August 25, 2004

When the Demons Come

Because the majority of people still will not allow themselves to see the connections between the small cruelties of everyday life and much larger, more terrible, genuine atrocities, I will go over certain issues once again -- very slowly and deliberately this time, trying once more to encourage people to at least consider the interrelationships among various stories.

When I began my lengthy series on "The Roots of Horror," a series which relies in significant part on the work of author-psychologist Alice Miller, I said the following at the very outset:
As I indicated in [a post] last week, just at the time I became so deeply discouraged about the state of public debate (yet again), I had been about to begin a series of articles concerning a subject which is almost entirely neglected -- a subject which is crucial to understanding the precise manner in which world events are now playing out, and which is indispensable to grasping why people cling to ideas and theories which facts repeatedly demonstrate are incorrect and, what is much worse than being merely false, are profoundly destructive.

I have decided that I will go ahead with these posts -- although I do not delude myself that they will be widely read, or much discussed. For reasons which will become clearer later in this discussion, this failure to pay attention to these issues, and the stubborn refusal to acknowledge their demonstrable importance and explanatory power, are in themselves confirmation of the crucial nature of these ideas. For the majority of people, certain identifications -- no matter how well-documented and how strongly proven -- are simply too dangerous to be countenanced. And thus the tragedy of world history is reenacted over and over, and into our own times.
Many events covered in the daily news since I wrote that in February [of 2004] have continued to show, in numerous ways, just how crucial these particular issues are. In that same post, I excerpted a news story which almost no one even noticed, either when it first appeared or in the time since:
RICE, Texas - A fifth grader with a rare deformity says two teachers put him on display for a science lesson.

Robert Will Harris has Stahl's ear, which causes points to form on the ears. He and family say two fourth-grade teachers at his school used his deformity to teach a lesson in genetics.

The boy says the teachers pulled him from his class twice in one day and took him to their classrooms to show his ears.

Officials with the Rice Independent School District acknowledge the incidents happened, but say the teachers meant no harm. They say the teachers were simply trying to teach genetics and family traits.

The family says the boy's ears have nothing to do with genetics. His parents say they no longer want their son used for show and tell.
About this story, I said:
Several aspects of this exceedingly brief report deserve the most serious attention -- and as I indicated, that very brevity is central to its significance. First, note that the adults involved -- who were teachers, keep in mind -- insist that they "meant no harm," as if that insistence on their "innocent" motives exonerates them of responsibility, and blame.

Second, and much, much more important: please note what is not mentioned in this story. How do you think these incidents affected the child? Robert Will Harris is in elementary school -- and he is probably no older than nine or ten. How do you think a ten-year-old would feel about being used for "a lesson in genetics," because of "his deformity"?

Despite my very deep revulsion at the unnecessary deaths in Iraq, the deaths of both American soldiers and of innocent Iraqis, I have to say that this may well be the most deeply disturbing and most disgusting story I have read in the last year. And I say that for the following reason: it is society's refusal to acknowledge the profound damage that is inflicted on innocent children in innumerable ways, every single day, that is the deepest root of most, if not all, of the evils that confront us today.
Here is another example of the same underlying phenomenon -- and of the same kind of unthinking, incalculably damaging cruelty -- from the news just yesterday:
The practice of "hot saucing" a child's tongue as a method of discipline may seem cruel to some parents, but those who regularly use the punishment say it teaches their charges valuable and long-lasting lessons.

Lisa Whelchel, who played Blair on the popular 1980s TV series Facts of Life, is an advocate and practitioner of "hot saucing." Whelchel, the author of Creative Correction: Extraordinary Ideas for Everyday Discipline, says the practice worked for her children when other disciplinary actions did not.

"It does sting and the memory stays with them so that the next time they may actually have some self-control and stop before they lie or bite or something like that," Whelchel said on ABC News' Good Morning America.

