The Ticking Time Bomb

copyright © 2008 Forgiven. The Disputed Truth

There is a story taking place in America that is being buried by the media, the armed forces, and the politicians. This story is so frightening that no one wants to address it or even talk about it. This story has the potential to bring more violence to the streets of America than any terrorist attack. The frightening tale that is being ignored is the fact that we have ticking time bombs within our midst. They do not belong to al Qaeda or any other shady terrorist cell, they will not be profiled because they don’t have Mid-Eastern ancestry, nor are they Muslim extremists. These ticking time bombs are our own sons, daughters, fathers, and brothers. They are the returning soldiers from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Just like everything else in these wars the brunt of the fighting has fallen on a very small group of individuals and their numbers are shrinking. These unfortunate few have been forced to fight this war on an almost constant deployment. No sooner than they arrive home, they are redeployed back to the war zone. Many are unable to retire or discharge themselves from their respective services due to stopgap measures instituted by the White House and the services designed to keep those shrinking numbers on a constant rotation. Because we have never fought a war like this one no one knows the consequences of placing these young men and women in this state of constant fear and agitation. Whenever there is any clinical evidence concerning the stress levels of returning service people it is buried.

I have often wondered why with so many Americans against this war there isn’t a stronger outpouring of protest and outrage. Then I am reminded of how the warrior sheep have framed and prosecuted this war. Short of the relatively small number of families being asked to prosecute this war, the rest of us have had to make little if any sacrifices. The warrior sheep have placed the cost of the war on future generations. They are satisfied with using  a dwindling volunteer force, a rogue mercenary army staffed by US security firms, and proxy forces from countries who cannot enforce the rule of law in their own nations, so there is no draft. We still have plenty of commodities albeit more expensive than before the war, but there are no shortages and rationing. So honestly, what is this war costing us?

The study found troops in the unit reported low morale, spousal abuse and attempted suicides. And yet, troops had to wait up to two months for an appointment with a mental health expert once they returned, it said.

A separate report by the Army released earlier this month found that soldiers on their third or fourth combat deployment were at particular risk of suffering mental health problems.

Major General Gale Pollock, the Army’s deputy surgeon general, said the results simply “show the effects of a long war.”

A similar report by the Army’s Mental Health Advisory Team released in 2007 found that 28 percent of soldiers who had been in high-intensity combat were experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder, or acute stress. Middle East Online

What is disconcerting about these numbers is that they keep rising. The original studies concerning PTSD in returning Iraqi veterans placed the numbers at 1 in 12, now they are at 1 in 4. The numbers are rising not due to the nature of the conflict but due to the continued policy of longer and more repeated deployments. Or as the General in the study called it, “the results of a long war”. Eventually what is going to happen is that these ticking time bombs are going to begin to explode. They are not getting the psychological treatment they deserve and need and at some point they are going to break. Humans can only take so much stress and trauma before we psychologically break.

For those too young to know the term “going postal” came into existence because of a large number of veterans given jobs at the Postal Service for their years of service and sacrifice for their country began to break with reality and began killing supervisors and customers. I believe that if these psychological issues are not addressed soon we are going to see a level of violence unprecedented in American history. We are already seeing the number of suicides rise among these veterans, eventually that violence will be turned away from themselves and towards society. The thing about the false patriots in this country is that they are only patriotic at others expense, they have put nothing in place to deal with the trauma they have helped to create. This type of phenomenon happens over the course of years, it was years after Vietnam that the “postal” veterans began striking.

The scary thing about all of this is that you will not know when or where it is going to happen. That fine young man sitting next to you at Starbucks could be just waiting to open up his coat and unleash a barrage of death and destruction. The randomness of it will be what makes it so frightening. And of course our warrior sheep will blame everything but the war for these homegrown suicidal killers. These will be the terrorists created by the war on terror. How ironic. Because we don’t fully understand or can predict the causes and extent of the damage of these PTSD sufferers isolating or tracking them will be next to impossible. We have no conclusive evidence of what causes or who suffers from these horrors of war. But make no mistake in the end we will all suffer as innocents begin to be slaughtered by war heroes.

