“Modern Warfare Destroys Your Brain” in More Ways Than One

The most likely way to die in a U.S. war, by far, is to live in the country that the United States is attacking. But the most likely way in which a U.S. participant in a war will die is by suicide.

There are a couple of widely observed top causes of hundreds of thousands of U.S. troops returning from recent wars deeply disturbed in their minds. One is having been near an explosion. Another, which has been around longer than explosions have, is having killed, having nearly died, having seen blood and gore and suffering, having imposed death and suffering on innocents, having seen comrades die in agony, exacerbated in many cases by having lost faith in the sales pitch that launched the war — in other words, the horror of war making.

The first of those two causes might be called traumatic brain injury, the other mental anguish or moral injury. But, in fact, both are physical events in a brain. And, in fact, both impact thoughts and emotions.  That scientists have a hard time observing moral injury in brains is a shortcoming of scientists that ought not to start us imagining that mental activity isn’t physical or that physical brain activity isn’t mental (and therefore that one is serious, while the other is sort of silly).

Here’s a New York Times headline from Friday: “What if PTSD Is More Physical Than Psychological?” The article that follows the headline seems to mean by this question two things:

1) What if by focusing on troops having been near explosions we are able to distract attention away from the suffering induced by conditioning thinking human beings to mindlessly commit horrific acts?

2) What if having been near explosions impacts brains in a way that scientists happen to have figured out how to observe in a brain?

The answer to number 1 should be: We are not going to limit our brains to the New York Times as a source of information. Based on recent experience, including acts the Times has apologized for or retracted, that would be a sure way to create more modern warfare, thereby destroying more brains, risking a vicious cycle of war and destruction.

The answer to number 2 should be: Did you think the damage wasn’t real because scientists hadn’t found it in their microscopes yet? Did you think it was literally in soldiers’ hearts? Did you think it was floating in the non-physical ether somewhere? Here’s the New York Times:

“Perl’s findings, published in the scientific journal The Lancet Neurology, may represent the key to a medical mystery first glimpsed a century ago in the trenches of World War I. It was first known as shell shock, then combat fatigue and finally PTSD, and in each case, it was almost universally understood as a psychic rather than a physical affliction. Only in the past decade or so did an elite group of neurologists, physicists and senior officers begin pushing back at a military leadership that had long told recruits with these wounds to ‘deal with it,’ fed them pills and sent them back into battle.”

So, if the combination of afflictions that soldiers suffered from could not be observed by a neurologist, then they were all faking? They were suffering depression and panic attacks and nightmares in order to trick us? Or the wounds were real but necessarily minor, something to be “dealt with”? And — importantly, there is a second implication here — if the injury arose not from an explosion but from having stabbed to death a poor kid drafted into a different army, then it was not worthy of any concern important enough to outweigh the desirability of ignoring such matters.

Here’s the New York Times in its own words: “Much of what has passed for emotional trauma may be reinterpreted, and many veterans may step forward to demand recognition of an injury that cannot be definitively diagnosed until after death. There will be calls for more research, for drug trials, for better helmets and for expanded veteran care. But these palliatives are unlikely to erase the crude message that lurks, unavoidable, behind Perl’s discovery: Modern warfare destroys your brain.”

Apparently the collective brain power of those of us who haven’t joined the military suffers as well. Here we are faced with the understanding — slanted and constrained though it may be — that warfare destroys your brain; and yet we are meant to suppose that the only possible consequences of that realization are outcries for better medical care, better helmets, etc.

Allow me to suggest one other proposal: ending all warfare.

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  • Here is one mans experience with the VA bureaucracy after returning from overseas. Everyone should listen carefully and share this with others. Jun 30, 2014 America’s Veteran Crisis: Abandoned At Home

    As politicians in Washington wring their hands over the Veterans Affairs scandal, VICE News travels to Portland, Oregon, to see what it’s all really about. We meet Curtis Shanley, a former Marine Corps machine-gunner, who has spent the past five years wading through red tape to get medical attention for a crippling injury he suffered while serving his country in Iraq.


    • ICFubar

      I have seen too many back injuries with myself and fellow workers. All these injuries are of a permanent nature but can be alleviated in some cases with targeted exercise but in severe cases, like this you man has sustained, the prognosis of a return to anything approaching normal back health is usually limited. In cases like this sometimes a morphine pump is instituted at the injury site as a final solution which does allow pain relief. Additional surgeries often have the effect of increasing scar tissue which is detrimental to regaining back health. This fellow needs to seek non VA medical attention and diagnosis which he can then take back to the VA, which he has found out already is a winning strategy. Some backs are made of spring steel while others are made of glass. It is the luck of the genetic draw that determines where on this this scale your back or any other physical or mental trait you are dealt sits. Strengthening can be accomplished but severe damage is just that and recovery depends very much on the severity of the injury. Some adequate pension money would help this fellow’s life and that of his girl friend. When some solution is found for his injury he is going to have to discover some way of being a contributor to this world as we all have that desire to contribute. Best of luck in the future to this likable young man.

  • Follow the money! Jan 9, 2015 Opium Production in Afghanistan Sets Record – America Soldiers Helping Heroin Production



    “We have never drugged our troops to this extent and the current increase in suicides is not a coincidence. “Why hasn’t psychiatry in the military been relieved of command of Mental Health Services? “In any other command position in the military, there would have been a change in leadership.” – Lt. Col. Bart Billings, Clinical Psychologist U.S. Army Reserve, Ret.

    Today, with militaries of the world awash in psychiatry and psychiatric drugs, 23 soldiers and veterans are committing suicide every day. Psychiatrists say we need more psychiatry.


    • madrino

      Thank you for your link. I do know that psychiatrists, under the overt authority of military leaders, are using all forms of drugs and ect to erase/distort their minds as the situation in war has no rules and no atrocity untouched. Military leadership are among the most seriously disturbed psychopaths in existence.

      Since the revolutionary war, the enlisted man has never been treated with respect by military leadership. From Shays’s rebellion through today, people less than officers have been used for expansion of empire for the owners as well as experimented on in every area imaginable. I’m sure it’s the same in every nation that practices war.

      • You are very welcome madrino. I just want to keep everything real minus feelings or beliefs or even patriotism. Please share and file. Sharing is caring!

  • depleteduraniumiswrong

    Keep things clear of patriotism? How sick is that?
    Patriotism is fine. I do love my country, I just don´t like the idiots that govern it or more precisely I don´t like the foreign non american lobbyists influencing our politicians – forcing them into wars fought for the goals of a non US country. We all know who that is.