Skip to content
Who's in the Video

Nancy Sherman

Nancy Sherman is a Distinguished University Professor in the Philosophy Department of Georgetown University. She received her BA from Bryn Mawr College, her PhD from Harvard, and her MLitt from[…]

A conversation with the Georgetown philosophy professor and author of “The Untold War.”

rnrn

Nancy Sherman:rnNancy Sherman, author.

rnrn

Question: What did yourrnresearch for “The Untold War” consist of? 

rnrn

Nancy Sherman:rnWell, I’m a philosopher, so I was thinking of soldiers in terms of the meaning,rnthe philosophical meaning of their stories; the emotions and the deeprnemotions.  And I interviewed a lotrnof soldiers, probably about 30 to 40 soldiers of the current wars includingrnsome from Bosnia and Vietnam, and my dad, who is a World War II veteran and Irnreally wanted to go beyond just stories about trauma, of which many soldiersrndon’t suffer, though of course we know of many who do, but I wanted to talkrnabout the feelings everyone seems to come home with of trying to make moralrnsense of what they’ve seen and done, even when they do everything right by war’srnbest standards.  So, it was talkingrnabout the moral weight of war, the moral burdens of war.

rnrn

Question: How did yourrnfather’s war experience inform your war research?

rnrn

Nancy Sherman:rnWell, my dad actually just died December 15, the days I was putting the finalrntouches on the book.  And I alwaysrnknew he was a World War II veteran, and a medic.  He never fired a rifle, or gun, during the war, but alwaysrnhad this sense that war was hell and he didn’t want to talk about it like manyrnof his generation, a member of a laconic generation.  And when he died, I was cleaning out his effects and foundrnin his pockets his dog tags.  Andrnhe never told me, and I never asked, and so it was 65 years of carrying his dogrntags.  They were an identity to bernsure, but they are also a moral identity, or a moral burden.  And I thought he really carried itrnsilently, he thought it wasn’t polite conversation to talk about the war.  When I probed, he would say, wellrnaboard the QE1, the Queen Elizabeth 1st, and the Queen Mary, it was a slaughterhouse.  It was a butcher shop withrnamputated legs and men that were really, really suffering.  This one would have a leg and that onernwon’t.  And so, it was painful,rntears would come down and I realized that he never wanted to watch footage ofrnthe war, and he wasn’t traumatized, I don’t think.  He was a very healthy, resilient guy, but if his war wasrndifficult it was so for many and I don’t think war should be a private burden,rnwhether it’s a draft war or a volunteer force, or you are National Guard, or arnmember—well contractors is another story; a complicated story, but both goingrnout to war as part of the Reserves. 

rnrn

So, he was, I think, the unconscious reason, you mightrnsay.  I also have an uncle whornfought in World War II as a Marine, bayonet, Okinawa, really ugly.  And he did suffer PTSD, Post-TraumaticrnStress Disorder.  But the bookrnwasn’t really about psychological injuries that we know about that are veryrnacute.  It’s about the every dayrnordinary mix of feeling exultant about the battle and exuberant and it’s therntime of your life to shine, for some. rnAnd that’s the only way that you could go in and be a sniper who isrndefending himself and his buddies and for victory or survival.  And then also feeling the shame ofrndoing what you do when you do it all right.

rnrn

Question: In what waysrnhas the average soldier’s war experience changed?

rnrn

Nancy Sherman:rnWell, it stays constant in the sense that you leave a civilian life, you put onrna uniform, you kind of get cut to size, in a way, through boot camp and thenrnrebuilt as part of a cadre and in a good army you’re really tight, it’s aboutrnsolidarity, it’s about cohesion and you do better if there’s cohesion and ifrnyou’re not replaced one by one, you’re replaced by units where you go togetherrnand come back together as best you can and know you’re going to bring eachrnother home, or try to at least. rnAnd, of course, now we have women in the forces, a small percentage, butrnthey’re trying their best to blend. And in talking to women, it can be arnstruggle.  We don’t think aboutrnships, but in ships, those are tight environments, not a lot of outside contactrnand it can be very internal-looking. 

