Impeach the President for War-Making: Support H. Res. 922

Update: You can quickly and easily send a letter asking your representative in the House to support H. Res 922 by visiting The Action Network. Please do so, it will help.

Impeaching the President for starting wars without the consent of Congress is the central tenet of House Resolution 922, which is co-sponsored by Representatives Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) and Walter Jones (R-NC).

I am very privileged to help introduce H. Res. 922 this Wednesday, July 18, along with Representatives Gabbard and Jones, and constitutional law expert Bruce Fein, at the US Capitol (11am, House Triangle). H. Res. 922 defines presidential wars not declared by Congress, to includes wars of co-belligerancy, such as the United States role in the atrocities in Yemen, as impeachable offenses.

H. Res. 922 provides a framework for the House of Representatives to assert its duty and responsibility in US war-making, as obligated by the US Constitution, by providing definitions and context to Article I, section 8, clause 11 of the Constitution (the declare war clause), as well as labeling presidential indifference to, neglect of and subversion against Congress’ role, and by extension the public’s will, in war-making “a high crime and misdemeanor”. This latter purpose of H. Res. 922 provides the justification for impeachment of a president for war-making, which, regardless of political party, has proven to be a constant, murderous and unchecked facet of our imperial presidents.

Will H. Res. 922 directly end war? No. However, it is an extremely valuable and non-partisan effort to put a check on current imperial presidential powers and to demonstrate a desire for accountability for the daily and unending madness and cruelty of US wars. H. Res. 922 should be viewed as part of a larger and broader campaign to end the wars we wage both abroad and at home (and if you don’t understand how the wars overseas are directly tied into the wars here at home, then please read how the US military is prepared to jail 20,000 children on US soil). Such a campaign necessarily requires legislative and political efforts, but must also include direct action, resistance, education and alternatives to the yearly one trillion dollar military-industrial complex.

Whatever assistance you and your organizations can provide in support of this resolution will be extremely helpful. Please share widely this announcement with your friends, family, organizations, networks, readers, listeners, followers, etc, and please also directly contact your representatives in the House and ask them to co-sponsor H. Res. 922.

All press are welcome on Wednesday and press inquiries can be directed to Allison Tucker in Congressman Jone’s office (202-225-3415) and Lauren McIlvaine in Congresswoman Gabbard’s office (202-225-4906). I have pasted below the text of the resolution.

Wage Peace.

115th CONGRESS

2d Session

H. RES. 922

IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

June 6, 2018

(for himself and Ms. Gabbard) submitted the following resolution; which was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary

RESOLUTION

Defining presidential wars not declared by Congress under Article I, section 8, clause 11 (Declare War Clause) as impeachable high crimes and misdemeanors within the meaning of Article II, section 4 of the Constitution and defining the meanings of war and cobelligerency for purposes of the Declare War Clause and Impeachment provisions.

Whereas presidential wars not declared by Congress under Article I, section 8, clause 11 are the most flagrant and dangerous of presidential usurpations;

Whereas President George Washington, who had presided over the Constitutional Convention and supported the Declare War Clause, elaborated during his service in office: The Constitution vests the power of declaring war with Congress; therefore, no offensive expedition of importance can be undertaken until after they have deliberated on the subject and authorized such a measure.;

Whereas presidential wars saddle the people with multi-trillion dollar indebtedness, diverts national genius from production to destruction, cripples liberty, silences the law, awakens enemies, and provokes blowback in the United States;

Whereas the absence of impeachment standards creates an appearance that impeachment is a partisan exercise, which undermines its legitimacy and deters its use;

Whereas the absence of definitions of war and co-belligerency for purposes of the Declare War Clause undermines its enforcement through the impeachment process or otherwise;

Whereas the law should warn before it strikes;

Whereas Article I, section 2, clause 5 provides that, The House of Representatives … shall have the sole Power of Impeachment;

Whereas the impeachment power of the House of Representatives is a cornerstone safeguard against Presidential tyranny;

Whereas the past neglect of the House of Representatives to use the impeachment power against Presidential usurpations and lawlessness has concentrated alarming power in the executive branch, crippled liberty, undermined transparency, and encouraged Presidents to further aggrandizements;

Whereas Article II, section 4 of the Constitution provides that, The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors;

Whereas the Constitutional Convention rejected neglect of duty or maladministration as impeachment standards in favor of high crimes and misdemeanors because the former terms were too broad;

Whereas impeachable high crimes and misdemeanors has an objective meaning based on the intent of the Constitution’s framers and British impeachment precedents;

Whereas Alexander Hamilton in Federalist 65 explained that impeachable offenses proceed from the misconduct of public men, or, in other words, from the abuse or violation of some public trust. They are of a nature which may with peculiar propriety be denominated POLITICAL, as they relate chiefly to injuries done immediately to the society itself;

Whereas the House of Representatives has voted articles of impeachment against two Presidents, one Cabinet officer, one Senator, one Supreme Court Justice, and 14 Federal judges without providing a general standard for defining an impeachable offense; and

Whereas every participant in the drafting, debating, and ratifying of the Constitution understood that the Declare War Clause prohibited presidential wars and entrusted exclusively to Congress the solemn responsibility for deciding whether the Nation should cross the Rubicon from a state of peace to a state of war: Now, therefore, be it

1.

