On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society by Lt. Col. Dave Grossman.
This book was suggested to me by the audio book store owner, after I told him I liked Rachael Maddow's Drift. This was a tough book to listen to, so I would do whole other books in between CD's of this. Some editing to take out some of the repetition would have made this book even better, but it was very important to read this. Grossman comes from the military, so he doesn't question the reasons for war as I would, but once there, he gives a deeply researched view of how people act in wars and without. He starts out with our reluctance to talk about death and to research the act of killing. Luckily, he and other researchers have been interviewing veterans of the wars of the past and looking at diaries, letters and other forms of personal revelations from soldiers of previous wars.
First of all, it restored my faith in humanity, that as a rule we are very loathe to kill another human being. Grossman had statistics from the various wars and it turns out that up until VietNam, most soldiers would not actually aim at another person in combat. And if they did, it was traumatic for them. It was easier to kill at a distance, when one did not have to see the victim, so that bombers, men on navy ships, even snipers were much less likely to feel remorse. But, the army learned that soldiers need to be desensitized to actually shoot at the enemy, so the training for VietNam included this and there was a much greater rate of shooting at the enemy. This resulted in more trauma for the soldiers afterwards, compounded by the fact that when they returned, they were not treated like heroes, but often reviled and they did not become a part of the support system offered by veterans organizations.
I wish I had the time to do this book justice here, as it got me thinking about so many things, but this is a busy time for me. I will just list a few more topics Grossman addressed - women in war, sex and killing, atrocities, and one of the most disconcerting, his last chapter on how we are desensitizing whole generations with violent TV, movies, video games and other media. He had some realistic suggestions, but I was disappointed that though he acknowledged ready availability of guns as one of the factors on the senseless killings happening in the US population, he said that they have always been available and made no statement that limitations to the availability of guns could help the current situation.