I noticed an Associated Press article about a 'new' medical condition in Iraq christened TBI or 'Traumatic Brain Injury'. With a host of new therapies and medical specialisation relating to the 'disorder', much is being made of its unusual and unprecedented nature. Doesn't any one read history? Doesn't any one read literature?
Greek and Roman writers discussed this condition and in the wake of the First World War, writers like H.G. Wells wrote a number of books that featured soldiers who suffered from a similar condition, known then as 'shell shock'.
I had a personal friend in the British paratroopers who told me about life in the 'elite' branch of the military. The training for military exercises is inimical to ordinary life.
One medical specialist noted that poor sleeping habits were the result of training that forced them to be 'alert all the time.'
Another remarked that: 'Their nervous system becomes acclimated to being constantly on alert - fight or flight.'
Drugs including strong amphetamines are given to soldiers on a regular basis when the situation merits it. It is well-known that 'uppers' can cause mental disorders, including anxiety and paranoia attacks. My friend thought he was going mad until I showed him literature dealing with the side-effects of drugs like 'speed'. He recognised the drugs that he and his companions had been given but had been unaware of the fact that they were what was known on the street as 'speed'.
Soldiers are trained to become 'killing machines'. Ordinary human life does not allow individuals to be 'killing machines'. Is it any wonder that these soldiers return to civilian life unequipped to deal with normal situations?
What is amazing to me, however, is the way people focus on THEIR own society, their time period and their situation as if it were something unique and new. Lessons seldom are learned from the past even when the past is acknowledged.
The article dealing with TBI only discussed American soldiers, making no mention of the traumatic stress and TBI suffered by the Iraqi people. There was no mention of the depleted uranium in Iraq either, the presence of which is poisoning the land and its people.
The United States has been using vast quantities of depleted uranium in munitions in Iraq. Uranium dust spread by the air after the explosion of any projectile containing DU causes birth defects and cancer, apart from the other immediate health hazards it poses to those who inhale it.
By illegally using hundreds of tons of depleted uranium (DU) against Iraq, Britain and America have gravely endangered not only the Iraqis but the whole world.
It is not only Iraq itself that may be affected by use of depleted uranium. Dr. Chris Busby, a British radiation expert, declared: 'I'm horrified. The people out there - the Iraqis, the media and the troops - risk the most appalling ill health. And the radiation from depleted uranium can travel literally anywhere. It's going to destroy the lives of thousands of children, all over the world. We all know how far radiation can travel. Radiation from Chernobyl reached Wales and in Britain you sometimes get red dust from the Sahara on your car.'
There are those who may consider, like the infamous Madeleine Albright that the six million Iraqi infant deaths caused by the economic sanctions were 'well worth the price', and that Iraqi deaths from depleted uranium therefore would be of no consquence. I say to them: 'Look to your own children! Who knows the ultimate affects of the U.S. military adventure in Iraq to ALL of us on this planet?'
Depleted uranium is one of the real 'weapons of mass destruction' whose use should be considered a war crime. I believe it is far more significant than the ordinary effects of military service on U.S. soldiers, including 'shell shock' or 'TBI'. How could any one imagine that killing as a chosen profession could not have untoward effects on the human psyche...