The philosopher asks what we owe to returning soldiersby Jonathan Derbyshire / May 27, 2015 / Leave a comment
In April 2007, US Army captain Josh Mantz was on patrol in Sadr City in Baghdad when a sniper opened fire on him and his troops. A bullet severed the aorta of his staff sergeant, Marlon Harper, before richoteting into Mantz’s right thigh, severing his femoral artery. A medic arrived and began tending to Mantz, whose wound was more visible than Harper’s. It was Mantz who survived, not his comrade.
Four years after his return from Iraq, Mantz suffered a profound emotional collapse. “It’s the moral injury over time that really kills people,” he said later. “Soldiers lose their identity. They don’t understand who they are anymore. Most people don’t appreciate the awful weight of that moral injury.”
In her new book “Afterwar: Healing the Moral Wounds of Our Soldiers,” the American philosopher Nancy Sherman tells Mantz’s story and those of other US military veterans. The notion of “moral injury” evoked by Mantz is central to her attempt in this book to expand the field of “Just War” theory (that is, the philosophical exploration of the morality of warfare). When I spoke to Sherman recently, she told me that she sees herself as very much “part of the circle of individuals who do Just War theory, beginning with Michael Walzer. But it’s been very narrow: it’s about the justification of war, or the conduct of war or circumstances and treatment after war—but not [what happens] at home.”