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Ha Jin: Human Obliterations
“To be able to function in a war, an officer was expected to view his men as abstract figures so that he could utilize and sacrifice them without any hesitation or qualms. The same abstraction was supposed to take place among the rank and file too-to us every American serviceman must be a devil, whereas to them, every one of us must be a Red. Without such obliteration of human particularities, how could one fight mercilessly? When a general evaluates the outcome of a battle, he thinks in numbers-how many casualties the enemy has suffered in comparison with the losses of his own army. The larger a victory is, the more people have been turned into numerals. This is the crime of war: it reduces real human beings to abstract numbers. This was why, ever since I'd been treated by Dr. Greene, I had wished I could become a doctor like her, who dealt with individual patients in a war and didn't have to relish any victory other than the success of saving a limb or a life.”
—From “War Trash” (2004)

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