DATE April 8, 2003 ACCOUNT NUMBER N/A
TIME 12:00 Noon-1:00 PM AUDIENCE N/A
PROGRAM Fresh Air
Interview: Colonel James Martin, US Army, Ret., discusses the
stresses that combat soldiers work under
TERRY GROSS, host:
This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.
My guest, James Martin, has helped soldiers deal with the stresses of war.
He's a retired colonel who spent 26 years as an Army social worker. During
the Vietnam War, he worked at Army medical centers in the US. In 1991, he was
the senior social work officer in the Gulf War. Shortly after the invasion of
Kuwait, during the planning of the war, he was sent to the region to assess
stress issues American soldiers would face. He then went to Germany to help
prepare American forces for their deployment. During the ground war, he was
part of a mental-health team for the Army's 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment. He
later co-edited the book "The Gulf War and Mental Health." He currently works
as a consultant to the Army, assessing quality-of-life issues for military
families. He's also an associate professor at the Bryn Mawr College Graduate
School of Social Work & Social Research just outside of Philadelphia.
Now one of the things you did in the Gulf War in the early '90s was to assess
what the greatest stresses were going to be for soldiers. I would imagine two
of the things at the top of the list were desert warfare, being in the desert
a long time, and the possibility of facing chemical or biological weapons
attacks. How did that figure into the recommendations that you made in your
initial report about what stresses soldiers would be facing?
Colonel JAMES MARTIN (US Army, Retired): I would characterize the stresses a
little bit differently.
Col. MARTIN: And I would characterize them--I think the model that we use is
that there are phases of stress, and interestingly, one of the most important
phases of stress actually occurs at home station before deployment. It's that
departure and the nature of that departure, remembering that when individuals
deploy, it's a highly stressful period. People are very busy, there's a lot
going on, especially in the context of families and how families are trying to
cope. If I'm a service member, I'm working very hard in getting myself ready
to deploy, but it's also a time when my spouse and my children are likely to
be having a lot of difficulty with their own fear and their own concern, and
so I'm trying to cope with all of that at one time. So departure really
becomes one of the key stress periods.
Then if you think about this in the context of the Gulf War, just the
physical stress and the demands associated with deploying into this kind of
environment and getting moved out--the heat, the--just workload. Physically
it's a very, very taxing experience for most of these folks, living in very
crowded conditions during that initial phase when one is moving into a theater
like the theater that they're in now.
And then you have all of the uncertainties in front of you. I think that in
the first Gulf War, one of the clear uncertainties and difficulties was the
fact that it was a long period of time when we weren't sure what was going to
happen. We weren't sure how long we were going to be there, and for those
soldiers, especially those in support positions who were in the large urban
areas, it was the threat of Scud missile attack, and that was an extremely
GROSS: What were you able to tell soldiers who were worried about the
possibility of chemical or biological weapons being used against them?
Col. MARTIN: I think the real issue is trust and confidence in your
equipment, in your skills, and then the other factor is one of being part of a
collective. I mean, I can tell you from my own personal experience the first
night I arrived in Saudi Arabia, before I hooked up with my colleague, I was
sleeping at one of the Army's combat hospitals, and I was literally in a tent
by myself, and that night we had four different Scud alerts, where I had to
put on full chemical gear, and I was there by myself that entire evening. I
would have given anything for somebody to talk to. It really was a very
anxious period, and your mind just, you know, goes off in a thousand different
directions, none of which are good. And so that notion of being embedded in a
group of people who you can have a shared experience with and who you can
provide support and comfort for one another is a critical aspect of this.
GROSS: Were you in the position, as a social worker, of having to tell the
difference between normal battle stress and extreme battle stress, and when to
take a soldier out of combat?
Col. MARTIN: Yeah. I give you a case example. One of the things that
occurred just before the start of the ground invasion--we were with, at that
point, the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment, and we had senior enlisted soldier
brought to us by his chaplain, and the chaplain was looking for our assistance
in getting this sergeant evacuated out of the theater. And what had happened
is that he had had the opportunity to contact home, and he had found it--and
home in this case was Germany; we were with a unit from Germany--and he had
learnt that his wife had been raped or assaulted, and was actually in the
hospital, and that his two children were being cared for by a neighbor. And
you can imagine the emotional state that this sergeant was in.
