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The hidden costs of war


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THERE’S an alarming report by Anna Badkhen, ‘Afghanistan -- state of shock’ (Aug 24), that exposes a largely hidden aspect of the wars in Afghanistan and several other places.

Of American troops, she says: “One in five American veterans who have served in Iraq or Afghanistan — as many as 400,000 men and women — suffers from severe depression or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).”

This malady, PTSD, is a mix of depression, hopelessness, panic attacks, psychosomatic pains, rage, and insomnia.

A recent US army report notes that the suicide rate among active soldiers has also gone up by about 2.5 times between 2004 and 2011 and by last June more active-duty troops had died of suicide than in combat.

Furthermore, the PTSD also spawns domestic violence and returning troops are three times more likely to abuse their partners than American civilians.

Ms Badkhen then turns to the residents of war-wrecked countries like Afghanistan and Iraq. There, the trademark symptoms of war trauma — depression, anguish, and hyper-aggression — leave whole populations envenomed with sectarian and ethnic mistrust, and with the certainty that only violence can end violence.

As an example, one Afghan taxi driver told her that “he felt threatened by government troops, police, Taliban, ethnic militias, and neighbours belonging to different ethnic groups — in short, by almost everyone who was not his kin.”

In 2009, a gallup poll showed that two-thirds of Afghans felt unsafe walking alone outside at night.

An official US survey in 2002, shortly after the fall of the Taliban, found that 42 per cent of Afghans suffered from PTSD and 68 per cent from major depression. This was a full decade before the war.

“Feelings of hatred and revenge, and the desire of acting on that … directly affects the peacemaking process,” says a psychiatrist who oversaw that survey. Talking of countries like Kosovo, Somalia and Uganda, such feelings existed there too, but in Afghanistan it reached almost 80 per cent.

About Uganda, another survey in 2007 had found that nearly 74 per cent of Ugandans suffering from PTSD were more likely to favour violent means to end the conflict than civilians who were not, thus proving trauma begets trauma -- and violence.

The writer concludes that vicious sectarian rampages pit neighbour against neighbour. In the most recent conflicts, at least nine out of 10 war casualties are believed to be civilians, says another psychologist.

The purpose of writing this is to wake up the government and the public to the dangers Pakistani civilians and soldiers are faced with, where the situation is exactly similar in parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to that in Afghanistan etc. Besides, risks are quickly becoming like that in places like Balochistan and Karachi.

Urgent steps should be taken to remedy this through peaceful means for violence only begets violence, and it will soon become an incurable cancer.


Comments (5) Closed

p r sharma Sep 04, 2012 07:01am
A true picture of adverse affects of war /civil war/ an atmosphere where violence is closely faced an d threat and panic id every day's routine.. People who have gone through this trauma totally fails to believe that a solution of any problem (how small it be) can be searched through peaceful means.he starts believing in violence and violence only. A whole generation suffers,
Tanvir Afgan Sep 04, 2012 08:41am
War is terrible; you loose buddies, people suffer and the economy generally nose dives. America is a great nation with a merit oriented society and a professional military. It is unfortunate that this nation has such politicians.
Rakesh Sep 04, 2012 03:36pm
Wars have been with min kind even before the dawn of civilization. Justifications for wars have been equally prevalent in every religious texts. One way to reduce this cycle of wars and their justifications is to not look backward for justification of a new war but forward on how to settle differences in a more civilized manner.
Shaikh Mohommad Sep 04, 2012 07:27am
The American Government does not care how many of its soldiers die or suffers. It does not care how much it costs. Big companies benefit from the wars and suffering of the common people in USA and abroad. Remember the Vietnam war! It ended because the people came on the streets. If the people are silent then the situation will remain as it is. That is common suffering.
Akhter Husain Sep 04, 2012 01:20pm
Informative narration War is a solution for the big business that thrives on destruction and construction one after the other,the question of peace will not therefore be the priority of this class.Which area is to be the war zone after Iraq and Afghanistan has yet to be seen.