rnrn

So, those are some of the continuing factors that you gorninto a place that’s really high stress. But what’s different now, two thingsrnthat come to my mind, one is that we’re fighting counter-insurgency wars.  We had some of that in Vietnam, but wernreally have it now where you can’t tell the difference between the civilian andrnthe combatant and the combatant, the insurgent, exploits that and shields, in arnsense, civilians in, or shields themselves in civilian populations.  So, we have right now rules ofrnengagement that are tight.  GeneralrnStanley McChrystal has said, “You don’t fire unless you are really arernoverrun.”  And so soldiers arerntrying to hold back their fire if they run a risk of a civilian casualty andrnthe preponderance of risk ought to be on themselves as trained soldiers.  I think that’s right, I really do think that soldiers needrnto put the risk upon themselves, they’re the ones that are trained to fight,rnnot the civilian.  But it’s hardrnwhen you know you’re being taken advantage of.  So, that’s a real stress factor. 

rnrn

The other stress factor, of course, that makes it different in addition to the counter-insurgency operations, is that we are a thinned outrnmilitary fighting for 10 years—longer than the World War II period—withrnmultiple deployments.  And I don’trnmean just one and two; three and four and five, and I’ve talked to some thatrnare in six, with short dwell time at home. And I guess you couldrnsay a third factor, no front line and rear guard.  You’re always exposed because there’s always an explosionrnthat can go off.

rnrn

So, those three factors—counter-insurgency operations withrnco-mingling of civilian; and combatant, thinned out Army with multiplerndeployments; and no front line, but always exposed—make for a very, veryrnstressful environment. 

rnrn

You could add a fourth factor to that, certainly, and thatrnis right now the war theater and the home theater are themselves co-mingled inrna certain way.  Soldiers can email,rninstant message, cell phone home and vice versa, and the upshot is that therninsulation that sometimes was so protective isn’t always there.  As a soldier you worry about what’srnhappening with your kids or your spouse, at the same time you worry what’srnhappening with your battle buddy.

rnrn

Question: Which storiesrnfrom your conversations with soldiers stood out?

rnrn

Nancy Sherman:rnTwo stories—two or three really come to mind.  So, one story is by a guy who I worked with at the WilsonrnCenter in Washington D.C., he was a Tech Support and he had just come back fromrnIraq and found out I was working on this book, and he said he had wanted to gornto Afghanistan in the early part of these wars.  He thought that was a cause he could believe in.  He had fought in Bosnia and really feltrnthat that was an important cause. rnHe was called up for Iraq. rnHe is part of the Reserves, he’s an older guy, he is now in hisrnmid-fifties.  He’s called “Pop” byrnhis troops, but he couldn’t believe in the war, so he said he feltrnsuckered.  And that was a reallyrnpotent word for me.  One of thosernmoral words, it meant betrayed. rnAnd he said for your upper echelon to sucker you in that way is a hardrnpill to swallow.  And he has sadrneyes, a bit of melancholic appearance. rnAnd I thought about it and what he really meant was that he—and hernsaid, "I’m patriotic, I would go again, there’s no doubt, you don’t let yourrnother comrades go and you stay back—you go.  And I would do it again.  And I don’t care if it’s a Democrat or a Republican, but tornbe suckered like that.And in hisrncase, he was looking for WMD’s or at least part of a war movement, part of thernforces that were there because of them, and he felt it was a story that herncouldn’t believe.  

rnrn

And he would say, “I collected body parts.”  That’s what you hear and we don’t seernit on TV much, or we don’t see the images of charred body parts and our fellowrnsoldiers are collecting them and bagging them and smelling it afterward, andrnthe sense that—and he said, “I was almost killed.  My buddy was killed. rnBut I can’t believe in the reason.”  So that dis-sync, that dissidence between a cause and thernmost upright conduct, and a sense of betrayal I think was really potent forrnme. 

rnrn

Another story is from a different side of the war; andrnthat’s interrogation.  We think ofrninterrogation often in terms of torture. rnThat’s been a national debate, are we a country that allows ourrnsoldiers, our military interrogators to torture?  Do we torture? rnAnd not only is it useful, which most people say, no, but is it moral,rnirrespective of utility? 

rnrn

I have a student at Georgetown who I learned was in AburnGhraib, an interrogator at Abu Ghraib for the Army, in the clean-up act.  And so, I said, did you do anythingrnthat you felt awkward about, or that you didn’t feel good about.  And I was expecting really quite frankrndiscussion of some things that might have verged on waterboarding, or maybernsome sleep deprivation.  And herntold me three things that you might say showed a side of his sensitivity, butrnwere things that he really worried about. 

