Military training and
By SEAN GONSALVES
columnist Oct. 29,
Given the circumstantial evidence we've
all heard or read about in the arrest of the Persian Gulf War vet John Allen
Muhammad and his "stepson" John Lee Malvo in connection with the maniacal sniper
killings, we apparently are faced with yet another tragic case of chickens
coming home to roost.
Although most combat veterans don't turn into
sociopaths upon completion of their tour of duty, I'd be a fool to think
military training doesn't come with terrible psychological consequences for the
combat survivor and harmful social consequences for the rest of us.
Ever since I was a kid, I've been extremely concerned about the violence in the
world around me. That, coupled with heavy doses of Jesus, Martin Luther King Jr.
and Gandhi studies, has made me try to penetrate the mysteries of peace of
security virtually all my life.
My study was aided by a book called
"On Killing," written by retired Lt. Col. Dave Grossman, a former Army Airborne
Ranger infantry officer and West Point Academy psychology and military science
The book was a Pulitzer Prize nominee and is required
reading at West Point, the U.S. Air Force Academy and in peace studies programs
in colleges and universities across the country
Grossman, a scholar,
lecturer and author, is considered to be one of the world's foremost authorities
on the roots of violence and violent crime. He is also the director of the
Killology Research Group, whose mission is to highlight "the psychological cost
of learning to kill" (see www.killology.com).
The other day I came
across a news account of a talk he gave in April 2001 in which he described
the four "killing enabling methods" used by
the military that are mirrored in our mass media today - brutalization,
classical conditioning, operant conditioning and role models.
He said brutalization and classical
conditioning methods assaulting American minds everywhere are most evident in
action-adventure movies where a horrible act is followed not by a quest for
justice but for vengeance "the evildoer's death."
"The people who do just want
justice are seen as wishy-washy. They're just in the way," he said,
exposing the foolishness of war hawks and their verbal attacks against so-called
peaceniks and appeasers.
is we have become a nation full of people who are going to make others feel
their pain. Whenever you feed death and violence and destruction to your
children, you reap what you sow in about 15 years," he added.
This all swirls through my head when thinking about the sick heart-mind of the
sniper and another Persian Gulf War vet Timothy McVeigh, who referred to his victims as "collateral
When Colin Powell, a good and intelligent military
leader by most accounts, was asked about the death toll of Iraqis following the
Gulf War, he responded: "It's not a number I'm particularly interested
Of course, Powell isn't even in the same category as McVeigh or
But to talk about these things in terms of "good guys" and
"bad guys" is clearly overly simplistic. We're dealing with something much
Now, let's consider
Sisters Jackie Hudson, Carol Gilbert and Ardeth Platte - nuns affiliated with a
peace group called Plowshares. Last week, they were arraigned in a federal
courthouse in Denver, charged with obstruction of the national defense of the
United States and injury of property of the United States.
the same charges that Osama bin Laden and his cohorts were charged with in
connection to the embassy bombings in Kenya a few years ago.
Their crime? Recognizing
that while wealth doesn't always trickle down as supply-side economists suppose,
values certainly do. So the
sisters took a pair of bolt cutters, cut through the fence of a missile silo in
Well County, Colo., poured some of their own blood on top of the silo as a
dramatic reminder of what these weapons are used for, and then prayed until they
possible 30 years in prison for their non-violent direct action, they refused an
offer to be released on personal recognizance because the bond requires them not
to participate in any further demonstrations.
As a matter
of conscience, they couldn't accept the offer. I spoke to former priest
Bill Sulzman, who knows these peaceful women well. "These are very religious
women," he told me.
A pretrial conference is set for Dec. 13. A
support rally for them is being held in front of the Georgetown, Colo., jail on
It strikes me that there are only two kinds of religion in
this world today -the religion of violence and the religion of non-violence.
Which religion do you adhere to?
Sean Gonsalves is a columnist with the