Morality and Wingnuts

This relates to the last post, on the psychological and neurobiological factors of morality. It’s also about the psychological defenses people use to see the world the way they want to see it.

The New York Times today has an article on violent crimes committed by veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. It suggests that trauma and stress of war are factors.

The New York Times found 121 cases in which veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan committed a killing in this country, 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. …

…Few of these 121 war veterans received more than a cursory mental health screening at the end of their deployments, according to interviews with the veterans, lawyers, relatives and prosecutors. Many displayed symptoms of combat trauma after their return, those interviews show, but they were not evaluated for or received a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder until after they were arrested for homicides.

The writers, Deborah Sontag and Lizette Alvarez, make no personal judgments, but the article overall is sympathetic to the soldiers and suggests that returning veterans could use much more support in their transition back to “normalcy” than they are getting.

Now, let’s look at reactions from some rightie bloggers. Here’s one:

NYT’s Vet Bashing Series (UPDATE)

The New York Times starts a new series, called “War Torn”: “A series of articles and multimedia about veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan who have committed killings, or been charged with them, after coming home.”

The first installment, 6253 words, is a considerable investment of ink, with more to come, by the New York Times to create negative impressions of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans and by extension the missions they served.

As related to the last post — obviously, the Sontag-Alvarez article triggered the blogger’s loyalty sphere and elicited an emotional, defensive response. Instead of concluding that more could be done to help vets deal with war trauma, the blogger concluded that the New York Times is disloyal to vets. Also as discussed in the last post, this reaction also may be from a strong “mentality of taboo.” I’ve written in the past that some right-wingers think it is taboo to acknowledge that soldiers are flesh-and-blood human beings and not plastic (or galvanized steel) action heroes.

Perhaps this emotional and illogical overreaction comes from wingers having to deny to themselves that their beloved war in Iraq was a big mistake, and lives are being lost and ruined for nothing. That’s some heavy-duty denial, folks. Yet they’ve kept it up all this time. No wonder they’re twitchy (the wingnuts, I mean).

This blogger (who tags his post “NY Times liars scoundrels scumbags”) calculates that 121 homicides among the number of returned veterans is actually below the national homicide rate of the general population — “one-half to less than one-third as much.” But the blogger calculates that there are 1.99 million Iraq/Afghanistan veterans, and I don’t believe that’s accurate. (Note to wingnuts: By saying “I don’t believe” I acknowledge that I don’t know what the number is and could be mistaken.)

This article from March 2007 says that 690,000 veterans had served in Iraq and Afghanistan combat zones (a lower number than the total number deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, I’m sure). It may be that the higher number represents total deployments, not total individual soldiers. Given the high number of repeat deployments, the deployment number doesn’t tell us how many individual soldiers served.

However, I would like to know how the real homicide rate of the vets compares to non-vets of the same age group, particularly among males, who commit nearly 90 percent of homicides. It’s possible that the rate among the vets is pretty close to average. Even so, that doesn’t mean post-traumatic stress wasn’t a factor in some of the homicides committed by vets. For example, one soldier who killed his two-year-old daughter was recovering from a brain trauma.

The article does not say that all returning veterans are twitching homicidal time bombs. I figured (correctly) that righties would react as if it did.

I’ve noticed over the years that if I make a statement like “some brown dogs have fleas” or even “about half of brown dogs have fleas at some point in their lives,” someone will comment that their brown dog does not have fleas, therefore the statement is wrong. I’ve seen this bit of illogic so many times that I have concluded some people cannot wrap their heads around the concept of some. Some is not all. Some is not necessarily most.

It’s also a common phenomenon for people to hear a couple of sensational news stories about X and extrapolate that X is a new and growing problem, when in fact the rate of X has not increased over the years. I remember after the Andrea Yates episode threw light on infanticide, there was a public perception that the rate of infanticide was growing at the time. But I checked; it was not. If anything, it had gone down slightly.

So, there will be some people who read this article and conclude that all returning vets are twitching homicidal time bombs, which is not true. Still, few is not none. Just because infanticide is rare doesn’t mean it was OK to leave five children alone with a psychotic mother who had just been taken off her meds. Even if the homicide rate among veterans is close to the average for their demographic group doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be better screening and support for the effects of trauma.

And calling attention to the tragic consequences of war trauma is not “bashing vets” to anyone thinking rationally.

