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richard
Posted on Wednesday, January 25, 2006 - 10:40 am:   

http://news.independent.co.uk/world/americas/article340826.ece

don't know why....but this got to me/left me angrier than almost any Iraq related news for the last couple of years. Maybe it's the complete fucking senselessness of it, the odd angle it comes in at, maybe something else.......don't know

doesn't seem to have made the US press at all (or at least hasn't held the attention of said press since it happened last week - certanly this is the first we're hearing of on this side of the Atlantic)

I'd rant but I feel too hollow....like I said, not sure why
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Neal Asher
Posted on Wednesday, January 25, 2006 - 11:45 am:   

At least he wanted to die. Plenty of others haven't been lucky enough to be able to choose. Callous, I know, but what else is there to say?
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steve r
Posted on Wednesday, January 25, 2006 - 03:37 pm:   

Just a hint of what Bush' 'We'll stay the course' really means. Here in spain particularly, 'we' assume the US troops are the baddies, going in with superior weapons and armour and blowing up the occasional extended family or two at weekends. This article, and other items like it, usually suppressed, as you say, remind us of the daily fear, and of where the evil really comes from. I just happen to be in the middle of Market Forces ( a quite different scenario, and not meant, I think, to be taken literally - as some people have insisted on doing) but it's uncannily as if your Shorn Associates are the one end of a very long stick, at the other end of which is this veteran. An intelligent articulate man. Now dead. And then we have the sickening sight of Rumsfeld congratulating 'the troops'.
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Lee M
Posted on Thursday, January 26, 2006 - 02:16 am:   

In an ideal world there would be more training post war than pre war. Helping soldiers reconnect to 'normal' society. Then again an ideal world wouldn't need soldiers. This isn't 1914 where 'shell shock' was thought to be caused by air pressure changes from explosions. PTSD should be accepted as given for modern soliders. You can't train people to be immune to it but you can supply sufficent support (CBT etc) to help them deal with it. What's the point in investing all that time teaching them to use a gun when they're just going to turn it on themselves?
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richard
Posted on Thursday, January 26, 2006 - 04:03 am:   

Okay, here’s the rant now…

I remember reading an article last year which said that the number of Vietnam veterans in the US who’ve taken their own lives through PTSD has now surpassed the number who were actually killed in the conflict (about 58,000, I think). In other words, you can double up your casualty rate. Maybe in time we’re going to see similar logistics for Bush’s war.

The same article also said that with the honourable exception of John McCain and a couple of others, the Republican political machine has consistently fought against any extension in funding for the care and support of returning veterans – in other words, megabucks for war is fine, cash for the results and victims of war is wasted money which would be better spent on tax cuts for those already rich beyond the dreams of the average GI.

This, and the apparent press silence over this poor guy’s suicide seems to me indicative of a trend so entrenched and defying of common intelligence or compassion that it has little to do with politics as such and more to do with a deeply emotional commitment to something I can only describe as “masculine illusion”. Bush et al may have gone to war for the most cynical of political reasons, but the groundswell of support they rode seems to emanate from a completely unthinking level in the (essentially male) American psyche. A friend of mine who’s married to an American and spent several years living and working there opened my eyes for me when she said: “It’s an alpha male society, Richard”. I guess here you see that in action. NOW there’s a drop in support for the war because so many young Americans are dead or maimed – as if it had never occurred to anybody that people (specifically, American people) might get hurt in a war of invasion. It’s a bit like the schoolboys who think it’ll be fun to bully the class geek, or the teenagers who think it’s cool to get completely arseholed and then go driving their cars at high speeds – until suddenly said geek is hospitalised or dead, said cars are wrapped around something unexpectedly solid and leaking blood and smashed tissue and everybody’s saying…..”oh, we never meant THAT to happen.” You’re tempted to scream at all these wavering Bush in Iraq supporters BUT WHAT THE FUCK DID YOU THINK WAS GOING TO HAPPEN, but of course the sobering answer is: they didn’t think at all, they just voted with their visceral urges and went along with what the dominant male chimp in the suit told them. Marching off to war is cool (especially if it’s someone else’s children doing it), blowing shit up is cool, shooting at bad guys in the ruins of a third world city is cool – ah, but all this mangled flesh and shattered mental health, hey, THAT’s not cool. We never meant THAT to happen. Best not to think about it, best not to report it, or dwell on it, or pay any serious attention to it, and certainly best not to spend any fucking MONEY on it…..and that way, next time some fucking idiot thinks it’s a good idea to roll out the tanks and the flags against all military and intelligence advice, we can pull THE SAME FUCKING TRICK ALL OVER AGAIN.

rant over
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Neal Asher
Posted on Thursday, January 26, 2006 - 04:12 am:   

Feel better now? (I doubt it) I wonder if there's a corollation between the troop's perception of whether what they're involved in is just, and PTSD figures afterwards. Probably.
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simon
Posted on Thursday, January 26, 2006 - 05:12 am:   

Interesting question but I doubt it. I suspect its more down to the nitty gritty of what was experienced by the individual, just war or not.

Troops involved in the Falklands war had few doubts about justness of war. The army was subsequently surprised by the scale of the mental fall out from that conflict (even after 13 years or so of dealing with the after effects of the anti-terrorism campaign in Northern Island).

It's fair to say that the stress will come in the main part from what has happened to the individual and his mates but I would imagine that 'just war' or not at least some of the trauma came from having to shoot (as well as being shot at by) ill trained and ill equipped teenage conscripts who had been abandoned by their high command to fight one of the world's most professional and experienced armies.

