Posted by: Mark Nielsen | May 28, 2008

War Is Ungodly and Wrong – PTSD Is Proof

In a recent column entitled “George & Dick’s Excellent Adventure”,
(over at Neil Young’s Living With War site, author David Robb reveals the fifty year history of U.S. politicians –especially but not only Republicans– who get us into ill-advised wars, and then deny how ineffective these military solutions are for addressing political problems. Here are a few column excerpts:

 During a video conference with US military and civilian personnel
working and fighting in Afghanistan, Bush said, “I must say, I’m a
little envious. If I were slightly younger and not employed here, I
think it would be a fantastic experience to be on the front lines of
helping this young democracy succeed. It must be exciting for you and
in some ways romantic, you know, confronting danger.”
   Such an immature and foolish statement is particularly galling
coming from a guy who in 1968 dodged combat duty in Vietnam by using
the influence of his father — who was then a Congressman representing
Texas’s 7th District — to get into the Texas Air National Guard…
     As any combat veteran will tell you, war is not “romantic.” It’s
bloody and brutal.

Robb also cites some recently uncovered correspondence between Richard
Nixon — who was raised as a peace-loving Quaker — and his psychiatrist, written
when Nixon was Ike’s vice president. The shrink, perhaps to help
Tricky Dick deal with his conscience over Korea and
various Cold War problems, advised Nixon to be bold and work to create
a Department of Peace. Alas, I’m afraid no such courage or imagination can
be found among U.S. politicians, however. Robb then reveals an odd
little fact about Nixon’s tombstone:

…When he became president in 1969, Nixon continued the war in
Vietnam for another six years — and several million more lives. And
yet, Nixon still thought of himself as a man of peace. “The greatest
honor history can bestow,” reads the inscription on Nixon’s black
granite tombstone in California, “is the title of peacemaker.”
   In his novel 1984, George Orwell wrote: “War is Peace; Freedom is
Slavery; Ignorance is Strength.” He could have added: “War is

Today on the radio, I heard another interesting fact: in 2007, the
number of cases of PTSD in the U.S. military was over 14,000. A big
number, which looks even bigger when one looks at the 2006 number and
sees that the increase for 2007 was almost 50%. That’s in just one year… a year
during which The Surge was supposed to guarantee success. But at what
cost? (Besides which: are we actually having success? Recent studies show that outside the province where the Afghan capital is, coalition forces are mostly losing ground and influence, and the Taliban is resurgent.)

That PTSD statistic is only shocking if one believes that
the kind of moral and ethical compromises one makes daily in a war
zone are just a normal part of modern life. In reality, most real
psychological and scientific data supports the opposite case. Thus, since we civilians are far enough removed from the REAL trauma, and so culturally conditioned to romanticize
war, PTSD becomes a huge problem. When the *reality* kicks in for our
soldiers, their fully-functional minds cannot bear the disconnect:
war, it turns out, is nothing like they were told it was.

So there were not actually more weaklings or nutcases in the 2007 military than
there were in 2006 (or in 1956, or 1942). They’re just getting smarter
and more reflective. The real consequences of war, and the real
intractable problems in Iraq and Afghanistan that have almost nothing
to do with us, prove stronger than the soldiers’ capacity to adapt to
them. Oops. Innocence and naivete lost… forever. The “just”-ness of a war, or not, does not make individual acts of violence morally acceptable. Yes, soldiers are realizing in unprecedented numbers that they’re not freedom fighters or peacemakers… they’re interlopers and occupiers after all. Fooled again. Who knew?

Healthy middle-class Americans, and perhaps everyone everywhere, want
to feel that they are essentially “good” people — and that others are
good also (and thus not out to do them harm… the essential
insecurity that is at the heart of PTSD). Combat conditions often
strip them of that partial fallacy, revealing their aggressive,
unforgiving, sinful side, the side that makes us have to CHOOSE to be
good, on a daily basis. Many soldiers, under the stress of actual combat conditions, discover that this inner battle is much harder than a battle with any armed insurgent.

At that point –surrounded by an entire culture that seems so foreign,
where friends and enemies are hard to tell apart, where a mild
paranoia eats away at them– these soldiers might be faced with a
choice: harden themselves, sell off a portion of their soul and just follow orders, or
else admit a few basic truths and perhaps lose their mind a bit, because of the ridiclous context in which they have been placed by their government. Perhaps in an attempt to preserve some of their soul and conscience, PTSD is the “right” choice, even if the harsh reality of its symptoms makes life difficult for months and years to come.

