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When combat ends, but killing doesn't
January 14, 2008 8:40 AM   Subscribe

War Torn: kickoff of the New York Times' penetrating new series investigating the violence that comes home when our soldiers do.
posted by hermitosis (58 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
Normally I wouldn't post something from the front page of the Times, but this article was too good and too exhaustive to let slip by. Besides, any cover story of the Times that isn't about the 2008 election is somewhat notable anyway.
posted by hermitosis at 8:40 AM on January 14, 2008


Wow, what a compelling lead! And isn't it lucky they found a local homicide detective who's also been to Falluja and could therefore base her assessment on a full and complete analysis of the respective settings?

So now what? All the NYT wannabes start dusting off their old psycho Vietnam vet articles and running "Da Nang" through a "search and replace" with "Baghdad"?

“Matthew knew he shouldn’t be taking his AK-47 to the 7-Eleven...” Give me a beeping break.
posted by Mike D at 8:54 AM on January 14, 2008


Excellent post! Quite an extensive review of a very troubling phenomena.

Here in Minnesota there was a story not too long ago of a vet involved in some shootings, a low speed chase, and ultimately his death at the hands of the police.

I'm afraid we're all going to be seeing with incidents like this for a long time to come.
posted by localhuman at 9:06 AM on January 14, 2008


So people trained to kill other people tend to kill other people? Y'know, I never woulda thought that, cuz I was taught algebra back in high school and nowadays I avoid that whenever possible.

Violence begets violence. Anyone who says otherwise is trying to sell you something. This is not news. This is sensationalism in its rudest form.
posted by ZachsMind at 9:10 AM on January 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


Zach, the point of the article is mainly that these people are inadequately cared for by the government upon their re-entry into society. The research done by the Times for this article is research the government isn't doing. So not only is this news, it's a cry for help from the civilian populace that bears the burden of picking up this slack, and dealing with its consequences.
posted by hermitosis at 9:16 AM on January 14, 2008 [4 favorites]


Hermitosis, The New York Times is not a charity organization behaving in the best interests of the general public. It's a commercial publication that embraces sensational journalism in order to improve its profit margin.
posted by ZachsMind at 9:19 AM on January 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


RTFA
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 9:22 AM on January 14, 2008


I don't suppose anyone would care to read an opposing opinion?

A little inconvenient truth: returning veterans seem to have a lower incidence of this kind of violent crime than comparable men and women who didn't go overseas.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 9:24 AM on January 14, 2008


Hermitosis, The New York Times is not a charity organization behaving in the best interests of the general public. It's a commercial publication that embraces sensational journalism in order to improve its profit margin.

This is idiotic. NYT is not, by most normal definitions, a sensationalist publication. And if you can point me to any real newspaper that is not a commercial publication, I'd love to see it. And how in the hell is this not news?
posted by kittens for breakfast at 9:26 AM on January 14, 2008


To Steven C. Den Beste:
How cheeky is to dispute the problem most of veteran’s families struggle on daily basis. The problem is old as humankind and should not come as surprise.
Trying to involve politics into this is pathetic..
posted by wyspa03 at 9:32 AM on January 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


SCDB, the research conducted by "Armed Liberal" on the fly (on the same day the Times article came out) seems a little iffy. But just because it's convenient to "Armed Liberal" doesn't make it incovenient or true for the rest of us.
posted by hermitosis at 9:35 AM on January 14, 2008


an opposing opinion

Just because an opinion is in opposition to a given thesis does not make it equally valid.
posted by psmealey at 9:35 AM on January 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


Morality and Wingnuts
posted by homunculus at 9:44 AM on January 14, 2008


So people trained to kill other people tend to kill other people? Y'know, I never woulda thought that...

The thing is, ZachsMind, the true religious fundamentalist won't do this. He'll kill the evil people, but back home he'll be as nice as pie. These incidents, more than anything, signal a breakdown in religious belief. But natural selection will take care of that, as it has done for hundreds of thousands of years. The dichotomous religious mind has evolved as the most efficient way of bonding with the tribe and dispatching the enemy.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 9:53 AM on January 14, 2008


These incidents, more than anything, signal a breakdown in religious belief. But natural selection will take care of that, as it has done for hundreds of thousands of years. The dichotomous religious mind has evolved as the most efficient way of bonding with the tribe and dispatching the enemy.

Oh, man. I don't think there's enough popcorn in the world for where this thread is going.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 10:00 AM on January 14, 2008 [6 favorites]


Interesting article.

