Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Sadly, Unsurprising: Update

Yesterday, I posted on the shootings at Camp Liberty in Iraq. The initial reports I saw did have one fact wrong: the soldier who was responsible for the killings did not turn the gun on himself. He shot five other US soldiers and wounded three. He is now in custody.

More details are now emerging. The shootings took place in a clinic for soldiers suffering from stress. The irony of that fact makes the episode even more shocking. According to the NY Times article, soldiers not in the field are required to remove the ammunition from the weapons. How the soldier in question managed to avoid that requirement is currently under investigation.

To the Army's credit, spokesmen are not whitewashing the incident and are openly acknowledging the impact of the stress soldiers are facing in Iraq because of multiple tours there without enough time between assignments:

At a Pentagon news conference on Monday, Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the shootings occurred “in a place where individuals were seeking help” for combat stress.

The violence, he said, was a tragic reminder of the need for greater “concern in terms of dealing with the stress” and also “speaks to the issue of multiple deployments” as well the need for finding ways of “increasing dwell time,” so that military personnel spend more months at home between deployments.

Two things occurred to me after reading Admiral Mullen's statement. The first is that while it is good the military now realizes the stress related illnesses are indeed battlefield injuries which must be treated, there is still within the military culture a sense that such psychological damage is unmanly and a sign of character weakness. Why else would the military deny the Purple Heart to those who suffer from that kind of injury?

The second goes to the issue of the multiple deployments and the lack of reasonable downtime between those deployments. Yes, due to the malfeasance of the last administration and the arrogance of the Pentagon, the US willingly took on two wars, both wrong from their inception in the minds of the neocons running the government, thereby stretching the military to its limits and beyond. This administration, however, seems to be determined to stay locked into the mindset of the last.

While President Obama will be withdrawing troops from Iraq under the time frame established with that country, he is going to increase troop levels in Afghanistan. Troops will simply be rotated from one war to the other. It's hard to imagine the Army being able to increase "dwell time" for those soldiers being rotated, much less provide adequate treatment for the combat stress many (if not most) of those soldiers are suffering.

The results, sadly, will no doubt mean that there will be more episodes such as the one that happened at Camp Liberty. It also means that many soldiers will remain untreated and will suffer long after they return home to their families.

That's what happens in wars. That it is happening in wars that should never have been initiated makes it all the more horrendous.

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Blogger Sindbad said...

I used to wonder during the NeoCons' hold of Power in Washington; when Wisdom will be back to America?
After reading your article, I realized that my question could still be valid?!!!
I hope Obama and also his national security advisors seek political solution to the Afgan War.
I know from my readings in History that the Afgans never get tired or bored from fighting!!
I hope America's brains prove intelligent enough not to challenge History. All the Empires that preceded America failed to challenge history. Ask the Soviets/Russians.

7:36 AM  
Anonymous WarOnWarOff said...

That's what happens in wars.I'll never forget the deranged look on my father's face when he decided to play Russian Roulette a few years after he'd gotten back from Vietnam.

War is madness.

8:19 AM  
Anonymous PeasantParty said...

Maybe, just maybe if these military people were not told a mountain of lies about why they are there things would be more sensible.

They are trying to fight enemies that look like civilian populace and have no idea why. Bin Laden?
9/11 attackers? Nooooooo. It's the pipeline parameters and they don't understand this mentality.

9:45 AM  

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