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18 June 2007

Combat stress and society’s (manufactured) reaction

Combat stress is a real thing. There are robust programs in place in DOD and elsewhere to help handle the effects of that stress on the human being, for war is a distinctly unnatural state of affairs and prolonged participation in it can do things to the health of one’s mind. Unconventional units, particularly those engaged in the delicate business of intelligence in support of counterinsurgency and counterterrorism, suffer combat stress more than most. So we, like many in our profession, are greatly cognizant of the hazard – and to a great extent, much of the community’s culture evolved to help place such stress in a larger context, and share it among those whom one trusts – especially those parts of the culture which have been so roundly criticized by those seeking political correctness and sterility.

The most important lesson we ever learned was that combat stress is driven primarily by one’s own reaction to society’s reaction regarding the stress events. The lesson came from the law enforcement realm, where the exposure to serious trauma and emotional tension was far more routine, and far more frequent, over the course of careers often spanning decades. These lessons have been validated time and again in the wars we have seen. It is not merely that one saw terrible things, or carried out difficult deeds during a period of time in a bad place. It is the cultural, political, and interpersonal context of what those things mean back in the World that can settle the restless nightmares or spur the haunting demons that lurk in a man’s mind.

There are outlets for this kind of stress, and means by which it may be handled. There are avenues available that those who need help may turn to. There is no shame in it.

Every man reacts differently to the stress. Physiological symptoms, psychological conditions, and triggering factors all vary. But there is no more sure means to convince a man that he is suffering than a relentless media campaign that tells him he should be. The propaganda in this case creates a reality. And this is a direct and grievous wound to those who should be offered instead support, care, and a greater context into which they might place the burdens of their days and thus see them lightened.

It is for these reasons that we view the recent Washington Post (and other media outlets’) attempts to stir up the ghosts of conflicts past to destroy support for the Long War as contemptible beyond measure. The media manufactured Vietnam-era PTSD coverage has proven over the careful examination of history to be driven by frauds and liars, who sought to cover their inadequacies in the stolen glories of others, and in failing sought to discredit entirely the idea of heroism, and bravery, and valour. (One of the best works documenting these false claims, and the media profiteering on the backs of such lies, was written by B.G. Burkett.) It is with this firmly in mind that we note the troubling similarities with current media accounts.

We view this most damnable of frauds as arising from an impulse that the Bard identified long ago in one of his more stirring military scenes:

And gentlemen in England now-a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs'd they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.

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