I expect we will see more of this especially in the civilian sector, as the contractors come back with much the same symptoms.
posted by Dagobert at 10:07 AM on January 14, 2008


Thank you Weapons-Grade Pandemonium for showing mankind how to love. Again.
posted by ZachsMind at 10:07 AM on January 14, 2008


PTSD is not imaginary, it is not political, and it is not an indictment of those unfortunate heroes who suffer from it. It is not controversial, and only an blind partisan (and one who has never witnessed such violence outside of their Netflix queue) would argue that it is. There seem to be a group of partisans in this country who will argue any nonsense to prevent their fellow citizens from acknowledging the costs of war. (The trend is hard to miss -- they rail against body counts, make it a crime to show pictures of flag-draped coffins, argue with estimates of monetary costs, ignore reporting on conditions at Walter Reed, berate Ted Koppel for reading the names of our KIA on Memorial Day or Slate for pictures from Abu Ghraib, ad nauseum.) Recognize that for what it is, and make of it what you will.

With enough public awareness (via engines like the NY Times) and public pressure we can prevent our government from denying these troops the care they need and have earned. At the same time, I think the Times did a good job of avoiding the "wacko vet" implication by addressing it early in the article, and with empathetic reporting. PTSD is a cruel condition which is under-reported and under-treated, and it is a balancing act to report on the problem without adding to the stigma, and I think NYT did an admirable job of that.
posted by edverb at 10:11 AM on January 14, 2008 [7 favorites]


I had sent the article to one of my right of center friends and he linked me to the dissenting view, posted in these comments. The problem is that the same age group in the general population differs from the age group in the military, the ones herein cited. Many of the general population that murder are in trouble from early on, use drugs, have social problems etc and would not get into the service. We are here talking about those qualifying for the military who get messed up from their service. In passing, Bush has not passed signed) a bill that would give lots more money to the VA for its needs.
posted by Postroad at 10:13 AM on January 14, 2008


The fact that this problem is so old makes this news. The rebuttals to the article miss the point.

I've never once read a story that said that (post-) military psychiatric care is adequately staffed, funded, or adequately unstigmatized, nor have I ever read an angry blogger asserting as much.

That's the debate I'd like to see. I mean, for every veteran with PTSD that might commit a related crime, there have got to be quite a few more quietly wrestling with undiagnosed or inadequately treated symptoms.

Let's say, for the sake of argument, that scdb's link is right, and veterans are predisposed to better, erm, uncriminal behavior. That may be -- but there are other (one might say better) metrics of mental health than criminality or lack thereof. Much has been made lately of the divorce rate among Iraq veterans, for example.

Surely the business of fighting isn't so fundamentally incompatible with seeking post-war help. Surely the business of sending people to fight isn't so fundamentally incompatible with funded, rigorous, unstigmatized post-war screening. There's institutional inertia within the military and within civilian leadership against allowing things to change.
posted by lumensimus at 10:23 AM on January 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


One of the guys in the story, Matthew Sepi, returned from combat to Fort Carson, which has been in the news over the last couple of years for punishing soldiers who seek help for PTSD.
posted by rtha at 10:23 AM on January 14, 2008


SCDB, I don't understand the DoJ numbers given in the article you cite. Are they the number of people in a given age group per 100,000 population who commit murder in one year? Are they the number of people in a given age group per 100,000 population who commit murder in their lifetime? How are you interpreting them, and how do you arrive at your interpretation? It's not clear to me that apples are being compared to apples here.
posted by Killick at 10:25 AM on January 14, 2008


"The fact that this problem is so old makes this news. The rebuttals to the article miss the point."

This just in:

Global Warming is still global, but icebergs are still cold. There just aren't as many of them as there once were.

Satelites are orbiting around the planet Earth, but some of them are unnatural. Last we checked, the Earth was still round. We'll check again later today and get you an update. Once, long ago, the Earth was flat, but it stopped being flat and became round. Some people believe it's gonna go back to being flat very soon. We'll let you know when that happens.

Weather will continue to change off and on for a long, long time.

And now -- SPORTS!
posted by ZachsMind at 10:35 AM on January 14, 2008


A little inconvenient truth: returning veterans seem to have a lower incidence of this kind of violent crime than comparable men and women who didn't go overseas.

The "truth" in your link would be more impressive, SCDB, if it didn't turn out to be plug-dumb armchair number-crunching put in the services of a heavily biased ax-grind.

