Only the dead and maimed, a soldiers story.

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The US heroes are consistently mystified by what the Iraqis are thinking, when they stick up their heads and have them blown off. The tanks knocked down the fedayeen one or two at a time as they ran across open spots. They die as they are glimpsed. This is the logic of a higher form of life, regarding a lower. A large part of the apparatus of the US military is of course still oriented to preventing US deaths.

Yet the strategy of survival reappears, in the usual ways. His officers and gunners put it into practice: They knew only that any vehicle that kept coming at the column was violently eliminated. One of the most bewildering characteristics of this strange war was the apparent refusal of civilians to accept that a war was indeed going on.

The result was the spectacle of dead fathers or slaughtered children in bullet-riddled cars skewed across the roadway. As in Mogadishu, when real danger presents itself, US methods turn truly annihilative. During the Baghdad fighting, Iraqi forces mounted counter-attacks at three crucial highway cloverleafs on Highway 8. The US fighters fired tens of thousands of rounds of ammunition, but still more attackers appeared, and the commanders began to fear the enemy might break their perimeters and overrun their positions. So they lowered their restraints. Residential buildings bordered the highway.

It became necessary not only to shoot the visible enemy inside the windows, but to take down the buildings. Hornbuckle was concentrating on four- and five-story buildings to the northeast and the southwest, where RPG teams were able to fire straight down on his men dug into the cloverleaf. They were civilian buildings in a residential neighborhood, but under the rules of engagement they were now legitimate targets because they were being used by the enemy to attack American forces.

Hornbuckle had first ordered his Bradley crews to fire high-explosive Twenty-five Mike Mike straight through the windows, where he could see the RPG teams firing and moving. The captain had his mortar team fire. The mortars chopped the buildings down, floor by floor. Then Hornbuckle called in the Paladins, the mm artillery batteries set up south of the brigade command center.

Their ninety-five-pound shells tore into two of the buildings, leveling both structures.

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With the threat continuing from neighborhoods along the route, the commander of China Battalion, Lt. Colonel Stephen Twitty, gives an order to stop asking for orders, and just bring mortar fire down on the residential neighborhoods. My concern, however , is actually mostly with the enemy fighters, however loathsome a portion of them were, however grateful we are when American lives are protected, however necessary it was that the Saddam regime lose, and lose as quickly as possible.

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Why should it matter when killing is as one-sided as this? It may seem a perverse exercise to say which specimens of military killing qualify as war, and which others do not. I know it will seem equally perverse to militarists and pacifists. Some people claim that war is just the application of force to another group until it submits. Ideal war then tends towards a totality of violence.

Clausewitz began the tradition of modern thinking in this vein.

The first thing you have to believe, to view war differently, is simply that war is a distinct, longstanding human enterprise, bound by rules. Our ordinary language holds to this, in retaining such distinctions as those between war and massacre. The rules of war, too, grant immunity from violence to those who surrender, are wounded, or are taken prisoner. The rationale is simple—anyone who cannot provide a threat is no longer subject to killing. Certain actions which seem morally allowable along the progress toward their perfection, when their goal is possible rather than actual, may became disallowable if they ever reach that goal.

Every general in history may have dreamed of a war in which he killed all of his enemies without a single death among his own men. Once the US can annihilate large percentages of our foes in war with minimal losses to ourselves, we have entered a different moral universe.

One of the peculiarities of the newest US technologies of war is that they make enemy soldiers resemble disarmed persons or prisoners of war. At the start of the war in Afghanistan, the US quickly destroyed all Taliban defenses against high-altitude aerial assault. The US then began bombing Taliban soldiers. We destroyed personnel in rear supply positions. The US at no time stood to the front or rear: Our pilots stayed out of range of any threat these soldiers could present them. A ground force had not entered Afghanistan.

It is a paradox of technology to make armed combatants as helpless before our weapons as the categories of disarmed soldiers whom it would be unlawful to kill. Elaine Scarry once defined war as a reciprocal contest of injuring. Behind any military conflict, she agreed with Clausewitz, lies a crisis of policy, as one group wants to compel another to accept its will. But how should it be, Scarry asked, that wars can be won or lost between populations in a way that prepares each side to rewrite its deepest ideologies, or remake the constitution of its society—and all because of an action so uncivilized and terrible as the maiming and killing of soldiers in war?

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This model of war requires mechanisms of consent by which a population can support or isolate its fighting representatives. In a liberal democracy like the United States, those are the mechanisms of a free press and representative government. But it also may be the case that any war which produces a lasting settlement might need two-sidedness—need, that is, the sense that a war actually occurred, a contest of representatives, with the real power to hurt each other, and recognize and count their losses, and equally be subject to the odd combination of skill, strength, and blind luck that means the battle is not always to the strong.

It might also require time for campaigns to be drawn out, as two populations observe the mayhem and ask themselves if the deaths are worth it—whether, that is, the ideas and principles incarnated in the fighters were worth the loss and pain, or whether to change ideas. Some wars end without ending, and without producing a state of peace or stability, as is the case today in Somalia, Afghanistan, and—so far—in Iraq. But one also has to ask whether the manner of carrying out a war, when the war is not quite a war, might somehow undermine the permanence of any settlement.

