"Home from the War: Vietnam Veterans, Neither Victims nor Executioners"
by Robert Jay Lifton, M.D. (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1973)

From the jacket liner notes:

    “Over three million young Americans have passed through the agony of the Vietnam War, but in spite of all the American writing on it, very little is understood about what they experienced.
    In his most important work since he won the National Book Award for Death in Life, Robert Jay Lifton writes about the extremes of pain and alienation suffered by the Vietnam veterans and about their search for reconnection and continuity. As Dr. Lifton points out, there is something special about the Vietnam veterans. “Everyone who has contact with them seems to agree that they are different from veterans of other wars.” In certain ways, their testimony resembles the battlefield recollections by Europeans of World War I as they responded to that war’s dreadful combination of slaughter and meaninglessness. It is a new experience for Americans.
    The American survivor of Vietnam carries within himself the special taint of his war. His sense of guilt concerns not only what he did or did not do, but his feelings about the overall project he was part of. This is an image of Vietnam as a war of “grunts” immersed in filth rather than one of noble warriors on a path of glory.
    Home from the War is about the process of individual and collective transformation from war to peace. It deals with what is probably man’s oldest and most fundamental theme – that of death and rebirth, suffering and realization. And it deals with these life-death issues that pervade the psychology of the survivor directly and dramatically. Dr. Lifton has worked with Vietnam veterans for two years and conducted intensive interviews with a survivor of My Lai, with survivors of the “heroin epidemic” that rages in Indochina, with those who felt themselves “at the butt end of a bad war.” These are men who have existed in the zones of rage and violence, for whom everything began with and reverted back to the absurdity of dying in Vietnam.
    In this passionate and committed book, which is concerned with a dimension of the war that has not been brought out into the open, Robert Jay Lifton describes the struggle to confront the absurdity and horror of Vietnam and the struggle, by those who have become numbed in this process, to regain their feelings and develop a new sense of themselves and their world.
    Home from the War is about all who have lived through that war, and about human consciousness itself as it struggles to confront the related corruptions, and to reorder and renew itself. This is a major work of universal and lasting significance.”

From the Prologue: Engaging the Affliction

“... the war has really nothing to worry about, it can look forward to a prosperous future.” – Bertolt Brecht

“The distant Trojans never injured me.” – Homer

“... the psychology of the survivor. ... One makes such decisions precisely out of a sense of fit rather than out of any kind of altruism or special moral virtue. If one is to grasp holocaust from a distance, one must, at some inner level, decide to become a ‘survivor’ of that holocaust, and take on the ‘survivor mission’ of giving it form in a way that contributes to something beyond it [emphasis added].” pp. 16-17

"... despite all of the American writing on Vietnam, very little was understood about what either GIs or Vietnamese really experienced there." [emphasis added] pp. 17-18

"This intense coming together with antiwar warriors led me to larger questions concerning the mythology of war and warrior-heroes and the relationship of this mythology militarization of American society. It is sometimes said that Vietnam is of little significance compared to these larger American military-institutional problems. But I would say, to the contrary, that the concrete American experience in Vietnam provides a very special opportunity to examine our changing national relationship to what could be called the 'psychomythology of war-making.' To grasp that opportunity, however, we have to get beneath most of what is said about war and open ourselves, in ways that few Americans have as yet been willing to do, to its special human actualities." [emphasis added] p. 18

“Not surprisingly, World War I writings came closest, especially battlefield recollections by Europeans of their responses to that war's dreadful combination of slaughter and meaninglessness.
     I am suggesting that we keep constantly in mind a dialectic between the specificity of the Vietnam War and its relationship to all war. As always, the particular is the only path to the general, but cannot itself be comprehended outside of the general. In this dialectic, I am convinced that the extremity of psychological and moral inversions in Vietnam can be uniquely illuminating – but only if we examine those inversions in their individual and collective expressions.” [emphasis added] p. 19