We spent basically an evening with him in our tent, and it became very clear
to us that, you know, he was clearly reacting to the emotional trauma of what
he had just learned, and his own sense of helplessness and guilt about his
family. But it was also clear that taking him from the theater at that point
probably would have done more harm than good, and when I say that, what I mean
is that this is an individual who at that point was probably responsible for
15 or 20 young soldiers in his unit, and they were about to go into combat
within a day or so. If anything had happened to those soldiers in combat in
his absence, it's probably something he never would have been able to forgive
himself for, you know, feeling blame and guilt.
In this case, the reality was that his wife was in an Army hospital. He knew
she was being taken care of. She was OK--she had experienced a very traumatic
event--and he knew his kids were OK. He knew the family that his kids were
with. And so what we did was basically try to give him an opportunity to
ventilate his concerns, to emotionally get himself back together again, and to
help make a decision that his job was one of staying with his soldiers,
getting them through this initial combat, and then we promised to work with
him to get him home as quickly as we could after that, and to try to maintain
information about his family.
But it presented, you know, the unique situation that these people are in.
I'm sure that even today, in the Gulf War, there are, you know, soldiers that
are learning that parents have died, that family members have been in
accidents, and you have to balance those kinds of things with the reality of
the responsibilities that these people have in the context of these combat
operations. Very difficult.
GROSS: Can that kind of worry about the people who you've left at home,
particularly if those people are in jeopardy--can that kind of worry be
dangerously distracting if you're in combat?
Col. MARTIN: It could be, and I think that's part of what we had to decide
on, whether we could help this individual pull himself together in a way that
he could be an effective soldier, and our belief, after having spent a day
with him, is that he was able to do that. But you're right. That becomes the
issue, and you think about that in all kinds of stress, whether it's the
stress of something occurring on the home front--remember that, you know,
this age of instant communication, that those kinds of things are now
happening all the time, and it's something that we have to learn how to deal
with and deal with effectively.
GROSS: So were you able to get the soldier home fairly quickly?
Col. MARTIN: Yeah. After the ground war phase was over, he was one of the
first to depart back to his unit in Germany, and subsequent to the invasion
and initial phase of the ground war, I know that he had communication with his
GROSS: But during the Gulf War in '91, did you deal with any soldiers who
were truly overcome by fear and who were having enormous difficulty
Col. MARTIN: In terms of my own experience, I don't think that we saw any
soldiers in that context. Where we did see them was subsequent to the
movement into Kuwait and Iraq, soldiers who had been overwhelmed by certain
events, and two that come to my mind that are relevant for today is the issues
of friendly fire and casualties in units when friendly fire occurs, and in
another case, accidental death, which is common and can be emotionally just as
GROSS: So you dealt with people in units where some people had been killed
by friendly fire?
Col. MARTIN: Yeah. For example, shortly after the initial phase of the
ground war, the unit that we were in, one of the elements of the unit
experience a friendly fire incident where a number of soldiers were killed, in
sort of the fog of a nighttime operation, and we spent a day with elements of
that unit, doing some debriefing of soldiers that had been part of that
friendly fire episode, and...
GROSS: What were they going through? What were some of the--what was the
fear, or the anger that they were expressing?
Col. MARTIN: Initially, quite the opposite. I think that when we first
arrived at the unit, it was--I mean, I would characterize it as just this
shroud of depression that had sort of overcome everyone, that, you know, no
one was really talking to one another about sort of the events. Everyone,
you know, just had this terribly sad look about them. In some sense, I think
they were still caught in the shock of the moment, and really among the things
that we did in our small group meetings with these unit members was help them
re-establish communication with one another, being able to talk about the
event, being able to clarify misperceptions, being able to get a sense of what
really happened, being able to get past the issue of, you know, who was to
blame, because at that level, that really wasn't sort of the critical issue,
and be able to support one another, be able to begin, you know, the kind of
bonding that is so important.