Whelchel says she would have never used hot sauce to discipline her three children if it caused lasting damage. The actress-turned-home-schooling mom suggests using just a dab of hot sauce, placing it on your finger, then touching your finger to the child's tongue.
Let us pause right there for a moment. I do not know precisely how someone like Whelchel convinces herself that this practice does not cause "lasting damage." Obviously, she is only considering the possible physical effects, although even there evidence exists that for some children at least, the dangers might be serious enough to threaten their lives, as we shall see in a moment. But beyond this -- and ultimately much more important -- is what the child is likely to conclude when he is told by his mother that the deliberate infliction of pain is just another way of showing "love," and that humiliation is a proper means for one person to show affection and concern for the well-being of another, epecially when that person is a defenseless child.

One therapist quoted in the story sees this obvious fact -- that is, a fact which would be obvious, if people had not learned how to blind themselves to clearcut truths:
Boston family therapist Carleton Kendrick says he is vehemently against hot saucing or corporal punishment of any kind.

"There's no room for pain and humiliation and fear in disciplining healthy children," Kendrick said. "I think it's a rather barbaric practice to say the least."
The key to the kind of rationalization used by people like Whelchel can be seen in this passage:
Whelchel says she's been aware for some time that many people are strongly opposed to hot saucing, (which was covered in The Washington Post earlier this month) a form of discipline that's been around for decades, but she says she believes in many different creative ways to discipline, including this one.

"It's totally against popular opinion in culture these days," Whelchel said. "I prefer my child receive a small amount of pain from my hand of love than to encounter a lot more pain in life," she said.
So deliberately inflicting pain on even a very young child, and possibly putting his life in danger, is merely being "creative." And she only inflicts pain and fear now supposedly to prevent the child from encountering "a lot more pain in life," from other people. And what kind of message is that to give a young child?

The practice of "hot saucing" was dealt with at greater length in the Washington Post story. Some excerpts are worth noting, because they make the transparent rationalizations even clearer:
"Hot saucing," or "hot tongue," has roots in Southern culture, according to some advocates of the controversial disciplinary method, but it has spread throughout the country. Nobody keeps track of how many parents do it, but most experts contacted for this story, including pediatricians, psychologists and child welfare professionals, were familiar with it.

The use of hot sauce has been advocated in a popular book, in a magazine for Christian women and on Internet sites. Web-based discussions on parenting carry intense, often emotional exchanges on the topic.

But parents aren't the only ones asking "to sauce or not to sauce?" Several state governments have gotten involved in the debate. In Michigan in 2002, a child care center was sanctioned for using hot sauce to discipline a child. The mother of the 18-month-old boy reportedly gave the child care workers permission to use the sauce to help dissuade her son from biting other children.

Virginia's child protective services agency lists hot saucing among disciplinary tactics it calls "bizarre behaviors." The list includes such methods as forcing a child to kneel on sharp gravel, and locking him in a closet.

Like some other parents who use hot sauce, Crosen believes it is an appropriate punishment for "defiant talk. . . . I use it when the mouth is the offending party. He needs to learn to control what's coming out of his mouth. If it's his tongue that gets him in trouble, it's his tongue that gets punished."

As a Christian, she believes that "children need to respect and obey [parents] or they won't learn to respect and obey God. God won't hot sauce you, but you need to learn consequences."
I interject here that this phenomenon -- first learning to fear and obey the parent, and then transferring that same psychology to God -- is one that you can see displayed in front of the entire world, as in the case of Mel Gibson, as I wrote about here at length. And it is the denial of all of this that also allows someone like Gibson (and his father) to deny the overwhelming reality of the Holocaust, as I also discussed.

Continuing with the news story:
Kendrick says parents who use the technique are "at the very least . . . ill-informed." He pointed out that many parents are not aware that hot sauce can burn a child's esophagus and cause the tongue to swell -- a potential choking hazard.

"There are many different kinds of hot sauce on the market, and parents who say they know the dilution to use so it won't sting, or say they only use one drop, are wrong," Kendrick said. "It's done because it hurts. It stings. It burns. It makes you nauseous."

Capsaicin, the substance that makes peppers hot, inflames membranes in the eyes, nose and mouth. While many adults find this feeling pleasurable, capsaicin can cause negative reactions even in the third of the adult population that has no tolerance for ingesting it, according to Joel Gregory, publisher of Chile Pepper magazine.

