Celebrating Slaughter: War and Collective Amnesia by Chris Hedges

by Chris Hedges
Featured Writer
Dandelion Salad
Oct. 5, 2009

War memorials and museums are temples to the god of war. The hushed voices, the well-tended grass, the flapping of the flags allow us to ignore how and why our young died. They hide the futility and waste of war. They sanitize the savage instruments of death that turn young soldiers and Marines into killers, and small villages in Vietnam or Afghanistan or Iraq into hellish bonfires. There are no images in these memorials of men or women with their guts hanging out of their bellies, screaming pathetically for their mothers. We do not see mangled corpses being shoved in body bags. There are no sights of children burned beyond recognition or moaning in horrible pain. There are no blind and deformed wrecks of human beings limping through life. War, by the time it is collectively remembered, is glorified and heavily censored.

I blame our war memorials and museums, our popular war films and books, for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as much as George W. Bush. They provide the mental images and historical references to justify new conflicts. We equate Saddam Hussein with Adolf Hitler. We see al-Qaida as a representation of Nazi evil. We view ourselves as eternal liberators. These plastic representations of war reconfigure the past in light of the present. War memorials and romantic depictions of war are the social and moral props used to create the psychological conditions to wage new wars.


via Truthdig

Copyright © 2009 Truthdig

Chris Hedges is the author of the new book “Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle.”


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4 thoughts on “Celebrating Slaughter: War and Collective Amnesia by Chris Hedges

  1. Pingback: The Pictures of War You Aren’t Supposed to See by Chris Hedges « Dandelion Salad

  2. To glamorize and glorify war, while ignoring its horrors, is nothing short of psychotic. It’s an old, highly effective tool in the trade of war: War beneficiaries, in order to manipulate people’s minds and feelings, must glorify war, for there’s no more efficacious and guaranteed way to get the public to accept the fact that the government is going to send their sons and daughters to die.

    People who pay the price of war, with their lives, are the last people that have any thing to do with it, but nonetheless, they are corralled into killing, killing the enemy, and anyone else that may be in his vicinity regardless of the nature or circumstances that necessitated that killing and dying. No one asks them, the accidental killers, if they’d like to kill or die, as that may be the case, for an often-fabricated cause, fabricated by people with their own selfish and usually psychotic agendas, in a way that would make it seem like you have a stake in this war.

    They dress and address the killers and the fallen as heroes who did the otherwise unthinkable for a convenient cause such as God, democracy, country, security, the future of their children, dignity and what have you. So many millions, throughout history, old and modern, have killed and were killed in the name of false causes, while the true culprits of those wars toasted proudly the glories of those wars.

    Will mankind ever be able to grow out of this most vicious cycle of death, lies and false causes? God only knows!

  3. The problem I see with this perspective is that it in an way absolves the common soldier for his responsibility, absolves the public from its responsibility for not being active participants in makig sure that wars don’t take place.

    Memorials glorify wars with all their horrors and stupidities; however, they are fought by the common soldier and are allowed to happen by te public. It’s far to facile to shift blame to the media and politicians, te war profiters. The common man, the public, needs to take resposibility for themselves, not let the government wipe their ass.

  4. That’s an interesting perspective. I’m going to have to give that some thought …

    Gen. Robert E. Lee, rather famously, once remarked (paraphrased, I don’t recall the exact wording) that it’s good that war is so horrible, or else we might become too fond of it.

    There is a tremendous tendency to hide the horror and just celebrate it … especially in the sanitized era where people are killed from miles away by cruise missiles, or “over there” so that we never see the wounded wander by our homes and our living rooms are never turned into field hospitals.

    Very, very interesting perspective. Thanks for sharing this!

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