The linked posting guesstimates that 1.99 million Americans have been deployed overseas since 9/11, and then extrapolates a very low murder rate. It doesn't take into account redeployments, doesn't correct for non-combat roles in which PTSD would be much less likely, doesn't differentiate between infantry and other units or even between services - let alone between, say, the active-duty front-line infantry types profiled in the Times piece and an officer on a naval vessel patroling the Gulf or an F-18 pilot who spends most of his time in Qatar. These are just its glaringly obvious errors; I'm sure I could unearth a dozen more with an hour's research. (For example, what percentage of the total number of military members who've served in combat roles in Iraq are living in the United States at any given moment?)

It's truthiness of the highest order, in other words, and it - more than anything that hated liberal Times rag has ever published, even Frank Rich - is an open insult to the sacrifices the American people have asked their sainted troops to make on their behalf.

On preview: Seems Killick's already found a couple more holes I hadn't even thought of.
posted by gompa at 10:37 AM on January 14, 2008 [4 favorites]


Look, this doesn't happen to a majority of soldiers-if it did I'd be taking my life in my hands by going to the local Walmart-but it is true that the military is poor at taking care of its mentally wounded.

But it's not like psych treatment is all that great in the civilian sector, either.
posted by konolia at 10:42 AM on January 14, 2008


Hey Zach, you can stop now, we've all gotten the point that you neither care about nor understand journalism. Maybe you could start a discussion about that somewhere!
posted by hermitosis at 10:45 AM on January 14, 2008


Surely the business of fighting isn't so fundamentally incompatible with seeking post-war help.

Actually, therein lay the problem. The military treats PTSD as some kind of leprosy, and a lot of soldiers who seek treatment can pretty well kiss any chance of further advancement goodbye. I guess the view is that they must be broken and it's not worth the risk to place them in a higher position of power. As a result, a lot of people who are feeling the effects choose to keep quiet so as to not side-track their military careers.

And for people who have left the military, things are even worse. The VA (the primary treatment facility for people going through PTSD) has been cut back over and over again through the past couple of decades. It's an easy place to trim fat when dealing with a budget crisis, and we are only now beginning to see how underfunding these groups is going to really cause harm to returning soldiers.

This article may be overstating, or overhyping, or whatever, but I have said it before, we built a lot of weapons and pushed them to the point of breaking, and now they are returning home. Without help, I'm betting that there are going to be ugly crossovers into the world that is their life outside of a combat zone.
posted by quin at 11:04 AM on January 14, 2008 [4 favorites]


These incidents, more than anything, signal a breakdown in religious belief. But natural selection will take care of that, as it has done for hundreds of thousands of years.

Bullshit. PTSD is mental illness. It can cause psychosis, and violent behavior. The statement "violence begets violence" entirely misses the point as well. Many vets do not suffer from problems after returning home. Some do. This article, and the books it references, raise awareness of the devastating effects that returning from war can have. Too many a vet has been subject to a cruel and misunderstanding insensitivity to their serious but ultimately treatable debilitation. A few have ended up on death row, in part due to the failure of the system (and idiotic jurors who espouse the views of some in this thread) to recognize the extent of their illness.

This insightful and far-from-sensational article raises serious questions about what the appropriate sentence for crimes committed by PTSD sufferers should be, and whether this should even be considered a mitigating factor. Don't shit on the thread if you aren't interested. Go somewhere else.
posted by whahappen?! at 11:04 AM on January 14, 2008 [2 favorites]


It's truthiness of the highest order, in other words, and it - more than anything that hated liberal Times rag has ever published, even Frank Rich - is an open insult to the sacrifices the American people have asked their sainted troops to make on their behalf.

"Sainted Troops?" This type of pseudo-religious mythology surrounding our professional army does them no more service than the equally idiotic label of "baby killer." Remove the rhetoric and the wishful thinking, and you find young men and women who've hired on to do our dirtiest work for us. To deprive any of them, regardless of the actual percentages in need, of the finest quality medical and mental health care is by far the greater insult. These are people, not props for your agenda, and they deserve to be treated as such.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 11:07 AM on January 14, 2008


The thing is, ZachsMind, the true religious fundamentalist won't do this. He'll kill the evil people, but back home he'll be as nice as pie.

