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Mar-12-2012 13:50printcomments

PTSD Denial and Dead Afghan Civilians

Pushed Too Far? Soldier was a sniper who supported Navy SEAL's and Green Berets.

Afghan civilans killed near Kandahar
Disbelief: Two grief-stricken Afghan men look into the van where the body of a badly burned child lays, wrapped in a blue blanket. Courtesy: Daily Mail

(SALEM) - Last week we learned that army psychiatrists are increasingly denying that combat veteran suffer Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) from war. 285 soldiers from Fort Lewis a few days ago were relegated into the 'Personality Disorder' category, with the military suggesting their problems were pre-existing and not a result of their combat experiences.

They are the latest statistics of an unofficial Dept. of Defense (DoD) campaign to deny PTSD because they don't want to pick up the tab.

According to the Seattle Times, "Those who qualify for medical retirements can receive lifetime health insurance for themselves, spouse and dependents, access to base-post exchanges and other benefits not available to soldiers who are discharged for other reasons."

In other words, the federal government, caught in this same act several times in the past, is saving money by denying veterans what they deserve, plain and simple.

Now, at least 16 civilians in Afghanistan, among them nine children and three women, are said to have been gunned down by a rogue U.S. Army soldier Sunday, who reportedly carried out the attack in Panjwai village after dark using night vision goggles.

TBI and PTSD

What we know about the so-far unnamed soldier, according to an article published today by Mail Online in London, is that he is a sniper, and a father-of-two who 'had trouble reintegrating after last tour of Iraq'

He suffered TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) in a rollover accident during one of three tours in Iraq. Most TBI cases occur when convoys are struck by an IED (Improvised Explosive Device or roadside bomb), however a large number of U.S. forces were also lost and severely injured in Iraq from 'non-combat' deaths, many of which were vehicle crashes.

In any event, these experiences, coupled with several years in a combat zone, means he also suffered from PTSD, who wouldn't? PTSD isn't a "you have it or you don't" disorder; it is a human reaction to having witnessed terrible things; to fear, death, trauma and past injuries. People with PTSD need advanced treatment, but the Army and Marines deny their own all too often, by reclassifying PTSD as 'personality disorder' and they either kick vets out of the service, or they send them back to combat as damaged goods.

That is obviously what led to the deaths in Afghanistan Sunday. A few days before this terrible event, more than dozen soldiers were denied having PTSD, designated as having 'personality disorder' as noted previously.

U.S. Senator Patty Murray

According to the Seattle Times article, Madigan team reversed 285 PTSD diagnoses, Sen. Murray says

The Army Medical Command has identified some 285 Madigan Army Medical Center patients whose diagnoses of post-traumatic stress disorder were reversed as they went through a screening process for possible medical retirements, according to U.S. Sen. Patty Murray.

Last month, Madigan's screeners for PTSD were removed from that duty while the Army Medical Command investigates why diagnoses were changed.

Soldiers diagnosed with PTSD as they prepare to leave the military can qualify for a medical retirement that offers a pension and other benefits.

The soldiers were screened by Madigan's forensic psychiatry team over a five-year period dating back to 2007, and will be invited to undergo new reviews at Madigan or other military facilities, according to a release Wednesday by the Western Regional Medical Command, which has oversight over Madigan.

Connections

If anyone wants to convince me that this soldier didn't know this, wasn't friends with one of those 285 denied soldiers from his own base or at least aware of the development, then go right ahead and try. I know exactly how soldiers react to this type of news in the war theatre, it pisses them off, they always feel disconnected, but to be in that environment and hear that your guys are getting shot down by Army doctors at Madigan - might have been a trigger.

Graphic from VOA

I seems possible that the soldier heard this news, and assumed that he would come back from yet another tour only to be overly scrutinized by the military shrinks and denied what he really suffers. It is interesting that this 38-year old soldier had served 11 years, it means that he was 27 when enlisting, perhaps not as unusual today as in years past when that was the maximum age allowed to join; it also appears he may be one of so many who joined because of the events surrounding 11 September 2001.

According to the Daily Mail article, the attack happened as families slept. The mass-murder leaves U.S. and British officials warning of reprisals against troops.

The Taliban, noted for their own share of civilian murders, (a very important point) vows to avenge the deaths. Taliban also allege that there was more than one soldier, a staff sergeant from Fort Lewis, the Washington Base regarded as 'most troubled in the military' with history of killings.

They say the soldier "entered three homes, shot 16 dead after suffering mental breakdown". Nine children and three women among those reported dead Relative: He 'poured chemicals over their dead bodies and burned them' The New York Times has a well researched review of the carnage at Panjwai, a village about a mile from the base of the U.S. soldier. A man named Abdul Samad came home to find his family slaughtered. Always fearful of the Taliban, he says he was urged to move his family close to the U.S. base to they would be safe.

Reuters reports that that anti-American sentiment is running very high. The governor of Kandahar, Afghanistan, Tooryalai Wisa, says problems could become worse if news of the shooting spreads. This event is the last thing the U.S. needed in an already controversial war. I covered the Afghan conflict when only a handful of those who had fought long and hard in Iraq were there; I knew in 2006 and 2007 that eventually, very hardened troops would replace those I met who were trying hard to help. At that point U.S. and I.S.A.F. forces were not involved as frequently in civilian deaths.

