The International Journal of Applied Philosophy, Vol. 13 No. 1 Spring 1999 

A Therapeutic Application of Philosophy
The Moral Casualties of War: 
Understanding the Experience


The observation that some human beings become what I term "moral casualties," i.e., suffer debilitating remorse, guilt, shame, disorientation, and alienation from the remainder of the moral community, as a consequence of their participation in war is not new. Historically, many societies have recognized war's deleterious moral effects. Consequently, in response to these moral injuries and to protect the remainder of the society from what was perceived as a "moral taint," these morally sensitive societies required their returning warriors to undergo elaborate atonement and purification rituals, i.e., quarantine, penances, etc.1 These "therapies" gave the warriors a means and an opportunity to cope with the moral enormity of their experiences during war. 

Tragically, the moral injuries of modern warriors have been virtually ignored or disregarded by the conventional therapeutic community operating as it does within the Nietzschean-Freudian- Scientific legacy that ethical concerns are clinically irrelevant and that "autonomous man" ought feel no guilt "nor bite of conscience" for his actions.2 Focusing, instead, upon stress and trauma, most moral symptoms presented by the returning warriors are either not taken seriously or assimilated under the diagnostic umbrella of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Consequently, the veterans receive the signal that an inability to "forget," to put the war behind them, is either weakness or, perhaps worse, illness. Accordingly, veterans are advised to ignore what has occurred, to "de-responsibilitize," i.e., to neutralize their feelings by accepting the "naturalness" of their behavior on the battlefield,3 or to undergo a myriad of conventional therapies (psychoanalytic, behavioral, pharmacological, etc.) intended to enable them to deal with the stress and/or trauma of their experiences. In either approach, moral considerations are irrelevant. 

Unfortunately, in most cases, moral injury neither responds well to medication nor can it be rationalized away. In fact, such methods, according to Robert Lifton, tend to alienate the veteran further. He writes :

"The veterans were trying to say that the only thing worse than being ordered by military authorities to participate in absurd evil is to have that evil rationalized and justified by the guardians of the spirit . . . The men sought out chaplains and shrinks because of a spiritual-psychological crisis growing out of what they perceived to be irreconcilable demands in their situation. They sought either escape from absurd evil, or, at the very least, a measure of inner separation from it. Instead, spiritual-psychological authority was employed to seal off any such inner alternative."4 

Tragically, such "therapeutic" advice as "forget it," "live with it," "act as though it never happened, or "don't worry about it, human beings act that way in survival situations," does little to alleviate the veteran's pain and suffering - - his moral injuries. 

Applying Philosophy 

Foundational to moral injury are the problems of meaning, of value, and of personal, ideological and moral conflict precipitated by the veteran's experiences in war, all of which are particularly well suited to being addressed philosophically. While institutionalized counseling and a myriad of "conventional" therapies have neither recognized nor adequately addressed these important aspects of war injury, philosophical insights and techniques offer a particularly effective alternative in treating moral casualties. Specifically, philosophical intervention may enable a veteran to understand the theoretical nature of war - - its moral, social, and political underpinnings - - the profound indoctrination process he has endured, the nature of moral values, and the existential reality of war, all of which are essential to addressing the seemingly irreconcilable moral conflicts inherent to the battlefield.3 Further, through philosophical dialogue - - dialectic - - the veteran may (1) examine, rationally and coherently, his perceptions of his war experiences and his behavior on the battlefield; (2) make sense of his thoughts and experiences, i.e., sort things out; (3) reexamine his behavior in light of these philosophical insights, i.e., place things in perspective; (4) reevaluate his perceived moral culpability and responsibility for his actions or omissions during his war experience; and (5) come to grips with his personal "legacy of war," i.e., find meaning and achieve acceptance of his past and build a life around it. 