“There is a related question about the special qualities of the group of men I have worked with. Almost all of them belong to the minority of Vietnam veterans who emerge with an articulate antiwar position, as opposed to the great majority who are much less clear in their views or the other minority who support the war.” p. 19

"... Above all it depicts a process of individual and collective transformation from war to peace, and of radical subversion of the warrior myth. p. 20"

“It is no surprise that prior images of continuity are shattered in these men. What is remarkable, and of the greatest importance, is the capacity of many of them to form new connections, however vulnerable they are, all the more so since many of these connections are based on insights that the larger society finds antagonistic.” [emphasis added] p. 20

"... recent or contemporary historical forces (the collision of the post-World War II American image of exterminating communist evil with a fifty-year-old Vietnamese revolution). This last, contemporary-historical element of the trinity, generally neglected in psychological work, is extremely important here as it suggests some of the source of of the malignant bind into which American GIs were helplessly thrust." [emphasis added] p. 21 “... I want to raise the question of the significance of an important change undergone by a relatively small group of men for a larger change in human consciousness now sought from many sides.” P. 21

Chapter 1: The Hero Versus the Socialized Warrior

“When we consider the significance of the ancient mythological theme of the Hero as Warrior we discover that something more than technology has gone wrong. For, as Joseph Campbell tells us, the mything image of the warrior is that of merely one of the “thousand faces” of the hero. The Hero as Warrior – like the Hero as Saint, World Redeemer, Tyrant, Lover, et cetera – follows the heroic life trajectory of the call to adventure, the crossing of the threshold into another realm of action and experience, the road of trials, and eventually the return to his people to whom he can convey a new dimension of wisdom and of ‘freedom to live.’” P. 26

“But warriors and their myths are readily absorbed by specific societies, to be recreated in their own hierarchical, power-centered image. We then encounter the phenomenon of the warrior class, or what I shall call the socialized warrior. Now the allegedly heroic act, the killing of the enemy with whatever accompanying ritual, is performed to consolidate and reaffirm the existing social order. The socialized warrior thus easily lends himself to the corruptions of patriotic chauvinism, or to the spirit of slavishness which Karl Liebknecht called “the obedience of the corpse.” We may extend that term to include the common deadness of both the robotized soldier and his enemy-victim.”

This has been the way militarized states have rendered their conquests sacred, and invested their socialized warriors with the mantle of the hero. The process began, as [Joseph] Campbell points out, with “the warrior kings of antiquity [who] regarded their work in the spirit of the monster slayer” and has continued ever since so that “this formula … of the shining hero going against the dragon has been the great device of self-justification for all crusades.” ... pages 27-28

“Here the worth of the socialized warrior comes to be measured by concrete acts of killing, and by a still more concrete “body count.” Through killing he achieves honor, fellowship, something close to a state of grace. Only through killing can he connect with, and reinforce, the immortalizing currents of his society and culture.” page 28

“To reach the desired psychological state, the socialized warrior has always required some form of death and rebirth that may coincide with his attainment of adulthood. In that rite (now called basic training), his civil identity, with its built-in restraints, is eradicated, or at least undermined and set aside in favor of the warrior identity and its central focus upon killing. Only through such a prescribed process can the warrior become psychically numbed toward killing and dying, shielded from complexity, and totalized in his commitment to the warrior role.” pages 28-29

“the socialized warrior thus becomes a distorted, literalized, and manipulated version of the Hero as Warrior. The larger purpose of the heroic quest gives way to cultivation of skill in killing and surviving. That skill can combine courage, loyalty, and technical proficiency (as, for instance, in the case of the gunman or “gun” of the early American West), but its relationship to the immortalizing principle is dubious and strained, if not falsified.

“If there is such a thing here as a lesson of history, it is that the forces of entrenched power much prefer manipulable socialized warriors to more unmanageable heroes who are dedicated to principles which go beyond either themselves or their country’s rulers. The result has been the murderous missions of socialized warriors.

