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AQI, PTSD, Salih Saif Aldin

On the same day the Washington Post family is mourning the shooting death of a brave reporter in Baghdad, the U.S. military says it believes it has dealt perhaps irreversible blows to al-Qaeda in Iraq. Those stories come the day after Anne Hull and Dana Priest, who uncovered the dreadful conditions for wounded soldiers at Walter Army Medical Center, remind us that the nation is still not fulfilling its responsibilities to the individuals and their families who are suffering physically, mentally and financially as a result of service in that war.

Our readers who comment almost all express sympathy about the Post's loss, are highly skeptical of the assertion that al-Qaeda in Iraq has really been damaged that much and, for the most part, express concern for the family that is the centerpiece of Walter Reed follow-up article. Because that article addresses the mental health issue of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), some who comment doubt that the disease is real, one of the continuing issues for the mental health community.

We'll start with the military's reported assertion that al-Qaeda in Iraq has been seriously damaged. pgardner1 says, "What an amazing story. Al-Qaeda, which was not in Iraq prior to the U.S. invasion, is now reportedly crippled. As the Red Queen told Alice, we have to keep running just to stand still..."

Alan4 wrote, "So I guess once we help defeat AQI, the Sunnis and Shi'ias can return their attention back to attacking US soldiers. This is good news?"

gfruzze said, "Yeah, yeah, we're winning, it's getting better and better, the insurgency is in its last throes, victory is at hand, mission accomplished. Whatever. Yawn."

And lwps asked, "Why does the Washington Post insist on giving the top headline to this obvious White House propaganda? Nobody believes the laughable yarns..."

But KYLECOPE came to the defense of the military's reported assertion, saying, "What's that, Harry Reid? "This war is already lost"?"

And KJS1953 added, "Once again, positive news from Iraq is trashed by the leftists because it interferes with their agenda. Good news in Iraq = bad news for the liberal Democrats..."

windrider2 gets to the bottom line in asking, "OK, so Saddam is disarmed (and dead), Iraq has a remote semblance of democracy, and AQI has been crippled so can we bring the troops home now?..."

The Walter Reed followup detailed the difficulties of Troy and Michelle Turner. Troy returned from service in Iraq suffering from PTSD, which can be totally disabling. Michelle is trying to find ways to keep the electricity on and meet other needs with an inadequate disability payment. This kind of story -- even in the years before online comments -- always drew doubting letters to newsrooms, followed by more letters from those who have seen mental health problems first hand and know how disabling they can be.

So we'll start with the intemperate comment of geoff51, who wrote, "He's faking it. No doubt he is a Liberal, thats how they do, nothing but handouts for their lazy selves. Don't give this faker another cent."

And joanharlin responded almost immediately, "geoff51...You are a sorry excuse for a human being to write such a disgraceful comment..."

jholzhey said, "So, you now know the truth as to what some of our Vets are going through. Now, what are you going to do? There are some good organizations trying to solve some of these problems. NAMI [National Alliance on Mental Illness] has a Vet's organization addressing issues that affect those who are suffering with PTSD and other psychiatric problems. You can also contact MHA [Mental Health America], DAV [Disabled American Veterans], and VFW [Veterans of Foreign Wars]. I'm sure that they wouldn't turn down your support and you might find yourself working directly with some very deserving people..."

paper200 wrote, "It is a disgusting situation - whether the journalists have written the complete truth is not of consequence. POTUS [President of the United States] has agreed to the general idea of assiting veterens - why still nothing is being done?... The US has been through so many wars in the last 100 years and should know by now that a portion of soldiers/veterens go through these traumas. When these are known - a separate cost to rehabilate not only the soldiers but the associated families is a must..."

Finally, to the shooting death in Baghdad of Post reporter Salih Saif Aldin. He was at least the 118th journalist killed in that war, and he was a great favorite with the other Post reporters who have worked with him, as the appreciations they filed show. It is important to note that everyone who has lost a family member or close colleague in this war has had similar feelings as the Post family has in this case. Most of our readers who comment were sympathetic. A few, regular commenters on Iraq who hold the Post partly responsible both for its editorial policy supporting the war before it began and for what they see as continued failings in coverage, found it necessary to make those points.

BobJohnston wrote, "God bless those who put themselves in harms way to bring us the truth. Few jobs may be more important than the job this man did. Thank you for your courage."

blasmaic asked the questions we all have. "Why was he killed? Who killed him? Local journalists who work for foreign newspapers run risks that other people don't face. They know a lot about the local situation, but that can make their work more dangerous and make their employers less able to assist them in an emergency."

nicekid, a regular on Iraq stories, wrote, "Now that one of the Post's own has been killed in Iraq, I wonder if WaPo will resume reporting the continuing carnage there or if it will, like the rest of the megacorporate media, continue to pretend that it isn't happening."

But gtaylor4 said, "The pictures and words from men like Aldin catalog the truth for history and bring justice to light. I thank him and his family for their sacrifice."

And BrianX9 wrote, "I pray for the repose of his soul. Another strand broken in our tenuous link to the reality on the ground in Iraq."

All comments on Al Qaeda in Iraq are here.

All comments on PTSD are here

All comments on the death of Post reporter Salih Saif Aldin are here.

By Doug Feaver  |  October 15, 2007; 10:00 AM ET
Categories:  Journalism  
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Posted by: Gloria Sykes | November 21, 2007 2:58 AM | Report abuse

PTSD reflects a structural change in the most primal part of the brain used to alert one to threats to survival. Therefore, once programmed to be overly vigilant, the problem persists without difficult to achieve reprogramming. Removing some of the perception of threats (for example, calling these veterans fakers) is the least the ordinary truly unaware and insensitive person can do to alleviate real human suffering.

Posted by: On the plantation | October 17, 2007 7:47 AM | Report abuse

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