The United States Marine Corps made the news twice this week. First there was the international scandal in which four Marines stationed in Afghanistan came under suspicion of pissing on the dead bodies of their enemies, who, it seems, were Afghans fighting a foreign invader in Afghanistan.
And now a former US Marine who also served in Afghanistan has been charged with killing four homeless men in Orange county, CA with a knife. So among the questions this case raises is: Where exactly did he learn to kill with a knife? I'll wager one answer; The United States Marine Corps.
I'll admit that I don't think it necessarily needs a lot of training. While physically and psychologically harder than killing with a gun, I still think pretty much anybody could do it given the right circumstances. Anyway I think I could. I know technically what needs to be done. I know if you slit someone's throat, they will die. I know that if you stab them in the heart or other vital organs, they will die. I know that if you stab them in enough places period, they will die, and this is apparently how these homeless men were killed.
Whether I could mentally bring myself to take another person's life, that is a different question. I'm pretty sure I could in defense of my own life or someone I loved. I like to think I can in defense of an innocent about to fall prey to the murderous intentions of another. I hope never because my government told me they wanted to make their country communist or Islamic or whatever.
I have in fact "been trained" to kill with my bare hands, which is to say I got as far as a green belt in karate. And I have been trained to kill with a firearm, at least I was trained how to shoot a rifle. That was in the Wash U. ROTC Army rifle range in the engineering building attic. I was not in ROTC, I was a campus radical but the kind sergeant allowed me and a girlfriend to shoot there and he trained us. I attained Marksmen status, but Vivian was the best. She beat all the ROTC cadets, much to their chagrin, but I digress.
I can say that I was "trained" on how to not kill with a knife. This was after I got out of jail for protesting the war in 1970 and was paroled to New Jersey. He was a Vietnam vet, ex-special forces type. He lived in the woods near Vineland, NJ. He hunted his own meat. He knew too much about killing and he liked to live alone. In spite of this, we became friends. He taught me this rather humane knife fighting technique, which I will now pass on to you, for what its worth. He suggested you go for a horizontal slash across the forehead. He said it would make a nasty cut, but there was little chance of inflicting a lethal wound because of the bone behind it, and the profuse bleeding into your opponents eyes would likely put a quick end to the fight.
Anyway given the relatively limited sources for extended training in how to kill with a knife, I'm willing to bet that this OC serial killer, like so many before him, was trained to kill by our government.
More to the point: Where did he learn to piss on human life like that? Again, I'm willing to wager, the United States Marine Corps. After all, that's what they do. They take ordinary human beings and they turn them into serial killers. They also teach them to kill people they don't even know and they teach them to kill for the most insane reasons.
And that's the real trick of military training because, frankly, the actual techniques of killing with a knife, much less with a gun, ain't that hard, I mean, its not like killing with rocket science. Getting young people to kill people they don't even know on command, that's a whole 'noher matter because humans don't normally operate that way. There's a not so well publicize aspect of the military sciences that addresses this problem. It is called killology. From the Wikipedia article:
Grossman's theory, based on the World War II research of S.L.A. Marshall, is that most of the population deeply resists killing another human...In this powerful 10 minute talk, Ryan Endicott relates how our Marines are brutalized and dehumanized in today's US military:
As a result of Marshall's work, modern military training was modified to attempt to override this instinct, by:
using man-shaped targets instead of bullseye targets in marksmanship practice
practicing and drilling how soldiers would actually fight
dispersing responsibility for the killing throughout the group
displacing responsibility for the killing onto an authority figure, i.e., the commanding officer and the military hierarchy (See the Milgram experiment)
By the time of the United States involvement in the Vietnam War, says Grossman, 90% of U.S. soldiers would fire their weapons at other people.