Defining Presidential wars as impeachable offenses

The House of Representatives declares the following Presidential actions shall constitute impeachable high crimes and misdemeanors within the meaning of Article II, section 4, which will cause the House to vote an article or articles of impeachment to send to the Senate for trial:

  • Initiating wars against state or non-state actors without prior congressional declarations under Article I, section 8, clause 11 (Declare War Clause) by which Congress itself decides to take the United States from a condition of peace to a condition of war against an identified enemy.
2.

Defining presidential wars

Nothing in this resolution shall be interpreted to prohibit the President from responding with proportionate military force in the exercise of national self-defense to actual or imminent aggression or a declaration of war against the United States.

3.

Co-belligerncy

This resolution shall be interpreted to prohibit the President from making the United States a co-belligerent in an ongoing war without a congressional declaration under the Declare War Clause. For purposes of this section, the United States becomes a co-belligerent if it systematically or substantially supplies war materials, military troops, trainers, or advisers, military intelligence, financial support or their equivalent in association, cooperation, assistance, or common cause with another belligerent.

4.

Non-exclusivity

This Resolution shall not be interpreted to preclude the House of Representatives from concluding that other presidential actions constitute impeachable high crimes and misdemeanors within the meaning of Article II, section 4 either by supplemental resolutions or by ad hoc determinations.

5.

Effective date

This Resolution shall take effect upon passage by the House of Representatives.

 

 

Moral Injury 24 x 7

From Mike Hastie, a combat medic in the United States War against Vietnam:

Three weeks ago, I had a personal friend commit suicide by jumping off a bridge. She was not a veteran, nor is she someone identifiable by any of my activist friends. She did, however, suffer from severe moral injuries. Yesterday, I had a conversation with an Iraq veteran who was in Iraq in 2007. No one in his military unit were killed, but after they came home, six of his friends eventually committed suicide. The Iraq veteran I talked with attempted suicide, but eventually got help, and is doing quite well now.  Before I had the conversation with that veteran yesterday, I was working on a piece that I had titled, ” Moral Injury 24 X 7.”  This is that completed writing:

Moral Injury 24 X 7

“You” are walking around in circles,

morbidly depressed and withdrawn.

Nothing makes any sense anymore.

But, it never made any sense long  before

“You” ever went to war.

It was simply “your” turn to find out the

absolute truth, and finally realize why

countless veterans throughout history

wound up in suicide cemeteries.

“You” never knew about betrayal,

because those who went before

“you” were never allowed to speak.

The public just wants heroes.

They do not want to know the

veteran’s mindfield.

The magnitude of “your” illness is equal

to the depth of “your” silence.

Mike Hastie

Army Medic Viet Nam

June 20, 2018

Believe Peace is Possible

 
You won’t see much of this on US media, but the Afghan Taliban and the Afghan government have declared a ceasefire for the Eid Holiday, something the Afghan government has just extended and something the US military has not committed to.
These photos are of Afghan soldiers and police alongside Afghan Taliban fighters celebrating the ceasefire with one another. No clearer proof is needed to understand the absurdity and criminality of this war, and the other wars of this world, and the perennial suffering of the common man and woman, forced to take sides, often simply because of some form of sectarian identity or allegiance which is usually obligated only by the circumstances of birth. Meanwhile it is the powerful, the wealthy and the corporatized, almost always corrupted and wicked, in spite of moral and patriotic protestations otherwise, who trumpet and proclaim the need for war and who continue these wars despite the desire of the masses of people for peace.
Don’t believe the media, the politicians and the generals. Peace is possible. It always has been.

Notes on Military Planning

Thanks to Nick Mottern and KnowDrones.com for publishing my notes from a talk I had planned to give a few months ago on the future of US military operations. Unfortunately I was unable to deliver these notes at the conference due to health issues, but Nick published them in the most recent KnowDrones.com bulletin and I have pasted them below. They primarily concern future US military operations in North Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia, but also pertain to other parts of the globe, particularly Africa and potentially the Philippines. One additional thing to note and consider is the high degree of unmanned or drone systems being sold to other nations which will enable those countries to conduct autonomous and remote killing in the (near) future just as we, the United States, do now.