In this essay, I will establish the etiology of moral injury and focus upon philosophical insights and reasoning that may be applied in an individual or group setting to foster an understanding of the war experience as the first treatment step in a long and complex journey to healing.5 Specifically, I will, first, outline the foundations of moral thinking and propose that normally functioning human beings have demonstrated a reluctance to kill on the battlefield - - what may be described as a moral aversion toward killing members of one's own species. Second, I will explain how nations, fearful that this reluctance to kill jeopardizes their ability to further their political goals through violence (wage war), have, following the Second World War, modified warrior training techniques to focus less upon military tactics and weaponry and more upon preparing - - conditioning - - soldiers to kill. Third, I will conclude that the "success" of these training modifications comes at significant cost to the moral well- being of the participant. That is, upon the realization of war's existential reality and the failure of what I term "the warrior mythology" most, if not all, normally functioning human beings suffer varying degrees of remorse, guilt, shame and, upon their return from the battlefield, serious readjustment difficulties, i.e., disorientation and alienation - - what I term "moral identity confusion." 6 

The Moral Foundations 

Whatever their source and content, and however the process occurs, humankind has accepted and internalized a set of values and norms through which we define ourselves as persons, structure our world, and render our relationship to it, and to other human beings, comprehensible. These values and norms provide the parameters of our being - - what I will term our "moral identity." Consequently, we now have the need and the means to weigh concrete situations to determine acceptable (right) and unacceptable (wrong) behavior. Whether we choose to act rightly or wrongly, i.e., according to or violating our moral identity, will affect whether we perceive ourselves as true to our personal convictions and to others who share our values and ideals. Guilt is, simply speaking, the awareness of having transgressed our moral convictions and the anxiety precipitated by a perceived breakdown of our ethical cohesion - - our integrity - - and an alienation from the moral community. Shame is the loss of self-esteem consequent to a failure to live up to personal expectations. 

One critical moral conviction foundational to the moral identity of most rational human beings can best be described as the principle of respect for persons. Robert Holmes describes such a principle - - a principle he terms "moral personalism" - - as 

". . . the conviction that any plausible moral theory must have at its center a concern for the lives and well-being of persons. If we do not value persons, including ourselves, there can be no point to valuing other things - - not property, possessions, national boundaries, the flag or anything else. I shall take this to mean at the least, so far as conduct is concerned, that we should minimize avoidable harm to ourselves and others."7 

Inherent in this Kantian moral principle is a recognition that human beings possess unconditional - - intrinsic - - moral value and, consequently, that they must be treated as ends in themselves and not only as the means to the ends of other human beings or nations. 

A Reluctance to Kill 

In his landmark study of the behavior of U.S. soldiers during World War II, General S.L.A. Marshall reported that only fifteen to twenty percent of men in battle - - even those facing immediate perils from the enemy - - actually fired their weapons.8 Ardant du Picq reported that during the Napoleonic wars, many soldiers "fired almost into the air, without aiming . . . "9 Richard Gabriel points out that although the "primitive and warlike" New Guinean tribesmen are excellent marksmen with their bows during hunting, when they go to war, the warriors remove the feathers from their arrows rendering their weapons relatively ineffective keeping casualties low.10 Similarly, among many Native American tribes, it brought the warrior more respect and esteem merely to touch the enemy - - count coups - - rather than to kill him. Paddy Griffith's study of the Civil War Battlefield notes that a regiment of soldiers, usually numbering between two hundred and one thousand men, most of whom were adequate, if not expert, marksman, although leveling an incredible volume of fire at an exposed enemy at close distances (twenty to thirty yards), killed or injured only one or two men per minute.11 This incredibly low "kill ratio" was not an isolated phenomenon peculiar to the civil war or to a particular level of weapon technology. A study conducted by the British Operational Analysis Establishment in 1986 analyzed more than one hundred nineteenth and twentieth century battles and concluded that the killing potential of the forces engaged in these battles were much greater than the recorded casualty rate achieved. They explained this phenomenon as indicating an "unwillingness (by the participants) to take part (in the combat) as the main factor." 12 

