Gulf
“War”...and had massive parades afterwards. (I guess these
‘patriots’ were trying to bolster the popularity of the Armed
Services sine ‘Nam didn’t work out too well, eh?)
We are recognized, worldwide as a bloated, murderous lot
who claim to do all things in the name of ...Democracy.

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By Sodium-Na, March 19, 2012 at 8:05 am Link to this comment

The whole column,from the beginning to the last word of it,is a gem. However,the most eloquent and genuine gems are the following brilliant quotations:

Quotation One:

“I,too,belong to this spieces(human being)J.Glass Gray wrote of his experience in World War II. “I am ashamed not only of my own deeds,not only of my nation’s deeds,but of human deeds as well. I am ashamed to be a man.”

Quotation Two:

“Force,“Simone Wall wrote,“is as pitiless to the man who possesses it,or thinks he does,as it is to its victims;the second it crushes,the first it intoxicates.”

Quotation Three(A Roman Poem by Catullus):

By strangers’ co(a)sts and water and many days at sea,
I come here at the rites of your unworlding,
Bringing for you,the dead,these last gifts of the living
And my words-vain sound for the man of dust,
Alas,my brother,
You have been taken from me. You have been taken from me,
By cold chance turned a shadow,and my pain.
Here are the foods of the old ceremony,appointed
Long ago for the starveling under the earth:
Take them: your brother’s tears have made them wet:and take:
Into eternity my hail and my farewell.


Chris Hedges,

Thank you for a brilliantly constructed piece against wars. Much appreciated reading it.

A Nobel Prize,for Peace,is not good enough for what you have been writing against wars,for years.

More important is your honesty with yourself and me,as one of your weekly readers who could not shy away from making comments,inspite of his serious health issues and shortage of time. Love reading the honesty of it all.

Please never stop the course. Never!!

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By heterochromatic, March 19, 2012 at 8:04 am Link to this comment

nicely written and Pyle’s unfinished piece was extremely well-written.

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Arabian Sinbad's avatar

By Arabian Sinbad, March 19, 2012 at 8:02 am Link to this comment

By Jeff N., March 19 at 6:45 am

Arabian Sinbad, promote peace by mass hangings, how ingenius of you!
First, Mr. Jeff, I didn’t promote mass hangings; I promoted selective hanging of the criminal war-mongers, hopefully as the last hangings to be done for the price of lasting piece!

Secondly, at least I provided a six-point plan to eliminate nationalist-chauvinistic war-mongering; what is you plan for promoting world-peace beyond selectively picking on one word of my post and twisting it out of context?!

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John Best asks,

By John Best asks, "What IS Progress"?, March 19, 2012 at 7:52 am Link to this comment

Balkas regardless of your arbitrary and equally unsupported ‘start date’ of wars at 15k years ago, I fail to see the value of whatever distinction you draw between ‘gliterati’ and ‘illuminati’.  Don’t both hide the real reasons for war from the common man behind arbitrary morals and ‘statesmanship’. 

Why not be honest and say we’re in Afghanistan for the lithium, and perhaps to gain control of opium.  To eradicate it?  hell no.  To control the market.  No, I can’t prove it.

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By balkas, March 19, 2012 at 7:47 am Link to this comment

wars could be limned or labeled as a LIGHT DAY more lawless and antihuman
behavior than in any other circumstance. even life long slavery appears easier to
endure than ‘scientific’ and ‘peace-loving’ wars we wage now.

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By Jeff N., March 19, 2012 at 7:45 am Link to this comment

Arabian Sinbad, promote peace by mass hangings, how ingenius of you!

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By Ed Romano, March 19, 2012 at 7:37 am Link to this comment