Additionally, below the notes, is an example of the type of television commercials that Nick and KnowDrones produce and run in areas near US Air Force drone command bases urging drone pilots and crew members to listen to and follow their consciences.

NOTES ON U.S. MILITARY PLANNING

In the notes below, prepared for the Conference on U.S. Foreign Military Bases, held in January in Baltimore, Matt Hoh https://matthewhoh.com/ outlines what we can expect from Pentagon planners, and the role of drones, in the evolving U.S. scheme for war on the down low.  These notes, edited slightly for clarity, provide a context for forthcoming bulletin articles dealing more specifically with drone war.

-My concern is where the US military presence is headed in the Greater Middle East, and Muslim world: Less footprint, greater use of remote or standoff (U.S.- based) attack measures, satellite/space based resources and the use of proxy forces to do the killing and destruction.

-Major bases such as the CENTCOM headquarters in Qatar and the Naval headquarters in Bahrain will remain. Necessary for headquarters staff, refueling and logistics, and as a command hub for operations.

-Necessity of and reliance on other bases outside Greater Middle East will grow.  Variety of reasons, but technological limitations and environmental limitations, such as that atmospheric and curvature of the earth issues limit relay of communications. For example, drone strikes in Middle East that are controlled by Air Force and CIA in  the U.S. are not possible without relay station at Ramstein Air Base in Germany, see Norman Solomon’s article on this in The Nationhttps://www.thenation.com/article/the-most-important-us-air-force-base-youve-never-heard-of/or consult drone whistleblowers like Cian Westmoreland or Lisa Ling. Larger bases outside of Middle East are and will be greater utilized for warehousing and basing of equipment, supplies, munitions and personnel. “Just in time” utilization of logistics allow for lower footprint.

-Exception is example of basing of American combat troops in Kuwait that can be quickly, and secretly, sent into Syria and Iraq. Will see more of this type of pre-positioning of combat soldiers. Keeps deployments quieter, i.e. when troops leave US bases they are going for training and potential peacekeeping” in a country not at war, so less media attention/scrutiny (not like there is much anyway)

-Defer to Bruce Gagnon http://www.space4peace.org/and Will Griffin http://thepeacereport.com/on the following, but continued development of long-range drones and space-based weaponry will limit requirement of drone and manned warplanes stationed in Middle East. Drones will ultimately be able to be launched from bases outside of Middle East, including from the U.S., and be able to orbit/stay on station for 24 hours or longer. Allows for permanent presence of drones overhead and ready to drop bombs/missiles. Space-based weaponry is becoming a reality, particularly with increase in funding and development and desire to have weapons always ready to be dropped on people and buildings without needing aircraft or drones. Also, these cannot be shot down by forces in Middle East or interfered with as easily through electronic countermeasures. New generation of very fast, long-range missiles will be able to be launched from the U.S. to hit and kill in the Middle East.

-Current drone bases are being constructed outside of Middle East in Africa, bases are limited in size and scope, small personnel and size footprint, in areas away from population, they are hidden. Eventually these bases won’t be needed but will be necessary for next ten years or so.

-Construction of new aircraft carriers and submarines emphasize American commitment to utilizing sea-based air and missile attacks. As well as continued use of Marine forces based on ships that can be flown in and out of combat. Such Marine forces have been utilized in Syria and Iraq, particularly to provide artillery and missile attacks. Easy to insert and take out, they are considered “temporary” and are kept away from populations, not meant to be occupation forces. Also, special operations forces based on ships for raids, such as we have seen in Yemen, Somalia, Libya, etc. They fly in by helicopter and murder or kidnap as needed. Persons who are seized are kept aboard US ships to avoid acknowledgment or legal issues.

-Use of proxy forces, whether allied governments: Iraqi army and militias in Tigris and Euphrates River valleys, decimated Iraqi cities and people, and Saudi and UAE forces in Yemen destroying all infrastructure, blockading medical, fuel and food supplies, and causing starvation and disease; or proxy non-government forces such as rebels and Kurdish troops throughout Syria, or militia forces in Libya. Also utilizing outside nations to intervene such as Kenyan, Ugandan and Ethiopian forces in Somalia. Goes into larger shift in American military policies in Muslim world, to simply subjugate and punish people and areas not receptive to American hegemony rather than utilizing political, economic, diplomatic measures to control populations and regions (can speak later on this shift in Trump policy as opposed to Obama/Bush policies in Q&A)

-American forces are of course with these proxies, they help to train, and go on missions. For example, U.S. commandos took part in over 2000 missions in first six months of 2017 in Afghanistan. However, they don’t have their own bases and won’t be doing occupation. They will remain “hidden” from populations as much as possible.