Ample evidence exists, therefore, to support the contention that soldiers on the battlefield have, throughout the history of warfare, avoided killing their counterparts if possible. Marshall concludes from his study that, 

"It is therefore reasonable to believe that the average and healthy individual - - the man who can endure the mental and physical stresses of combat - - still has such an inner and usually unrealized resistance towards killing a fellow man that he will not of his own volition take life if it is possible to turn away from that responsibility."13 

Psychologist and former Army Ranger Dave Grossman is more specific. He maintains that there exists in man a natural - - innate - - reluctance toward killing members of one's own species. He writes, 

". . . there is within most men an intense resistance to killing their fellow man. A resistance so strong that, in many circumstances, soldiers on the battlefield will die before they can overcome it."14 

I will interpret the empirical evidence as indicating, at least, that rational men and women have, for whatever the reason, adopted, internalized, and acted upon a standard of behavior that proscribes killing members of one's own species - - the Kantian principle of respect for persons. If in fact humankind is biologically predisposed to respond, using violence, to certain external stimuli,15 such a predisposition has been effectively offset by the societal mores and ethical values instilled in us (and we have internalized) during childhood.16 

Solving the "Problem": Creating Soldiers Who Will Kill 

Nations, whose aim it is to further their political goals (however lofty and altruistic) through violence, have recognized that this foundational aspect of a human being's moral identity, i.e., the principle of respect for persons, jeopardizes its ability to wage war effectively. Consequently, nations have, following the Second World War, modified warrior preparation to shift its focus from acquainting soldiers with tactics and weaponry to techniques of value manipulation, moral desensitization, and psychological conditioning, aimed at destroying/overriding their moral aversion to killing. 
The goals of this modified basic military training are fivefold. First, late adolescents/young adults – now termed military inductees or recruits – are, through rigid discipline, ridicule, dehumanization, and intense physical, psychological, and emotional manipulation, pressure, and abuse, reduced to a state of extreme helplessness and vulnerability in order to effect what I term "moral identity disassociation and conversion." That is, the destruction of their non martial moral identity and its appropriate beliefs, values, loyalties, and attributes of character17 in favor of the beliefs, values, loyalties, and attributes of character appropriate to their new identity as warriors.18

Second, few men kill or are willing to die for ideology, issues of justice, god or country. What ultimately motivates soldiers to kill and to die in battle is personal honor, self-respect, and their loyalty and accountability to their comrades.19 Consequently, basic military training seeks the destruction of the recruits' concept of themselves as individuals20 and fosters, instead, a group identity and esprit de corps - - a unit cohesion or "brotherhood among warriors."21 This phenomenon, sociologically termed "grouping" or "crowding," allows for the development of a sense of anonymity, a diffusion of responsibility, and group absolution thereby lessening or even eliminating (at least temporarily) a sense of personal responsibility for an action.22 It is, therefore, the recruits' own vision of themselves as part of a select group of warriors with a proud, noble, and chivalrous tradition - - a dynamic I term the "warrior mythology" - - that effectively enables them to ignore the ethical limits they would normally place upon the use of violence. 

Third, while official policy maintains that "blind" obedience is not the goal of warrior preparation (soldiers are morally and legally responsible for differentiating lawful from unlawful orders and are bound only to obey the former), most sincere and pragmatic military leaders would agree that an immediate response to orders on the battlefield is a necessity.23 For all intents and purposes, then, basic military training conditions recruits to respond to orders immediately, automatically, and without question. The old soldier's adage, "Ours is not to reason why, ours is but to do and die, "certainly captures the reality of military discipline. 

