Ask Why? by Ralph Nader

Dandelion Salad

by Ralph Nader
The Nader Page
July 2, 2013

The Intensity of PTSD

Image by via Flickr

“I am sorry that it has come to this.” Thus began the searing suicide note by 30-year-old Iraq War veteran, Daniel Somers on June 10, 2013 to his wife and family.

On the other side of the violent divide are video messages from the suicide bombers – the oft-described “weapon of the weak” against U.S. soldiers and their presumed local collaborators.

In 2012 suicide by active duty American soldiers exceeded the number of U.S. combat deaths in Afghanistan. Why?

In the war zones of Iraq and Afghanistan, young natives are lining up to become suicide bombers. Why?

For the soldiers’ conditions, there is an acronym – PTSD or post-traumatic stress syndrome. During World War I, it used to be called “shell-shock.” But in the Afghan and Iraq regions, the adversaries are not modern armies armed with “shells – they have no thunderous artillery, missiles, gunships, tanks fighter planes or drones. They have rifles, rocket-propelled grenades, Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) and suicide belts sporadically used. Something else is at work that is causing PTSD.

War correspondent and author, Kevin Sites offers this explanation:

“Our understanding of PTSD from a clinical perspective has been that it’s triggered by witnessing a traumatic event that resonates so deeply that it prevents a person from leading a normal life in the aftermath. And so it is the witnessing of the event that causes the problems…. The Veterans Administration (VA) started looking at the connection between killing and post-traumatic stress and found that those soldiers who were involved in killings or who witnessed killings were experiencing a higher degree of post-traumatic stress disorder… it was about the feelings of guilt they had about what they did or witnessed. And the guilt stemmed from two things: the guilt from killing, whether justified in the line of duty or killing a civilian by accident or killing one of your own guys by accident or killing in a war crime — so any kind of killing; the second point was surviving, survivor’s guilt. Their friends died, but they didn’t.”

The VA distilled thousands of interviews in their 2009 report, Moral Injury in the Context of War, to come to their assessment.

Mr. Sites came to the same judgment after his many profiles of returning veterans. In an interview with the Northwestern Alumni Magazine, he said:

“when we do something that goes against our moral compass – and killing goes against a lot of moral compasses out there – unless you’re a sociopath – we do feel some empathy…. So that idea of participation in something that goes against your moral compass really screws you up. It makes you feel bad, makes you feel guilt and shame.”

But soldiers aren’t supposed to talk about these feelings and don’t, which is why Sites titled his new book The Things They Cannot Say: Stories Soldiers Won’t Tell You About What They’ve Seen, Done or Failed to Do in War (Harper Perennial).

The fact that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were so one-sided in weaponry and so full of casualties of innocent civilians, including children, who never threatened our country, exacerbates these feelings of guilt.

This trauma coursed through the lengthy suicide letter of Daniel Somers who ran more than 400 combat missions as a machine gunner in Iraq during 2004-2005 and later worked with JSOC – Joint Special Operations Command – in Mosul, Iraq.

He writes:

“to sleep forever seems to be the most merciful thing… During my first deployment, I was made to participate in things, the enormity of which is hard to describe. War crimes, crimes against humanity. Though I did not participate willingly, and made what I thought was my best effort to stop these events, there are some things that a person simply can not come back from…. To force me to do these things and then participate in the ensuing cover-up is more than any government has the right to demand.”

In Daniel Somers’ final message he asks:

“And for what? Bush’s religious lunacy? Cheney’s ever growing fortune and that of his corporate friends? Is this what we destroy lives for?”

As for what he called his “actual final mission,” he wrote:

“Not suicide, but a mercy killing…. It was quick, and I did not suffer. And above all, now I am free…. I have no more nightmares or flashbacks or hallucinations.”

What of the young suicide bombers who are depicted in their videos as wanting to become martyrs? Western reporters like to say their motivation is to go the Islamic paradise. That is not what University of Chicago professor, Robert Pape found in his extensive research, concluding that their principal motivation was to expel the occupying invader.

Their immense poverty, war-torn devastation of their villages and tribal areas, and the absence of any future, whether of economic survival or personal achievements, was probably also in the mix. Perhaps some money was given to their destitute families in exchange for their attacks.

Whatever the reasons, to dismiss these fighters as sociopaths is to help preclude our own examination of why we are there blowing apart their societies, provoking sectarian revenge cycles, bribing our way everywhere with crates of $100 bills. As a Yemeni villager plaintively asked, after a devastating drone attack that killed many civilians, “why do you hate us so much?”

Here in the U.S. we better start understanding the rising tide of suicides generally. The Centers for Disease Control totals suicides in 2010 at 38,364 Americans as compared with homicides totaling 16,259. Among the baby boomers, suicides are sharply higher than previous generations, especially since the onset of the recession, unemployment and home foreclosures.