I mean, I remember very vividly as we were leaving the unit--and this was in
the middle of the desert--a senior enlisted member of the unit came to us and
literally gave us both hugs, with tears in his eyes, that, you know, we had
brought some relief. These people had been sitting in the desert at this
point for a couple of days. Again, this was after the initial phase of the
ground war, and they were simply, I think, shocked in the context of that
GROSS: One of the most important things that soldiers have is the ability to
support each other, you know, that solidarity within a troop, so that must be
totally undermined when there's accidental friendly fire within the unit.
Col. MARTIN: Clearly, whenever--well, think about it in terms of any major
trauma. One of the things that often happens is it's hard for people to talk
to one another, until they get past that sort of initial phase. You're not
sure what to say, you know, it's just a very difficult period, and so--I mean,
the value, the important factor here was that this was clearly a group that
had strong interpersonal relationships.
I would contrast that with some other events that we were involved in where
the group didn't have that kind of background, where, in fact, the soldiers
involved were individuals who were not well known to the group. The example
here was a case of a soldier who was killed by stepping on some munitions, and
two young enlisted medical personnel provided immediate resuscitive first aid,
and clearly this young soldier was beyond being saved because of the severe
nature of the injuries.
But for the rest of the unit, one of the difficulties is that these two medics
were not people they really knew. I mean, they had joined the unit a couple
of weeks beforehand as fill-in for the unit, and they were both young medics
right out of their training, so they were young privates, and the important
aspect of that intervention was really our ability to get the unit to, in a
sense, open up and wrap its emotional arms around these two young soldiers to
help them recognize what a valiant effort they made trying to save the
soldier's life, vs. getting rid of any speculation that, you know, the
soldier died because the medics were incompetent or, you know, something of
that nature. So having those solid bonds beforehand are very, very important
GROSS: My guest is retired Army social worker James Martin. He was the
senior social worker in the Gulf War of '91. He's currently an associate
professor at Bryn Mawr College's Graduate School of Social Work & Social
Research. We'll talk more after a break. This is FRESH AIR.
(Soundbite of music)
GROSS: If you're just joining us, my guest is James Martin. He's a retired
colonel, Army social worker. He was a senior social work officer in the Gulf
War of '91. He's also an associate professor the at Bryn Mawr College
Graduate School of Social Work & Social Research.
You were involved with the debriefing of soldiers after the war, when they
left the theater of combat. What kind of discussions did you have with the
soldiers, and what kind of discussions did you walk away thinking were
actually really beneficial?
Col. MARTIN: I think one of the things that's important to remember--I had
talked about the phases of sort of stress, the predeployment, the actual
experience in the theater of operations. The other stressful period is that
period waiting to come home and coming home. One of the things that we have
learned historically is that really is important not to rush that, and by that
I mean giving people an opportunity, when all of this is over, to process what
they've experienced with their colleagues, with their buddies, with those that
they've shared this experience with. That's why coming home on a sort of
gradual basis is better than a rapid reunion, and we do this now intentionally
in many of these kinds of events, whether they deal with hostages or whether
they have to do with large-scale military operations.
GROSS: Why is that helpful?
Col. MARTIN: It gives people a chance to put some context around what
they've experienced, and to do it with others who have shared those
experiences, and it provides a sort of a buffer from the, you know, rapid
transition back into other roles. I'm jumping around here a little bit, but
maybe this would be helpful. One of the groups that I often wonder about and
worry about--and this is not an area where I have expertise, but it will
highlight what I mean--if you think about pilots who this morning are getting
up and feeding their kids breakfast at home in England, and tonight they're
getting on an airplane and flying over Iraq and dropping bombs, and tomorrow
morning, they're back home trying to deal with domestic sorts of issues.
Making that kind emotional and cognitive shift is very, very demanding, and
that's sort of what I mean by this experience.
