Torture in the Service of the Nation

Photo by Tomas | CC BY 2.0

Reading the New York Times Magazine article about Marine Corps’ basic training of recruits at Parris Island, South Carolina, I was reminded of the comments of a fellow member of a veterans organization to which I belonged for a brief time several years ago. I cannot remember the exact words of the former Marine, but his assessment was stark in that he likened the result of the grueling training as one which produces members who will kill without question and reflexively.  The same theme is prevalent throughout the NYT article. The veteran with whom I spoke described the training as a form of aberrant behavior, which, as the NYT article clearly states, has no parallel in civilian life. Questions of the relevancy of brutal training techniques are questioned by some Marines in the piece as something that belonged to the past rather than to the needs of the present.

None of this is all that surprising because the objective of military training and action is to eliminate the enemy, or people who have been deemed the enemy by the government. Does this training produce occasional so-called bad apples, or do the examples of torture and brutality discussed here reflect an acceptance of the suspension of normal human interaction? As wars have become more technologically sophisticated, the danger to many who fight those wars has become somewhat less of a reality. A good example is drone warfare, where the drone operator can carry out missions…

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