I have put together here in slightly modified form two statements of testimony--the first given before a Senate Subcommittee on Veterans' Affairs, chaired by Senator Alan Cranston, and the second at a Congressional Conference on War and National Responsibility held in Washington, D.C., both delivered in 1970. In both statements I sought to contain my sense of ethical outrage within a genuine "psychohistorical" analysis, one that connects larger political and military policies with the individual-psychological state of GIs that leads to atrocity.
Robert Jay Lifton, M. D.
I have done psychiatric work at a number of Veterans' hospitals and out-patient clinics, and at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research. During the Korean War I served as an Air Force Psychiatrist in Korea and Japan. I have spent almost seven years living and working in the Far East, and made visits to Vietnam in 1954 and in 1967.
I have done research on such "extreme situations" as the psychological aspects of Chinese thought reform (or "brainwashing"), and the psychological effects of the atomic bomb in Hiroshima. I have been greatly concerned with the application of psychological methods to the study of historical events, and with the general psychology of the survivor.
I would like to comment upon the psychological predicament of the Vietnam veteran, both from the standpoint of war in general and of the nature of this particular war.
For veterans of any war there is a difficult transition from the "extreme situation" of the war environment to the more ordinary civilian world. This was noted after World War I, World War II, and the Korean War, but only recently have we begun to appreciate the problem from the standpoint of the psychology of the survivor. The combat veteran of any war has survived the deaths of specific buddies, as well as the deaths of anonymous soldiers on his and on the enemy's side. He survives the general war environment, within which he
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Publication information: Book title: Crimes of War:A Legal, Political-Documentary, and Psychological Inquiry into the Responsibility of Leaders, Citizens, and Soldiers for Criminal Acts in Wars. Contributors: Richard A. Falk - Editor, Gabriel Kolko - Editor, Robert Jay Lifton - Editor. Publisher: Random House. Place of publication: New York. Publication year: 1971. Page number: 419.