The horrors of war

The killing of Afghani innocents by an American staff sergeant is one of the prices of war. The murder of women and children in the middle of the night is a horror that is hard to understand but should be investigated.

This disgraceful act joins other unexpected problems, from soldiers urinating on dead Iraqis to civilians dying in drone attacks and the burning of the Koran, which have hindered the relationship between NATO troops and the Afghan people and government. This is especially true at a critical time like this, with preparations for the troops to withdraw and the end of this war for Americans.

Many unanswered questions about this latest incident still remain. However, the accused may suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), since he was deployed to Iraq three times and to Afghanistan once.

The problem goes beyond wars. The Rand Corporation estimated that 20% of 2.4 million soldiers who were in Iraq and Afghanistan may suffer from PTSD. Soldiers returning from combat tours are experiencing major difficulties adapting, including addiction, suicide and erratic behavior that leads to death.

It is unfortunate that instead of helping these soldiers, in some cases the opposite happens.

A case in point is the Madigan Army Medical Center, which is being investigated for supposedly reversing the diagnoses of hundreds of soldiers suffering from PTSD to reduce costs.

Madigan is located at Joint Base Lewis-McChord near Tacoma, Washington, and might have sent soldiers with mental disorders back into the battlefield. The sergeant implicated in the recent killing spree came from this base, as well as another staff sergeant who was recently convicted of killing Afghan civilians for sport.

The treatment soldiers receive has also deteriorated, because there has been more emphasis on medication than on more comprehensive therapy. Estimates show that treating a war veteran with PTSD costs an average of $8,300 the first year and $4,200 the second.

The human lives lost are irreplaceable, while the hundreds of billions of dollars spent are unrecoverable. At least, we must do justice to the soldiers who return mentally affected by war and treat them for the disorders they developed while fulfilling their missions. They deserve to rebuild their lives after the horrors of war.