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Commentary :: Social Welfare
Increase in post traumatic stress disorder and the Iraq war
27 Jan 2006
Modified: 09:28:30 AM
With more war vets seeking treatment for post-truamatic stress disorder the Bush administration has questioned the diagnosis itself. Written from the informed prospective of someone who has experienced PTSD, the article looks at why PTSD is increasing now amoungst vietnam vets as well as some of the effects the adminstation will have on proliferating the disorder.
Increase in Post traumatic stress disorder and the war in Iraq

One growing effect of the war in Iraq in an increase in cases of post traumatic stress disorder, which has resulted in a neo-conservative attack on the validity of the diagnosis and an attempt to dismissed the need to support the troops whose lives have been destroyed by the deceit of the Bush administration. This Attack has to some degree been led by Dr. Sally Satel, a neo-conservative who has in the past defended racist policies in emergency room procedures and promoted the dis-empowerment of citizens with Mental health disabilities. Consistent with past administration practices to hide the ramification of our nations current permanent war economy the Bush administration is attacking the diagnosis, a move completely inconsistent with supporting US troops. As in the case of the weapons of mass destruction, where the administration knowingly propagated false and misleading information in order to force through it's own self-serving agenda, the administrations distortion of information to mislead the public provides the justification for immoral policies based on the lie that policy decisions are being based on the best possible intelligence.

For those not very familier with PTSD, it may seem confusing that the largest demographic growth in the need for treatment so far is not with returning Iraq vets but with vietnam vets. To understand this it is necessary to understand the nature of trauma and how humans as individuals and cultures heal from truama. American Vietnam vets had a relatively high level of PTSD compared to vets from world war two but a comparable level to cases in world war one. In part this can simply be explained by the average age of the combatants, 19 years of age in both Vietnam and WWI 26 in WWII, but other facts such as the degree to which the basic social contract was obviated by those governing the war policies, the degree to which propaganda and distortion set up soldiers to even greater disillusionment than war itself and the degree to which Government policies to hide the reality of the war prevent the grief and mourning that promote a healthy recovering.

The bases of Trauma is exposure to danger to oneself or others one feels some level of responsibility or empathy with combined with a lack of options, a hopelessness, to effect that situation. The violation of the social norms and contracts create an unreality that not only adds to the sense of hopelessness but prevent those unexposed to the trauma from being able to empathies and provide support to the recovering victim in the post trauma period. Think of this in terms of the Bush administrations insistence in hiding military coffins from appearing in the news media and refusal to himself participate in funerals that would both aide the healing process and provide a higher level of awareness that would equip more of the civilian population to support their friends and relatives exposed to this horrible brutality That George W. Bush policies have brought, not just to america but to the world.

Dr. Sally Satel attacks the diagnosis of PTSD by saying it encourages people not to get better, and in the shadow of ignorance neo-conservatives (and neo-liberals ) depend on the rise in treatment needs of vietnam vets may seem to encourage that understanding, but in the light of information it makes very good sense. Individuals process trauma to the degree they are able both in terms of their own nature and in the options society allows. I am reminded of something I heard back during the Bosnian crisis about British WWII vets, prisoners of war who had been forced to work in concentration camps where they were forced to witness and in some cases co-operate with the genocide of Jews, Gypsies and others by the Nazi regime. After the war they returned to english society, still very much in denial about the holocaust and certainly not able to understand why a non-Jewish Britisher would be effected by the crisis. By the 1990's, while the majority of Jewish survivors had progressed as a community in facing and healing from the holocaust these British soldiers had swallowed and buried their Grief and rage within themselves, still often negatively effecting their lives in ways they and others could not understand when suddenly confronted with images of genocide historically linked to their own experience, suddenly their truama and it's disabling effect came to the surface again. That Vietnam vets are becoming triggered and needing to seek help can actually be seen as a testament of how much Iraq is a reply of Vietnam. It is also indicative of the social problems the Bush administration is seeding for our future and that of our children and grandchildren.

Elizabeth Parenti Soba
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