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Burak Anıl Bulut
Comm 102, Sec 2
Research Paper, Final Draft
May 25, 2010
Psychology of “Killing Machines”: Regret
Do “killing machines” of wars care about the lives of people? Do they regret that they kill countless of people in those cataclysms? If these machines are made of bones and flesh, yes they do. Although they are given to be “killing machines” during wars, many of them are not pleased for what they have done in battlefield, but they continue what they are doing even if their hearts scream to them, and this is not that easy to be ignored. They need to create or to be taught some methods to ignore this. The teacher of this ignorance is generally military. With these methods, they continue killing with all they have. However, after their military services, they start to realize and think independently on what they have done, and this situation causes psychological trauma. Therefore, many soldiers regret what they do in battlefield after war because they later realize that their minds work like “killing machines.”

There were less collateral damage in some of wars in the history, but there were huge ones with millions of collateral damage. Since there was collateral damage with military losses, it causes questions to be asked like “If we say soldiers kill soldiers of opposite sides to protect their lives, why are there many dead civilians?” However, there should be a problem because nobody wants to kill anyone they don’t know without any reason. Then, new questions are raised: “What are the reasons behind civilian killings?”, or “Do they actually have any reason?” To understand this situation, military background of the soldiers should be investigated.

Generally, militaries are like closed boxes because nobody really knows what are inside them. Therefore, they are many rumors about them. One of them is that soldiers are brain-washed during their military services to make them to be able to fight in battlefield without any hesitation. This also includes killing. However, is it correct? Are soldiers really brain-washed? For this question, Jennifer Diane Keene has some answers in her essay “Intelligence and Morale in the Army of a Democracy: The Genesis of Military Psychology during the First World War.” In this essay, she quotes from E. Munson’s “The Management of Men” to describe the importance of the military psychology: “The efficiency of an army as a fighting force … depends on the willingness of its component individuals to contend. …We give the ability to fight, and let the will to fight look out for itself. This is neither logical nor practical. Few are born fighters” (11). This quotation shows that soldiers are not actually the “killing machines” in their normal lives, they are human-beings, too. However, there should be something that changes the minds of the soldiers. Keene points out something in here which is “effectiveness of army propaganda in changing attitudes” in military and social life (1).

If this situation is seen from the eyes of the former soldier James Holbrook who wrote “Reflections on War and Killing” to tell his story of Vietnam War, the military-based changes determines the minds of soldiers on killing in the battlefield. In his writing, Holbrook confesses that they “invent reasons to kill others” because soldiers are generally confused on the battlefield about what they should do during war, and they die in hesitation while they are trying to figure this out (1). However, this hesitation and confusion are also focused by the metal band named Iron Maiden with their song “The Aftermath” whose chorus is

“In the mud and rain
What are we fighting for?
Is it worth the pain?
Is it worth dying for?
Who will take the blame?
Why did they make a war?
Questions that come again
Should we be fighting at all?”
In this song, the singer has a role of a soldier in the war and judges what they are doing. In this chorus, there are six rhetoric questions that represent the...
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