Re: Warfare as Submission

I welcome Richard Koenigsberg's point that " The idea that the soldier acts
from a position of "domination" is one of the fundamental delusions
surrounding the institution of warfare." This is a valuable
corrective. Nevertheless, it must be understood in relation to the
systematic way in which this delusion is inculcated into
recruits. Consider the following account, which is interesting when read
side-by-side with Koenigsberg's.

ZNet | Iraq
Why I oppose the US War On Terror: An Ex Marine Speaks out
by Chris White; October 31, 2002

The more I juxtapose logical world opinion with the Bush administration?s
actions in the war on terror, I realize one overwhelming theme: hypocrisy.
No one in any of the branches of government runs a physical risk to
themselves by entering a war with Iraq, and we can bet that none of their
family members are at risk, either. That is, until the next "terrorist"
attack. I put "terrorist" in quotes because its definition is subjective,
and I myself used to be in the Marine Corps, part of the most powerful
"terrorist" organization on the planet: the U.S. government. Of course, we
never call our operations "terrorism" because every operation is considered
legitimate to us. When found guilty by the World Court for violence in
Nicaragua, we ignore the decision. Too bad the nations we hurt can?t just
ignore what we do to them. When the planet condemns us for killing between
2,500-4,000 people in Panama, we?re too busy planning the next invasion of
a country that can?t fight back.

I oppose this war as a U.S. citizen, a veteran, and a doctoral student in
history. While my military experience is what first made me skeptical about
our government?s motives in the developing world, it wasn?t until I went to
college and began reading hundreds of books and thousands of articles that
I was able to truly grasp the profundity of our leadership?s contempt for
the freedoms they claim to protect. As a rule, we have worked hard to
prevent the rise of democracy in the developing world, all the while
claiming legitimacy as "the world?s police force" because of our so-called
"democratic" values. The hypocrisy is astounding. When one investigates our
complicity in death squads, torture, massacres, rape, and mass destruction,
one realizes that freedom often threatens the current power structure in
this country.

I used to consider those incidents as anomalistic in comparison to the
"protection" we offered the planet at seemingly no charge. But then I
joined the Marines, and I realized why I had believed in the government:
they were experts in manipulation. Barely out of high school, the Corps
broke us down and built us up in order to shape us into machines, willing
to defend the ideals of the power elites in Washington and corporate
America. Just look at the companies, which are funding political campaigns,
and benefiting from war: weapons producers, technologies, food, clothing,
munitions, oil, pharmaceuticals, etc? U.S. interventions since WWII have
not been done in the name of the world?s people (although that is always
the claim), but for the preservation of concentrated power. The fact that
they have been carried out against the tenets of international law (i.e.
the rights of non-intervention and self-determination), in itself deflates
their validity. If the U.S. government were held to the FBI?s official
definition of terrorism ("the unlawful use of force or violence against
persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian
population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social
objectives"), their list of victims since WWII alone would include:

Cuba, Haiti, Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras,
Guatemala, Panama, Mexico, Chile, Granada, Colombia, Bolivia, Venezuela,
Uruguay, Paraguay, Ecuador, Zaire, Namibia, Lebanon, Egypt, Greece, Cyprus,
Bangladesh, Iran, South Africa, the Philippines, Korea, Vietnam, Laos,
Iraq, Cambodia, Libya, Israel, Palestine, China, Afghanistan, Sudan,
Indonesia, East Timor, Turkey, Angola, Mozambique, and Somalia.

In boot camp, deceit and manipulation accompany the necessity to motivate
troops to murder on command. You can?t take civilians from the street, give
them machine guns, and expect them to kill without question in a democratic
society; therefore people must be indoctrinated to do so. This fact alone
should sound off alarms in our collective American brain. If the cause of
war is justified, then why do we have to be put through boot camp? If you
answer that we have to be trained in killing skills, well, then why is most
of boot camp not focused on combat training? Why are privates shown videos
of U.S. military massacres while playing Metallica in the background, thus
causing us to scream with the joy of the killer instinct as brown bodies
are obliterated? Why do privates answer every command with an enthusiastic,
"kill!!" instead of, "yes, sir!!" like it is in the movies?

Military indoctrination could be said to prepare men to use disrespect for
all living things as a means of destroying the enemy?s morale. Boot camp
itself is mostly a series of chaos-surrounded tests of will and strength,
meant to eliminate a human being?s ability to feel weakness, in order for
military leaders to harness obedience to their orders when it?s time to
kill. The topics covered in motivational songs are tools for desensitizing
men who would be predisposed to respect women, so as to create an animal
within him that can be activated when necessary to carry out any barbaric
assignment. An example of these lyrics follows: "Throw some candy in the
school yard, watch the children gather round. Load a belt in your M-60, mow
them little bastards down!!" and "We?re gonna rape, kill, pillage and burn,
gonna rape, kill, pillage and burn!!" Could the bar be set any higher on
the level of atrocities that the military wants its men to be capable of? I
say "men" because these kinds of songs are generally not repeated in the
presence of women. These chants are meant to motivate the troops; they
enjoy it, salivate from it, and get off on it. If one repeats these
hundreds of times, one eventually begins to accept them as paradigmatically

