Service members who experience PTSD, TBI, MST, and combat stress have the right to exit the traumatic situation and receive immediate support, and compensation. Too often, service members are forced to redeploy back into dangerous combat, or train in situations that re-traumatize them. We say, individuals suffering from trauma have the right to remove themselves from the source of the trauma. Service members who are not physically or mentally healthy shall not be forced to deploy or continue service. Learn more about what Operation Recovery is fighting for here
Originally published 11/19/10 at AmericaMagazine.com
When the United States had a military draft, conscientious objector status was sought mostly by people who opposed all wars. But in the decades since then, the country has turned to an all-volunteer military; and the issue of conscientious objection now usually arises with people who volunteered for military service but came to have moral qualms about a specific conflict. A new report from the Truth Commission on Conscience in War documents the moral and psychological harm inflicted by the nation’s current C.O. policy and calls for revising U.S. military regulations to allow such “selective conscientious objection.”
Originally published 11/19/10 at ChristianFighterPilot.com
There is certainly validity to the claim that “moral injury” is contributing to PTSD and even suicides among active and former military members. It is regrettable, however, that groups are choosing to focus on the seeming political popularity of wars, rather than that which most directly impacts troops: After violently taking a life (an action seemingly at odds with their morality) they seek reassurance that their conduct is “morally right” — and they are told that it is neither right nor wrong, it’s just what they’ve been ordered to do.
Originally published 11/18/10 at WickedLocal.com (Framingham Tab)
The Truth Commission on Conscience in War released a report on Veterans Day fervently urging the U.S. government to expand the Army’s current conscientious objection regulations to include both religious and moral objections to a particular war, like the war in Iraq or Afghanistan.
The wording for conscientious objection requires that a soldier object to “war in any form” in order to qualify. Generally, this includes members of certain religious groups who declare themselves pacifists.
But the TCCW points out the inherent conflict when the military preaches the importance of the “just war” criteria and maintaining a clear moral compass, but forces soldiers who may be religiously or morally conflicted with a certain war to fight in it.
Originally published 11/12/10 by The Georgia Bulletin (The newspaper of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta)
When the United States had a military draft, conscientious objector status was mostly sought by people who opposed all war and wanted out of military duty altogether. But in the decades since the country has had an all-volunteer military, conscientious objection has almost always been about people who volunteered for military service, but once in came to have moral qualms about the specific conflict where they were expected to fight. A new campaign is seeking to ease the path for what is known as selective conscientious objection.
Originally published 11/12/10 on PBS.org
To mark Veterans Day, the Truth Commission on Conscience in War, a coalition of more than 60 religious, academic, advocacy, and veterans groups, released a report on the moral injuries suffered by service members.The report urged religious leaders to do a better job of educating communities about the criteria governing the moral conduct of war and the needs of veterans and their families.
by Rose Marie Berger
Originally published 11/11/10 at God’s Politics (Sojourners)
Today, on Armistice Day, 18 American military vets will commit suicide. This weekend, military veterans are gathering in Washington, D.C., for the second Truth Commission on Conscience in War. Today is also the feast day of Saint Martin of Tours: Patron Saint of Conscientious Objectors.
“War inflicts terrible, tragic consequences on all touched by it,” says Truth Commission member Herman Keizer (U.S. Army ret.). “Moral conscience should not be one of its casualties.”
by James Dao
Originally published 11/10/10 at the NYTimes.com
[Today], Nov. 10, a coalition of around 60 mostly left-leaning religious, veterans and anti-war groups are calling on Congress to expand the definition of conscientious objection to allow opposition to a particular war. Leaders of the coalition, the Truth Commission on Conscience in War, assert that broadening the definition would probably lead to more troops applying to become conscientious objectors. But it would also allow for greater religious freedom in the military and improve morale among the troops, they say.
“For many of us, it is a religious freedom issue,” said Rita N. Brock, one of the main organizers of the commission. “The only religious conscience protected now is for pacifists. But the majority of people are not pacifists. I’m not a pacifist. We have a relative view of when violence is appropriate and not appropriate.”
by Derrick Crowe
Originally published 11/10/10 at HuffingtonPost.com
November 11 is Veterans Day, the 10th Veterans Day since the Afghanistan War began. The burden of this brutal, futile war falls heaviest on a very small slice of the population: military members and their families. Many of them consider this war immoral, but their rights to object to fighting it on moral grounds are severely limited under current law.
Watch the video below…
by Bob Allen
Originally published 11/10/10 at ABPNews.com (Associated Baptist Press)
Objector status, recognized since the Civil War, originally applied to members of certain religious groups known for their pacifist beliefs, such as Quakers and Mennonites. The Supreme Court expanded the definition in 1971 to include not only members of specified religious traditions, but also anyone with “deeply held beliefs that cause them to oppose participation in war in any form.”
