March 27th, 2006
“As the US military has difficulties recruiting and retaining soldiers for its never-ending war of occupation in Iraq, the armed services are resorting to increasingly desperate means of coping. The Stop-Loss option in soldiers’ contracts has allowed soldiers to be kept in uniform months or years after their term of service has expired. The National Guard has been sent overseas to a previously unprecedented extent. And military standards have been lowered, so that drug or alcohol abuse, pregnancy, and poor fitness no longer necessarily lead to dismissal of new recruits.
Now word comes that “mentally ill” troops are being sent back to Iraq. [See: Some troops headed back to Iraq are mentally ill] This article refers to “a little-discussed truth fraught with implications,” but the implications discussed all have to do with the effects on the soldiers being returned, and these soldiers’ “effectiveness in combat.” In many instances, being returned to combat, and to a state of constant tension, will exacerbate the soldiers’ problems, the article — correctly — suggests….”
“One “implication” not even mentioned in the article is that sending “mentally ill” soldiers back into combat puts not only the soldiers’ own mental health at risk, but endangers Iraqis as well. What is the quality of decision-making by highly stressed soldiers, whether they suffer from “PTSD” or only from “combat-stress reaction”? These soldiers are armed with lethal weapons and are often in a position to make split-second life-or-death decisions. After all, “stress” is often used as a defense when other armed authorities, such as police, are caught engaging in abusive or even murderous behavior. Surely the effects of stress can only be magnified on soldiers who spend a year or more being assigned to a country where they can never feel entirely safe.”