There are additional risks for children. Giorgio Kulp, a pediatrician in Montgomery County, said that the risk of swelling as well as the possibility of unknown allergies make the use of hot sauce on children dangerous.
So much for the notion that this practice poses no real danger to the child. Moreover, as I have indicated, the physical consequences, as dangerous as they might be in an individual case, are among the least severe of the traumatizing effects of this kind of abuse. The psychological damage can last a lifetime, and can lead to incomprehensible horrors.

Confirming some of the details from these stories, and as Alice Miller often notes, religion frequently provides the justification for such cruelty to children. But don't take my word for it -- listen to Dr. James Dobson, of Focus on the Family fame, who constantly appeals to God and the Bible as justification for an endless number of cruelties to children. And Dobson unwittingly gives the game away right here, in answer to a question:
I have spanked my children for their disobedience, and it didn't seem to help. Does this approach fail with some children?

Children are so tremendously variable that it is sometimes hard to believe that they are all members of the same human family. Some kids can be crushed with nothing more than a stern look; others seem to require strong and even painful disciplinary measures to make a vivid impression. This difference usually results from the degree to which a child needs adult approval and acceptance. The primary parental task is to see things as the child perceives them, thereby tailoring the discipline to his or her unique needs. Accordingly, a boy or girl should never be so likely to be punished as when he or she knows it is deserved.

In a direct answer to your question, disciplinary measures usually fail because of fundamental errors in their application. It is possible for twice the amount of punishment to yield half the results. I have made a study of situations in which parents have told me that their children disregard the threat of punishment and continue to misbehave. There are four basic reasons for this lack of success ...

3. The spanking may be too gentle. If it doesn't hurt, it doesn't motivate a child to avoid the consequence next time. A slap with the hand on the bottom of a multidiapered 30-month-old is not a deterrent to anything. Be sure the child gets the message -- while being careful not to go too far.
This could not possibly be clearer: the explicit goal is to crush the child so that he will always be obedient to the parent. Whatever the parent says must be followed -- whether it is irrational, whether it is completely unjustified, whether it is directly opposed to the child's actual needs, whether it can be defended on any grounds or not. Whatever the parent says or demands, the child must obey. And to ensure this unthinking, unquestioning obedience, pain is required.

The great tragedy, of course, is that in one way or another, most parents believe this as much as Dobson does, and they raise their children accordingly. Usually, they are not so explicit about it, but the principle is identical. Also note, as I have also stressed repeatedly in my many entries concerning this subject, that undoubtedly the most common forms of child abuse do not involve physical mistreatment at all: most of it is psychological -- using, for example, the unstated threat of the withdrawal of the parent's love if the child does not do as he is told, that is if the child does not follow orders.

Most parents instill this willingness to follow orders, this obedience to authority, in their children to varying degrees. And in a brief summary of Miller's central thesis that I have set forth several times before -- and which I repeat here because of its crucial importance -- it is this underlying psychology which can lead to horrors in the world at large:
By demanding obedience above all from a child (whether by physical punishment, by psychological means, or through some combination of both), parents forbid the child from fostering an authentic sense of self. Because children are completely dependent on their parents, they dare not question their parents' goodness, or their "good intentions." As a result, when children are punished, even if they are punished for no reason or for a reason that makes no sense, they blame themselves and believe that the fault lies within them. In this way, the idealization of the authority figure is allowed to continue. In addition, the child cannot allow himself to experience fully his own pain, because that, too, might lead to questioning of his parents.