The truth commission pointed out that the current exemption still applies only to pacifists, a small minority among Christians, while leaving out those in the “just-war” tradition embraced by the vast majority of Christians.
by Logan Mehl-Laituri
Originally published 11/8/10 at God’s Politics (Sojourners)
Another piece from Truth Commission testifier Logan Mehl-Laituri…
This week we celebrate Veterans Day. For me, it is a tragic holiday. I know many do not share that perspective. Sometimes it is easy to overlook the fact that veterans are a troubled minority, living sometimes in heartbreaking silence about the pain we bear for the things we have done or left undone in combat. When I came home in February of 2005, I was bombarded by banners thanking me for my service; service which, just days prior in the streets of Mosul, had left people dead or wounded. What was I being thanked for?
That moral ambiguity has left me and other veterans with deep moral questions about our service. Some of my compatriots, even my own team leader (a non commissioned officer) would go on to attempt suicide because the ambiguity was so overpowering. Another NCO on my team turned to crystal methamphetamine, but lower enlisted guys could only afford alcohol. We were not given the opportunity to grieve what we had done; our moral consciences were as scarred as our minds and our bodies. We were not allowed to heal properly, and society does not know how to deal with us.
by Gabriella Lettini
Originally published Oct. 23, 2010 nytimes.com
Responding to Bob Herbert’s timely New York Times column, “The Way We Treat Our Troops”, Gabriella Lettini, convener of commissioners, Truth Commission on Conscience in War, explains “moral injury” — a rarely addressed trauma of war which is distinct from the more widely known condition of post traumatic stress disorder. Professor Lettini highlights the important work which the Truth Commission is doing, addressing this and related issues. Her letter to the Editor of the New York Times, reprinted below, notes the Commission’s Report, to be released on Veterans Day.
To the Editor:
In 2009 V.A. clinical psychologists published the first in-depth description of a rarely addressed hidden trauma of war called “moral injury.” Moral injury may be accompanied by post-traumatic stress disorder, but it is not the same thing: it derives from witnessing, perpetrating or failing to prevent acts that transgress deeply held moral beliefs. The long-term effect can harm soldiers at the emotional, psychological, behavioral, spiritual and social level.
As it is so tragically evident in the veteran suicide rates described by Bob Herbert, the effect of moral injury can foster internal conflict and self-condemnation that become intolerable. American society has the responsibility not to leave its veterans alone in this struggle.
The Truth Commission on Conscience in War addresses these issues, involving veterans, scholars, religious and community leaders, psychologists, lawyers, educators, veteran families and military chaplains. Its report will be officially released on Veterans Day.
Berkeley, Calif., Oct. 23, 2010
The writer, an associate professor of ethics at the Starr King School for the Ministry, Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley, is convener of commissioners, Truth Commission on Conscience in War.
by William Vocke
Originally published 10/22/2010 at www.carnegiecouncil.org
William Vocke, the Senior Program Director for the Carnegie Ethics Studio, asks poignantly, “[H]ow deeply does combat wound the minds of combatants?” When combat is approved by legitimate authority, and yet is violent, intense, and contrary to religious teachings sanctifying life, what is the effect on the combatant? Vocke’s questions conclude with the following thought-provoking inquiry:
Are combatant’s experiences potentially more traumatic because of the horrors they face and the legitimacy they receive? Or, is moral injury to soldiers simply a more extreme extension of the moral issues faced by everyone?
by Rita Nakashima Brock and David B. Miller
Originally published 10/14/2010 at huffingtonpost.com
Two Commissioners serving on the Truth Commission on Conscience in War describe a recent exchange at Duke University between Defense Secretary Gates and Iraq War veteran Logan Mehl-Laituri, regarding the manner in which Christian service members are treated under current military regulations.
Mehl-Laituri supports the right of service members to apply for, and receive, conscientious objector (CO) status based upon their beliefs that a war is unjust, applying Christian just war principles. Currently military regulations afford conscientious objector status only to those whose faith teaches objection to war in any form. When Mehl-Laituri inquired about the constitutionality of current regulations, Gates defended the status quo, including by stating that no one is forced to re-enlist. The Commissioners respond that the Secretary’s answer does not address the fundamental issues raised and also ignores the “stop loss” policies that have been in place. They argue for much needed change in CO legislation.
The limitation of CO status to those who object to all wars flies in the face of what the military itself teaches. Those who enlist receive instruction in principles of just war both in basic training and in the war colleges. They are told that in war, especially, keeping a moral inner compass is crucial. Yet, if they believe a war is unjust, they are trapped between having to face prison for refusing to deploy or sacrificing that moral compass to fight.
So significant and far-reaching has been this compromise of moral conscience that the VA psychiatric community now recognizes “moral injury” as a clinically identifiable condition in urgent need of treatment. An article last December, by a group of VA clinicians, defined it as psychological harm caused by “perpetrating, failing to prevent, or bearing witness to acts that transgress deeply held moral beliefs and expectations” (Clinical Psychological Review, v. 29. n.8).
