Iraq War: Year 7 Begins

March 20, 2009
G.W. Bush announces the start of the Iraq war via television to the American people on March 19, 2003. (AP)

G.W. Bush announces the start of the Iraq war via television to the American people on March 19, 2003. (AP)

Remember this address?

Since the war began, 4,259 US military personnel and tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians have died. Sadaam Hussein has also been killed.

The Huffington Post  reports that the focus as we enter the seventh year is on stability through politics:

Sunni and Shiite lawmakers warned Thursday that political and economic challenges could derail the country’s progress toward stability as the Iraq war entered its seventh year. […]

With violence at wartime lows, Sunni and Shiite politicians are focusing more on economic and political issues that the U.S. and many Iraqis fear could stoke the war after U.S. troops begin drawing down this year.

“The political process is full of tensions and contradictions and the situation in Iraqi will deteriorate if political progress isn’t made,” Sunni lawmaker Osama al-Nujaifi said. “There are still a lot of challenges ahead, including unemployment and the immigration millions of Iraqis abroad.”

I’m all-for stability through politics but it seems like everything I hear about their legislature implies that it’s a giant partisan clusterfuck of incompetence over there. Like, even worse than ours.

HuffPo also has a slideshow of the war’s defining moments. De-pressing!

Pentagon Reverses Media Ban On Flag-Draped Coffins

February 26, 2009

CoffinsThe ban, which prevented the media from capturing images of fallen soldiers returning to America in flag-draped coffins, was put into place in 1991 by Bush the 41st and was also exercised during Bush the 43rd’s administration.

Critics have argued that it is a form of censorship intended to hide the human cost of war from the public while others claim its only meant to protect and respect the family of the dead and those otherwise affected.

Since the ban, only a few exceptions have been made, all on an individual case basis.

The decision on whether the media will have access will now rest with the departed’s family.

More via the AP.

“The Largest Spending Bill In History”

February 4, 2009

While so-called fiscal conservatives are shitting themselves over the current stimulus package before them – Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) called it “the largest spending bill in history” – Barney Frank pointed out on ABC’s This Week Sunday that that title actually belongs to a little Republican-backed venture called the Iraq War.  (Boo-yah!)  Clip below:

NYT: Troubled Minds and Purple Hearts

January 26, 2009
NYTimes/Vivienne Flesher

Image: NYTimes/Vivienne Flesher

The New York Times has an opinion piece today about the Pentagon’s recent decision not to award the Purple Heart – given to those wounded during service – to those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Opponents of awarding the medal for PTSD argue that, to maintain the medal’s integrity and for un-scammable eligibility requirements, it should only be awarded in cases where blood is spilled. However, the article’s author, former Marine captain Tyler E. Boudreau, points out that the majority of Purple Hearts coming out of Iraq are for perforated ear drums, which result from being too near an explosion, and obviously do not involve any spilled blood.

I originally wrote about the Pentagon’s decision a couple weeks ago, where I argued that the unspoken truth underlying the Pentagon’s decision is the notion that suffering from a mental illness is not as valid as suffering from a physical illness or injury. Mr. Boudreau echoes this point and argues that it is becoming harder and harder to deny the burden carried by those suffering from PTSD as a result of their military service.

Mr. Boudreau is urging General Eric Shinseki, the new head of Veterans Affairs, to bring official recognition to these soldiers and I sincerely hope it comes for them.

Pentagon: PTSD Is Not A Wound

January 8, 2009

Photo: NYTimes

Brad linked me to this NYT article about a ruling the Pentagon took in November but only announced this week. The Pentagon has decided that individuals suffering from Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), a disorder referring to a cluster of symptoms that sometimes arise after an individual experiences a particularly traumatic experience (e.g., rape, war), will not be eligible for the Purple Heart.

The Purple Heart has never been awarded for psychological injuries and PTSD probably had the best chance of becoming the first. Opponents of the movement, however, argued that expanding the honor to victims of psychological disorders would “debase” the honor and added that “shedding blood is the objective.”

The Pentagon advisory group charged with making the decision decided against it because, it said, “the condition had not been intentionally caused by enemy action, like a bomb or bullet, and because it remained difficult to diagnose and quantify.”

Sufferers of PTSD often have difficulty or are unable to hold down jobs. Veterans who hold a Purple Heart receive more privileges and increased benefits than a veteran without a Purple Heart, which is why the government is concerned about malingerers scamming the system.

Sadly, the government’s ruling furthers the stereotype that mental illnesses are some how less legitimate or less debilitating to one’s life than physical illnesses. An attitude still persists that the individual with cancer (perhaps even the smoker with cancer) is a true victim but the individual with depression, anxiety, or PTSD is too weak to overcome his or her illness, or in the case of PTSD, simply too lazy to get a job. This stereotype is dangerous as it leads individuals to think that they should be able to overcome their (potentially) serious mental illness without the help of doctors and medicine and the support of family and friends. Unfortunately, mental illnesses “treated” by oneself in solitude are usually not treated all that while. Suicide is a particular concern among veterans especially since they are more likely to have access to firearms and the presence of a firearm in your home leads to an increased risk of suicide.

PTSD really started to emerge as a relatively common mental illness after soldiers stared returning from Vietnam. Since this time, treatment of PTSD has always struggled against the veteran population it most often targets, a population I would argue are less likely to see medical assistance in the first place (men with ‘can-do’ attitudes).

I also can’t help to wonder if those who were drafted into a war were more likely to suffer PTSD as a result of that war. In that case, one could argue that PTSD was not caused any specific Vietcong offensive but actually by the U.S. government’s draft policy.

I guess I understand wanting to protect the system from scammers but surely there’s a way one can quantify the diagnosis.

Related: Moving New Yorker profile of one family’s tragic encounter with PTSDThanks, Maria.