In this manner, the child is prevented from developing a genuine, authentic sense of self. As he grows older, this deadening of his soul desensitizes the child to the pain of others. Eventually, the maturing adult will seek to express his repressed anger on external targets, since he has never been allowed to experience and express it in ways that would not be destructive. By such means, the cycle of violence is continued into another generation (using "violence" in the broadest sense). One of the additional consequences is that the adult, who has never developed an authentic self, can easily transfer his idealization of his parents to a new authority figure. As Miller says:

"This perfect adaptation to society's norms--in other words, to what is called 'healthy normality'--carries with it the danger that such a person can be used for practically any purpose. It is not a loss of autonomy that occurs here, because this autonomy never existed, but a switching of values, which in themselves are of no importance anyway for the person in question as long as his whole value system is dominated by the principle of obedience. He has never gone beyond the stage of idealizing his parents with their demands for unquestioning obedience; this idealization can easily be transferred to a Fuhrer or to an ideology."
The translation of the transparent rationalizations used by people like Whelchel and Dobson for practices such as "hot saucing" is the one that parents always use for brutalizing children: 'This is for your own good." As I have noted before, this lie is the key lie that unleashes horrors on the world. And the same exact lie is used to justify actual torture, as I have also documented [in another essay].

In one of the stories I discussed there, a Canadian judge said of one couple that their actions were "underscored by good intentions," and that there was "no evidence" that the parents "were sadistic." He then imposed a shockingly light sentence. As I noted, summarizing the story's details:
Putting a young boy in a makeshift, padlocked cage is not sadistic. Tying children to their beds, with handcuffs, is not sadistic. Keeping children in diapers when they are too old to need them -- if only they could get to a bathroom -- subjecting them to "rectal examinations," and beating them often is not sadistic. And creating such fear in children that they will eat their own feces and drink their own urine is not sadistic.

Any person who defends or minimizes such acts to any extent at all is capable of inflicting the most unimaginable tortures on anyone. If you wonder what makes possible horrors such as those which occurred in the Third Reich, wonder no more.
Please note the following -- and try to see the obvious similarity, which far too many people still continue to deny. All of these practices -- from "hot saucing" and spanking on one end of the spectrum, to locking young children up, performing "rectal examinations," and depriving children of nourishment to the extent that they will eat their own feces and drink their own urine at the other -- are all justified on the grounds that the parent or other authority figure does all of this with "good intentions," and that he does it for the child's own good.

People should not then wonder when adults engage in horrific acts on a much, much wider scale. But it is this widespread denial that allows adults to avoid seeing the obvious connections -- and that allows them to believe that the United States, and the United States military, are incapable of any wrongdoing at all, that the United States is and always has been right, and that nothing we do or have ever done can be deeply, profoundly wrong. As I noted just last week, it is this denial -- and the desperate need to maintain that denial even in the face of mounting horror -- that causes the most vehement hatred of John Kerry. It is not that Kerry might elaborate on his own past, or possibly make his own actions appear more heroic than they actually were. It is not that Bush might suffer by comparison to Kerry's actions in Vietnam. What arouses the deep animus toward Kerry is that, when he returned from Vietnam, he dared to speak the truth about what many other veterans had already testified to, had acknowledged, and had experienced.

Thus, it does not matter to the deniers that we have a lengthy series from the Toledo Blade about the actions committed by one unit in Vietnam. In the opening installment of that lengthy series (and here is a page with links to all the articles, and other related ones), we learned the following:
The platoon - a small, highly trained unit of 45 paratroopers created to spy on enemy forces - violently lost control between May and November, 1967.

For seven months, Tiger Force soldiers moved across the Central Highlands, killing scores of unarmed civilians - in some cases torturing and mutilating them - in a spate of violence never revealed to the American public.

They dropped grenades into underground bunkers where women and children were hiding - creating mass graves - and shot unarmed civilians, in some cases as they begged for their lives.

They frequently tortured and shot prisoners, severing ears and scalps for souvenirs.

A review of thousands of classified Army documents, National Archives records, and radio logs reveals a fighting unit that carried out the longest series of atrocities in the Vietnam War - and commanders who looked the other way.

For 41/2 years, the Army investigated the platoon, finding numerous eyewitnesses and substantiating war crimes. But in the end, no one was prosecuted, the case buried in the archives for three decades.

No one knows how many unarmed men, women, and children were killed by platoon members 36 years ago.

At least 81 were fatally shot or stabbed, records show, but many others were killed in what were clear violations of U.S. military law and the 1949 Geneva Conventions.

Based on more than 100 interviews with The Blade of former Tiger Force soldiers and Vietnamese civilians, the platoon is estimated to have killed hundreds of unarmed civilians in those seven months.