On May 1 of last year , George W. Bush flew to an aircraft carrier and unfurled his banner: The war against the Iraqi government was done. The paradox is that we began to see the crucial conditions of war return only when war was declared over—in an occupation that the US had not prepared for, and that we citizens are slowly coming to recognize and understand. We return to war, in some form, at a moment when war is unacknowledged—when an exchange of deaths, a slow and visible process, undoes the one-sidedness of our glorious, barely visible three-week war last March and April.

In mid-April of , tens of thousands of Iraqis protested against an occupation, but that was lost in the end of what we had declared to be our war, while we were preparing to declare it over. US troops fired on the demonstrators twice in three days, killing at least fifteen and wounding seventy-five. Back in April, the first revenge attack was reported in Fallujah—and this news, too, was lost. By mid-June , the drip of dead Americans, ambushed or bombed, had begun.

By January of this year, , says Rick Atkinson of the Washington Post , US forces were suffering an attack, on average, every forty-one minutes. Whatever the frequency of attacks, as of this writing, American soldiers have been killed in Iraq, only of them during the three-week war. In Iraq, it made too compressed a victory for either the defeated population or the victors to learn whom they would be living with in the odd intimate proximity of an occupied nation and a distant foreign power—as we shipped our reserve troops and entrepreneurial citizens to the Middle East to speed the transformation.

We began to learn, however. And so did the Iraqis. By observing the Americans, Iraqi insurgents could see firsthand how much we watch each of our military lives. The Iraqis could not kill our best fighters in a planned war. No Iraqi can face off against our frontline fighters.

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A highway full of booby-traps, like a barrage of carelessly fired mortar rounds, will eventually hit someone. And the new deaths are added to the balance sheet of American lives, each one mattering more than fifty or a hundred Iraqi fighters in our calculus. The act of mutilation—performed by boys and townspeople, though the ambush was arranged by fighters—is a way of getting us to see what we Americans value most, as we watch it be undone. The pilots wanted to get up over those crowds and mow them down, just mow them all down.

Fuck the whole lot of them. Then land and recover the bodies. These were American soldiers. Garrison and Montgomery [their commanders] said no. There were big crowds around those bodies. It would be a massacre.


The massacre would have meant nothing. All the soldiers cared about were the bodies. In Fallujah, six civilians and a journalist had been shot dead by US troops the Friday before the mutilations. You who do not wish to see us , the mutilators cursed, waving their computer-printed signs in the air, we will show you what you are like. The Marines joined a battle more like Mogadishu than anything that had occurred in Iraq during the actual war.

Reports have been spotty and contradictory.

A gate for control

The Marine tactic in Fallujah seems to have been to enter the city to draw fire, then pulverize the sources of fire. Close air support was used in neighborhoods inside the city, from Cobra helicopters launching Hellfire missiles, to cannon-firing AC gunships, to bombs from Fs. The director of the Fallujah General Hospital reported people killed and 1, wounded in one week. April proved to be the bloodiest month for American forces since the war. One hundred thirty-five soldiers died and more were wounded.

The Fallujah insurgency continued a year-long chronology of Sunni Muslim resistance. Twelve Marines were killed in a single seven-hour firefight in Ramadi on April 6—nearly two-thirds of the number killed in the long-ago fight in Mogadishu. This occupation, in reassuming the condition of war, will change the self-conception of the Iraqis, or our own—if only we have the nerve to look steadily at it, and think.

The United States is making a claim on what Iraq should be: When we make this claim backed by our military, we are also making claims about our United States—for example, that we have the moral, national, and humanitarian authority to overthrow tyrannical governments in favor of democracy and free market economics. The insurgents, in turn, are making claims about the way they want their own country to look: They are also making claims about how they want the United States to be: The administration makes it mean resoluteness, a steadfast quality of refusing to change course in war regardless of events.

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It is the oral formula in which all acts of public deliberation are put forward, from town councils to the Congress: At this moment, war once again becomes a cause for thinking. The thinking will go on in public. Our resolve is a public self-discovery that has yet to be made. There is a kind of fake refinement that turns into a vulgarity.

Among the places that the author visits in Lebanon are the ruins of a UN compound, which had become a shrine. In Hezbollah fighters had set up a battery nearby and were firing at Israeli forces, who responded in kind and hit the UN building instead, killing more than civilians taking refuge there.

For a time this hill was worth our lives, but even the enemy seemed to know that now it was worth nothing at all. Already a Monitor Daily subscriber? This website uses cookies to improve functionality and performance. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies. Subscribe to the Monitor Daily. Subscribe to the Monitor Weekly. Monitor Daily Current Issue. A Christian Science Perspective. Photos of the Week. Was a small hilltop in southern Lebanon worth the lives that were lost there? What are you reading? Would you pass Lit ? Although their theory has been modified since then, it had a direct impact on the most dominant clinical definition of pain used today — one adopted by the International Association for the Study of Pain IASP in In more recent memoirs emerging from the conflicts in Korea, and later Iraq and Afghanistan, pain in war is not only something to aggressively fight but is itself an incitement to violence.

What all these commentators recognise — from the philosopher Lucretius to the scientist Beecher, and to the Marines fighting in wars today — is that emotion matters in war, and the fear of pain is as much a weapon as physiological wounding might appear to be. Controlling fear, emotions and enhancing endurance has in recent times become medicalised by the military.

Being Well Together — Manchester, Manchester. In conversation with Emma Butt — York, York. Uber and What The People Want: Available editions United Kingdom. Joanna Bourke , Birkbeck, University of London. Surgery Chronic pain Pain. Your donation helps deliver fact-based journalism. You might also like Defining opioids.