Sure, as long as he doesn't run into any heretics.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 11:09 AM on January 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


I think gompa was making with the sarcasm, The Light Fantastic.
posted by scrump at 11:12 AM on January 14, 2008


Wow, the one thing that came to mind when I read the article, was what was the comparison to incidence of similar types of incidents among non-veterans. Then I come back and theres a developing steel cage death match on the very topic. Personally, I'd be suspicious of most numbers/studies that attempt to quantify it because of so many variables and so many axes to grind. I don't think that just questioning the severity and/or veracity of these claim means that you are heartless or something...for me its just a reasonable cynicism and distrust of the MSM, of which clearly papers like the NYT are, and an appreciation of the emotive power of stories such as this and MSM outlets will manipulate the righteous emotions of readers to sell more papers.

I find it hard to believe that given the 'lack of intensity' of this war versus any other war such as Vietnam (300+ killed a week) that the level of PTSD is significantly greater or that we should be focusing on these veterans versus ALL the other poorly treated veterans from other eras/wars etc. Having said this, clearly there is benefit to highlighting the abysmal performance of the military/government in terms of dealing with issues such as this and supporting the lives of the men and women who serve.
posted by sfts2 at 11:14 AM on January 14, 2008


"Sainted Troops?" This type of pseudo-religious mythology surrounding our professional army does them no more service than the equally idiotic label of "baby killer."

Hey, TLF, I'm with you, man. I was appropriating the voice of the love-it-or-leave-it right. I'm the son of a career (Canadian) military officer; he's a great guy, but he's no saint nor even a hero simply because he did a job he loved for forty years.

The military treats PTSD as some kind of leprosy, and a lot of soldiers who seek treatment can pretty well kiss any chance of further advancement goodbye.

Same deal for Gulf War syndrome. I was a reporter for the community newspaper at Ramstein Air Base in the summer of '92, and I remember sitting around the conference table drinking beers with my colleagues as they compared symptoms they were hiding to avoid being taken off active duty and channeled toward discharge.
posted by gompa at 11:16 AM on January 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


Hey, TLF, I'm with you, man. I was appropriating the voice of the love-it-or-leave-it right. I'm the son of a career (Canadian) military officer; he's a great guy, but he's no saint nor even a hero simply because he did a job he loved for forty years.

Ok...whew! Sorry for missing the sarcasm - too much playoff football this weekend!
posted by The Light Fantastic at 11:25 AM on January 14, 2008


sfts2: the comparison you reference between the incidence of vet crimes and that of "similar types of incidents among non-veterans" fails to recognize that many violent criminals who have not served in the military suffer from PTSD.

It's perhaps easy to forget that trauma of any type can lead to many of the same symptoms as "combat readiness" does in soldiers returning from Iraq. Physical or psychological abuse is an all too common occurrence in the lives of many violent criminals, hence the related correlation with alcohol and drug abuse among these individuals.
posted by whahappen?! at 11:31 AM on January 14, 2008


weapons-grade pandemonium writes "hese incidents, more than anything, signal a breakdown in religious belief. But natural selection will take care of that, as it has done for hundreds of thousands of years. The dichotomous religious mind has evolved as the most efficient way of bonding with the tribe and dispatching the enemy."

Natural selection? I guess if all of us joined the military and served in wartime on an ongoing, permanent basis it could end up that way. But that doesn't sound feasible.
posted by krinklyfig at 11:35 AM on January 14, 2008


whahappened?

I absolutely agree, although PTSD symptoms from those reasons belong on the general population side I'd expect. Thats why I said that there were too many variables, as that is clearly not the only type of other factor that could affect either the measurement of (what constitutes an 'incident') or the classification of perps.
posted by sfts2 at 11:55 AM on January 14, 2008


toclaim that PTSD is NOT a political issue is plainnaive. Who got us into this war? Who has seen to it that troops are rotated over and over? Who has not put sufficient money into the VA? Those indeed are political issues.
posted by Postroad at 12:02 PM on January 14, 2008


I find it hard to believe that given the 'lack of intensity' of this war versus any other war such as Vietnam (300+ killed a week) that the level of PTSD is significantly greater

I'm not sure that PTSD cares that 300 guys got killed in a week; it cares that you were next to your buddy when he got his leg blown off by an IED. (Not that close proximity to something like that is the only thing that can trigger PTSD.)

