Human killing machines: Systematic indoctrination in Iran, Nazi Germany, Al Qaeda and Abu Ghraib
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AbstractPeople who kill and abuse others have often been characterized as inherently abnormal. This description can be comforting---it implies a fundamental distinction between good and evil, between us and them. But while horrible atrocities are certainly not common and torture, mass murder and genocide are hardly everyday occurrences, the evidence indicates that perpetrators of such evil are often relatively ordinary people. They do not suddenly become killers through a stroke of bad luck. They turn to violence because they are compelled to do so by a powerful system with clear goals that can be achieved through violent means. This study shows how systems use specific strategies of recruitment, training, authorization, bureaucracy, isolation and dehumanization to condition and indoctrinate their members. Once properly programmed, the systems' new "machines" commit acts of violence without typical moral reflection or hesitation---they dutifully perform violence on command, even when it means killing or torturing people. By applying the framework for systematic indoctrination to the famous Milgram and Zimbardo experiments, as well as brutal, real-world case studies of Nazi Germany, Al Qaeda, modern day Iran and Abu Ghraib, we discover just how dangerously effective such methods can be. At the same time, the key similarities and differences between these cases reveal some of the most critical threats to global security today. Based on these findings, recommendations are made for how we can reform the U.S. military and increase its accountability, shake Al Qaeda terrorists' certainty in their missions and reverse course on Iran to bring the violent regime down from the inside.
Source: Dissertation Abstracts International, Volume: 69-03, Section: B, page: 2006.
Adviser: Robert Johnson.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--American University, 2008.