Yet there have been dissenting voices – those who have freed themselves from the powerful cultural pseudo-mythology to take a hard look at killing and dying. Those critics of the cult of the warrior have insisted that we feel the pain of the warrior’s victims. They reject the conventional image of noble killing and insist upon calling it collective murder; and the individual warrior’s death becomes absurd rather than heroic.” page 30

High technology brings further strain upon the warrior ethos. Automated weaponry is not conducive to the idea of glory. People no longer look for an ultimate meaning in the specific feats of heroes at war. To be sure, the military proliferates everywhere; but the warrior ethos becomes increasingly weak as a fountain of immortalization. Where versions of it remain psychologically viable, as in the case of militant revolutionaries, war and killing are experienced as means to social revitalization – and the warrior ethos gives way to the myth of the hero.” page 30

“But old pseudomyths do not die easily, especially when they make contact with basic human emotions. As in the case of reactions to so many symbols and images undermined by new historical forces, there is confusion and ambivalence rather than full rejection or genuine replacement. In the United States we can observe a particularly excruciating conflict between a still predominant effort to hang onto, and technicize, the cult of the socialized warrior, and a heretical, disorganized, but nonetheless enlarging effort to replace it with an immortalizing cult of peace and peace-makers. Yet little is really understood about how such a shift can be achieved on a scale large enough to matter.” pp. 30-31

“Charles Oman, in his classic study of war, spoke of the veterans of the battles of the Middle Ages as ‘the best of soldiers while the war lasted … but a most dangerous and unruly race in times of truce or peace. ‘ Can we say that war veterans have not changed? Or is there a new and significant quality in their ‘unruliness’ – a quality that has to do with a transformation of the human spirit?” p. 31

Chapter 2: America's New Survivors – The Image of My Lai

". . . For residual guilt was undoubtedly strong in many of the men, and was to emerge in various forms later on. More impressive, however, and much more disturbing, is the extent to which guilt could be at least temporarily refused or sloughed off by means of the advanced numbing and perverse meaning extracted from the many levels of ‘as if’ pervading the environment. The most malignant actions can be performed with minimal guilt if there is a structure of meaning justifying them, even an illusory pseudo-formulation of the kind existing at My Lai. Only when achieving a certain independence from that environment and its pseudo-formulation can one begin to experience an appropriate sense of guilt. This way of avoiding guilt can render extremely dangerous any group of more or less ordinary people (that is, devoid of any diagnosable psychiatric illness) who happen to possess lethal weapons, while themselves possessed by lethal (and numbed) impulses towards false witness."
This state of numbed false witness was the norm at My Lai, as it has been for Americans throughout Vietnam. One had to be a bit exceptional or, in that situation ‘abnormal,’ in order to avoid taking part in slaughter. . . .” p. 57

“This marriage of totalistic cosmology and all-pervasive technicism, amply documented in the Pentagon Papers, has prevented fundamental questions from being raised, while perpetuating three overall psycho-historical illusions around which the war has been pursued.
The first of these illusions concerns the nature of the war, and converts a fifty-year-old anti-colonial revolution, nationalist and communist from its inception, into an 'outside invasion' of the South by the North. The second concerns the nature of the government we have supported, and converts a despotic military regime without standing among its own people into a 'democratic ally.' The third illusion, partly a product of fatigue over maintaining the first two, holds that we can 'Vietnamize' the the war (leave and still keep the present government in power in the South) by turning it over to a regime that lacks legitimacy and an army that has shown little will to fight – through a program that is American rather than Vietnamese, and one that few if any Vietnamese really want to implement. ” pp. 65-66

“This new version of American 'manifest destiny' has been rudely subverted, not by a formidable adversary, but by people of no standing in the world, a small people from a tiny, obscure, technologically backward country, employing hit-and-run guerrilla tactics that not only frustrate and defeat American military power but at the same time mock in the extreme the vision of American grandeur. Most humiliating of all, those very guerrillas – defined by official America as the carriers of the communist infestation – emerge (for most of the world, including many American civilians and soldiers) as the anointed ones of this war. Only they can be said to have approached the myth of the warrior-hero – in their ability to relate killing and dying to an immortalizing vision as well as in their extraordinary prowess and continuous sense of ultimate victory. Americans, in contrast, have suffered from the absence of both cause and sense of victory. For victory in itself tends to feel immortalizing, and has been perceived since antiquity as a favorable judgment of the gods, a confirmation of anyone's virtuous quest and equivalent of manifest destiny. pp. 66-67”

