In my opinion, there is a reason why propaganda is so frequently used by governing bodies to control the mindset of their citizens. According to dictionary definition, propaganda is ideas, facts, or allegations that are spread deliberately to further one's cause or to damage an opposing cause (Propaganda | Definition of Propaganda by Merriam-Webster). Simply put, it is a very effective way of getting everyone on the same page. In turn, by uniting the general population toward a common cause, more power is granted toward the ruling class. This control over the general population can be utilized or even weaponized to create an outcome that the ruling class envisions. After all, why would those in charge want to do the dirty work if someone else can do it for them?
Of course, there are many well-known historical examples where this has occurred, such as in Nazi Germany during World War II for instance. However, I would like to discuss a modern-day example of propaganda being used to weaponize people. After all, history is bound to repeat itself if we are not careful. Specifically, the Chinese are actively using propaganda to eliminate the Uighur Muslim ethnic minority group in China (China’s repression of Uighur Muslims: Concentration camps, forced labor, and other abuses - Vox). The justification for this abhorrent act is to homogenize religion in China. By reprogramming their citizens through the weapon of propaganda, they are actively approaching their goal of eliminating this culture from their population, which would bring less internal division amongst their citizens from their perspective.
In American War, Omar El Akkad was also examining this idea that people can be weaponized through means such as propagand. He examines this reality near the end of the novel where Sarat unleashes a plague that kills around 100 million people. Would she have done this if she were not subject to years of ideological brainwashing and torture? You cannot say for certain, but I believe that she would not have reached this decision to kill millions of people if she had been gifted a different circumstance.
So then how do we prevent people from becoming weaponized? In my opinion, education is the key here. Think about it, if the Chinese were actively being educated about the rich and diverse Muslim culture, would the general population still want to isolate and reeducate these people? I firmly believe they would not. Instead, they would be interested in their different lifestyle and respect their differences. Sadly, they are not allowed access to this type of educational material, so we can only hope that are able to learn circumstantially.