Trauma

I’ve been thinking about our soldiers. It is unavoidable that for years they will be thinking about and reacting to the horrible death and destruction they have seen and/or participated in. Not just the inevitable civilian casualties but also the Iraqi soldiers that we killed and injured by the thousands. This will have a traumatic effect on a human being.

Right now most of our soldiers are certainly pumped up, proud, thinking that they have gone on an important mission to protect the country and their loved ones from the terrible threat posed by Iraq to our national security. Thinking they have won a great and important victory to protect us and the world. Thinking that they have avenged the September 11 attack.

But one day sooner or later many of them are going to realize that Iraq did not attack us on September 11, and that if Iraq even has any weapons of mass destruction they did not threaten the United States. And many will realize that a country that could fall in three weeks certainly posed no military threat to us. And they will read about the lucrative construction and oil contracts Bush’s buddies and campaign donors are getting.

How will they react? Back in January I wrote about a piece I had read that discussed the role of ‘cognitive dissonance’ in the public’s support for Bush. What happens when the conditions for that dissonance fade? Will people feel tricked? Or will they require further dissonance in their thinking to avoid facing how they have been used and the feelings that will trigger? Either way, how will that play out? Will they need to become fanatical right wingers to justify how they were used and the damage it has done to them? Will they turn on those who sent them there? Will they withdraw from participating in our democracy?