Conditioned to Kill
But for the infantry, the problem of persuading soldiers to kill is now a major one…That an infantry company in World War II could wreak havoc with only about one seventh of the soldiers willing to use their weapons is a testimony to the lethal effects of modern firepower, but once armies realized what was actually going on, they at once set about to raise the average.
Soldiers had to be taught, very specifically, to kill. “We are reluctant to admit that essentially war is the business of killing,” Marshall wrote in 1947, but it is readily enough admitted now.
~ Gwynne Dyer, in “War,” as reprinted by Lt. Col. Dave Grossman in “On Killing: The Psychological Consequences of Learning to Kill in War and Society”
We have produced an unusual dilemma. A procedure is rapidly becoming recognized as the procedure of choice in late abortion, but those capable of performing or assisting with the procedure are having strong personal reservations about participating in an operation which they view as destructive and violent…No one who has not performed this procedure can know what it is like or what it means; but having performed it, we are bewildered by the possibilities of interpretation. We have reached a point in this particular technology where there is no possibility of denial of an act of destruction by the operator. It is before one’s eyes. The sensations of dismemberment flow through the forceps like an electric current…The more we seem to solve the problem, the more intractable it becomes.
~ Warren Hern, abortion specialist, as reprinted by Dr. Rachel MacNair in “Perpetration-Induced Traumatic Stress: The Psychological Consequences of Killing”
As I conducted interviews for this study in a VFW hall in Florida in the summer of 1989, a Vietnam vet named Roger started talking about his experiences over a beer. It was still early in the afternoon, but down the bar an older woman already began to attack him. “You got no right to snivel about your little pish-ant war. World War Two was a real war. Were you even alive then? Huh? I lost a brother in World War Two.”
We tried to ignore her; she was only a local character. But finally Roger had had enough. He looked at her and calmly, coldly, said, “Have you ever had to kill anyone?”
~ Lt. Col. Dave Grossman, “On Killing”
As we’ve been discussing, Lt. Col. Dave Grossman reports on an innate aversion to killing another human being as it has been evidenced throughout the history of warfare. In World War Two, researchers discovered that “…75 to 80 percent of riflemen did not fire their weapons at an exposed enemy, even to save their lives and the lives of their friends,” (Grossman, p. 250). Equating this low firing rate among soldiers to having “a literacy rate of 15 to 20 percent among proofreaders,” (Grossman, p. 251), the military set about correcting the problem. Firing rates improved during the Korean conflict, and by the time we were sending soldiers into Vietnam, the military had achieved a firing rate of 95 percent. They did this by incorporating psychological methodology into training techniques: desensitization, conditioning, and denial defense mechanisms. We see the same techniques used in individuals and in our society to overcome our innate aversion to killing our unborn children.
“The Vietnam era was, of course then at its peak, you know, the kill thing. We’d run PT in the morning, and every time your left foot hit the deck you’d have to chant “kill, kill, kill, kill.” It was drilled into your mind so much that it seemed like when it actually came down to it, it didn’t bother you, you know? Of course the first one always does, but it seems to get easier – not easier, because it still bothers you with every one that, you know, that you actually kill and you know you’ve killed.”
~ USMC sergeant and Vietnam veteran, 1982 (Grossman, p. 251)
“There are weary, grim moments when I think I cannot bear another basin of bloody remains, utter another kind phrase of reassurance…I prepare myself for another basin, another brief and chafing loss. “How can you stand it?” Even the clients ask…I watch a woman’s swollen abdomen sink to softness in a few stuttering moments and my own belly flip-flops with sorrow…It is a sweet brutality we practice here, a stark and loving dispassion.”
~ Sallie Tisdale, abortion clinic nurse (MacNair, p. 73)
“We used medications to try to stop the labor of women in premature labor so that the pregnancy could progress to term. Sometimes, the aborted babies were bigger than the premature ones we took to the nursery. It was at this point that I began to have nightmares…”
~ McArthur Hill, former abortion provider (MacNair, p. 75)
Grossman refers to the process of desensitizing soldiers to the act of killing as “thinking the unthinkable,” (Grossman, p. 251). In addition to reinforcing the idea that the enemy is not human, desensitizing measures included more realistic combat training conditions, such as targets shaped like human beings, some of which were loaded with red-paint-filled milk jugs to make the kill shots more realistic. Killing another human being is drilled into soldiers as target practice, so they will not stop to consider the humanity of their victims, or even consider them human in the first place. Note in the above testimony that the nightmares started for Dr. Hill when his denial was shattered.
