Monday, March 07, 2005

Amputees in Battle, Ressentiment on a Grand Scale

During their workshop at the Educators to Stop the War conference, Nancy Lessin and Charley Richardson of Military Families Speak Out mentioned that amputees are going back into Iraq. I was mistaken in my impression that the amputees were actually being called up, but MFSO's point was that things must really coming to serious crisis for the US military if they're even allowing people to go back into battle with "bionic" legs. (What do you think of how the military is spinning this disability to make us imagine that we are producing super-duper soldiers, instead of grinding up our young men in the war machine?)
One thing that is clearly the case is that the military is calling up people for second tours in Iraq even when they are suffering from what's now called PTSD. Last night, I watched an episode of Frontline called "The Soldier's Heart" which discussed this issue in great depth, and included Rob Serra of IVAW.
The story about amputees going back voluntarily into battle is bizarre to me, and is full of sentences such as this one, "For many amputees, returning to combat duty may be an impossible dream. Some have multiple amputations. And those who've lost arms find it very difficult to learn to fire a weapon again."
Given what I heard from Alex Ryabov of IVAW, and what I saw last night on PBS' Frontline documentary, it's hard to imagine that anyone would "dream," in impossible Don Quixote style, of returning to Iraq. However, rather than thanking these men for their devotion and then calling for a therapist, George Bush smilingly told the wounded he-men that he'd do everything he could to help them get back to the field. His reaction to the soldiers reminds me of his remark on his speaking tour to an audience member who said that she had to work "three jobs" to support her family, which was: that's "fantastic" and "Uniquely American."
I don't agree with Friedrich Nietzsche on everything, but I think he was right to argue that there is something actually wicked about the kind of Christian morality that celebrates such life-denying and soul killing behavior as being the best kind of humanity. I don't want to be unempathic to those who are dying to get back into combat, but the celebration of such sacrifice makes me want to scream with Nietzsche, "The foul smell!" the foul smell of ressentiment is everywhere.....and especially in the Bush administration.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Reading your comments about soldiers with "bionic" legs, I was reminded of an article I saw the other day about US scientists who are developing robots who will eventually replace soldiers. It was alarming, in fact terrifying, to think that one day America could (and would) send machines into battle to kill vulnerable flesh and blood enemies.

We've got an awful lot of evil geniuses at work who may, in a hideously perverse way, turn real wars into video games. (That is, for "one side" of the battle -- only our "enemies" will be injured or die. We can just retool the robots.)

Soldiers who "want" to return to war despite their amputations may already define themselves as killing machines.

I am afraid that what we call the military-industrial complex will not only dominate our economy but will also transform what we now quaintly think of as "human nature." The bionic leg may be taking that "first small step" for mankind and it's scary to think what might follow.