‘Thank You for Saving My Son From All the Grief and Pain!’ – Antiwar.com Blog

I recently spoke at a conference sponsored by the National Association of Social Workers discussing the moral injury suffered by veterans returning from war. Other speakers included a clinician from the local Veterans Administration Medical Center, a woman Somali veteran and poet, and a panel composed of veterans from Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan. The audience, primarily clinicians working in the field and veterans struggling to make sense of their experiences in war, were enthusiastic and appreciative of the information provided. As is customary at such events, upon the completion of the conference, attendees were asked to complete a feedback form evaluating and commenting upon content, relevance of the information presented, the strengths and weaknesses of the presenters, etc. I am pleased to say that for the most part, the feedback was positive and complimentary. One comment, in particular, I thought quite noteworthy.

“My son is seriously considering joining the Marine Corps, but as a result of hearing the experiences of the veterans both while in the military and afterward, after learning about the prevalence and seriousness of Moral Injury, we are now going to rethink this decision. Thank you for saving my son from all the grief and pain!”

What this attendee’s comment makes clear, I think, is that as parents and their offspring become educated about the realities and perhaps, the likely consequences of military service and war – Post Traumatic Stress (PTS),moral injury, etc. – information that is not readily available, perhaps intentionally so, from the recruiters who frequent our high schools, prospective enlistees and their families become better able to make informed choices.

Creating Soldiers who Will Kill

Any discussion of moral injury inevitably encompasses a review and analysis of military service, and more specifically, the war experience. For example, conference attendees learned that human beings are not killers by nature, and that political and military leaders, whose aim it is to further their national goals and objectives through violence, have recognized that this reluctance to kill, this foundational aspect of a human being’s moral identity, jeopardizes their ability to wage war effectively.[1] They learned that to remedy this “problem,” create soldiers who will kill, recruits are subjected to a sophisticated regimen of value manipulation, moral desensitization, and psychological conditioning – basic training/boot camp – aimed at destroying/overriding the recruits’ moral aversion to killing. They learned of the effectiveness of operant conditioning techniques like reflexive fire training and how, upon completing basic training, most soldiers have embraced the warrior mythology and view themselves as part of a select group of courageous knights with a noble and chivalric tradition willing (programmed) to kill, without question or hesitation, the “demonic agents of evil” and selflessly to sacrifice…

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