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Ethics, mental health, reviewed
May 5, 2007 2:01 AM   Subscribe

Pentagon survey on troops in Iraq. Coverage from US News, AP.
posted by ClaudiaCenter (25 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
Doesn't take a brain surgeon to recognize it's better for one's mental health to be at home than in a warzone.
posted by paintist at 2:28 AM on May 5, 2007


I'm impressed by how frank some of the respondents have been -- of course some of them lied anyway, it's human so this survey takes care once and for all of the "we're here to help the unruly Ayrabs" argument. They deeply despise the Iraqis and think it's OK to mistreat them unnecessarily -- and then brag about it in official surveys. It's impressively thuggish behavior, but then when the entire military effort is a war crime one cannot really expect honor -- thugs are the perfect tools to carry out a war crime, honorable soldiers would have a problem with the Iraqi invasion and occupation to begin with.

It's also impressive that they admit there's a code of silence to cover up other people's crimes -- so that, of course, others will cover up yours. Which, frankly, goes against the grain of what I am sure is taught to these people during training.

Anyway don't worry about their return to life back home -- a nice majority of them seems ready to serve in the NYPD -- just give them a gun and a toilet plunger and they'll be ready to go.
posted by matteo at 2:39 AM on May 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


The survey results are stark, dark, unsurprising. Notable items include: the psychic impact of the redeployments and (long) terms of duty, the role of leadership in exacerbating or ameliorating MH problems; high rates of (reported) ethical violations; and a clear connection between combat experiences and increased ethical violations.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 3:07 AM on May 5, 2007


Not surprising by any means, but still depressing. And it will only get worse the longer this drags on. And those kids will have some severe readjustment issues to deal with when they finally come home.
posted by kram175 at 4:02 AM on May 5, 2007


"Torture should be allowed to gather important info about insurgents:" 39% of Marines and 36% of soldiers strongly agree.

In other news:

Jamil has never seen his youngest daughter who was born after he was arrested in the Gambia. I have see letters from Jamil's youngest children on my visits to Guantánamo, one-page letters that are heavily redacted by military censors. What is the offending language that the military has seen fit to redact? Language like "Daddy, I love you" and "Daddy, I miss you." How do I know? Because on my instructions, Jamil's wife has saved copies of the letters her children sent. The father of another prisoner, David Hicks, reports that similar language was blacked in his letters to his son. It is all part of a deliberate effort to weaken and destroy prisoners psychologically.

This administration's done horrific damage to the honor of our military. I don't know that it's going to be possible to rebuild what they've destroyed.
posted by EarBucket at 4:08 AM on May 5, 2007


"Torture should be allowed to gather important info about insurgents:" 39% of Marines and 36% of soldiers strongly agree.


"My God... the genius of that. The genius. The will to do that. Perfect, genuine, complete, crystalline, pure.

And then I realized they were stronger than we. Because they could stand that these were not monsters. These were men... trained cadres. These men who fought with their hearts, who had families, who had children, who were filled with love... but they had the strength... the strength... to do that.

If I had ten divisions of those men our troubles here would be over very quickly. You have to have men who are moral... and at the same time who are able to utilize their primordial instincts to kill without feeling... without passion... without judgment... without judgment.

Because it's judgment that defeats us. "
posted by Avenger at 5:44 AM on May 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


More evidence for the case that war is to be blamed on the combatants willing to fight it. The politicians who send them there have only ancillary blame.
posted by Burhanistan at 5:58 AM on May 5, 2007


Only 47 percent of the soldiers and 38 percent of Marines said noncombatants should be treated with dignity and respect.

Once again, I need to ask: What, exactly, is our mission there? With whom are we at war?
posted by leftcoastbob at 6:38 AM on May 5, 2007


What, exactly, is our mission there?
President Bush: "Success is a level of violence where the people feel comfortable about living their daily lives."