It’s comfortable to sit back in our easy chairs and wax philosophic about the nature of human beings and the inevitabilty of war. But Hedges is talking about THIS war… the one in Afghanistan. And maybe we could ask ourselves ...what is the reason we are over there. And perhaps, at long last, we’ll come to some conclusuions about what these imperialist adventures are all about.
  Prior to our involvement in Vietnam we were providing arms and money to the French, who were trying to reestablish themselves in their former colony. Congress was getting itchy regarding the vast amount of money being spent. So President Eisenhower gave a speech in which he said, ( This may not be exactly verbatim)..”.Many of you wonder what we are doing aiding the French in this little country many of you have probably never heard of. The fact is that Vietnam is rich in many resources, oil, tungsten etc. and we cannot afford to let these resources fall into the hands of the communists”.... Well, of course not Ike. Then those resources would be denied to the capitalists…..We never again heard such an open admission of what Vietnam was all about. After that all we heard was how we wanted to bring “democracy” to those people…Right. Even if we had to maim and kill a few million of them to do it.
  When the U.S. began to send troops into that country, after the Vietnamese had driven the French out, the early opponents of the war were people from organizations like the Guardian newspaper and old line radicals from the 30’s. They said ...This war is another capitalist adventure etc….As time went on and working class Americans were being drafted the anti war movement began to grow….more and more liberals came aboard….Folks on the left, who had formed the early opposition, thought this was fortunate….the liberals might be allies in bringing about some radical change when the war was over…. What wasn’t clearly seen was that the liberals had swamped the movement and taken it over…so that toward the end of the war we were hearing a mantra that went something like this….This war is a “mistake” and the sooner we can get it over with the sooner we can get back to the business of being America…When it finally dawned on us ( including me) that the cause of the whole horrible mess was not understood we realized that NOTHING would be learned from that long nighmare….No brag here. But weren’t we right? Have we learned anything ? ....And now     swords being rattled again in Washington concerning a possible attempt by Iran to secure nuclear weapons…That this is not the real concern of Washington can be ascertained from the fact that even if Iran was insane enough to fire such a weapon in our direction we have enough weaponry to instantly flatten their entire country from border to border.  ( as do the Israelis ).....So what are we being prepared for ? Isn’t a more resonable explanation that we don’t want Iran excercising any influence in Iraq after we have spent so much of our treasury securing that influence for ourselves ? Isn’t it time to stop stepping in cow pies and thinking they’re Hershey bars ?

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By balkas, March 19, 2012 at 7:24 am Link to this comment

one cannot prove that we waged wars against one another as far back as 200k yrs.
one shld not even posit a premise that we waged wars against one another even
20k yrs ago let alone 200k y ago. only militarists, in order to pursue their
happiness, say and would keep on saying that.
and the wars that we waged against one another with sticks and stones mostly,
say, 15 k yrs ago, were launched by ‘glitterati’; i.e., shamans/priests/nobles.
and the war sellers of today are ‘illuminati’ just like all other in the past.
people wake up and condemn most severely such thinkers!

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John Best asks,

By John Best asks, "What IS Progress"?, March 19, 2012 at 7:20 am Link to this comment

It seems as we’ve developed mass production of various goods, we’ve allowed this efficient philosophy to be adopted to the business end of the war machine, the people who serve as soldiers. 

They cannot question ‘God, Duty, Country’.  When do we start to mold their psyche toward blind obedience?  If the leadership was moral and the top-down guiding morals (or ‘un-morals’) could be resolved by individual soldiers against their ‘natural morals’, perhaps they would come home better.

Part of the problem is that psychologically, the soldiers are trained to have extreme group cohesion to the complete exclusion of any other sense of right and wrong. 

Also, by the ‘God, Duty, Country’ method, their foundation is one of good-vs-evil,  namely that any opposing force is defacto sub-human, evil.  Any soldier knows no child is evil.  No mother.  And, if one thought of the shitty circumstances of some of their enemies, they might have sympathy for the ‘evil enemy’.  In the name of efficiency, of getting the killing done efficiently, the idea of a moral soldier must have been discarded somewhere along the way.  Industrial systems seem to favor consistent machine parts with minimal deviation and zero tolerance for anything which interferes with a shitty mission from on-high. 

Mr. Hedges should wrestle a bit with the tap-root of the problem, that the underlying moral programming of a simplistic good-evil, friend-foe evaluation system, is largely facilitated by the church. 

I am not saying we won;t have wars, even that there is no just war.  I am saying we should fight war for honest above-the-table reasons, and ditch the exterior facade and false moral justification of good-vs.-evil.  Stay out of the minds of the soldiers and public with that crap.

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By Peter Everts, March 19, 2012 at 7:14 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Unless and until the men who start and profit from wars are actually made to fight them, nothing will change.

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By Jay Lindberg, March 19, 2012 at 7:09 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

What’s the point.  War has a debilitating effect on
anyone’s mind that participates in it long enough.  I
confess, he is right. 

But at the same time, there is no other way to stop
the corrupt power structure that is ravaging this
planet and its people besides war.

My perspective on war is this.  We must fight the
dirty bastards on a level playing field.  When the
battles are over and hopefully we have won, let’s
hope and pray that we have not become, JUST LIKE

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sallysense's avatar

By sallysense, March 19, 2012 at 7:07 am Link to this comment

(how sick are warlords?...

warlords can’t even give their own children love that’s genuine!...
for if they could they wouldn’t be able to kill any other children!)...

