Friday, June 09, 2006

Warnography

We all know that pornography is ubiquitous on the internet. It may in fact be the thing that most drives the internet. I think everyone should see a bit of it just for the sake of having some awareness of what it is, but to wallow in it is to deaden the soul. The same holds true, but even more so, for “warnography”.

A lot of us have been kept naïve as to exactly what the horrors of war are. In this country, at least, we see very few graphic images of the current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Our network and cable news programs are extremely sanitized. The web, however, is full of dark corners to view images and videos of the carnage.

Not enough people know the actual effects of what bullets, shrapnel, and high explosives actually do to the human body. More people should. If they did know, they might think harder about what war means to begin with. What war does to the body is the ultimate in obscenity. It is the worst kind of porn. It makes sexual pornography pale in comparison. When they say that “war is hell”, nothing truer has ever been spoken. After seeing these kinds of images, it almost makes you want to see embracing flesh just as a celebration of being alive.

While I do think there should be more awareness, there is unfortunately a pathological alt.subculture that revels in this and allows it to deaden their collective souls. Not long ago, I came upon this post on Jihadwatch, which was raising an alarm about an Islamist website and forum that shows Al Qaeda “snuff videos” of American troops being shot by snipers, or more commonly, of IEDs exploding next to American military vehicles. In most cases, the commentary of these kinds of videos includes the perpetrators chanting “allahu akbar… allahu akbar… allahu akbar…” against a soundtrack of jihadist music. They post articles from American newspapers about deceased American servicemen and mock them.
jazakallah for those videos, i like the one where they shoot 1 american at a time. they first show him just patrolling, then bang bang. lol. it shows dem not to mess with ppl in their own countries. an illegal war....now they gona face the consequences. whether they like it or not.

There sure is a ton of irony to be found on the web, this invention of ours. The world is seeing something, or at least Americans are seeing something, that has rarely or never been seen before – Video images of Americans being injured and killed in a war.


Not that we are innocent here. Early on, there were times at work when we’d send URLs to each other with grim satisfaction, showing what we were inflicting on terrorists, and there are plenty of psychotic “reality” sites where Americans wallow in mayhem. What may be even more troubling and irresponsible, however, is what sometimes comes out of our own Pentagon briefings – Photos like the ones we’ve seen of the dead Zarqawi. The photos of Saddam Hussein's sons, where we even took the ghoulish step of applying pancake make-up to their dead faces. The briefings often show JDAM-guided bombs obliterating buildings, and the briefers go on to talk about the forensic teams going in afterwards to pick up the human bits and pieces for fingerprint and DNA evidence as dispassionately as a Jeffrey Dahmer... In the battle for hearts and minds, what do they think the Islamic world makes of this? Do they have that much of a tin ear? After “shock and awe”, I guess they do. If we treat dead Arabs like lab specimens or bagged deer, should we be shocked when they post videos of humvees being blown apart?

Tons of irony on the web… Today, we can be vicariously brutalized, almost as brutalized as the victims and combatants themselves. What a dehumanizing age. What a thing war is. Is man destined to live this way forever, or until we destroy ourselves? Will we ever be worthy of the promises of Christ?

More tortuous than all else is the human heart, beyond remedy; who can understand it? – Jeremiah 17:9

10 comments:

Joe said...

Jeff, you know how I feel about this topic. If I find time I would like to heave a few thoughts on here, but for now I just wanted to say "great post"... thanks for putting down in print. Indeed, ¿will we ever truly learn, truly dare to walk with Christ?

un abrazo fuerte. ¡Paz!

Liam said...

Great post, Jeff. I read somewhere that US soldiers were posting grisly pictures of themselves with corpses and body parts on a porn site, of all places. Truly horrible.

I ran into that passage from Jeremiah a couple of months ago and, given how the world is, it sent shivers up my spine.

Jeff said...

Thanks Joe. I can't tell you how glad I am that you've been stopping by. It means a lot to me. Peace, brother.