But given her research, and the study in this week’s New England Journal, it’s clear that brain injuries don’t have to be massive to cause significant emotional and mental problems, and that “shell shock,” as it used to be called, may be caused by physical injury or, in turn, cause physical symptoms – it’s not just a reaction to the horrors of war. And if that’s the case, better and earlier medical and psychological intervention, along with better protective armor that shields the body as well as the head, could make life after combat a lot easier to endure. Time

Remember just because the story is being buried doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. One of the most repugnant aspects of the Neo-Con mindset  is that they believe if they ignore or deny something enough then it doesn’t exist or by the same token if they say something enough then it does exist. The question is then, “If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around does it make a sound? I guess depending on how you answer that question will determine your depth of knowledge concerning this storm on the horizon. Do we honestly think we can bring home all of these psychologically scarred  people and there not be any fallout? I guess it is just considered more collateral damage.  We haven’t even begun to study the mercenary armies of the security firms. What skeletons are going to come falling out of that closet is anybody’s guess. We have already begun to see the mental cases they have under arms and in charge. Tick, Tick, Tick…

As scarce as truth is, the supply has always been in excess of the demand.

~ Josh Billings

Government ignores veteran and soldier suicides

© copyright 2008 Michael Prysner.  Party for Socialism and Liberation

Originally Published Friday, December 28, 2007

While prosecuting its war on the Iraqi people I had been in Iraq for about two months when my brigade suffered its first fatality. He died from a gunshot wound to the head. Nobody wanted to believe that it had happened. The deployment was supposed to be quick and easy; we were supposed to be greeted with flowers and return home within a few months. ??As the sounds from the memorial service echoed in our barracks, there was silence-only the recorded sounds of bagpipes playing “Amazing Grace.” Nobody wanted to talk about the realization that we may never return home. Nobody wanted to talk about the situation we had gotten into; the number of Iraqi people who were dying because of the invasion. Most of all, nobody wanted to talk about the soldier who had died.

The bullet that killed him came from his own rifle, but nobody wanted to talk about that either. Everyone wanted to believe the official story, that it was an accidental discharge. To consider anything else meant accepting that surviving the war was more than just surviving combat. Making it home alive does not necessarily mean making it home safe.

According to the Pentagon, at least 152 soldiers have committed suicide while serving overseas in the phony “war on terror.” It can be safely assumed that this number is much higher, as the military brass would rather explain a suicide as a “tragic accident” rather than a result of combat stress. ??In fact, the Army maintains to this day that it has not yet found a link between combat stress and suicide. The Army’s Surgeon General, Lt. Gen. Kevin Kiley, has asserted: “We have not made a connection between the stress on the force and some massive or even significant increase in suicides.” ??This position ignores the truth about serving an imperialist army in an imperialist war. ??It was exposed by a recent CBS News study on suicide levels among veterans. The study showed that veterans commit suicide at twice the rate of civilians. The suicide rate among people in the United States as a whole is 8.9 per 100,000 people. The level among veterans is at least 18.7 per 100,000 people.

Veterans of the imperialist “war on terror” experience a higher rate of suicide with at least 22.9 suicides per 100,000 people.

The Veterans Administration does not keep a record of veteran suicides. It actively avoids these terrible statistics. Countless cases have come to light about soldiers with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder being denied treatment, being diagnosed as having a “pre-existing” condition and being accused of lying to escape military service. ??The military brass has stooped so low as to blame suicides on “Dear John” letters, poor upbringing by parents, and “underdeveloped life coping skills.” ??False excuses like these allow the Pentagon to absolve itself of all responsibility. The military is able to circumvent paying disability benefits. It also permits the warmongers to distort the situation in Iraq to serve their own interests. The Pentagon only cares about advancing its military goals. It cares nothing about the soldiers it uses to spread imperialism.

It cares nothing about the Iraqi people, over a million of whom have been killed in this criminal war and occupation.

A criminal war

I have experienced first hand the bureaucracy of the VA system. I have walked into the mental health office and been pointed in a hundred different directions, told to come back another time, and told to drive over an hour to another VA office. After several months of frustration, I ended up with a bag full of pills. This was the treatment I was offered.

Private Jonathan Schulze also received the run around from the VA. An Iraq war veteran suffering PTSD, he tried to check himself in to a VA psychiatric unit in Minnesota. With the aid of his parents, he explained to his counselor that he was suicidal and insisted on being admitted. Instead, he was placed on a long waiting list. The following day, his parents called the VA and pleaded for their son’s admission. They received no cooperation. Four days later, haunted by memories of war, Jonathan Schulze went into his basement, tied an extension cord around his neck, and hanged himself.

Private Jason Scheuerman could not wait until he returned home from Iraq to seek treatment for PTSD. He informed his fellow soldiers and commanding officers that he was suicidal. He was experiencing some of the most extreme symptoms of PTSD, including hallucinations. When he finally received a mental health evaluation, the psychiatrist concluded that he did not meet the criteria for a mental health disorder. The psychiatrist also informed his leaders that he was “claiming mental illness in order to manipulate his command.” ??Not only was Scheuerman denied treatment and forced to remain on combat duty, but he also was punished by his superiors for seeking mental help and threatened with jail time. Shortly thereafter, there was a letter posted on Scheuerman’s barracks closet. Inside the closet, his lifeless body was discovered. “Maybe finally I can get rid of these demons, maybe finally I can get some peace,” he wrote.