So if I think about the first Gulf War, one of the things that impressed me
the most from a leadership perspective was a battalion commander in Germany
who, when the unit arrived back in Germany, what he did is rather than giving
everyone immediate leave to let them go home, basically had them work
half-days, and what it meant was you had a half a day in the unit, sort of
protected from all the demands of family, and a half a day to just sort of
chill out with your peers, and it was a transition time. It really made a
difference. People really were able to walk that bridge from being a combat
soldier into being a father or a husband, and so it sort of avoided all of the
negative things associated with too rapid a transition.
GROSS: I imagine a lot of people return from war feeling that they're not the
same person they were when they left home for war, and they're assumed to be
the same person and they have to fit into that same identity that they no
longer have. Have you found that that is an issue for a lot of soldiers
Col. MARTIN: I think that for any of us, those monumental experiences in
life have that kind of effect, and it's not that we're not the same person.
It's just that, you know, we have added experiences and we may see things a
little bit differently. I know from my own experience, if you ask me the
things that I found most traumatic, it really had to do with the suffering
that I saw in the Iraqis that were killed and wounded in the civilian
population especially, the refugees. And it's important to remember, you
know, while we see the stress that our combat forces experience who are
directly engaged, those military members who are in roles that have to do with
humanitarian care, whether it's taking care of prisoners of war or providing
medical treatment, or handling the remains of human bodies, that this is a
very demanding experience, and is something that becomes part of who and what
these people are in the future, hopefully in a positive way.
GROSS: James Martin was senior Army social worker in the Gulf War of '91, and
is an associate professor at the Bryn Mawr College's Graduate School of Social
Work & Social Research. He'll be back in the second half of the show. I'm
Terry Gross, and this is FRESH AIR.
(Soundbite of music)
GROSS: Coming up, the emotional issues soldiers are likely to face after the
war, when they return home. We continue our conversation with retired Army
social worker James Martin. And we talk with psychiatrist Robert J. Lifton
about how Americans are responding to watching the war on TV. Also, Ken
Tucker reviews the new CD by The White Stripes.
(Soundbite of music)
GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross, back with James Martin, a retired
colonel who was the senior social work officer in the Gulf War of '91. He
co-edited the book "The Gulf War and Mental Health." During the Vietnam War,
he worked at Army medical centers in the US. Martin still consults with the
Army in assessing quality-of-life issues for military families, and he's an
associate professor at the Bryn Mawr College Graduate School of Social Work &
The Vietnam War was so fresh in everyone's mind during the Gulf War of '91,
and I know one of the things that you and a lot of other mental-health workers
during the war tried to do is to prevent the kind of post-traumatic shock
syndrome that so many veterans of the Vietnam War had experienced. What did
you try to do in the Gulf War after battle to prevent post-traumatic stress
Col. MARTIN: I'd like to answer that a little bit differently.
Col. MARTIN: And I would do that in the context of I think the effort that's
been made to develop the current force that we have, the all-volunteer
force--clearly, in my mind, the significant difference between the Vietnam era
and today is really that force. I mean, we have a force of volunteers. These
are very well-trained, very well-led, very well-equipped soldiers, sailors,
Marines, airmen, and it's that context in terms of preventative factors that I
think address a number of the Vietnam-era issues that are associated with PTSD
and other kinds of things. Now that's not to say that you don't have these
kinds of conditions occur--I was gonna use the word `stress-related,' and
that's probably the best way to characterize that--because war is horrific and
this is not something that's fun, this is not something that's easy, this is
not something that's pleasant.
One of the terms that I coined in my own experience in the Gulf was the notion
of what I call pockets of trauma. And I think that's true today in terms of
the current operations in Iraq. We have, in an overall very monumentous
victory, pockets of trauma, people whose lives have been altered forever by
the events that they've experienced.
GROSS: Are you saying that you think in the volunteer Army, in a more
professionalized Army, that soldiers are less likely to have post-traumatic
stress syndrome because this is something they volunteered for and they've
been very well prepared for?
Col. MARTIN: These are all factors that I think contribute in a preventative
way. And it's especially, I think, relevant in the context of the selection
factors. You know, we're selecting highly motivated, healthy individuals.
