Warrior or Serial Killer?

“I’m 22 years old and I must have killed 30 people. The same thing that you were given badges for, over in Iraq, you would be considered a serial killer over here. That’s a very weird thought to have running around in your head when it’s dark, going to sleep, or late at night”. US soldier in the documentary Beer is Cheaper than Therapy (De Vries 2011).


This is the dilemma that faces many former soldiers, sailors, and Marines: Is what I did honorable? How does this square with the Judeo-Christian ethic and entreaty that “thou shalt not kill?” In the Western world, as Jung would say:

Far too little attention has been paid to the fact that our age, for all its irreligiousness, is hereditarily burdened with the specific achievement of the Christian epoch: the supremacy of the word, of the Logos, which stands for the central figure of our Christian faith.  The word has literally become our god and so it has remained, even if we know of Christianity only from hearsay.

Jung, C. G. (2006). The philosophical and psychological approach to life. In R. F. C. Hull (Trans.). The undiscovered self: the dilemma of the individual in modern society. (pp. 69-85). New York, NY: New American Library. (Original work published 1957)

In other words, whether or not one is a practicing Jew or Christian, the fact is that in the Western world we either consciously or unconsciously have absorbed the notion that to kill leaves the stain of Cain upon our conception of self. This is the conundrum of every warrior of every epoch, to a greater or lesser degree. For the civilian, it is hard to understand the interior angst that many warriors feel–the internal violation of every moral lesson learned.

This paper, addresses many of the problems I have had with early conceptions of moral injury as proposed by Veterans Administration (VA) clinicians: namely that there proposed definitions are mechanistic and designed to provide ‘air cover’ for clinicians forced to labor under ‘evidence based’ therapies. It is worth a read, and for once, you can get the full length article without charge.