War is inhumane, inevitably resulting in pain and suffering. The Vietnam War was one such war, while the need for waging the war can be argued; the suffering is stark and unarguable. Throughout How to Tell a True War Story, O’Brien provides a multitude of evidence to emphasize the types of brutality in war.
O’Brien shows how psychological brutality is one of the major downsides of being a soldier. The author describes a scene where “A six-man patrol goes up into the mountains on a basic listening-post operation... You hear stuff nobody should ever hear.... this soft, kind a wacked out music... like a crazyass gook concert.... the guys can’t cope. They lose it. They get on the radio and report enemy movement” (O’Brien 68). Clearly in this situation, the troops are feeling the pressure and are losing their nerve due to the inexplicable noises that surround them, and thus call in massive amounts of firepower. They are suffering from psychological brutality because the situation that the soldiers have been put in is playing with their minds and is laying the foundation for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. A situation like this eventually causes hyperarousal symptoms of PTSD as well, such as having difficulty sleeping, being easily startled, and feeling tense or on the edge. Thus, war is cruel and emotionally taxing due to the fact that it creates fear and unnecessary stress on soldiers.
Not only is war a psychological bane, but it is also a physical bane. An example of the physical viciousness of war is when Curt Lemon, the daredevil, is killed by a booby trap. “Then [Lemon] took a peculiar half-step, moving from shade into bright sunlight, and the booby trapped 105 round blew him into a tree. The parts were just hanging there. I remember the white bone of an arm. I remember pieces of skin, and something wet and horrible that must have been his intestines” (79). This section not only highlights the physical brutality of the war, but results in the horrifically grotesque death that many soldiers suffered during the Vietnam War. It is not only physically taxing on the soldiers, but is capable of brutally hurting, or in the case of Lemon, killing. War is a very sneaky, presumptuous, and clandestine demon; it easily claims the lives of honorable soldiers in a macabre way.
In addition to the physical and psychological damage war causes soldiers, it also ultimately destroys their moral judgement. An example of how war destroys moral fabric is when Rat Kiley meticulously kills a baby water buffalo. “He stepped back and shot it through the right front knee…. Rat took careful aim and shot of an ear… Rat shot it in the nose. He bent forward and whispered something, as if talking to a pet, then he shot it in the throat” (75). This completely cruel and inhumane action highlights how war is the “Garden of Evil,” where “every sin’s real fresh and original (76). No moral person would randomly shoot a buffalo’s body parts without a valid reason; War provides a reason; war is the reason that Rat Kiley lost one of his best friends, Curt Lemon, thus clouding his moral judgement, and throwing him into a fit of rage. The Vietnam War brings out the worst in Kiley and causes him to take the life of another innocent creature. Thus, one can conclude that war is not only inhumane, but unleashes the cruelty in others, ultimately resulting in more death, pain, and suffering.War, though thought of as honorable, brings about far too much violence and inhumanity. It covets death and is antithetical to humanity. Not only does it treat its participants harshly, but collaterally damages the emotional state of many others. It is a very anomalous demon, causing every type of pain. The truth of the matter is that war is unforgiving and wicked and is only for the audacious, who are willing to brave its trickery.
Read More about PTSD
- N.d. Photograph. NEHTA. Web.
- NIMH. "Post Traumatic Stress Disorder" NIMH. NIH., n.d. Web. 29 Sept. 2013.