Wednesday, February 02, 2005


Recent reports from Israel in a Ma'ariv article (excerpts and further commentary can be read here) indicate that the Israeli Army has an ongoing problem in even its most elite units. In a war against guerilla operations, as in fact the Palestinian operations against Israeli civilians are, civilians take the brunt of the counter offensive. The guerillas depend on this counter reaction to maintain sympathy for their cause among the general population in which they hide. In fact the crack down on civilians is one of the desired results of guerilla operations from at least the time of the Spanish guerilla operations against the troops of Napoleon.

This necessity for cracking down on the civilians has caused a lot of pain and suffering among even the elite of the Israeli soldiers. No doubt causing the opposing soldiers to lose their humanity is also one of the desired results of guerilla operations. As the opposing soldiers lose their humanity once they are removed from the battle situations they lose their self respect. On the other side of the coin, as chronicled by B.H.L.Hart in his book "Strategy", the countries where guerilla operations by outlaw segments of the population are extensive become ungovernable for long periods of time after the war. This is because guerrillas are under no command and are recruited mainly from outlaw segments of the population. In fact Spain is still suffering from the results of the fighting of the wars against Napoleon by guerilla operations. So the aftermath of the War in Israel is likely to be bad for all concerned for at least decades to come, no matter who wins.

The Ma'ariv article, though, is concerned not with the long term aftermath but the immediate hurt of the Israeli soldiers. The hurt of "shell shock". The hurt of doing unspeakable things to fellow humans in order to fight a war. In America today we have a name for this condition. We call it PTSD and we know that it affects not only soldiers but victims of rape and severe child abuse among others. We also know that one of the symptoms of this problem is substance abuse. People will take anything to numb the pain. Heroin, alcohol, pot, MDMA, LSD. Any thing in the hope of relief.

Israeli soldiers visiting Thailand often come back with severe cases of heroin abuse. Other soldiers take other drugs in an effort to clear their minds of distressing memories. So many have these problems that there is a village in Israel specifically designed to help those suffering from the effects of war. That Village is called Izun. Ma'ariv stated "Israeli army reserve lieutenant-colonel Omri Frish, a social worker by training, organized the village. ' We were staggered by the number of calls we got. We got more then 900 calls from parents with very painful stories of sons becoming drug addicts, trying to commit suicide and generally emotionally distressed.' "

America has embarked on a war which I hope will free the suffering citizens of Iraq from the terror of Saddam Hussein. But, whatever happens, we know that we are going to get back a lot of soldiers wounded in the mind as well as the body. After every war we have the stereotypical stories of the returned soldiers becoming addicted to alcohol and/or illegal drugs. We need to look on these addictions as symptoms of deeper problems not their causes. We need to heal these men and women who fought in our name, not discard or persecute them because of their symptoms.

In fact, we need to treat all so called "victims of addiction" as the victims of pain they actually are.

If the current war teaches us nothing else it will have gone a very long way towards the healing of America and, in addition, the world. Then those who have died on either side of the battle will not have died in vain

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