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The 16,000

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Larry Sakin
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A little known fact about the Algerian War for Independence is that the battle was so filled with heinous terror; French soldiers began losing their moral compasses. At the end of the war, 16,000 of those soldiers were so denigrated by the war, General Charles De Gaulle did not want them back in France for fear they would wreak murderous havoc on their families and communities. De Gaulle gave their names to Algerian intelligence, knowing they'd be summarily executed.

The United States is now facing a similar situation. The brutality of the Iraq War, which has included numerous incidents of torture, rape, and murder by American soldiers, is slowly eroding what's left of the morality of our fighting men and women. And when many of these soldiers return home, they will be bringing with them the same moral disintegration that left those 16,000 French patriots behind in Algeria.

What these soldiers will be facing goes far beyond the effects of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. What the Iraq War will have created is a series of walking wounded, people whose sense of compassion and right and wrong will be among the ruins of Baghdad, Fallujah, Samarrah, and Nasiriyah. It's estimated that out of 40,000 returning military, half of them will show extreme signs of this sociopathy. The number will increase the longer the war drags on.

The Veterans Administration is ill-equipped to handle the influx of military that'll need intense psychiatric services for a long period. The Veterans Affair Budget for FY 2007 only allots 32 million dollars for medical care in total-psychiatric services will receive a miniscule portion of that.

It's unlikely that President Bush will send a list of American military men unable to return because of the effects of this war to insurgent fighters in Iraq. And there is a huge possibility they will get lost in the Veterans Affairs system. So these damaged soldiers will be in our neighborhoods and on our streets, with only a handful of overworked and underfunded programs to try to help them through their illness. No one can say for sure how these soldiers will adapt to life back in the US-anyone aware of the hellish nightmares, flashbacks, and hallucinations combat veterans normally experience can tell you how mind-altering these after-effects are. Imagine these effects magnified by a factor of one hundred.

And President Bush-well, he can always claim no one told him what these after-effects would be, another case of faulty intelligence, another inter-agency screw-up. In the meantime, these soldiers will be like human Improvised Exploding Devices, few having the ability to prevent them from exploding.

If the American people really want to "support our troops", the first thing to do is fully understand the ugly outcome this war is having on our troops. Despite Bush's plan for a never ending 'war on terror', it's imperative that we realize that the day-to-day terror our military is facing will stay with them when they return home and we must act now to make sure there are support systems in place to tend to these invisible wounds. And we must act post haste to minimize all casualties inflicted on the troops. Putting a "Support Our Troops, Bring Them Home" bumper sticker on the back of your Honda Hybrid isn't enough. The time for sloganeering from both pro and anti Iraq War advocates is long past. Talk to your family, friends, neighbors, and like-minded people about the terror that will stalk our young men and women serving in Iraq for years to come. Don't wait for the government and the media to come to this conclusion on their own-demand action and accountability from them.

President Bush often says that we need to fight terrorism In Iraq so we don't have to fight it here. But Bush has no idea the terror he has wrought in the fragile psyches of our young fighting force.
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Larry Sakin is a former non-profit medical organization executive and music producer. His writing can be found on Mytown.ca, Blogcritics, OpEd News, The People's Voice, Craig's List and The Progressive magazine. He also advocates for literacy and (more...)
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