An Excellent Article On Moral Injury

Quite possibly the best article on moral injury I have read. Thanks to The Atlantic and to Maggie Puniewska.

Healing a Wounded Sense of Morality
Many veterans are suffering from a condition similar to, but distinct from, PTSD: moral injury, in which the ethical transgressions of war can leave service members traumatized.

MAGGIE PUNIEWSKA JUL 3, 2015

Amy Amidon has listened to war stories on a daily basis for almost a decade.

As a clinical psychologist at the Naval Medical Center in San Diego, she works with a multi-week residential program called OASIS, or Overcoming Adversity and Stress Injury Support, for soldiers who have recently returned from deployments. Grief and fear dominate the majority of the conversations in OASIS: Amidon regularly hears participants talk about improvised explosive devices claiming the lives of close friends; about flashbacks of airstrikes pounding cities to rubble; about days spent in 120-degree desert heat, playing hide and seek with a Taliban enemy. Many veterans in the program are there seeking treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder.

But many of Amidon’s patients talk about another kind of trauma, a psychic bruise that, unlike PTSD, isn’t rooted in fear. Some of these soldiers describe experiences in which they, or someone close to them, violated their moral code: hurting a civilian who turned out to be unarmed, shooting at a child wearing explosives, or losing trust in a commander who became more concerned with collecting decorative pins than protecting the safety of his troops. Others, she says, are haunted by their own inaction, traumatized by something they witnessed and failed to prevent. In 2012, when the first wave of veterans was returning from the Middle East, these types of experiences were so prevalent at OASIS that “the patients asked for a separate group where they could talk about the heavier stuff, the guilt stuff,” Amidon says. In January 2013, the center created individual and group therapy opportunities specifically for soldiers to talk about the wartime situations that they felt went against their sense of right and wrong. (Rules of engagement are often an ineffective guide through these gray areas: A 2008 survey of soldiers deployed at the beginning of the conflict in Iraq found that nearly 30 percent of the soldiers in each group encountered ethical situations in which they were unsure how to respond.)

Experts have begun to refer to this specific type of psychological trauma as moral injury. “These morally ambiguous situations continue to bother you, weeks, months, or years after they happened,” says Shira Maguen, the mental-health director of the OEF/OIF Integrated Care Clinic at the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center and one of the first researchers to study the concept. Examples of situations that might precipitate moral injury are betrayals by those in leadership roles, within-rank violence, inability to prevent death or suffering, and hurting civilians. Sometimes it co-exists with PTSD, but moral injury is its own separate trauma with symptoms that can include feelings of shame, guilt, betrayal, regret, anxiety, anger, self-loathing, and self-harm. Last year, a study published in Traumatology found that military personnel who felt conflicted about the “rightness” or “wrongness” of a combat situation were at an increased risk for suicidal thoughts and behavior afterwards, compared with their peers who didn’t have that same sense of ambiguity. The main difference between the two combat-induced traumas is that moral injury is not about the loss of safety, but the loss of trust—in oneself, in others, in the military, and sometimes in the nation as a whole.
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Behind the Mask: Facing Torture After War

If you watched the panel I participated in with Phil Donahue you will have seen a brave and thoughtful mother join our panel mid way through. This is her son’s story. It has become quite chic and trendy for non-veterans to write eloquent and idolizing, but dangerously simple and incomplete brotherhood of war tropes. Here’s a more accurate portrayal of what the brotherhood of war actually means when young men come home with the moral injuries inflicted by war:

Panel on Moral Injury at 2015 Left Forum

This past weekend I was on a very special panel at the 2015 Left Forum. Entitled Betrayed by Our Government, I was joined on the panel by my friend, mentor and hero, Ray McGovern,  Cathy Smith, the mother of Tomas Young, and Kevin Lucey, the father of a young Marine named Jeff who took his life after returning home from the Iraq War. Phil Donahue moderated the panel.

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Click on the image of Phil and then scroll down the Live Stream page. The video is near the bottom, entitled Left Forum Military Families Speak Out

 

If you have not watched Phil Donahue’s film about Tomas Young, who passed away last November, please do so here:

Jesse Jackson’s Keep Hope Alive Radio

I had the pleasure of being a panelist on Reverend Jesse Jackson’s radio show during Memorial Day Weekend. The discussion lasted for two hours, so the audio is posted below in two separate files. It was great to be on the show with my friend Rory Fanning, as well to have such a platform to discuss veterans issues including moral injury, PTSD and suicide.

Part One:

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Honoring Our Veterans Part One

 

 

 

 

 

http://www.keephopealiveradio.com/media/podcast-audio-showaudio/honoring-our-veterans-26076161/

Part Two:

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Honoring Our Veterans Part II

 

 

 

 

http://www.keephopealiveradio.com/media/podcast-audio-showaudio/honoring-our-veterans-26076162/

 

From Now On, I’ll Be Mad

Fittingly, this was the poem I read on Tax Day:

Bewildered

There are many guises for intelligence.