Undiagnosed PTSD

Dr. Phillip Leveque

Our own writer, Dr. Phil Leveque, has lived with PTSD ever since his days in the U.S. Army as an Infantryman fighting the Germans.

After spending many years training doctors as a University Professor of Pharmacology, and becoming a Forensic Toxicologist, he later became a doctor himself and specialized in treating Veterans with PTSD. He says there is a clear pattern between the military and Veterans Administration denying claims, and violence.

The system is producing thousands of PTSD victims. The Oregonian just published, Broken Bodies Broken Souls and it is all about the denial of PTSD and pensions for these guys they have literally destroyed. When the paper showed up today about this murder of Afghan civilians, I knew there might be a direct connection

Regarding the reclassifying of PTSD as a pre-existing problem from before the individuals entered the military; that is an amazing claim, if the government itself is correct, then it is allowing severely damaged and even murderous people into the military and not catching them in the screening process. Sadly, most who have served are in need of particular care and attention that goes unaddressed. When the VA isn't denying Veterans or sending them back to combat, they turn into an actual enemy of the Veteran. This is what happened to Nick Burgin, a U.S. Marine who served on Mortuary Affairs duty in Iraq. His job was one of the most grisly and dangerous, and he was told he doesn't have PTSD, just personality Disorder.

Dr. Leveque wrote:

Personality Disorder is merely a quirk of some commander’s mind. To think that any commander can command a Psychiatrist to label one of his patients with Personality Disorder is grotesque. For example, if a fighter pilot tells the Doctor, “I can’t do this anymore”, the Doctor and the commander better pay attention. The same goes for Infantrymen but it seems they are given tons of medications which makes them zombies but still able to get around even in a stupefied state.

In the CBS News article, Who is the Afghan rampage shooter?

So far, officials have acknowledged he is a 38-year-old staff sergeant who has been in the military for 11 years. He is married with two children. He served three tours in Iraq and began his first deployment to Afghanistan in December.

CBS News correspondent David Martin reports he rolled a vehicle in Iraq in 2010, was evaluated for mild traumatic brain injury and later returned to duty. Earlier, he had passed a psychological exam to qualify for sniper school, which, as one officer said, "carries its own psychological baggage depending on how many people you've capped."

His name has not been released and will likely be made public only when he is charged.

The shooter was attached to a Stryker Brigade based at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. His family has now been moved onto the base for their safety. He was assigned to support a special operations unit of either Green Berets or Navy SEALs engaged in a village stability operation. Special operations troops pair with local residents chosen by village elders to become essentially a sanctioned, armed neighborhood watch.

Developments in Afghanistan

According to Xinhua, Afghanistan's Defense Ministry is condemning the reported killings in southern Kandahar province by a soldier with the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). They are calling for the punishment of those responsible for the callous act.

"The Defense Ministry condemns in its strongest term the killing of 15 innocent civilians and injuring nine others including women, men, old and young people by NATO-led troops in Zangabad village, Panjwai district of Kandahar province," the statement added.

The statement noted, "Afghan Defense Ministry wants ISAF officials to bring to justice at its earliest those responsible for committing the inhumane and heinous crime."

Xinhua reports that ISAF's Deputy Commander Lt. Gen. Adrian J. Bradshaw expressed regret over the tragic incident and promised to investigate and punish those behind the crime.

"In my role as in-theatre Commander of ISAF in General Allen' s temporary absence on duty, I wish to convey my profound regrets and dismay at the actions apparently taken by one coalition member in Kandahar province," the deputy commander said in a statement released here in the afternoon.

He also noted that, "An investigation is already underway and every effort will be made to establish the facts and hold anyone responsible to account."

With regard to what made this man snap, remember that the military and VA prescribe hard drugs to soldiers serving in war, just as they do veterans, yet they go ape over marijuana use with only minimal protection for those in the VA system, none for those in active duty. This aspect should be investigated, was the man being prescribed something that caused or amplified his apparently psychotic deadly episode?

______________________________

Tim King in 2008, covering the Iraq War

Tim King: Salem-News.com Editor and Writer

Tim King has more than twenty years of experience on the west coast as a television news producer, photojournalist, reporter and assignment editor. Tim is Salem-News.com's Executive News Editor. His background includes covering the war in Afghanistan in 2006 and 2007, and reporting from the Iraq war in 2008. Tim is a former U.S. Marine.

Tim holds awards for reporting, photography, writing and editing from The Associated Press the National Coalition of Motorcyclists, the Oregon Confederation of Motorcycle Clubs, Electronic Media Association and The Red Cross In a personal capacity, Tim has written 2,026 articles as of March 2012 for Salem-News.com since the new format designed by Matt Lintz was launched in December, 2005.

Serving readers with news from all over the globe, Tim's life is literally encircled by the endless news flow published by Salem-News.com, where more than 100 writers contribute stories from 20+ countries and regions.

Tim specializes in writing about political and military developments worldwide with an emphasis on Palestine and Sri Lanka, Iraq and Afghanistan, and the U.S. Marines. You can write to Tim at this address: tim@salem-news.com. Visit Tim's Facebook page (facebook.com/TimKing.Reporter)

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Bakhshi Armendter March 13, 2012 1:19 am (Pacific time)

If America want to win the war then you must eliminate Pakistan's ISI involvement In Afghanistan by remapping the Pakistan.

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