Sunday, January 27, 2008

Cost of the War in Iraq

What is the cost of the war in Iraq? In financial terms, it's...

In human terms, how does one even begin to calculate the horrific toll? The New York Times is running
A series of articles and multimedia about veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan who have committed killings, or been charged with them, after coming home.
This special series, "War Torn," has revealed this startling statistic:
The New York Times found 121 cases in which veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan committed a killing in this country, or were charged with one, after their return from war.
Here's just one horrifying example that appears to go well beyond PTSD:
Specialist Brandon Bare, a soldier who saw fierce combat in Iraq, was sent home early after suffering head injuries from a grenade attack. He was placed in an intensive outpatient psychological treatment program, where he told counselors about the difficulty he was having controlling his anger toward his wife, Nabila Bare, 18. On July 12, 2005, after Mr. Bare saw his wife e-mailing another man, he stabbed her more than 71 times, carved a pentagram into her stomach and wrote a message with her blood on the refrigerator: "Satan said she deserved it." After confessing to Army investigators, Mr. Bare was convicted of premeditated murder and sentenced to life with the possibility of parole. A military psychiatrist said Specialist Bare exhibited the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. The victim's parents -- her father was a soldier, too -- were angered by defense efforts to portray Specialist Bare as a scarred war veteran betrayed by his wife. "He is not a hero," said Irene Neverette, the victim's mother. "He is a monster, a criminal."
18 year old Nabila Bare, savagely murdered by her husband, who appeared to have experienced a psychotic break after returning from Iraq

Here's another:
Jacob Burgoyne, a Fort Benning soldier who served as an Army gunner in Iraq, pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter in the killing of Specialist Richard Davis in Georgia in 2003. Two other soldiers were convicted of murder in the case, which inspired the 2007 film, "In the Valley of Elah."
How do judges and juries and families on both sides fairly consider the role that post-traumatic stress disorder [see also PTSD Information Center] played in some of these 121 cases?
An Iraq Veteran’s Descent; a Prosecutor’s Choice

Published: January 20, 2008

Not long after Lance Cpl. Walter Rollo Smith returned from Iraq, the Marines dispatched him to Quantico, Va., for a marksmanship instructor course.

Mr. Smith, then a 21-year-old Marine Corps reservist from Utah, had been shaken to the core by the intensity of his experience during the invasion of Iraq. ...

... Raising his rifle, he stared through the scope and started shaking. What he saw were not the inanimate targets before him but vivid, hallucinatory images of Iraq: “the cars coming at us, the chaos, the dust, the women and children, the bodies we left behind,” he said.

Each time he squeezed the trigger, Mr. Smith cried, harder and harder until he was, in his own words, “bawling on the rifle range, which marines just do not do.” Mortified, he allowed himself to be pulled away. And not long afterward, the Marines began processing his medical discharge for post-traumatic stress disorder...

The incident on the firing range was the first “red flag,” as the prosecutor in Tooele County, Utah, termed it, that Mr. Smith sent up as he gradually disintegrated psychologically. At his lowest point, in March 2006, he killed Nicole Marie Speirs, the 22-year-old mother of his twin children, drowning her in a bathtub without any evident provocation or reason.

. . .

Nobody believes that Mr. Smith’s killing of Ms. Speirs can be justified. But many involved in the case have wondered aloud, at some point, whether Ms. Speirs’s life might have been spared if the marine’s combat trauma had been treated more aggressively.

Ms. Speirs’s parents do not engage in such speculation. They view their daughter as a victim of fatal domestic violence and not as an indirect casualty of the war in Iraq.

Two years ago, this blog was launched with a post entitled, Men are Torturers, Women are Nurturers... It was about a paper by Singer et al. (2006) and the overblown press coverage that followed.
Revenge 'more satisfying for men'

"This investigation would seem to indicate there is a predominant role for men in maintaining justice and issuing punishment."

-- Lead researcher Dr Tania Singer
At the time, I said...
Well then, that explains why the public outrage directed at Lynndie England was so much greater than that directed at the Abu Ghraib ringleader (and father of Ms. England's child), former prison guard Charles A. Graner.
...and quoted this commentary:
Lyndie England, the Right and Feminism
Equal Opportunity Torture


Right wing pundits have been seeking to draw special notice to Private Lynndie England. Though only one of many sadistic individuals involved in the horrific acts at the prison who were photographed, England has been on the receiving end of the most invective. Though her fellow sadists were just as cruel, England is getting all of this extra attention because she is an easier target. England is an easier target because she is a woman.
Where am I going with all this? I don't know. What have Human Brain Imaging and Cognitive Neuroscience told us about preventing torture, murder, war?

I can't go on, I'll go on.
I've started a blog to critique some of the most outrageous claims published in high-profile journals and discussed in the popular press:

Because The Neurocritic is not a member of the all-powerful Editorial Boards at Science, Nature, or Neuron, The Neurocritic is published under an assumed identity. Your comments are most welcome.

Enjoy the inaugural posting! [we'll see how long it lasts.]
The Unnamable

You must go on.

I can't go on.

I'll go on.

-- Samuel Beckett

Visit the Psychologists for Social Responsibility website. PsySR uses psychological knowledge and skills to promote peace with social justice at the community, national, and international levels.


Singer T, Seymour B, O'doherty JP, Stephan KE, Dolan RJ, Frith CD. (2006). Empathic neural responses are modulated by the perceived fairness of others. Nature 439:466-9.

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At January 28, 2008 12:20 AM, Blogger Sandra said...

I've nothing to say about the costs of war (well, I do, just not here) - but congratulations on your two year blogoversary. I'm glad you're going on. This blog is much less bleak than Beckett.


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