You have to remember that about a third of our personnel do not complete a
first enlistment. These individuals often, for behavioral-related issues, do
not remain in the military. So the people that you have in your combat force
are people who have passed a couple of hurdles. You know, they're high school
graduates, they don't have a felony, they've been able to get through rigorous
basic training, and they've been through this, you know, first inculturation
period. They're well trained. I think they're extremely well led. We've
seen, from what we have on the news, the quality of the equipment that our
forces have. And so it's a sense of strength and confidence and resiliency
that I think provide buffers against the enormous stress that people
experience in combat. That doesn't mean that there are not gonna be events
that are overwhelming.
GROSS: From what you've seen so far of this war in Iraq, do you think there
are any unique problems that the soldiers will face when they return home?
Col. MARTIN: The one that I guess I worry about the most is the issue of what
appears to be--and again, I only know what I see on the news--but appears to
be the large numbers of Iraqi casualties who are being killed in direct
engagement with our military forces and the notion that there are some number
of these individuals who are out there only because if they don't, they'll be
killed by, you know, the Iraqi death squads. And so if I try to picture
myself as a soldier, what that means to engage a combatant who doesn't want to
be there, who's there with a gun to their back, and to think about what that
has meant in terms of my killing them, those may be issues that people have to
The other one that's always present is the exposure and experience with
refugees, with women, with young children, and to see their tragic injuries
and death. Those are images that stay with people, and so I have concern that
people are gonna need to spend some time trying to deal with some of those
GROSS: I know your son is a Marine. Is he in the war?
Col. MARTIN: No, my son just finished a tour of duty at Parris Island as a
Marine Corps drill instructor and is now in Virginia at a Marines educational
program. He and I talked the other night. One of the things that I know I've
been concerned about is that, as he sees these images on the news, many of
these are young Marines who he trained at Parris Island, and I'm sure that
that's something that in some ways is difficult for him to look at and think
about, and I've told him to take great honor and strength from the fact that I
know he was a good drill instructor, and I know that his Marines were well
GROSS: James Martin, thank you very much for talking with us. Thank you.
Col. MARTIN: Thank you, Terry.
GROSS: James Martin was the senior Army social worker in the Gulf War of '91
and is an associate professor at the Bryn Mawr College Graduate School of
Social Work & Social Research.
Coming up, we talk with psychiatrist Robert Jay Lifton about how Americans are
being affected by watching the war on TV. This is FRESH AIR.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Interview: Psychiatrist Dr. Robert Jay Lifton discusses the impact
of a televised war on Americans
TERRY GROSS, host:
Dr. Robert Jay Lifton is a psychiatrist who has written extensively about the
extremes of war. He's written books about Hiroshima survivors, Nazi doctors,
the unique anxieties of the nuclear age, and apocalyptic global terrorism.
He's currently a visiting professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.
We've been checking in with him every few months since the attacks of
September 11th. We called him this morning to talk about the impact of
watching the war on TV.
Dr. Lifton, what are some of your thoughts on how Americans have been affected
by watching the war on television?
Dr. ROBERT JAY LIFTON (Harvard Medical School): I think that Americans have
been very confused by watching the war and they've had a lot of conflicting
emotions. Maybe the strongest consistent emotion is a kind of fascination,
yet most people I talk to are torn between that fascination, watching the war,
and a certain kind of revulsion or horror and a wish to turn away. A number
of people make pledges not to watch the television, or at least not to watch
it very much, but they find themselves returning to it. So I think Americans
are torn and conflicted by what they are seeing.
GROSS: I was taking a cab ride the other day, and the driver was talking
about, kind of like, you know, `Kill the Iraqi' kind of thing, you know, like,
he seemed to be taking a certain amount of pleasure in the Iraqi deaths, and I
don't think he got the point that the purpose of this war is supposed to be
not only to find the weapons of mass destruction, but to liberate the Iraqi
people. The military's trying really hard to not have Iraqi civilians. But I
think some people are just so used to, like--you bomb the country, that's the
enemy, and when they kill people, that's good. Do you think that there's some
kind of almost confusion among Americans about how to react to civilian
deaths? Because I mean, the country per se is not our enemy, it's the regime.
