Anthropology At War Update.

Important new events within the criminally insane Human Terrain System, a military program enlisting anthropologists to serve as the front lines of colonial oppression.

I’m going to link to Maximilian Forte’s Zero Anthropology Blog here, instead of the original articles at Counterpunch and elsewhere, because Max has the best online coverage of the HTS available, and should be your first-stop shop for attempting to understand the issues.

David Price: Human Terrain Systems Dissenter Resigns, Tells Inside Story of Training’s Heart of Darkness.

Also: the disgraced Montgomery McFate (like lots of folks with anti-social personality disorder, she doesn’t seem to realize or care that she’s been disgraced) is apparently back blogging at her ridiculously named military porno site, “I luv a man in a uniform.” This person is driving the policy? Seriously?


PTSD, Suicide, and Combat Deaths

In a paper I gave recently at the International Association of Buddhist Studies, in Atlanta, I had occasion to introduce the topic of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, PTSD. PTSD was a diagnosis fought for politically by veterans of the Vietnam-American war, though in all likelihood it shares a commonality with Shell Shock and other combat and trauma-originated disorders (the very fact that it is a disorder makes it difficult if not impossible to truly classify it).

I discussed this history and then applied it to Cambodia’s post-Khmer Rouge situation. I won’t discuss that here – far too depressing for a day I’m supposed to be writing. Instead, since I discussed the case of Derek Henderson, who threw himself off a bridge at the age of 27. Since I used the example of dead servicemen and women in that talk, I feel obliged to put some of these statistics out here.

Those without relatives or friends serving in active military duty often ignore the wars entirely. Those on the left without such acquaintances often make the horrible mistake of blaming soldiers for the wars they are sent to fight. Neither group, and occasionally even those who do have acquaintances in the military, are usually aware of the relationship between casualties in combat, and casualties at home.

The numbers are hard to come by – like the pictures of flag-draped coffins coming home, they have been deliberately obscured, hidden, and sometimes straightforwardly lied about. Still, it is clear at this point that the following numbers are accurate, at least as of last year:

  • Since combat operations began, the U.S. Department of Defense has confirmed 4116 deaths in Iraq (this excludes Afghanistan, which recently began to exceed the combat death tolls of Iraq) [link].
  • Every year, approximately 12,000 U.S. veterans attempt suicide in the United States. [link]
  • Of those attempts, 6256 took their lives ‘successfully’ in 2005. [link]
  • That amounts to 120 suicides a week, or 17 a day; this out of a total of 230 attempted suicides a week, or 32 a day. [link]
  • In other words, for those who need to be beat about the head to understand this, the soldiers and veterans of the U.S. Military, taken as a single group, have thus far lost approximately 7.5 times more the number of human beings to suicide in the United States, than they have to operations in Iraq.
  • And that doesn’t even begin to include the loss of life represented by the deaths of non-U.S. forces, or the civilian deaths, which are documented at between 85,865 – 93,675, in Iraq alone. [link]

Read This – "Let Us Not Praise Coups"

In addition to Andrew Walker’s inventory of some of the surprising accomplishments of the Thai state in achieving its Millenium Development Goals, this post by wonderful journalist Awzar Thi (a pseudonym), over at his blog, Rule of Lords is today’s must-read.

Responding to Paul Collier‘s half-baked, militarist suggestion that what countries in crisis (specifically, Zimbabwe) should hope for are military coups, Awzar Thi runs down the actual history of coups, and shows how awful they are for those over which they rule, no matter the high hopes of the populace (and international imperialists), nor the horrendous state of affairs prior to the coup. He concludes

Let us not praise coups, and let us certainly not wish them upon people who are already acutely suffering their iniquities. They are not a way out of trouble but a way into more of it. No better advertisement of this exists than Burma today.

Please, go read it.


Bad timing in the resumption of military aid from the USA to Cambodia

Am I missing something? The logic of this donation – in which 31 used GMC cargo trucks will be given to the Cambodian military – escapes me.

The United States has not given direct military aid to any Cambodian armed force since the 1997 coup de force that installed Hun Sen as the sole political leader in the country. Why resume now, when the U.S. military is facing unbelievable costs and strain as it pursues its war in Ira*? Why resume aid to a regime which has shown no determination to reduce the illegal logging and landgrabs which are destroying the natural base (and thus, the economic base for upwards of eighty percent of the population) of the country?

Taken from Avon Hill Company

These trucks are more likely to be used to transport illegally cut and traded wood than for border security.


Zombie-King-Father Sihanouk

Always in the spotlight (even when he’s not the king), Sihanouk has been getting a bit more press this last week than previously. In addition to declaring his desire to remain in the Royal Compound as a zombie, the New York Times has published a recollection of the 1955 elections (the first after his abdication from the throne to enter politics). DAS brought it to my attention.

Receiving surrendering weapons from Dap Chhuon Khmer Issarak group [via KI-Media]

In his book Sihanouk: Prince of Light, Prince of Darkness, Milton Osborne includes the following quote:

The campaign for the September 1955 elections has been better documented than any other that took place while Sihanouk was in power. It was marked by widespread corruption and substantial violence. Terror was used as a weapon against candidates and their supporters by all sides, but most particularly by those backing the Sangkum. Just how many died is not certain. What is beyond dispute is that Dap Chhuon’s agents systematically intimidated their opponents, disrupting rallies, assaulting vote canvassers, and ensuring that only Sangkum posters were left untouched. (p.97) Continue reading


Trauma, Memory, and Evolving PTSD

Nearly thirty years ago, a crisis in the care for U.S. military personnel returning home from Vietnam, changed the way in which psychological diagnoses were defined. Ever heard of PTSD, of post-traumatic stress disorder? That diagnosis, which made it into the DSM after a protracted and highly political struggle, was created precisely to deal with the collection of symptoms presented by these veterans.

These veterans were experiencing flashbacks, depression, stress, constant anxiety, and too often, psychotic breaks. They were forced indoors much of the time, terrorized by the world and occasionally terrorizing the shrinking worlds around them, their families. Those who were not able to keep it together at even this level ended up in the streets, or dead.

They didn’t, at this early stage, end up in the hospitals, receiving quality care. Partly, this was because of the fact that there existed no diagnosis for these symptoms: they clearly shared a single experiential trigger of sorts – participation in the Vietnam War – but even at that level a great deal of diversity existed. There was the classic victim trauma, but also perpetrator trauma. The latter has received very little attention, perhaps because of the unpopular ethical questions that necessarily accompany its investigation. But the former has become enshrined in our medical, psychiatric, academic, literary, and popular cultures.

In thirty years.

Now, only six years into another great military conflict fought for reasons of imperial ambition, with America’s domestic political scene not only divided, but with one of those halves losing ideological unity and direction, the veterans of the current conflict are finally getting noticed for the problems they are presenting.

Gulf War One created Gulf War Syndrome – a wildly underattended and reported health crisis. Perhaps because we ‘won’ that conflict, it was somehow shameful to report on the costs? But it is increasingly clear that we have ‘lost’ this war, if indeed it was ever winnable.

Compared to these enormous, political, and social questions, the following consideration will necessarily seem trivial. However, this blog does not exist to stake out political positions, but to investigate and draw attention to a very specific range of issues, the most central of which cluster around the academic realm.

The cultural studies/psychological/popular trope of trauma, which plays out nightly on sitcoms, soap operas, radio shows, which makes its way into everyday conversation and spontaneous ‘pop psychological’ analyses of others, comes out of a specific lost war. The veterans and their supporters had to fight extremely hard to get the diagnosis added to the DSM, so that they could be treated.

PTSD is still in the DSM, though Gulf War Syndrome is not. And there are good reasons to want to avoid stuffing the DSM with syndromes, which are by necessity not the same thing as diseases in which we understand the cause of the symptoms. With syndromes, we are still guessing not only at the cause, but by definition, with whether diagnosis refers to a ‘really existing’ pathology, or is instead a collection of related and potentially overlapping problems.

So, while veterans of this current conflict may be able to receive care under the PTSD diagnosis, receiving treatment for Gulf War Syndrome is considerably more difficult. And even those who receive care receive it at places like the Walter Reed Medical Center, at the heart of so many outrageous scandals regarding the healthcare for military personnel

The following article is very worth reading: [link]