Tomgram: Chris Hedges: War and Occupation, American-style

Dandelion Salad

by Tom Engelhardt
June 3, 2008

American soldiers have long scrawled messages to the enemy on the bombs they were about to deliver. In the The Making of the Atomic Bomb, Richard Rhodes reminds us, for instance, that “Little Boy,” the bomb that would inaugurate a new age over Hiroshima, “was inscribed with autographs and messages, some of them obscene. ‘Greetings to the Emperor from the men of the Indianapolis,’ one challenged.” (The Indianapolis, a cruiser which had transported parts of Little Boy to the island of Tinian for assembly, had been torpedoed by a Japanese submarine only a week earlier and most of its crew had died at sea under gruesome circumstances.)

Collateral Damage

What It Really Means When America Goes to War

By Chris Hedges

Troops, when they battle insurgent forces, as in Iraq, or Gaza or Vietnam, are placed in “atrocity producing situations.” Being surrounded by a hostile population makes simple acts, such as going to a store to buy a can of Coke, dangerous. The fear and stress push troops to view everyone around them as the enemy. The hostility is compounded when the enemy, as in Iraq, is elusive, shadowy and hard to find. The rage soldiers feel after a roadside bomb explodes, killing or maiming their comrades, is one that is easily directed, over time, to innocent civilians who are seen to support the insurgents.

Civilians and combatants, in the eyes of the beleaguered troops, merge into one entity. These civilians, who rarely interact with soldiers or Marines, are to most of the occupation troops in Iraq nameless, faceless, and easily turned into abstractions of hate. They are dismissed as less than human. It is a short psychological leap, but a massive moral leap. It is a leap from killing — the shooting of someone who has the capacity to do you harm — to murder — the deadly assault against someone who cannot harm you.


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  1. Pingback: The Corporate State and the Subversion of Democracy By Chris Hedges « Dandelion Salad

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