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A Marine Remembers: Learning to Kill, Learning Not to Kill

By dlindorff - Posted on 02 February 2011

By David Lindorff

One of my grandsons recently asked me, “What is wisdom?”   After some discussion, we together concluded that wisdom comes only with experience. 

When it comes to war, though, living in a country that has not experienced a war on its own soil since 1865, Americans, other than those veterans who have actually fought abroad, have no such experience to draw on.

Perhaps this is why so many Americans easily accept, and even cheer the nation’s militarism, and why most of us accept our government’s reflexive resort to military action to settle international disputes.
Einstein, who had his share of wisdom, advised forgetting everything one has learned.  This was his way of getting his thinking out of a box. 

Rather than add more to this somewhat evasive notion, let me reflect here on my own experience of war, and on how the concept of war has permeated my life, in hopes of finding  a bit of wisdom to counter the temptation to turn to cynicism. 
        “The war to end all wars” ended four years before I was born.  The patriotic fervor that had induced men to fight  and kill in WW I was still alive at that time, although my father’s courage as a medic in France, for which he received a silver star, had left a psychic scar. He had seen more than his share of death, including that of his best friend, who had gone to war despite opposing it, asking to become a machine-gunner to counter accusations that his anti-war sentiment was a reflection of cowardice. 

        It wasn’t until I was in my 20s that I was drafted into the Marines. (Actually, I chose the Marines out of the Navy pool.)  This time, in  WW II, there was a sense of duty, but no fervor.    

        Boot camp was my first experience at someone trying to indoctrinate me with the code: ‘’To hate the enemy is a requirement."   

 While I didn't become a slave to this principle myself, most of the men in the platoon bought it. We were told over and over that a soldier’s mission is to kill, and that message sank in for most of the recruits. To help drive the message home, with our bayonets attached, we were ordered to assault dummies while shouting "Kill!"...

For the rest of this article by DAVID LINDORFF in ThisCantBeHappening!, the new independent online alternative newspaper, please go to: ThisCantBeHappening!


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