-With exception of the Army, all three services, plus the CIA, gain from these shifts and lower US footprint in Middle East/Muslim world. Army of course gets it due prominence and money in Europe with Russia hysteria and in Korea.

-This reduces US presence in Middle East to a smaller level, allows U.S. forces more flexibility, and lowers the cost. It makes the generals and admirals appear smarter and concerned with the impact of U.S. military in Middle East, however it still deals the same, or greater levels of death, destruction and chaos to the people of the region.

-With understanding of importance of U.S.- located bases to operations in Middle East, how the killing, the pulling of the trigger, is done from the U.S., more actions against U.S. bases located in US, as well as working with partners in other countries, such as Germany, to shut down and limit operations, particularly pushing illegality and unconstitutionally of much of this killing. Although I urge more direct action, to include physical disruption of military operations in order to save lives.

What We Did in Iraq They Do in Palestine

Chris Smiley at The Peace Report has put together an excellent short video where I describe what we did in Iraq to what I saw being done by the Israeli army and police forces to Palestinians. This is the latest documentary that Chris has assembled utilizing footage from our delegation to Palestine last year:

Also here is a longer, 40 minutes, documentary that Chris put together and released a couple of months ago that I don’t believe I have previously shared:

The Necessity of Moral Resistance in the Face of Militarism

This past weekend I spoke as part of the Poor People’s Campaign event: The Necessity of Moral Resistance in the Face of Militarism. Reverend William Barber was, of course, the main speaker, and if you are uncertain as to how war and militarism play a role in the demands of the Poor People’s Campaign or in the way war and militarism have always played an oppressive and devastating role in our society, then please listen to Reverend Barber’s sermon as he clearly and definitively explains those two things. My talk, on the effect of war on veterans, is here below, while Reverend Barber’s sermon and the comments from Phyllis Bennis are in the Youtube clip below. Wage Peace.

 

Update to last week’s post on suicide and combat guilt

 

I received a good number of emails, as well as a couple of comments asking for references on last week’s post. I’ll summarize my response here, as well as post an email I sent to the author of an essay in Task and Purpose, a military focused blog, on the relationship of PTSD and combat veterans. That letter, which was more than 600 words and documented, was not even acknowledged, let alone responded to or published…so it goes 😉

As I noted in last week’s post I am dealing with traumatic brain injury (TBI). I also have a diagnosed neuro-cognitive disorder. For the purposes of this blog and the work I try to take part in, this is causing tremendous problems. I suffer from constant headaches, migraines and fatigues, as well as difficulty with concentration, thought and cognitive tasks. Since I published that post last Tuesday, today is the first day,  the Tuesday before last, it’s now taken me more than ten days to have had the mental clarity, ability and energy to work on my computer, write and finish this post. I’ve had at least six migraines, lasting from four to sixteen hours, and the constant headaches and fog in my head have kept me just not off my computer, but away from reading books, essays and articles, as well as watching movies, documentaries and tv shows, walking my dogs and spending time with my partner. It should be noted that these cognitive and migraine problems can also be related to PTSD, depression, and alcohol abuse, but my doctors, both in NC and now here in DC, believe it to be rooted in brain injury. Most likely I believe this brain injury comes from the hundreds of explosive blasts I was exposed to during my time in the Marines, both in training and in Iraq, and as a government official in Iraq – live by the sword, die by sword. This type of brain injury may be similar to what football players and boxers experience later in life. I say all of this to explain why I have not responded sooner to requests for more information, as well as why I am not generally traveling, writing, commenting, appearing on media, etc these days.

However, back to the post from last week: When I speak of guilt, I am speaking of the guilt that comes from being ashamed of one’s actions, whether one engaged directly or indirectly in those actions, or whether one was trying to act morally as individual in otherwise immoral circumstances; eg. an individual takes part in the Iraq War, acts in a manner that an outsider would regard as moral, but because he/she has taken part in an event with ill aims and purposes he/she assumes a greater responsibility and role and feels as if he/she has transgressed his/her own morality. This form of guilt is known as moral injury and is becoming well understood to be one of the three signature invisible wounds of war alongside PTSD and TBI.

While different than PTSD and TBI, moral injury often co-exists and overlaps with either one or both. Often moral injury/guilt, PTSD and TBI reinforce and exacerbate one another and where one wound ends another may begin. However, it is important to remember that although the three wounds manifest symptoms in the same manner and are often closely linked, moral injury/guilt, PTSD and TBI are different from one another in their causes and treatment. Simply put PTSD is the body and mind’s reaction to a traumatic or series of traumatic events, TBI is actual damage done to the brain as the result of an external force, whether it be a physical blow or explosion, and moral injury/guilt is a psychological wound caused by the betrayal of an individual’s own values, ethics, morality etc. For further definitions please see here for PTSD, here for TBI and here moral injury/guilt.

With regards to guilt and moral injury, many people recognize that it can take the form of guilt that is widely known as survivor’s guilt. This is the guilt one feels from being left alive or unhurt when others were killed or injured. In veterans survivor’s guilt can be very pronounced as those that are killed or wounded are often friends or subordinates for whom the service member feels a parental like responsibility. I dealt with this in a very awful manner from a helicopter accident that I survived in 2006, but from which four others did not, including a man I consider a friend. In this case, my guilt was not because I solely survived and they died, but because I did not save them. This aspect, of not doing more to help or save others, is also seen often in veterans, as young men and women are recruited into the military and then conditioned to see themselves as heroes in the waiting.

There is another aspect of guilt and moral injury that comes with combat veterans and this is the guilt that comes from taking part in killing. Studies tell us the guilt that comes from this killing can come from either directly or indirectly taking part in the killing, e.g. you don’t have to have been the one who pulled the trigger, and that this guilt can come from not just the killing of civilians and innocents, but also from killing the “enemy”. This guilt over killing the enemy is particularly understandable if the veteran recognizes the enemy as human and as someone who is simply fighting occupation, ie. acting justly, such as the Afghans, Iraqis and Vietnamese fighting against occupation. In this enemy they recognize actions they would do themselves if the situation was reversed. For example, I used to say of the 153 Marines and Sailors I commanded in Iraq in 2006, that if they were young sunni males living in Anbar Province, 51 would be fighting us, 51 would be in Abu Ghraib and 51 would be dead. It is not a very long or difficult path for many veterans to reach this empathy for the enemy, particularly once they leave the bubble and cocoon of group-think that dominates military life and they are able to freely and independently examine both the micro and macro aspects of the war in which they took part.

In the video I shared last week, when I spoke of veterans killing themselves from guilt, I was referring to this guilt or moral injury: that of taking part in something criminal, unjust, and wrong and/or of having done something that violated spiritual, religious, professional or self-held values, principles, beliefs, etc. See the video I posted above for description of how the US Armed Forces mentally condition young men and women to see themselves as heroes and then what happens when they realize they are more a pawn or villain than a hero. For many this is the crux of moral injury and it is a soul crushing and existential crisis that I believe leads to a great many suicides.

In my case, my personal foundation, my very essence and being was ripped from me; to say my world was turned upside down is not just a minimalist description, but a trite one, as the experience, lasting years and managed now because of the great help of psychologists at the VA Medical Center in Durham, reached such depths as are only encountered in the most intense spiritual or awakened moments. Coupled with traumatic brain injury, depression, PTSD and alcohol abuse, it is easy to understand how with no ability to make amends and the constant hero worship of the American public this guilt could only be assuaged with thoughts of suicide. As my life crumbled and I believed in nothing, I was already an atheist, believing neither in the gods of Abraham or deism, despair and despondency became exaggerated and resounded in my head and soul with every little failure and misstep. Alcohol self medicated me for awhile, but the only escape from the sheer distress at the very base of my being was to end it.

Guilt driving someone to suicide should not be a striking idea, it is common in the literature and religion that we are first introduced to as children and teenagers: think of Judas in the Gospels or Lady Macbeth shouting: “Out, out damn spot!”. Guilt, however, has not been something men and women returning home from war have traditionally been screened for or asked about, more than likely I believe as any guilt associated and announced with the wars of the United States is politically and patriotically unacceptable (in that spirit RootsAction and myself received several angry and righteous emails denouncing the linking of suicide in veterans to feeling guilty about what they took part in during the war or killing the enemy).

As mentioned above, I will paste a letter I sent to the military blog Task and Purpose, but first I would like to list a number of references I use to support my conclusions that it is guilt that is the chief driver of suicides in combat veterans. Additionally, I have a pdf that contains links and abstracts to 25 separate studies that exam the relationship of guilt/moral injury, TBI, and PTSD to suicide in veterans. Please send me an email at matthew_hoh@riseup.net if you would like a pdf copy of that.

Data on veterans suicides can be found in the 2017 suicide data report published by the VA.

For information on suicide rates of veterans with PTSD compared to other mental health populations, please see Figure 3, page 9 in the report.