Fourth, to be successful in battle, recruits must develop "an immediate killing response." Basic military training, therefore, programs recruits, utilizing a number of clearly Pavlovian stimulus- response exercises, to react automatically and without hesitation to an enemy and kill him.24 

Fifth, despite even the most realistic of training and participation in sophisticated tactical exercises that simulate the sights, sounds, and smells of combat, war is inevitably overwhelming and killing another human being an awesome act normally antithetical to ordinary conceptions of morality. The immediate moral impact of such actions, at least, may be ameliorated somewhat through a technique termed "distancing." Ben Shalit writes 

"The nearer and more similar the victim of aggression is, the more we can identify with him, the more involved we are, and the less aggressive will be our behavior toward him."25 

Consequently, an important goal of basic training is to "create distance" between the warrior and those they must kill by accentuating (and fabricating) the "enemy's" cultural, racial, ethnic, and moral differences. That is, to instill, in the recruits, an abstract perception of the enemy as evil, demonic, subhuman, nonhuman, and socially inferior. J. Glenn Gray, a philosopher and veteran of World War Two writes, 

"The typical image of the enemy is conditioned by the need to hate him without limits . . . Most soldiers are able to kill and be killed more easily in warfare if they possess an image of the enemy sufficiently evil to inspire hatred and repugnance."26 

It is clear, therefore, that since the end of the Second World War, nations have entered a new era of warrior preparation.27 These indoctrination techniques, characterized by profound psychological and value manipulation and conditioning, have proven quite successful indeed, as studies indicate that the percentage of soldiers in battle who fired their weapons at the enemy increased to 55 percent during the Korean War and to 95 percent during Vietnam.28 

Confronting War's Existential Reality and a Crumbling Warrior Mythology 

Upon leaving basic training, most soldiers view themselves as part of a select group of courageous knights with a noble and chivalrous tradition willing (programmed) to kill the demonic agents of evil and selflessly to sacrifice their lives, if need be, for right and justice. 

"I was a highly motivated marine when I reached my firebase in I Corps (Northern sector of Vietnam). I was anxious to get the job done; to do what I was trained to do (kill the enemy) and end the communist threat once and for all . . . so my son would not have to go to war. Crazy as it sounds, during my first firefight, I really expected to hear the Marine Corps hymn playing in the background."29 

With combat, however, as the screams of dying comrades replace the sounds of inspiring anthems, and the chaos, insanity, and horror of the battlefield become apparent, comes the realization that, however just the goal and righteous the initial intent, "War is destruction and nothing else . . . (it is) cruelty and you cannot refine it."30 Consequently, as the warriors' mythology begins to crumble and the lofty and abstract ideals of chivalry and patriotism become less relevant, war becomes a struggle for personal survival and revenge. As a result, serious doubts arise regarding the necessity and justness of the enterprise and the nobility and righteousness of the warriors' involvement in it. Phillip Caputo writes, 

"The company had only done what it was expected to do and what it had been trained to do: it had killed the enemy. Everything we had learned in the Marine Corps told us to feel pride in that. Most of us did, but we could not understand why feelings of pity and guilt alloyed our pride. The answer was simple, though not apparent to us at the time: for all its intensity, our Marine training had not completely erased the years we had spent at home, at school, in church learning that human life was precious and the taking of it wrong. The drill fields and our first two months in Vietnam had dulled, but not deadened, our sensibilities. We retained a capacity for remorse . . . "31 

J. Glenn Gray shows similar concerns regarding his experiences as an Intelligence Officer during the "good war," World War Two. 

"My conscience seems to become little by little sooted . . . . if I can soon get out of this war and back on the soil where the clean earth will wash away these stains! I have also other things on my conscience . . . A man named H., accused of being the local Gestapo agent in one small town was an old man of seventy. His wife and he looked frightened and old and miserable. . . . I was quite harsh to him and remember threatening him with an investigation when I put him under house arrest. . . . Day before yesterday word came that he and his wife had committed suicide by taking poison. Fain and I went back and found them dead in their beds, he lying on his back and reminding me, gruesomely enough, of my father, she twisted over on her side with her face concealed. At the bedside was a card on which he had scrawled . . . "We must perish miserably. God forgive us. We have done no one any harm." The incident affected me strongly and still does. I was directly or indirectly the cause of their death. . . . I hope it will not rest too hard on my conscience, and yet if it does not I shall be disturbed also."32 

Gray's insights are especially valuable as they illustrate that even the experiences of those involved in a "just" war and not directly facing the enemy on the battlefield can precipitate moral injury. 