Rightie blogger reaction to Friday’s anti-Guantanamo protests was all “loyalty sphere” stuff also. (Malkin called the protesters “unhinged.”) To me, of course, the detention center at Guantanamo is a betrayal to everything this country used to stand for, and opposing it is an act of patriotism. But wingnuts cannot see that; their “loyalty” and “authority” spheres override any other moral senses (including any understanding of the principles of democracy versus totalitarianism) that might yet linger, crushed and ignored, in the depths of their ids.

This confusion of group loyalty and authoritarianism with morality is a big part of why wingnuts are screwing up America. I’m not sure what can be done about that, though.

10 thoughts on “Morality and Wingnuts

  1. My husband is a psy social worker and works with returning vets.
    I mentioned this article(did not read) and and he had 2 good points
    1)Look at the type of people they are letting into the military now. We have all read about the incidents of gangs in Iraq, they keep lowering the standards and the scandals around the recruiting. We are having to scrape the bottom of the barrel.
    I know great people enlist but they have been lowering the standards for the last several years.
    2) The care some vets get, especially mental health services is pathetic. We all know it the suicide rate has been documented.
    It is a crime of George Bush and this administration, Congress and yes, we the people that we do not demand better for those that serve our country.
    I have been against this war from the start, but I support ALL Vets from this and all previous wars.
    This situation is only going to get worse because the services are not there and will not be ther as long as GW is in office.

  2. A small glimmer of hope…There are additional links embedded at the Kos link.

    A federal court in San Francisco today cleared the way for a major national class action lawsuit on behalf of disabled veterans to directly challenge the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The ruling affirms the rights of veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) to sue in federal court over the huge backlog of claims, the lengthy waiting time that veterans face in receiving needed mental health care, and the inadequacy of care for veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.

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  4. As I read this post two songs came to mind: Phil Ochs” I Ain’t A Marching Anymore and Buffy St. Marie’s Universal Soldier. Not quite sure of the connection in my mind, but it’s there… maybe that we harm our soldiers in so many ways and don’t want to face the consequences.

    A friend’s brother fought in Viet Nam and the mental hurt was worse than the physical hurt. When he first came home he needed more help than he got and once he figured some things out for himself he began to work with others. (Eventually he became a peer counselor at a V.A. hospital.) I’m sure he’d agree with me that our servicemenbers today need a lot more help and support than they are getting. (Nam killed him in the end, he died a few years ago from the effects of Hep B, which the doctors think he picked up from a blood transfusion either in Nam or the hospital afterwards.)

  5. Others have mentioned the suicide rate among returning vets, which is 4 times the norm, if I recall. Suicide by vets is not a reason to end the war; it’s a reason to provide help to vets under massive stress. They earned the right to help & support; it’s not their fault the war is deranged. (All wars are; some are worse than others.)

    I am a vet, but not a combat vet. I was Navy for the end of ‘Nam, and I knew combat vets. My observation is that they won’t talk much about combat because those who have not been there can’t understand, and they don’t have to discuss it with someone who HAS experienced it So they store the stress inside, and that’s emotionally toxic.

    The unhinged glory and gratitude that the neocons heap on the vets probably does not help. This is my opinion, but having some neocon determined to pin a ‘HERO’ medal on me (figuratively) is a clown. If I was a combat vet, the only person qualified to award me ANYTHING needs to have worn combat boots on unfriendly soil. But I am sure the ‘Support our Troops’ menatality applied by neocons adds a bizarre twist to the return home.

  6. Yes, it is so much easier and and makes a great impression to pin a medal on someone then provide them with the services they need!!!
    This administration is all show and VERY secretive about their actions, that is why we are in the mess we are in.

  7. I believe there is one more factor at play here. Yeah, the wingnuts are in denial, big time, about the reality of the Iraq war. And, yes, there is a taboo apparently against acknowledging that soldiers are real people who have real problems, and many of those problems can be attributed to their serving in Iraq. But I also think there is one other thing that contributes to this phenomena. That is, wingnuts can NEVER acknowledge that those evil liberals, Democrats, DFH’s, etc. might be right. Never. I believe that is what is behind a lot of the climate change denials. These people just cannot accept that the people they have labeled as their mortal enemies, that are less than human, can be correct about anything. Therefore, you get these increasingly bizarre and shrill denials on just about every subject you can imagine.

    That’s my theory.

  8. Thank you, Maha, for the lesson in logic. If only SOME people would benefit by it, the public discourse would benefit greatly.

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