"We weren't keeping count," said former Pvt. Ken Kerney, a California firefighter. "I knew it was wrong, but it was an acceptable practice." ...

Among the newspaper's findings:

-- Commanders knew about the platoon's atrocities in 1967, and in some cases, encouraged the soldiers to continue the violence.

-- Two soldiers who tried to stop the atrocities were warned by their commanders to remain quiet before transferring to other units.

-- The Army investigated 30 war-crime allegations against Tiger Force between February, 1971, and June, 1975, finding a total of 18 soldiers committed crimes, including murder and assault. But no one was ever charged.

-- Six platoon soldiers suspected of war crimes - including an officer - were allowed to resign during the investigation, escaping military prosecution.

-- The findings of the investigation were sent to the offices of the secretary of the Army and the secretary of defense, records show, but no action was taken.

-- Top White House officials, including John Dean, former chief counsel to President Richard Nixon, repeatedly were sent reports on the progress of the investigation.

To this day, the Army's Criminal Investigation Command refuses to release thousands of records that could explain what happened and why the case was dropped. Army spokesman Joe Burlas said last week it may have been difficult to press charges, but he couldn't explain flaws in the investigation.

The Army interviewed 137 witnesses and tracked down former Tiger Force members in more than 60 cities around the world.

But for the past three decades, the case has not even been a footnote in the annals of one of the nation's most divisive wars.
But another crucial aspect of this history is one I noted in an earlier post about this (quoting a NYT story):
In recent telephone interviews with The New York Times, three of the former soldiers quoted by The Blade confirmed that the articles had accurately described their unit's actions.

But they wanted to make another point: that Tiger Force had not been a "rogue" unit. Its members had done only what they were told, and their superiors knew what they were doing.

"The story that I'm not sure is getting out," said Mr. Causey, then a medic with the unit, "is that while they're saying this was a ruthless band ravaging the countryside, we were under orders to do it."

Burning huts and villages, shooting civilians and throwing grenades into protective shelters were common tactics for American ground forces throughout Vietnam, they said. That contention is backed up by accounts of journalists, historians and disillusioned troops.

The tactics — particularly in "free-fire zones," where anyone was regarded as fair game — arose from the frustrating nature of the guerrilla war and, above all, from the military's reliance on the body count as a measure of success and a reason officers were promoted, according to many accounts.
By the way, the neighbor of mine I mentioned only yesterday served in Vietnam, and it was that experience that led to many of the physical problems he has today. Moreover, I have discussed with him on several occasions the practice of cutting ears off of dead Vietnamese. He confirms that practice very matter of factly -- and he says it was the "easiest way" to keep track of the number of your kills. He says that everyone did it, and no one thought there was anything the least remarkable about it.

But as I discussed in that earlier post, certain writers continue in their massive denial that the United States military could ever have committed such acts, no matter how well-known or extensive the evidence documenting these practices is. Rich Lowry was one of the writers I mentioned then -- and Lowry continued his denial more recently. And here you can see very plainly his rage at John Kerry for telling the truth about these issues:
Recounting the work of the so-called Winter Soldier Investigation — a since-discredited project that gathered first-person accounts of alleged atrocities from American vets — Kerry spoke of "war crimes committed in Southeast Asia, not isolated incidents, but crimes committed on a day-to-day basis with the full awareness of officers at all levels of command." In his telling, the American war was simply a criminal undertaking. Kerry said the men "relived the absolute horror of what this country, in a sense, made them do." ...

Kerry's defenders argue that in 1971 he was only repeating stories told by other veterans. These stories should have been incredible to anyone with the least bit of respect for American soldiers, especially someone who had just served with them. But Kerry repeated the stories anyway in order to cast the war in the worst possible light. Even now he won't disavow them. Pressed on Meet the Press about the testimony, Kerry said, "I'm not going to quibble, you know, 35 years later that I might not have phrased things more artfully at times." Phrased more artfully?