rnrn

One was, he would turn the screw on one of his detaineesrnwhen he couldn’t get him to talk and remind him of his adulterous infidelities,rnwhich really made this detainee feel awful.  But it kind of brought him down to feel like he had to startrntalking because he had sort of been—his guard was off. 

rnrn

The second case had to do with, he had a Sunni and a Shiiterndetainee and they were both in solitary for a while and they both were dyingrnfor recreation and he put the two of these to men together out inrnrecreation.  It was as good as ifrnthey were still in solitary confinement. 

rnrn

The third incident was someone, a woman, fell in love withrnhim, or at least showed signs of falling for him.  And so there was a sense in this case of, he did everythingrnthe right way interrogators are supposed to build intimacy, build rapport inrnorder to exploit it, and to exploit it and to manipulate it and to use hisrnpower so, so rawly, just rubbed him the wrong way afterward where it leftrnresidue, moral residue you might say, or a moral remnant, a remainder.  And he would do it again, and he knowsrnit was absolutely right as a soldier, or as a military interrogator.  But it’s not something he would ever dornto his friends. 

rnrn

And so that dis-sync, lack of synchrony between what you dornin uniform and what you would do as a civilian is often the soldiers I speak tornand in his case, it wasn’t about fighting for survival or victory, which isrnwhat a ground soldier might explain, but rather in his case, what he was livingrnwith was power.  The power trip. Andrnthat he could reduce someone to a sort of abject servility almost, and thenrnmanipulate them.  That’s a hardrnfeeling to live with.  And yet, herndid what was required, his duty, and honorable conduct in the military, butrnleaves a residue as a civilian.

rnrn

Question: Did the soldierrnfeel guiltier about psychological torture?

rnrn

Nancy Sherman:rnThat’s right, it wasn’t physical. rnIt was all about emotional manipulation.  Good rapport building is to find the emotional soft spotsrnand then to just dig, dig, dig and what was fascinating about this individualrnis that he has a conscience and he didn’t leave his conscience behind.  He didn’t check it out.  He brought it to the interrogationrncell.  But, you have to leave itrnbehind a tiny bit, so there are moments when he said he would come out afterrneight hours and kind of laugh and say, “I really finally got that guy to talk.”  One case he showed him pictures ofrnfamily members who had been killed in an explosion by a rival tribe, and uponrnreflection he thought, that was an awful way to deal with the hardship Irninflicted on him.  Yes, it’s aboutrnemotional suffering, psychological suffering, but even in the case of extremesrnof torture, it’s often about psychological torture, it’s not just about burningrnpeople, or pulling off their fingernails, old-fashioned style.

rnrn

Question: What are thernmajor short-term and long-term traumas of war?

rnrn

Nancy Sherman: Sometimes the symptoms don’t show up right away, and there’s a kind ofrnnatural healing that can go on just like leaving a war zone and sometimes it’srnnot good to talk to people, we think now, right afterward, but rather tornalmost let the wound heal a little bit on its own.  But some of the symptoms that we’re aware of and they willrnbe a hyper vigilance, being in a hyper-sensory mode; so walking the perimeter,rnlistening with acuteness the way you would in a battle area, or it might alsornbe flashbacks, inability to sleep. rnOne of my soldiers, Rob Kissler, just found himself in a bar with hisrnarms around someone’s neck.  Hernstrangled this guy and then he realized that he had heard something and thoughtrnhe was in fighter mode, and had just slipped into fighter modernimperceptibly.  And that was aboutrna year after battle.  He was arnlong-term patient at Walter Reed and being treated, by the way, for physicalrninjuries, a loss of an arm use,rna titanium arm replacement and a leg replacement.  

rnrn

Other times it could also just be this numbing that you’vernhad to—you’re exposed to the sort of stresses that are so superhuman that yournhave to protect yourself by numbing, and you continue to dissociaternafterward.  So those are some ofrnthe physical—the physiological effects that we are familiar with. 

