Get Your War On

An AH-64D Apache Longbow helicopter from 1st B...

Collateral Murder: ‘WikiLeaks has released a classified US military video depicting the indiscriminate slaying of over a dozen people in the Iraqi suburb of New Baghdad — including two Reuters news staff.

Reuters has been trying to obtain the video through the Freedom of Information Act, without success since the time of the attack. The video, shot from an Apache helicopter gun-site, clearly shows the unprovoked slaying of a wounded Reuters employee and his rescuers. Two young children involved in the rescue were also seriously wounded.’


Reality Check

Car bombing in Iraq, 2005. As Coalition Forces...

Andrew Sullivan: “The Beltway’s conventional wisdom has long been that the war in Iraq is over. According to the partisan GOP blogs, Bush won the war last year. And yet, for all the many reports of a new calm in Iraq, and on the day that Tom Friedman buys into Maliki’s hope that a new non-sectarian future is imminent, two massive car bombs reveal that security still needs a city divided by huge, concrete barriers, and American troops for investigation and clean-up. It’s worth recalling that this is still happening even as over 120,000 US troops remain in the country. If this can happen when they are there in such vast numbers, what are the odds that Iraq will remain half-way peaceful and unified when/if the US leaves?” (The Atlantic)


What Doctors (Supposedly) Get Wrong about PTSD

This article in Scientific American by David Dobbs reports on the growing concern that “the concept of post-traumatic stress disorder is itself disordered”. The writer is critical of a culture which “seemed reflexively to view bad memories, nightmares and any other sign of distress as an indicator of PTSD.” To critics like this, the overwhelming incidence of PTSD diagnoses in returning Iraqi veterans is not a reflection of the brutal meaningless horror to which many of the combatants were exposed but of a sissy culture that can no longer suck it up. As usual, the veil of ‘objective’ ‘scientific’ evidence is used to cloak ideological biases.

FmH readers know that I too am critical of the frequency of PTSD diagnosis in modern mental health practice, but I think that is not a problem with the theoretical construct of PTSD but its slapdash application. With respect to domestic PTSD, the problem is one of overzealous and naive clinicians ignoring the diagnostic criteria and, more important, misunderstanding the clinical significance and intent of the diagnosis, labelling with PTSD far too many people who have ever had anything more than a little upsetting or distressing happen to them. Essentially, PTSD is meant to refer to the longterm consequences of either an experience or experiences that are outside the bounds of what the human psyche can endure. Both emotionally and neurobiologically, the capacity of the organism is overwhelmed and the fact of the trauma assumes an overarching and inescapable central role in future information processing, functioning and sense of self. Experience that occurs when the body is flooded with unimaginably high levels of stress hormones, when the nervous system is in the throes of the fight-or-flight response, and when the normal processes for making sense of what we are going through utterly break down are encoded differently in the body and mind, with immeasurable effects. Only someone who did not grasp this at all could misrecognize simple anxiety, depression or adjustment difficulties as PTSD. But it happens all the time, especially in the treatment of depressed women, largely because of do-gooder clinicians’ desires to be politically correct and not be seen as insensitive to their clients’ suffering. Unfortunately, what it mostly does is train these clients to remain lifelong inhabitants of a self-fulfilling inescapable victim role.

The concern, on the other hand, with soldiers returning from the wars in central Asia, is the opposite. All evidence is that PTSD is being underdiagnosed, because of systematic biases within the government and the military to deny the scope of the problem. Articles such as this, and the research that it depicts, should be seen as nothing but a conservative backlash, an effort to blame the victims. If coping with the scope of PTSD is a problem, deny the reality of PTSD. Certainly considerable research suggests that a proportion of soldiers returning from the battle front in bad shape will have shown their resilience, will no longer show a high magnitude of emotional disturbance, and will not warrant a diagnosis of PTSD if reassessed months or years later. Research also suggests that early intervention using a trauma paradigm may do more harm than good, perpetuating the vulnerability of the patient. And most Defense Dept. research on the effects of combat trauma is intended to figure out how to block the stress reaction so that a soldier can remain functional and return to a combat role as soon as possible. But it remains the case that the human nervous system did not evolve to endure the horrors of modern war, and that the indefensibility and anomie of this war in particular, based as it has been entirely on lies, amplifies the intolerability and makes it far less likely that a veteran can find sustaining meaning in the suffering they endured. This will inevitably turn into higher rates of PTSD than among veterans of other wars.

To deny the scale of PTSD in our returning veterans is to be an unquestioning apologist for the untrammelled American imperialist projection of power in lawless aggression. As Dobbs describes it, the PTSD deniers construe us as having a cultural obsession with PTSD which embodies “a prolonged failure to contextualize and accept our own collective aggression.” What horse manure. Our cultural neurosis, rather, lies in the unquestioning acceptance of suggestions like Dobbs’ that we should mindlessly embrace such aggression as natural. This was the neurosis that made it possible to elect Bush and his handlers to enact an administration that set about violating every supposed principle of our democracy and our humanity. I know we are not supposed to draw this particular analogy, but this brand of PTSD denial strikes me as akin to nothing as much as Holocaust denial. Via Scientific American.


Do They Want Our Soles?

old shoes

A friend and I were talking about Bush’s recent run-in with Shoe Bomber II in Baghdad. In response, we propose that people package up their old shoes and send them to Bush at the White House between now and January 20th. This would serve a whole roster of functions.

  • It would give a needed boost to the US Postal Service’s income.
  • The White House could contribute the received footwear to the needy, to the impoverishment of most of whom it has already been a major contributor.
  • Furthermore, the right shoe would help stop Bush from putting his foot in his mouth so often.
  • And, finally, the action would be a symbolic reminder that we are giving the Bush administration the boot.

In sum, we think this is a shoe-in. [thanks, henry]


Racial Extremists: Infiltrating the Military for Chance to ‘Kill a Brown’

Own work (the photo's subject, a neighbor, con...

New evidence suggests that skinheads are infiltrating the US Army as a result of lowered recruiting standards and lax enforcement of anti-extremist regulations. With genocide on their minds they are positioning themselves in units where they can receive combat training, attract fresh recruits, learn such skills as tactical bomb making, and gain access to weapons and ordnance. White supremacist leaders are encouraging followers without documented histories of neo-Nazi activity and without insignias of their affiliation such as tattoos to enlist as “ghost skins.” One wrote,

“Us racists are actually getting into the military a lot now because if we don’t every one who already is [in the military] will take pity on killing sand niggers. Yes I have killed women, yes I have killed children and yes I have killed older people. But the biggest reason I’m so proud of my kills is because by killing a brown many white people will live to see a new dawn.”

via AlterNet.


Shoes Prohibited in Iraq

old shoes

After yesterday’s events, the US Iraqi Command has moved swiftly to ban shoes as a security threat. US forces have completed house-to-house sweeps of seven metropolitan areas in Iraq, confiscating all footwear with enough heft to be thrown. Those resisting turning over their shoes, and their families, are being preventively detained. A US spokesperson denied that the move is Draconian, promising that the Command will be issuing foam rubber slippers and flip flops to all who queue up at local police stations to apply.


Report Spotlights Iraq Rebuilding Blunders

“An unpublished 513-page federal history of the American-led reconstruction of Iraq depicts an effort crippled before the invasion by Pentagon planners who were hostile to the idea of rebuilding a foreign country, and then molded into a $100 billion failure by bureaucratic turf wars, spiraling violence and ignorance of the basic elements of Iraqi society and infrastructure.”

via New York Times.


Maliki takes revenge over new mandate

In this handout f...

“British forces in Iraq are facing a humiliating end to their six-year mission in the country as the Iraqi Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, takes his revenge for what he regards as the British surrender of Basra to hardline Shia Muslim militias.

Mr Maliki, incensed by Britain’s perceived failure to deal with the Mahdi Army of his bitter Shia rival, Moqtada al-Sadr, is stalling on a deal on Britain’s continuing presence in Iraq, barely a fortnight before the current arrangement expires. Frantic diplomatic efforts are under way to secure a legal framework for British forces after 31 December, when the current United Nations mandate expires.”

via The Independent.


Soldier: Honor troops like Va. Tech dead

Deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan are ‘mere blips on the TV screen’: “An Army sergeant complained in a rare opinion article that the U.S. flag flew at half-staff last week at the largest U.S. base in Afghanistan for those killed at Virginia Tech but the same honor is not given to fallen U.S. troops here and in Iraq.” (Yahoo! News)

I have reacted to the lionization of the VT victims much as I did to those who died in the 9/11 attacks. These are victims, not heroes. To celebrate their heroism cheapens heroism. I am not saying their deaths are not tragic, but they did not come about, with rare exceptions, as a result of any exceptional display of courage. They were in the wrong place at the wrong time.

It would be tempting to think of this as a distinction between these victims and our casualties in Afghanistan and Iraq. Given that we have an all-volunteer military, the latter chose to put themselves in harm’s way for a greater cause and may in fact deserve more, not less, esteem when they fall, this line of reasoning goes. And I am not sure it is not correct.

But on the other hand, much as I believe Kerry intended in his much-ballyhooed bungled comments last year, many of those serving in the US occupation forces in Afghanistan and Iraq can be considered no less victims, virtually compelled — no less than they would be with conscription — to join the service by the lack of other opportunities in the inequitable American society. The old men who send our forces to war still exploit the least fortunate in our society, not the sons and daughters of privilege. I remind myself of that whenever I am tempted to get on my moral high horse and suggest that the troops should have the ethical sophistication to refuse to participate in an unjust war.

[While we are on the topic of courage, I am of course unambivalent about the courageous stance represented by war resistance. Ironically, this is often seen as its diametrical opposite, cowardice.]