Politics Wednesday – Shared Responsibility

At some point in a not-too-distant future, we may pay a high price for waging a war based on lies.

Reams have been written on the problems of multiple deployments into combat zones, and the psychology on this is not a flawed science. Post-traumatic stress disorder is the rule, not the exception. Studies have shown even one combat tour, even a single fire-fight, in a high-fire zone can foster PTSD, and the military culture and, in some cases, the American tendency to turn a face away from mental disorder, leave our soldiers, sailors, and marines without support or acknowledgement.

This weekend when I heard of the Army staff sergeant who left his base, walked to a nearby Afghan village, and systematically executed sixteen people, including nine children, I was horrified and angry. When I learned he was on his fourth deployment in a combat zone, my anger returned to the people who got us into a two-war situation in the first place. This staff sergeant, who returned to his base and surrendered, is allegedly (innocent until proven guilty) responsible for the physical event, but in a way I hold the Bush Administration just as responsible.

Whether some of my fellow Liberals accept it or not, there was a case for action in Afghanistan in the aftermath of 9/11. However, I preferred Special Operations over “Shock and Awe.” As we’ve seen, the case for a war in Iraq was based on false intelligence and out-right lies. It emerged from the deranged philosophy of neo-conservatism and American exceptionalism and a perversion of global manifest destiny. And for Halliburton’s profit margin.

And now we have a thirty-eight year old man who suffered traumatic brain injury in a Humvee roll-over back on duty in Afghanistan after an evaluation wherein a diagnosis of PTSD may or may not have been covered up because treating PTSD is expensive. And of course the media has to get some “let’s blame the woman” in the mix, speculating that a message the sergeant’s wife sent him shortly before his apparent rampage “set him off.”

The Afghan villagers want the staff sergeant to be given to them, but with the Taliban returning to supremacy there, we all know what that justice would be like. The Army is considering a court martial on site at his base in Afghanistan, which would certainly give the Afghan people small assurance. Because this could be a military death penalty case–very rare indeed–I would rather it happen here in the states and with more transparency than a typical military trial.

I also wish he’d have sitting with him in the dock Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, et. al. There should be shared responsibility for this latest murder of innocents.

I’m sure there are troglodytes out there who consider any Afghan–even a child–an enemy and who will try to justify the unthinkable. I can only ponder about what my father would have thought of this–the man who, for a time, was responsible for guarding WWII war criminals. He would have been disappointed in this soldier, but he would have been outraged at the circumstances that put him in that time and place and mental state.

When we first went to war in Iraq, I wondered how many Timothy McVeigh’s we were creating. Now I wonder how many military men and women are here, at home, operating with a hair trigger. What we need to say to them is “It’s not your fault.” The best thing we can do for them is acknowledge PTSD without being afraid and make certain our Senators and Representatives find the funds to restore their normalcy.

Yeah, that’s going to happen.