in: Character, Military, Podcast

• Last updated: September 28, 2021

Podcast #100: The Kill Switch with Phil Zabriskie

What does it mean to kill for your country? How do you learn to do it? What does it feel like in the moment? And how do you feel about it when you’re back home from war and with your family?

In The Kill Switch writer Phil Zabriskie interviews combat veterans of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars and asks them to talk about something most combat veterans don’t like talking about: what it’s like to kill another human being. Some of the stories Phil re-counts are jarring, especially for a country where only 1% of the population actually serves in the military, and only a small percentage of that already tiny number actually sees combat. The book, and our discussion about it, is both fascinating and sobering.

Show Highlights

  • The training process soldiers go though to overcome their resistance to killing other humans
  • The responses soldiers gave Phil when he asked what it was like to kill (and how he brought a topic like that up)
  • How a soldier deals with the fact that he took another human life
  • What the research says the act of killing does to a soldier psychologically
  • Why Phil thinks it’s important civilians understand what it’s like for a soldier to kill
  • And much more!

The Kill Switch by Phil Zabriskie.

You can pick up The Kill Switch for your Amazon Kindle for just $2.99.

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Special thanks to Keelan O’Hara for editing the podcast!

Read the Transcript

Brett McKay: Brett McKay here and welcome to another edition of The Art of Manliness podcast, so a while back ago we had on the podcast Lieutenant Colonel Dave Grossman, he wrote the book on killing, where he goes into detail about the physiological effects that killing has on soldiers and law enforcement officers.

Since his book there hasn’t been too much else written about the topic of killing from the context of war. I imagine because it’s a unpleasant topic to think, research and write about but our guest today has recently published an Amazon Kindle book called The Kill Switch in which he interviews and talks to soldiers and veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and asked them what it was like to kill.

What effect it’s had on them in their lives after their service. Our guest is Phil Zabriskie, he’s spent nearly a decade working and doing journalism overseas. He has covered both Afghanistan and Iraq along with the news and events in Pakistan, Israel, the Palestinian territories, Indonesia and The Philippines.

He’s been a staff writer for Time Magazine. He’s written for The National Geographic and New York Magazine, Washington Post and he recently began his book as The Kill Switch, and that’s what we’re going to talk about today. A really fascinating discussion, so let’s do this. Phil Zabriskie welcome to the show.

Phil Zabriskie: Thank you it’s great to be here.

Brett McKay: Your book is The Kill Switch, it’s about killing in combat, particularly in the recent Afghanistan and Iraq wars but can you tell us about your work that led up to this book and what caused you … Was there something specific that caused you to write this little Amazon Kindle singles.

Phil Zabriskie: Sure I had not set out to cover conflict, that wasn’t my intention and I don’t think of myself as a war correspondent in any shape or form. It just so happened that I like a number of people of my generation so to speak got caught in this foot stream that happened after September 11th and led to more stories that had to do with conflict.

I’d been spending time conflict zones and a host of different countries looking primarily at how people were affected by what was going on around them and primarily civilians, the people who were living though. I went to Afghanistan first and then later to Iraq and then mainly it was un-embedded, I wasn’t doing military. I wasn’t focused on the military, I tried to cover the broader story and this is when I worked for Time Magazine.

I was part of these bureaus in these places and part of teams that were collectively trying to cover these things, but I did on a few occasions spend time with the military and did … Especially in 2004 when the war was really turning, I wound up in some fire fights and saw some people who were wounded and killed, saw soldiers and marines coming back after being in fire fights and got a sense how they responded and how what had just happened or what had been happening over the previous weeks or months was effecting them and weighing them.

I saw some instances where civilians got shot. One in particular was a man who got shot in the face when he drove through a check point, then probably out of panic and the guys who shot him were incredibly distraught, o there was a whole range of things going on that very clearly showed there was much more than just what happened on that day.