Warrior doubts are further exacerbated as the "distance" fabricated during the conversion process (basic training) vanishes and the "demonic entity," the enemy, with exposure, reassume their humanity. Whether this occurs after the fact - - after having returned home - - or during the heat of battle, the warrior/veteran confronts the troubling realization that the enemy he is brutally killing (or has killed) is not subhuman or demonic at all but a human being much like himself. Eric Maria Remarque brilliantly portrays a classic example of this epiphany in the epic World War One novel, All Quiet on the Western Front. Paul, the main character, after having impulsively killed an enemy soldier who sought refuge in the bomb crater in which he was hiding, confronts both the humanity of the other and the repugnance of what he had done. 
"Comrade, I did not want to kill you . . . But you were only an idea to me before, an abstraction that lived in my mind and called forth its appropriate response. It was that abstraction I stabbed. But now, for the first time, I see you are a man like me. I thought of your hand-grenades, of your bayonet, of your rifle; now I see your wife and your face and our fellowship. Forgive me, comrade why do they never tell us that you are poor devils like us, that your mothers are just as anxious as ours, and that we have the same fear of death, and the same dying and the same agony - - forgive me comrade; how could you be my enemy."33 

They did not tell Paul or any other warrior of the enemy's humanity because its part of the deception, necessary if human beings are to overcome the reluctance to kill and to fight their nation's wars. However, inevitably the deception is revealed and the mythology destroyed and the warrior is left to confront the anguish and grief that accompany the realization that he has killed "poor devils" just like himself. 

Moral Injuries 

It may be true that because of either a previous psychological abnormality34 or some uncanny ability for rationalization and pretense, some soldiers have "enjoyed" a lust for killing with little subsequent remorse or guilt. Many, however, were (and are) profoundly affected by their participation in war. Such an experience of moral injury is poignantly expressed in this excerpt from a poem, The Warrior's Dance (Tai Chi Chuan), written during the author's experience in Vietnam. 

I fear I am no longer alien to this horror.
I am, I am, I am the horror. 
I have lost my humanity 
and have embraced the insanity of war. 
The monster and I are one. 
So I dance, the dance of warriors. 
Amidst decaying corpses 
and forsaken loved ones, I dance. 
I have feasted upon their flesh 
and with their blood have quenched my thirst. 
The blood of innocents forever stains my soul! 
The transformation is complete, 
and I can never return.
Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.35 

I think this sad expression of a warrior's perception of self is insightful and common to many who shared his experience. It suggests a recognition of the horrors associated with war, a stoic dismay at having embraced the mythological warrior's identity, an awareness of having transgressed a more deeply seated sense of self (his non martial moral identity), his perceived culpability for his actions, and his acceptance of the consequent sanctions for his "crimes," i.e., profound remorse, guilt, and shame. 

Also indicated is the abandonment, isolation, and alienation many warriors suffer following their return to a society in which killing is murder and cruelty, brutality, and violence - - the behavioral characteristics and values appropriate to the martial identity - - are unacceptable. Gerald Linderman describes the experiences of returning civil war soldiers. 

"Almost all experienced disorientation in various degrees. Some felt that they had returned from another world or another plane of existence. The rules governing their daily lives changed so abruptly as to require almost overnight adjustments. Killing once again became homicide . . ."36 

This warrior disorientation, what I term "moral identity confusion," while experienced, to some degree, by veterans returning from all wars, was exacerbated by the modern warriors' increased "willingness to kill." It is no wonder, then, that returning warriors are profoundly disoriented, perceiving themselves adrift between two worlds, the world they recognized as their place of origin - - though, now, quite foreign and inhabited by alien though recognizable individuals they had once loved - - and the world of killing and destruction - - of which they now feel a part. 

"Upon my return to the world (the United States), I felt like a stranger in my own home. Things were different . . . or maybe I was different. As much as I hated the war, at least there I felt I belonged . . . I knew what was expected of me and after some thirteen months in country (in Vietnam), I was able to fulfill those expectations . . . Here I am a misfit, an aberration, isolated and alone."37 

Disconnected from their ethical foundations - - their frame of reference with which to structure their world - - the veterans' lives no longer had meaning, their world became incoherent, and their relationship to it and to other human beings, incomprehensible. 

Suggestions for Healing 

In this essay, I hoped to demonstrate the suitability of philosophical intervention to addressing the moral injuries of war. Specifically, I have employed philosophical insights and techniques to develop a conceptual map of the war experience with which the Philosophical Practitioner may foster veteran discussion and understanding of (1) the process by which nations create effective warriors - - soldiers who will kill; (2) the existential reality of the battlefield and the inevitable breakdown of the warrior mythology; and (3) the subsequent perception and impact of the irreconcilable demands - - moral conflicts - - of the combat situation. 

While examination and understanding are important first steps, the road to recovery is long, difficult, and complex. In future articles, I will detail other aspects the therapeutic application of philosophy to the war experience. Further suggestions for healing to be developed in those discussions will include the following. As the late adolescents/young adults were prepared for war through a sophisticated indoctrination process, so also the returning warriors must be de-programmed, i.e., prepared to reintegrate into a non martial environment. Consequently, veterans require re-education to replace warrior values and behaviors with those appropriate to the society into which they are to reintegrate. This process is intended to shore up their moral identities and verify that this period of horror - - their time on the battlefield - - was a moral aberration and their doubts and questions regarding war and the warrior mythology well- founded. 

Secondly, such realization may require significant moral self- evaluation, i.e., a calm and reasonable moral assessment of their behavior during the war. During this period of profound introspection, veterans are guided to realize the moral uniqueness of the battlefield and to evaluate their actions against the moral guidelines established for such an abnormal environment, i.e., what has been termed "Just War Theory." Further, they must be prepared to grasp, intellectually, the impact such experiences have upon one's perception of correct behavior - - war does present a survival situation in which self-preservation becomes the primary motivation. 

Thirdly, veterans should be educated to realistically assess their personal responsibility for their actions during the war. That is, considering the conditions under which they existed, their behavior in combat may be understandable and, perhaps, even excusable (though not justifiable), and their culpability mitigated by the fact that those who determined policy, declared the war, and issued the orders must share some responsibility. 

Finally, perhaps after all is said and done, veterans may determine that guilt and shame is appropriate given their actions on the battlefield. In such situations, they may require forgiveness and/or absolution for their moral transgressions, whether through religious ritual (confession, sweat lodges, etc.) or through acts of atonement (community service, etc.). If veterans are to heal, their guilt must not remain "static."38 While the acts of the past can never be undone, nor the dead be made to live again, some sort of "giving back" may serve as penance, if you will, allowing the veteran, if not to assuage his guilt, at least to have some sort of life around it.39 Hopefully, such "acts of atonement" will restore the veteran's sense of integrity - - his moral cohesion - - thereby raising his self-esteem. Further, reestablishing one's moral identity will restore intelligibility to the veteran's world, his relationship to it, and to other human beings thereby ending his alienation and isolation from the remainder of the moral community. 


1. For an interesting and detailed discussion of this subject see Verkamp, Bernard J., The Moral Treatment of Returning Warriors in Early Medieval and Modern Times, (Scranton: University of Scranton Press, 1993). 

2. Kaufman, Walter, Without Guilt and Justice, (New York: Dell, 1973), pp. 114, 117, 125, 132-133. 

3. Deresponsibilization attempts a "cure" by convincing the patient of the "naturalness" of his behavior under the conditions of war. Stephen Howard explains. 