Be interesting to compare rates of PSTD amongst the conscripts in the Argentinian army (who felt they were fighting a very just war). Though I doubt many people in Argentina were counting. And that's the key point. I suspect the current American administration aren't very interested in counting either.
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richard
Posted on Thursday, January 26, 2006 - 06:04 am:   

hi Neal - not a lot better, no.

I'm not convinced it's the issue of just war at all - by all accounts, a huge number of WW2 soldiers came home with PTSD - we just lacked the emotional range as a society to recognise it at the time - and no-one, then or later, was in any doubt as to the justice of that war. I don't think the statistics have changed in modern wars either, I think we've just developed the social sensitivity to perceive what's really going on. Our models of masculinity, of what we expect of a "man" have shifted (for the better, I'd say) And I don't think it's any coincidence that the same constitutencies in the US that root for wars like the Iraq debacle also tend to be violently allergic to more modern and flexible interpretations of manhood - witness the anti-gay hysteria inherent in right wing politics, the terror of feminism, the demonisation of peace protesters (often including ex-servicemen who've served with honour) as unpatriotic scum.

If you were to index incidences of PTSD and adjust for intensity of exposure to horror (flying bombing missions isn't going to be the same as bayonetting a man to death or rolling grenades into a house and finding later it was full of women and children), I suspect you'd run up against some kind of scale in emotional resilience and/or detachment - that's to say some people would be simply better able to cope with sudden moral decompression and a later return to civilised life without getting (too much) emotional whiplash, in much the same way that some people's bones break less easily than others. There's been some interesting research into genetic resilience done in New Zealand (see Matt Ridley's Nature via Nurture, indexed under Moffit & Caspi) and there'll obviously be factors of socialisation as well. But in the end I suspect your chances of PTSD in military service hinge pretty much entirely on what kind of person you are to start with and what kind of horror you're exposed to. I doubt being (or believing you are) in the right is going to help at all.
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Neal Asher
Posted on Thursday, January 26, 2006 - 06:44 am:   

Not entirely sure I agree. An arachnophobe can be psychologically prepared to touch a spider and feel a lot less fear than usual. Surely a soldier, feeling that what he is doing is right is going to be psychologically tougher and more able to handle the stress and its aftermath?

Then again, feeling either right or wrong won't change the level of battle stress itself, since being right doesn't reduce your chances of getting killed.

But as has been noted. Nobody is going to be counting or, rather, nobody without and agenda to back-up is going to be counting.
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simon
Posted on Thursday, January 26, 2006 - 06:57 am:   

I think that's overstating it.

Also I wonder what effect killing, say, a child (even by mistake) would have on the soldier who then has to square that away with it somehow being the right thing. Taking on the guilt for the action because you believe your country was right to send you there in the first place. Rather than the soldier who kills a child (by mistake) while involved in a war he feels is unjustified anyway and who can then spread the guilt for what has happened around just a bit.

Either way, being covered with blood either your own or someone elses would, I suspect, put notions of justification right to the back of your head.

Counting only being done by people with an agenda? Well yes everyone has an agenda. But some agendas are better (or even more equal) than others. The agenda of, say, a mental health charity having to deal with picking up the pieces around this issue would at least be more transparent than anyone elses and have motives I, for one, would be more comfortable with.
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al duncan
Posted on Thursday, January 26, 2006 - 08:20 am:   

It's an old, old study, but the WW1 pioneer of treating shell-shock -- Dr William Rivers -- traced it to repression. Seems to me that the internal conflict could well be heightened if you're trying to reconcile a feeling that you were right, that the war was just, with particular experiences you can't accept because they're just too horrific. I'd have thought you're more likely to repress the horror and fuck yourself up if they're incompatible with your ethical/moral outlook.

That's speculation, of course. I'm curious if there's any studies about this.
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AliceB
Posted on Thursday, January 26, 2006 - 08:44 am:   

I wonder also whether the public's acceptance of the soldiers, once they return, helps, hinders or has little effect. For the Vietnam War, soldiers who returned were met if not by indifference then with outright anger by a lot of the public. My sense is that individual soldiers returning from Iraq are not being met by anger, even by those who oppose the war, although general indifference is probably still the case.

As an aside, historically, soldiers were viewed with little esteem--especially in times when PTSD wasn't even contemplated, let alone understood. E.g., this poem by Kipling. I wonder if there's a societal holdover or undercurrent from that view.

Best,
Alice
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Neal Asher
Posted on Thursday, January 26, 2006 - 09:03 am:   

Al, you're saying that the repression would be worse if the soldier thought the war just then discovered otherwise? How, I wonder, does that compare to if he knew it to be wrong but fought anyway? A very moot point, I suspect. I would guess the repression would also be exacerbated by a macho outlook: big boys don't cry.

Um, now I'll read that article.
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simon
Posted on Thursday, January 26, 2006 - 11:12 am:   

Well that would come back to being able to spread the blame just that bit. 'I was only following orders . . .'
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markandrews
Posted on Thursday, January 26, 2006 - 04:58 pm:   

This is a sad story. I am also a returning Vet from the Iraq war, but I am not against the Bush administration. After being over there, I do beleive this cause is worth dying for. The problem is: about 1/2 of the soldiers in our army did not sign up to protect this country, or uphold what morals (and they differ drasticly) that we all have. They signed up to get an education....to collect a paycheck...with the thought they would never have to do any action. Most people dying of suicide in the Vietnam War, and that is a travesty IMO, are those that were conscripted into the army. Do you see a pattern yet? Really, we need a way of weeding out those that are just there for the charity...and not there to serve.
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al duncan
Posted on Thursday, January 26, 2006 - 05:35 pm:   

Neal: Not so much "discovered otherwise" as still felt it to be just... but had personal experiences they couldn't reconcile with that view. It strikes me that it might be even harder on you if you think "this had to be done, it was my duty to do this", but you have memories of things which "should never have happened".

