Lee Wilkinson

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Why are we surprised that our troops would torture other humans in war?

We take a Rugby team or and American football team and we say "We want to win this game no matter what!" we psych the players up and we let them lose what we don't say is "Be nice to the opposing team"

we take a human being and ask them ti kill for their countries honour and safety and yet we are surprised when we hear of things like 'abu ghraib prison' and we are offended when we see American or British troops torturing and humiliating other human beings. Can we really expect that after dehumanizing our own troops in order that the be effective in combat that they will then be merciful and gentle towards each other in these circumstances?

  • Feb 26 2011: Because if we knew, we would go mad... Think about all the violence that the state commits while supposedly protecting the public: some 1000 black men died between 1969 and 2001 in police custody in the UK (www.injusticefilm.co.uk/reviews.html), people are rutinely abused in prison (www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2003/dec/11/prisonsandprobation.ukcrime1)... Think of all the violence that is the underbelly of this wonderful capitalist system (80% of all the coltan, which goes into mobile phones, computers, aviation, comes from Congo: women are raped so as to scare the population into leaving the land for mining development; children of Guatemalan coffee plantation workers go hungry so that we can have cheap coffee...) If we really thought of all the violence that goes into our Western way of life we would go mad.... so we go by the fiction that we that enjoy the fruits of capitalism are good and law abiding (we also happen to be white which is convenient in keeping the fiction) and we don't look too deep into how we have what we have...
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    Feb 26 2011: The primary tool for convincing anyone that they have the permission to commit atrocities and inflict death and suffering, is through the use of "us vs. Them" language. We do not kill our fellow humans we kill camel jocks, japs, kikes, yankees and krauts. The training of killers starts starts with violent submission of the ego to a brotherhood/sisterhood convinced that they are justified to kill these non-humans to protect themselves and that they alone understand the sacrifice required to protect a nation or a faith. This is the tragedy
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    Feb 21 2011: you have a point. killing people is OK. injuring people is OK. making children orphans is OK. denying people progress is OK. but causing pain is not OK. is that hypocrisy or what?
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    Feb 27 2011: As a serving Soldier in the 70s I completed two tours of Northern Ireland (Not the middle East by any stretch of the imagination) What i realise looking back is I never once ran into anyone who said "Boy I can't wait to kill someone." or "Just let me at those bastards so I can torture them." What I do realise looking back is that we stepped over a line, without actually knowing it we stepped across a line and we could never go back. What that did was change the wat we thought in given circumstances. We would kill if we had to and probably justify that in torturing someone it was no worse or worse than they were doing to us. I remember being pulled back in training and seeing a Training Sergent tell a couple of recruits basically not to enjoy it so much. Obviously they crossed the line a little earlier than the rest of us. What I am saying is that it should be no shock at all that humans can do this to each other. After all there is very little to distinguish in the levels of violence. It was this and the crowd mentality that allowed the persecution of Jews in WWll Black people in America, and then add the country and the persecuted. Most of us have that element in us, the same as joy, greed, empathy and a hundred other emotions and abilities. I think that's why we are so shocked when we see it happen. As Hamlet said, "As is holding up a mirror to nature."
  • Feb 27 2011: No. (in response to your last question-mark there.) I think it's pretty obvious that war would turn many men into monsters. Not all soldiers are monsters (I hope) but far to many. I think it's hypocrisy to pretend that war is good, to vote for war and then act horrified when you hear about the atrocities. One might find many reasonable arguments for it being a "necessary evil" but it's an evil nonetheless!

    As for why we are surprised: I think there could be many reasons. We're naïve, we trust human beings to be good to much. Or we're hypocrites, capable of doublethink. Or we just haven't considered what war really means enough. When you see evil in the world I think it's easy to feel "someone should just kill those evil people!", it's a simplified perspective of course but our emotions are often simple and childish. I think it's easy to understand, when you feel that the bad guys should be shot, I at least, don't imagine the psychological impact the environment of war has on a soldier (or on the children growing up in the war zone that comes into existence when trying to kill those specific evil men)
    We're surprised because we don't stop and think, and because the world is more complicated than we would like it to be.
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    Feb 24 2011: I don't disagree with any of the comments, all well thought out and thought provoking, it's interesting though that no one has answered the question really. The question of 'why are some people appalled at the idea that soldiers would torture other soldiers in time of war?' What is is that makes it an unacceptable aspect of war?

    "you have a point. killing people is OK. injuring people is OK. making children orphans is OK. denying people progress is OK. but causing pain is not OK. is that hypocrisy or what? "

    Krisztian Pinter
  • Feb 24 2011: We must expect mercy from soldiers. We accept death in kill-or-be-killed situations, but when the danger is over, mercy must come first. The strain that puts on a soldiers psych and combat effectiveness is a small price to pay.

    We shouldn't have wars at all, but when we do, they have to be as civilized as possible. To lessen the grudges, so that peace can endure afterwards.
  • Feb 24 2011: Your making a gross over-statement in assuming that all troops are going to do this and have done this. The issue isn't our troops torturing people, the issue is having a couple bad apples that are given the opportunity to do such things. You have people that torture others in society everyday, it may not be the same as the abu ghraib but there is still emotional and mental torture that people endure every day. Look at bullying in school, is it really any different then some of the abuses that happened in that prison, no. What we need to do is find out what drove these people to commit such acts and see what sets them apart, but to just say that the troops torture people is wrong and a false statement. What we truly need to do is make it clear that torture is not OK and that any one who does commit such a crime will be punished under the full extent of the law.
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      Feb 24 2011: Kevin, maybe I worded this ineffectively. The question is not about weather or not human beings will do awful things to other human beings in terrible circumstances, the question is; "Why when they do, are so many of the public appalled at that behaviour?" My question is "What did we think they would do? And incidentally I served for 8 1/2 years in the Military and it's not such a gross overstatement sadly. Surely the public must be aware of the fact that is was in fact they who sent these men and women off to fight for their countries? Maybe not though.
  • Feb 24 2011: The only context I have observed this issue being raised at all is in a purely political one. The American left always trots it out when they have calculated that it will gain them a domestic political advantage as a result of scandilizing a sitting President who they seek to damage.
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      Feb 24 2011: I tend to agree there. War is a terrible thing at any level and it is usually for political reasons that light is made of these situations. The fact is war is war and it's despicable.
      • Feb 25 2011: Yes Lee,war is hell, but outside of eugenics I do not see a ready-made nor realistic remedy to its presence. War has been with the human race all along and it has not gone away. The best initial approach to stopping the possibility of war is to soberly understand that we do not have the wherewithal to eradicate the tendency of humans to engage in this insane activity no more than we can stop people from having sex or commiting murder. By assuming any other attitude we leave ourselves open to the Machevellian designs of war-mongerers,manipulators,and assorted sociopathic tyrants who are only encouraged by naive ,pacifist attitudes from their potential prey.
  • Feb 22 2011: A successful war requires two victories, we need to win the war AND the peace.