Saturday, June 03, 2006

Behind “Ethics Training” Ruse, Work Occurs on Stress Reduction

Dear President Bush,

It is good to see the Army working to reduce the likely cause of innocent civilian deaths in Iraq, traumatically stressed soldiers. The Army’s consulting psychiatrist said “all wars produce stress casualties”. A recent study showed less than a quarter of the soldiers with post traumatic stress syndrome who served in Iraq and Afghanistan receive treatment for their condition. Many are recalled to the front lines with an active disease process. The GAO found the Pentagon does not have the resources to treat all soldiers who need it.

Army psychiatrists see the results of multiple tours on those with traumatic stress syndrome. Combat leaders in the field say there is a change in handling soldiers with symptoms. In one community in the Triangle of Death nearly 40% of service persons have been treated for mental or emotional anxiety. A battalion commander said “it used to be that if you went to a combat stress team, you were a loser. Now we expect it.”

Now the Army is mobilizing mental health teams to the most intense combat zones to pull soldiers from units for extensive therapy.

The shift in treatment comes as military leaders assess what may have led U.S. Marines to allegedly kill civilians in the western town of Haditha on Nov. 19.

Your two strategies, ethics training and improved mental health diagnosis and treatment, suggest the problem in Haditha to be system wide, not the aberration Sec. Rumsfeld suggests. Donald could not even get backup support from his consulting psychiatrist as the system, wars, produces stress casualties.

My only lingering question on this issue is our volunteer recruiting standards. I understand they have been eased to facilitate the meeting of quotas. Did they relax any of the mental health parameters? Does the military now accept people with mental health or anxiety issues? If so, what role might that play in incidents like Haditha?

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