I mean, if you think that in the Big Scheme of Things what you were doing was *entirely* right, but at the same time you're trying to deal with memories you just can't accept (not morally, I mean, just things which are as horrific as, for example, the WW1 soldier in that study who was blown off his feet by a shell and landed face-down in the bloated abdomen of a corpse, getting a mouthful of rotting entrails) -- it seems to me that could be a double-bind that would just fuck you up no end.

What I'm saying, I guess, is: if your horrific experiences come from a war you already consider wrong, it seems to me, you might be fucked up by guilt for participating but your feelings wouldn't be so mixed; they'd be fairly straightforward -- this was wrong, I was wrong to be a part of it. If you're trying to reconcile those horrific experiences with a viewpoint that treats those horrors as necessary, as justified, on the other hand -- I can imagine that might put you in a psychologically difficult position.

But as I say, this is total speculation. I could be entirely wrong.
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Sue
Posted on Thursday, January 26, 2006 - 08:05 pm:   

Usually, when police officers have to shoot and kill a suspect in the line of duty, they are given counselling and usually take some time off. The idea is that shooting another person, even if justified, is traumatic and people doing it, even if trained to do so, get traumatized and need help to come to terms with killing another human. Think of that experience magnified in the battlefield; think of the fact that not all those killed are bad guys, but civilian "collateral damage"; and think of having to go right back to the fray immediately, and the next day and then next day without stopping until you're sent back home when your tour of duty is over.

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Steven Francis Murphy
Posted on Friday, January 27, 2006 - 08:50 am:   

Hmm, and yet there are plenty of vets who don't shoot themselves and inspite of everything, manage to putter along until they expire of natural causes.


S. F. Murphy
http://sfmurphy.journalspace.com
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AliceB
Posted on Friday, January 27, 2006 - 09:36 am:   

True, Stephen, but that doesn't change the fact that PTSD exists and has been recognized for a long time as a consequence of war (and not only for soldiers). Not every soldier is susceptible, but a significant number are. Ignoring that is/would be cruel.
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Steven Francis Murphy
Posted on Friday, January 27, 2006 - 10:40 am:   

I didn't make my statement to deny that PTSD is a problem. I've been in the outpatient clinic of a VA Hospital, I know about the problem.

Another issue that is rarely discussed or examined is this.

Non-military types assume that a soldier is a perfectly adjusted, socialized, fully realized human being that didn't have any problems prior to the day they took the oath. This isn't a very realistic assumption because, well, no one reaches adulthood without a little bit of scaring. Some have more than others.

War, often, is the straw that breaks the camel's back. Not the whole cause of the problem.

I think what bothers me (being a vet myself, I won't repeat the bio as I know it irks some around here) is that this article supposedly highlights a new problem or a problem that has been hidden.

Anyone who has served or have loved ones that served (my Dad pretty much refights Vietnam every night) knows that this problem is not new.

What bugs me is that it is getting attention now when it should have been getting attention during peacetime (like during the 1990s and earlier).

And, frankly, I can't help but think it is being trotted out now for reasons that have nothing to do with helping veterans suffering with PTSD or other health related issues concerning their combat service.

A book worth reading is Stolen Valor by a B. G. Burkett, I believe. He explodes a fair number of the usual veteran stereotypes. Another one is Colonel David Hackworth's About Face, which touches some on PTSD issues as well.

I'm not denying it, Alice. I just feel like it is so much alligator tears.

Respects,
S. F. Murphy
http://sfmurphy.journalspace.com
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Steven Francis Murphy
Posted on Friday, January 27, 2006 - 10:45 am:   

Neal wrote: I wonder if there's a corollation between the troop's perception of whether what they're involved in is just, and PTSD figures afterwards. Probably.

No, it doesn't. PTSD rates are just as high for Gulf War vets.

It is, of course, hard to get accurate measurements of such things among any given veteran community because, well, you are supposed to be a man, suck it up and not talk about it.

At all. Just shut up. If you are still in uniform, you are especially expected to keep your mouth shut and if you do go for help, it will hurt your career.

In fact, the Code of Silence probably did more to kill the people in Richard's cited article more than anything else. Part of that is a military problem, part of it is a cultural problem.

And civilians don't help matters at all.

Respects,
S. F. Murphy
http://sfmurphy.journalspace.com

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Neal Asher
Posted on Friday, January 27, 2006 - 12:16 pm:   

Perhaps then Markandrews post is the most relevant one. I wonder if the percentage of those suffering PTSD is as high in the more professional soldiers - special forces and the like? Then again, that would be difficult to measure since such forces would be involved in actions where they are more likely to encounter the causes of PTSD. I rather suspect a very complicated formula applies, incorporating psychological preparedness (which would be linked to a huge number of factors), how much horror encountered, and genetic predisposition to mental problems (depression and the like), and probably a thousand other things. Definitely not something we'll work out here. It probably all relates back the the hunter-gatherer not being evolved to handle scraping his buddy's guts off his uniform.
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Steven Francis Murphy
Posted on Friday, January 27, 2006 - 12:42 pm:   

I don't have a simple answer to all of the PTSD things, but I know roughly what Col. Hackworth wrote about it.

