Spitting On The Troops

by digby

We've now come full circle. The anger and disdain among political activists toward returning Vets is back with a vengeance. And it's pretty ugly. Sadly No finds one example (regarding this article in today's WaPo about a returning vet with PTSD):

How does one decipher whether a person is truly mentally ill, or is exploiting their battle experiences to their fullest advantage?

How do we know if Troy is the person he is because of the battlefield experiences, or if he is choosing to be this person because others are enabling him? Since we’re not hearing from Troy’s pre-war family and friends it is difficult to really know what he was life prior to his tour in Iraq.

I’m very skeptical of Troy’s “problems” and so should others who read this article.

He is capable of rational thought and he is making choices. He choses to swallow pills and watch TV in the dark- to shut himself in…to refuse medical/psych care and, I really wonder- the required services that would make him a better person.

When we enable some people to be the worst they can be, they take advantage and do just that.

The political activists who metaphorically spit on the troops today are on the right.

This is going to be more common as we come up against the government's responsibility toward our military and the brainwashing these selfish right wing creeps have undergone for the last 20 years. I don't think they've ever contemplated the fact that their patriotic reverence for the troops might conflict with their anti-government philosophy. After all, the military is a government program. And there are going to be veterans who need the government's help for the rest of their lives.

Sadly No documents some of the comments to that post which illustrate the strange new mental terrain these people are entering. This one says it all:

The liberal mindset is what causes PTSD. Boys being raised to men without a strong male role model, and having a false sense of what life is about is causing our young men to go to war and come home freaked out.

That's an excellent diagnosis, no doubt endorsed by the experienced doctor shopping medical expert Rush Limbaugh. But it doesn't really hold water since combat stress has been around since cave days. In WWI they called it shell shock. In WWII they called it battle fatigue. In Vietnam they called it PTSD. Whatever it's called, it's one of the most common war injuries of all.

In fact,in the Ken Burns doc on WWII, I was startled to see this statistic:

One out of four Army men evacuated for medical reasons in Europe and the Pacific suffered from neuro-psychiatric disorders. There were many names for it – “shell shock,” “battle fatigue,” “combat exhaustion.” The office of the U.S. surgeon general sent Dwight D. Eisenhower a study by two soldier-psychiatrists that found “there is no such thing as ‘getting used to combat.’ … Each moment … imposes a strain so great that men will break down in direct relation to the intensity and duration of their exposure. Psychiatric casualties are as inevitable as gunshot and shrapnel wounds.” Army planners determined that the average soldier could withstand no more than 240 days of combat without going mad. By that time, the average soldier was probably dead or wounded.

I don't think all those soldiers in WWII had liberal single mothers who didn't know how to raise proper children, do you?

The keyboard commandos are in grave danger of jumping the patriotic shark at this point. As much as these movie addled children love the glory they think other people dying confers upon them, the horror of war is actually very real. And the reality affects those who fight it directly, not those who sit in judgment between trips to the mall. Many men and women who have been involved in this thing, regardless of their politics, are injured in body, mind and spirit. But these cheerleaders on the right apparently aren't willing to put up with any veteran who doesn't hide all feelings of ambiguity, pain or disagreement. They are already calling them "phony", mentally unstable or malingerers in the right wing noise machine. It's not likely to get any better.

This war has always been a movie to them. And these people like their entertainment to be simple black and white battles between good 'n evul. Soldiers with problems or misgivings about the war are uncomfortable shades of gray, participants with moral authority who actually donned the uniform and threw themselves into danger and yet they behave in ways that can only be understood as "liberal". The enemy. Some will even need help from the government and many will think they deserve it, even as they say they are now against the war they fought. How would a John Wayne cartoon deal with that?

The Iraq War Vets are coming back to a country in which many of the military's most ardent defenders demand they never allow anyone to see what they have been through or speak views that might force armchair generals to face the fact that war is not a game and that the American military is made up of real human beings instead of figments of a Hollywood screenwriter's imagination. They fought for Rush Limbaugh's fantasies. What a terrible thing to do to them.