rnrn

But what I’m trying to explore are the spectrum that doesn’trnnecessarily, or may include some of these, but also includes these conflictrnfeelings, consensual feelings. rnFeelings of guilt for what you did or what you saw and did your best,rnbut couldn’t help to do even better than you wished you could have done. Tornsurvive a battle when your buddies don’t, to be part of an accident whenrnthere’s no fault at all, no culpability, but you were implicated, causallyrnimplicated and you hold yourself really accountable.  Or to love your buddies more than you love your spouse, orrnyour family, and one of my soldiers said to me, “You know, I’m in a tent withrnsomeone day in and day out and I know when he passes wind at night.  I know that fart.”  You know, and he said, “How can I tellrnmy mother that I was that physically close to someone?”  So that feeling of a betrayal almost ofrnyour home family because you've reattached to others who got you through it. 

rnrn

Also feeling that life is darned boring at home when you’vernbeen so ramped up and revved up and hepped up, and it’s hard to find the samernkind of thrill and adventure, even though it’s filled with danger.

rnrn

Question: Do wernunderstand soldiers’ traumas better than we used to?

rnrn

Nancy Sherman:rnWell we’re doing better in that we’re sending mental health clinicians out tornthe field.  And at Uniform ServicesrnUniversity, which is on the campus of Bethesda Naval Hospital, I sometimesrnteach some of these folks who are going out to the field.  So, they’re deploying with the troopsrnand they’re going to be available, and they make themselves known in advance,rnand some of them do like warrior resilience training.  I’m here, this is what a healthy soldier can expect to see,rnhelping commanders know that they’re there, so if some of their troops arerninvolved in incidents or they lose buddies or they kill civilians, they knowrnwhere to go afterward and have touched base beforehand.  So, there’s much more of that.  We have more chaplains going out andrnbeing trained in these areas.  Wernalso now are using medical corpsmen to help fill these roles, so they’re notrnjust dealing with first aid and physical wounds, but rather psychologicalrnwounds.  So, we’re doing a lotrnbetter.  It’s still stigmatizing torncome home and seek help and self-medication is one of the first things thatrnlots of folks do, sadly, which is alcohol or drugs. 

rnrn

And what we’re not doing enough of, I think, is reallyrngetting support to the families. rnThe families served too, in a way, as I said, they go to war in a sensernwith their soldiers because they’re in such close communication.  They can email their war theater andrnhome theater are not so separated, and when they come home, they’re oftenrnlimited in resources.  How do yourndeal with a soldier, male or female, who comes home and just retreats inside,rnor can’t begin to talk, and also unemployment rates are much higher forrnreturning veterans than they are for those—for civilians. 

rnrn

So, we’re getting better, but we still have this enormousrnyawning military/civilian divide. rnAnd the families in a sense are civilian families, of course, butrnthey’re military families because their loved ones have served and they feelrnsociety often isn’t supporting them enough.

rnrn

Question: What newrnsolutions or interventions would you propose?

rnrn

Nancy Sherman: Certainly more money into the VA, stronger benefits, more robustrnprograms for seeking jobs, making sure that the military hospitals are notrnthemselves shaming places.  WalterrnReed had a very big scandal about three years ago in mismanagement and it was arnbullying place where soldiers would come home and they were still kept inrnholding units where they would be ready as if to deploy, but most of them knewrnthey weren’t because they had such severe injuries, yet they still had to gornoutside for 6:30 a.m. formation, and stand in formation and whatnot.  Though many had been on very heavyrnmedications at night, or might not fall asleep or drift into sleep until 4:30rnin the morning, and if they were on leave for awhile, they didn’t get back inrntime, they were really bullied. rnSo, making sure that our environments are healthier.  We’ve done a lot to clean those up withrnsomething called Warrior Transition Brigades.  Soldiers themselves helping other soldiers move through thisrnpassage. 

rnrn

But I would say, one thing we can do, and I’m involved inrnthis to some degree.  If you’re onrna teaching campus, talk to those veterans that have come home and try to breakrndown the barriers, and make them understand that they don’t have to feel it’srnonly those that have been to war and come home that can really be talked to,rnthat we really want to understand and listen.  And similarly those that are about to go to war who are partrnof ROTC programs.  Make sure theyrnare not feeling marginalized in class, or afraid to say that I’m going to bernserving in a year’s time, or whatnot, and really trying on a person-to-personrnbasis to break down some of the barriers in our local communities.  I think that’s really critical.  In addition to large scale policies ofrnmore resources in the VA, having the VA talk to the military hospitals morernsmoothly.  We’re working that outrnright now with unified computer systems. 