What Hackworth said, essentially, is that people are like glasses (you know, the Glass Half-full/empty type). Some are bigger, some are smaller, some are cracked and some have holes and so on.

When their glass gets full, meaning they've had their fill, they are through as combat soldiers.

Another good writer to take a look at is Joe Haldeman. You can read his thoughts on the recent Operation Homecoming anthology he is working on for the National Endowment for the Arts at his sff.net newsgroup (look for The Forever War +30 entry). He admits to being somewhat surprised by Iraqi Freedom vets who are saying essentially what Markandrews said.

And to plug a Night Shade product I believe Haldeman has War Stories out in print. I believe they can probably plug his book better than I can.

I might add, Joe is a Nam vet, a peace activist, SF writer, and someone who does truly care all the time about veterans issues. I don't agree with his politics per se, but Joe is good people.

And what he says about the aftermath of war on soldiers is worth paying attention to.

Respects,
S. F. Murphy
http://sfmurphy.journalspace.com
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Sue
Posted on Friday, January 27, 2006 - 05:20 pm:   


quote:

And, frankly, I can't help but think it is being trotted out now for reasons that have nothing to do with helping veterans suffering with PTSD or other health related issues concerning their combat service.




Critics of the war will and do find whatever reason to criticise it, because for them, the price paid to fight the war -- whether it is in terms of casualties, finances, destruction, loss of moral authority, etc.) is too high. If you reject the legal, moral or rational basis for the war, the price paid to conduct it is so much higher -- unacceptably high -- than if you support it.

At least supporters of the war can say, "Well, the price is high but worth it because it was for a just cause, or moral good".

If you don't see the moral good in the war or if you don't agree that there is just cause for it, the price paid becomes all the higher and unacceptable.

If you support the war and believe it is just, you might shrug and say, well PTSD is just the price soldiers pay. It's part of war that can't be completely avoided, but the war was necessary and so we have to accept the consequences. If you don't support the war, PTSD is a needless price that soldiers pay for an unjust (foolhardy, ill-advised, immoral -- take your pick) war.

All the more reason to bring it up and point it out.
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Steven Francis Murphy
Posted on Friday, January 27, 2006 - 06:47 pm:   

Sue (and why do I feel like I'm wasting my time, becuase I probably am) if you were to walk onto a college campus in say, 1995, and tell people there that PTSD was an issue that ought to be addressed, do you know what they'd say?

"Serves the babykiller right." Not, "Let's get those vets some help," or "Gosh, that is terrible," or "Oh, we should do something to highlight that issue."

No, what you'd hear is that most of the students and professors didn't give a shit.

For the record, these were liberals, by the way.

I'm not getting into a support/oppose the war argument. My views are known on the current war. Nor am I making light of the serious issue that PTSD, war injuries, broken families (I fail to see an article on rising divorce rates), domestic violence (I do not see an article on rising rates on that front either) and so on.

There is the war you fight on the battlefield, then there is the one you fight when you come home.

Most civilians, pro or con on the war, generally find themselves something else to focus on when vets come home and need help. In the United States this has been a chronic problem, the sole exception being the decent treatment veterans of World War II got.

That said, I'll say it again. I'm not impressed by the recent highlighting of PTSD among the returning veteran population.

It smacks of political opportunism and alligator tears. Soon as the war is over and the opposition gets what they want, they'll just as rapidly wash their hands of vets in general.

Just as the college types that I highlighted above.

Besides, how many of you have been to a VA Mental Health Clinic? You don't need to be a patient to go to one (though that is how I got there). Here is what you do.

You go to your local hospital (Richard, surely the Brits have an equivalent) and volunteer to serve coffee. Then just roll in and look around.

Better yet, just walk in and sit down. Take a long look around you while you are in there. Maybe even talk to some of the other vets in the waiting room.

Or don't. Just read the newspaper and consider yourself informed when you really aren't.

Respects,
S. F. Murphy
http://sfmurphy.journalspace.com
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Sue
Posted on Friday, January 27, 2006 - 07:47 pm:   

Murphy, I think you have blinkers on about a few things: college coeds and college professors among them.

1. Not all college coeds think vets are "baby killers" just because one or two you ran into think that way.

2. Not all college professors are ignorant assholes trying to impose their ideology on unsuspecting innocents. You may have run into one or three, but not all of them are.

For someone who is supposed to be so bright, you seem unable to avoid the logical fallacy of arguing from the particular to the general -- if one coed calls you a baby killer, they all must think you are one. If one prof jams his perspective down your throat, they all do.

You know that's not true.

You're either really stupid or you are using that stance as a weapon to attack your opponents or garner sympathy even though you know it's not rational or true.

Instead of getting mad at college professors and college coeds, why not turn your anger where it belongs -- at those who send off young men and women to wars for the wrong reasons and at those who cut the budget for the VA in order to fund their pork.

Instead of getting angry at the ignorant average citizen who has never fought a war or been in a VA hospital, why not focus your anger on those who do know about war and do know about the VA and veterans, but still cut the funding for the budget and still send Americans off to die for unjust cause or wholly economic gain of the elite?

Who makes the decision to go to war?

Who makes the decision to cut funding to the VA?

That's where your anger should be focused.

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Jeremy Lassen
Posted on Friday, January 27, 2006 - 11:09 pm:   

Murphy seems pretty happy to focus his anger at anybody who doesn't agree with his narrow little world view, and in particular anybody at the "Night Shades" message board, where he is routinely and horribly persecuted -- or so he constantly claims, both here and in other little online shanty-towns where he and his compatriots whine about their oppression.