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By katsteevns, March 19, 2012 at 7:04 am Link to this comment

“the American public
does not want to have him executed due to extenuating circumstances.”

And if it was an Afghan soldier doing the shooting and the victims were American, what would “the public” want then? Would they say:

“Oh, let us first consider the extenuating circumstances!”

Whoever recruited the soldier first here at home should be hung from the nearest tree. That would be getting at the “root” of the problem.

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By Jeff N., March 19, 2012 at 7:03 am Link to this comment

Well, when looking at it in absolute terms like this, ending mankind’s warring is quite a tall order, yes.  But it is a goal to work towards, like democracy.  It’s going to come in stages, but we have to actually take some steps down that path before we can say it can’t be done.  To me it is a cause worth dying for.

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By balkas, March 19, 2012 at 7:02 am Link to this comment

yes, in wars hatred/anger/lust/need for vengeance/retaliation/getting even grows
beyond rational control; ie, cannot be verbally controlled any longer.
in soft, limited wars like in iraq or afgh’n, when one knows that your country is not
doing enough to end it; even tho it can, by either nuking the country, sending
more troops, or by seeking a peace pact with the manufactured enemy, all that
hatred/anger/related feelings appear even less controllable than in old-style wars;
most of which lasted only days or weeks.

wars are becoming bloodier; gift from heaven [church], our ‘scientific minds’, very
well educated politicians, ‘experts’, generals, plutocrats, school teachers and even
most labor unions.

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By Arabian Sinbad, March 19, 2012 at 6:50 am Link to this comment

The way I see it to end, or at least to curtail the evils of war and war-mongering is:

1. To draft a universal constitution whose first article should be as follows: “Every human being has the unalienable right to a natural death, and not to be sent to kill and be killed by the merchants of death.”

2. In the context of U.S. warmongering, being the most super war-mongering entity in human history, the U.S. will only partly redeem its criminal past when it demands that the most recent war-mongers around who have huge amounts of blood on their hands be brought before an international court of justice, have a speedy trial and hanged as culpable. That will include George W. Bush, Barack Obama (I nickname him as “abomination”) and every one in their administrations.

3. The Pentagon and the CIA must be dismantled and replaced by a Department of Human Rights and World Peace.

4. War industry should be dismantled and any person documented to have benefited from war-mongering should be hanged publicly.

5. The current United Nation apparatus should be dismantled and a new United Nations based on equality among nations, big and small, with no veto power to anyone.

6. Attached to the United Nations, an International Court System and an International Police System should be be put in place as the ultimate authority to solve conflicts and disputes among nations!

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By Shenonymous, March 19, 2012 at 6:28 am Link to this comment

Yes it is cynical, I tend to be a pragmatist, a realist when it comes
to human existence.  But whether nature or nurture (and I think it
is a combination of both) man’s war each other is something
conscious beings have to come to terms with abstractly, that means
to give themselves unassailable arguments that war is completely anti-
human then act to stop themselves from engaging in war.  That means
diplomacy has to become an artform because men will always disagree
on both large and small issues, like religion, other beliefs, economics,
etc.  What evidence is there except the voices on blogs and a few
journalists, some scientists, that ending humankind’s warring is more
than a passing thought, if even that?  The irony is that if we rise up in
revolution, then we might become the thing we abhor. 

So we have to be “peaceful” rebels.  There has been history of such
uprisings, Gandhi, Mandella, most Occupiers, Egypt, and in all cases
the rebels suffered losses, some like Syrians, lost thousands.  Is it a
cause to die for?  Seems odd to die for peace doesn’t it?

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By EmileZ, March 19, 2012 at 6:21 am Link to this comment

@ Anarcissie

I considered extolling others through my comments on truthdig do take some sort of unspecified action when I am not giving them shit about taking the moral high ground and such, but I am not sure that is the most effective tactic.

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By Jeff N., March 19, 2012 at 6:20 am Link to this comment

prisnersdilema, spot on as usual!

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By Jeff N., March 19, 2012 at 6:08 am Link to this comment

Shenonymous, saying that war is inevitable and “just in our genes” is a very hopeless conclusion to make I think.  I agree with you that we cannot do it alone and I wouldn’t encourage anyone to join the military.  Ideas for non-violence and pacifism are very Christian values, Tolstoy wrote a lot about this.  The US has a great opportunity to lead this kind of effort by example, but we repeatedly spend astronomical amounts of money on wars, missile technology, etc. etc.  We spend more on military than the rest of the world combined, which is pretty hard to wrap your head around.  So, the effort starts at home.

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By Anarcissie, March 19, 2012 at 6:06 am Link to this comment

The question is, what are you going to do about it?

