War perverts and destroys you. It pushes you closer and closer to your own annihilation—spiritual, emotional and finally physical. It destroys the continuity of life, tearing apart all systems—economic, social, environmental and political—that sustain us as human beings. In war, we deform ourselves, our essence. We give up individual conscience—maybe even consciousness—for contagion of the crowd, the rush of patriotism, the belief that we must stand together as a nation in moments of extremity. To make a moral choice, to defy war’s enticement, can in the culture of war be self-destructive. The essence of war is death. Taste enough of war and you come to believe that the Stoics were right: We will, in the end, all consume ourselves in a vast conflagration.
A World War II study determined that, after 60 days of continuous combat, 98 percent of all surviving soldiers will have become psychiatric casualties. A common trait among the remaining 2 percent was a predisposition toward having “aggressive psychopathic personalities.” Lt. Col. Dave Grossman in his book “On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society,” notes: “It is not too far from the mark to observe that there is something about continuous, inescapable combat which will drive 98 percent of all men insane, and the other 2 percent were crazy when they go there.”