“What distinguishes Vietnam veterans from the rest of their countrymen is their awesome experience and knowledge of what others merely sense and resist knowing, their suffering on the basis of that knowledge and experience, and, in the case of anti-war veterans, their commitment to telling the tale.” p. 67

“As part of their survivor mission, antiwar veterans seek understanding of and liberation from the political and military agents of their own corruption.” pp. 67-68

“For they have taken on a very special survivor mission, one of extraordinary historical and psychological significance. They are flying in the face of the traditional pattern of coping with survivor emotions by joining organizations of veterans that not only justify their particular war but embrace war-making and militarism in general. Contemporary antiwar warriors are turning this pattern on its head and finding their survivor significance in exposing precisely the meaninglessness – and the evil – of their war.” p. 68

“By a number of criteria, the group I have worked with represents a small minority of Vietnam veterans. For one thing, most saw active combat, as opposed to the majority of men stationed their in support assignments. For another, they emerged with an articulate antiwar position, in contrast to the majority who take no public stance on the war, and to another minority who emerge strongly supporting it. … [but] every American in Vietnam shared in some of the corruption of that environment. Hence, Polner's finding that no Vietnam veteran was free of doubt about what he had been called upon to do.” p. 70

Chapter 3: Rap Groups

Chapter 4: Animating Guilt

“The American survivor of Vietnam carries within himself the special taint of his war. His taint has to do with guilt-evoked by death. His most disturbing images are of particular encounters with the dead and dying; his harshest self judgments emerge from these encounters and concern not only what he did or did not do but his sense of the overall project he was part of.” p. 99

“... an image of Vietnam as a war of grunts immersed in filth (rather than one of noble warriors on a path of glory) who return in filth to American society. They have fought in an undeclared and therefore psychologically illegitimate war, without either ceremonies of departure or parades of victorious return. Rather, the men speak of 'sneaking back' into society, just as they were 'sneaked' into Vietnam by higher authorities spinning (and caught in) a web of deceptions about whether American troops were to go to Vietnam, how many, how long they would stay there, and what they would do there. The relatively few ceremonies held to welcome returning heroes have been abortive, and, as in the case of the war itself, nobody believes in them.” p. 100

“There is a bitter paradox around the whole issue of wrong-doing that is neither lost on these men nor fully resolved by them. Sent as intruders in an Asian revolution, asked to fight a filthy and unfathomable war, they return as intruders in their own society, defiled by that war in the eyes of of the very people who sent them as well as in their own. Images and feelings of guilt are generally associated with transgression – with having crossed boundaries that should not be crossed, gone beyond limits that should not be exceeded. Here the transgression has to do with two kinds of death; that which they witnessed and 'survived' (the death of buddies), and that which they inflicted upon the Vietnamese. Though the two involve different experiences, they merge in the absurdity and evil of the entire project. Hence the men feel themselves to have been part of a killing force not only in the literal military sense but in a moral-psychological sense as well. Above all, they are survivors who cannot inwardly justify what they have seen and done – and are, therefore caught in a vicious circle of death and guilt. Memories of deaths witnessed or inflicted, which I have elsewhere categorized as the death imprint, evoke disturbing feelings of guilt, which in turn activate that imprint. The resulting death guilt, at whatever level of consciousness, is the fundamental legacy of this particular war.” pp. 100-101

“The transgression, however, could also take the form of simply remaining alive while a buddy dies.” p. 105