rnrn

And also understanding that multiple deployments have anrnattrition; a psychological attrition on the mental health of soldiers.  Resilience is sort of supposed to be,rnyou bounce a ball and it for a while continues to hold its bounce, but thenrnballs after awhile they keep bouncing and bouncing and bouncing and the bouncerngets lower and lower and lower. rnAnd a little bit like that with troops.  You send them three and four and five times to war and theirrnresilience just doesn’t hold up the same way as in the first round.  Stresses on families as a result, highrndivorce rates.

rnrn

Question: Are some ofrnthese stresses unavoidable in an all-volunteer army?

rnrn

Nancy Sherman:It’s an Army that wasn’t designed to fight two wars at thernsame time for 10 years.  If yournthink about it, I teach 18- to 22-year-olds, half of their lives have been exposedrnin a very indirect way, but nonetheless, that’s the background factor tornwar.  That’s a long time, longerrnthan exposure during World War II.  So,rnyes, big debate, certainly about draft versus volunteer.  I don’t think we will go back to arndraft easily.  There’s not enoughrnsupport for that in Congress.  Butrnwe certainly could have more service of various sorts, national service andrnmaking military service one of those options so that those that go intornmilitary service aren't the only ones who are doing compulsory national service.

rnrn

Question:  How did military ethics become a fieldrnof serious inquiry?

rnrn

Nancy Sherman: Ifrnyou think about the history and its introduction into the military academies,rnit often is indexed or linked to a cheating scandal.  And that was certainly the case of the Naval academy when Irnwas brought in, in the mid-‘90s. rnThey had taught psychology of leadership and also the law of war, orrnthe law of the high seas, that sort of thing, but they didn’t teach militaryrnethics until they had a massive electrical engineering cheating scandal.  And the same, I believe with WestrnPoint, and I thinking 1959, the Air Force probably was ahead of the curve andrndid it, I think without provocation. 

rnrn

But it’s a relatively new field in the way that the ethicsrnof, these applied ethics are sort of business of law.  Often they come about when there’s a problem and theyrnrealize that some of us who have been teaching ethics for the longest time andrnteach these general issues even though they might not be specifically appliedrnto a kind of profession.  But it’srnas old—the topic is as old as the ancients.  If you think about it, in the Iliad, Achilles drags aroundrnHector’s body seven times around, desecrating it in revenge, wild revenge forrnthe death of his buddy, Achilles’ buddy, Patroclus.  And Homer says finally, he breaks down and says, “Even therngods cannot sit by quietly and watch this.”  And they protect the face of this desecrated body so that inrnfact, because if the gods watch, it’s never really desecrated.  So there’s this important sense of thernugliness of revenge.  Maybe it’s arncombat motivator, maybe it’s fire in the belly that adrenalizes, we would say,rnbut it’s got its really ugly side. 

rnrn

And so the Stoics come in later as a comment on thernancients, they themselves, like second century, before the common era, the secondrncentury after, and say, you ancients, including Plato and Aristotle, but beforernthat Homer and his warrior tradition gave carte blanche, you might say, openrnticket to revenge, but revenge knows no limits, knows no excess.  So, event he warrior ought not to havernit.  Do it for its own sake.  Fight in there because the cause isrnright, or because you believe in the cause, not for the sake of payback,rnbecause you won’t be able to control the revenge.  Once it’s out of the gate, the game is over. 

rnrn

So, it’s been around for a long time and that gives you arnsense of... it’s been around as a worry about the inward war, not just what you’rerndoing to other people and whether your conduct is good, but how you can controlrnyour own inner motives.  So, that’srnwhat I’m fascinated by, it’s not just the limits of just war.  That’s been also a tradition since thernmedieval... since the Crusades.  Howrndoes a king get his, or the church get his Army going and have them not havernmassacres?  And how do theyrnseparate the people that are legitimate targets from those who aren’trnlegitimate targets?  Are therncivilians, or the folks that aren’t knights in armors, are the legitimate?  No, they’re not legitimate.  But there’s always been rape, pillage,rnand plunder.  In the middle ages,rnit became a cause célèbre.  Let’srnwrite rules for the church so they know how to fight.  So that’s been about justification.  When can you go to war and how does thernhonorable, chivalrous soldier fight well? 