Keep in mind too that a lot of the guys killed in Vietnam would survive today - battlefield and post-battlefield medical care has gotten light-years better. Some of them get sent back for additional tours, as well.
posted by rtha at 12:09 PM on January 14, 2008


toclaim that PTSD is NOT a political issue is plainnaive. Who got us into this war? Who has seen to it that troops are rotated over and over? Who has not put sufficient money into the VA? Those indeed are political issues.

Sure, it's a political issue - but I think the biggest barrier to finding solutions is the fact that it's become a politicized issue. Is it any wonder that the sufferers are lost by the wayside?
posted by The Light Fantastic at 12:10 PM on January 14, 2008


Doubters should check out two books by Jonathan Shay, M.D., Ph.D.: Achilles in Vietnam and Odysseus in America. He makes a very good case that psychological damage in war is real, has always been real, and can be healed and even prevented, given a supportive military structure and the proper care. One of his lectures is here, and provides a pretty good outline of his ideas.
posted by vorfeed at 12:14 PM on January 14, 2008


When I was young and naive ("In my salad days, when I was green.."), I used to think that when soldiers finished their tour(s) of duty, they were "debriefed." And, in addition to dealing with security and confidentiality issues, I thought that "debriefed" meant, sort of, putting the jigsaw puzzle that was a shattered, messed-up veteran back together so the pieces fit right again.

Like, "Okay, here's how you rated on this battery of tests we gave you. Here's the comparison from when you enlisted. We can see that you now have problems with A, B, C and D and we're going to set you up with some physical therapy for that shoulder injury, some counseling to deal with the death of your buddy, and a group therapy meeting once a week with other people who went through similar stuff."

Like I said, I was very naive then.

I do think the math and statistics in this article are made up of whole cloth, since the gov't doesn't track this stuff (with good reason, because I doubt they would come out smelling like roses), but despite the sensationalist angle, the message behind the article--that veterans need help when they come back from service that they simply aren't getting anywhere--is still a valid one. We simply cut them loose and hope for the best.

Could I win the "greatest number of aphorisms in one post" gold star for this comment?
posted by misha at 1:15 PM on January 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


Military blogger/Slate columnist Phillip Carter: "I've got a one-word verdict on this article and its research: bullshit."
posted by kirkaracha at 1:22 PM on January 14, 2008


rtha,

So you think that it is reasonable to assume that the level of PTSD resulting from conflict in Iraq is equal to or greater that than that arising from Vietnam per active duty soldier? Thats bullshit, sorry. You missed the relevant point completely to quibble. Vietnam was a real war, with real casualties. Iraq is a little toy police action, didn't you hear 'Mission Accomplished'. Sure your point about medical care saving some that might have died in an earlier time, but so what? More casualties in the 68 Tet offensive than in the entire Iraq war so far. Bottom line, sure the article discusses a real problem, but the overall problem is so much bigger, its not even close. That story won't sell newspapers though.
posted by sfts2 at 1:40 PM on January 14, 2008


Its interesting that the Phillip Carter piece brought up a point about running this story, concurrent with the release of the latest Rambo movie.

If I ever get that cynical, will someone find a crazed vet to just shoot me?
posted by sfts2 at 1:43 PM on January 14, 2008


The immorality of this war itself, so much worse than Vietnam, creates an environment for greater moral injury and hence worse and more prevalent PTSD. The Iraq war is tainted by the repeated failures at incomprehensible expense, the lies about its purpose, the government's and officers' coverups, the torture, the massacres, the war crimes, the transparent and insulting propaganda, the arrogance and corruption of the mercenaries, the misconduct and theft of the supply contractors, the penny-pinching miserliness of military salary offices and veteran medical care as contrasted with the vast largess received by defense contracting companies, the endless negligent failure to do even the most basic statistical work if the results are likely to be unfavorable to government policy, and so on. All of this is well-known to all soldiers, which must surely have an effect on their perception of the morality of their own actions. This is further compounded by the helplessness of anyone in the USA or outside to call the Bush administration to account.

Unlike Allied WW2 veterans, the American Iraq war veterans cannot take comfort in the justice of the war, or even in having won. Unlike Axis WW2 veterans, they cannot take comfort in blaming their leaders, because those leaders are still in power, unpunished.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 1:48 PM on January 14, 2008 [3 favorites]


From Carter: "More broadly though, I worry about the larger narrative of this story. It seems like we've been down this road before — casting veterans in the role of crazed, violent, disturbed young men who come home from war to become homeless or criminal (or both). America needs to wrap its arms around its sons and daughters who go to war, not alienate them and push them away with this kind of narrative."

