Only Americans have PTSD

The lawyer defending Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, John Henry Brown, is quoted by the AP today as saying that Bales suffered from “tremendous depression.”  This “tremendous depression” argument will eventually lead to PTSD as the root cause of why Staff Sgt. Bales murdered, and then set alight, seventeen Afghan civilians.  Clearly Bales was not playing with a full deck when he carried out his massacre.  His several tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, multiple injuries, history of financial problems, as well as marital and alcohol abuse played a hand in what transpired.  But, what about the people of Afghanistan?  Are they incapable of suffering mentally from the horrors of war?

From many Afghans civilians life has consisted of endless war and conflict.  Yet anytime that an Afghan kills an American, we here in the U.S. write them off as coherent logical thinking people.  No time is spent trying to determine if the individual in question is perhaps suffering from PTSD or other combat related stresses.  Rather, they are deemed violent Muslims who hate Americans and their values.  There is no way that their brother or sister may have been murdered in a U.S. airstrike; or that they may be suffering from a traumatic brain injury brought about by an IED.  Brown is using the laughable defense that the lose of part of Bales foot somehow contributed to his mental collapse.  If losing a body part were a prerequisite for war crimes, than the thousands of maimed and crippled Afghans across the country should be free to use that defense.

I don’t doubt that Staff Sgt. Bales suffered from the trauma of war, or that his trauma contributed to his heinous acts.  I take issue with the disgusting nature with which this incident has been portrayed, and the way with which PTSD (only applicable to Americans) has been used as the scapegoat time and time again.  It is deplorable that the American public seems to think this somehow excuses the murder of nine children, and eight adults.  In order to make ourselves feel better, and differentiate, moral freedom loving Americans, from violent freedom hating Muslims, we use PTSD to absolve ourselves from the horror of our war in Afghanistan.  The most lamentable aspect is that no Afghan, and more broadly no Muslim, will ever be allowed to use PTSD as an excuse.

The next time an Afghan kills an American solider perhaps we should inquire if this Afghan has suffered from prolonged exposure to war; suffered from substance abuse problems; fought with his spouse; and was the victim of a traumatic brain injury.

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