Dr. LIFTON: Well, that's right. In a way, war obliterates distinctions, and
that's what we're experiencing. So that even though our American leadership
makes a distinction between Iraqi leadership, Saddam Hussein and those who
have been around him, and the rest of the Iraqi people, many Americans
watching the television can see all Iraqis as the enemy. This also is
involved with our so-called war on terrorism. We identify terrorists, but we
also identify terrorist nations, as we have identified Iraq, and that becomes
confused in American minds, and for those reasons, the Iraqis are labeled as
enemies, one and all, and we're to take delight in killing our enemies. That,
of course, is a very unhealthy kind of emotion, stimulated in Americans, that
this war brings out.
GROSS: Are you concerned about how Americans handle victory in Iraq?
Dr. LIFTON: I'm deeply concerned about how we handle victory in Iraq. The
triumphalism that has been displayed on the media by journalists, especially
television journalists, is really disturbing, because they behave as though
this is a glorious moment in American history, and especially American
military history, as opposed to what I take to be the truth: This is an
example of the world's most powerful military machine overwhelming a rather
small and rather weak country. It is not a moment of glorious victory. It is
a moment, for many of us, for shame. But in any case, the impulse toward
triumphalism is there every day, almost every minute on the television, and I
think it's profoundly harmful to us ethically and psychologically.
Dr. LIFTON: It's harmful to us because it makes us callous. It reinforces
our most aggressive impulses, and it asserts that we are in the right in
killing so many people, and that there's something glorious and fine and noble
in this war. And it gradually has the danger of transforming us into a
callous, aggressive people, and taking us away from what America has always
stood for, and that has to do with genuine democracy and fairness and concern
and compassion. This is the very opposite, and to rally around military
victory at the expense of all these human lives is against everything that's
fine in our tradition.
GROSS: Nevertheless, when you see scenes of--you know that warehouse where
they found, like, body parts stacked up?
Dr. LIFTON: Yes.
GROSS: When you see scenes like that, you know, even though you oppose the
war, do you think maybe this war wasn't such a bad idea? Look at the kind of
torture and mutilation that was going on under the Saddam Hussein regime.
Dr. LIFTON: In a way, the administration claim and its policy has benefited
from Saddam Hussein's character. He has been an evil dictator. There's no
doubt about it. He has killed many people. He has been murderous. He has
stood for egregious policies of killing and torture. To that extent, some
Americans can take solace as they see Iraqi people freed from this kind of
domination and this kind of threat that they constantly live under. But
whether that can justify in their minds, in our minds, this overall war-making
is another matter.
GROSS: Although you oppose the war, have you been impressed with the
military's restraint in terms of its precision targeting with the bombing, in
terms of trying, you know, very hard to minimize the casualties of civilians?
Dr. LIFTON: I think that the military has tried to minimize the casualties
among civilians, but on the other hand, when it has had an objective that it
considers a military objective, it has not hesitated to use very, very heavy
bombing, which has to kill a lot of civilians. So although I'm aware of that
restraint, I have to say that I'm more impressed with the very large numbers
of people who are being killed--I don't know the numbers, but they have to be
in the tens of thousands, when one includes the Iraqi military, who are mostly
conscripts and not terrorists, on the one hand, and above all, Iraqi
civilians. So, yes, there has been an attempt to limit the deaths of
civilians, but many, many civilians have been killed.
GROSS: After the fighting stops, the next step is that an interim authority
is created in Iraq. And until Iraq, you know, can really stand on its own as
a democracy, the United States is going to have some responsibility for that
country. What have you been thinking about regarding how that responsibility
is going to change us as a country or, you know, just affect the national
consciousness of the country?
Dr. LIFTON: Here, I fear that the American need to control that process as
opposed to internationalizing it will be really harmful and self-defeating,
because if we don't internationalize it, if we don't bring in the UN to play
the major part in this process of transition and the long-term rehabilitation
of Iraq, then the government will have no legitimacy, and our motives in Iraq
will have no legitimacy.