I did one story in particular about combat stress which was an effort, it had to do with … pardon, an effort the military’s making in putting councilors closer to the front line, so they could talk to guys as things were happening in case anything came up that might make them less combat ready or might be particularly troubling, whatever the case might be.

The psychological issues in the moment and beyond where it were very much on my mind. Then later years I then went back to Afghanistan several times, I spent time in Israel, on Palestinian territories, including Ghaza and some other places touched by conflict. Even when the wars were over substansibly you could still see the traces of them, you could see the impact and it was quite clear that they would last far and beyond the time when the last bullet was fired.

When I moved back to The States a few years back, I was always reading and watching the coverage of the wars and there’s some amazing works done and some great books, great documentaries and things like that. Often times it felt like something was missing and to me that piece that was missing especially in coverage of The US forces over there was the killing.

It did seem like it was not talked about as much as it was being done. It seemed like a real blind spot. I had myself gotten married and had a daughter so I wasn’t about to go back to these conflict zones, but looking at this question gave me a way to continue to address it and because I did not feel done with it.

I didn’t feel it was done with me so to speak, but I wanted to keep working on this and this was a way of doing it and then I got lucky and that some of the people that I contacted were willing to talk about it.

Brett McKay: Yeah that’s the interesting thing is that the only other book that I’ve aware of that goes into the psychology of killing is David Grossman’s book on killing, but yeah for the most part people don’t like to talk about this aspect of war.

What is it, that’s why we go to war and that’s sort of the … We try to avoid conflict and we want to avoid it but in the end you’re there to inflict harm on the enemy so they stop inflicting harm on you. What’s with the reluctance, particularly in modern times of talking about that?

Phil Zabriskie: I think it’s psychological, it’s a very dark subject, it’s not the easiest thing to look at and I know my wife could tell you one of the times I was really deep into this stuff I wasn’t in the greatest mood and it certainly affected me.

I think as political leaders are not going to talk about it because they don’t really want that piece of it being considered if the public’s trying to decide are they for this or against this. Even in the military they don’t talk about it all that much because at least the psychological piece of it and the potential for its lingering afterwards because they might lose some people.

That it just gets in the way of doing the job in certain ways, so all of that combines with some other factors as well, it’s just something that gets left out and I think also a country’s probably not terribly anxious to look at the killing it’s doing because you can say, “It’s this soldier, this marine, this navy seal,” but in a way they’re fighting for us. They’re fighting in our name so it’s overall of us are involved in it one way or another.

Brett McKay: In your book you mention the study, it’s a very famous study done in World War 2 or after World War 2 by SLA Marshall and the conclusion of that study is that 75% of soldiers during World War 2 who were in combat never fired at the enemy and either fired over the head or just never even aimed.

In recent years those numbers have been called into question and that it wasn’t that high, but has there been any updates, studies on the reluctance of soldiers to fire at the enemy?

Phil Zabriskie: Not that I know of but if you look at just and I of course know about the controversy you’re talking about, I mentioned Marshall in this story, I didn’t really get into … I mentioned that there’s controversy about his numbers but I didn’t really want to get into it all that much, because I’m not really qualified to judge his work.

I did say that even if half of that number was true in a war against Adolf Hitler’s Nazi soldiers it’s pretty remarkable and it would suggest that a very strong reluctance to take life, especially if you can see someone whose right in front of you. At the same time though you look at World War 2, tens of millions of people were killed. In World War 1, tens of millions of people were killed and I don’t kwon that we …

I certainly hope we will never have a war like that again but I doubt it. Now we’re talking thousands, tens of thousands, hundred of thousands and then it’s a huge, huge number but you’re not having cities that get caught, maybe outside, maybe in Syria you are, but you’re not largely having cities getting carpet bombed as a matter of course, as a tactic though as an accepted tactic of military strategy.

Overall there’s just not a whole lot of studies on this sort of thing, killing in general, not that I could find and located. There are a handful but the military when I contacted them they said they didn’t track how many soldiers kill other people, they didn’t track how it effects them afterwards and there’s a chance that’s not true but and that they don’t talk about that stuff because of the body count stuff that happened in Vietnam during Vietnam.