Desensitizing is thinking the unthinkable; Grossman calls conditioning “doing” the unthinkable. Conditioning is a term used in psychology to denote learning. According to Grossman, in order to overcome the soldier’s resistance to killing, “every aspect of killing on the battlefield is rehearsed, visualized, and conditioned,” (Grossman, p. 254), so that firing in combat becomes a reflexive action, done without thought. In describing the acute and chronic stress responses, we discussed the amygdala, an area of the brain wherein we process sensory input for emotional content and meaning during times of trauma. It is also that area of the brain where we store certain learned skills: riding a bicycle; playing a musical instrument; and in well-conditioned soldiers, firing upon another human being designated as the “enemy.” We recall that during times of acute trauma, we turn to that knowledge in our brains that is most easily accessible, and we often find that which has been well-rehearsed and stored in the amygdala. It is the entire purpose of fire drills and other rehearsals done by emergency responders. In the attacks of 9/11 on the World Trade Center, many who survived the bombing nearly a decade earlier were saved that day, and saved others, because they had been through it before.
Here is how one military sniper trainer designed his training methods to make practicing the kill as realistic as possible: “I changed the standard firing targets to full-size, anatomically correct figures because no [enemy soldier] runs around with a big white square on his chest with numbers on it. I put clothes on these targets and polyurethane heads. I cut up a cabbage and poured catsup into it and put back together. I said, ‘When you look through that scope, I want you to see a head blowing up,’” (Grossman, p. 255).
The abortion industry does not, so far as I know, use images of infants to train women and girls to abort. The pro-life movement uses these graphic images in an effort to shatter denial and dissuade women from aborting, but runs the risk of desensitizing us to this violence when it does. However, combining reproductive health services to women in the same clinic where one performs abortions can easily be seen as a kind of rehearsal. Get women used to coming to the clinic for health care, and abortion slides right in, almost unnoticed, as just another aspect of same, even though a.) in most cases, there is no abnormal health problem that needs treatment (pregnancy is normal) and b.) there is certainly very little care.
Pro-abortion and pro-choice groups, do, however, use language to disguise the humanity of the aborted child: “pregnancy tissue,” “fetal tissue,” and other similar euphemisms are used to describe the human remains that are chemically expelled or surgically removed. Some women have reported seeing, and abortion clinic workers testify to the practice, particularly in surgical abortions, of making sure the unborn infant is reconstructed. This is done to ensure the child has been entirely removed from the woman’s body. When this fails, we don’t hear the words that describe the true nature of the infection – it is simply referred to as such, and we don’t hear the biological reality that the woman’s uterus is infected with decomposing human remains. That would give us pause; so we don’t think of it; but it is true. This leads us to the defense mechanism of denial, without which no one would abort.
Denial Defense Mechanisms
Denial defense mechanisms are “unconscious methods for dealing with traumatic experiences,” (Grossman, p. 255).
“Basically, the soldier has rehearsed the process so many times that when he does kill in combat he is able to, at one level, deny to himself that he is actually killing another human being,” (Grossman, p. 255). He describes the process of “manufactured contempt,” which is :…a combination of the denial of, and contempt for, the victim’s role in society (desensitization), along with the psychological denial of, and contempt for, the victim’s humanity (developing a denial defense mechanism)…”, (Grossman, p. 256).
“[I]f you really dwell on it, and talk about it all the time, then it gets more personal. It gets more real to you. You just don’t talk about it, try not to think about it…If Dr. Tucker ever caught you discussing something like that – is this right what we’re doing? – he’d fire you. When I was active in the abortion clinics, I don’t know that any of us had any feelings about anything. We didn’t really have a lot of feelings about the women, about the moral issues,”
~ Joy Davis, abortion clinic worker (MacNair, p. 77).
“The one thing that sticks out in my mind the most, that really upset me the most, was that he had done an abortion, he had a fetus wrapped inside of a blue paper. He stuck it inside of a surgical glove and put another glove over it. He was standing in the hall, speaking with myself and two of his assistants. He was tossing the fetus up in the air, and catching it. Like it was a rubber ball. I just looked at him, and it’s like, doctor, please. And he laughed. He says, “No one knows what this is.”
