Because we have chosen not to share the sacrifices of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the terrible burden of these conflicts is being shouldered by an obscenely small portion of the population. Since this warrior class is so small, the same troops have to be sent into the war zones for tour after harrowing tour.
As the tours mount up, so do the mental health problems. Combat is crazy-making to start with. Multiple tours are recipes for complete meltdowns.
Recent attempts by the military to deal with some of the most egregious aspects of its deployment policies have amounted to much too little, much too late. The RAND study found that approximately 300,000 men and women who had served in Iraq and Afghanistan were already suffering from P.T.S.D. or major depression. That’s nearly one in every five returning veterans.
The mass-produced tragedies of war go far beyond combat deaths. Behind the abstract wall of RAND’s statistics is the immense real-life suffering of very real people. The toll includes the victims of violence and drunkenness and broken homes and suicides. Most of the stories never make their way into print. The public that professes such admiration and support for our fighting men and women are not interested.
We’re brutally and cold-bloodedly sacrificing the psychological well-being of these men and women, which should be a scandal. If these wars are so important to our national security, we should all be engaging in some form of serious sacrifice, and many more of us should be serving.
But the country soothes its conscience and tamps down its guilt with the cowardly invocation: “Oh, they’re volunteers. They knew what they were getting into.”
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Friday, May 22, 2009
Brilliant piece by Bob Herbert. I hope everyone has a wonderful Memorial Day weekend.