It’s pretty surprising to me because even if like you say it’s part of their job, it’s part of what they need to do so you figure as an organization that wanted to track it’s performance they would look at these things. You have Grossman, more recently a woman named Shera Mcgowin, I think is how you say her name, at the San Francisco VA, at one of the San Francisco VA’s has done some studies showing that soldiers who kill are twice as likely to deal with PTSD and other mental health issues as those who don’t.

It’s not that everyone is going to be deeply affected by it but I had at this point an instructor tell me that they phrase it as killing being the biggest moral decision one can make and the biggest taboo one can break. It stands to reason that those who killed other people will be carrying something that those who do not are free of. They may have their own catalogue of traumatic incidents they’re encountered but that wouldn’t be one of them.

In this past war in Iraq and Afghanistan with the nature of the enemy and the nature of the fight you also have a lot of people who aren’t really sure if they’d killed somebody or not. You would come back and they will say, “Well I think I got somebody,” but they couldn’t really see them.

An ID would go off if some gun fire would come out of an ally or something like that, and they’d shoot towards it but they might never see anyone there. You have a lot of people who may come home and even when they get asked if they’re ever asked about it they may not be sure what the answer is.

Brett McKay: We may not know the exact number of how reluctant … what percentage of people in combat actually don’t fire at the enemy but the military understands that there is a reluctance to kill other humans. You talk about what the military’s done over the years to train soldiers to prepare themselves to kill. Can you talk about a bit of that training that has developed since World War 2?

Phil Zabriskie: Sure yeah and just being there, their job and part of their job I think they’ve put a lot of effort in designing programs that will help their charges carried out. One way to put it is that they want people getting into combat, almost feeling almost as if they’ve been there before like it happened before so that when they have to do is a series of learn memories and habits more than try to figure something out for the first time .

Back in the training when that starts almost from day one there’s a process where the military’s creating a context in which killing and dying will make sense and then also training in the mechanisms needed to carry it out so you might have … or you do have a language being a big part of it where even in boot camp an order will be given and instead of saying yes they’ll say,” Kill run that hill, kill run that ..” That’s the response.

There’s a lot of talk, “You’re a killer. Can you be a killer? You’re not a killer,” and that sort of stuff where it sort of becomes an everyday language and it normalizes something that would have, I think be very abnormal part of that. There’s jokes that devalue life a little bit and then again make it almost like a softer cell.

Then you have a chaplain and superior offices who are on hand to talk about some of the philosophical or even religious aspects of it, the distinction between “Thou shall not kill and thou shall not murder. How the hell that … It’s “Thou shall not murder” and then there’s some space to kill and in the right context,” and to say that, “Killing can be protecting, an act of protection or by you protecting us you’re with …” but also perhaps even, “You kill more you end the war sooner, fewer people die,” things like that and that it all fits into this warrior ethos where it’s part of the duty.

It’s part of looking after each other, part of living up to the oath they’ve taken and then at the same time you’ve got the physical aspects, learning to handle weapons, learning to fire those weapons, clean those weapons, become very familiar with them, then firing them in certain conditions, under stress and specific scenarios and moving up from paper targets to human shaped targets, to ever more lifelike facsimiles of actual people.

Then even some drills that involve other people playing insurgents and as the war went on you had more and more commanders realizing, “I need to do more than just the basic training,” so they would call in specialists who could create villagers with insurgents and they would have special effects and bombing and things like that, to again make it feel like they’ve been there before.

One of the units that I looked at in the story are one of the main guys that was in the Third Battalion Fifth Marine Regiment which fought in Fallujah in 2004. They before they deployed for that battle worked with a Hollywood studio guy who made this village and they had a Vietnam veteran and a guy who’d worked with the New York Police Department for a long time, come out as well and talk to them about urban combat in particular and how to conduct themselves in that specific environment.