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By John in Kerrville, March 19, 2012 at 5:59 am Link to this comment

I believe that the Afghan public, led by Karzai, would countenance nothing less
than the death penalty for this soldier.  On the other hand the American public
does not want to have him executed due to extenuating circumstances.  The only
solution?  Immediate withdrawal of all foreign forces from Afghanistan.

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By bob ackley, March 19, 2012 at 5:52 am Link to this comment

What we need is a restoration of the declaration of war
power back to congress. In this way, our locally
elected representatives will have to answer for their
votes. If war is declared, let the military be from a
draft, then we will see how much support exists for the
killing of others…

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By thecrow, March 19, 2012 at 5:51 am Link to this comment

“The Afghan president on Wednesday demanded that President-elect Barack Obama put an end to civilian casualties as villagers said U.S. warplanes bombed a wedding party, killing 37 people — nearly all of them women and children.

The bombing Monday afternoon of the remote village of Wech Baghtu in the southern province of Kandahar destroyed an Afghan housing complex where women and children had gathered to celebrate, villagers said. Body parts littered the wreckage and nearby farm animals lay dead.

Jalil said American forces came into his village late Monday night or Tuesday morning — after the bombing run — and searched the villagers and detained some of the men. Jalil said he told the Americans that they could search his vineyards and his home but that they wouldn’t find any militants.

‘The Americans came and told us, ‘You are sheltering the Taliban,’ and I told the Americans ‘Come inside and see for yourself, you are killing women and children,’ Jalil said. ‘After they saw that all the dead were civilians, they gave us permission to bury the bodies.’”

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By prisnersdilema, March 19, 2012 at 5:43 am Link to this comment

It is impossible to hurt some one without hurting yourself. Each action no matter
how small takes a little bit of you emotionally until, in the end one becomes dead

How will you live when each attempt to feel something in your life uncovers the
emotional deadness you have become.  This is what war does to the living. It kills
you. Whether you live or not afterward is not really a choice you have anymore.

The war mongers will try and replace your heart with abstractions, but that only
takes you farther away from what little is left of you.  They will be unable to help
you deal with what you have done, and what they have done with you, because
how can the dead help the living, to live?

Perhaps this is why our culture is so preoccupied with Zombie’s, and drone’s.

The answer is, as Mr. Hedges has done, is to care, and to give your life in caring
for others, and to offer oneself in protest against the soul less banks, and
corporations, that are destroying our world.

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By R. Walters, March 19, 2012 at 5:43 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

How many wonderfully informed and brilliant authors have written on this very subject?  Some of the most immortal, maddening and brutally honest novels ever created (Slaughterhouse-Five and Catch-22)have displayed the very same point that Hedges exposes here.  And still, we continue on in the same fashion- never heeding the warnings.

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By Marietjie Luyt, March 19, 2012 at 5:07 am Link to this comment

What an incredibly moving description of the ravages of war; and of all its victims.

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By Shenonymous, March 19, 2012 at 5:00 am Link to this comment

War is not created in a hell.  It is created by humans in this world
and has been with us since there were primitive clans about 200,000
years ago.  Not all that long ago when one thinks about the age of
the universe and not on the scale we know today.  How are we going
to evolve war out of our genes for that is where it has to begin?  We
have to cultivate ourselves through natural selection.  But how can
we do that unless we teach our young not to go to war, not to join
the military?  We cannot do it alone.  All people every where need to
do that for until all the humans in the world do not try to dominate
others war will be with us.  Two of my grandsons, raised as Evangelical
Christians, joyfully went off to the military this year, excited to join the
army of men who would march off to war. 

It is a very complex thing.  Aren’t we just dreaming of utopia? 

I’m not usually a fan of Chris Hedges.  Are his words, this time, sharp
reminders of our brutal nature?  I think we need to be reminded
constantly, so I’m grateful he did.

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By dini, March 19, 2012 at 4:56 am Link to this comment

Destructive or Constructive?  All war is destructive!  Interesting that people are
drawn to this dance with death and destruction.  Power is the lure.  After one is
exposed to hell the less one is able to cope with a constructive, peaceful life?
One’s choice is to defend (or witness) fighting a losing battle or living alone with

This man who shot up all those innocent people was suffering and nobody helped
him.  The military does not tolerate symptoms of PTSD.  Fear, anxiety, worry,
restlessness, helpless rage,,, not allowed.  Where do those feelings hide?!  War
teaches us to be inhuman and that means it teaches us how to die; how to self

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By Jaime Cadle, March 19, 2012 at 4:49 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Chris Hedges For President

I wish

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