For information on suicide rates for veterans, broken out by age group and sex and compared to the US population, see Table 4, page 18

For information on suicide rate of Iraq and Afghan war veterans see Table 5, page 19 and Figure 22, page 33. By comparing these tables and utilizing the information available from the CDC in figure 2 of its suicide data on the general US population, you’ll see for example that the youngest male veterans of the Iraq and Afghan wars have suicide rates nearly 6 times that of other young men their age. By looking at other tables and figures in the suicide report and comparing them to the rate of civilian suicides you’ll note that veterans in the age groups where the United States was in major and lengthy wars (WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan) have significantly higher rates of suicide than non-veterans. During periods of time when the United States was not in these large wars veteran suicide rates are on par or below civilian suicide rates.

Of course, being in war doesn’t mean that a service member sees combat or takes part in the killing experience that may lead him/her to later take their own life. However, there have been a number of studies that have shown that veterans who have been in combat have a higher rate of suicide than veterans who have also deployed to war but not seen combat (and incidentally, despite common perception, Iraq and Afghan veterans have been more likely to be in combat than veterans of any previous war, see my letter below to Task and Purpose).

The linking of combat and suicide has also been reported through journalism, such as this NY Times story which tracked a battalion of infantry Marines after their return home and to civilian life after their time in Afghanistan. At the time of the reporting, this unit of approximately 1,000 men who had been engaged in heavy fighting in Helmand Province, had a suicide rate 14 times higher than their civilian male counter-parts. As I know Marines who were in this unit, nothing makes me suspect that the rate of suicide has lessened for these men.  Another news story detailed how WWII veterans kill themselves at 4 times the rate of non-veterans of the same age, which demolishes the myth that such a problem with mental health and suicidality didn’t exist for previous generations of war veterans or goes away with time and age. From the Washington Post linked in the previous sentence:

The reality was that of the 16 million Americans who served in the armed forces during World War II, fewer than half saw combat. Of those who did, more than 1 million were discharged for combat-related neuroses, according to military statistics. In the summer of 1945, Newsweek reported that “10,000 returning veterans per month . . . develop some kind of psychoneurotic disorder. Last year there were more than 300,000 of them — and with fewer than 3,000 American psychiatrists and only 30 VA neuropsychiatric hospitals to attend to their painful needs.”

One of those hospitals was the subject of John Huston’s 1946 documentary, “Let There Be Light,” which said that “20% of all battle casualties in the American Army during World War II were of a neuropsychiatric nature.” The film followed the treatment, mostly with talk therapy, drugs and hypnosis, of “men who tremble, men who cannot sleep, men with pains that are no less real because they are of a mental origin.” Huston’s movie was confiscated by the Army just minutes before its premiere in 1946 and was not allowed to be shown in public until 1981. The government rationale at the time was protecting the privacy of the soldiers depicted, though Huston maintained all had signed waivers..

and

“Most of the World War II men that I worked with came to me in their 70s or 80s, after retirement or the death of a spouse,” said Joan Cook, a professor of psychiatry at Yale and a PTSD researcher for Veterans Affairs. “Their symptoms seemed to be increasing, and those events seemed to act as a floodgate.”

For so many veterans, that was when they finally learned they were not crazy or weak. “Pretty much to a person, for them, learning about PTSD and understanding that people were researching it in World War II veterans was a real relief,” Schnurr said. “Many people felt isolated and crazy, and they thought it was just them. And they didn’t talk about it.”

For studies on the relationship of combat to suicide, please start with this meta-analysis of 22 studies on this topic done by the Center for Veterans Studies at the University of Utah in 2015. The conclusion was that there is a significant link between killing, combat and suicide:

“Across all suicide-related outcomes (i.e., suicide ideation, suicide attempt, and death by suicide), the relation of specific combat exposure with suicide-related out- comes was twice as large (r = .12) as the relation of general deployment across all suicide-related outcomes” and

“the difference between the relation of combat-specific experience and general deployment history with suicide- related outcomes was significant”.

The report goes on to say that being involved in combat increases the likelihood of suicide in veterans by 43%.

You can also watch a short video summarizing this report here.

The VA on its site dedicated to moral injury also includes a list of studies.

In the video from RootsAction I mention that as early as 1991 researchers had determined combat related guilt to be the most significant predictor of suicide in Vietnam veterans. That study can be found here. Its conclusion reads: “In this study, PTSD among Vietnam combat veterans emerged as a psychiatric disorder with considerable risk for suicide, and intensive combat-related guilt was found to be the most significant explanatory factor. These findings point to the need for greater clinical attention to the role of guilt in the evaluation and treatment of suicidal veterans with PTSD.”

