Friday, August 1, 2008

Expiation for Killing: Young Soldiers Are Taught How to Kill But Not Taught That Killing in Combat Is Okay

In my July 27th post (, National Guardsman Big Tobacco ( currently deployed in Iraq provided his response to my July 20th post about post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in military personnel ( In that same July 27th post I put forth an insight from my husband Mitch about biblical public ceremonies of expiation of guilt for killing in battle.

Here’s Big Tobacco’s response to this July 27th post:

Actually, I would think that some kind of public display like that would be, in the words of an NCO, "pretty f***in' stupid."

I'm not saying that you are stupid. It's just that I can already see the looks on the faces of my men, who just want to go home, being forced into some kind of quasi-Christian ritual when all they want to do is get drunk and laid.

The one thing I hate is acknowledgement of my service. I hate it when I am in uniform and people come up to me and say: "Thank you for protecting us."

"Yeah, dude. Don't worry, you'll get the bill."

That kind of ritual would be tacked onto all of the "thank you for protecting us" press conferences and parades. The fact is that people back in World War II DID have post traumatic stress; they just drank themselves to death or destroyed their families. And people didn't talk about it.

Also don't forget that A LOT more infantrymen died back then, even from simple wounds. By Vietnam, you had fewer casualties and better medical care (i.e., 30-minute medevac) so there were more people left around to be traumatized.

There is a book by a guy named Dave Grossman, who is a former Ranger and officer who studies "killology." He wrote a book called "On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Leaning to Kill.” In this book he theorizes that PTSD doesn't come from exposure to danger, it comes from the physical act of killing itself.

Our society teaches that murder is wrong. Yet we take a high-school kid, cram 10 weeks of training down his throat, and call him a "killer." Sure, he might be physically able to kill, but after the target falls, he feels bad about it. Grossman’s website is at .

Take a look at World War II. A study was done after the war and it was found that only 20% of combat soldiers ever fired their rifles. Why? Because they fired at bull-eyes and a human looks nothing like a bulls-eye. The soldiers were not just afraid to kill, they weren't conditioned to kill.

So we changed the training. We started to fire at man-shaped targets. By Vietnam, we got the weapons-firing ratio up to 90%. This is operant conditioning. Think of Pavlov's dogs. Bell rings, dogs salivate. Target pops up, soldier shoots. Stimulus, response, positive feedback. Stimulus, response, positive feedback. Now we taught them how to kill, and they react and do kill, but they are still afraid to kill.

We never teach these kids that killing is OK. So they gear up, go out, and kill. Then their lives are wrecked afterwards. Here's your 30% PTSD disability, kid. Good luck finding a job.

It's better to deal with the nightmares than go through life like that.

Syndicated from

Technorati Tags:
, , , , , , , ,

1 comment:

OIF Vet Wife said...

This has so many good points... from the fact that PTSD is a long-standing illness to the sad point that our Veterans have been taught so well how to do their job without being taught the coping skills in order to deal with the aftermath. We've got to do a better job as a nation of giving our returning heroes and their families worthwhile support and information after combat! I shudder to think what's going to happen to the almost 2 million servicemen and women who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan and their loved ones if we don't stem the looming PTSD disaster.

Thanks for posting this!

Brannan Vines
Founder of - Real-World Information About PTSD for Veterans and Their Loved Ones