The Lingering Effects of War
In Redeployment, Phil Klay reveals the vulgar, brutal aspects of warfare behind the victories and heroism that are often shown in media. Through several short stories, Klay shares the difficult course that soldiers undergo with reconciling with their war experiences when they return home. Soldiers return from war having seen incidents so abominable that it makes many question if it is possible to maintain a sense of morality in war. In “Psychological Operations” and “Prayer in the Furnace,” warfare creates a blind hatred within soldiers, leaving them with lingering aggression and suffering that they cannot overcome. In “Psychological Operations” and “Prayer in the Furnace,” Klay suggests that a successful soldier cultivates blind hatred and devalues human life. Through all of the brutal and inhumane incidents that soldiers experience, they become numb to the value of a human life over time.
In “Psychological Operations,” the protagonist, Waguih, tells an offensive and alarming story about the war as if it were ordinary. “The Marines, they’d compete to find the dirtiest insults they could think of. And then we’d go scream over the loudspeakers, taunting holed-up insurgents until they’d come running out of the mosques, all mad and we’d mow them down” (201). This quotation demonstrates the blind yet rigid hatred that the soldiers have pertaining to the lives of others. Not only do the soldiers and marines create “the dirtiest insults they could think of,” but also they make the “insurgents” so angry that they manipulate them into their own death. “And we’d mow them down” reveals that the soldiers’ hate becomes so tremendous that they do not even have to be angry or passionate in order to kill multiple people. In fact, they are not even fazed by murdering multiple people.
Moreover, in “Prayer in the Furnace,” Klay portrays Rodriguez, as another soldier that has developed a blind and rigid hate from aggression. Because Rodriguez has experienced both the deaths of many of his friends and of Iraqis, he has become desensitized to death, causing him to devalue the lives of humans. ““The only thing I want to do is kill Iraqis,” he said. “That’s it. Everything else is just, numb it until you can do something. Not just wasting time.” “Insurgents you mean,” I said. “They’re all insurgents,” he said” (148). This quotation reveals that Rodriguez’s blind hatred and numbness toward death is so immense that he only cares about “kill[ing] Iraqis.” Rodriguez has created a “they” and an “us,” by saying “they’re all insurgents,” displaying that in his mind, every Iraqi he sees is an insurgent. Rodriguez’s inability to distinguish between different people causes him to hate even innocent children. Klay demonstrates that after being immersed in an aggressive culture of violence, a soldier’s psyche is disabled. The blind hatred that soldiers acquire from makes it difficult for them to control their aggression and violence even when they have returned from war and no longer need to act so assertively.
In “Psychological Operations,” Waguih, the protagonist, experiences a lingering aggression even after he has returned from Iraq. When talking with a classmate who has irritated him, Waguih’s actions exhibit rapid increase of suppressed aggression: “My breath was still coming quick—the aftermath of the run—and I was full of energy. My fists were balled tight. I wanted to pace back and forth” (180). In this quotation, Klay portrays Waguih with an anxious aggression. Waguih’s “breath was still coming quick,” “fists were balled tight,” and “wanted to pace,” indicating the suppression of his unthinking aggression, but desire to explode with rage on the spot. Subsequently, Waguih talks to Zara, realizing that what he learned in Iraq has been permanently engrained in him. “I wasn’t PsyOpsing her into it, so I didn’t know how she’d react. Or if I was PsyOpsing her, since you’re always exerting some kind of pressure even when you’re laying bare, then it was the least conscious maneuvering I could do” (181). Waguih has become so used to “PsyOpsing” that is something that he does unconsciously. He constantly “Psyops,” blurring the lines between war and home.
Waguih’s aggression is later portrayed when he is talking with his classmate Zara. He realizes his aggressive and tenacious manner in telling stories about the war, and flashes back to his father’s reaction to one of Waguih’s war stories: “But with my father I’d kept going, described every sexual act, every foul Arabic word… he’d said, “Enough, enough,” his voice shaking with rage and then terror, because I was standing over him, shouting insults in his face, and he couldn’t see his son any more than I—standing over him and letting my rage wash out—could see my father” (210–211). In this quotation, Waguih’s aggression is portrayed through his persistent storytelling. His actions quickly escalate from telling a story to describing “every foul Arabic word” and “letting [his] rage wash out,” indicating that Waguih’s experiences in Iraq have left him with a continuous aggression. Moreover, Waguih becomes conscious of how much the war has warped his psyche, turning him into an aggressive and numb individual. “He couldn’t see his son any more than I” reveals that Waguih has become so different from the war that neither he nor his own father can recognize his true self because it has changed.
Klay indicates that for soldiers, the legacy of devaluing human life through hate is insurmountable suffering. The brutal experience that soldiers experience at war causes suffering that they cannot overcome, even after they return home. In “Prayer in the Furnace,” Klay reveals Rodriguez’s suffering from his war experiences. Rodriguez has lived through the deaths of many of his friends, making it difficult for him to avert his aggression and hate. “He pulled out a plastic sandwich bag full of little pink pills out of his cargo pockets and held it at eye level. “How you think any of us sleep?”” (137). In this quotation, Klay shows how Rodriguez copes with his tremendous suffering. His suffering has become so customary to him that he just accepts that a lot of bad things happen in life, and is able to take “little pink pills” to suppress his pain and suffering. Moreover, in “Psychological Operations,” Waguih demonstrates the pain and suffering that he has brought home with him from Iraq, and is unable to overcome.
When talking to Zara about thanking war veterans, Klay reveals that Waguih will not be able to overcome his suffering. ““So should I thank vets for their service?” she said. “Or spit on them, like Vietnam?” I thought for a moment and then gave her a crooked smile. “I reserve the right to be angry at you whatever you do” (206). In this quotation, Waguih is portrayed with an angry suffering, suggesting that one cannot suffer the same way that he does unless they experienced the war. “I reserve the right to be angry at whatever you do” shows that there is no correct way to react to the war unless you were there and suffered from personal experience.
In both short stories, Waguih and Rodriguez’s experiences from the war and development of hate cause perpetual suffering. In Redeployment, Phil Klay reveals the vulgar, brutal aspects of warfare behind the victories and heroism that are often shown in media. Through several short stories, Klay shares the difficult course that soldiers undergo with reconciling with their war experiences when they return home. Soldiers return from war having seen incidents so abominable that it makes many question if it is possible to maintain a sense of morality in war. In “Psychological Operations” and “Prayer in the Furnace,” warfare creates a blind hatred within soldiers, leaving them with lingering aggression and suffering that they cannot overcome. The effects that war has on soldiers in Redeployment often leave them with a blind hatred, lingering aggression, and insurmountable suffering. As soldiers become numb to the terrible things that happen at war, they learn to accept the aggression, hatred, and suffering that comes with it. Today, many veterans suffer from PTSD, and are unable to overcome the aggression and pain they developed at war.