10.22.2010

when we train people to kill, why are we so surprised when they kill?

Russell Williams in context:

First: Colonel Williams and violence in the military by Dr. J of your heart's on the left.

Follow the trail of violence from basic training, to whatever foreign war you can think of, and back home again. When we train people to dehumanize and kill other people, why are we so shocked when they do just that?

Then: The horrific Williams murders were about power not personal fetishes by Elizabeth Pickett, writing at Rabble.

These were not only murders: they were rape-murders. Watching media reaction, you'd think Williams' victims were the only women raped and murdered in Canada, ever.

Please read both these excellent pieces: here and here.

If we don't look at this in context of both war and everyday violence against women, it's just another celebrity story.

+ + + +

Others who get it: La Zerbisias and Rose DiManno, who I would have never seen, so double thanks to Antonia.

17 comments:

The Mound of Sound said...

C'mon, take it down a notch. This monster was 'trained' to fly multi-engined transport aircraft - hardly a 'trained killer.' About as bloodthirsty and lethal a job as an airline pilot's.

L-girl said...

Several of my war resister friends were trained as pilots. Their training was as bloodthirsty as everyone else's. It was about dehumanizing and killing - same as everybody else's.

Did you read the post by Dr J? Read the quotes from Jeremy Hinzman, trained in the "elite" air force.

You are welcome to write at whatever notch you choose at your own blog. You are not welcome to tell me how to view this all-too-common event. If you think men who rape and murder are "monsters" and that this is uncommon: "c'mon".

stageleft said...

As one who wore the uniform, did basic training (but admittedly never saw a war), I gotta tell you that you are way out of line.

Was Robert Picton in the military? What made him? Is pig farming related?

Should we blame the Boy Scouts and Amway for Paul Bernardo? That's his background.

What made Clifford Olson?

L-girl said...

All serial killers are not military. Nor does this post say it is so.

All military people do not lash out in violence. Nor does this post say so.

But violence - against women, against other men and against themselves - is so much higher in veteran populations than among the general population. Exponentially higher. To not understand there is a link, is, in my opinion, way out of line. Not to mention wilfully blind.

L-girl said...

I frequently read on progressive blogs that the US fosters a culture of hate and violence.

I am from the US.

Does that mean I am violent and hateful?

Does that mean bloggers are "way out of line" for suggesting that US culture encourages hate violence? Do they need to take it down a notch.

The Canadian military is not a club for kindness and good works. It's doing the work of an occupying power.

Progressive Canadians should cast the same skeptical and critical light on the country's military culture as they do on any other institution.

M@ said...

I was a little shocked to read diManno's column. I stopped reading her years ago -- I remember her great gusto in describing Paul Bernardo's piercing, steely blue eyes, for starters. Well, stopped clock and all that.

On the subject of military psychopaths, I served too and I wouldn't accept being stereotyped as a psycho or potential killer or anything (and I'm pretty sure no one sees me that way). However, I would point out that empathy is pretty much an obstacle to be overcome in the military -- not something that a long military career is necessarily going to foster.

As far as I understand, rape is essentially about power. One of the reasons I'm interested in writing about the military is its institutionalized power structure. I wouldn't call it an open-and-shut case but I can definitely see where Laura is coming on this.

L-girl said...

Thanks, M@. I wouldn't call it open-and-shut, either - but what is.

But it's wrong, IMO, to refuse to examine a connection between the incredibly common violence among veterans on the one hand and both war and military training on the other - to throw this in the category of "deranged serial killer" and look no further.

(I didn't examine it in this post, and I don't know how many commenters bothered to read Dr J's post.)

I never read DiManno either. But if Antonia says someone "really really gets it," I'm game.

stageleft said...

In reading the title of the post, plus the "Follow the trail of violence from basic training, to whatever foreign war you can think of, and back home again...." I see a direct link being made between training, active duty, and what Williams did.

There is no doubt that there is violence, abuse, and intolerance in the veteran community, I can't speak to whether or not that level is higher than in other identifiable communities because I simply don't know the numbers - but I don't see it being psychopathic as Williams obviously is or we would be reading far more about it.

There is not a reasonable comparison to be made between the violence/abuse resulting from something like lack of post-event care (PTSD) (or even the plain disrespect and stupidity of some men) and the psychopathic torture and violence of someone like Williams.

Which is the point I was making in my comment - Williams is a psychopath, and he would have tortured, raped, and killed, women, even had he washed out of basic training.

If we want to lay any blame on the military it should be in the area of not identifying these people before they act.

It would be a difficult task given the mental make up and levels of duplicity these people are able to engage in - unfortunately I learned just how good they can be at that as a result of discovering I had been friends with a pedophile priest a number of years ago and having no idea he was leading a sick and abusive double life.