“... the soldier-survivor's sense of having betrayed his buddies by letting them die while he stayed alive – at the same time feeling relieved and even joyous that it was he who survived, his pleasure at surviving becoming a further sense of guilt. Nor can one feel that it is logical or right for him and not others to survive. Rather, he becomes bound to an unconscious perception of organic social balance which makes him feel that his survival was made possible by others' deaths: if they had not died, he would have had to; if he had not survived, someone else would have.” p. 106

“War, especially war perceived as absurd and evil rather than heroic, can offer a grim opportunity for the embrace of animating guilt.” p. 130

“The antiwar veterans, however, encounter a larger society intent on maintaining its numbed guilt – concerning the Vietnam War, and much else as well. And while most Americans came to detest the humiliating and unresolvable war, and while they sensed there was much about it that was unusually ugly, they nonetheless resist the full revelations of the veterans' animating guilt. For these threatened their own symbolizations around national virtue and military honor.” p. 132

“In the past, the warrior as hero could be the repository for broad social guilt. Sharing in his heroic mission could serve as a cleansing experience of collective relief from whatever guilt had been experienced over distant killing, or from the need to feel any guilt whatsoever. But when the warrior-hero gives way to the tainted executioner-victim, not only is this repository taken away, but large numbers of people risk a new wave of unimaginable guilt and a profound sense of loss, should they recognize what their warriors have actually become.” p. 132

“Not surprisingly, then, the antiwar veterans' demand that the people of their society join in transforming their guilt to an animating dimension is often ignored or actively resisted. For to do what the veterans ask would mean confronting the responsibility of the society as a whole, and of its leaders in particular, for the killing and dying. It would require the most intense exploration of shared forms of guilt as well as revitalizing images beyond that guilt. Many find it easier to lash out a those who ask for that confrontation. There can even be a desperate insistence, despite all evidence to the contrary, in the continuing purity and guiltlessness of American warriors, and of the society as a whole.” pp. 132-133

Chapter 5: Zones of Rage and Violence

Concerning the second principle mentioned earlier in the chapter, Americans in general feel betrayed – put upon and badly used, if not ‘fucked over by the war. For in matters of war and of national destiny, Americans have always felt themselves to be a ‘blessed’ or ‘chosen’ people. The immortalizing continuity that all people seek – what I have elsewhere spoken of as the ‘immortal cultural substance’ – has become associated in American minds with a special kind of omnipotence. We are not supposed to lose wars, have our virtue tainted, our glory questioned. Add to this the special post-World War II situation of extraordinary American technological and military hegemony, and our failure to win a dirty little war with a third-rate military power becomes a double betrayal. At the same time there is the gnawing sense, also widespread among Americans, that what has been betrayed most of all in this particular war is our humane image of ourselves. This latter feeling is most characteristic of those opposing the war, while the other forms of betrayal are strongest among those who, at least initially, have supported it – but the point to be made is that this is a war around which all Americans feel betrayed.” pages 158-159

“There is also considerable rage, much of it beneath the surface, towards Vietnam veterans. They are resented both for not winning the war and thereby being agents of humiliation, and also for the dirty things they have done. Moreover, they are deeply feared by a society that senses their potential violence and is all too quick to label them as “drug addicts” or “killers” – and this kind of fear cam be quickly converted to rage.”

“Finally, there are large elements of American society enraged at – because deeply threatened by – the antiwar veterans’ transformation. For that transformation depends directly upon exposing the filth beneath the warrior’s claim to purity of mission, upon subverting much that is fundamental to American warrior mythology. Americans profoundly involved with that mythology may experience considerable rage towards these bearers of bad news, whom they may then blame for the news itself – for the decline of the old virtues. Underneath that rage are the profound doubts of everyone, even those who would most like to remain true believers in all aspects of American glory. And there is nothing more dangerous than the rage men feel in response to their own loss of faith.”

Doubt and confusion about war and killing brings about a larger entrapment in death anxiety and death guilt, encompassing much of our society. To be sure, the entrapment is less intense than in those who actually fought the war, but it contains the same troubling questions, however distantly perceived, about whom one should kill and how one should die. There are no questions more disturbing than these. The beginning answers provided by antiwar veterans suggest a way out of this entrapment, but a way sufficiently painful to arouse new rage and violence -- unless are found to discover new glory in the rejection of killing. page 159

Chapter 6: The Counterfeit Universe

"...in a counterfeit universe, awards for heroism must in themselves be counterfeit." p. 178

Indeed the public casting away of medals by Vietnam veterans has such mythic power because it represents a symbolic rejection of the entire counterfeit universe -- a rejection of being rewarded for participating in absurd evil and of the personal corruption associated with any such recognition." p. 178

"... They in effect dedicated their act to dead buddies, thereby renouncing previous false witness in favor of a more authentic survivor mission of combatting the war itself." p. 178

"... Mostly, the men tried to balance their overall sense of American duplicity with that of critical examination; and to estimate, with varying degrees of hope and despair, personal and collective possibilities for change in the direction of authentic experience." p. 180

"A major theme in all of this garbage imagery ... is that of the American warrior rummaging about in his own spiritual refuse." p. 184

"...Throughout one could detect a strong current of ... "suspicion of counterfeit nurturance." Vietnam veterans are particularly sensitive to help with strings attached, to being used or manipulated, to being drawn back into a counterfeit realm." p. 184

    "Nor is the question always answerable throughout the rest of American society. Vietnam veterans are by no means the only ones asking: "Where does Vietnam end and America -- the America one used to believe in -- begin? It would be too much to suggest that the whole of America had become a "counterfeit universe." But one can say that, with the Vietnam War, a vast, previously hidden American potential for the counterfeit has become manifest." pp. 186-187

"...the Vietnam War had revealed and intensified counterfeit dimensions throughout American society. And once one has begun to grasp the principle of the counterfeit universe, can one continue to ignore the malignancy of related constellations around and within oneself." p. 187

Chapter 7: Gooks and Men

“Yet even if he should try to explain or justify the behavior of Vietnamese on the basis of their desperate situation, he would still be bound by demeaning imagery of them.” p. 195

"... the American sense of entrapment among ungrateful and viciously sly people out to do in the very GIs who come to help them while, at the same time, squeezing out the Yankee dollar." p. 196

"... "Would you lay down your life for the freedom of aa Gook?"
    The people whose freedom we're fighting for have become our servants." p. 196

“Training in Vietnamese language could also be a factor, as it tended to lessen numbing and the impulse toward victimization by enabling one to enter into cultural thought processes and feelings, and also to have some meaningful exchange with educated Vietnamese who served as teachers and inevitably reflected some of the pain of their people. Moreover, the relatively few who gravitated toward a military language program probably possessed greater than average capacity for empathy. But precisely those sensitive GIs were likely to experience strong, guilt-centered inner conflict between their inclination toward empathy and compassion on the one hand and the demands of the gook syndrome on the other.” p. 205-206

Chapter 8: Transformation I – From John Wayne to Country Joe and the Fish

“Youth-culture style and attitudes … become a focus for the military underdog's rebellion against the military establishment.”
I heard many stories of draftees* being harassed by lifers around petty questions of military rules and discipline.” p. 230

[Note: “I use the word 'draftee' to include all who view their stint in the military as temporary, whether they were actually drafted or enlisted, as opposed to those who joined the 'regular' (or permanent) army.”]

“One of the men I interviewed said that the petty, vicious practices of the lifers made the situation so tense that 'the war between us and them was just as great or greater than the war between us and the Vietnamese.” p. 231

“... Vietnam becomes a malignant crucible of the conflicts of American society. … to the draftee the lifer comes to embody not only the larger military establishment, but also the misguided older generation responsible for sending him to fight the war, and indeed for the war itself.” p. 231

“youth culture posed, right in the heart of the military operation, a threat to the world-view of lifers (and regular officers, too) as socialized warriors.” p. 231

Chapter 9: Transformation II – Learning to Feel

“You found that your country – your parents, and the people you believed – told you a pack of lies.” p. 269

Chapter 10: Transformation III - Self and World

“Changes in the self required an altered relationship to the external world.”

