These clippings from a book of brief interviews with folks like Chomsky, Zinn, Amira Haas etc called “Political Awakenings“….
I enlisted in the Air Force. I volunteered. I was an enthusiastic bombardier. To me it was very simple: it was a war against fascism. They were the bad guys; we were the good guys. One of the things the things that I learned form that experience was that when you start off with them being the bad guys and you being the good guys, once you’ve made that one decision, you don’t have to think anymore, if you’re in the military. From that point on, anything goes. From that point on, you’re capable of anything, even atrocities. Because you’ve made a decision a long time ago that you’re on the right side. You don’t keep questioning, questioning, questioning. You’re not Yossarian, who questions.
The so-called intelligence people, who brief us before we go into a plane, tell us we are going to bomb this tiny town on the Atlantic coast of France called Royan, near Bourdeaux, and we are doing it because there are several thousand German soldiers there. They are not doing anything. They are not bothering anyone. They are waiting for the war to end. They’ve just been bypassed. And we are going to bomb them.
What’s interesting to me later, in thinking about it, is that it didn’t occur to me to stand up in the briefing room and say, “What are we doing? Why are we doing this? The war is almost over, there is no need.” It didn’t occur to me. To this day, I understand how atrocities are committed. How the military mind works. You are taught to just mechanically go through the procedure you have been taught, you see.
I think the learning of history is a way of declaring: “I wasn’t born yesterday; you can’t deceive me.” If I don’t have any history, then whatever the person in authority – the president at the microphone announcing we must bomb here, we must go there – the president has the field all to himself. I cannot counteract, because I don’t know any history. I can only believe him. I was born yesterday. What history does is give you enough data so that you can question anything that is said from on high. You can measure the claims that are being made by the people in authority against the reality. And you can look at similar claims that were made before, and see what happened to them.