He had this mantra that he gave them which was, “Slow, smooth, smooth is fast. Never make an uncover move and see the mother fucker and kill the mother fucker and quit thinking about it.” All of that was designed to say, “Don’t panic, remember your responsibilities. If it comes to that just take care of business and carry on.” I’ve heard and I know Grossman said that a hunters have a leg up on this because they maybe have had an experience of having killed another being before.

I don’t know if that makes some sense but I think it’s limited, only applicable to a point when you’re in these actual places and there’s actual people in front of you.

Brett McKay: I thought it was interesting that you highlight the soldiers that were killed an insurgent, and you talked about it like it was a training exercise. He saw the target and he just sort of habit, reflex came in and he just followed through like he was back in The States training for this, that’s what it was like.

Phil Zabriskie: Yeah he said he raised the rifle, then lowered the riffle and looked at the next target and I think he’s exact words were it was like a twenty five meter target at that moment and then it was only later on when he was looking back at it did he think that, “Oh that was actually a person.”

Brett McKay: Throughout the book you talk to several soldiers and veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan war about their experience on killing. My first question, how do you bring a topic up like that, how do you broach the subject with a soldier on that?

Phil Zabriskie: In this case I think it made a huge difference that I had been over there and that I’d met these guys before. I’m not going to claim we were friends or I knew them well or spent … There’s a lot of people who spent more time over there than I did and a lot of people who were in many more fire fights than I was, but just even having some experience and them knowing they saw you there, like in a way I gone to their place of work to learn about what they did.

I think that engendered a level of understanding that was very helpful and then really I just asked them, I was very upfront about what I was trying to do, I wasn’t trying to pretend I was talking about one thing and then ask them about this. I was very clear that I understood it was not a small thing to be asking them to discuss publically. Then I said that I just wanted to look at this squarely and soberly I didn’t want to make to make to …

I didn’t want to sensationalize anything, I didn’t want to say, “Oh this is crazy, these people are killing, they’re blood thirsty,” whatever, I just wanted to understand how this was playing out for them, when they were deployed and then afterwards. I think something about that existing trust was I guess made them feel I guess somewhat comfortable or at least willing to try to do this.

Then I would go do the interviews, long interviews and often in many cases and there wasn’t really any one kind of answer that would come out when I would ask them about this specific stuff, but they were frank and they were forthcoming. In certain instances it almost felt like they wanted to talk about it, like they were glad to have the chance because there’d been so little opportunities before other than maybe they’re on an airplane and someone says, “Hey did you kill anyone,” or that kind of stuff, that it is really reductive and a lot of guys really hate.

Brett McKay: Was there a story that you heard from one of the soldiers that you interviewed that was particularly jarring?

Phil Zabriskie: Well there are a lot of stories and I think there were a few things that I recalled from my experience that I had maybe packed away and hadn’t thought, subconsciously tried not to think about for a while. I think that at one point a former commander, an Italian commander said that when war is declared guys will inevently be put in impossible positions where they have to make choices that that are extremely difficult.

There’s one guy in the story who during the initial invasion his unit, they were fighting Iraqi soldiers in southern Iraq and they killed one and then everyone turned away and except for him. He had to sit and watch that spot and then a kid ran up and picked his gun up and planted at the marines and so he shot him. That was his job, that was within the rules of engagement but it’s shocking.

There’s just no way that’s right in any moral sense and everyone knows that, it’s not as if … and for some of those reasons he had trouble even telling anyone about it for a long time. He didn’t tell the other guys that day. He didn’t tell them because it just felt wrong and when the guys are all excited and they felt like they were making progress towards Bagdad and they were carrying out the mission they were supposed to, even some guys he would say, “Yeah I took it out a nester, I took out a sniper or I took out this and the other.”

He said, “I’m not going to say I just took out a 7 year old.” Then it also became clear over time like how much that weighed on him to, so stories like that are I think implicentaly going to be the most jarring but there were quite a few others that are shocking and in different ways as well.

