On Killing by LtCol Dave Grossman, 2009, Excerpts
Atrocity has always been part of war, and in order to understand war we must understand atrocity. Atrocity – this close-range murder of the innocent and helpless – is the most repulsive aspect of war, and that which resides within man and permits him to perform these acts is the most repulsive aspect of mankind. The killing is always traumatic. But when you have to kill women and children, or when you have to kill men in their houses, in front of their wives and children, and when you have to do it not from twenty thousand feet up, the horror transcends description or understanding.
The shock and horror of seeing unprovoked violent death meted out creates a deep atavistic fear in human beings. Through atrocity the oppressed population can be numbed into a learned helplessness state of submission and compliance. The effect on the atrocity-committing soldiers appears to be very similar. Human life is profoundly cheapened by these acts, and the soldier realizes that one of the lives that has been cheapened is his own.
Dragon Seed by Pearl Buck, 1942, Excerpts
When the enemy did come it was with such madness, such cruelty, so fiercely and savagely, that all were dazed and put out of their minds. Into this great city the enemy had come like wild beasts, killed the men and took the women. Whether a woman was old or young was nothing. Young were taken first and then old.
“My sister’s baby cried,” one girl said, whose eyes were swollen nearly closed from weeping, “he was but five months old, and he was so hearty and strong and cried so loud. They snatched him from her breast, and then the enemy who had hold of her was angry and strangled the little thing. She lay bound and not able to even to cry out, and when he and thirty others were done with her she was dead, too.”