Kerry refuses to admit that he burst onto the national scene by telling a shameful falsehood about American servicemen. In his testimony, he even traded on the notion that the vets had been made into war-damaged freaks — the country has created "a monster, a monster in the form of millions of men who have been taught to deal and to trade in violence." Kerry is perfectly happy to stand with members of this monstrous body of war criminals, victims and misfits now that they suit his political purposes. As for those vets who don't, they are "liars." The Swift Boat veterans seem unfazed by the charge, since they, after all, have been called worse by John Kerry.
With regard to the additional Big Lie -- that the Winter Soldier investigation has been "discredited" -- I recommend this post to your attention, one I only discovered this week.

And as for Lowry's contention that it is a vicious lie that the Vietnam War turned many veterans into "war-damaged freaks," I will let the Tiger Force veterans speak for themselves, as set forth in one of the concluding parts of the Toledo Blade investigation:
For Barry Bowman, the images return at night.

The elderly man praying on his knees. The officer pointing a rifle at the man's head.

The shot.

That piercing shot.

Before it's over, the old man drops to the ground - his body twitching in the blood-soaked grass.

Over and over, Mr. Bowman relives the execution of the Vietnamese villager known as Dao Hue.

Despite years of therapy, the former Tiger Force soldier is still deeply troubled by the brutal shooting he witnessed as a young medic in the Song Ve Valley.

He's not alone.

Of the 43 former platoon members interviewed by The Blade in an eight-month investigation of Tiger Force, a dozen expressed remorse for committing or failing to stop atrocities.

They share some of the same symptoms - flashbacks or nightmares - and over the past 36 years have sought counseling, they said.

Nine have been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, a psychiatric condition that can occur following life-threatening experiences.

To this day, they wrestle with memories of Tiger Force's rampage through more than 40 hamlets in the Central Highlands of South Vietnam in 1967.

Mr. Bowman, who was standing next to Mr. Dao when he was shot to death by a platoon leader, said he remains shaken by the unprovoked attack on the 68-year-old man as he prayed for mercy.

"It was devastating," he said.

For many, the images never fade.

When Douglas Teeters closes his eyes, he sees villagers being shot as they wave leaflets that guaranteed their safety.

He takes anti-depressants and sleeping pills, but he can never seem to get enough rest, he said.

Mr. Teeters is among the one-in-six Vietnam veterans - about 500,000 - who have been treated for PTSD.

Mr. Teeters said he struggles with his own acts - the executions of captured soldiers - and the actions of former platoon members in the deaths of villagers.

"The killing haunts me every minute of my life,'' he said in a recent interview. "To survive, you had to say, `The killing don't mean nothing.' That's how you got through it, man. But eventually, it all catches up with you.''

Former Sgt. Ernest Moreland refuses to talk about his role in the stabbing death of a detainee near Duc Pho, saying he fears he could be charged. But he said he still tries to rationalize the killing.

"The things you did. You think back and say, `I can't believe I did that.' At the time, it seemed right," he said. "But now, you know what you did was wrong. The killing gets to you. The nightmares get to you. You just can't escape it. You can't escape the past."

He is among nine of the veterans interviewed who said they turned to drugs or alcohol to ease their pain after returning from Vietnam.

"I drank too much. I got into a lot of fights," said Mr. Moreland, who now lives in Florida.

It wasn't until four years ago that he sought help. "I came very close to committing suicide,'' he said. ...

A culture existed in Tiger Force that embraced the executions of prisoners and civilians - one encouraged by officers and sergeants.

One former sergeant now being treated for PTSD said he wanted his men to kill without hesitation.

"It didn't matter if they were civilians. If they weren't supposed to be in an area, we shot them," said William Doyle, 70, of Missouri. "If they didn't understand fear, I taught it to them."

He said he and others also cut off the ears of numerous dead Vietnamese to scare enemy soldiers.

Experts say body mutilations are classic symptoms of soldiers in secondary stages of PTSD in which fear turns into anger, said Dr. Baker, who treats veterans at the Cincinnati Veterans Affairs Medical Center. "They kick into a second stage - a rage mode."

Former platoon medic Joseph Evans, who lives in Atlanta, said in a recent interview that he severed ears. "You fall into this unbelievable frustration," said Mr. Evans, 59, who has been treated for PTSD. "You're burned and you're fried and you're scared, and you do it to make light of the burden you're underneath." ...