“But this group of men had been too exposed to historical forces to fall into that false assumption. In looking back at Vietnam and the military they automatically examined questions of situational and institutional destructiveness and evil, as well as their own internal collusion in that destructiveness and evil. And we also explored whatever growth they experienced in that environment. Both the difficulty and necessity of this combined intro-extrospection was reflected in the pained question one of the men asked:

“What do you do with a year of your life spent in Vietnam – or three or four years in the military?” p. 283

Once they did begin to deal with these complexities, they were able to bring out various psychological achievements in the military – a situation where, to different degrees, many of them had thrived.” p. 283

“Most of the men exemplified what I have called the Protean style – quick and frequent shifts in identification and belief, in interests and immersions of all kinds, with a ready capacity to reject each one (or portions of it) in favor of another. … Protean man in general is a survivor of twentieth-century holocaust and of lost ways of life.” p. 284

“... gradually evolving a new world view that gave prospective impetus to his survivor emotions and his self-process. As he explained in retrospect: 'If the war is bad … I want to remember it and know what's bad about it. … And the more I came to grips with that sort of thing, the more I refused to forget, and the more I refused not to deal with the issue, the stronger I felt.” p. 286

“... They saw that kind of evasion as a direct violation of their struggle – so crucial to survivor integrity – to confront what they had been and done.” p. 289

“'They just didn't want me to do anything to rock the boat.' The 'boat' they didn't want rocked was the whole set of institutional arrangements and conventional cultural images and forms, within which one is expected to sit quietly over the course of a life's voyage. But that was precisely the boat the men had to rock to be true to their experience in Vietnam and to their quest for transformation afterward.” p. 296

“More concretely problematical was the nagging question, both psychological and political, of how long one was to remain primarily an antiwar veteran, or veteran at all – as opposed to moving beyond that identity into a postwar and post-veteran relationship to American society.” p. 301

“But another strongly disagreed … insisting that he found newly presented war experiences … to be refreshing in that they brought everyone back to where they had been and what they had done, which they might otherwise be in danger of forgetting. What he feared was leaving the war too soon, going on to other things without having come to terms with it.” p. 301

“Or they could maintain what we considered to be a healthier pattern of both confronting and transcending the war: making use of a continuing examination of involvements in it as a source of illumination that propels one beyond it – in personal relationships, work, and life in general. The overall problem was that of the survivor not only formulating his death immersion but doing so in a way that gave rise to new forms, rather than either avoiding any confrontation with it or clinging statically and literally to its forms. Extending over months and years, this was the essence of the struggle for transformation – a struggle still very much in process.” pp. 302-303

Chapter 12: On War and Warriors

“... war-linked leaders continue to exert enormous influence on the American people precisely by helping them avoid confronting the war’s unpleasant truths.” p. 364

“And the difficulty of that psychic task is further aggravated by the strange American situation of being able to annihilate but not defeat a tiny enemy.” p. 365


“... the powerful war-linked residuum in the American people of confusion, guilt, rage, and betrayal. We have become a nation of troubled survivors of a war not yet over and still just distantly perceived. We experience a continuing sense of threat, of 'immersion in death,' and the resulting survivor conflicts can take many forms. We have already seen the beginnings of the most pernicious kind of survivor formulation on the part of government spokesmen: one which attributes the prolonging of the war, and by inference the suffering of everyone, to war opponents and protesters. That formulation combines scapegoating with still more ominous currents of potential victimization.” p. 448

“As for me, I think I have learned a great deal. But like many others, I remain dissatisfied both with what I know and with what I can do with that knowledge.” p. 448

“Now Vietnam veterans are everywhere. They are an embarrassment to the country in the unanswerable questions raised by their very presence.” p. 449

“One of the men spoke simultaneously of continuing war abroad and his own inner struggles, and then said firmly, and not only for himself, 'I'm going to be a Vietnam veteran against the war for the rest of my life.'” p.450