But beyond that political policy, I worry about us as a people in the future.
I worry a great deal, because we run the danger of becoming increasingly
numbed with diminished inclination to feel the pain of others as we inflict
our military on the world and set up a new government in Iraq. Will that turn
us into a callous people? Are we changing in terms of our traditions of
genuine compassion and true democracy? Are we becoming bullies in the world
and are we, as ordinary Americans, joining in that process, and in a way, are
we not responsible for it? So I worry about our psyches and about our souls.
GROSS: But that gets to the fundamental difference about how this war is
viewed. You're worried about us becoming bullies, but the people who support
the war are feeling very good right now and see themselves as liberators of
people who have been very oppressed. I mean, that's, like, the
difference here. Are we bullies or are we benevolent liberators?
Dr. LIFTON: Yes. You can look at the events on the screen or in our
newspapers and have two very different narratives in your understanding of
them. One is, as you've said, the narrative of those who are making the war
that we are liberators, we are bringing democracy to Iraq and to the Middle
East in general.
The other narrative, which I think is the more accurate one, is that we are
bullies. We have a plan that's been in place for at least 10 years or longer
to dominate the Middle East and to take over Iraq, an impulse which developed
right after the first Gulf War and which was expressed immediately after 9/11,
and that this is a model of approaches to other countries either because they
seem to be opposed to our interests or because there's some danger of their
acquiring weapons of mass destruction. I think the evidence really suggests
this second narrative, and that's the way people who oppose the war see these
events on television, and it's one reason why they're so painful for us to
watch. We don't see the process as leading to a compassionate outcome. We
see it as part of a bullying policy all through the world that's dangerous to
the world and dangerous to us as Americans.
GROSS: Do you think that these two narratives will continue to define America
for a while, the bully vs. the liberator narrative?
Dr. LIFTON: I think these two narratives will continue to define America. I
think it's going to be hard to sustain a pure liberator model just because of
everything that's going to transpire about who controls what in postwar Iraq.
Moreover, postwar Iraq may not be entirely postwar. There could be guerrilla
warfare or suicide attacks and certainly extreme unrest all through the Arab
world. But certainly, the narrative of the bully--and it's more than just a
bully. It's a whole psychological projection of not only military domination
of the world, but of control of events, of control of history, and we can have
that projection because we do have such an extraordinary amount of military
power. What I think is forgotten in this, and it's part of this second
narrative, is that any effort to control history, any effort to be dominant in
the world has to fail. And the failure could bring enormous pain not just to
the rest of the world, but to us as well.
GROSS: Dr. Lifton, thank you very much for talking with us.
Dr. LIFTON: Thank you.
GROSS: Dr. Robert Jay Lifton is a visiting professor of psychiatry at Harvard
Medical School. His latest book is called "Destroying the World to Save It:
Aum Shinrikyo, Apocalyptic Violence and the New Global Terrorism."
Coming up, rock critic Ken Tucker reviews the new CD by The White Stripes.
This is FRESH AIR.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Review: The White Stripes' new CD, "Elephant"
TERRY GROSS, host:
The White Stripes have a new CD called "Elephant." Their previous CD, "White
Blood Cells," was hailed for the stripped-down aggressive approach of its duo,
drummer Meg White and guitarist Jack White. Ken Tucker says the new CD
is an even more adventurous piece of work.
(Soundbite of "There's No Home For You Here")
THE WHITE STRIPES: (Singing) Ahh! There's no home for you. Now go away.
There's no home for you here. There's no home for you. Now go away. There's
no home for you here.
Mr. JACK WHITE: (Singing) I'd like to think that all this constant
interaction is just to kinda make you drive yourself away. Each simple
gesture done by me is counteracted and leaves me standing here with nothing
else to say. Completely baffled by a backward indication that I've inspired
what will come across your tongue. Hands moving now, but to propel the
situation have simply halted, now the conversation is done. There's no home
for you. Now go away. There's no home for you here. There's no home for
KEN TUCKER reporting:
The White Stripes' music frequently seems to be one long varied meditation
about being abandoned, feeling alone and acknowledging the intersection of
panic and freedom that such a situation can inspire inside you. Jack White
talks to himself on that song, "There's No Home For You Here," turning inner
conversations into public explosions of frustration, temper and remorse.