~ Louisiana abortion clinic worker (MacNair, p. 77)
Each and every abortion is in and of itself an act of psychological and maladaptive denial. We are saying, “I am not a mother,” or “I am not a father,” when that is not a biological reality. But denial speaks for itself:
“It took time for it to sink in for me that although I wanted to have kids with Austin, having them at that point would be dooming us all--both the two of us and whatever children came out of it. We weren't stable in any sense of the word, and to have a child would pretty much guarantee that we never would be. I wanted to be a mom, but I wanted to be a better mother than that.
It had been a few weeks since my last change of heart, and Austin had been trying hard to be supportive even though he didn't want us to have kids. When I told him I wanted the abortion, he broke down crying. He was terrified that I'd change my mind again. I called Planned Parenthood the next morning and scheduled an appointment for the following week.
I suppose the details of the actual procedure are pretty much the same for everybody--a lot of "Ow, ow, ow, SERIOUSLY OW," and that's what it was for me. Austin held my hand throughout and looked ready to cry. Afterwards in the recovery room, he held me tight (and ate my crackers) and told me he would make sure I never had to go through anything like that again.
So, what to say about afterwards, other than "I'm not sorry"? I had some rotten mood swings during the next few weeks, but I evened out. I got a job that February, which I still have. Austin and I are still together, and much closer for all that happened--if either of us were at all interested in marriage, we'd probably be engaged by now.
I've encountered a few morons who call me a slut and a baby killer--but they were safely on the other side of a computer connection, where they don't have to look you in the eye to say that kind of thing to you. It used to piss me off, but eventually you get used to it and it just seems laughable and pathetic. Of course, if you don't get upset by being called a baby murderer, then they think you must be REALLY evil ... so I would say that you can't win no matter what you do, but I'm four days away from what was supposed to be my due date. Considering that I am nowhere near giving birth, I would definitely say that I won.”
~ Melissa, http://www.imnotsorry.net/melissaC.htm
I included Melissa’s last paragraph purposefully: in case someone thinks we are not at war against our children with abortion, read Melissa’s last line.
Dissociation, as we discussed, creates an unhealthy schism within the psyche. As I mentioned, abortion is intrinsically an act of denial requiring us to dissociate from parental or nurturing emotions: saying, “I will not be a parent,” when in biological fact, one already is the parent of an unborn child. In mother’s case, her body has already changed by the time she discovers she is pregnant. No one submits to or refers another to abortion without this singular and requisite act of denial.
Denying our emotions, or dissociating from them, can lead to somatic expression of these emotions through chronic pain and illness. All emotions have an adaptive and natural purpose. Guilt is one such emotion – it occurs naturally, so there must be an adaptive purpose to it. It can be a social emotion that helps us conform to what our fellow humans expect of us, but it must also be an individual one, since we are wired to feel guilt when we take a human life – this is the innnate and aversive quality of killing that Grossman identifies. It is not imposed by society, or soldiers, police officers, and abortionists would feel none, since they are sanctioned to kill. Yet we recognize that they do feel guilt, and that this is one complicating factor in PTSD, since it is unrealized guilt that haunts their nightmares.
“I have fetus dreams, we all do here: dreams of abortions one after the other; of buckets of blood splashed on the walls; trees full of crawling fetuses,” (MacNair, p. 76).
Dr. MacNair finds that “negative emotions” as a whole occur more frequently in abortion clinic workers than in other medical fields; and that “…those who have contact with the fetal remains have more negative feelings than those who do not, as would be expected if abortion practice leads to PTSD symptomatology,” (MacNair, p. 79). We would expect this; the fetal face takes on recognizably human characteristics very early in development, and we know that proximity to one’s victim shatters our ability to deny his or her humanity. Scientists have noted that fetal development prioritizes: the lungs, which are needed last, do not fully develop until the third trimester. Of what purpose are facial features in an eight-week old fetus, if not to tell whoever may have the opportunity to view them that what they are seeing is human, and therefore, one of us?
Guilt is a charged emotion: it spurs us to act, usually to confession and atonement. When one denies or represses a naturally-occurring emotion that is urging a response, like anger, fear, or guilt, neuropsychological energy builds up. This energy must dissipate; in post-traumatic stress disorder, it does so in a pathological way known as kindling. The only way to actively dissipate these charged emotions in a controlled manner is to acknowledge and act on them. This requires us to shatter denial, and in the case of abortion, it requires us to admit to atrocity.