In 1776, Thomas Paine, referring to the numerous desertions from the Continental Army encamped at Valley Forge that winter, wrote the famous words:
"These are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman."
About ten days ago (things are slow getting to us on the other side of the Pacific at times, and at other times we are slow to get to things) the Iraq Veterans Against the War organized new Winter Soldier hearings.
The stories from the latest Winter Soldier are not as harrowing as those from Vietnam in their details - there are no ears taken or captives thrown from helicopters - but several themes recur, notably the dehumanization, as a matter of policy, of anyone not wearing the uniform of the United States armed forces. In Vietnam the enemy was "Charlie" and the civilians were "gooks" who could be shot for sport. In Iraq, the local population are all "Hajis" who can be shot for the simple crime of "not knowing how to drive" on the roads of their own cities.
But on a day in the early summer of 2005 in the area of operation of the 42nd Infantry Division, there was a traffic control point shooting. Traffic control point shootings are rather common in Iraq; they happen on a near or daily basis. What happened was, a vehicle was driving very quickly towards a traffic control point. A young machine gunner made the split-second decision that that vehicle was a threat, and in less than a minute put 200 rounds from his .50-caliber machinegun into that vehicle. That day, he killed a mother, a father and two children. The boy was age four, and the daughter was age three.
I was in the briefing that evening when it was briefed to the general. And after the officer in charge briefed it to the general in a very calm manner, Colonel Rochelle of the 42nd Infantry Division, DISCOM Commander, turned in his chair to the entire division-level staff, and he said—and I quote—“If these [expletive] hajis learned to drive, this [expletive] wouldn’t happen."
videos of the Luceys' testimony
4000 US soldiers have died, about 30,000 have suffered physical wounds and it is estimated that as many as one in four of the hundreds of thousands who have returned suffer from PTSD.
No one knows how many Iraqis have died, but estimates run from about 90,000 to more than 650,000 (as of 2006), Multiply that by who know how much for the number of wounded. The entire population may be considered to have PTSD by now, but there is nothing "post" about their trauma - it is ongoing.