Take note that the current checklist for screening veterans at the VA does not include specific questions about or references to guilt and a 2012 VA study noted:“Killing experiences are NOT routinely examined when assessing suicide risk. Our findings have important implications for conducting suicide risk assessments in veterans of war.” (emphasis mine)

As mentioned above I have links, citations and abstracts for 25 studies I have reviewed that are available online, primarily through NIH, that explore the connection of suicide, combat, guilt, PTSD and TBI. As it it 12 pages long I will not paste it here, but if you would like a PDF, please let me know by comment or by email (matthew_hoh@riseup.net).

As I noted in my original post last week, there is also a very real connection between TBI and suicides, and with so many Iraq and Afghan veterans living now with TBI many of the suicides that are occurring would likely be connected to TBI. More information on TBI and veterans is found in the letter below.

Please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions.

Peace to you.

Matt

Below is a letter I sent to the military blog Task and Purpose, which went unacknowledged, regarding many of the common misperceptions of PTSD and veterans.

  • From: Matthew Hoh
    Date: February 5, 2018 at 2:28:11 PM EST
    To: james….
    Subject: Your article on PTSD

    Dear James,

    Thank you for your recent article on PTSD and the effects of transition on veterans. I believe the broad outlines of the study and its conclusions are correct. It reminds me of what I heard said about American soldiers returning from WWI: “how are you going to keep them on the farm when they have seen Paris?” There are a few things that the study’s authors, however, did not take into account and that can lead to misunderstanding about veterans by the public, particular the effects of combat.
    First, the study’s authors do not differentiate between the veteran population as a whole, those who deployed, and those who saw combat. This is crucial for understanding the stresses and challenges veterans face and why they face them. For example,  a meta-study from the National Center for PTSD by Brett Litz and William Schlenger, examined 14 published PTSD studies of Afghan and Iraq war veterans, and found that troops who had seen combat had PTSD rates of 10-18% but for troops that had not seen combat the rate was only 1.5%. An important differentiation.
    The authors also do not make the correlation or connection to the symptoms that they identify in veterans due to transition stress to the same symptoms that occur in unemployed civilians. There is a vast body of literature on unemployment related symptoms that has come out of the Great Recession, particularly in men. These symptoms include depression, anger, listlessness/apathy, mood impairment, sexual dysfunction, relationship problems and other issues that are similar to the symptoms that veterans experience upon separating from the military.
    Secondly, the authors do not discuss the role of TBI in OIF/OEF veterans. Rates of TBI among all OIF/OEF era veterans range from 10-20% according to the VA. The Rand Corporation and the Congressional
    Research Service put the rate as high as 23%. So, more OIF/OEF veterans suffer from TBI than PTSD, and as you most likely know, TBI can have a latent development and is often under reported (as is PTSD).
    Among combat troops the rates of TBI are much higher. One study of over 1,000 Marines and Sailors that deployed to Afghanistan had a TBI rate of 57% prior to deployment and during that deployment nearly 20% of those deployed sustained a TBI. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/24337530/?i=4&from=/23129059/related
    Another study’s authors said this:
    “The soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan are having a very unique experience both because they have very good body armor now and because of the way in which insurgents use a lot of explosives. The soldiers are exposed to a lot of explosions, so they get hit over and over again, but they’re protected from all but the worst cases of secondary and tertiary effects. Whereas had it been the Vietnam War, for example, they [the soldiers] would have been much more grievously injured and would have been evacuated.”
    And the study’s co-author said this:

    “Probably the only war that is comparable to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is World War I, the trench and artillery warfare. The term “shell shock” came from that war and that really refers to the effects of these post-concussive symptoms.

    In the group of veteran participants in this study, the average number of blast exposures that were severe enough to cause acute symptoms consistent with the diagnosis of mild traumatic brain injury was 20. It was more common to have been exposed to between 50 to 100 blasts than to have a single one.”

    That leads to my third point, which I think would make an excellent article for you. The notion as advanced terribly by Sebastian Junger that these wars have been safer is demonstrably false and there is no evidence to demonstrate such, rather OIF/OEF (not just combat arms but all veterans) have had higher exposure rates to combat, violence, death and injury than any previous generation of veterans. Looking at a broad range of studies and surveys we see that OIF and OEF veterans experience combat at rates of 50% or higher, again a higher rate than any previous generation of American veterans.
    I have pasted below summaries I have written from various studies on OIF/OEF combat exposure, please note that some of the studies, such as the last study I reference, include veterans who did not deploy, so the rate of combat exposure is much higher than stated for deployed veterans:

    Studies and surveys have shown that veterans from OIF and OEF have experienced greater or equal rates of combat/trauma exposure of veterans of other wars. For example, the 2010 National Veterans Survey reported that the overall veteran populatiohas experienced combat at a rate of 34%. However, among veterans who deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq 63% of veterans had combat exposure. For veterans who went to war zones prior to WWII the rate was 55.4%, for those who went to war zones during WWII it was 44.9%, in Korea it was 26%, in Vietnam it was 44% and in the Gulf War it was 41%. That information comes from a study done by Ryan Edwards of Queens College, City University of New York in 2014.