Brett McKay: You talked about in the book how one philosopher calls this sorts of decisions and the effects of a moral wound and not necessarily a psychological wound, because some of these guys they don’t have any really PTSD but there’s something that’s bothering them. How is their experience in Afghanistan or Iraq affected them in their post military life and how are they dealing with what they did there and what’s the common response there?

Phil Zabriskie: I tried to resist the … I knew I couldn’t answer those questions in terms of the military or in terms of veterans, I’ve been part tried to focus on a couple of specific people because I knew it’s going to be different depending on who you’re talking to and it’s going to be different depending on their circumstances, how they came back, when they came back, what they did afterwards.

When you talk about moral injury there’s a term it was quoted by Jonathan Shay who wrote a book called The Killers in Vietnam, which is a terrific book about what happens when the process of coming home, of being in war and then coming home and that’s when you have a situation where something you did so thoroughly and deeply transgresses your sense of right and wrong that it is a kind to an injury, a physiological injury that could be in some cases devaluating because you walk around thinking, wanting to think you are this sort of person and that sort of person but somewhere in your head you think, “Oh I did that thing though and I will always be the person who did that thing, how can I pretend I am this or that.”

Like I say another psychiatrist called, said that a lot of guys it’s almost they treat killing as a personal trial and they put themselves on trial in their mind and they have to figure out was it just, was it right, was it effective, was it … In some cases some of them might be thinking in the long run was it worth it and how that they judged themselves on that scale could matter as well.

With the two guys that I focused on one whose in the 25 Marines Ben Nelson he was wounded and he was wounded in an incident where everyone else in this Humvee was killed, when they were in Iran by a car bomber in November of 2004. He went to Germany for treatment and he went back to DC for treatment, at the Maryland for treatment and then back to the west coast where he was based.

He was almost by himself. He was still connected to the marines but he couldn’t fight, he couldn’t be part of his unit and his best friends and his commander, company commander had just been killed and he blamed himself for that. His commander had told him not to shoot at the bomber, explicit said, “Do not shoot at that car,” but he still felt that it was his fault in part and just so he’s own surviving was an affront in a way.

He was a bit adrift and he struggled a lot and it’s taken years for him to get right with certain things and then only finally did he get some help from a very attentive and from what I can tell quite an insightful councilor through the VA, but this is just a couple of years ago. Meanwhile the other guy Brian Chantas, he’d been scheduled to rotate out of Iraq before the battle of Fallujah in late 2004.

He talked his way into staying with his guys, because he wanted to lead them into that battle. Towards the end of it he was actually sent home according to his orders and it was two days maybe of plane rides and car rides before he was back in the Baltimore airport with the same boots he was wearing in Fallujah just days earlier with some of that same dirt, some of that same blood on but he stayed in the military.

He had an instruction role, a role as an instructor at the basic school; he had other roles in the following years and then eventually worked at The Naval Academy as a company commander and almost like a mentor in a lot of ways to Mid Shipmen and the cadets there. Not the cadets sorry the Mid Shipmen, The Naval Academy who in all likelihood were going to be going to war at some point and be leading other men.

He had a structure around him, that I think was extremely helpful and then eventually the Mid Shipment started asking him questions about his own experience which provided a form in which he could talk about these things and look at them himself and consider them at the same time. He also was going a hundred miles an hour all the time as he admits. He’s marriage fell apart.

He says it was his fault, he neglected his family to a certain extent, he … and later he said he was effected by … He didn’t want to say he had … he didn’t say he had PTSD or something like that, but he said he was effected by what came out of his combat experience in a way that he needed to get a little bit of help. He did get some help but it was all in the military structure which I think was extremely important and has been very beneficial for him.

Brett McKay: I guess it’s a lesson from there I guess would be that don’t let these soldiers be by themselves, keep them in some structure when they get back.

