By any means necessary : an interpretive phenomenological analysis study of post 9/11 American abusive violence in Iraq
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This study examines the phenomenon of abusive violence (AV) in the context of the American Post-9/11 Counter-terrorism and Counter-insurgency campaigns. Previous research into atrocities by states and their agents has largely come from examinations of totalitarian regimes with well-developed torture and assassination institutions. The mechanisms influencing willingness to do harm have been examined in experimental studies of obedience to authority and the influences of deindividuation, dehumanization, context and system. This study used Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) to examine the lived experience of AV reported by fourteen American military and intelligence veterans. Participants were AV observers, objectors, or abusers. Subjects described why AV appeared sensible at the time, how methods of violence were selected, and what sense they made of their experiences after the fact. Accounts revealed the roles that frustration, fear, anger and mission pressure played to prompt acts of AV that ranged from the petty to heinous. Much of the AV was tied to a shift in mission view from macro strategic aims of CT and COIN to individual and small group survival. Routine hazing punishment soldiers received involving forced exercise and stress positions made similar acts inflicted on detainees unrecognizable as abusive. Overt and implied permissiveness from military superiors enabled AV extending to torture, and extra-judicial killings. Attempting to overcome feelings of vulnerability, powerlessness and rage, subjects enacted communal punishment through indiscriminate beatings and shooting. Participants committed AV to amuse themselves and humiliate their enemies; some killed detainees to force confessions from others, conceal misdeeds, and avoid routine paperwork. Participants realized that AV practices were unnecessary, counter-productive, and self-damaging. Several reduced or halted their AV as a result. The lived experience of AV left most respondents feeling guilt, shame, and inadequacy, whether they committed abuse or failed to stop it.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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