Liam,

I've seen some stuff too horrific to describe. Decorum doesn't allow me to even go into it here. Nightmare stuff.

The passage from Jeremiah I'm well acquainted with from debates with Calvinists. They use it often as a proof-text for man's total depravity. In spite of its resonance here, I still hold to the belief that although man is fallen, and very deeply fallen and flawed, there is still basic goodness in him in that he was created in the image and likeness of God.

Paula said...

I have to say also: great post Jeff.
Agree with your comment above, on the very deeply fallen man.
I have seen few images of the carnage going on, some time ago. I had to see them in order to understand what is really there. Afterwards I did not wanted to see something like that again.

Steve Bogner said...

Great post Jeff. I wonder, at what point do we let our kids in on the graphic cruelty of war? At some point, it's good for them to be aware of the reality of war; but on the other hand, when are they ready for it?

friar minor said...

Brilliant post, brother. Just when there looked like there might be a backlash over "atrocities," the assassination of Al-Zarqawi gets everyone flag waving again.

You are so astute to say that delight in war video and pornography are the same thing. Self-hate that finds some relief and camaraderie in the humiliation of someone else.

Don said...

Excellent post. You have spoken eloquently. War in the USA is big business. It's not about patriotism, though it is sold that way, it's actually about feeding the military industrial complex behemoth. I can only surmise what feeds hatred on the other side of the world. Gandhi said, "poverty is the worst form of violence." Maybe the poverty in the mideast is the root cause of so much violence that is unfortunately directed at the west.

crystal said...

Hi Jeff - an interesting post.

While this is all horrible, it is nothing new, though the fact that it's on the iinternet makes it available to everyone who wants to observe.

I worked with a guy who had been in Vietnam. He told me that after they had killed enemy soldiers, they would often pose them in funny ways and take photos of them to send home, that they would cut off body parts for souvenirs.

And you don't need the net to experience this stuff ... books and movies. The movie The Deer Hunter, for instance ... it almost made me sick, but I was glad I saw it.

People should know how bad war is, how it destroys not just bodies and minds (like my father's after Korea) but also souls, dehumanizing people. maybe if we realize how awful it is, they'll stop sending people into it.

sorry, rant over :-)

Jeff said...

Hi Paula,

Yes, that awareness is important to have, but I agree with you. There isn’t necessarily a need to go back and revisit it.

Hi Steve,

Your question reminds me of an incident in the pre 9/11 world. Two of my sons were quite young and played with toy soldiers, plastic guns, GI Joe’s and the like (among other things. They were in no way obsessed with them). We had some friends from Canada living in the neighborhood at the time and we could tell that they were very uneasy seeing this. The whole gun mentality that they perceived as being widespread in the US was very alien and apparently repellant to them, especially after Columbine. There are a lot of American parents who felt that way too, and our attitude was, “Well, that’s fair and fine for them, but there are also people who feel that a country needs to be defended and respect needs to be given to the people who defend it”. For me, it was a matter of them being informed and knowing something of the nation’s history and world history. We didn’t allow the strange fantasy-type of combat figurines you sometimes see in stores. Whatever they looked at was somewhat accurate and in context. I’m very interested in military history myself, and I admit that I enjoy a good action picture now and then. As far as the kids are concerned, we tried to explain to them as they got a little older that war is a serious matter. Without getting too explicit, we explained that people are killed, orphaned, wounded, maimed, paralyzed, and suffer amputations. We explained that homes and cities are ruined. I’ve expressed to them that I have absolutely no interest in owning a weapon myself. They are not allowed to play any video games in which they shoot a human being. I think they get it, because in the post 9/11 world, they don’t seem to get much enjoyment out of that sort of thing. They are actually pretty sober and sanguine about it. They don’t seem to have romantic illusions.

