Reading about the increased incidence of sucides in the military and the huge numbers of soldiers with PTSD has gotten me interested in something which very few people in American society talk about and that is what Dr. Rachel MacNair calls "Perpetration-Induced Traumatic Stress", PITS.
PITS is the anguish and guilt which one human being feels when he/she kills another human being. This has been increasinly labeled as a mental health problem which it surely is, but even more, it is a spiritual problem in my view. All the mental health treatment in the world, and all the medications cannot absolve the guilt induced by the willful, deliberate killing of another human being.
There is a good article that attempts to describe this problem which was published in the Seattle Times 4 years ago on July 21, 2004. Here is a snippet:
Tucked behind a gleaming machine gun, Sgt. Joseph Hall grins at his two companions in the Humvee.
"I want to know if I killed that guy yesterday," Hall says. "I saw blood spurt from his leg, but I want to be sure I killed him."
The vehicle goes silent as the driver, Spc. Joshua Dubois, swerves around asphalt previously uprooted by a blast.
"I'm confused about how I should feel about killing," says Dubois, who has a toddler back home. "The first time I shot someone, it was the most exhilarating thing I'd ever felt."
Dubois turns back to the road. "We talk about killing all the time," he says. "I never used to talk this way. I'm not proud of it, but it's like I can't stop. I'm worried what I will be like when I get home."
The men aren't Special Forces soldiers. They're troops with the Army's 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment serving their 14th month in Iraq, much of it in daily battles. In 20 minutes, they will come under attack again.
Many soldiers and Army psychiatrists say these constant conversations about death help troops come to grips with the trauma of combat. But mental-health professionals within and outside the military point to the chatter as evidence of preventable anguish.
It is very difficult for us as a nation to face up to the immoral and illegal war which we have perpetrated and are paying for which was based on lies and deceit by our government, let alone for our soldiers who have actually killed other human beings, civilians, women, children, for reasons that are not clear at behest of psychopathic and irresponsible leaders. What does this killing do to a person's soul other than lead to anguish, revulsion, self-recrimination, and too often self destruction in one form or another.
Families of these suffering souls have wanted to be proud of their relative's service and to believe it was for a good cause, but the truth does not match the delusion. The inability of people back home to "understand", let alone accept, the truth, leaves the suffering soldier even more isolated and tormented.
What is the answer to the spiritual suffering? The truth and repentence. Will McCain or Obama lead us there? I doubt it very much unless we as a country are willing to face our demons and admit that what has been done in our name is wrong. Witnessing the suicides and PTSD of our returning soldiers fortunately or unfortunately won't let us ignore or forget the heinous acts they have been asked and compelled to do in our name. The guilt belongs to us all not just to the perpetrators, but they are the more active participants while we just watch, cheer them on, and lie to them telling them they are doing grand, honroable, and glorious things when deep in their souls they know better.
I intend to write more on this topic so I am adding a new category to my blog today called Perpetration induced stress.