Saturday, April 18, 2009

The Psychological Cost of the War in Afghanistan


Canadian soldiers searching for Al Qaeda and Taliban
insurgents in the rugged hills of Afghanistan

Photo Courtesy: (wikimedia)

War, any war, is not a cakewalk. Once late Pope John Paul II had said that in a war no one is a winner. All the parties to a war are losers.

The Toll on the Canadian Forces

The Toronto Star reports that more than one in five Canadian soldiers and police officers engaged in Afghanistan war efforts leave the force with post-traumatic stress disorders (PTSD) or other psychiatric problems. By the end of March, 2009, the personnel discharged on these grounds rose to 1,053, representing an increase of more than 50% from that of 2008.

It has been learnt from documents, released released under the Access to Information Act, that longer, multiple and more dangerous deployments "have led to an increase in the prevalence of operational stress injuries among the members of these organizations.,"

The paper also reports that the federal government has spent millions of dollars on clinics across the country to treat military and police veterans after years of criticism that it was failing those who risk their lives in the country's defence.

Impact of War on the U.S. Soldiers

The Science Daily reports that, according to a new RAND Corporation study, one in five Iraq and Afghanistan veterans in the USA suffers from PTSD or major depression. Nearly 20% of military service members (about 300,000) returning from Iraq and Afghanistan report symptoms of PTSD or major depression and only a little more than half of them have sought any treatment.

The researchers also found that 19% of the returnees report that they experienced a possible traumatic brain injury while deployed, with 7% reporting both a probable brain injury and current PTSD or major depression.

Many of these returnees do not seek treatment of their psychological problems fearing that it will harm their careers or they will be avoided by the society.

Incidences of Violence Among the Veterans

In Canada, they have found that "untreated cases in the past have resulted in tragic and horrifying cases of drug addiction, assault, rape and even suicide."

In the New York Times report it has been mentioned that there have been 121 cases in which veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan committed killing in the USA, or were charged with one, after their return from war. In many of those cases, combat trauma and the stress of deployment -- along with alcohol abuse, family discord and other attendant problems -- appear to have set the stage for a tragedy that was part destruction, part self-destruction. Half of these killings involved guns, and the rest were stabbings, beatings, strangulations and bathtub drownings. About a third of the victims were spouses, girlfriends, children or other relatives. Although this number is not that remarkable in relations to the total number of returnees, these incidences require our attention to be placed in the total welfare of the soldiers and their families. According to the US Veterans Administration, veterans with PTSD are two-to-three times more likely to commit intimate partner violence than veterans with the disorder.

"50- or 60- or 70-year problem"

The Associated Press in its April 3, 2009 report mentions that US Navy Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that homelessness, family strains and psychological problems among returning veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars would persist in the US for generations to come. "This is not a 10-year problem. It is a 50- or 60- or 70-year problem," he said. He was speaking to a lunchtime audience at the Hudson Union Society, a group that promotes nonpartisan debate.

The Impact of the Afghan War on Soviet Soldiers

The Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan started in December, 1979 and ended in 1988 with the withdrawal of their troops by Mikhail Gorbachev. In thoses years, 15,000 Soviet soldiers were killed and many others were wounded.

The war had a very negative impact on the Soviet soldiers. Many became invalids, many felt unwanted by the State, and many did not get rehabilitated as expected. Women serving in Afghanistan, worked as nurses, office workers, cooks and other support staff. Many of these women got raped by their own soldiers in Afghanistan. On their return, many of these women were looked down upon by the society. They were thought to be prostitutes, cheap women who "amused" their own soldiers.

Forty-six percent of the civilians thought that the Afghan war was a national shame and only 6% said that they were proud of their soldiers who had fulfilled their international duty in Afghanistan.

Among the long-term effectson the Soviet soldiers were: alcohol and drug addiction, physical disability, PTSD with symptoms including "flashbacks, emotional numbness, withdrawal, jumpy hyperalertness or overcompensatory extroversion."

Afghanistan War: A Clueless War -- Get Out of It!

In traditional warfare, you know the enemy -- their identity, their location, their movement. In guerrilla warfare, as in Afghanistan, you do not know the enemy because they blend and mix up with the common folks. This "unknowingness" and "no-clear-frontline" create fear among the regular soldiers. They have to be battle-ready all the time without any sleep or rest. This definitely cause psychological drain on the regular soldiers. Many of them cannot cope with this situation.

Initially, the Afghanistan war was a worthy cause. Gradually it lost its worthiness, as the bulk of the enemy is no longer in Afghanistan. They come from another country that favours their presence and, in most reports we see, that even actively aids the very terrorists that the NATO soldiers are fighting with.

No, No, No, No, No, No, No, Yes, Yes

Is the Afghanistan war worth it? No.
Is it valorous to fight this war? No.
Can our Canadian soldiers feel patriotic in fighting this war? No.
Do our parents of soldiers feel proud of sending and letting their children die in this war? No.
Are we fighting Canada's war? No.
Are we able to search and destroy the enemy in their dens? No.
Are we, with limited and "humane" fighting, able to defeat terrorism? No.
Are we letting our dear soldiers die for nothing? Yes.
Are we there only to save our skins and working as security guards of the Afghan government personnel and infrastructures, instead of really fighting the enemy? Yes.

Canada needs to take a quick and serious decision on its war in Afghanistan. We can no longer hide our head in the sand like the ostrich bird. We can no longer be the "see-nothing, say-nothing and hear-nothing monkey!"

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