He's gone so far as to say he will never buy a book published by Night Shade, because of how horribly he is treated here. Yet he seems to keep coming back for more "abuse."
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Neal Asher
Posted on Saturday, January 28, 2006 - 04:39 am:   

Same old crap. I thought there was a discussion here about PTSD. It seems to have disappeared. But as usual those on BOTH sides of an ideological divide are looking for reasons to get angry. It's depressing. Bye.
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richard
Posted on Saturday, January 28, 2006 - 05:41 am:   

In fact Neal, I was angry (depressed, rather than raging) from the get go. And it's true we've been discussing PTSD, but in all fairness, I pretty clearly introduced the thread as a discussion about the couldn't-give-a-shit blind-male-pride mentality of the right wing political machine when it comes to the latent costs of war. My old mate Murph shows up to provide a perfect working example of the latter half of that mechanism - he's got every reason in the world to be pissed off with said right wing machine, but instead chooses to take out his anger on some twisted vision of hard left n heartless ideologues, and then Sue weighs in with what I have to confess steers closest to my own feelings on the subject. So far, so predictable, maybe, but still entirely appropriate to the thread and no flaming.

I mean, Neal, by all means steer back towards the technicalities of PTSD, it is interesting stuff in its own right, but please don't sign off in a huff claiming the thread's been hijacked, because it hasn't.
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Bob Urell
Posted on Saturday, January 28, 2006 - 08:11 am:   

I think, speaking in terms of American society, that the most alarming trend is the viral progression of PTSD in CIVILIAN populations. Now I'm no Michael Moore fan, but I think he got it just about right in BOWLING FOR COLUMBINE; fear absolutely saturates the American middle-class. This could only predispose our current crop of knuckledragging devil dogs to more of the same. I suspect the incidence of PTSD will be much MORE frequent than what we saw out of Vietnam, if only because the unremitting paranoia here at home is equivalent to the McCarthy era in its scope and magnitude. Soldiers coming home aren't going to have any respite from the stress-factors that have made them vulnerable to PTSD. Worse still, while Vietnam was widely reviled, the 1970s had nothing on the proliferation of information that bombards us today. Not only will the sea-change in public opinion on the war that we're seeing now become the more widely accepted revulsion of Vietnam-era anti-war sentiment, but it will be inescapable and profound in a way never before possible. At least, that's what I think.
By the way, as an aside and as a counter to Mr. Andrews' posted opinion, I am a Persian Gulf veteran, and I have displayed a symptom or two that indicates some degree of undiagnosed PTSD. I volunteered to fight, and had planned on a military career from the age of 12. I volunteered not to collect a paycheck (ludicrous, we figured our hourly wage was something like 25 cents an hour) not to go to college (though I am, some fifteen years out of high school, finally using my GI Bill benefits). I signed up to fight, chose a combat rating that guaranteed I'd be in the middle of any shit that went down on my watch, and served in almost every hotspot on Earth from 1990 to 1996. Not every returning soldier thinks that the past or current military incursions in the Middle East are justified. I don't, and neither do several bright and dedicated young men and women who are just now returning from Iraq -- search out the dozen or so articles on returning vets that are now campaigning for Congress...as anti-war, anti-Bush Democrats. Something to think about, neh?
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Neal Asher
Posted on Saturday, January 28, 2006 - 08:49 am:   

Not a huff, Richard, but boredom. I've read stuff like this ad nauseum on too many boards.
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Neal Asher
Posted on Saturday, January 28, 2006 - 09:09 am:   

Yeah, you're right about your intent in introducing this thread. I foolishly latched onto what I thought the most interesting aspect and tried to ignore the rest, since that seems the only way to extract anything of value from these discussions but bile.
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Lucius
Posted on Saturday, January 28, 2006 - 09:41 am:   

http://cuomo.james.neuf.fr/pennyallen/frhell.htm

Being the testimony of one soldier on PTSD

Penny Allen is a friend who's a filmmaker, living in Paris, who's currently working with this particular soldier, still in Iraq, on a feature documentary about the war.

http://www.midnighteye.com/reviews/little-birds.shtml

I just caught a screener of this Japanese documentary about the other side of the story. If it comes to your town, please try and see it. I thought it was remarkable.
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Sue
Posted on Saturday, January 28, 2006 - 09:58 am:   

Neal, you may be bored with this discussion as it is, and that's your right. A lot of this is material we've all gone over before. Still, I think there's value in this thread even if we did digress a bit from the initial topic, but I admit I may be self-serving in that view.

I think even Murphy's contribution is useful, for if ever there was an example of how war can lead to PTSD, he is it. Sorry Murph, but if you put it out there, it's only fair that we get to discuss it.

I think Murphy in particular, given his family history, was already suffering from PTSD (his anxiety and anger issues) and his war experience probably just amplified it. Having both an abusive father and experiencing sexual abuse as a child -- I mean, if even half of what Murphy relates happened to him as a child is true -- and I believe all of it is true -- you have to be a hero or incredibly resiliant in personality/ego strength to overcome those and function at any level or normality, IMO. To then go to war and face the kind of training and stress of being in active combat in a war zone? And then to come home and not have the kind of medical support you need because of cuts of the VA?

I do understand the source of Murphy's "chip-on-the-shoulder" personality and righteous, if ill-directed, anger. In a way, blaming College Professors, Liberals, flag burners and College Coeds is safer and easier than facing the real source of his problems -- his father, his abuser, the politicians who cut funding for the VA, etc. However, it is a waste of energy because it does nothing to solve the underlying problem, either on a personal level or a larger political level.
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Steven Francis Murphy
Posted on Saturday, January 28, 2006 - 12:31 pm:   

What do you know? You folks here are getting slow. It only took you a full day.

Yes, Jeremy. I did say I wouldn't do business with you. However, I've been purchasing the other books from other outlets by the writers on this board. Neal Asher's Cowl is a great read. I'll be sure to purchase more.

But before I go, I'll respond without getting into the whole politics bit.

Sue wrote: think Murphy in particular, given his family history, was already suffering from PTSD (his anxiety and anger issues) and his war experience probably just amplified it. Having both an abusive father and experiencing sexual abuse as a child -- I mean, if even half of what Murphy relates happened to him as a child is true -- and I believe all of it is true -- you have to be a hero or incredibly resiliant in personality/ego strength to overcome those and function at any level or normality, IMO. To then go to war and face the kind of training and stress of being in active combat in a war zone? And then to come home and not have the kind of medical support you need because of cuts of the VA?

What Sue is getting at is pretty much what I've been saying. Soldiers aren't pod people. Many have problems, just like civvies do, long before they raise their right hand. And more than a few kill themselves in times of peace just from stress of everyday garrison military life, just like in the civilian world.

That was the point I was trying to make. I'm merely surprised that Sue got it. Pleasntly surprised even.

Per who I'm pissed at and why, what has been said (and I did purposely avoid the usual autobio because I know it is so much sand in tender places to some) is half true.

I was a Democrat during the bulk of my service, in someways, I still retain those liberal leanings, depending on the issue. Even Richard will have to admit (per his previous venture over to Asimov's on politics) that my views don't quite neatly fit into one ideological box.

I was perfectly fine and coping during the bulk of my time on active duty. It wasn't until I got home and started college that I started to have problems.

Where a fellow soldier might at least be tolerant and give you someone with common reference to discuss things with, a fellow college student with no military experience or a professor, seemed content only to hammer on someone whose only real crime was to be unrepentant about the fact that, "Well shit, I accomplished something for the first time in my life. I got through the Army, didn't get killed in a war, got money for college, and the Army even thinks I might still have some value."

The students and profs used the usual "soldiers are monsters" mantra. They didn't exhibit at the time any of what Richard is upset about (though lately I've heard similar commentary in my current courses, often from the same people, which is why it is so much eyewash now).

At the end of the day, it wasn't active duty that broke me, or the Army National Guard (though I had to non-coms that didn't help thigns).

It was a fair amount of undeserved abuse in college at a time when the last thing I needed was a lot of crap about things I didn't do as a soldier.

So here I am. I vote Right of Center mainly because I'm pissed. I've got Right of Center views on Foreign policy and military strength but then, I had those views when I was a Democrat (yeah, no shit, folks).

I didn't change. The Left changed.

In any event, my original point stands. Plenty of us veterans manage to muddle through life, coping with our demons without resorting to climbing bell towers (I get that one a lot) using violence in our relationships (never do that) or shooting ourselves in the face with a twelve gauge.

Just like plenty of civvies manage to muddle through their lives without killing themselves inspite of having had hard lives.

That was my original point.

Sue, for the record, the Army gave me the self discipline to control my anger enough to keep me from having a criminal record, get through to a Masters Degree (it is my fault I picked the wrong program, no one elses), and accomplish a fair number of other things.

If I resent getting bashed on by people about my military experiences, it is mainly because without them, I'd probably have done myself in a long, long time ago.

Why, it might even be that same self discipline derived from the military that gets me in print (though I'm supposedly a wannabe).

I'll follow Neal's lead and leave you all too it. This former Radioteletypist/Commo Dog/Infantryman (I've got the paperwork to prove all of it) has other things to tend to.

TTFN.
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Steven Francis Murphy
Posted on Saturday, January 28, 2006 - 12:36 pm:   

Last point.

Sue wrote: Who makes the decision to cut funding to the VA?

The Dems did a fair amount of VA budget cutting in the 1990s. A friend of mine at the VA lost his job when Al Gore came along with one of his budget cutting plans.

Neither political party is a friend of the veteran, Sue. I hold no illusions that putting Dems back into full power will change things. I still remember Hillary promising to do all she could for GWS afflicted vets.

One speech and then nothing.

Problem is, many see the issue as an either/or on the politics side.

They are both to blame. I keep voting Right because I keep hoping the Dems will get someone closer to Truman in terms of military and foreign policy views. Instead, we keep getting Kerry and Dean.

Just like Jeremy getting my business, I've made it pretty clear what the Dems need to do to get my votes back.

It isn't my problem if they can't meet my requirements.
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anon
Posted on Saturday, January 28, 2006 - 01:03 pm:   

It's worth considering also the various factors that might contribute to PTSD, aside from the exposure to danger or seeing first-hand the horrific consequences of modern weaponry. I have a relative in the british army who was in Iraq for the initial invasion. He had some pretty disturbing experiences but, strangely, the thing that disturbed him the most was the poverty he saw and the terrible conditions that people were living in (due largely to the sanctions formerly imposed against Iraq).

As far as I know he hasn't suffered a great deal since being there and seems to have coped pretty well, though he does appear to carry an abiding sorrow about him, more for the Iraqi people than for himself. I think it's natural that when we see other people much worse off than ourselves we tend often to react with a feeling of guilt. I'd imagine a lot of troops, jounralists, aid workers and so on who have experienced war situations would find that a difficult thing to cope with and that it must weigh pretty heavily alongside other traumas. My apologies for posting anonymously, by the way, but for the sake of discretion and all that.

As regards the initial topic of this thread, I think it's immensely important that these arguments never cease. There are people who initiated this war who must be held accountable for actions which, so far as I can see, have never been accounted for. The danger is that if we allow this war to become ignored, it will become tolerated beyond the point of accountability. I understand Neal being fed up with these arguments that very often go round in circles, but I want answers. So I think it's vitally important that Richard and others start threads like this. Yes, it's a way of letting off steam and can, as Neal says, get tiresome, but it goes beyond that. I, for one, would like to have answers as to why Douglas Barber was put in a situation that has led him to take his own life. And I'm glad that Richard drew our attention to the plight of yet another victim of this immensely dubious enterprise.






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Lucius
Posted on Saturday, January 28, 2006 - 01:03 pm:   

Murphy, On another thread you were getting on me for portraying soldiers as damaged, and here you are now, pleading for an advocacy for PTSD, talking about the damage you've endured.

I sure this post will generate some clever (by your lights) response, but the salient point is, you can't help but hit something when you fire from both sides.
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richard
Posted on Saturday, January 28, 2006 - 01:33 pm:   

>>I foolishly latched onto what I thought the most interesting aspect and tried to ignore the rest, since that seems the only way to extract anything of value from these discussions but bile.<<

Neal - like it or not, you. are. huffing. :-)

Question for anyone who can shed light on it, one way or the other - HAS there been any coverage of Barber's suicide in the US press?
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Lucius
Posted on Saturday, January 28, 2006 - 01:43 pm:   

It got some mileage on Air America, but I haven't seen/heard anything else.
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Steven Francis Murphy
Posted on Saturday, January 28, 2006 - 05:14 pm:   

Lucius, I remember the comments. I do not recall, during those comments, that I said anything to minimize PTSD.

I think what I said was that the particular soldier seemed like a Vietnam Era flashback with the ocular misters. The soldier (set in Iraq) didn't mesh up with what I'd seen among soldiers during my service period (89 to 95) or those that I know who are currently in.

I think I also said that they managed to catch the guy that they said they wouldn't catch.

But, and I could be wrong, I did not make any comments to minimize the effects, nor am I making any such comments now.

What I said is that I have a difficult time believing in the sincerity of the current outcry.

Richard, anytime anyone pops themselves or shoots their spouse in the Kansas City area, it receives extensive coverage.

On another front, closer to Lucius's story (here, I'll help blow a hole in my previous assertion two years ago) the local Pitch Weekly had a feature article concerning meth use among active duty soldiers.

http://www.pitch.com/Issues/2006-01-19/news/feature.html

Umm, a correction. The unit the writer is probably referring to is 1-41st Infantry (that is First Battalion, 41st Infantry Regiment, 1st Armored Division) not the "41st Division."

That said, I've got two or three stories I can tell about soldiers gone bad.

Or you can do a google search for Kenneth Markle. I believe Rolling Stone still has that incident in their archives.

Anyway, beer and bbq pork chops await.

Respects,
S. F. Murphy
http://sfmurphy.journalspace.com
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Sue
Posted on Saturday, January 28, 2006 - 07:15 pm:   

I did a quick google news on the soldier and came up with 9 news stories, none of which looked to be from a major news agency in America. That doesn't surprise me -- we weren't allowed to see flag-draped coffins on the nightly news, we werent' shown civilian casualties that weren't being counted, so why would we hear a lot about the fate of the soldiers when they came home? There is quite a fear of appearing to be critical of the war for doing so is to "give comfort to the enemy" and "not support our troops".

Some people will go to war and find it to be the best time of their lives. Seriously -- in research for a novel, I've read journals of men in WWI who found their time in battle as the best of times and life-changing. Others never spoke of their time in war, preferring to put it behind them. Still others were deeply traumatized by it and a few who even distinguished themselves in battle and were medalled committed suicide. People are all different and respond to the stress and trauma of war in their own ways. Some were not mentally or psychically strong enough to withstand it while others were and felt no obvious lasting trauma.

Still, in order to turn the average peaceful civilian into a order-taking soldier willing to go into battle and kill other humans, you have to break them down and build them back up through a very rigorous system of training and indoctrination. While I know this will get me in trouble, I'll say it anyway -- that can't be good for a person in general, me thinks, and it can't be good for a society as a whole to have a lot of them running around. Many of the veterans I've read about find it really hard to adjust to life back home -- the quiet, the order, the isolation from other vets. It must be even harder if the society and if the soldier himself starts to question the legitimacy of the war. While every person is ultimately responsible for their own actions, how hard must it be to go to war believing in the moral basis for it, the justice of it, the real need for it, and then to find out later it was not so moral or just or necessary?

Of course, those who ordered the war, those who made the decision to go to war, are unscathed -- as they usually are.
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Neal Asher
Posted on Sunday, January 29, 2006 - 09:08 am:   

Oh alright, I'll grudgingly admit to huffing. And I do agree with anon above about these things needing to be aired, but in these discussions it seems opinions only become more entrenched and the contenders merely sharpen themselves on each other. I guess the benefit is for the others who read them, maybe.
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odserver
Posted on Sunday, January 29, 2006 - 10:26 am:   

Not that facts should ever get in the way of discussion, but here's a source for current thinking on PTSD:

http://www.ncptsd.va.gov/facts/general/fs_what_is_ptsd.html
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Steven Francis Murphy
Posted on Sunday, January 29, 2006 - 11:56 am:   

Hmm, I think I might have said something to this effect earlier.

Who is most likely to develop PTSD?

1. Those who experience greater stressor magnitude and intensity, unpredictability, uncontrollability, sexual (as opposed to nonsexual) victimization, real or perceived responsibility, and betrayal

2. Those with prior vulnerability factors such as genetics, early age of onset and longer-lasting childhood trauma, lack of functional social support, and concurrent stressful life events

3. Those who report greater perceived threat or danger, suffering, upset, terror, and horror or fear

4. Those with a social environment that produces shame, guilt, stigmatization, or self-hatred.


What do you know. I come back home from the Army after picking up most of the first three and run smack into number four.

Hmm.

I think I'll be more impressed with this discussion when I see these factors translate into SF characters and their actions. With few exceptions, it tends to be pretty stereotypical, regardless of the ideological bent of the writer.
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Sue
Posted on Sunday, January 29, 2006 - 05:22 pm:   

Bob U -- picking up on what you wrote above, yes, PTSD is quite high in the US, which "Columbine" showed quite well. Even "Fahrenheit 9/11" did -- the scene when the car mechanics are standing around talking about how in Rappahannock or Tappannahock, you couldn't trust anyone but your neighbor, and not even them because terrorists were everywhere and anywhere.

I think studies showed that after 9/11, people reported a lot more depression and anxiety than prior to it. I know that in the 6 months immediately following 9/11, I stopped taking the subway (I lived in Toronto Canada) and took the streetcars and busses instead. There was a sense of invulnerability in America (and Canada for that matter) prior to 9/11. Terrorism is what happens over "there" -- wherever "there" might be. 9/11 was a horrific event and we all watched endless repeats of the planes crashing, the towers falling, etc. That led to a kind of mass PTSD among the viewing public, esp. among those who are perhaps more prone to it because of experience or heredity.

More importantly, IMO, it also primed citizens to be willing to go see their civil liberties constrained and to submit to a more powerful president when he said he had to go to war against a foe, even if the evidence that the foe was really responsible for 9/11 was dodgy -- just for the sake of feeling like "something" was being done.

I would also say that the average citizen does not have the knowledge or skills to be able to evaluate how their government was handling the threat. This is also perhaps why the polls show that people are not as critical of Bush Co.'s wiretapping escapade as they might be in peacetime. When people are fearful or traumatized, they will respond to a big powerful-appearing "father figure" and will accept more restrictions on their personal freedoms in order to be safe. That is a scary thought, especially if one has read anything about the "authoritarian personality" and where it leads ...

9/11 provided, in my view, an excuse for the Bush Admin to go in and do a little cleaning up of the Persian Gulf that it had been planning to get to come the right opportunity. As Bob Woodward reports in his book, Plan of Attack, on September 12, 2001, Rumsfeld asked if the attacks didn't offer the "opportunity to launch against Iraq".
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Anna Feruglio Dal Dan
Posted on Thursday, February 02, 2006 - 07:16 am:   

Once upon a time I was researching PTSD, and hands down the best book I read about it is "An Intimate History of Killing", by one Joanna Bourke. Well, it's not so much about PTDS as about the act of killing in war, its consequences, fascination, problems, etc. It's very much a historian's book, mostly drawn from first-source materials like diaries, letters, official reports, and so on. It is revolting, chilling and surprising, and I found it far superior to most material on the subject.

Among other things it reminds of unpleasant realities like the fact that people (men AND women, regardless of pious illusions that they are "better") can actively like killing, even when they are morally and ideologically revolted by it (although interestingly, they hate the enemy most in direct proportion to their distance from the front), and that Lt. Calley enjoyed a huge popularity in his time. The chapter of the role of medical professionals and chaplains in "assisting" people traumatized by killing (done by them or to theirs) is pretty haunting too - both mostly have shown very little compunction in sending them back to the front first and worrying about their own welfare a very, very distant second.

It's not a personal experience book, and this makes it pretty cold but no less angry.

All in all quite a depressing book, but I keep recommending it.
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richard
Posted on Friday, February 03, 2006 - 07:46 pm:   

thanks for this Anne - will look it up
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richard
Posted on Friday, February 03, 2006 - 07:46 pm:   

Anna - sorry, feeling a bit fried right now
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SpinBoldak
Posted on Sunday, May 28, 2006 - 08:55 am:   

The average American of 2006 doesn't give a doodly-squat about today's troops or returning vets. To them, they are babykillers and deserving of spit.
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William Lexner
Posted on Friday, June 16, 2006 - 10:53 pm:   

I was diagnosed with PTSD in 1999. Always seemed like a 'pussy' disorder, something that just could not affect Marines. Counselling was an even worse prospect. I was 'too much a man' for that shit. Heh.

These days I'm mortally terrified to drive a car. Without medication, I simply would not leave my apartment. With medication, well, there are side effects that make me feel the eunuch sometimes. I don't sleep much. I'm pretty much scared all the time.

And I don't even have a 'real' war to blame. Just Somalia and Bosnia, Central African Republic and Liberia.

I don't have much to add to the discussion. I'm not Murphy, and I'm not insinuating that I'm some war hero or that I know everything there is to know about all things military. I'm just a 31yr old man that hasn't had a good nights sleep in almost a decade. And I'm scared. I'm scared all the time.
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richard morgan
Posted on Saturday, June 17, 2006 - 10:15 am:   

I think Somalia, Bosnia et al qualify as pretty real for those who were there. For what it's worth, William, my sympathies and best wishes.
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William Lexner
Posted on Saturday, June 17, 2006 - 04:05 pm:   

Hey man, no need for sympathies, just sharing. I took the train from Boston to New York to go to your signing last year, so I must be doing better. :-)

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