The violation of women in war is a weapon, just as are conventional arms.
The movie "Casualties of War" illustrates this clearly when actor Sean Penn
holds up his rifle and says, "The army calls this a weapon, but it ain?t,"
then, grabbing his crotch with the other he says, "This is a weapon." The
movie, based on a true story, involves a small U.S. combat unit that
kidnapped, raped, and murdered a Vietnamese woman during the war. I assert
that times have not changed with respect to the mentality of sexual assault
in the military. Although soldiers are given sensitivity classes that tell
the men to respect civilians and especially women, another message pervades
everything else one learns and trains for, which effectively obliterates
all notions of respect during war. This is generally speaking, of course,
but sensitivity inherently conflicts with the identity of a killer, which
is what infantrymen are conditioned to be. They are trained to thrive on
the blood of humans, and this is used to create a lustful sensation when
conditioning for combat.

Wartime rape may be used by men who have convinced themselves that they
must be able to do anything to a person in order to be comfortable with
participating in the horrific acts that surround them. The extreme nature
of war itself seems to breed the mentality that makes people surpass the
limits of desired reality. War makes criminals of ordinary men, who can not
easily switch off the killer within them when off the battlefield, as the
training manuals espouse. This certainly does not excuse the atrocities
they commit.

The environment of the military is pervaded by sex. When out in the Fleet
Marine Force, sadistic initiation rituals are surrounded by sex and
physical pain, often together. Although I never experienced this myself,
initiation rituals often force men to fondle other men?s genitals, and
devices such as broomsticks are used for rectal insertion. This often
happens in the presence of, and with the participation of the higher ranks.
The Tail hook scandal of 1991 exposed a ritual dating at least back to
1986, where women naval officers were made to walk a gauntlet of male
officers that grabbed their buttocks and breasts. It certainly does not end
there. In the case of Okinawa, three men planned every detail of the
kidnapping, beating, and rape of a twelve year old girl in advance.

The military?s desensitization against a person?s natural inhibitions to
hurt people is a way of toughening them up, or making them "hard core."
Thus, it makes sense that because this is encouraged by superiors, then it
should translate into destructive behavior in combat, and to a lesser
extent, in peacetime. This is definitely not to say that the soldier is
innocent; far from it. But if we subscribe to the concept that one is
shaped largely by their environment, then we can largely blame the
institutions which have created this particular proclivity within the men
who commit these horrible crimes against women, while supposedly serving to
defend the freedom of the world.

The demonization of the enemy is crucial to wartime planners, and the above
examples of indoctrination are relevant to the present. Before carrying out
a security exercise in Qatar, my unit went through "Muslim indoctrination"
classes. The level of racism was unbelievable. Muslims were referred to as
"Ahmed," "towlheads," "ragheads," and "terrorists." We were told that most
Muslim males were homosexual, and that their hygiene was so primitive that
we shouldn?t even shake their hands. The object was demonization through
feminization and dehumanization, so as to make it easier for us to pull the
trigger when ordered to. But Qatar is our ally, so imagine the language
being used today in these indoctrination courses about Iraq and
Afghanistan. The question is, how can we claim to be intervening out of a
desire to protect people that we train troops to feel contempt for?

The Iraqi population has suffered countless U.S. supported atrocities over
the past eleven years. Not only were between 100 and 200 thousand people
killed in 1991, but the bombing has continued ever since then, and
sanctions have led to the deaths of possibly 1 million people, in a nation
of 17 million. Former UNSCOM execs assert that they destroyed 95-98 percent
of Saddam?s weapons by 1998, and that a nuclear weapons capability is
extremely unlikely due to their devastated economy. According to this
morning?s New York Times, the U.S. reasons that Saddam?s gassing of his own
people and his hatred of the U.S. are what warrant our harder stance toward
Iraq in comparison to North Korea. While we pursue diplomacy with North
Korea (who has admitted to having nukes), we prefer to invade Iraq, who we
claim is only looking for nukes. Have we forgotten the 1994 Congressional
report revealing that we supplied Saddam with biological and chemical
weapons during the 1980s? Although U.S. casualties will be lower than that
of Iraq, let?s not forget the danger we are placing squarely on the
shoulders of U.S. troops, who have been indoctrinated as I was. Funny how
the people who are least likely to go to war are the ones working the
hardest to convince others to fight it for them.

