Massacre of civilians in Afghanistan: “I am going to help my country”

10 posts / 0 new
Last post
jk1921
Massacre of civilians in Afghanistan: “I am going to help my country”
Printer-friendly version

The discussion that follows was prompted by the article: Massacre of civilians in Afghanistan: “I am going to help my country”. The discussion was initiated by jk1921.
Below is the discussion so far. Feel free to add your own comments!

jk1921
There a quite a few articles

There a quite a few articles about senseless shootings on the site right now. Decomposition anyone?

The article quotes one source as saying that war "changes your brain," symbolized in this case by PTSD. I saw a study recently that went further, basically concluding that captialism changes your brain. According to this study, poor and middle income people (read working class) are more likely to suffer from chronic illnesses due to persistent activation of the hypothalmic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, resulting in a number of chronic neurologic and psychiatric disorders, which in turn results in a major drain on the health care system. 

We don't know what happened in the Bales case, but there was a minor scandal a few years back when U.S. F-16 pilots mistakenly bombed Canadian troops in Afghanistan. ( I say minor scandal, but it was a major issue in Canada, where it actually strained U.S.-Canadian relations for a time). It emerged later that the pilots were actually encouraged by military authorities to take amphetamines so they could fly longer missions and that such drugs probably resulted in a reduced perception of danger and a increased willingness to take risks.  So, in a sense, it seems the military authorities actually encourage some soldiers to "change their brains" in an immediate chemical way. Pure specualtion: but I wouldn't be surprised if the use of such agents is much more widespread--particularly among troops who have been subjected to multiple war zone deployments.

Pierre
The drugs given for PTSD are

The drugs given for PTSD are not solutions in my opinion--- many of them are narcotic. When I was seeking some therapy after being laid off my job and being dumped by my girlfriend in the same weekend, many of the shrinks I saw suggested I was suffering PTSD and needed things like xanex, adderrol, etc. Needless to say I disagreed, never took the drugs. Psychiatry always seemed a bit pseudo-scientific to me...especially with things like "Oppositional Defiance Disorder", etc.

The culture of "juicing", testosterone, steroids, etc is also very common in the military, or so I have heard from friends who are enlisted.

There is no doubt that capitalism, or to be more specific decadent capitalism, "changes your brain"... at least in my mind (sry for the pun haha). I saw a study similar to the one JK is writing about...this one said there is a direct correlation with long and unsatisfactory working conditions and depression. Yeah, no shit Sherlock... just ask any working person and they'll tell you...

Thanks for the info JK, I am interested in this HPA axis and will look it up now

 

Fred
It isn't just war that

It isn't just war that "changes your brain", though fighting in one, or being a civilian victim of one, must be shattering mentally and physically- if there's a difference. But as p_p says: capitalism changes your brain: this is so whether you are employed, unemployed or just plain rich and exploitative. I would put a lot of it down to "alienation", all these senseless shootings that jk mentions, the "crazed" soldiers involved in crazier bourgeois wars, the pointless austerity drives designed to save a system no one with any sense would want to keep, and which just perpetuates misery, terror and more murder. But let's have a superb quote from Rosa Luxembourg, who says it all in three simple sentences.

" The proletarian revolution requires no terror for its aims; it hates and despises murder. It does not need these weapons because it does not combat individuals but institutions, because it does not enter the arena with naïve illusions whose disappointment it would seek to revenge. It is not the desperate attempt of a minority to mould the world forcibly according to its ideal, but the action of the great massive millions of the people, destined to fulfil a historic mission and to transform historical necessity into reality”.

What this says it would be difficult to say better. Don't you agree?

ernie
Solidarity and consciousness

The Rosa quote sums up very well the proletarian alternative to the increasing barbarity of dying capitalism.

A barbarity that is not confined to the battlefield or the military, as other posters have pointed out. The recent suicide in Greece of a 77 year old man who said he was not willing to search rubbish bins for food, is a graphic example of the social barbarity we are suffering. One could add to this the spate of suicides in Italy amongst workers driven to total dispair by their bosses and the attacks. These terrible acts of self-destruction are the product also of the wider social errosion of mental health through constant anxiety and stress, as JK shows this is linked to the disfunctioning hypothalmic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, the malfunctioning Serotonin system is also linked to stress and anxiety. As those reading this thread well understand these terrible levels of stress, anxiety and depression are not going to decrease but will worsen as the system desperately struggles to make us pay for the crisis

Engel's in the Conditions of the Working Class in England talked about the bourgeoisies' social war against the proletarait;

"In this country, social war is under full headway, every one stands for himself, and fights for himself against all comers, and whether or not he shall injure all the others who are his declared foes, depends upon a cynical calculation as to what is most advantageous for himself. It no longer occurs to any one to come to a peaceful understanding with his fellow-man; all differences are settled by threats, violence, or in a law-court. In short, every one sees in his neighbour an enemy to be got out of the way, or, at best, a tool to be used for his own advantage. And this war grows from year to year, as the criminal tables show, more violent, passionate, irreconcilable. The enemies are dividing gradually into two great camps – the bourgeoisie on the one hand, the workers on the other. This war of each against all, of the bourgeoisie against the proletariat, need cause us no surprise, for it is only the logical sequel of the principle involved in free competition..."

The fact that the ruling class know of the destruction (ie the mountain of scientific investigations, departments of psychology etc) that their system sows upon humanity, espeically the working class and the poor, underlines that this is a war, and also the absolutely barbaric nature of the ruling class.

The depth of this depravity is expressed most clearly in the systematic process of dehumanisation that the ruling class is consciously unfolding at every level in society. In Britain the whole war of terror campaign and accompanying demonization of the "other" such as Fundamentalists, terrorists etc is being played out at every level, in hospitals, social services even counselling services the police are carrying out a campaign of education about identifying terrorists. There is the constant campaigns against the "enemies" of democracy, be they in Syria, Iran etc all with the aim of getting the population not only to passively accept war but to actively support the destruction of the "enemy". The brutalizing effect of this campaign is already seen in the everyday nature of the reporting of "targetted kilings" via drones: the fact that these also slaughter whole families etc means nothing. And our children and other are being deliberately desensitivised and readied to kill through the state (above all military) backing of the whole war based computer games (many developed in direct collaboration with the military). This proces of dehumanization is also aimed at the working class, which is constantly referred to as either being hard working or the idle feckless poor who are do not desire any help. In Britain there is even a social accepted demonizing name for the working class: CHAVS which is police code for Council House And Violent which is now widely used as a term of denigration in the media and socially. There is also the systematic generation of the atmosphere of social instablity and fear of crime via the constant reality police programs, new reports etc. We are constantly being told that everyone else is either an enemy, potential criminal, cheat, danger etc. This is examplified by such important state propaganda  tools such as soaps like Eastenders with its constant message of dog against dog relations amongst "normal people".

This constant process of dehumanization lays the basis the most graphic deplays of barbarity. Bales was not only conditioned, scientifically by the state to kill to order, but was prepared for this by the prevasive ideological atmosphere of capitalist society. The same with Abu Ghraib, the rulign class cried crocodille tears but those who carried out such terrrible acts had been trained by the state to does such things. For a very interesting study of these process of dehunazation see Philip Zimbardo's The Lucifer Effect, a rubbish sensationalist title but a very serious study of the way state's turn people into torturers, mass killers etc, However it should not be read when feeling down or listening to Leonard Cohen!

Zimbardo should know what he is talking about because he set up the 1970 Standford University Experiment which involved a group of volunteer students being either prisoners or guards, the experiment had to be stop after 6 days because the guards where becoming so brutal and the prisoners were suffering severe mental health problems. It caused and still causes great shock because it shows that people can do such things not because they are evil etc but because of the social conditions in which they are placed. The US Defense Department funded this experiement and used its results to help develop its programe for teaching torture to its torturers and those of other states. This was codified in the School of the Americas training manual which highligthed the psychological impact on a prisoner of seeing their wife or children raped in front of them: good old democracy!

I have gone on a bit but the point I want to underline is that barbarism should not just be seen as being military or some thing that it only caried out unconsciously by the ruling class.

Against that we should not forget the importance of the events of the last year which have gone against this barbarism. The desire for discussion, collective action, solidarity, learning, simply being with other people, seen in the various social movements is the anthisis of this systematic process of dehumanization.

Even in the most terrible of circumstances we see the best expressions of humanity standing out against the system's inhumanity. The terrible My Lai massacre during the Veitnam war (where over 500 civilians men, women, young and old, children were killed by a company of marines who buckled and cracked under the weight of what they had seen and done and when order to go on a Search and Destroy mission did just that)  was in the end stopped by the actions of helicopter pilots and their crews who seeing the slaugther going on turned their guns of those carrying out the massacre. An action embodied in the very moving song Pinksville Helicopter by Thom Parrott http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IFLPVd62B-4.

The response of the US bourgeoisie to this massacre is instructive. The officer in charge of the slaugther was tried for murder sentenced to imprisonment but was only held under house arrest for short period and then became a successful buisness man and made a fortune doing after dinner speeches presumably about the relationship between being a capitalist and having a history of  raping and slaughtering  women and children. On the other hand, Hugh Thompson the helicopter pilot who stopped the massacre was made persona non grata by the military and forced to fly the most dangerous missions, he did eventually get a medal but 30 years later.  Most interestingly the senior officier responsible for the military's cover up campaign following the massacre 30 years later became the US Secretary of Defense: one Colin Powell

ernie
Solidarity and consciousness

The first time was long enough!

ernie
missed something

Sorry forgot to finish how i had meant to, which was to be with a quote from Engel's which underlines that within all of this terrible social war there is an answer:

 

"In this country, social war is under full headway, every one stands for himself, and fights for himself against all comers, and whether or not he shall injure all the others who are his declared foes, depends upon a cynical calculation as to what is most advantageous for himself. It no longer occurs to any one to come to a peaceful understanding with his fellow-man; all differences are settled by threats, violence, or in a law-court. In short, every one sees in his neighbour an enemy to be got out of the way, or, at best, a tool to be used for his own advantage. And this war grows from year to year, as the criminal tables show, more violent, passionate, irreconcilable. The enemies are dividing gradually into two great camps – the bourgeoisie on the one hand, the workers on the other. This war of each against all, of the bourgeoisie against the proletariat, need cause us no surprise, for it is only the logical sequel of the principle involved in free competition. But it may very well surprise us that the bourgeoisie remains so quiet and composed in the face of the rapidly gathering storm-clouds, that it can read all these things daily in the papers without, we will not say indignation at such a social condition, but fear of its consequences, of a universal outburst of that which manifests itself symptomatically from day to day in the form of crime. But then it is the bourgeoisie, and from its standpoint cannot even see the facts, much less perceive their consequences. One thing only is astounding, that class prejudice and preconceived opinions can hold a whole class of human beings in such perfect, I might almost say, such mad blindness. Meanwhile, the development of the nation goes its way whether the bourgeoisie has eyes for it or not, and will surprise the property- holding class one day with things not dreamed of in its philosophy."

jk1921
You know, social change is

You know, social change is complicated and often doesn't move in one direction only. Decompositon is very real, but there are counter-tendencies as well that seem to reflect a very uneven process across geographic and social space. For example, in the U.S., the state of Connecticut just abolished its death penalty. New Jersey did so a few years back. Maryland may be the next state to officially outlaw it--although already no executions can take place there as the state Court of Appeals has banned them due to a technical error with the law that the state legislature won't fix.

At the same time, Georgia just executed Troy Davis despite some considerible questions about his guilt out of what seemed to be spite in the face of a national and international movement for clemency. Similarly, a Republican debate audience cheered the fact that Texas Governor Rick Perry has presided over more executions than any other Governor in U.S. history. Most ironically perhaps, President Obama himself has said he supports the death penalty and his Justice Department has just begun military proceedings to seek the death penalty for a number of prisoners still held at Guantanamo. One can conjecture as to whether or not an African-American, Harvard educated, "Consititutional Law Professor" really beleives the death penalty is just or not or is just going along with political expediency (if that is the case, its even more disgusting), but this is the same man who has authorized the warrantless murder of an American citizen.

The point I am trying to make is that there seem to be some centrifugal social and cultural forces at work here cutting in opposing directions. That itself may be a feature of decomposition in the historical period we are living in: a tendency for society to segreate itself into increasingly hostile and opposed socio-cultural camps. In the U.S., this often takes on a geographic dimension, i.e. the much analyzed Red State/Blue State divide.  Its another factor that is working to tear at the national fabric, creating a great deal of political anxiety in the process.

The article mentions that if convicted Bales could face the death penalty. I wouldn't rule it out, but executing a soldier who is probably suffering from tremendous psycho-social stress is going to be very controversial. The fact that there is still some appreciation in society for mitigating circumstances shows that we haven't quite descended to the Hobbesian state of nature just yet. Of course, the fact that Bales was a solider "serving his country" is probably what will save him. Psycho-social stress is still rarely taken into account for ordinary criminals.

P.S. I liked the Engels quote above.

Fred
CHAVS: Council House and

CHAVS: Council House and Violent, say the police. But CHAVS: Council House Aggressive Victims, might be nearer the truth. And Engels sounds so up-to-date. " One thing only is astounding, that class prejudice and preconceived opinions can hold a whole class of human beings in such perfect, I might almost say, such mad blindness." Council House and Violent contains blindness within it, because it doesn't see the real the connection. You could just as easily be council house and timid, for all the police know. The things the bourgeois can't dream of in its philosophy are turning into its nightmare, as Ernie has described.

jk1921
RE: the discussion above

RE: the discussion above about war and capitalism "changing the brain":

I spoke with someone who works in this field professionally the other day. He told me that modern psychology and psychiatry are becomming more and more "Pavlovian" and less and less "Freudian." Specifically, we were discussing the proliferation of chronic illnesses today that flirt the medical/psychiatric boundary and which nobody seems to understand very well. His reading of the state of the discipline is that the tendency today is to see these things as the result of a "conditioning process" whereby the brain becomes vulnerable to stress, anxiety, pain, fatigue and other chronic symptoms. The old Freudian ideas of emotional dysfunction being "converted" to physical symptoms are out and are being replaced by Pavlovian ideas of repeated conditioning actually causing physical changes in the brain and nervous system (supposedly a similar process in possible in the immune system). 

I am not sure what to make about all this. Rest assured it is all highly contentious, but I thought others with an interest in Freud and psychology's relationship to Marxism might find this interesting.

Thoughts?