07 February 2007

inexcusable war crimes on humanity

three articles have caught my eye this week and have left me thoroughly haunted and sick. one is linked over on ms. liberty's site - a story of a marine that returned home from iraq with severe ptsd, only to be told that it would be four months before he could get help. he committed suicide. the other is a equally abhorable piece that pam found which states there are 400,000 cases of ptsd backlogged, with only 20,638 cases being treated in the first quarter of 2006. the article goes on to say, "A returning soldier has to wait an average of 165 days for a VA decision on initial disability benefits, and an appeal can take up to three years." is this what we call supporting the troops? there is simply no excuse, and veteran's benefits continue to be cut away.

this is what war does to people. and to know that there was and is zero consideration by those sending people off to fight their wars, well, it leaves me ashamed to even be a party to this disgrace - however indirectly.

the third article i thought about again after reading the dsm-iv excerpts that pam posted, specifically this one:

(1) recurrent and intrusive distressing recollections of the event, including images, thoughts, or perceptions. Note: In young children, repetitive play may occur in which themes or aspects of the trauma are expressed.

what of the children on the receiving end of this violence? how are they, at such tender ages, to be expected to understand and make sense of what they are witnessing daily? what they have no control over? this devastates me beyond what any words can describe:

The car stopped at the makeshift checkpoint that cut across the muddy backstreet in western Baghdad. A sentry appeared. "Are you Sunni or Shia?" he barked, waving his Kalashnikov at the driver. "Are you with Zarqawi or the Mahdi army?"

"The Mahdi army," the driver said. "Wrong answer," shouted the sentry, almost gleefully. "Get him!"

The high metal gate of a nearby house was flung open and four gun-toting males rushed out. They dragged the driver from his vehicle and held a knife to his neck. Quickly and efficiently, the blade was run from ear to ear. "Now you're dead," said a triumphant voice, and their captive crumpled to the ground.

Then a moment of stillness before the sound of a woman's voice. "Come inside boys! Your dinner is ready!" The gunmen groaned; the hapless driver picked himself up and trundled his yellow plastic car into the front yard; the toy guns and knives were tossed by the back door. Their murderous game of make-believe would have to resume in the morning.

Abdul-Muhammad and his five younger brothers, aged between six and 12, should have been at school. But their mother, Sayeeda, like thousands of parents in Iraq's perilous capital city, now keeps her boys at home. Three weeks ago, armed men had intercepted their teacher's car at the school gates, then hauled him out and slit his throat. Just like in their game.

"That day they came home and they were changed because of the things they'd seen," said Sayeeda as she ladled rice into the boys' bowls. "The youngest two have been wetting their beds and having nightmares, while Abdul-Muhammad has started bullying and ordering everyone to play his fighting games. I know things are not normal with them. My fear is one day they will get hold of real guns. But in these times, where is the help?"

the rest of the article can be found here, but be warned, it is gut-wrenching to read. the implications are far reaching and deeply embedded.

my own experiences with ptsd now pale in comparison with those above, but given what i have experienced, what still can sneak up on me when i least expect it, i find it completely intolerable that there is no level of help being offered for the soldiers or for the people of iraq. neither asked for these repercussions and neither will most likely receive any assistance. they will suffer out loud and silently. their experiences will never leave them, no matter how much therapy is given. it is now a part of them, no way to ever return to exactly who they were before. for them, war will never end. i found this quote in james hillman's a terrible love of war, "peace for veterans is not an absence of war but its living ghost in the bedroom, at the lunch counter, on the highway. the trauma is not post but acutely present, and the syndrome is not in the veteran but in the dictionary, in the amnesiac's idea of peace that colludes with an unlivable life." he also goes on to note, "ptsd breaks out in peacetime because peace as defined does not allow upsetting remembrances of war's continuing presence. war is never over, even when the fat lady sings on victory day (p.32)."

he also offers this insight, one that i think ends up getting to the crux of the problem: "the very idea that human agony can be named a stress syndrome is inhuman, imagining a man as a machine part, a cog in a military wheel. to keep the war machine running, you kick the engine, boot up the computer, slap the soldier to get him back in line (p. 62)."

and so too are the children of iraq, simply written off as collateral damage - reduced to inhuman definitions, expected to simply become cogs in the wheels of HIS/THEIR war machine in our collective minds...

i defy that.

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