Dehumanization, Rehumanization, War Crimes, Antiwar Movement, Veterans


War often necessitates or compels the dehumanization of the enemy. Taking away the humanity of a group of people makes them easier to kill and commit atrocities against them while relieving the soldiers, as well as the public at large, of having to deal with any moral dilemmas related to their actions. Additionally, once a people have been dehumanized, it is a difficult task to change those attitudes, particularly when it causes one to examine their own role in civilian causualties, war crimes, and other abuses. While it is not a new phenomena for servicemen and women to return from war and join a social movement dedicated to educating the public and politicians about the human costs of war, we have chosen to focus on just one such organization: Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW). Examining IVAW narratives is especially useful to the literature on dehumanization and rehumanization as the veterans were not only witnesses to the Iraq War, but also actors within the war. Their narratives include insights into the dehumanization process and rehumanization process that are not found in the narratives of other antiwar activists. This research was done by collecting and analyzing testimonies given by members of IVAW during their Winter Soldier event. Through this method we found that members of IVAW used narratives to rehumanize enemy civilians and soldiers in an effort to decrease public approval of war. Members used several methods to rehumanize the Iraqi people and decrease apathy among Americans concerning the War in Iraq: they asked their audience to take the perspective of Iraqis, employed role reversals, emphasized the social roles and family ties of civilians, and highlighted the effects of war on children.