Monday, August 20, 2007

Support our Troops- Except when it really counts

The slogan "support our troops" has become merely a piece of propaganda for the political right- used to try and slap down any criticism of the war. It is not, I repeat NOT, a meaningful statement of a political agenda. If it were a meaningful statement, we would not have had the scandal at Walter Reed Hospital- and the subsequent gag order to prevent further controversy. We also would not have the military violating its own policies in regards to how long to keep men in the field, and the subsequent denial of what many military experts now routinely say- that our military is stretched too thin. And we would not have turned our military personnel in to mechanisms of torture at GITMO and elsewhere in the world.

And we certainly would not have the blatant disregard of the mental health issues raised by the war in Iraq, especially given recent reports of high level of Iraq troop suicides [There were 99 confirmed Army suicides in 2006 (2 additional deaths are pending investigations),up from 88 in 2005 and the highest since 1991 during the Persian Gulf War. The rate of suicides grew in 5 years from a low of 9.1 per 100,000 soldiers in 2001 to the 2006 rate of 19.4 per 100,000. (The suicide rate for the general population is 11 per 100,000.)].

The CS Monitor details one example of the lack of support our troops, and their families, receive from the our government.

Those of us who believe it is time to pull our troops our of this ineffective, self-defeating, and, ultimately, immoral war, should never stand for having this slogan thrown in our faces again. It is time for the political right to recognize that from the moment they decided to sacrifice our troops to their neo-con mythology and political objectives, they lost any moral traction with this slogan. Supporting our troops now means extracting them from this untenable situation, and saving them from those politicians who would continue to use them- at a price far too high.

Treating the trauma of war – fairly
In relabeling cases of PTSD as 'personality disorder,' the US military avoids paying for treatment.

The high incidence of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among soldiers returning from Iraq is one of the many "inconvenient truths" of this war. Inconvenient largely because it is costly: The most effective and humane means of treating PTSD are time-intensive and long-term.

The military, however, has changed the terms and given many thousands of enlisted men and women a new diagnosis: "personality disorder." While the government would be obliged to care for veterans suffering from combat-related trauma, a personality disorder – defined as an ingrained, maladaptive way of orienting oneself to the world – predates a soldier's tour of duty (read: preexisting condition). This absolves Uncle Sam of any responsibility for the person's mental suffering.

The new diagnostic label sends the message: This suffering is your fault, not a result of the war. On one level, it's hard not to see this as another example of the government falling short on its care for Iraq war veterans. Yet there's another, more insidious, bit of sophistry at work. The implication is that a healthy person would be resistant to the psychological pressures of war. Someone who succumbs to the flashbacks, panic, and anger that haunt many former soldiers must have something inherently wrong with him. It's the psychological side of warrior macho: If you're tough, you can take it. Of course, we know this is not true. Wars forever change the lives of those who fight them and can leave deep scars.

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