    Additional sources debunking Junger’s and others unsupported and undocumented notion that only 10% of American troops saw combat or experienced danger/trauma in Afghanistan and Iraq, include:

    a 2004 study by Walter Reed Army Institute of Research that found 77-87% of American troops discharged their weapons in Iraq and more than 90% reported coming under small arms fire 

    a 2009 study from the Rand Corporation, by the same authors from a Rand study that Junger cites in his book, reports that only 10-15% of Afghan and Iraq veterans report no combat trauma experienced at all during deployment and close to 75% report multiple exposures to combat trauma

    a 2011 study from the National Center for Veterans’ Studies at the University of Utah reported 58-60% of Afghan and Iraq veterans had experienced combat

    a 2014 study published by the British Journal of Psychiatry found that contrary to Junger’s claims on p87 of his book that British troops had half the rate of PTSD than the American troops that “were in combat with them”, both British and American troops that experienced comparable levels of combat exposure had comparable rates of PTSD. The authors of the 2004 Walter Reed report referenced above also shared this finding. In the 2014 study of the American veterans of Afghanistan and Iraq nearly 70% reported receiving small arms fire; 85% experienced artillery, rocket or mortar fire; 43% handled human remains; 62% experienced dead/injured US forces; 24% had a friend injured near them; 28% gave aid to the wounded; 42% experienced sniper fire; 50% cleared and searched buildings; 51% experienced hostile civilians; and 45% reported a threatening situation to which they could not respond

    a 2014 survey of studies by the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research and published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry found that among veterans and service-members the greatest predictors of PTSD were high combat exposure rates and sexual abuse as an adult, and not events that occurred prior to service in the military as is often alleged. This is confirmed by many other studies, including a study by the VA from 1991 that found the best predictor of suicide in Vietnam veterans was combat related guilt. 

    a 2016 study by Texas Tech University of student servicemembers and veterans found that 44% of those surveyed had experienced combat. This study included veterans and active duty/reserve service members, both those that deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq and those that did not.

    Suicide is another factor the authors do not address. According to the VA, among the youngest male veterans of OIF/OEF, ages 18-29, the suicide rate is almost 6x higher for them than for their civilian male peers. For veterans in their 30s it is 3-4x higher. Among combat units that have been tracked the suicide rate is as high as 14x that of their civilian peers. This high and exaggerated rate of suicide holds true for all generations of American veterans who served during a war era. WWII veterans have a rate 4x higher than their non veteran peers. The link between combat and suicide is undeniable and has been well documented (a meta-study by the National Center for Veterans Studies in 2015 found a significant and clear link between combat and suicide in 21 of 22 studies examined). For veterans who did not serve in a war era, the rate of suicide is comparable or less than the civilian peer population. Veteran suicide is very troubling and not something to be disregarded when talking about veterans issues, particularly mental health.

    https://www.mentalhealth.va.gov/docs/2016suicidedatareport.pdf

    https://mobile.nytimes.com/2015/09/20/us/marine-battalion-veterans-scarred-by-suicides-turn-to-one-another-for-help.amp.html

    https://psychcentral.com/news/2015/04/13/key-factors-predict-military-suicide-risk/83462.html

    https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.commondreams.org/news/2010/11/11/suicide-rates-soaring-among-wwii-vets%3famp

    One final note, and thank you for indulging this long correspondence, but the source in the study you write about, that cites less than a 10% PTSD rate in veterans comes from a survey of 700 Danish soldiers. The Danes faced very hard fighting in Helmand, at one point I believe they had the most casualties per capita of the nations in ISAF (they had one deployed battalion on infantry), but I think it is disingenuous and unwise of the study’s authors to use a study of Danish troops, to make a broad statement about American veterans.
    For your reference, I was a Marine combat engineer officer for ten years. I have PTSD, TBI and neuro-cognitive disorder diagnosis  from my time at war.
    Let me know if you’d like more information. Again, thank you for indulging this long email (I thought this a better format than leaving a comment), and please consider writing an article on the documented level of combat in OIF and OEF veterans to dispel the myth that only 10% see combat, that these wars were safe, OIF/OEF vets had it easy, etc.
    Peace brother,
    Matthew Hoh

 

 

 

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