Marti Hiken and Luke Hiken
October 1, 2012

Recent figures indicate that for every soldier killed in Afghanistan and Iraq, 25 veterans commit suicide upon their return to the U.S. That is an astonishing statistic! How can this be?

In 1971, Stanford University conducted a prison experiment to determine what the effects of imprisonment were on a selected group of students. One half of the students were chosen to act as prison guards while the other half were to be criminals convicted of serious crimes. The University had to bring the experiment to an abrupt end when it was discovered that the “prison guards” were becoming sadistic, violent oppressors, and the “criminals” were responding to the conditions of imprisonment in dangerously rebellious ways. The experiment underscored what happens to average, educated people, when they are treated without respect, and without protections. More importantly, it demonstrated the catastrophic effect that unrestrained authority, violence and corruption had on those entrusted with the roles of caretakers and guards.1

We are witnessing a similar breakdown of morality and judgment among U.S. troops presently carrying out our imperialist wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, and elsewhere throughout the Middle East. “The Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology” recently issued the report that for every soldier who was killed in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Middle East over the last 10 years, 25 more veterans have committed suicide.2 Whether or not these suicide attempts are a result of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), mental health breakdowns, or the natural consequences of having good “soldiers” turn into murdering monsters because of the conditions they are placed under (i.e. the Stanford experiment), is debatable. Yet, what is more at issue here is the fact that over a ½ million soldiers and mercenaries (i.e. “civilian contractors”) have returned home to our communities from the Middle East, and the Pentagon opines that approximately 1/3 of them suffer from some form of PTSD.

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