Thursday, May 14, 2009

Failing Stress Tests In Iraq

While the new administration is struggling to find a way to bring our economy back from disaster, a lot of stress outside that fiscal area is demanding attention. For the years of right wing wars, most of us were outside the field of operation. Those who emerged into their earning years, required to find a way to support themselves, the war was something many chose as a career. In order to make that choice, they had to leave youth behind and enter a military commitment.

During the sixties, when I was in that stage of life, Vietnam and the draft brought my generation an awareness of the rift between killing as a craft and our essential value system. The generation going to war then included all levels of our countrymen, and we encountered the war as an atrocity that violated our humanity and demanded we reject a whole area of the world. That didn't work out, and, to simplify, the unjustifiable war ended. We felt a part of our society, and a large part of the troops did, as well.

The generation that has been forced in great part by economic pressures to go into an unjustifiable war is not subject to draft, and largely consists of the less fortunate, the less affluent, and the less educated. Military authorities lately have begun to complain about the lowered standards that have occurred. The troops have increasingly been from the disaffected who haven't benefitted from the kind of care we of the sixties had. They were from the generation that had had the social contract violated, benefits decimated, made the fodder for corporate welfare beneficiaries who spread their Eat the Poor ethic.

What must it have been like to be a cog in that wheel? The stress levels that are occurring, as soldiers were recycled like our trash to keep up a war that no one could feel good about, have subjected ever increasing numbers to destructive mental stress. Suicide rates have soared, and increased scrutiny has led to revelations about the neglect of mental health by our military overseers.

A certain farmboy from nearby Sherman, TX, has made a tragic point; mental stress kills not just the victim, but those who are in the victims immediate circle if pushed too far.

A 2008 Army study established that the rate of soldiers reporting serious mental health problems increases with each deployment. (Russell was on his third.) By the third go-around, 27 percent of soldiers show significant signs of stress. National Guard and Reserve troops are suffering the worst, another report found.
Army suicides in 2009

According to Pentagon figures, 2008 suicides among soldiers reached 140, the most since the Army began keeping records in 1980 – surpassing even the civilian suicide rate. This grim finding, as well as mounting evidence that returning troops struggle with rising rates of depression, drug and alcohol dependency and related problems, prompted Gen. George Casey Jr., Army chief of staff, to announce this spring a new training program on combat-related stress.
On Tuesday, the Army announced a probe into where its mental health care for soldiers is coming up short. This investigation must be given top priority – reports that the military's 2009 suicide rate is on track to shatter last year's record – and must include listening to spouses and other family members.

Not all casualties of war are physical.

Not all casualties of war are individual, either. Our whole society has been tortured by the mindset that puts its ideology above the law, and above standards the world has arrived at over centuries of armed conflict. It's a mindset that was developed without any education in actual combat, or in resolving conflict.

The mindset that subjected this country to war has been that we are tough, and we are better able to judge for other countries what is best for them than they are, themselves. Coming into the field of the war in Iraq has been desperately disquieting to that ignorant attitude, but that wrong attitude has continued to be pushed on the soldiers we send into war.

Direct confrontation with wrong orientation has caused our troops the kind of suffering that will take them, with guidance from those schooled in mental anguish, a long time to bring into functioning systems of living.

We need to take broad control of the military industrial complex and the agonies it brings about for all of us. The psychology of combatting world difficulties with violence needs to end. It's time to start that action for mental health, and world peace, at once.


Thanks, Diane, for your continuing concern for the troops under the strain of unjustifiable war, badly conducted.

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Anonymous WarOnWarOff said...

Thought of you Ruth when I heard the poor guy was from Sherman. Saw his father and son interviewed, and that just broke my heart. He was a 20-year veteran, subjected to repeated deployments, with his life destroyed by the stress from those deployments. So the brass is concerned about putting "bull's eyes" on their troops' backs if we release photographs showing that we torture. I'll say the brass is doing a pretty goddamned good job of putting those bull's eyes on their backs by sending these unfortunate individuals right back to the theater much like recycled garbage.

11:38 AM  
Blogger Ruth said...

True, this is torture. Our failed leaders who went into war and did it badly are guilty of so many crimes, it's hard to pick out what's worst.

11:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Could someone please explain how a current soldier who volunteered to join the army and who has served multiple tours of duty in Iraq (separated by periods back at home)is under more stress than was suffered by someone who was drafted during World War II and served in combat for three or more years with no home leave?

9:25 AM  
Blogger Ruth said...

Anon, in WWII we were attacked before we went to war, and our forces were fighting troops with uniforms, not the same civilians they saw on the streets.

9:45 AM  

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