Meet Scott Camil
Scott Camil was a US Marine who served two tours in Vietnam. In the course of making Vietnam: American Holocaust, he became a friend of mine. I won't use the well worn phrase "highly decorated." Scott has a WikiPedia page, so I can just go ahead and list them:
He served with the Marines from 1965 to 1969, earning two Purple Hearts, Combat Action Ribbon, two Presidential Unit Citations, Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Service Medal with three stars, Vietnam Cross of Gallantry with Silver Star, Vietnam Cross of Gallantry with Palm Leaf, and Vietnam Campaign Medal during two tours in Vietnam. With Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 1st Marines, 1st Marine Division, he acted as a forward observer for artillery. He was a sergeant when honorably discharged.He was also a serial killer that liked to kill with a knife. He described one such murder in my documentary [transcript] What follows is from his 1971 Winter Soldier testimony:
Another time I had a friend of mind killed and I was very upset and I asked this Vietnamese for his ID card and he says "cum beck" which means 'I don't understand' in Vietnamese and he just pissed me off so I pulled out my knife and I killed him and it didn't bother me at all. I just called it in and I said "One VC killed." and they said "How do you know he's a VC?" and I said "because he's dead" and they laughed and said "okay" you know.He also described one of the "fun" things he participated in as a forward artillery spotter:
The calling in of artillery for games, the way it was worked would be the mortar forward observers would pick out certain houses in villages, friendly villages, and the mortar forward observers would call in mortars until they destroyed that house and then the artillery forward observer would call in artillery until he destroyed another house and whoever used the least amount of artillery, they won. And when we got back someone would have to buy someone else beers.And he graphically described the murderous culture our government created in Vietnam:
And It got to be where it was like someone says okay "You come stay on my farm and you can go hunting everyday for free and I'll give you all the ammo you want and you can hunt and there's no limit and you can go and all go out together and just hunt." It was like a hunting trip. The more people we killed the happier our officers were, you know. It got to be like a game. The object was to see who could kill the most people and the different ways you could prove how many people you had killed would be like cutting off ears. Now if you brought back someone's ears, pretty likely you'd have to kill them to get them. And people would, whoever had the most ears they would get the most beers. You'd trade your ears for beers. And it got to be like a game.In Afghanistan, American soldiers collect fingers, not ears.
There were hundreds of My Lais that never made the newspapers, Scott Camil described one he was involved in this way:
In Operation Stone we were sitting up on the rail road trestle with a river on each side. There's another company behind each river. And like the people were running around inside. And we were just shooting them and the newspaper said Operation Stone like World War Two movie. We just sat up there and wiped them out, women, children, everything. Two hundred nine-one of themRape was common the the treatment of women disgusting. Scott relates:
I saw one case where a woman was shot by a sniper, one of our snipers. When we got up to her she was asking for water. And the Lt. said to kill her. So he ripped off her clothes, they stabbed her in both breasts, they spread-eagled her and shoved an E- tool up her vagina, an entrenching tool, and she was still asking for water. And then they took that out and they used a tree limb and then she was shot.Snipers are trained to kill individuals they are looking at. That is a special skill. The Marines accused of pissing on the dead Afghans are snipers. I don't know what the Marines taught the OC serial killer but I do know that as long as our government spends billions of dollars taking earnest young men, and now women, and turning them into serial killers, this problem will continue to haunt us. What goes around, comes around.
Scott is doing much better these days. After he left the Marine Corps, he joined Vietnam Veterans Against the War, became an anti-war activist and has been so for more that 40 years. He is currently the president of the Gainsville, FL chapter of Veterans for Peace. This is an interview I did with him at the Winter Solider: Iraq and Afghanistan hearing held by Iraq Veterans Against the War in 2008:
One of the people this ex-Marine in OC murdered was a homeless Vietnam vet. Now how sick is that? If I may be allowed the liberty of stereotyping this individual, I would guess he might have been in his mid 60's and he was homeless because that war left him with such demons that he couldn't live with other people, or hold down a job, and he didn't have a woods to hide in like my friend.