Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Spring Fund Drive: Keep CounterPunch Afloat
CounterPunch is a lifeboat of sanity in today’s turbulent political seas. Please make a tax-deductible donation and help us continue to fight Trump and his enablers on both sides of the aisle. Every dollar counts!
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Horrible Toll on US Troops

Last June, Iraq veteran Jeffrey Lucey went into the basement of his family’s Massachusetts home and hung himself. The 23-year-old Marine was subsumed with guilt after killing two unarmed Iraqi soldiers last year.

He told his sister he looked the men in the eyes before closing his own eyes and pulling the trigger. He threw the two dead soldiers’ dog tags at her and shouted, “Don’t you understand? Your brother is a murderer!”

The Pentagon does not track suicides among returning soldiers, but has already coldly calculated that a flood of Iraq veterans who survive the war will be fighting its ghastly memories for the rest of their lives, and many will lose the battle.

The Army News Service reported in March, “Soldiers indicated their most troubling experiences in combat came from seeing dead bodies (67 percent), being shot at (63 percent), being attacked or ambushed (61 percent) and knowing someone who was killed or seriously wounded (59 percent).” Roughly 90 percent of U.S. troops in Iraq have been involved in a firefight, and already 20 percent of Iraq veterans seeking Veterans Administration (VA) care need mental health treatment.

As in Vietnam, the prevalence of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a product of the character of the war, in which U.S. soldiers are under orders to terrorize an entire population, fighting a growing and well-organized resistance.

Anticipating a surge in PTSD, the VA announced that it will place a psychiatrist or psychologist on staff full-time at all its 856 outpatient clinics, revitalize substance abuse treatment programs and provide 10,000 spaces for homeless veterans across the country. This will undoubtedly prove grossly inadequate to treat what the VA predicts will be an “epidemic” of PTSD among active-duty combat troops (average age: 19) in coming years.

National Guard troops and reservists–who make up 40 percent of U.S. troops in Iraq–are offered no organized mental health programs. The U.S. government is already turning its back on returning troops.

In the San Francisco Chronicle, military mom Teri Wills Allison recently described a returning soldier who “routinely has flashbacks in which he smells burning flesh…seeing people’s heads squashed like frogs in the middle of the road, or dead and dying women and children, burned, bleeding and dismembered.” But “[I]nstead of getting treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder, he has just received a ‘less than honorable’ discharge from the Army. The rest of his unit redeploys to Iraq in February.”

PTSD is also associated with family violence. Yet one soldier’s wife told the New Yorker she was advised before her husband’s return, “‘Don’t call us unless your husband is waking you up in the middle of the night with a knife at your throat…He’ll have flashbacks. It’s normal.'”

Cpl. Travis Friedrichsen, who returned from Iraq in September, soon began to shake uncontrollably while sitting in bed, recalling a bomb that exploded just feet away. Friedrichsen, age 21 and married, now has trouble controlling his temper, “exploding into tirades that he says have gone on for an entire weekend,” according to the Chicago Tribune.
Those who equate “supporting our troops” with supporting the war should think again. Shortly before he died in Iraq last month, 28-year-old Marine Staff Sgt. Russell Slay wrote a farewell letter to his family. He told his 5-year-old son to “stay away from the military. I mean it.”

According to the Army News Service Survey in March, fully 72 percent of the soldiers said their unit morale was low. In September, a Marine infantryman put it more bluntly to the Christian Science Monitor, “We shouldn’t be here. There was no reason for invading this country in the first place…I don’t enjoy killing women and children. It’s not my thing.”

Supporting our troops should mean supporting Veterans for Peace, whose statement of purpose reads, “We know the consequences of American foreign policy because once, at a time in our lives, so many of us carried it out. We find it sad that war seems so delightful, so often to those who have no knowledge of it.”

SHARON SMITH writes for the Socialist Worker.

 

 

More articles by:
May 23, 2018
Nick Pemberton
Maduro’s Win: A Bright Spot in Dark Times
Ben Debney
A Faustian Bargain with the Climate Crisis
Deepak Tripathi
A Bloody Hot Summer in Gaza: Parallels With Sharpeville, Soweto and Jallianwala Bagh
Farhang Jahanpour
Pompeo’s Outrageous Speech on Iran
Josh White
Strange Recollections of Old Labour
CJ Hopkins
The Simulation of Democracy
stclair
In Our Age of State Crimes
Dave Lindorff
The Trump White House is a Chaotic Clown Car Filled with Bozos Who Think They’re Brilliant
Russell Mokhiber
The Corporate Domination of West Virginia
Ty Salandy
The British Royal Wedding, Empire and Colonialism
Laura Flanders
Life or Death to the FCC?
Gary Leupp
Dawn of an Era of Mutual Indignation?
Katalina Khoury
The Notion of Patriarchal White Supremacy Vs. Womanhood
Nicole Rosmarino
The Grassroots Environmental Activist of the Year: Christine Canaly
Caoimhghin Ó Croidheáin
“Michael Inside:” The Prison System in Ireland 
May 22, 2018
Stanley L. Cohen
Broken Dreams and Lost Lives: Israel, Gaza and the Hamas Card
Kathy Kelly
Scourging Yemen
Andrew Levine
November’s “Revolution” Will Not Be Televised
Ted Rall
#MeToo is a Cultural Workaround to a Legal Failure
Gary Leupp
Question for Discussion: Is Russia an Adversary Nation?
Binoy Kampmark
Unsettling the Summits: John Bolton’s Libya Solution
Doug Johnson
As Andrea Horwath Surges, Undecided Voters Threaten to Upend Doug Ford’s Hopes in Canada’s Most Populated Province
Kenneth Surin
Malaysia’s Surprising Election Results
Dana Cook
Canada’s ‘Superwoman’: Margot Kidder
Dean Baker
The Trade Deficit With China: Up Sharply, for Those Who Care
John Feffer
Playing Trump for Peace How the Korean Peninsula Could Become a Bright Spot in a World Gone Mad
Peter Gelderloos
Decades in Prison for Protesting Trump?
Thomas Knapp
Yes, Virginia, There is a Deep State
Andrew Stewart
What the Providence Teachers’ Union Needs for a Win
Jimmy Centeno
Mexico’s First Presidential Debate: All against One
May 21, 2018
Ron Jacobs
Gina Haspell: She’s Certainly Qualified for the Job
Uri Avnery
The Day of Shame
Amitai Ben-Abba
Israel’s New Ideology of Genocide
Patrick Cockburn
Israel is at the Height of Its Power, But the Palestinians are Still There
Frank Stricker
Can We Finally Stop Worrying About Unemployment?
Binoy Kampmark
Royal Wedding Madness
Roy Morrison
Middle East War Clouds Gather
Edward Curtin
Gina Haspel and Pinocchio From Rome
Juana Carrasco Martin
The United States is a Country Addicted to Violence
Dean Baker
Wealth Inequality: It’s Not Clear What It Means
Robert Dodge
At the Brink of Nuclear War, Who Will Lead?
Vern Loomis
If I’m Lying, I’m Dying
Valerie Reynoso
How LBJ initiated the Military Coup in the Dominican Republic
Weekend Edition
May 18, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
The Donald, Vlad, and Bibi
Robert Fisk
How Long Will We Pretend Palestinians Aren’t People?
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail