Saturday, August 30, 2008

US Combat Troops - Comfortably Numb

From the Class Warfare Blog

I’ve written several times on this blog about the mental state of combat troops; i.e. about their colossal suicide rate or about The way the US Department of Defence is toying with the idea of medicating soldiers to desensitise them to combat trauma. For instance:

Hidden cost of the allied invasion and Guilt Free Soldier and Suicide epidemic among US vets

My argument has always been the same, namely that humans are not naturally aggressive, that we are not predisposed to dish out violence and that governments, realising this, will do anything to conceal the true cost of war, particularly with regards combatants and their inability to handle the stress of front lien combat. Today’s Glasgow Herald informs us that one is in six American soldiers in Afghanistan and one in eight in Iraq, that the Pentagon claims to know of, are on daily doses of prescription antidepressants, sleeping pills or painkillers to help them cope with the stresses of combat. The Glasgow Herald reports:

“The findings mean that at least 20,000 troops are on medication such as Prozac or diamorphine while serving in the front line or on equally dangerous convoy escort or driving duties in conflicts where insurgents regularly target the supply chain.

“While the vast majority would have been barred automatically from combat roles in earlier wars on medical and safety grounds, the pressure to provide up to 200,000 soldiers at any given time for the two major deployments has led to a relaxation of the rules.

“The Pentagon admitted that medication was tolerated because those sent to Afghanistan or Iraq were 'younger and healthier than the general population' and had been screened for mental illnesses before enlisting.”

Common sense suggests that the real reason that medication is tolerated is because the US has garrisons totalling 180,000 men and women in Iraq and Afghanistan alone; there to secure its control of world oil, resources and to start dismissing those found to take mind-controlling drugs, or giving them administrative posts, as is the case in the British army, means the only way they could maintain their oil empire is via conscription. And if your troops are comfortably numb, then what the fuck so long as they are doing their job and keeping open the oil pipelines. Which means that any legit or self-prescribed drug that keeps a soldier deployed and fighting also saves money on training and deploying replacements. But there is a downside: the number of soldiers requiring long-term mental-health services back home soars with repeated deployments and lengthy combat tours and this costs $$$$. But what the hell, there are profits to be had and natural resources to secure.

Drug use is nothing new by any means. If soldiers are not self-mediating then their top brass are seeing they are psychologically fit to kill people they have no real grievance with. Generals, history shows, have plied their troops with medicinal palliatives at least since George Washington ordered rum rations at Valley Forge. During World War II, the Nazis fuelled their blitzkrieg into France and Poland with the help of an amphetamine known as Pervitin. The U.S. Army also used amphetamines during the Vietnam War.

Meanwhile, mental trauma has become so common that the Pentagon may expand the list of "qualifying wounds" for a Purple Heart — historically limited to those physically injured on the battlefield — to include posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).


As an aside, still with the Comfortably Numb theme, here’s a music video of Roger Waters and Pink Floyd in one one of the best live performances I’ve seen for a long time.

John Bissett

Mr Brown and Mr Bean

From the Socialism Or Your Money Back blog

In his last speech as Chancellor in 2007 Gordon Brown boasted that “after 10 years of sustained growth, Britain’s growth will continue into its 59th quarter - the forecast end of the cycle - and then into its 60th and 61st quarter and beyond”.

There was always something dishonest about this. There are only 4 quarters in a year, so if growth was going to be sustained into a 59th quarter, this must have meant that it had been going for nearly 16 not just 10 years - in fact since 1992, when the last recession ended. Ten years was chosen by Brown of course since it was ten years previously that he became Chancellor following the Labour victory in the 1997 General Election.

Brown’s boast was supposed to imply he had devised a way of breaking the boom/slump cycle and avoiding a recession. As he predicted (or, more accurately, guessed), growth did continue into the 59th, 60th and 61st quarters (the last three quarters of 2007) and “beyond” into the 62nd, but only just. Corrected figures just released for the 63rd quarter (April to June this year) show that growth has now stopped. The expectation is that the 64th quarter will show a fall. If the 65th does too, as is highly probable, then the British economy will officially be in recession (defined as two successive quarters of “negative growth”, i.e. decline). But we won’t know till the figures are announced sometime next year.

Brown’s boast has been exposed as groundless. He didn’t engineer growth. He just happened to be Chancellor (just like his Tory predecessors from 1992) when world market conditions allowed an expansion of the British economy. Now that they no longer do so, there is nothing he or any other Chancellor can do about it. But if he is being blamed it is his own fault for claiming that the ten-year period of “sustained growth” was due to the policy he chose to pursue.

He can’t have it both ways. He can’t claim credit for the growth years and blame the world market for the bad times. If he’s responsible for the good times then he must also be responsible equally for the bad times. Actually, he’s responsible for neither since governments and finance ministers do not control the workings of the capitalist economy.

Meanwhile the Deputy Governor of the Bank of England Mr Bean - yes, that’s his real name - says that he and his colleagues are crossing their fingers that things won’t get too much worse (see here). Which is about all they can do.

Adam Buick