Friday, November 06, 2009

The Enemy Within

One common thread links the shooting of 5 British servicemen in Afghanistan and 12 13* Americans at Fort Hood in Texans all seventeen were killed by an enemy within. However, there the similarity ends.

In Afghanistan Guardsman Jimmy Major, Warrant Officer Darren Chant, Sgt Matthew Telford, Cpl Steven Boote and Cpl Nicholas Webster-Smith were shot by a rogue policeman they were training. The Taliban have claimed responsibility for the incident in what was clearly an act of terrorism against the occupying forces. The American incident was carried out by US Army psychiatrist Major Nidal Malik Hasan who had been fighting his impending deployment to Iraq.

While Major Hasan is of middle eastern ethnicity that shouldn't make his case a reason for anti-Muslim sentiment. He appears to have been struggling possibly from pre-traumatic stress disorder. The man had treated those who have returned from the battlefields in Iraq and Afghanistan and didn't seem to want to face the psychological conditions that those that had returned had gone through.

With the shootings in Fort Hood taking place at a personnel and medical centre where troops go for last minute checks before deployment it could well be that this was a last ditch attempt for one mant to avoid his own deployment. Sadly there are twelve thirteen* fatal victims of his selfish act and a further 31 30 injured.

The most sad thing about the involvement of Major Hasan is that if even those that are trained to deal and help others cope with the mental pressures of living on the front line of these conflicts, how are others meant to cope. We now recognise post-traumatic stress disorder, and though it is not clear if Major Hasan had partaken on a previous tour of duty from reading the reports his mental state may indicate an anticipatory disorder. But I've already mentioned one Star Trek episode in the title there is need to use another 'Who watches the watchers?'.

Who was looking out for the psychiatric well being of Major Hasan? Who was making sure he was in a fit mental state to be shipped out? Had there been signs of a shift in his mental state that could have forewarned this? Or as someone who is trained to spot such signs had he masked any signs?

The strains of these conflicts are really telling in our troops, not just in the body count or visible injuries that they carry back. Many of the young men we are sending off to fight will no doubt come back with mental conditions, many of which may not surface for years to come. This may not be the last such incident of this kind, that is something that is a worry.

*Just as I pressed publish the official death toll was increased.

1 comment:

Stuart Winton said...

Interesting to see a newspaper headline using the US major's full name, clearly trying to make a point about his ethnic/religous background.

Can't imagine his name being used in this way if he was a standard GI.


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