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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Don’t mention the war

It’s easy to allow domestic, seemingly more timely concerns to overshadow the issues of faraway wars. But modern democracy’s endless squabbles and ad hominems are trivial compared to the suffering experienced daily by our servicepeople, by Iraqi and Afghani civilians and even by our enemies, who, despite the wrongness of their cause, are still human and eligible for some measure of compassion.

A recent article in the Army Times reports that “”at least one in six service members is on some form of psychiatric drug … and many troops are taking more than one kind, mixing several pills in daily ‘cocktails.'”” This really ought to be no surprise. American troops in the Vietnam war were legendary for their illicit drug use, and alcohol abuse has been common (and perhaps necessary) to armed conflict.

A 2000 American Forces Press Service release stated that 21 percent of service members “”admit to drinking heavily”” — probably, like most self-reported sins, a lowball estimate — and an ABC Health report from last month notes that “”Nearly 9,200 soldiers sought treatment for alcohol abuse in 2009, a 56 percent increase since the war in Iraq started.””

The use of antidepressants, antipsychotic and psychotroptic drugs may reduce a soldier’s effectiveness on the field, lengthening reaction times and interfering with motor function. And soldiers who have been prescribed powerful drugs are rarely restricted from the battlefield. “”Any soldier can deploy on anything,”” said Army social worker Capt. Maria Kimble in a related Army Times article. “”It’s always kind of subjective. If they really want someone to deploy, they can always find a loophole.””

Some prescription drugs carry even more serious risks. “”Many of the newest psychiatric drugs, writes the Times, “”come with strong warnings about an increased risk for suicide, suicidal behavior and suicidal thoughts.”” No doubt these drugs increase the risk of self-injury, but the greatest threat to the mental health of our soldiers is the hell to which we have deployed them, the horror and violence which only an ever-expanding cocktail of drugs and poisons can ameliorate.

Back on the homefront, American civilians have no trouble erasing the war from their memories. Other than a recent antiwar protest that drew about 2,500 people to Capitol Hill on March 21, the seventh anniversary of the Iraq war came and went without much notice. According to a Washington Post article on the protest, “”Many (protesters) expressed concern that health care and the dismal economy have begun to overshadow the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.”” These fears appear to be well-founded — a slightly smaller healthcare-bill protest held the previous day, estimated between 1,500 and 2,000 people, appears to have dominated media coverage. “”Using the media data-mining tool Critical Mention,”” reads a post on the blog ThinkProgress, “”a search … of the keyword “”protest”” of the three major cable news networks — CNN, MSNBC and Fox — found that the tea party protests were covered 31 times between March 19 and March 21, and the antiwar demonstration was only covered twice.””

But at least one person has made the news for his coverage of America’s foreign wars: Rep. Patrick Kennedy, D-R.I., whose “”rant”” on the subject during a House floor debate circulated around the usual news and talk show circuit. Not unusually for the national news media, less attention was paid to the content of his speech than to his delivery (which, to be fair, did come off a bit deranged). But the man has a point.

“”You know what cynicism is?”” said Kennedy during the debate, held on a resolution introduced by Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio. “”There’s one, two press people in this gallery. We’re talking about (disgraced New York Rep.) Eric Massa 24/7 on the TV, we’re talking about war and peace, $3 billion, a thousand lives, and no press? No press? You wanna know why the American public is fit?”” (Presumably he means “”angry.””) “”They’re fit because they’re not seeing their Congress do the work that they’re sent to do, it’s because the press, the press of the United States is not covering the significant issue of national importance, and that’s the laying of the lives down in the nation, for the service of our country. It is despicable, the national press corps right now.””

For once, let’s try to remember what issues are really important and deserving of our attention. Let’s mention the war.

­—Ben Harper is a philosophy senior. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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