(Soundbite of music)
Ms. MEG WHITE: (Singing) I saw you standing in the corner on the edge of a
burning light. I saw you standing in the corner. Come to me again in the
cold, cold night. In the cold, cold night.
TUCKER: That's Meg White picking up Jack's idea of chilly isolation, fear,
loneliness and yet also an eerie calmness, the comfort anyone can derive from
a solitude spent remember the pleasures of old passions and the promise of new
(Soundbite of music)
THE WHITE STRIPES: (Singing) We started living in an old house. Mama gave
birth and we would check in and out. It was a baby boy, so we bought him a
toy. It was a ray gun, and it was 1981. We named him Baby. He had a
toothache. He started crying. It sounded like an earthquake. It didn't last
long because I stopped it. I cut the rag doll, stuck some little pins in it.
Now we're a family, and we're all right now. We've got money and a little
place to fight now. We don't know you and we don't owe you, but if you see us
around, I've got something else to show you.
TUCKER: There, The White Stripes are using simple distorted guitar chords and
elementary drum slams to make a nightmare dream stark and hypnotic. Sometimes
Jack and Meg White strike me as the music version of David Lynch's latter-day
movies, in love with earnestness and perversity in equal measures and making
no distinction between them, or rather, doing their best to blur those
distinctions, because it's in the blurring that art is created. And sometimes
they just want to rock out.
(Soundbite of music)
Mr. WHITE: (Singing) I want to hypnotize you, baby, on the telephone. So
many times I call your house just to hear the tone. And I knew that you were
home. I didn't lie so much because I'm so alone. I want to hypnotize you,
baby, on the telephone. I want to spend my...
TUCKER: Doing publicity for their last album, Jack and Meg White played coy
about whether they were married, divorced or brother and sister. The gimmick
got old and I'm glad it no longer seems to be of much interest to them or to
their audience. That's good because The White Stripes have a lot more on
their minds than media-teasing role playing. They have their own little
musical universe to create for themselves, and from the sound of this album
"Elephant," there may or may not be room in it for you.
GROSS: I'm Terry Gross. Our rock critic, Ken Tucker, is critic at large for
Entertainment Weekly. He reviewed "Elephant," by The White Stripes.
(Soundbite of music)
THE WHITE STRIPES: (Singing) Well, it's true that we love one another.
HOLLY: (Singing) I love Jack White like a little brother.
Mr. WHITE: (Singing) Oh, well, Holly, I love you, too, but there's just so
much that I don't know about you.
HOLLY: (Singing) Jack, give me some money to pay my bill.
Mr. WHITE: (Singing) All the dough I give you, Holly, you've been using on
HOLLY: (Singing) Jack, will you call me if you're able?
Mr. WHITE: (Singing) I've got your phone number written in the back of my
HOLLY: (Singing) Jack, I think you're pulling my leg, and I think maybe I
better ask Meg. Meg, do you think Jack really loves me?
Ms. WHITE: (Singing) You know I don't care 'cause Jack really bugs me. Why
don't you ask him now?
HOLLY: (Singing) Well, I would, but, Meg, I really just don't know how.
Ms. WHITE: (Singing) Just say, `Jack, do you adore me?'
Mr. WHITE: (Singing) Well, I would, Holly, but love really bores me.
THE WHITE STRIPES: (Singing) Then I guess we should just be friends.
Mr. WHITE: (Singing) I'm just kidding, Holly. You know that I'll love you
till the end.
THE WHITE STRIPES: (Singing) Well, it's true that we love one another.
HOLLY: (Singing) I love Jack White like a little brother.
Mr. WHITE: (Singing) Well, Holly, I love you, too, but there's just so much
that I don't know about you. Holly...
Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Fresh Air interviews and reviews are the audio recordings of each segment.