We better starting digging more deeply into the conditioning “whys?” and discounting the traditional explanations of self-hatred and hating us “for our freedoms.”


Kill Anything That Moves by Chris Hedges + Moyers and Company: Nick Turse Describes the Real Vietnam War

Tom Waits: Hell Broke Luce

Rick Rozoff: Obama’s attitude main threat to world peace

Smoked! A soldier’s life and death: The story of John Needham

Aaron Glantz: The War Comes Home

Don’t Enlist, But Don’t Just Take My Word For It by Lo

9 thoughts on “Ask Why? by Ralph Nader

  1. Pingback: Radical Peace: People Refusing War, Ch. 15: Coming Home by William T. Hathaway | Dandelion Salad

  2. Pingback: “Moral Injury”–One Military Veteran Kills Teenager, Another Kills Himself by Shepherd Bliss | Dandelion Salad

  3. What are the so called leaders of our nation doing to the world?
    Nothing but destruction all over the world and in the mean destroying our young men and women too.
    And than these idiots don’t understand that they are the ones who make our country vulnerable for attacks. Can you blame after what we
    have done to their countries, the bombings, the killings.
    All over their need of power to control other nations resources.

    • Maria,

      The growth of the US population and the huge resources that our nation has over many other nations has become the driving forces behind these sociopath driven conquests.

      How long has that been the case maybe since the very beginning? But to understand we must purge out all of the lies we have been told was the truth and start from the very beginning YES all the way back to the Columbus story and even before.

      Greed has been reported as the new culprit driving this war machine, yet power over others seems to be the most important. Little men doing great and deadly deeds with the latent power to avoid personal risks seems to me the bases for these ruthless godless strikes against our land and people.

      • To Dwight,
        Godles strikes against our land and people?
        Why don’t you start with all the godless strikes we commit on so many
        Nations all around the world. We have killed millions.
        We are not the only nation with a population growth.
        It is a fight about national resources. But we can’t do it in an honest way, by trading, no we want the full control, so the rich and powerful can make mega bucks. They send our kids to do the dirty work by sending them to war.
        It is all about money for the rich and powerful not for the people, there rights are slowly being taken away and together with powerful pharmaceutical industry and insurance company people won’t even be able to afford good medical insurance. It is all a big racket.
        And poor nations who have a lot of resources in the ground are paying a hefty price.

        • Jeeze Leweez or mama mia Maria,

          Dwight DID start with mention of all the godless strikes the US commits on other nations…”these sociopath driven conquests,” said Dwight.

          Rage against the machine, but focus it on that machine. I think you took it out on Dwight, not for anything he said, but the pure rage in your heart.

          Just sayin’…


  4. The entire paradigm of this culture is built on war.
    Knowledge of this is simply inescapable.

    Naïveté is not innocence. This whole society is pathological.
    The credulity is ultimately willful, all excuses pale in the face of how open the “secret” is.

    There seems not much time left for Amerikans to grow up. It is probably too late already.


    • hy,
      I tend toward agreement – complete agreement. We continue condition each other on idea war is somehow necessary. Warfare on ideology, the idea that socialism is wrong, just one example. Not that the word socialism has any meaning to anyone any longer.

      We, US, are doomed by the us vs them paradigm…doomed. We fail to see many things chiefly or sameness. we all want to be happy and if we cannot agree on how to go about achieving that then its war. If we cannot agree that the wealth is in each other and not outside each other, then we cannot continue. It is most surprising really we can’t how zombie like we all are towards each other. We have no concept of need, what have a great understanding of wants.

      Sad for our children and the planet. But I resist. I cannot pay taxes anymore, I cannot engage in war against others. I cannot knowingly submit. yet, I find myself doing it on occasion. The only power our government has is money. I bank with a locally owned non affliated bank, there is no non-profit here. I buy used where I can and from indies I can only do my part in starving this beast from what I can. I might go to jail. But I’d rather go to jail than continue the way i was, the way we were. I am not afraid of the future. I can resist and stand where I can. I for One Quit India!

    • To Hybridrogue,
      You are right. The mighty warmachine. The weapon industry.
      The generals who love to play their war games. Their ego.
      But the people are asleep, as long as they can fill their belly with big macs, go to the football games, drink their bier, sit before the TV and
      look at mostly stupid programs. As long as it don’t hit them directly they
      won’t do a thing and than you have the ones who say their is nothing I can do, so why worry about it.
      Yes,keep on eating your GMO food and drink your water with the chemical that numbs your brain, who knows they might at more to it like in the prison camps.
      Our sterile news, don’t show the horrors of war it might upset their delect feelings.

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