With whom are we at war?
Al Qaeda, if you believe President Bush: "The same bunch that is causing havoc in Iraq were the ones who came and murdered our citizens." (In January "the surge" was supposed to stop sectarian violence.)
posted by kirkaracha at 7:15 AM on May 5, 2007


Once again, I need to ask: What, exactly, is our mission there? With whom are we at war? Thanks leftcoastbob
posted by jaronson at 7:20 AM on May 5, 2007


If the goal is "...a level of violence where the people feel comfortable about living their daily lives," perhaps an occupying force which believes that those people have no right to be treated with dignity and respect (not to mention the right to be torture-free) is not the way to go about it.
posted by leftcoastbob at 8:21 AM on May 5, 2007


I love George Bush. If only he could be president forever.
posted by notreally at 9:01 AM on May 5, 2007


Actually I have a bad feeling about George Bush. I can't quite put my finger on it but there's something about him I don't like.
posted by thirteenkiller at 10:02 AM on May 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


I just realize that the latest military strategy was doomed to failure from the start and the administration knew it. That's why they called it "The Serge'.
posted by srboisvert at 10:48 AM on May 5, 2007


The Serge
posted by kirkaracha at 11:05 AM on May 5, 2007


It's impressively thuggish behavior, but then when the entire military effort is a war crime one cannot really expect honor -- thugs are the perfect tools to carry out a war crime, honorable soldiers would have a problem with the Iraqi invasion and occupation to begin with.

Well, how do you expect them to react when you've got statistics like this?

Knew someone seriously injured or killed: 60+%
Having a member of your own unit become a casualty: 50+%
Seeing dead or seriously injured Americans: 40+%
Being directly responsible for the death of an enemy combatant: barely 10+%

If there ever was a recipe for extreme frustration and mental health problems in soldiers, that is it. "Hey, you, go stand around in the heat for 6 months while all your friends randomly die in front of your eyes. We've built up an entire culture of hate for the country you're in, too, so I hope you like constant mistrust! And by the way, you're not supposed to hurt anybody, so don't shoot!" Of course they abuse people when they finally get the chance. If it were me, I'd probably abuse people. If there's anything remarkable about this survey, it's that so many soldiers refuse to abuse people, even given a military culture and tactical situation that practically begs for it.

I'm not a big fan of the modern military, but even I have to admit that it doesn't take "thuggery" to react in a violent, awful manner to a prolonged, violent, and awful situation. This survey makes it very clear that certain factors make abuses more likely: long deployment times, having a high anger quotient, handling dead bodies, watching your friends die. If you really want honourable soldiers, the obvious solution is to work on reducing these factors. Going on yet again about intangibles like honour and duty and thuggery does not work -- more than 80% of the soldiers surveyed got the lecture, so what does that tell you about how effective it is?
posted by vorfeed at 11:06 AM on May 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


Going on yet again about intangibles like honour and duty

intangibles? intangibles? they're not just words, they're the point of military service itself -- without them, all you're left with is a bunch of Lynndie Englands, or worse. if you think some asshole Marine beats a random civilian up, or worse, just for the fuck of it, and his buddies cover that up, and it's just George W Bush's fault, well, then get a law degree because it's the argument the lawyers of the Abu Ghraib torturers used -- you can find yourself some clients pulling that kind of crap.

honor and duty are what makes the difference between a soldier and a thug with a rifle and uniform -- or between a real policeman and one of the criminals in a uniform who beat the fuck out of Rodney King. since Homeric times, a soldier without honor and with no perception of duty is just a murderer, or a potential one.

we need to be clear -- the George W Bushes and Donald Rumsfelds and Darryl Gateses and Rudy Giulianis of the world can give the wrong, even illegal, orders, and can create an environment where criminal behavior by soldiers or policemen is accepted -- but in order to commit a war crime or savagely beat a black guy who walked down the wrong street at the wrong time you need someone on the field or on the street to carry out an illegal act. there is political and legal responsibility at the top, obviously. but there is the responsibility of the ones who carry out the illegal acts -- it's history's, and Nuremberg's -- lesson
posted by matteo at 11:23 AM on May 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


With whom are we at war?

Ourselves (as usual . . . )
posted by flug at 11:48 AM on May 5, 2007


Deployed troops battle for custody of children
posted by taosbat at 12:42 PM on May 5, 2007


intangibles? intangibles?

Yes. That's what we call things with no readily observable form.

if you think some asshole Marine beats a random civilian up, or worse, just for the fuck of it, and his buddies cover that up, and it's just George W Bush's fault

That's not what I said. Of course individual soldiers bear the fault for what they do. That's not under question. However, if we want to prevent these abuses, we should acknowledge that faulting individual soldiers on the basis of honor/duty/whatever isn't working. These guys get the lectures, they get the speeches, and then they abuse. Clearly, the lectures and speeches and appeals to honour aren't enough, so maybe we should actually pay attention to what these surveys imply about the tangible triggers of abuse.

Curse me for a pragmatist, I guess, but I seems to me that variables like dead body detail, long deployment, and blown-up buddies are a tad more quantifiable than "honor", and thus a lot easier to change.
posted by vorfeed at 1:07 PM on May 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


However, if we want to prevent these abuses, we should acknowledge that faulting individual soldiers on the basis of honor/duty/whatever isn't working
Solve the chain of command issue, and then complain to us about that.
posted by Aidan Kehoe at 2:58 PM on May 5, 2007


Forty-four percent of Marines and 41 percent of soldiers said torture should be allowed to save the life of a soldier or Marine.

A grunt in the field rarely thinks about politics. It's all about saving himself and saving his buddies. So, it's completely unsurprising that a soldier would torture if he thought it would save his buddies. That's not being evil, that's being human. What's surprising to me is that that particular number is so low. I honestly would've expected a much higher rate of response to how this question is specifically worded.

But that's the opinion of a soldier in the field. The conduct of his leaders, and the administration of justice from those leaders to the men and women below them, is another matter entirely. And torture has neither a place in the policy nor in the foxholes.
posted by frogan at 4:19 PM on May 5, 2007


I work as a nurse in an acute forensic hospital.
I don't know the exact number but I am sure at least half of our patients are Vietnam Vets although I think the number may be higher. They come to us because they have a history of drug abuse and violence.
A main topic of discussion at work is, where are we going to put all the soldiers who come back and need to be institutionalized for mental illness? Job security, hahaha. Seriously, they don't make meds, there is no good treatment, for PTSD. It creeps up on the soldiers who return and deny what they've been through or self-medicate. They don't make a pill to erase memory.
My daughter's BF is a Marine who has been there and back, and may go again. I can see the pain behind his eyes, the anger and frustration he hides. I've spoken to him and he states "I'll never have PTSD. I don't drink, do drugs, I'm over it". He's already hypervigilant and paranoid, has nightmares, wakes with a start.
These kids from 16ish to 25 are all in a glum mindset. It's amazing how different their attitudes are about life than us boomers, or even Gen Xers.
I don't blame anyone. Humanity in general is amazing in it's ability to mass together to do harm. It's all of us, we're all the problem.
posted by bkiddo at 6:03 PM on May 5, 2007


.
posted by buzzman at 6:28 PM on May 5, 2007


American people have a "support the troops" mentality, 180 degrees the opposite of what it was eight years into the Vietnam war. I wonder if in about 3 more years, after many more reports like this come out, the American public will turn against the soldiers in the same way as happened in the late sixties. Then the frisson between the "rightness" of what soldiers believed they were doing and the general consensus back home will cause them even more distress/mental health issues. Tough for them, but there is a degree of karma involved too. The worse your personal conduct was in the war, the more you will be conflicted about it when your thining clears and you realise your actions were the exact opposite of noble, they were evil.
posted by dydecker at 10:59 AM on May 6, 2007


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