William Carpenter said before he dies, he wants to return to the Song Ve Valley.

The 54-year-old former platoon specialist wants to go to the rice paddy where Tiger Force soldiers killed four elderly farmers.

He wants to apologize to their families.

Thirty-six years later, he said the assault on 10 farmers remains a vivid memory. "I want to tell them how sorry I am that it happened," said Mr. Carpenter, of Rayland, Ohio, who has been treated for PTSD.

Experts say one way of coming to terms with the disorder is to openly acknowledge past actions.

Mr. Carpenter said he didn't fire on the farmers but never reported the atrocity to commanders.

Like other former Tiger Force members, he said he can justify many of the aggressive acts toward villagers, but he said it's "in the middle of the night when the demons come that you remember. That you can't forget."
It's easy enough for people like Lowry to deny the overwhelming reality of this history. The demons don't come for him.

And today, we see all of this all over again -- with the contemptible attempts to minimize the torture and abuse at Abu Ghraib, in other prisons, and possibly in a manner spread even more widely throughout Iraq. As was true with Vietnam -- and the truth that Kerry spoke, but that the deniers do not want to hear -- the fault and the ultimate responsibility do not lie with the individual soldiers, but with the political and military leaders who embarked on a course that was disastrously wrong and ultimately deeply destructive to ourselves and to our nation, as well as to the Vietnamese then, and the Iraqis now.

As I said in the earlier post discussing Lowry's denial (and Andrew Sullivan's, too):
With no effort at all, you could multiply examples such as these a thousandfold, every single day. In this manner, defenders of our current foreign policy wipe out of existence all the facts, all the costs, all the deaths, and anything else that might bring into question what is an absolute of their faith: the United States is right, what we have done and are doing in Iraq is right, our military is right, we are inherently unable to make mistakes, and the authorities must not be questioned.

These are the victims described by Miller -- now grown into adulthood, continuing their denial, with additional authority figures added to the ones they first had. Besides the original parent, they now revere our government and our military and, beyond a certain point, nothing they do is to be challenged. As I have discussed, to do so would bring into question these individuals' entire false sense of self, it would undermine their worldview completely, and it represents a threat that cannot be allowed to come too close. As always, what is dispensable in all this are facts, untold national wealth, reputation and prestige, and above all, the lives of human beings.

As I have said before, it is in this manner that horrors are unleashed upon the world. And if this mentality is carried far enough, you will finally end up with the kind of thinking, and the kind of psychology, that lies behind the journal entry from World War II (written by a German soldier) that I quoted in the previous part of this essay:

"On a roundabout way to have lunch I witnessed the public shooting of twenty-eight Poles on the edge of a playing field. Thousands line the streets and the river. A ghastly pile of corpses, all in all horrifying and ugly and yet a sight that leaves me altogether cold. The men who were shot had ambushed two soldiers and a German civilian and killed them. An exemplary modern folk-drama. (1/27/44)"

If you never allowed your authentic self to develop (or your parents never allowed you to develop one), if you denied and continue to deny the reality of your own pain, then you will deny the pain of others, even as the corpses pile up -- and you will be prepared to believe anything.

And the horrors continue, beyond all human reckoning -- and without end.
It is the people who deny all these truths who make the horrors possible, and who help to ensure the repetition of them in the present, and into the future.

And in every case that I know of, both through extensive reading and through conversations with hundreds of people over the years, and without a single exception, the deepest roots of horrors such as these lie in childhood -- and in parents who inflict untold cruelties on defenseless children. And it lies with those parents or other authority figures who always maintain, no matter how undeniably cruel and dangerous their practices are, that they do it "for the child's own good" -- which is, of course, exactly what we now as a nation tell the Iraqis. And we say it to the Iraqis, whom we supposedly went to "liberate," while we imprison them, abuse and torture them, and make a horrific situation even worse every single day.

It is long, long past time for people to begin to see and admit the truth -- before it is finally too late. If we don't, the demons will come for all of us.