The U.S. government will not adequately care for the soldiers it sends to do its biding. It will use them as cannon fodder, then leave them to die alone in a basement or in a dark closet. ??With the recent data displaying a suicide epidemic, the VA has vowed to improve its psychiatric treatment. This is nothing but empty promises. Soldiers will continue to kill and be killed in an unjust war on the Iraqi people. If they return, many will be plagued by trauma. ??But soldiers have the power to break this cycle. If soldiers want to fight a just battle, one that will serve their interests and not the interests of the ruling class, they can join the fight against the system that profits from human suffering. ??Not one more Iraqi should have to die. Not one more Iraqi family should have to leave their homes to flee the imperialist occupation of their country.

Not one more U.S. soldier should fight and die in Iraq. And not one more will have to if they refuse to fight in this criminal war.  

What recruiters will not tell you?



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Iraq war veteran, Herold Noel; homeless.

© copyright 2008 Michael Prysner.  Party for Socialism and Liberation

Originally Published on Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The truth about military ‘opportunities’

Employment opportunities are a pillar of military recruitment.  Recruiters focus much of their efforts on low-income schools and communities, promising that the military provides valuable skills and job training.

Television commercials for the Army often show soldiers transitioning into the professional world, depicting military service as a guaranteed stepping-stone to success.  The Army airs television commercials showing soldiers in uniform transforming into professionals in suits and lab coats.

The idea that one can serve a short term in the military and emerge a valued, marketable worker attracts youth fearful of life after high school, as well as older workers who struggle under capitalism.  While many join the military hoping for a better life for themselves and their families, the reality is that veterans actually experience a dramatically higher rate of unemployment.

A recent study by consulting firm Abt Associates Inc. discovered that a staggering 18 percent of veterans who sought work within one and three years of their discharge were unemployed.  The current unemployment rate in the United States is 4.9 percent, showing that veterans are far more likely to suffer unemployment than civilians.

Of the veterans who do find employment, 25 percent earn less than $21,840 annually.  The study said that the reasons veterans are denied jobs are the very things they hoped to overcome when they joined the military-lack of technological skills and poor education.

The issue of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder has been a difficult obstacle for veterans trying to return to civilian life.  The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) offers severely inadequate assistance.  The study also revealed that employers are less likely to hire veterans because they fear a mental condition.  Veterans with PTSD not only have to struggle with their own inner demons and the effect it has on their families; they are also discriminated against by employers for their condition.

The reserves uses the potential for quality employment as a recruiting tool much more than the active-duty military, promoting the idea of a “citizen soldier” who is in the military for only one weekend a month.  Reservists are convinced that they will receive job training and education, and have the freedom to pursue a career while serving a small obligation to the military.

As it turns out, reservists are finding themselves locked into active-duty status and being sent on repeated deployments.  Moreover, they are also being denied their jobs when they return.  The Labor Department has reported high rates of formal job complaints filed by reservists.  In 2006, 1,357 reservists filed formal complaints after being refused their old jobs upon returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.

While thousands of veterans struggle to find employment after leaving the military, many cannot even find a place to live.  The VA refuses to track the number of homeless veterans.

The National Coalition for Homeless Veterans estimates hundreds, perhaps thousands, of soldiers who fought in Iraq or Afghanistan are homeless or living in shelters.  Over 1,200 homeless veterans have received help from NCHV.  However, groups aiding homeless veterans assert that this number reflects only a fraction of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who are homeless.

When compared with the rate of homeless veterans following the Vietnam War, the future of veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan looks very grim.  Vietnam veterans who became homeless did so after spending five to 10 years trying to readjust to civilian life.  Veterans of the current wars are ending up with no place to live after only 18 months.

The problems veterans face upon separating from the military-lack of jobs, alcohol and drug abuse, denial of benefits, suicide, homelessness-all stem from the same root cause.  The military-industrial complex has one goal in mind: profit.

The U.S. government spends millions on a single bomb, but will not spend an adequate amount establishing support systems for veterans once they return from combat.  The massive military budget is used to increase the wealth of the capitalists, while the veterans of their imperialist wars are tossed into poverty.

The deteriorating conditions for veterans and the increasing number of problems they must face reveal the true nature of this war: profits over people.

Michael Prysner is an Iraq war veteran running for Congress (22nd District – Florida.) as a candidate of the Party for Socialism and Liberation.  For more on his campaign click here.