I for one, unlike our childish president, do not envy these soldiers
one bit. Either choice is a bad one. Unlike the lie Mr. Orwell’s Big
Brother once tried to sell us, war is NOT peace. War is unnatural.
It’s bad foreign policy, it’s bad for the body, and most of all it’s
bad for the soul.


  1. Anyone who would romanticize war is simply a sick pup. In my mind you don’t have to have any firsthand knowledge of war, to want to kill yourself simply because it exists. I know I did when I was only nine years old.

  2. While I disagree with much of the premise of this post (specifically, the assumption that soldiers in war undergo PTSD because they ‘discover’ “they’re interlopers and occupiers after all” … instead of the simpler fact that war IS brutish, people die painfully, and soldiers occasionally have to kill in order to not be killed), I very much agree with 2nd- and 3rd-from-last paragraphs.

    Being “good” DOES take a choice, and it is rarely an easy decision in a sinful world. Soldiers are faced with this battle, just as we are; but, they see it played out in the lives before them. And in seeing this spiritual battle, they then can see those battle lines in themselves … and when they have crossed them.

    Soldiers are not robots – we make choices in the field of battle. However, disagreeable and despicable you feel war it, it does have purpose. Again, this is not heaven. This world is ruled by evil, and sometimes, yes, sometimes it is necessary to wield a bigger stick to keep evil at bay. As my grandmother used to say, “pray as if everything depended on God, and work as if everything depended on you!”

    No, war is not romantic. Its not envious. Its not glorious. BUT, it is “natural”. You may not want it, nor want it to be. But in this fallen world, it has been natural since the birth of the first two sons. In fact, before even them, war existed … and continues to this very day. And perhaps more than anyone else, it is our soldiers who see THAT battle played out in the physical world that causes them to withdraw. We are not perfect, but if you are not willing to fight for something, then you will lose to anything.

  3. Thanks, Mark (MAC). For me, it’s a hard line to walk, to support soldiers and vets good intentions, while disagreeing with many of the justifications for war itself. But when you start pulling in all that Old Testament or other biblical/anthropological stuff, I gotta go back to Jesus’ radical “love your enemies” message. He never said anything he didn’t mean.

    Our need to fight amongst ourselves stems from a basic lack of trust that God is in control. So we fight over what humans are going to be in control instead. There’s no denying evil is real. But when we refuse to play the devil’s game, he’s got no way to beat us.

  4. Mark,

    Thanks for the response! In reply, keep in mind that my “Old Testament or other biblical/anthropological stuff” was also referring to Jesus! Jesus is one of the Trinity, as well, and so was party to creation.

    Satan corrupted creation, and Jesus provided his solution. While I agree that He did say “love your enemies”, that was in response to an individual sinner, and, was not His mission statement / mission. His mission was to save humanity through His sacrifice for our sins. So, yes, He meant it, but that statement was but a single point of his much broader, life-saving ministry.

    Now, does that mean that we shouldn’t “love thy neighbor”? Yes, of course we should. But as I noted in my first comment, not everyone plays by those rules, and not everyone is as nice or as forgiving! Defending your home and your family if someone tries to harm them is not evil and is not playing the devil’s game. Its defending AGAINST evil and the devil’s minions. Extending that to your own country, if someone attacks our country and our people, then “love your enemies” no longer applies because it is no longer on an individual sinner basis any longer. Attacking a country, either formally through traditional means of war, or through terrorizing its citizens is evil, and we are justified, both biblically and historically to defend ourselves.

    Of course, there are some people that believe that a totally pacifist response, with zero defense to an attack, either individually or as a country is the solution. As you put it, refusing to play the devil’s game. Problem with that is that 99% of the time, the devil wins. Why? Because he has eliminated a temporary barrier to his immediate plans, has gained whatever he was attacking for, and we as Christians only gain a martyr.

    God sent Christ because we are sinners in a fallen world – we can NOT win against Satan without His help! The spiritual war spills out into the physical realm all around us, and we must be willing to take on the tasks that the Lord gives us in both of those battles. God has Michael leading His spiritual army, and He calls on some of us to fight for Him here on earth, as well.

    Personally, I know that He will win the war for all of us. Some battles here on earth are painful and even horrific. But I would rather fight and defend what I love then lift my chin for slaughter.

  5. […] War Is Ungodly and Wrong, PTSD is Proof (Marking Time) […]

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