A recent Pentagon study on the ethics of soldiers in Iraq and mental health is disturbing. One major factor seems to be the long tours of duty and the lack of good old R&R.

Only 47 percent of the soldiers and 38 percent of Marines said noncombatants should be treated with dignity and respect.

-About a third of troops said they had insulted or cursed at civilians in their presence.

-About 10 percent of soldiers and Marines reported mistreating civilians or damaging property when it was not necessary. Mistreatment includes hitting or kicking a civilian.

The real message is that we have brutalised these people as an outcome of political dogma, poor planning and a complete lack of understanding of the situation. And these people are coming home.

What state will they be in?

Sadly this will produce a

Sadly this will produce a large number of permanently mentally troubled ex-servicepeople to return home to live out their troubles. These will not be adequately addressed by the health/ illness industry and the pain will be left to be borne by their families, friends, neighbours and communities.     Well done Toady Bliar & Co.

This is an interesting

This is an interesting article in the Guardian, having looked through the report and examined the US forces responses to some of the questions I find that there are no surprises there at all. I will to a greater extent say that the answers given by the soldiers and Marines on the ground are nothing less than can be expected from troops in war. The operational conditions of a war where there is no clear enemy, where one part of the population stands in violence against another and outside agencies operate to destabilise an infrastructure, render a mass armed solution completely non viable. The result is that inserting an Army that has been trained to deal with obvious targets and obvious political will expressed as a reflection of national will from a unified stable democracy can have no truly successful outcome. In the case of Iraq there was no national unity in real terms behind the reign of Hussain this of course is compounded by there being no real social cohesion at a religious level either. All this serves to have a foreign army marching through the borders fed with the necessary dogma required to get that army to operate, which was wholly wrapped in the context under which the soldiers training took place, that of a clear and identifiable opponent that would disappear once the head and muscle had been neutralised. So we have a huge number of armed people walking about with all the training they have being of no use at all, the situation in fact being in direct opposition to everything they have been taught. This resolves itself in huge errors of judgement at the beginning of the invasion and remains prevalent as soldiers attempt to deal with a situation that they have no training for.

Many in society look at horror at statistics shown in the report and ask how can these soldiers think like this, clearly I say that they have no alternative on the ground, none who would pass an adverse judgement on the soldiers glibly understands the psychological damage that has been done to these men and women, it would take about 2 days of living in their world before they thought exactly the same way.

Many I know speak incredulously and with equal vitriol at the idea of people driving themselves and a lorry load of explosives into a market full of people, to many it is inconceivable. However the truth is that many suicide bombers have exactly the same psychiatric injury as the soldiers, that of post traumatic stress disorder. PTSD is brought about by an amazing array of conditions and is prevalent within normal society as a result of things ranging through bullying, incest, rape, assault, and witnessing violent death. Not many people are familiar with the effects of it but with authority I can clearly state that some symptoms of a sufferer worthy of note are:

Belief that they are not really in this world.

Belief that they were meant for some divine purpose that has not been explained to them.

Belief that they have no future beyond the purpose they were meant for.

Inability to engage emotionally or empathise with others outside their immediate framework.

An absolute belief in a localised framework that if threatened they will defend with everything they have.


These are some of the symptoms, but they are the relevant ones in this context as you can see that it is applied on both sides of the conflict. In this case violence truly does breed violence. Can we blame the soldiers? No not at all they are responding as a human does in conditions that make no sense having fractured a country using tactics that are of no value. Can we blame the civilians in Iraq for the atrocities they perform in the name of God or their own interpretation? No, their situation is worse, a reciprocal spiral of violence that did not have governing rules to start with. Can we blame the instigators of this, our leaders that assumed that the approach of mass armed numbers could resolve into a peaceful happy nation? Yes, absolutely, with everything we have and everything we are we must hold these mass murderers accountable or we have nothing and we are nothing.

If The Guardian report is

If The Guardian report is accurate then the Pentagon study is profoundly flawed.  The raw statistics as shown appear to tell a story of psychiatric damage as a direct result of the circumstances in which these personnel have been placed.  The prolonged periods of active service are a given, of course, but there are other factors which the study has apparently failed to consider.

There's a real question as to whether these attitudes are the direct result of exposure or whether the attitudes were present prior to deployment and/or enlistment.  That is crucial to the veracity of such a survey.   Indeed, what is the baseline?

That is not to say that these personnel are not damaged or affected by the warfare and daily exposure to risk and fear.  Nonetheless, one should recall the excesses and apparent damage (on all sides) of the Vietnamese conflict.  In that theatre of war United States personnel had a very much higher rate of rest periods (R & R) and yet many who returned from Vietnam were - and are - badly affected by their experiences.  A similar story could be told of the Korean conflict, too.

The simplistic summary of the study may well be an accurate reflection of its inadequate structure and methodology.  If so, the Pentagon may wish to carry out further more detailed work.

Thanks for your comment

Thanks for your comment Chuck, you raise an important point.

The reason I posted this is that it could be the first public evidence that there could be a lot of traumatised and brutilised soldiers coming home. We know how poorly the Vietnam vets were treated and it looks like US military hospitals and long term care haven't improved.

It doesn't matter what your views on the war are, it is common humanity to want these people to be treated appropriately.

Agreed, it certainly is the

Agreed, it certainly is the humane thing to wish that these individuals are treated appropriately.  However, there is a further matter, and that is the damage being done to countless non-combatants  who daily witness atrocities inflicted by all parties.  It is particularly disturbing - to say the least - that young children should be confronted with this.  And that has been going on for many months, indeed since the invasion of Iraq.

As to the treatment of veterans, American and British, I doubt that adequate resource has been put into repairs of psychological damage.  As everyone will recognise, psychological wounds are extraordinarily difficult to diagnose and to treat.  Already we have seen public outcry in American and Britain over treatment of individuals with physical injuries, but there has been almost no public recognition of the mental health issues.  Some of these invisible wounds are virtually untreatable and may not immediately manifest themselves.

Worse than that is the deliberate (UK) Ministry of Defence policy not to issue figures for non-fatal casualties.  This is, as one might expect, because MoD says that such information is strategically sensitive.  That may be so, but many will suspect that the 'sensitivity' is purely political.  In any event it is clear that the levels of casualties are very much higher than officially acknowledged.  And yet again, there are striking similarities here with VietNam and Korea.





Actually amongst Coalition

Actually amongst Coalition soldiers the US military has a good post theatre care plan. They still have dedicated hospitals which Britain does not have and they are equipped to deal with PTSD and major trauma rehab in ways which we are not.


The truth is that care for all soldiers returning injured from the battlefield has improved greatly since the Vietnam War. It is also worth remembering that the Vietnam War was a milestone in the fast extraction of wounded men. Many Americans, Vietnamese and Australians etc are alive today because of helicopter pilots.


Has for these people being treated properly when they come home I couldn’t agree more. But that includes not treating them like shite ten years down the line.

I'm not sure what a

I'm not sure what a definition of good post theatre care might be, but I'll take your word for it.  The reason for the lack of British military hospitals is that they are deemed too expensive to maintain (that's debatable, of course, given the number of wars and conflicts in which the Blair regime has ordered British military intervention) and hence British military casualties being treated in civilian hospitals such as Selly Oak.  It's worth also noting that the numbers of casualty evacuation flights into Birmingham is being kept very quiet.

Helicopter extraction to mobile army surgical hospitals was largely pioneered in the Korean conflict.  But even today, those suffering from 'combat stress' are not evacuated rapidly.  Rapid diagnosis of psychological trauma is much more difficult than physical wounds. 

Nonetheless, and as I have previously mentioned, it's not just military personnel who are damaged and traumatised.  What is being done for the civilians caught up in these conflicts?

Actually Chuck the British

Actually Chuck the British Army does have a comprehensive first line approach to trauma and indeed there are many in the forces who are trained to perform psychiatric first aid roles,. Having said that it is a while since I have seen it in action and I would hazard a guess that government cutbacks could well have impacted on this. All that aside you are correct in assuming that there is damage on the civilian population and it will be on an unprecedented scale due to the nature of the conflicts over there. At this time (reported in the BBC) there is a mass migration of trained doctors from Iraq and so it is difficult to see that the situation and indeed the results of the mental injuries suffered are likely to decrease in the near future. There is a positive to this though, the treatment of PTSD, although long and detailed, is achievable and anyone who suffers this type of injury can be brought back into normal life. I don't see it happening anytime soon for the innocent men women and children of Iraq who have had no choice but to be burdened with this by an inept set of jokers playing world values as if it were a board game between friends.

I would certainly not wish

I would certainly not wish to minimize the sacrifices made by soldiers in combat, and readily admit that it is not a job I would wish to do or be capable of doing.

That being said, what are people's thoughts on the following :  combat stress, post-combat stress disorder and sever pyschological effects are talked about in the context of every conflict since the Vietnam war. They are even talked about in relation to conflicts that are puny in relation to real wars (eg, the Falklands). But we never hear (or heard) about these phenomena after WW2, the Korean War, Malaya,Suez.

What is the reason? Did they exist but were simply not mentioned? Have troops got softer? Are general populations less warlike and thus less supportive? Is there a feeling that Vietnam and subsequent wars were illegimate conflicts?

Does any reader have ideas?

