Originally posted October 4, 2005
Recently I had an interesting exchange with another blogger, named avedis, on Eric Martin’s tia blog, http://tianews.blogspot.com/. It started with our discovery of a web site named http://www.nowthatsfuckedup.com/, which originally was mostly amateur porn, pictures of girl friends and so on. Due to the large number of servicemen in Iraq that visited it, soon there were pictures of dead Iraqi’s, often with laughing GI’s joking about the demise of the “insurgent”. Pretty sickening. So avedis and I had the following conversation, avedis going first.
It’s been observed by many combat veterans that the American 18 year old, when trained, armed and placed in combat, is as barbaric and as brutally savage as any 18 year old that rode with Ghengis Khan’s hordes.
The trading of pictures is just another form of trophies of war behavior. Again, standard stuff down through the eons.
Liberals like to deny this reality by citing works like one discussed here a while back wherein the author (himself not a combat vet) attempts to prove that most troops won’t engage the enemy with aimed fire and that killing is traumatic to most, etc, etc.
Conservatives don’t face up by 1) denying that it ever happened 2) relying on their security in knowing that we are the good guys so what ever….
Both camps are wrong. War is brutal and it brings out the worst in all who participate (though it can also bring out the best in those who participate as well, regardless of side).
And those participate generally adapt to the environment by becoming modern day savages.
Good on them. Their human.
A curse on the flag wavers and politicians who want to sell us the idea that we are different and that war is noble.
I’ll agree that war is hell, and humans (especially young males) can be brutal. In the proper circumstances, almost all of us could become so. I’m not concerned by the gore, nor even at the display of trophies. Like you said, avedis, normal combat stuff.
My concern is that this graphic violence is so well accepted, encouraged, even celebrated by what appears to be a larger and larger part of our military and even civilian populations. Tens of thousands look at this site every day, and has anyone in the government or the military said anything against it? A small point, but it sure looks to me like the Geneva Conventions are being violated. As Billmon wrote, at what point does the “brutality mentality” needed to win in Iraq spill over to here at home? It’s the occupier/occupied variation of an old theme, Lincoln expressed it, that slavery enslaves not just the slaves, but the slaveholders as well.
This is one more straw to add to our occupier’s burden. At what point does the load become just too much? Transport yourself back to 2002 and the runup to the invasion. Would you have said at that time that all the “compromises” to our self-image that we’ve since seen would have been acceptable, or even possible? Or is the slowness of the descent hiding just how far down we’ve gone?
I share your concerns. We are losing even the veneer of civility.
But then I don’t even know what that means.
I came from a sub-culture where people sit around the country club in the evening, having a few drinks, and discussing – with an odd glee and pride – how they were going to screw someone out of their money.
I mean, is that civilized? But that’s how business has been done in America – at the higher levels – since day one.
Since the 1960’s our culture has been becoming more crass. This is due, I suppose, in large part to the proliferation of mass media as a huge business enterprise and the need to appeal to the masses, who – and pardon the snob in me – are crass.
Shakespear said that, “Men love not to hear of the sins they love to commit.”
But the masses find such sins entertaining and they lack the formal upbringing that teaches that such sins should be kept hushed.
So I think all of that is an influence in creating the conditions and circumstances that concern us.
Also, I see the US as undergoing a transformation of conscience that resembles that of Germany circa 1935.
We are allowing the dark forces of the psyche to take the lead. I don’t know why. I’m not sure anyone does, but the rightwing has recognized this shift and is riding it.
This thing has a momentum and a life of its own. I’m afraid it will have to live out its natural life span before the pendulum swings the other way; which it will, eventually.
I only pray that the destruction wrought by this zeitgeist will be reparable.