He's getting it exactly backward. The story is building sympathy so that people will know that those "sons and daughters" actually NEED to be embraced, instead of everyone just letting them return and fall off the map as if nothing ever happened to them. You can't convinve people to care unless they're aware of the problem. And however valid the Times research is or isn't, it at least tells us that no one even really knows how bad the damage is yet. For all the people who snap and hurt someone (or themselves), there are many more who live on the verge of it for many years, giving up a lot of their life to dealing with the effects of a relatively short period of time.
posted by hermitosis at 1:54 PM on January 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


sfts2, please take your post, replace all the 'Nam references with WWII and all the Iraq references with 'Nam, take a second look at it, and see how well your logic works. PTSD is not merely a function of casualties, and the more we insist that it is, the less likely it is that we'll ever solve the problem. We've known for 30 years that there must be something more to it... and in any case, the fact that many soldiers are coming home from your "little toy police action" with PTSD ought to give you pause for thought!
posted by vorfeed at 1:56 PM on January 14, 2008


Carter: "Right..... Because we all know that all veterans are coming home crazy, shell-shocked, and ready to kill their friends and loved ones. Here's how the NY Times staff produced this sensational story"

Fail. Here's what the actual NYT article actually says, actually:

Given that many veterans rebound successfully from their war experiences and some flourish as a result of them, veterans groups have long deplored the attention paid to the minority of soldiers who fail to readjust to civilian life.

After World War I, the American Legion passed a resolution asking the press “to subordinate whatever slight news value there may be in playing up the ex-service member angle in stories of crime or offense against the peace.” An article in the Veterans of Foreign Wars magazine in 2006 referred with disdain to the pervasive “wacko-vet myth,” which, veterans say, makes it difficult for them to find jobs.

Clearly, committing homicide is an extreme manifestation of dysfunction for returning veterans, many of whom struggle in quieter ways, with crumbling marriages, mounting debt, deepening alcohol dependence or more-minor tangles with the law.

But these killings provide a kind of echo sounding for the profound depths to which some veterans have fallen, whether at the bottom of a downward spiral or in a sudden burst of violence.


So I'm afraid I have to call bullshit on Mr. Carter. What's it called when you distort the meaning of an article for the benefit of readers who will probably never read it themselves? I guess "sensationalism" is one word for it.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 1:58 PM on January 14, 2008 [2 favorites]


So you think that it is reasonable to assume that the level of PTSD resulting from conflict in Iraq is equal to or greater that than that arising from Vietnam per active duty soldier?

No, and I didn't say that.

I think it's reasonable to assume that the article had a lot of bullshit in it. I think it's reasonable to assume that the DoD and VA have more guys with trauma than they can handle, or that they anticipated, and they've fucked up an already fucked up bureaucracy.

I don't think that every returning vet is going to turn into some psycho freak who runs around hurting people.

Vietnam was a real war, with real casualties. Iraq is a little toy police action, didn't you hear 'Mission Accomplished'.

Vietnam was a police action too - or did you miss that memo? And please tell the several thousand dead Coalition forces troops (not to mention the ones who came home minus limbs and brain parts), and the hundreds of thousands of dead civilians that this is just a "little toy police action."
posted by rtha at 2:57 PM on January 14, 2008


Sure, it's a political issue - but I think the biggest barrier to finding solutions is the fact that it's become a politicized issue. Is it any wonder that the sufferers are lost by the wayside?

Or, as an African proverb puts it so well, "When two elephants fight in the grass, the grass suffers."
posted by rollbiz at 2:57 PM on January 14, 2008


vorfeed - nice links
edverb & aeschenkarnos - well said. It is hard for returning vets to fit back in to society because of that moral injury and loss of identity. I wouldn’t say it was worse or better than ‘nam, but ‘nam was on a wider scale. That made the problem larger, but it also (ultimately) created more self-support.
sfts2 -So my engagements in a thousand little hot spots around the world doesn’t qualify me as having been in a “real” war. Perhaps the crap in my footlocker aren’t real medals. I never saved any real lives. I don’t have real scars. I guess I never had a real problem and so never deserved real treatment. Me and a few thousand other guys who don’t exist either. So at what point does it become real enough that it merits attention? One million men? Ten million? I think one broken man is reason enough. Hell, more than enough reason because we should easily be able to meet the resources to serve them. But we choose not to. Since, y’know, this isn’t a real war. + what rtha sed.

Now, I agree with the gist of the article - that returning troops are given short shrift by the government. I disagree that it is solely the fault of the government helping them reintegrate into society.
(Odd how the focus as ‘problem’, f’rinstance, is on the vet not the murderous armed gang members who dominate the neighborhood assault him.)
The thrust of the article is fine. Laudable.
It’s the execution that is flawed. Not, I suspect, for reasons of sales. Perhaps the reporters genuinely want to help fix the problem. The failure however is in fetishizing the veteran, as much as the partisan hacks who trot out “support the troops” only so long as it’s convenient (e.g. the troops aren’t dead, we don’t have to show their coffins, or horrific conditions of the VA hospitals, raise our taxes to stabilize them, and they themselves don’t oppose being fed into the meat grinder for the fat-asses at home) ...y’know, ‘support’ so long as it’s not real, actually doing anything beyond wearing a little pin or sporting a bumpersticker type support.

They didn’t chose to focus on the vet or vets - the majority of them - who don’t commit violent crimes but feel outcast from society and/or alienated from their families because the guy who came home is not the same guy who left.
They didn’t focus on the broken men who become homeless or addicts or succumb to mental illness or dispair and depression or any of the thousands of other ways a broken human being can crash.
No, they focused on the bogeyman (and counted drunk driving and suicide as ‘killing’).
Whatever the series is trying to do - and again, I agree with it’s purpose - it is, self-described, focusing on veterans who kill or have been charged with it after coming home.

Whether they’re aiming at it or not, it certainly feels exploitive. As much as if they focused on children who dress seductively that are molested (and I’ve seen this type of thing on the tabloid shows, Maury, et.al).

And the fact of it is, it does hamper acceptance into society. Look at the way folks treat, say, cops, in casual situations. Same thing. So they find out you’re a vet and people start treating you like you’re dynamite and might go off at any second.
(Oh, but *I* don’t do that Smed. Well, maybe you don’t buddy. But a lot of people do.) Pity is just as bad. Maybe worse.

There’s a scene in The Best Years of Our Lives * where Homer Parrish yells at some kids “You want to see how the hooks work? Do you want to see the freak? All right, I'll show ya” and he smashes them through some glass.
Some guys feel that way, even if they don’t have a physical disability. And indeed, it’s tougher when the wounds are on the inside, when you have PTSD and no one can see what’s wrong.
And very few care to look.
What I’m saying, if it’s not clear, is that it doesn’t seem like this is accepting of the man himself. Perhaps the problem, perhaps it’s directing the blame properly. That’s great. And it will probably win some political points as well.
But it doesn’t exactly make you feel comfortable bringing the guy into your home, does it?
And just because you say you’re not partisan, doesn’t mean you’re not grinding an axe.
At best this and articles like this can, and perhaps will, treat certain practical problems. Which would be fine by me.
But the point should be the men themselves.
And I can see no way will pieces like this heal the rift between the returning soldier and society.
If anything a piece like this widens the gap in terms of that loss of trust.

*(Do yourself a favor, go see The Best Years of Our Lives it’s a bit simplistic, but accurate. And it’s hopeful, but life doesn’t always work out that way.)
posted by Smedleyman at 4:01 PM on January 14, 2008 [2 favorites]


(And the hyperbole of the piece is irritating as well. I’m mean I exaggerate like an MFer (read: MeFier, or the other connotation), but hey, I don’t write for the friggin’ NY times. “battle weary grenadier”? So either he had grenades on him, or he was a member of the first regiment of the Royal British household infantry, or he’s a fish)
posted by Smedleyman at 4:10 PM on January 14, 2008


Phillip Carter, Iraq 2004 Looks Like Vietnam 1966
posted by kirkaracha at 5:08 PM on January 14, 2008


HermitOsis: "Hey Zach, you can stop now, we've all gotten the point that you neither care about nor understand journalism."

You obviously didn't get the point, if you think I'm the one that doesn't understand journalism. Sowwy to wain on your widdle pawayde.
posted by ZachsMind at 8:24 PM on January 14, 2008


Zach, I'd like to personally thank you for elevating the discourse here.

Because what a discussion of PTSD really needs is baby talk.
posted by lumensimus at 8:43 PM on January 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


Vets Cleared to Sue U.S. over PTSD Claims
posted by homunculus at 9:09 AM on January 17, 2008


Why is the Army losing so many talented midlevel officers?
posted by homunculus at 11:40 AM on January 17, 2008


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