"Actually amongst Coalition

"Actually amongst Coalition soldiers the US military has a good post theatre care plan. They still have dedicated hospitals which Britain does not have and they are equipped to deal with PTSD and major trauma rehab in ways which we are not."

 Like Walter Reid? Face it, the US shafts its troops six ways from sunday. From the lies of the high school recriutment officer to the "Personality Disorder" discharge.

 "But that includes not treating them like shite ten years down the line."

 Treat them like shite now. Its what they deserve for participating in a warcrime. All together now: "I voz only obeyink orders."

As an ex-SS officer, I take

As an ex-SS officer, I take objection to the sentiments expressed in the mock-German accent in the preceding post. Let me tell you that "I woz givink ze orders, ja, Schweinehund!!"

"What is the reason? Did

"What is the reason? Did they exist but were simply not mentioned? Have troops got softer? Are general populations less warlike and thus less supportive? Is there a feeling that Vietnam and subsequent wars were illegimate conflicts?"

PTSD has been around for a long long time, it’s something that humans really have in common with animals and it is to do with survival. The condition of trauma is brought about when confronted with the absolute certainty of death in adverse conditions, but as I mentioned in my earlier post it may be brought about outside of a military conflict. Indeed references to the condition have been recorded as sixth century BC. Common references to it in terms of WW1 were battle shock, shell shock, battle weary, amongst others. Some of these terms are still in use. I would put forward the premise that, as an estimate, if you know thirty people then at least one will be suffering trauma related injuries. This is easily understood when the list of triggers is examined:

 serious issues including physical abuse, repeated verbal abuse, sexual abuse, violent crime, kidnap, abduction, rape, war, terrorism, torture, and denial and abuse of human rights

That isn’t all of the triggers, there are others. The reasons we haven’t heard much about it is purely due to the inability to understand the injury. Even Freud who accurately diagnosed this eventually withdrew from his own analysis when faced with the true scale of it in terms of the number of people that were suffering from it. To accept the number that were afflicted would be to accept that society was extremely morally corrupt. Freud refused to accept this and developed another analysis whereby he put forward the diagnosis of shadow self I think, essentially his argument was that females had a secret desire to be raped.

The biggest opponents to this condition have been the military, even trying to bury the reports of Vietnam that clearly showed empirical evidence of the existence of it. Society also fails to accept it as well, many soldiers returning from battle are aware of the whispers in corners of how “the war changed him, he was never the same when he came back.”. Equally many women who have been raped or suffered abuse are shunned by their own families and friends, nobodies fault really, it’s just human nature, but that does not help those that are in trouble. For the ones I have met and continue to help I start them here.

"combat stress, post-combat

"combat stress, post-combat stress disorder and sever pyschological effects are talked about in the context of every conflict since the Vietnam war...But we never hear (or heard) about these phenomena after WW2, the Korean War, Malaya,Suez. What is the reason? Did they exist but were simply not mentioned?"

 That's cos we changed the name. It used to be called "shell shock".

"We used to call it

"We used to call it shell-shock".

Come on!

Shell-shock is written about as a WWI phenomenon (and of course reflects the specific conditions of trench warfare). It is never used in the context of the subsequent conflicts I mentioned - WWII, Korea, Malaya.


"Shell-shock is written

"Shell-shock is written about as a WWI phenomenon"

 So? In WW2 they called it "exhaustion" or "battle fatigue". Currently it's PTSD.  Next war it will be something else.

They also used to call it

They also used to call it cowardice and shoot people suffering from it.

Jeez, I guess it's my fault

Jeez, I guess it's my fault for not being clear enough. Let's try again.

Let us say that after there are a couple of thousand people around with stress disorder after each of the recent conflicts. This in the context of total troop deployments of a couple of hundred tholusands. IN WWII MILLIONS of troops were deployed and saw active service. If stress disorder was as prevalent then as it is supposed to be today, that would mean that there would have been hundreds of thousands of WWI veterans with stress disorder (or whatever you said it was called then). WAS THAT THE CASE?  I think not, and that is why I wondered what had changed.

A lot has changed Anonymous,

A lot has changed Anonymous, actually there were 80,000 soldiers discharged with PTSD but that number does not include the ones that remained in service. However there are marked differences between then and now, The Army deployed now is much smaller than in WW1 and this contributes greatly with the increase of numbers. The difference in social upbringing and quality of life in comparison to WW1 and others is astronomical and again this is a reason for the increase in casualties. The enhanced methods of detection is far removed from earlier wars, as is the deployment strategy, WW1 soldiers were rotated out of combat after relatively short periods of time whereas now they are in permanent combat stress conditions.

Not forgetting that reporting is increasing as well so it is far more visible than it ever has been.