rnrnrnrn

What there has been very little discussion of is what goesrnon in the head of the soldier and how do they conduct the moral debate in sidernand live with the moral difficulties and quandaries.  And that’s sort of what I’ve been interested in, and it’s inrnthe border between philosophy, that's worried about justification of wars, justrncauses, and just conduct.  Andrnpsychology that’s worried about what goes on in the privacy of a clinician’srnoffice and the unloading of the trauma.Between those two goals, there’s a huge area about the moralrnpsychology in the inner psyche of the soldier.

rnrn

Question: Is there somerntruth to the idea that "all’s fair" in war?

rnrn

Nancy Sherman:  There’s a real sense that all’s fair inrnlove and war, you know, and that all the rules are off.  But since the Middle Ages and thernformulation of just war, however abstractly, the idea has been that there arernrules of permissibility.  Both forrnthose in charge of declaring war, what counts as a reasonable cause, a justrncause, a justification for going to war, and aggressing or defendingrnyourself.  And also for how thernsoldier conducts herself, or himself, justly, honorably. 

rnrn

So, there’s that, and then there’s the reality of it, as yournsay, and the concrete cases.  So,rnright now, we, with the surge in Afghanistan, are dealing with, or should berndealing with the real heavy moral implications of the nature of thernfighting.  So, General McChrystalrnhas made it very clear that there will be tight rules of engagement on therntroops, the 100,000 troops that will be fully deployed in Afghanistan.  And those troops will not be able to—ifrnthey’re mingled civilian and insurgents, the troops need to put thernpreponderance of risk upon themselves and take additional risk rather than riskrnthe lives of civilians, unless the unit is being overrun, and we’ve sent thatrnthat is not full proof.   InrnMarsiya, there were 12 killings, there have been drones that have killedrncivilians, and now the Special Forces are under the same tight restrictions,rnso, unified command. 

rnrn

Now the way that—you have to think about that, how does thatrnplay out on the troops?  Well wernknow a lot of the grunts, the ground troops, are grumbling bitterly on fightingrnwith one hand tied behind my back while they get all the advantage because theyrncan shield their innocence in... They shield their insurgents in civilian populations and then I as arncombat troop have to restrict my fire. rnSo, you have to say, are they risking troops at the cost of saving therncivilians in Afghanistan and some will say that.  And we’ll say, oh, it’s just a political ploy.  We need to buy the hearts and minds ofrnthe population.  But I think itrnalso is protecting the hearts and minds of our own soldiers, and that’s thernmilitary ethics really made concrete. 

rnrn

The soldiers I have spoken to who have been involved inrncivilian casualties, that’s an awful term, collateral damage.  It makes it—it’s so euphemistic.  But it means not just accidentalrnkillings of civilians, it’s where you foresee that it might happen, but yourndon’t intend it.  The civilians arernin the periphery of the target area and it’s an important enough target thatrnyou go for it.  In cases likerncheckpoint incidents in Afghanistan and Iraq where this has happened, andrnespecially if the civilian is a child. rnThe Marines that I’ve talked to just decompensate almost, they feel sornawful about killing a vulnerable child; it’s like the mythic child that hasrnbeen killed.  And if you thinkrnabout it, here they are in a place on the Helmand Province we are fighting inrnAfghanistan, and they are there not only to be fighters, but they’re policeman,rnthey’re community organizers, they’re building a city in a box.  They’re building civic order in a box.  And that’s how it’s been phrased.  And they’re the savior in a sense,rnthey’re bringing order.  Andrnthere’s a lot of idealism about them, but also the sheer reality of what’srnhappening.  And when they can’t dornthat and they fail miserably in the sense of see a kid killed in the midst ofrnthat operation, I think that really, really plays hard. 

rnrn

So, I think the restrictions which come from high up and arernimposed through the chain low down by a commander that has to work really hardrnto restrain his troops and restrain the fire force, the fire power that’s usedrnare protecting the hearts and minds of our own soldiers.  They’re reasonable moralrnrestraints.  Not just to buy thernhearts and minds of the country we’re in, but to preserve our own souls.

rnrn

Question: Whom do yournblame for the ethical breakdown at Abu Ghraib?

