American Soldier Admits to Being “Happy” He Killed Taliban Fighter

Alright, I will fully sdmit that I am performing a social experiment here, but I feel confident that the results will bear out that my basic hypothesis is accurate.

What do you feel, or think of, when you read the title of this post? Does the thought that an American soldier would admit to being pleased at having killed a Taliban fighter shock you in the least, or does it make you shrug in a wordless acceptance of the regularity of such an admission? I’m postulating that there aren’t too many out there who would be shocked, taken aback or surprised to read a headline like that in the daily newspaper. It’s generally taken for granted and accepted that a soldier will take pleasure in defeating an enemy; it’s what they are trained to do.

So why in the hell should we find it surprising that Omar Khadr admits to being “happy” he killed an American soldier?

The greatest misuse of human intellect is the careful and eloquent justification for things that should never be justified. We do it all the time, at least in political circles. And, even in the court of public opinion, carefully crafted arguments are constructed to excuse actions and opinions that objectively should not be excused. There is an endless supply of worthy causes we could bend the potential of our collective intellect to addressing, yet we more often than not put our effort and energy into excusing ourselves for things that are plainly shameful. The world isn’t as fucked up as it is because we are incapable of fixing it, it’s fucked up because we’re just too damn busy playing a different game. Or, as was more eloquently put by Edmund Burke, all that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.

I recently attended Roger Waters’ performance of “The Wall” here in Ottawa, and was actually moved by a quote that was projected during the concert. Here are Eisenhower’s words, in their entirety:

“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and not clothed. The world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children….This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from an iron cross.”

War never makes sense. Violence in response to violence is an admission of failure, because with all our intelligence and ability we have not found a way to resolve conflict without resorting to our most primal faculties. And, that’s all that violence is; primal. So, from that perspective, how surprising can it be that some primal, emotional and irrational part of us feels happiness at defeating our foe? It’s one of the most natural things our little lizard brains can feel.

What disturbs me is what is implied by the expected shock that Khadr felt happiness at having killed an American soldier. If we accept that an American soldier should feel happy for killing a Taliban fighter, saying that Khadr should not requires that we think that Khadr is different from the soldier. And, this is where the intellectual game of justification becomes plain.

Under the wishy-washiness of law, Omar Khadr is classified as an “unprivileged” enemy combatant, a classification that has been the source of debate and scorn from various organizations and human rights associations. What exactly it means is beyond me, nor do I think that the whole subject needs to have such an amount of energy spent on it. Simply put, if we call this the “War on Terror,” ridiculous and meaningless as that term is in itself, we are in fact saying that we are at war. This is good, since the military is not generally or legally used for law enforcement, so if this was just a matter of chasing criminals we’d be in a difficult position. But, since we’re at war, it means our military is facing an organized troop of combatants on the other side. That is, after all, what war entails, two opposed groups in violent conflict.

But, if we’re at war, then the people we are fighting are soldiers of one sort or another. And, if they are soldiers, we’re kind of expecting that they will use their skills and whatever armaments they have available to them to defeat their enemy (in this case, us.) So, if Omar Khadr throws a grenade and kills an enemy soldier and is happy for it, all we can say is that his actions, behaviour and feelings are in keeping with what we expect and understand from a soldier.

Simple enough.

It makes the entire arrest, detention and conviction for war crimes a little difficult to understand. After all, if he’s a soldier and is being charged with having killed an enemy, wouldn’t we have to charge all of our soldiers with killing enemies as well? How is it that it’s a crime for the opposition to kill our soldiers, but it’s not a crime for our soldiers to kill them?

Don’t tell me it’s because they aren’t soldiers, because we’ve just covered that. And, frankly, if we accept against earlier logic that these fighters are not soldiers, this justification for the criminality of their actions just strengthens the argument that our soldiers’ actions are criminal.

I digress.

I’m not saying that our soldiers are criminal. I’m actually saying that no crime has been commited here at all, except for the crime against humanity that this entire war represents, as ‘ol Eisenhower wrote. It’s an exercise in death and destruction that will, ultimately, accomplish nothing. The ideas and the hatred that spawned the actions that precipitated this war won’t be changed by a pile of dead Taliban. In fact, those ideas will likely be bolstered by all this violence. And, we won’t grow any stronger as a country for all the waste of life. While billions are being spent on war, let me ask you how well our economy has been doing in that stretch of time? In the wake of 9/11, with all the world willing to band together and lend assistance to the United States, what did we bend that massive amount of potential energy and ability to? Not fixing our domestic problems.

We decided we needed to get revenge and kill something.

One life is not more valuable than another, and this is something that we are taught in our childhood and reminded of in our Charter of Rights. The social experiment here is that our shock and dismay at Khadr’s admissions, and our lack of shock and surprise at the headline to this post, demonstrate that we don’t actually value one life as equal to another. We’ll bend our mighty minds to coming up with excuses and justification for why one act is better or more acceptable than another, but this is all just mental gymnastics to ease our conscience. At the end of the day, two hearts stopped beating, and two others were filled with happiness for it. One is no worse than the other.

They’re both equally wrong, equally depressing, and equally evil, in a primal sort of way.

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2 comments so far

Im not taking any side in this, I agree with you that war is a waist of life and time.
What I find interesting is that Omar Khadr is (was) on trial for “war crimes”. Have any of the other POWs have trials? I know the few in Gitmo have had trials, but what of the hundreds that were captured dunning the Iraq war?
I guess they were not notorious enough.?
Me thinks there is a double standard here.
As for feeling happy about killing a Taliban fighter, a friend of a friend who had been in combat put it best, “In battle the only thing that matters is you kill as many of the bastards who are trying to kill you, its not about flags or country, its about you and you buddies staying alive longer than the other guy.”

October 27th, 2010 at 12:13 am

Self defence is an understandable situation where violence is used in response to an immediate mortal threat. I have no problem with this. It’s not without its flaws, though. For instance, the notion of “pre-emptive action” to ward off a future anticipated threat. Isn’t that effectively what this war is all about?

Interestingly, Khadr’s own story lines up rather well with the words of your military friends; fearing for his life and certain that the American soldiers were trying to kill him, Khadr determined that he would kill as many of them as he could before he, himself, was killed. All I’m saying is we have no right to indignation because he was happy he succeeded when we would be equally happy in his place.

Deep Cortex
October 29th, 2010 at 5:14 pm

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