One part of you is gliding in a high windstream,
while your more ordinary notions
take little steps and peck at the ground.

Conventional knowledge is death to our souls,
and it is not really ours. It is laid on.
Yet we keep saying we find “rest” in these “beliefs.”

We must become ignorant of what we have been taught
and be instead bewildered.

Run from what is profitable and comfortable.
Distrust anyone who praises you.
Give your investment money, and the interest
on the capital, to those who are actually destitute.

Forget safety. Live where you fear to live.
Destroy your reputation. Be notorious.
I have tried prudent planning long enough.

From now on, I’ll be mad.

–Rumi

Each day I read a poem from Coleman Barks’ very excellent collection, A Year With Rumi. Thanks to my friend Fareed for suggesting this to me when I first began recovery three years ago.

Why This Veteran Refuses To Pay His Full Tax Bill

I am grateful to Huffington Post Live and my friend Alyona for having me on to speak about my decision to become a war tax resister.

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If You Work For Peace, Stop Paying For War

From the Huffington Post on Tax Day:

If a thousand men were not to pay their tax bills this year, that would not be a violent and bloody measure, as it would be to pay them, and enable the State to commit violence and shed innocent blood.

This is, in fact, the definition of a peaceable revolution, if any such is possible.

— Henry David Thoreau

StopPay4War_lg

This will be the first year I willfully and intentionally do not pay my full share of income tax.* I certainly have no illusions that I am Henry David Thoreau — frequent readers of mine will attest to that — nor do I believe that withholding a portion of my federal income taxes will cause the American war machine to grind to a halt, or that the sufferings of millions in wars around the world, wars supported, directly and indirectly, by the U.S. government and U.S. industry, will be ended. However, no longer can I look past the reality that my annual voluntary forfeiture of money to my government pays for violence around the globe, at astounding levels, and I am not able to provide any more excuses or rationalizations that paying without protest, that being complicit in funding war without resistance, is not contradictory to my faith and to my conscience. Quite simply put, I can no longer ignore the basic, yet just, wisdom and truth found in the war tax resisters’ dictum: “If you work for peace, stop paying for war.”
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Congress of War

From the Huffington Post:

It is very bewildering, albeit horrifyingly fascinating, to watch American politicians jockey and posture for war with Iran. With the announcement last week that years of negotiations have yielded a framework agreement that will arrest any Iranian nuclear weapons program, not that one actually exists, while starting the much needed process of bringing Iran back into the world community, many members of Congress seem not just reluctant, but hostile, to the prospects of averting a war with Iran.

From continual presidential aspirant to the freshman senator from Arkansas, the Senate, which was once regarded as the greatest deliberative body amongst men and women, is a constant source, from the Right and the Left, of fist pounding threats to bomb and kill Iranians and sabotage peace. The House is no better, with scores of Democrats and Republicans, a veto proof majority actually, echoing the same threats to undo diplomacy and ensure war.* Now, that an agreement has been reached, will our Congress actually live up to their threats? Based on the modern history of Americans at war overseas, you would expect not, that members of Congress, as rational and thoughtful individuals, would be wise and attuned enough to reality to recognize war as a fool’s path. However, the behavior of our Congress, and their near continuous endorsement of U.S. military intervention, means there may be dangerous action behind their rhetoric.

We are still sending thousands of young men every year to the war in Afghanistan, along with tens of billions of our dollars annually, on top of the near trillion dollars we have already spent on that thirteen-year-long war. Thousands of U.S. troops are back in Iraq, the same Iraq U.S. presidents have been attacking for 24 years, while American war planes and unmanned drones have bombed, and continue to bomb, various American enemies, mostly killing civilians though, in Libya, Pakistan, Somalia, Syria and Yemen. With the exception of Pakistan, whose political stability is continuously fragile, all six other nations that have received American military attacks, invasion and occupation over the last decade and one half, are in horrid civil wars, with death tolls throughout these nations numbering in the millions. The only organisms that have seemingly prospered and flourished, besides defense companies, have been terrorist groups, like al-Qaeda and the Islamic State.
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The Price of War

I’ve been on One America News Network (OANN) a few times now, and it is quickly becoming one of my favorite channels to be on. It’s not because it’s a conservative network, I’m not a conservative, but because I find the format and respectful disagreement to be invigorating. Plenty of time to explain the issue and a host who disagrees, but respects her guests. It’s a nice change from a lot of programs on evening TV news where the host has a view and will not allow or tolerate dissent. So, Tomi and OANN may not be the best political theater, but it’s a quality interview and they provide a service. Here’s a clip: