The massacre at Nissour Square (Sept. 2007) was done by Blackwater mercenaries who thought that they heard gunshot and said that they were returning fire. When I was approached by one of their employees and told that my painting about private contractor’s shootings was not accurate, I said, “Look. I read about this in the New York Times.” He relented and admitted that he had told his men to throw cinderblocks in front of cars which ‘came too close’ to their vehicles, but that his staff/troops would not listen to him. The process of fearing the Iraqis and then shooting at them led to the massacre.
I am concerned that we are sending the world young men who think that they are on a noble mission, who are patriotic and want to serve and sacrifice to show their loyalty, who then commit atrocities and become murderers. If they admit their fear, their overreaction and rage, their murderous shootings, they are broken by guilt and self-loathing and anger at those who sent them into these wars. If they deny their involvement and their guilt and any accountability, they are disfigured into sociopaths and defiant murderers. Thus the “moral injury”: To be forced into killing, then to be unable to set that right with a youth full of good deeds and life saving ethos. What is wrong with us, the parents, who allow them to be sent into this crushing maelstrom from which they will never escape and which will haunt them forever?
Are we going to live the life of the Cross as depicted by the one hanging from the mirror in the car, or are we going to live lives which harm others? How can we ask generation after generation of naive and inexperienced, idealistic and noble and courageous youth to make that choice? It is cruel. They have no prior knowledge to draw upon when they are asked to choose whether or not to invest their souls and future souls’ well being.
Disclaimer: the painting is from another private contractors’ shooting of civilians a little later in 2007. It was the only photo I could paint which was in a newspaper.)
If you are in the Service and you wish to talk to someone about ‘moral injury’ of wars or about becoming a conscientious objector, please call The Center On Conscience and War at 1-800-379-2679 and speak to a counselor. CCW’s TED talk about conscientious objection to war is Here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d7GSzqjUq50