Sunday, May 16, 2010

How the US Military Trains Soldiers to Kill Foreign Civilians

"I went down to the market where all the women shop. I pulled out my machete, and I began to chop. I went down to the park where all the children play. I pulled out my machine gun and I began to spray."  Stieber's commanding officer ordered him and the rest of his platoon to recite this chant.

This is an interesting interview of Josh Stieber. Stieber was within the same platoon on the ground as appeared in the recent Wikileaks video. Stieber, however, withdrew under a conscientious objector status shortly before that attack.

This interview does a nice job focusing on the cognitive barriers the US military uses to prevent soldiers from raising moral protest. Stieber volunteers himself as an example. He experienced extreme resistance after refusing to kill Iraqi civilians. His background is conservative Christian. This may be striking considering this background is generally considered inclined to be more favorable toward the US military.

The way Stieber deals with cognitive dissonance is particularly telling. Instead of continuing to rationalize his belief, he changes his mind. This is remarkable considering his background and the social pressure within the military. The interview begins below. . . .

The raiding of Iraqi homes comes up in the last segment. Although Stieber says he didn't see any raid killings first hand, he was aware of them. These killings may be rationalized by the soldiers, but not without internal conflict.

Consider a raid with US troops in Afghanistan. There, the US military initially claimed to find two pregnant women and a teenage girl slain and bound inside their home. Reporter Jerome Starkey of the London Times uncovered otherwise. In actuality, US troops shot down the three women in a raid. They then proceeded to cover up the act by taking their knives to dig out the bullets. Clearly, attempting to cover up their actions shows the soldiers recognized the weight of what they did. This is despite demands for them to feel otherwise.

The US military still refuses to apologize to Starkey after accusing him of lying. They still claim no cover-up occurred despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. They obviously did not choose same path as Stieber.

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