[T]he majority of religious and nonreligious persons alike use some form of just war theory to guide moral conscience. Just war establishes minimum moral conditions for the taking up of arms to kill another soldier. Such a code emerged among the ancient Greek philosophers and entered Christianity in the late fourth century, once Christians were able to serve in the imperial army. A version of it is what the U.S. military teaches.
Despite this long precedent and the military’s own instructions, the right of selective conscientious objection (objection to a particular war) lacks legal protection in the U. S. Despite the fact that we have signed international laws that have been used to convict soldiers in other nations of war crimes, we ignore in our military the right of soldiers to disobey an order to prosecute a war they believe is immoral. …
Members of our military forces must have the right of selective conscientious objection. As moral citizens of a democracy, we must not tolerate policies that injure our own sons and daughters. We ask a great deal of those we call upon to take life on our behalf. We should not ask them to commit moral suicide.
Originally published at ivaw.org
Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) has launched Operation Recovery: a campaign to stop the deployment of thousands of troops suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Traumatic Brain Injury and Military Sexual Trauma. Urging that “this issue affects all of us”, IVAW states that “military commanders across all branches are pushing service members far past human limits for the sake of ‘combat readiness’.”
Service members have a right to heal. Because the military is desperate for warm bodies in the field, and the VA doesn’t have the resources to serve all those in need, too often service members are conveniently denied care or access to quality mental health screenings. … Too often service members are forced to redeploy back into dangerous combat, or train in situations that re-traumatize them.
IVAW’s campaign pledges support for these service members and demands that those responsible be held accountable for denying these traumatized human beings their right to heal.
Read the full article
by Greg Mitchell
Originally published on 9/15/2010 at huffingtonpost.com
On the date marking the 7th year anniversary of Spc. Alyssa Peterson’s death in Iraq, Greg Mitchell, blogger for The Nation, describes the events leading up to the suicide of this devout Mormon. Peterson was an Arabic-speaking interrogator assigned to a prison in Tal Afar. Official records released after her death listed the cause as a “non-hostile weapons discharge”, and her parents were given no definitive explanation. A tenacious reporter from her home state, Arizona, eventually uncovered the truth.
With each revelation, or court decision, on U.S. torture in Iraq, Afghanistan and Gitmo — or the airing … of The Tillman Story and Lawrence Wright’s My Trip to Al-Qaeda — I am reminded of the chilling story of Alyssa Peterson, who died seven years ago today. Appalled when ordered to take part in interrogations that, no doubt, involved what most would call torture, she refused, then killed herself a few days later, on September 15, 2003. …
The official probe of her death would later note that earlier she had been “reprimanded” for showing “empathy” for the prisoners. One of the most moving parts of the report, in fact, is this: ”She said that she did not know how to be two people: she … could not be one person in the cage and another outside the wire.”
Peterson’s suicide was reportedly the only fatality suffered by her battalion during its Iraq tour. Her suicide note and journal contents have never been released.
by Mark Warker
Originally published 5/8/2010 at nctimes.com
A group of mental health experts call for recognition of moral injury as a wound of war as well as further research into its impact.
“Moral injury can occur from what you witness or what you do,” said Litz, a clinical psychologist, professor and counselor for the Department of Veterans Affairs. … Litz and his collaborators specifically define a moral injury experience as “perpetrating, failing to prevent, bearing witness to or learning about acts that transgress deeply held moral beliefs and expectations.” …
Formally recognizing moral injury as an issue and a precursor to PTSD is long overdue, according to Bill Rider, president of Oceanside-based American Combat Veterans of War and a counselor to troops haunted by their combat experiences. …”All you have to do is look at history,” he said. ”Look at how many Vietnam veterans killed themselves. We have a lot of Marines now who get into trouble because of aberrant behavior when they come home and it’s often attributed to them being ‘bad Marines’ when in fact it all stems from the moral injuries that happened to them.”
Full Article: http://www.nctimes.com/news/local/military/article
The Untold War: Inside the Hearts, Minds and Souls of Our Soldiers
by Nancy Sherman
Nancy Sherman’s new book, The Untold War, tells the stories of veterans seeking to deal with the pains of psychological and physical wounds. Sherman, who held the United States Naval Academy’s first distinguished chair in ethics (1997 – 99), frames these compelling soldiers’ narratives in philosophical and psychoanalytic terms. As reviewer Elizabeth D. Samet writes, “Sherman rightly construes it as a national ‘duty’ to understand the soldier’s ‘healthy struggle .. to remain alive to civilian sensibilities without losing the … steel and resilience’ essential to military service and to facilitate healing of the psychic rifts war can cause.”
Video Trailer: The Untold War (Video)
Book Excerpt: click here
Author Nancy Sherman’s Website: http://nancysherman.com/