Phil Zabriskie: Yeah it’s a lot of these guys, like John plus is a career soldier, he was in twenty years, he only recently retired last year. He was older when he went to battle so he had a bit more of a maturity about him, a bit more ability to put things in a broader perspective than some of these guys are 19 or 20. Then many of them do their service and then they’re out and they have to go find other things when they’re in their early 20’s, mid 20’s maybe and doing these things in isolation is really difficult and doing things where … because you’re already in a situation where what happened.

What you were just doing over there makes little sense over here and the context are different. That alone can be jarring yet you’re walking around this world wherever you are, you’re in your car or you’re at the mall, you’re at your job and people are talking about other things, so that thing that was most important to you, that was really life and death literally to you, days earlier is inconsequential, or seems inconsequential to people, around you so even on that social context.

Exactly that isolation can be damaging. Some people like it, some people really don’t want to talk about it and they’ve got a way to make sense of it on their own, but the guys who need help, having them adrift and here’s another aspect of the whole VA problem, which is that having them wait for months for an appointment or just being handed some pills or whatever it might be, just these limited band aid type approaches to counseling or treatment or even just listening can be even further isolating.

Brett McKay: Yeah I guess this goes to my next question, we know the military does a lot to help a soldier actually kill but it sounds like they don’t do too much to help these guys deal with it afterwards.

Phil Zabriskie: Not not explicitly, and I heard that from a lot of people, soldiers, psychiatrists, councilors, various sorts of people who study the military and it’s hard. It just seems like it’s not very well and I don’t know if it’s not very well understood or they don’t have the money or the time to pay attention to these sorts of things or they don’t really want guys thinking about them ahead of time, because again you would have a situation where I think from what I understand it’s got to be really hard to go into a place and be killing other people when you’re thinking like, “Hey I wonder if that guy has a family, or I wonder if this is going to bother me later, I wonder if I’m going to see that guys face in a couple of years when I have a dream or when I smell something similar or hear a truck that backfiring and there’s a similar sound.”

All those things can make someone hesitate and if they hesitate then they might not achieve their objective and someone else can get hurt, something, things could go wrong in one way or another and they are … Mr Junger says, “We are a tool of the government in the violent realm and that’s what they have to be ready for, that’s the job they’re supposed to do that they signed up for and that they take pride in doing well.”

At the same time though you have this sense of moral injury where something, that they just did something that is hard to feel good about over the long term. Ben Nelson says that in dealing with people he killed he wishes there had been some lessons about it ahead of time, like some warning that this might happen because for years he said he was just angry. He had this rage inside of him, he was anxious and frustrated every time he thought about it. He didn’t have any way to contestrialize what’s going on with him.

He was just dealing with it on his own and he was lucky in that he has an incredibly mature and steadfast wife who fought through it all with him but some have not been so lucky. The other thing is that as it goes on it can get harder. You might want to think that this gets easier to deal with because over time you get used to it and it starts to … it becomes clearer like what it was all about and why and you can contextualize.

A guy like Chantas has a very effective and impressive in a way ability to compartmentalize things like, “That’s what happened there and then and that’s why we did it and this is today and so I’m doing this other thing,” but not everyone can do that. If they could teach soldier that then it might be better for them.

I don’t know if it would be better for everyone else but later on in life you’re thinking some of those thoughts like, “I wonder if that guy had a family, I wonder if what could have been in his life or what happened there or was it worth it,” and especially with the question of wars like this one or Vietnam where the outcome is equivocal at best where you can’t say, “Yeah we did that so we could beat back the Nazi’s.”

There’s some real questions about whether it was a success or not. That factors in it as well and already now you had … I saw these guys on consecutive days in January, it was days after and insurgents had a retake in Fallujah and Ramadi. A whole host of questions came up around that with veterans and when I asked these guys about it and again this just speaks to the different kinds of personalities involved and the different perspectives, John said, “Well that was then and there and we did our best and that it’s unfortunate that it turned out this way but it’s not going to make me think differently about my service.” Ben Nelson said, “Well then what did those guys die for.”

Brett McKay: I think that you mentioned statistics about how it gets harder the longer you go, that most of the suicides from Veterans are veterans over fifty years old. These are men who fought in Vietnam.