Chris White is an ex-Marine infantryman and current doctoral student in
history at the University of Kansas, Lawrence. He served from 1994-98, in
places such as Diego Garcia, Camp Pendleton, CA, Okinawa, Japan, and Doha,

t 07:09 PM 11/3/2002 -0500, you wrote:
> J. Piven writes of the soldier's violence in terms of the "pleasure
> in domination (often couched in explicitly sexual terms) as documented by
> Joanna Bourke (1999)."
> The idea that the soldier acts from a position of "domination" is
> one of the fundamental delusions surrounding the institution of warfare.
> Bourke's research focuses upon the First World War. It is unlikely
> that one out of a thousand soldiers in that war ever encountered a
> soldier of the opposing side. Most of the fighting was done out of
> trenches. The majority of deaths occurred as a result of artillery shells
> projected from afar that dropped on or near the soldier and tore him
> apart. Other deaths occurred when soldiers got out of trenches and ran
> into machine gun fire.
> The basic posture of the soldier in the First World War was sitting
> in a trench-- cold, starving, and frequently accosted by vermin. In her
> earlier book, DISMEMBERING THE MALE (1996), Bourke observes that the most
> important point to be made about the male body during the Great War is
> that it was "intended to be mutilated."
> The statistics of World War I read like a science fiction fantasy.
> The "final tally" counts 65 million forces mobilized, of which more than
> 8 million were killed and died, over 21 million wounded and 3 million
> taken prisoners and missing--for total casualties of 37 million, 58% of
> the forces mobilized.
> Bourke gives a flavor of what occurred to millions of men--year
> after year--for four years:
>"This war promised men the kind of death that removed their stomachs and
>left them a mangled heap of human flesh. Scottish Highland kilts were
>blown up and putrefying buttocks exposed. Men were roasted alive. Death
>descended from the skies and disappeared without being sighted by those
>who survived. It was like black magic: bodies continued walking after
>decapitation; shells burst and bodies simply vanished. Men's bodies
>'shattered': their jaws dropped and out poured 'so much blood.' Airplane
>propellers sliced men into pieces. Bodies lay forever unburied, eaten by
>the dogs, birds and rats."
> So much for the idea that the posture of the soldier is one of
> domination. The essence of soldiering revolves around the realization
> that one's body might be mutilated and/or destroyed by an artillery shell
> and/or bullet. The soldier exists in a state of paranoid anxiety.
> Occasionally, he is required to "advance" (not because he feels
> "aggressive," but because he is ordered to do so). However, the basic
> posture of the fighting man (in World War I and many other Twentieth
> Century wars) consists of LYING IN A TRENCH OR FOXHOLE, trying to avoid
> getting blown apart.
> The Germans attacked Verdun in 1917 hoping France would be "bled
> dry" of its fighting men. The French action to recapture Fort Douaumont
> employed 711 guns on a front of just over 3 miles. A notice in the fort
> today informs us that 1,000 shells were used for every square meter of
> the battlefield.
> Imagine the pathetic plight of those who were on the battlefield,
> confined within a narrow space which glowed like an oven for miles
> because of the constant artillery bombing. During the battles, most
> soldiers barely knew what was going on, spending most of their time
> hiding from the incessant shelling and bombardment of rifles and
> machine-gun fire rather than actually fighting.
> A French Lieutenant notes that before attacking his men were either
> "drunk, howling out patriotic airs, or weeping with emotion or despair."
> One had the temerity to remark within earshot of the company commander:
> "Baa, baa, I am the sheep on the way to the slaughterhouse."
> The stance of the soldier in World War I may best be characterized
> as one of abject passivity. Soldiers were expected to obey their officers
> and do their duty without shirking--to offer no resistance when they were
> ordered to put their bodies onto the battlefield to face mutilation and
> death. What the "masculinity" of these soldiers amounted to was a
> willingness to offer oneself to one's nation as a sacrificial victim.
> Robert Kee called the trenches the "concentration camps of the
> First World War." Our foremost historian of war, John Keegan, observes
> that indeed there "IS something Treblinka-like about all accounts of the
> battle of the Somme (July 1, 1916)." Twenty-five thousand British
> soldiers were killed on the first day of the Battle of the Somme (about
> the same number as a good day at Auschwitz).
> Keegan tells us about the "long lines of young men, shoddily
> uniformed, heavily burdened, numbered about their necks, plodding forward
> across a featureless landscape to their own extermination inside the
> barbed wire." The soldiers went like sheep to the slaughter.
> Clayton Robarchek suggests that violence in warfare occurs when it
> is "perceived and selected from a field of possible alternatives as a
> viable means of achieving goals and objectives." How determined and
> persistent is the effort to transform an irrational, monumentally
> destructive institution into something that appears to be consciously
> chosen or adaptive.
> Beneath the institution of warfare lies the thrill obtained by the
> spectator--the fantasy of national glory that occurs "over here" even as
> soldiers are being killed and wounded "over there." Soldiers are promised
> that they will be "made into men."
> We exploit masculine fantasies of honor, virility and "aggression"
> VICTIM. Of course, once he arrives on the field of battle, the soldier
> knows he has been duped. No amount of aggression or masculinity or
> virility can compete with cold steal.
>With regards,
>Richard Koenigsberg
>Richard Koenigsberg, Ph. D.
>Director, Library of Social Science

Partial thread listing: