Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Ticking Time Bomb

There is a story taking place in America that is being buried by the media, the armed forces, and the politicians. This story is so frightening that no one wants to address it or even talk about it. This story has the potential to bring more violence to the streets of America than any terrorist attack. The frightening tale that is being ignored is the fact that we have ticking time bombs within our midst. They do not belong to al Qaeda or any other shady terrorist cell, they will not be profiled because they don’t have Mid-Eastern ancestry, nor are they Muslim extremists. These ticking time bombs are our own sons, daughters, fathers, and brothers. They are the returning soldiers from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Just like everything else in these wars the brunt of the fighting has fallen on a very small group of individuals and their numbers are shrinking. These unfortunate few have been forced to fight this war on an almost constant deployment. No sooner than they arrive home, they are redeployed back to the war zone. Many are unable to retire or discharge themselves from their respective services due to stopgap measures instituted by the White House and the services designed to keep those shrinking numbers on a constant rotation. Because we have never fought a war like this one no one knows the consequences of placing these young men and women in this state of constant fear and agitation. Whenever there is any clinical evidence concerning the stress levels of returning service people it is buried.

I have often wondered why with so many Americans against this war there isn’t a stronger outpouring of protest and outrage. Then I am reminded of how the warrior sheep have framed and prosecuted this war. Short of the relatively small number of families being asked to prosecute this war, the rest of us have had to make little if any sacrifices. The warrior sheep have placed the cost of the war on future generations. They are satisfied with using a dwindling volunteer force, a rogue mercenary army staffed by US security firms, and proxy forces from countries who cannot enforce the rule of law in their own nations, so there is no draft. We still have plenty of commodities albeit more expensive than before the war, but there are no shortages and rationing. So honestly what is this war costing us?

The study found troops in the unit reported low morale, spousal abuse and attempted suicides. And yet, troops had to wait up to two months for an appointment with a mental health expert once they returned, it said.

A separate report by the Army released earlier this month found that soldiers on their third or fourth combat deployment were at particular risk of suffering mental health problems.

Major General Gale Pollock, the Army's deputy surgeon general, said the results simply "show the effects of a long war."

A similar report by the Army's Mental Health Advisory Team released in 2007 found that 28 percent of soldiers who had been in high-intensity combat were experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder, or acute stress.[1]

What is disconcerting about these numbers is that they keep rising. The original studies concerning PTSD in returning Iraqi veterans placed the numbers at 1 in 12, now they are at 1 in 4. The numbers are rising not due to the nature of the conflict but due to the continued policy of longer and more repeated deployments. Or as the General in the study called it, “the results of a long war”. Eventually what is going to happen is that these ticking time bombs are going to begin to explode. They are not getting the psychological treatment they deserve and need and at some point they are going to break. Humans can only take so much stress and trauma before we psychologically break.

For those too young to know the term “going postal” came into existence because of a large number of veterans given jobs at the Postal Service for their years of service and sacrifice for their country began to break with reality and began killing supervisors and customers. I believe that if these psychological issues are not addressed soon we are going to see a level of violence unprecedented in American history. We are already seeing the number of suicides rise among these veterans, eventually that violence will be turned away from themselves and towards society. The thing about the false patriots in this country is that they are only patriotic at others expense, they have put nothing in place to deal with the trauma they have helped to create. This type of phenomenon happens over the course of years, it was years after Vietnam that the “postal” veterans began striking.

The scary thing about all of this is that you will not know when or where it is going to happen. That fine young man sitting next to you at Starbucks could be just waiting to open up his coat and unleash a barrage of death and destruction. The randomness of it will be what makes it so frightening. And of course our warrior sheep will blame everything but the war for these homegrown suicidal killers. These will be the terrorists created by the war on terror. How ironic. Because we don’t fully understand or can predict the causes and extent of the damage of these PTSD sufferers isolating or tracking them will be next to impossible. We have no conclusive evidence of what causes or who suffers from these horrors of war. But make no mistake in the end we will all suffer as innocents begin to be slaughtered by war heroes.

But given her research, and the study in this week's New England Journal, it's clear that brain injuries don't have to be massive to cause significant emotional and mental problems, and that "shell shock," as it used to be called, may be caused by physical injury or, in turn, cause physical symptoms — it's not just a reaction to the horrors of war. And if that's the case, better and earlier medical and psychological intervention, along with better protective armor that shields the body as well as the head, could make life after combat a lot easier to endure.[2]

Remember just because the story is being buried doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. One of the most repugnant aspects of the Neo-Con mindset is that they believe if they ignore or deny something enough then it doesn’t exist or by the same token if they say something enough then it does exist. The question is then, “If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around does it make a sound? I guess depending on how you answer that question will determine your depth of knowledge concerning this storm on the horizon. Do we honestly think we can bring home all of these psychologically scarred people and there not be any fallout? I guess it is just considered more collateral damage. We haven’t even begun to study the mercenary armies of the security firms. What skeletons are going to come falling out of that closet is anybody’s guess. We have already begun to see the mental cases they have under arms and in charge.

Tick, Tick, Tick…



Anonymous said...

God bless you Rodney and thanks for this important story - you seem like a nice man, doing God's work.

JustPlainDave said...

To my mind, the missing piece here would be the linkage between societal reaction to returning soldiers and PTSD. You might wish to take a look at Dave Grossman's work - to briefly summarize [i.e., grossly simplify], he asserts that soldiers who believe their cause is morally just and believe themselves to be part of a society that agrees with the morality of their cause, are to some extent protected against PTSD. The swirl of moral opprobrium against this conflict pretty much guarantees that many soldiers will not benefit of this protection. I would submit that in addition to the toll of longer and more frequent deployments, we should also inquire as to the role of increasing public opinion against the war.

If the ultimate aim is to reduce the incidence of PTSD among returning soldiers (or at least the effects of PTSD), I would submit that we must not overtly characterize these folks as "ticking time bombs" - I can think of no other notion that will more efficiently cut these folks off from broader American society and deny them social supports that could help mitigate the effects of any psychological traumas they may have suffered. said...

Hello there!! {waves}

Thank you for bringing attention to this issue on your blog!

I just discovered your blog today and I see that you are focusing on pertinent issues and are not taking a cursory view at serious issues (as many bloggers tend to do)!! I commend you for your careful observations!

Peace, blessings and DUNAMIS!

You are welcome to visit my blog and share your perspectives at any time! The door is always open!

Forgiven said...


While I understand and sympathize with the idea that public reaction can adversely effect or increase the effects of PTSD, however I find your solution to the problem more dangerous the ailment. In a free society we must never allow our fears to be used to silence us.

It is precisely this attitude that the warrior sheep have used to squelch dissension against this illegal occupation that is creating the PTSD in the first place...

I would like to thank everyone who has commented. I believe this issue will be one that will resonate with us for years to come.

JustPlainDave said...

How does it logically follow that not overtly characterizing returning veterans as ticking timebombs squelches dissent against the occupation? There are many, many cogent arguments to be made against this occupation that do not resort to such a sweeping and potentially counter-productive characterization. Jus ad bellum and jus in bello are distinct concepts for a reason.

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