rnrn

Nancy Sherman: Irnthink it was a breakdown from high up, breakdown from the top down.  There were attempts, we know, from therntorture memos that came from the Office of Legal Council, Jay Bybee and JohnrnYoo, to figure out ways that we could permissibly, legally, torture by somernother name.  And it was throughrnCheney and through President Bush that there really was an attempt to do this. And it trickled down.  So, therernwere commanders who gave permission, or turned their head.  And we also used forces in interrogationrnthat weren’t fully trained.  Somernof them had been in other environments and they were told to kind of getrncreative.  And also there is arnfeeling of lack of respect for the enemy. rnOnce you degrade the enemy to just being a thing, all bets are off as tornwhat you can do to them.  And as myrnyoung interrogators told me, the temptation to get information out of someonernwho you’re—when you get so frustrated and it’s been days and days and days andrnyou’re not making any breakthroughs and you know that there may be some highrnintelligence that may be gathered. rnYou run the risk of harming this person, of doing something you oughtrnnot to do.  

rnrn

And in his case, he said there was a moment where he saw arnfellow U.S. officer, who was a woman, a woman pilot who had been mangled by thernenemy, and that really got his ire up, and he really wanted to do something tornbe able to prevent that kind of incident in the future.  And that’s when he knew that hisrnconscience really in high gear, hold back.  That’s the temptation you have to be prepared to fightrnagainst. 

rnrn

And I don’t think—that’s a very reflective, conscientious,rnvery humanistic interrogator.  Notrnall are like that.  I went tornGuantanamo as part of the medical observer team, not a physician, but we werernlooking at psychiatric and psychological conditions of the detainees from thernside of care and also from the side of interrogation and also for hungerrnstrikers.  And there was an attemptrnto even then when they wanted to bring an observer team out to ask us to try tornfind a legal loophole for separating the kinds of professionals, thernpsychologists who were involved in the interrogation from the kind ofrnpsychiatrists clinicians involved in treatment.  And if the one is involved in an interrogation never do the treatment,rnthen maybe they could be a little bit more aggressive or don’t have to worryrnabout the same restrictions as the ones on the treating side.  And that, you could already see, that’srna way of eroding the responsibilities we have to the care of the detainees whornwere supposed to be treated as if they were American forces when they are inrnPOW situations.

rnrn

Question: What ethicalrnloopholes still need to be closed in the war on terror? 

rnrn

Nancy Sherman: Ohrnwell, the legal situation is very complicated.  As you know, Eric Holder is really, the Attorney General, is fraught and there’s lots of internal debates in the Obama Administrationrnthat I can’t begin to chronicle about whether there are military tribunals orrncivilian sorts of tribunals and where to have the trials, as you know, New Yorkrnor other places, and who should be released and who not.  But there is certainly a commitment, Irnbelieve, to efficiently closing Guantanamo, and also a sense that torture is a)rnwe know it’s not effective, it’s not instrumental.  It does not get you the information you want.  And b) it’s just flat out wrong.  And so there is that recognition Irnthink.  How it gets played out,rnespecially when you have TV programs like “24” making it very real, or makingrnthe notion of “no holds barred” in interrogation, that’s really rough. 

rnrn

And I know cadets at West Point and my young interrogatorrnwatch these in amusement and voyeurism and whatnot, but I also know that thernSuperintendent, or the Commandant of West Point have gone out to speak to thernproducer of this program and say, this isn’t how it works, we don’t want thisrnpropaganda, you’re really making it harder for us because these aren’t thernrules that we are telling to abide by. rnAnd so that’s really tricky. rnSo, it certainly an awful education that we’ve had to go through, but Irnthink we’re coming out of it.

rnrn

Question: What canrnAristotle teach us about ethics?

rnrn

Nancy Sherman:rnAristotle is one of my heroes, as you say, so who’s a lifetime companion forrnyou?  Sure, it’s my husband and my sonrnand daughter, but it’s also Aristotle, he’s with me all the time.  And we have kind of imbibed hisrnlessons, as you say, but we’ve also—he sort of teaches us that, well onernthing he teaches us is in contrast to the Stoics.  I’ve also written—the last book was called "The StoicrnWarriors," about the Stoic ethos of the military.  And they say no place for anger, no place for grief, nornplace for the kinds of feelings that make you vulnerable; detached, detached,rndetach so that you can become strong and self-sufficient.  And so you know what’s in your powerrnand if those things are not in your power, let them go, leave them alone. 

