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 â€” along with alcohol abuse, family discord and other attendant problems â€” 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:
NYTâ€™s Vet Bashing Series (UPDATE)
The New York Times starts a new series, called â€œWar Tornâ€: â€œA 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.â€
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.