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Dying and Killing for a Sacred Object: Warfare as a Rescue Fantasy
(and other papers on the sacrificial meaning of warfare)
Part V (Conclusion): Victoria - Zhu
What is the beloved object in the name of which we wage war? It is the nation. People die and kill in the name of this beloved object. Thus, mass-murderers make “history.” History is the narrative of sacred objects in the name of which human beings die and kill.

Hitler said, “We may be inhumane, but if we rescue Germany we have performed the greatest deed in the world.” I can’t think of a single episode of mass violence that was not undertaken according to this template. Political violence is a rescue fantasy: to preserve a sacred ideal (that seems under threat).

Each society has its own sacred object or ideal that seems worth dying and killing for (rescuing). The objects for which people die and kill are fungible. But in our hearts the dream remains the same.

Please take your time reviewing the list of items below.
Then click through to read any document.
Victoria, Brian
Holy War: Toward a Holistic Understanding (Paper)
  What makes it possible for soldiers to overcome the basic human instinct for survival and to sacrifice themselves for their country? Richard Koenigsberg: “Soldiers are willing to sacrifice themselves to preserve the common love object. What is the beloved object in the name of which people wage war? People wage war in the name of their nation and its sacred ideals.” Soldiers are willing to die for something outside themselves that is more important to them than their own lives; they sacrifice themselves in the process of self-transcendence. Like self-sacrifice, self-transcendence is a goal that both tribal and universal religions share. In the Christian tradition, it is expressed as “no greater love hath a man than that he lay down his life for a friend.”
Vlahos, Michael
D-Day (June 6, 1944), the Invasion of Normandy: “A moment of unique American sacrifice”
  Michael Vlahos podcast on the John Batchelor radio show: “We had to create—not just a mythic moment—but a moment of unique American sacrifice. We managed to do that. As we look back, it is the great liturgy of the American experience—not just in World War II—but of the America that was born on that day. It’s a kind of high mass of the nation—of the American ethos.”
  Rites of Spring: Sacrifice, Incarnation, and War
    The 20th century’s wars—from 1914-1951, and their aftermath—killed perhaps 150 million individual human beings. We casually ascribe this calamity to madness, evil, or the inevitable efficiencies of an industrial economy. Yet I argue that this killing was embedded in the desire of peoples to fulfill—through war—the vision that drove them. This was the paradoxical, unconfessed vision of Modernity—which replaced universal institutions of collective identity (for centuries vested in social order and Church) with a dynamic new alternative.
  Terrorism’s Sacred Heart: The Sacrifice
    What makes terrorism so powerful is that it leverages the most powerful of human actions: the sacrifice. For thousands of years, human sacrifice has represented a sacred rite, with many layers of explicit ritual and symbol—in which our most precious loss transforms into our most precious gift. Think of the sacrifice—enacted and memorialized—as the mortar of our collective belief and belonging.
  The Ideology of Sacrifice is Hemorrhaging
    In his essay, “The Rites of Spring,” Michael Vlahos stated that War in Modernity was an “extended ritual demanding mass sacrifice in which the literal ‘body and blood’ of millions at once renewed and re-fertilized the nation.” However, this national theology “no longer rules America as it once did.” The fervent faith of a whole nation—leading to sacrifice on the high altar—has been “emptied of belief.”
  Fighting Identity: Sacred War & World Change (Book Excerpts)
    Muslim and American war-liturgies are contending but nonetheless related ritual forms. They are both messianic and firmly apocalyptic, seeking revelation and the fulfillment of God’s Word. Remarkably, after 9/11 they eagerly engaged each other, almost as if drawing strength from one another. Our identity is the sacred. What we hold most dear, what we cherish even to the sacrifice of our own life.
Weddle, David
What Should We Call Fallen Warriors? Review Essay of Kelly Denton-Borhaug's Book U.S. War-Culture, Sacrifice and Salvation
  “Denton-Borhaug argues that references to combat deaths as “necessary” sacrifices are drawn from centuries of Christian interpretations of the death of Jesus as required for salvation, and transform war into a sacred enterprise devoted to saving the nation from its enemies. She believes that until such language is replaced by more neutral rhetoric, we will never escape the delusion that war is the necessary, even “transcendental,” means to ensure national security.”
Weir, Peter
Gallipoli (1981) - Ending (Video excerpt from Peter Weir’s film)
  Several young men from rural Western Australia enlist in the Australian Army during the First World War. This scene depicts the film's sad ending.
Gallipoli (1981) - Massacre (Video excerpt from Peter Weir’s film)
  Depicts the charge at Nek at Gallipoli (August 7, 1915). Anzac troops are massacred by the Turks when they get out of the trench armed only with bayonets. This astonishing scene, according to Michael Vlahos, represents an accurate depiction.
Winther, Mats
The Blood Sacrifice - its symbolism and psychology (Paper)
  In Aztec theology, as long as men could offer blood and the hearts of captives taken in combat, the power of the sun god would not decline, and he would continue on his course above the earth. It was necessary to keep the sun moving in its course so that darkness should not overwhelm the world forever. Apparently, the world was threatened with destruction, and that is why the bloody carnage must continue uninterrupted, as a preventive measure.
Zhu, Pingchao
Mao’s Martyrs: Revolutionary Heroism, Sacrifice, and China’s Tragic Romance of the Korean War
  Communist revolutionary heroism ensured eternal life in propaganda for those who died for the revolutionary cause. Huang Jiguang and Qiu Shaoyun pledged before going into battle that they were willing to “give their lives for the victory.” Now they had achieved just that, dying a heroic death fighting the most powerful country in the world, the United States. The state apparatus rigorously created a specific account of the heroism of the Chinese People’s Volunteers (CPV) soldiers, who lived for the life of their motherland, and who died for the peace of the Korean people. In life, they were part of the “most beloved,” and in death they joined the immortals.