Lieutenant Colonel Dave Grossman (1996) described the way in which American soldiers were trained to ‘neutralize’ their targets without taking the time to consider that they are actually taking someone’s life. This training to disregard the moral implications of taking the life of another human being is called ‘dehumanization’. George R. Lucas Jr. (2015) rightly points out that, when the ‘enemy’ soldiers are dehumanized, so too are the local civilians who are often difficult to differentiate from enemy troops. When our troops are trained to disregard the fact that the enemy is a fellow human with loved ones and ambitions, when they begin to see them as less than human, it becomes easy for these troops to kill the enemy, which is what governments want from their militaries. The problem is that if a country encourages their soldiers to view the enemy as less than human, encourages them to kill the locals without thinking twice, how can they possibly condemn subsequent acts of sexual violence that take place in those devilish circumstances?! Thom Brooks (2011) even argues that ‘martial rape’ is often pursued not for sexual gratification, but rather as an extension of warfare against the local population. Thus, if you remove the circumstance of war, you remove the catalyst for such acts of sexual violence.
Once again, I am not condoning sexual exploitation of local women (and sometimes children too) by military personnel in conflict zones. In fact, I think there is nothing more gruesome and those who commit such acts are sadistic monsters, not to be forgiven. I am simply arguing that such acts are no worse than the act of killing locals (whether they be soldiers or civilians) in the context of war. A government cannot tell its young men and women to fight for their countries, to ‘neutralize’ the enemy without considering the human and moral cost to such actions, then condemn them when they use sexual violence against the same people who have been dehumanized by that government to facilitate their murder. The fact is that the only way to stop such crimes from being committed is by ceasing to commit the despicable crime of war. In the context of war, violence is being encouraged by governments and they cannot expect their soldiers to perceive the enemy as less than human, simple targets to be eliminated, but not to be molested or raped. There is no just war, there is no form of violence that is necessary for the protection of a country’s population. The only justifiable way of protecting a country’s citizens is by engaging in dialogues with ‘enemy’ countries to reach understandings and compromises and avoid the loss of life and civility. To those who would actively demand governments to prosecute soldiers who committed crimes of sexual exploitation, but would not raise any objections to their governments sending troops to fight in wars to protect their “freedom”, I have only one question. In a world without wars and without the dehumanization of human beings, the context would not exist for such sexual crimes to occur. Wouldn’t that world be a nicer place?
Please unite for peace and learn to love!
For more on sexual violence in conflict zones, please go to http://www.stoprapenow.org/
#learntolove #stopsexualviolence #stopwar
1 Grossman, Lt. Colonel Dave. On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society, Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1996.
2 Lucas Jr., George R. Routledge Handbook of Military Ethics, London: Routledge, 2015.
3 Brooks, Thom. New Waves in Ethics, London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011, p. 135