"Under the overwhelming threat of annihilation, our priorities regress to the survival state; all higher priorities, all ethical and moral considerations lose relevance, and only the survival of the individual and the immediate group retain significance. Once the veteran realizes our primitive natures, he can "at last place into context some of his actions which he cannot comprehend or accept in any other way." Consequently, Howard concludes, the veteran will come to accept that, as his actions were quite natural, his guilt, shame, etc., is irrational and totally unwarranted. 

4. Lifton, Robert J., Home from the War: Vietnam Veterans, Neither Victims nor Executioners, (New York: Basic Books, 1973), pps. 166- 167. 

5. This is the first of a series of articles documenting the philosophical application to treating war injuries. 

6. Like psychiatric casualties, the degree of moral injury may vary according to the level of exposure to combat. It would not, however, be unusual for soldiers with little or no direct combat experience to feel a sense of moral responsibility and culpability for the enterprise and, therefore, to become moral casualties, i.e., those who (1) had embraced the warrior's mythology; (2) were prepared and motivated to fight and kill; and (3) were involved in combat support functions. 

7. Holmes, Robert, On War and Morality, (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1989), p. 24. 

8. Marshall, S .L. A., Men Against Fire, (Gloucester, Mass.: Peter Smith Publishing, 1978). 

9. Ardant du Picq, Battle Studies, (Harrisburg, Pa.: Telegraph Press, 1946). 

10. Gabriel, Richard A., No More Heroes: Madness and Psychiatry in War, (New York: Hill and Wang, 1987). 

11. Griffith, Paddy, Battle Tactics of the Civil War, (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1989). 

12. Study quoted in Dave Grossman, On Killing, New York: Little, Brown, and Co. 1995), p. 16. 

13. Marshall, S.L.A., Men Against Fire, p. 

14. Dave Grossman, On Killing, p. 4. 

15. For an informative and convincing argument against the Freudian/Lorenzian notion of man's instinctual aggression, see Leonard Berkowitz, "Biological Roots: Are Humans Inherently Violent?" in Psychological Dimensions of War, Betty Glad, ed., (Newbury Park, Calif: Sage Publications, 1990), pp.24-40. 

16. I realize that my hesitation to make a universal claim regarding the natural condition of humankind, renders my conclusions culturally relative. However, as most modern wars are fought by the armies of "civilized" nations that profess a respect for persons and, consequently, an aversion to gratuitous killing, I am prepared to accept this limitation. 

17. Kindness, mercy, compassion, consideration, benevolence, forgiveness, charity, sympathy, etc. 

18. Loyalty to comrades, courage, patriotism, obedience, brutality, cruelty, hatred, viciousness, ferocity, inhumanity, ruthlessness, etc. 

19. Dyer, Gwynne, War (New York: Crown Publishers, 1985), pp. 102-109. 

20. .Hence recruits are (1) forced to surrender everything associated with their individuality, their clothing, hair, etc., (2) rewarded and punished not on the basis of individual performances but on the basis of group performance, and (3) are drilled incessantly despite the fact that mass formations and movements are no longer relevant to modern warfare. 

21. I noted elsewhere 

"There are no closer bonds between men than those that occur on the battlefield. He watches my back and I watch his. Our lives are dependent upon each other's abilities in combat. Its real respect, even love . . . sometimes the responsibility you feel to your comrade is overwhelming. " Bica, C., "War Journals," Department of Humanities and Sciences, School of Visual Arts, New York, 1985, p. 48. 

22. For an interesting study of this phenomena, see Zimbardo, P.G., "The Human Choice: Individuation, Reason and Order Versus De- Individuation," in Nebraska Symposium on Motivation, W. Arnold and D. Levine eds., (Lincoln Press, 1969). 

23. Shalit writes, 

". . . the military system is based on obedience, and one cannot operate in the stressful conditions of war while carrying out discussions and symposia in a democratic way. " B. Shalit, The Psychology of conflict and Combat, p. 133. 