Blame also (as has been said) needs to be apportioned in large measure on the police for not taking the early warning signs seriously and essentially shrugging them off as prank panty raids.

L-girl said...

There is not a reasonable comparison to be made between the violence/abuse resulting from something like lack of post-event care (PTSD) (or even the plain disrespect and stupidity of some men) and the psychopathic torture and violence of someone like Williams.

I strongly disagree. The fact that you see one as "psychopathic torture" and the others as "violence/abuse resulting from...[etc]" is, IMO, down to how this case is being framed by the media.

There is no doubt that there is violence, abuse, and intolerance in the veteran community, I can't speak to whether or not that level is higher than in other identifiable communities because I simply don't know the numbers

There is off-the-charts rates of domestic violence, homicide and suicide among veterans who have seen active duty, as compared with the general population. That's well known and well borne out with statistics.

Thanks for your comments.

Nadine Lumley said...

I would not be surprised the military culture is misogynist etc. etc. with a violent culture. But then again, so is most of society. Personally, I can not fully blame his military training here although I'm sure it did not help.

I personally believe the first five years of Russ's childhood had more impact than his military training. I would not be surprised to find out Russ was horribly sexually abused as a child. Society doesn't seem to want to talk about the widespread violence inflicted on children in every country of the world.

What could 'eff you up more than someone who is supposed to love you, maybe even tells you they love you, but at the same time inflict horrible abuse upon you.

How does a child cope with that situation? They have to dissociate themselves to cope. When they grow up and the threat is no longer present, many people still resort to their childhood coping methods which don't work very well when you're adult.

Alice Miller writes movingly on this issue.

quote: Is it still possible in today's Germany to escape the realization that without the mistreatment of children, without a form of child-rearing based on violence to inculcate blind obedience, there would not have been a Hitler and his followers? And thus not millions of murdered victims either?

Probably every thinking person in the post-war period has wondered at some time or other how it could have happened that a human being devised a gigantic machinery of death and found millions of helpers to set it in motion.

http://www.naturalchild.org/alice_miller/adolf_hitler.html

Dharma Seeker said...

When I read DiManno really, really gets it I nearly fell off my chair. First time for everything :)

In addition to the obvious link between military training and killing I also wonder if this fucktard's rank played a role.

My Dad was a high-ranking police officer before he retired in May, and I heard many stories about a Chief of Police abusing his power. Military and para-military cultures can elevate top level officers to the point they think they're untouchable.

CanNurse said...

L-Girl - Thanks for this & the important links, which many people wouldn't otherwise have seen. Especially Rosie! (wow. It really was a Blue Moon!)
@stageleft: Seems to me that you reacted, not responded to L-Girl's blog here. If you'd read Antonia, Rosie, & Dr. J in particular, you might have had a deeper understanding of the issues. The military exists to fight & kill "an enemy". Of course, it is entirely possible and even very likely that Williams' behaviour would have escalated the same way in civilian life. But he lived within a bubble in a culture which protected him and which is all about violence & power over others. L-girl has responded well to your points with very relevant points, imo. I don't think you're getting the big picture. Whether it's prostitution (pickton), military, fundamentalist cult-like Amway's power "over" women, veteran's domestic abuse, police ignoring women's reports of "panty raids", the fact is the violence against women is endemic &institutionalized in our culture.

Dharma Seeker said...

and all powerful.

L-girl said...

Nadine Lumley, it's very true that childhood sexual abuse is a strong predictor of future abusive behaviour. However, because we don't know if that existed in Williams' past (why does everyone call him "Russ" like he's their friend?), you're making an assumption and then proceeding on it as if it's fact.

And while society at large may be sexist, from everything I've heard from both women and men, the misogyny of the military is incomparable. I don't think it makes much sense to say "military culture might be violent but so is society" - as if there's not a military culture as distinct from the general culture.

L-girl said...

CanNurse, thank you very much. I get the feeling Mound of Sound and StageLeft didn't read the links at all, but of course, I can't say for sure.

I emphasize my analogy above re the US. Bloggers, including myself, trash the US and its insane culture all the time. And we all understand that we're not talking about every American, or chided for being out of line.

For many Candians on all points on the political spectrum, the Canadian military is sacrosanct. It cannot be criticized.

redsock said...

For many Candians on all points on the political spectrum, the Canadian military is sacrosanct. It cannot be criticized.

And if it cannot be criticized, it is very easy for these repellent attitudes to flourish.

L-girl said...

Sexual assault in the Canadian Forces: "Life in the military 'not safe'"