Lt. Col. Pete Kilner, writing in this month’s Army magazine, from AUSA, posits that there is a connection between dehumanizing the enemy and moral injury. He sees hatred almost as a disease and says it injures those that hate.
“Hatred is a persistent toxin that damages combat veterans’ souls and families long after a deployment has ended.”
Even quoting Yoda … “hate leads to suffering” he acknowledges that hate may be a tool to inspire killing in people not otherwise disposed to it while warning that hate and dehumanization of the enemy eventually harm the troops themselves. He discusses some of the slurs that troops use for the enemy and asks leaders to challenge troops to deal honestly with moral issues at war.
“Soldiers who understand the moral superiority of their own cause while also comprehending the misguided yet genuine motives of their enemy would likely find it easier to kill confidently yet respectfully, to defend the innocent without hating the aggressors and to appreciate the necessity of fighting and the tragedy of war.
Moral injury is a developing topic with too many definitions to adequately describe yet it makes sense that hate could add to it. Early on in the Iraq war, Col Christopher Warner identified leadership as one of the best preventives to PTSD. Not letting your Soldiers commit crimes or atrocities also ensures they don't live with guilt and shame. Check out Lt. Col. Kilner’s article or visit his ethics website at Soldier-ethicist.blogspot.com. He is getting after it.