24. An especially effective technique for developing an immediate killing response has been termed the "quick kill drill." During this training exercise, recruits are dressed in full combat gear and armed with weapons and live ammunition. Standing in a foxhole, they survey the "enemy held" terrain before them. Periodically, and at various ranges, one or two man-shaped silhouettes of "enemy soldiers" threateningly pop up before them. The recruits must immediately respond by "engaging" the target - - aiming and shooting, aiming and shooting. If the silhouette is struck, it drops backward - - just as a living human being would. Recruits who successfully "kill" the enemy - - hit the silhouettes - - are rewarded with praise and medals. Those that are unsuccessful suffer the wrath of the drill instructor, the guilt and shame of letting down their peers, and the possibility of failing to graduate from basic training. Grossman describes this "exercise" in behavioral terms. He writes, 

". . . what is being taught in this environment is the ability to shoot reflexively and instantly and a precise mimicry of the act of killing on the modern battlefield. In behavioral terms, the man shape popping up in the soldier's field of fire is the "conditioned stimulus," the immediately engaging of the target is the "target behavior.""Positive reinforcement" is given in the form of immediate feedback when the target drops if it is hit. In a form of "token economy" these hits are then exchanged for marksmanship badges that usually have some form of privilege or reward (praise, public recognition, three- day passes, and so on) associated with them." 

Dave Grossman, On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society, p. 254. For an interesting discussion of this training exercise from the military perspective, see Olmstead, J.A., The Effects of "Quick Kill" upon Trainee Confidence and Attitudes. Human Resources Research Office Technical Report 68, 1968, USA. 

25. B. Shalit, The Psychology of Conflict and Combat, P. 48. 

26. J. Glenn Gray, The Warriors, Reflections on Men in Battle, (New York: Harper and Row, 1959), pp. 132-133. 

27. Aspects of many of these "training" techniques, demonization of the enemy, for example, were utilized previous to the end of the Second World War. However, psychologically manipulative techniques became far more sophisticated, intensive, and the focus of warrior preparation following WWII. 

28. See Peter Watson, War on the Mind, (London: Hutchinson Press, 1978), pp. 45-65. 

29. Bica, C., "War Journals," p.21. 

30. General William Tecumseh Sherman. Quoted in Linderman, Gerald F., Embattled Courage: The Experience of Combat in the American Civil War, (New York: The Free Press, 1987), p. 211. 

31. Phillip Caputo, A Rumor of War, (New York: Ballantine, 1977), p. 117. 

32. J. Glenn Gray, The Warriors: Reflections on Men in Battle, pp. 175-6. 

33. Erich Maria Remarque, All Quiet on the Western Front, (New York: Fawcett Crest, 1975) p. 223. 

34. Swank and Marchand estimate that two percent of those who experience war are what they term "aggressive psychopaths,"i.e., they are exhilarated by killing and feel no guilt or shame for their actions. Swank, R.L., and W.E. Marchand. "Combat Neuroses: Development of Combat Exhaustion," in Archives of Neurology and Psychology 55, pp. 236-47. 

35. Bica, C., "War Journals," p. 45.  

36. Linderman, Gerald F., Embattled Courage: The Experience of Combat in the American Civil War, p. 267. 

37. Bica, C., "War Journals," p. 61. 

38. For a discussion of this concept of guilt see Lifton, J., Home From the War, pp. 98-133. 

39. Ibid, p. 103. 

Copyright © Camillo Mac Bica • All Rights Reserved

Books by Dr. Bica include  Worthy of Gratitude: Why Veterans May Not Want to be Thanked for Their “Service” in War, Gnosis Press: New York, 2016; Beyond PTSD: The Moral Casualties of War, Gnosis Press: New York, 2019; and There Are No Flowers in a War Zone: The Memories, Flashbacks, and Nightmares of a Vietnam War Survivor, Gnosis Press: New York, 2019.

Peace Vet
The Writings of Camillo Mac Bica, Ph.D.
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