Phil Zabriskie: That’s right.

Brett McKay: I guess they’re dealing with their mortality.

Phil Zabriskie: Yeah I think it comes up; you start thinking, “What have I accomplished? What do I have to …? What may I have to answer for,” based on whatever your faith is and then however you think you may pass through this life to the next. “What was all that for, and is this good and does the disenchantment, does the isolation of that feeling of whatever it might be does it just increase or does it ever get better.”

I think that in a way now this is pure supposition, but I think in a way now the Vietnam war has been supplanted by these wars, so those guys are almost afterthoughts in a way that I would imagine be troubling for them and feel quite distancing.

Brett McKay: Why do you think it’s important for civilians to understand what it’s like for a soldier to kill?

Phil Zabriskie: I think on a few different levels and I think there’s a political level in which they should understand that when war is discussed or declared this will happen, that people will be sent to go do these things and find themselves in these situations. Then they’ll have to deal with it afterwards and that they should not … We all have to take some responsibility for this because it’s our country.

I think also there’s such a casual use of war metaphors and imagery and video games and all of the rest and popular culture that having people take a real square look at what war actually is and what it actually does and what it actually involves is important. I think that even on just a very personal level understanding that there are guys like this out there now and that it’s really not enough to just say, “Thanks for your service. I support the troops,” and all the rest. That’s short hand for addressing them and addressing these things and that if there really is going to be support it should based on a real understanding of the actual experience.

I think also it’s good to understand what the training that is done and the focus and lethal energy and that’s required to carry out this job. This is one of the things that I actually liked about American Sniper is that, that is useful in a tactical sense for commanders trying to carry out their objectives, but at the same time those commanders have to control it.

They have to figure out, “How do we as leaders direct that so it doesn’t get out of hand in the worst case scenarios,” and there have been a few where it turns to actual murder and just get in completely, goes outside the boundaries of what’s even acceptable in war time and that, that responsibility is not just on the battle field.

It goes back to whoever declares the war, who plans the war, who says, “This is a good idea we should do this,” all that stuff is part of it so I think it’s an interesting thing. I was talking to a friend about this regarding American Sniper with some of the criticisms that, “Oh Chris Kyle’s, he’s barbaric,” and blablabla. Yes but that was his job and so what does that make the person who sent him here. To me these are questions that just are worth looking at and if someone wants to understand what war really is it’s a … I think the onus is on them to look at these sorts of questions.

Brett McKay: Well Phil where can readers learn more about your work?

Phil Zabriskie: This is the big thing, working on over of late The Kill Switch it’s on Amazon and it’s a Kindle single but you don’t need a Kindle to read it, you can … there’s a Kindle app and you can download that and then you could read it on anything, so I would hope anyone who wants to know more about this would have a look. I did a review on American Sniper for foreign policy, all the things. There’s some stories on Time and National Geographic and that could be tracked down and then I’ll have to figure out what I do next.

Brett McKay: Well Phil Zabriskie thanks so much for your time. It’s been a pleasure.

Phil Zabriskie: Sure thank you Brett I really appreciate it.

Brett McKay: Our guest today was Phil Zabriskie; he’s the author of the Amazon’s single The Kill Switch. You can find that on and download it to your Kindle app, it’s just $2.99. I recommend you pick it up; it’s a very fascinating and jarring read. You can follow Phil on Twitter at killswitchstory and you’ll find links and references that supplement what he wrote about in The Kill Switch, so give him a follow.

Well that wraps up another addition of the Art of Manliness podcast. For more manly tips and advice make sure to check out the Art of Manliness website at One way you can support the podcast, support the website is buying something from our stores,

You’ll find t-shirts; you’ll find really good manly coffee mugs. We also have our Ben Franklin journal, The Art of Manliness exclusive, you can’t find this anywhere else, so it’s I’d really appreciate your support. Until next time this is Brett McKay telling you to stay manly.

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