Wednesday, April 05, 2006

What do the death penalty and the Iraqi war have in common?

What the death penalty and the Iraqi war have in common is this: We will see a number of returning veterans suffer from the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. A very small percentage of them (yet nonetheless a significant number) will commit crimes that will lead them to death row.

In the four and a half years that I've been at NCADP I have seen a number of combat veterans executed. Some were veterans of the Vietnam war; others fought in the first Gulf war, when the U.S. drove Iraqi forces out of Kuwait.

The reason I bring this up to today is that I noticed this post on daily kos:
An estimated fifty-thousand Americans will suffer Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The sensorium of war will furnish the survivors with a lifetime's supply of guilt, delicately filed between reel after reel of ghastly snapshots recorded by the senses and replayed endlessly in the virtual cinema of the Mind. It may manifest itself as anxiety, chronic depression, substance abuse, or conduct disorders. These 'lucky' survivors will struggle with recurring images, sounds, and smells of dead men, women, and children. Even flashbacks of the living can haunt; the memory of an abandoned toddler spied through a smoking gun turret, bloody and wailing in a bullet chipped alley, too young to understand and too helpless to cope, can break a man or woman years later.

Some will manage, some will stumble and right themslves, some will need help, some will be driven over the edge by these demons. A few may take their own lives, a handful may become monsters and take the lives of others, each tragedy adding more casualties from this war, more lost, whose names will never be listed on a Department of Defense website or inscribed on a bronze plaque next to a memorial.
It's sad to think about, but it is also something to think about.

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