The Psychology of War: What Happens During the War

After the tragic incidents of 9/11, the United States and her allies went into war against Taliban, Al Qaeda and the Islamic terrorists. Saddam and Bin Laden are killed but the war against terrorism is getting fiercer day by day.

No doubt, war is a wound on the face of the humanity, however, war also produces wonderful literature and films. Wonderful in a sense that war movies and books exactly portray the pain and suffering of people directly and indirectly involved in the war. Such kind of portrayal makes other people, who know nothing about war, aware about the consequences.

Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have inspired some award winning movies and books. Restrepo, a documentary directed by Sebastian Junger and Tim Hetherington and War, a book based on Restrepo, by Sebastian Junger portray what goes in the outposts in Afghanistan.

Sebastian Junger

Award winning American novelist, journalist and documentary filmmaker Sebastian Junger was born in 1962. When his first book The Perfect Storm was published in 1997, critics praised Junger as new Hemingway.

Junger is the author of War and The Perfect Storm. The Perfect Storm is a true story about the loss of a fishing boat in the coast of Nova Scotia, a peninsula in eastern Canada. The Perfect Storm was adapted for the screen in 2000 by Warner Brothers, which featured George Clooney and Mark Wahlberg in the leading roles.

Sebastian Junger spent many months in Korengal Valley, in Afghanistan. His visit to the Restrepo outpost, along with Tim Hetherington, produced a wonderful documentary Restrepo. The documentary was later transcribed into a book titled War.

War tells what happens in the body and mind of soldiers during the war. War is a firsthand account of soldiers’ life in the bunkers and the reportage from the war zone. In War, Junger writes about the tension, the danger, the frustration, the boredom, and the bravery associated with war.

Sebastian Junger is also a contributing editor of Vanity Fair magazine. He Junger lives with his wife in New York.

Books by Sebastian Junger

  • War (2011)
  • A Death in Belmont, 2007
  • Fire (a collection of articles), 2001
  • The Perfect Storm: A True Story of Men Against the Sea (1997)

Documentaries
Restrepo (2009)

Which Way is the Front Line From Here? (2011)

Awards

  • National Magazine Award (2000) for “The Forensics of War,” an article published in the Vanity Fair
  • PEN/Winship award for A Death in Belmont, 2007
  • DuPont-Columbia Award for broadcast journalism (along with Tim Hetherington), 2008, for The Other War: Afghanistan
  • Leadership in Entertainment Award (2011) from Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America for Restrepo

War by Sebastian Junger

There are three sections in War: Fear, Killing and Love. These sections exactly explain the fear of soldiers, the killings in the battlefield and the love as experienced by the comrade in arms. Junger depicts the evilness of the war and the trauma of the combatants. According to Junger, common people see courage and bravery in soldiers, however, soldiers are not particularly concerned with these abstract terms. They do not care about ideals but are committed to the men around them in the frontline.

War is not about the American policy, about the war in Afghanistan, or politics in Afghanistan, or Afghani people in Korengal Valley. It rather shows the vivid images as the battle unfolds in the Restrepo outpost. War presents the real war. Junger uses a pictorial word for the Restrepo outpost. He says it is “a miraculous kind of antiparadise.”

Junger describes the brotherhood between the soldiers as “a friendship which is not sexual but contain much of the devotion and intensity of romance.” The “nearly narcotic” bond makes the soldiers die for each other. Junger illustrates fear, killing and love as felt by the soldiers. In War, men fight and die. “How easy it was to go from the living to the dead… lives measured in inches and seconds and deaths avoided by complete accident” writes Junger. The author explains what goes in the trenches and the mind of the soldiers. He shows wounded soldiers, dead soldiers, and explains the temperament of the survivors explaining why they become misfit in everyday life after war.

Author writes about physical and mental discomforts in the war zone. The soldiers in the Korengal valley face mundane problems such as handling feces, making a cup of coffee and grave such as heat, bug, wounds and deaths. He explains why a soldier risks his life to save his comrade. His explanation of emotional attachment amongst the combatants gives emotional touch to the war account.

While reading the book, you feel like being a witness to a deadly war, where enemies are everywhere. The only flaw that you may find in Junger’s book is the digression. The author talks too much, but in the book such as War, readers are interested in what soldiers say rather than the author’s views on war. Junger risked his life to show the real face of war in Afghanistan, however, he fails to show more because he is lost while telling.

Restrepo

The US government deployed Battle Company in the Korengal Valley, Afghanistan. During the Battle Company’s 18 months in the Korengal Valley, in 2007-2008, Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger reported from the frontline several times. They created a documentary called Restrepo. Much of the combat of Battle Company took place in an outpost called Restrepo. “Restrepo” is a name of a doctor who was killed in Korengal Valley, Afghanistan. Restrepo documents a combat that took place in one of the deadliest regions in Afghanistan.

Restrepo is a chronicle of the days in Restrepo outpost where troops take aerial view of Korengal Valley, sit in the bunkers waiting and run into skirmishes. Restrepo shows young but heavily armed soldiers crammed in the trenches, infected with flees and bugs, in the mountains in the Korengal Valley. When the documentary was shot, 150 soldiers were already fighting the fifth battle. By the end of Restrepo many soldiers are dead or wounded, survivors are packing and many soldiers are on the brink of mental collapse.

Sebastian Junger along with Tim Hetherington directed Restrepo. Restrepo was nominated in the Academy Awards in 2010, for the Best Documentary Feature and won the Grand Jury Prize in the Sundance Film Festival in 2010.

After Restrepo, Junger and Hetherington were planning to go to Libya. However, at the last hour Junger dropped. In March 2011, Junger received the news of the death of his friend Hetherington. Junger made a documentary “Which Way Is the Front Line? The Life and Times of Tim Hetherington.

Hetherington was a British photojournalist who also contributed to Vanity Fair magazine. He worked in war zones in East Africa, Middle East and Afghanistan and was killed in Libya by Islamic terrorists.

The Psychology of War

I have never been into a war of any kind, I have never been a victim of war. In my known ancestry of 6-7 generations, none of my forefathers were soldiers or were involved with war. During the 10 years of war between the State and the Communist, our family was not involved directly or indirectly with the war. Therefore, I don’t know how it feels to be a soldier or a fighter for that matter and kill people for a “cause.” I also don’t know how painful it is when you lose someone in the war.

The book War is based on Restrepo, a documentary directed by Sebastian Junger and Tim Hetherington. Restrepo captures real war in Afghanistan where the enemy is unseen and soldiers fight to save their comrades. The documentary “Restrepo” or the book “War” is a picture of American soldiers in Afghanistan and a discourse on the nature of war.

War and Restrepo woke something inside me because I read the book and watched the documentary at the time when I was visiting my ancestral place where it is believed that one of the kings of Chaubisi Rajyas killed our entire clan, except, a pregnant woman, who was able to escape and take refuge in the neighbouring kingdom. Our lineage is believed to be the children of the son of that woman. There is no historicity in this story because there are no proofs. However, there is also an indication that this incident might be true. There is a written document that mentions that our ancestors sided with the Shahs to annex the Baise in modern Nepal. Our ancestors had played active role in defeating the state that had murdered their forefathers.

When I was standing at the bank of the river where about 10-11 generations ago our ancestors were killed, I kind of felt emotional. It was very painful.

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