I guess I take a cue from the way my father raised us. We have a bit of a military tradition in my family. My father was a Silver Star Medal recipient in Korea. My cousins served with distinction as Rangers, and one went on to Special Forces. When I was a kid, I used to ask my father about Korea, and he never wanted to talk about it. When I asked him what he did over there, all he would say was “I hid.” He didn’t allow us to watch TV shows like ‘Combat’ and Garrison’s Guerrillas” that dramatized war in Hollywood fashion for popular entertainment, but he did take me to see “Patton”. The one show that really made my father apoplectic was “Hogan’s Heroes”. If he ever caught us watching that, it wasn’t pleasant. “What, do you think living in a POW camp was a funny? Do you think it was a cake-walk and a joke?”. On the other hand, he rarely ever missed an episode of Mash, because it was in Korea, and I suspect, because the attitude of the characters was one of cynicism and skepticism regarding the war. Despite his Silver Star (which he knew I admired him for), I never developed romantic illusions about war, because I could tell he didn’t want me too.

Jeff said...

Friar and Don,

I’m honored and proud to have members of the Franciscan order visiting me here, both religious and secular. Welcome!

Interesting points that you guys touch on. Friar makes reference to the atrocities, and that issue isn’t going to go away, even with Zarqawi gone. Don’t get me wrong… The world is far better off without Zarqawi and his associates, but I had never heard of him on September 12, 2001. There always seem to be more Zarqawis waiting in the wings. As far as the battle for hearts and minds go, one hundred Zarqawis are probably not going to make up for one Haditha.

In an earlier post, I had commented on how we had entered Viet Nam with a good army only to come out with a bad one, and that we were running the same risk in Iraq. All wars have atrocities, but this kind of thing seems to happen most often in counter-insurgency, which we’ve never really learned how to do anyway (after losing in Viet Nam, don’t ask me why). When you put young men, armed to the teeth, in high stress situations day-in and day-out for months on end, among a population that they feel they can’t trust, who are being harassed, picked off and killed on a daily basis by unseen enemies, who can rarely distinguish friend from foe, and are convinced that their attackers are hidden among a hostile population, I contend that these types of incidents are going to be inevitable no matter how well trained the troops are. That’s why war is hell, why it will always be hell, and that’s why you shouldn’t enter them voluntarily if you can possibly help it.

One thing I want to make clear. I am not prepared to attack the American troops as a whole, despite the actions of some. I’m not an Andy Rooney fan, but he once said something I found profound. He was talking about all the “Greatest Generation” hagiography that was going on a few years back, and he pointed out how he had spent a great deal of time in the European theater during WWII, and didn’t buy into the “Greatest Generation” notion at all. He said that in a group of millions of people (or hundreds of thousands of people), some will be heroes, but not all. Some will be shirkers, some will be cowards, some will be thieves, some will be scoundrels, and some will simply be good solid men and women. I think the same holds true for our people in Iraq.

I see wisdom in Friars’ quote self-hate that finds relief and camaraderie in the humiliation of someone else. True. Do you know where else I see that syndrome? In some forms of fundamentalism. The self-loathing theology of the fundamentalist says more about the person holding to it than it does about God and the scriptures.

Don notes that poverty is the worst form of violence, and there is a great truth there as well, although in the Middle East this fundamentalist cancer seems to affect the parasitic wealthy who live without meaningful work, direction, and purpose, as well as the poor. He saying might be expanded to say that poverty and hopelessness, and the inability to find meaningful work or purpose in life are among the worst forms of violence.

Hi Crystal,


I’m so sorry to hear that the Korean War had that affect on your father. My mother used to say that my father as not the same man when he came back. It changed him. She said there was a gentleness he had to him before he left that he never really regained.

As for the Viet Nam atrocities, it’s frightening to think that this kind of thing can lie so shallowly under the veneer of someone you might have grown up next door to isn’t it? It doesn’t take much for us to descend into barbarism, but this behavior isn’t restricted to our men alone. War brutalizes everyone it touches, and affects all humans equally.