rnrn

And that’s great news for a soldier because there’s so muchrnthat is not in your power.  Whenrnyou’re coming home, when are you going to redeploy, will your wife still lovernyou?  Will your boyfriend be therernwhen you come home?  All of thosernare so risky.  So being in chargernis an amazing thing.  Suck it up,rnsuck it up, suck it up was the mantra of the Naval Academy when I was there,rnand always is.  But Aristotle isrnthe counter-voice and he’ll say, “It’s important to grieve because you are, byrnnature, a social creature, and you’re attached to other people and you are... you know, virtue is in your capacity... in the matter of your effort and in thernmatter of your resolve, but a lot of whether you’re going to do well in thisrnworld has to do with luck and has to do with people that are outside you.  So, Aristotle reminds us of that.  He reminds us also that anger is a goodrnthing because... the right kind of anger. rnBecause if you never felt righteous indignation, you would never recordrnthe injuries and indignities that people suffer.  You would be indifferent to them.  So, you should feel some anger, the right anger, the rightrntime, toward the right people. 

rnrn

Similarly, don’t feel anger so much that it makes yournservile that you are a slave to your own anger, but in a right way.  So he’s very sensitive to the role ofrnemotions in the good life.  Andrncertainly I think and have been arguing in the past 10, 15 years through my work thatrnthe role of emotions in a soldier’s life can’t be emphasized enough.  They need to grieve; they need tornrecognize that they may feel betrayal, and that they have to reconnect withrntheir families when they come home. rnOne of my soldiers said, “No one ever told me how hard the war after thernwar would be.”  Meaning, the innerrnbattles he has to face. 

rnrnrnrn

So, accepting and owning and working through the positivernand negative emotions of war I think it an Aristotelian kind of lesson. And I’mrnvery sympathetic to the Stoics, and the Stoic warriors.  I felt myself talking to them the wholerntime and I’d interviewed Admiral Stockdale, who was a Senior POW along withrnMcCain, John McCain, in the Hanoi Hilton in Vietnam, North Vietnam.  And he had memorized Epictetus, thernStoic philosopher, in order to get through—he resonated with it and itrnbecame his consolation in 7 ½ years of prison, 2 ½ in solitary.  And I think that’s an important voice,rnthe idea that you will never be a "slave to your passions," let’s say, Epictetus, or "Only those thingsrnwithin your willpower can you really claim as your own.But it does have a downside of thinkingrnthat you can really be unaffected, that you can be invulnerable.  And I think that’s a real, realrnhazard.  It’s a moral hazard.  A real moral risk.So, Aristotle would correct us on that one.

rnrn

Question: What’s thernbiggest challenge you face in your work?

rnrn

Nancy Sherman:  I’m a parent of two amazing kidsrnand—adult kids now, and a spouse, a wife, and an academic and a writer, and itrnmay sound trivial, but being able to do well in all of those things all therntime, or most of the time, some of the time, is always before me.  And it’s not just about juggling, butrnit’s about being there.  When myrnchildren were little, my son Jonathan would sort of catch on when I was playingrnLegos and I really wasn’t there, there with him.  You know, I wasn’t in the game and empathically involvedrnbecause my head was thinking about some paragraph on the fabric of characterrnI was about to write, or a lecture I had to give in the morning.  So, I think for me, the challengernis—and I feel this with my students too, to always remain empathicallyrnconnected to the people that I’m with and rnnot be so busy... rnBut I think right now, I feel is the challenge and I share this, I’mrnsure with many others, I think we are about to implode because of being pluggedrnin.  Everyone on the street has gotrntheir head in some little device, electronic device.  And my students feel guilty that they’ve been in a lecturernfor 15 minutes and someone might have been texting them and they haven’t beenrnable to answer in the 15 minutes. rnSo, this sense of—you might say there’s a flip side of what I wasrnsaying, of being over-connected. rnBut it’s over-connected in an insidious way.  So, I’d say, go off to the mountains and smell and breathernand workout hard and attach to people in the real, physical, concrete,rnemotional way, and not just through cyberspace.  That would be the—that’s the instruction we have and thernchallenge to realize as well.

rnrnrnrnrn