Friday, November 6, 2009

The Fort Hood Shootings: My View

Now that all IVAW members of the Fort Hood chapter have been accounted for, I can breathe a little easier, and will give some of my thoughts on this situation.

The first and foremost is that it IS telling that the shooter is an Army psychiatrist. It's telling for a lot of reasons, and yes, whether or not the shooter himself had PTSD, it does relate to the Army's PTSD treatment.

When I first began receiving treatment for my own PTSD, I had to deal with a couple people who were flat-out incompetent. At one point, I was in an intensive therapy situation, and a Major that I dealt with tried to give me some "helpful advice" - that I should deny my PTSD to anyone who might care about me until they'd known me for years, at which point it would then be appropriate to spring it on them. This Major, who I wish I remembered the name of, spent more time talking about her own sex life to me, and her own personal life issues, than my trauma. This woman was in no position to be treating soldiers, and especially not in the wing area I was, where a lot of the soldiers had been medevaced out for trauma.

What did I do? I complained. What happened? Really, nothing. They added my formal complaint to a stack of other previous complaints, and said every complaint helps to build a case.

This was far from the last terrible military mental health treatment I received. If it were not for one provider I saw within the last six months, I would still to this day think that there was absolutely NO quality mental health care in the Army.

Let's be honest: the military mental health system is breaking. If it's not already broken, it is definitely breaking, hard. It cannot sustain high quality mental health care for the number of soldiers that need it. So what are they doing? Well, they don't have the funds to attract truly competent civilian providers in the numbers they need. We don't have scads of psychiatrists trying to sign up for the Medical Corps. So the military does what they can with what they have: which includes not looking into their own very closely.

Whatever this major's reasons, whatever went wrong in his head that he thought trying to murder an entire roomful of soldiers was okay, I am not going to argue here. The fact that I hope no one will dispute is that he was absolutely crazy at the moment he did so, and crazy does not, counter to some people's beliefs, happen overnight.

Let me make it clear: I am not interested in arguing here whether it was secondary PTSD or garden variety crazy or religious fanatic crazy. I don't know, and at the moment, I don't care. Any of these three still add up to crazy, and none of them happens in a vaccuum.

Where were the screenings? How did none of his fellow psychiatric colleagues recognize that this man was a problem? No, not a problem because he was a Muslim, not a problem because he may have been against the war, but a problem because he was FLAMING FUCKING CRAZY and they were IN A JOB WHERE THEY ARE SUPPOSED TO RECOGNIZE CRAZY.

And if they are not competent enough to recognize a major crazy problem in someone they work with every day, how are they supposed to recognize problems in soldiers they only see for one hour a week?

Thursday, November 5, 2009

A Letter From Seth Manzel (With My Personal Appeal On Top)

Allow me to remind you all that the cost of being a sustaining donor is very low, and the things that can be done with it are incredible. Speaking purely from the membership and active duty perspective, for $5 a month, you can ensure that 12 member packets can be mailed to new members. For $10 a month, you can ensure that 6 active duty organizer packages are mailed to members in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Remember that these things are crucial and necessary. If fellow members of the peace and veteran community can't help us by spreading this cost around and shouldering some of it, it will be falling squarely on our organizers - often those who can afford it least. Because this work must and will be done, and we are absolutely committed.

Without further ado, I give you the appeal letter from Seth Manzel, on IVAW's Board of Directors.

Letter from Seth Manzel,
Iraq Veterans Against the War Board of Directors

Dear Friends,

Since the election of Obama the public perception has been that the wars are winding down and that the objectives of the peace movement are now being embodied in the Administration's policies. A common myth that is being perpetuated by the media is that we are preparing to withdraw from Iraq.

These lies that Americans are telling themselves may make them feel better about the Obama Administration, but they are of little consequence to the Soldiers who are being deployed at a rate not seen since the surge. The lies mean nothing to the families left behind by soldiers going to spend a year deployed in the most dangerous period of the conflict yet. They mean even less to the widows who will never see their partners again.

We have forgotten the people of Iraq who have to live under the corrupt and dangerous puppet government that Obama is supporting, and we are all to quick to look the other way at the dead bodies piling up in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Iraq Veterans Against the War has not forgotten these things and we are one of the few groups out there who are still speaking out on these issues. One only needs to open major publications like the New York Times, The Army Times or the Stars and Stripes to see that we are getting the word out.

But we aren't just talking about the problems. Recently, IVAW sent a delegation to Iraq to help bolster Iraqi oil unions fighting back against corrupt and exploitive oil companies. Our members were participating in direct action in the latest round of G20 protests. Some members are actively involved in pressuring politicians to end these ruinous conflicts.

IVAW needs your support to continue our work. Without continuing help from the Peace Community we could not continue our work. Please, become a sustaining donor for IVAW and help us bring about an end to these wars by clicking on this link.

Thank you for your support,
Seth Manzel, IVAW Board of Directors

Please repost this and spread it far and wide. Your help is appreciated.