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Article posted Feb 06 2013, 4:39 AM Category: Commentary Source: Jacob G. Hornberger Print

Guilt, Not PTSD, Is What Afflicts Iraq War Veterans

by Jacob G. Hornberger

Ex-military sniper Chris Kyle was killed last Saturday at the hands of another Iraq War veteran, Eddie Ray Routh. Routh is one of the many Iraq veterans suffering severe mental problems, and Kyle was helping him cope. Kyle figured a good way to help Routh with his struggles was to take him to a gun range. It turned out to be a fatal decision. Routh opened fire on Kyle and another friend, killing them both. Routh is now in jail in Texas facing capital murder charges.

According to the New York Times, last September Routh threatened to murder his family and to commit suicide. He had gotten upset when his father threatened to sell his gun. Routh was arrested and taken to a psychiatric hospital in Dallas. He told the police that he was a Marine veteran suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

PTSD is the common diagnosis for the many soldiers who served in Iraq and who are now suffering severe mental problems. The diagnosis relates to the stress that soldiers undergo in combat.

I've got another explanation for the mental problems suffered by Routh and the other Iraq War veterans: guilt -- massive unresolved guilt over the wrongful killing of other human beings.

Let's keep in mind that Iraq had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks. In fact, Iraq never attacked the United States or even threatened to do so. In the Iraq War, the U.S. government was the aggressor. Iraq was the defending nation.

The United States had no authority, legal or moral, to attack, invade, and occupy Iraq. No nation has the authority to attack another nation and kill people in the process. The fact that the U.S. government has the most powerful army in history and that Iraq was just a Third World nation makes the situation even worse.

Since the U.S. government was the aggressor in the war on Iraq, that means that no U.S. soldier had the moral authority to kill even one single Iraqi. Every single soldier who killed an Iraqi or who even participated in the enterprise was guilty of murder in a moral, religious, and spiritual sense.

How can the murder of another human being not have an enormous psychological impact on the killer, especially when the killer is a normal human being as compared to a sociopathic serial killer? Ultimately, the conscience starts working and eating away at the person's subconscious mind.

However, the problem is that the military can never acknowledge the veteran's feelings of guilt because that would imply that the U.S. government was wrong to send the troops into Iraq. That's just not going to happen. The government has to continue maintaining its official line -- that it was right to invade the country and Iraq was wrong to defend against the invasion.

How can a person be healed of guilt when he's being told that he didn't do anything wrong and that he's really just suffering from combat stress? Doesn't relief from guilt require an acknowledgement that the person has done something wrong, as compared to something stressful? Unlike combat stress, doesn't guilt require confession, repentance, and forgiveness?

Yet, that's the last thing these guys are encouraged to do. Instead, people thank them for their service in Iraq, reinforcing the image that they they've done something right by killing Iraqis. They're praised for their heroism and courage in battle, notwithstanding the fact that they had no legal, religious, or moral grounds for killing people in Iraq.

Consider the following incident related by Kyle, who was one of the U.S. military's deadliest snipers. Two weeks after he arrived in Iraq, he encountered a woman with a child who pulled a grenade as she was approached by a group of Marines. Kyle shot her dead. He said, "It was my duty to shoot, and I don't regret it. My shots saved several Americans, whose lives were clearly worth more than that woman's twisted soul."

But who here has the twisted soul? That woman was defending her country from the troops of a brutal foreign regime that had unlawfully invaded and occupied her country and killed countless of her countrymen, perhaps members of her family or friends or acquaintances. Kyle was a soldier who had blindly followed the orders of the president to attack, invade, and occupy a country that had never attacked the United States and was killing people who were resisting his aggression.

Ask yourself: What would American men and women do if the United States were attacked, invaded, and occupied by, say, North Korea? Wouldn't many Americans defend their country, their families, and their homes from the aggressors? Who would Americans consider the twisted souls in that case -- the people who were defending or the North Koreans who had attacked, invaded, and occupied the United States?

Soon after the invasion of Iraq, I asked a libertarian Catholic priest whether a soldier who was sent to Iraq could legitimately kill people who were resisting his aggression. He responded, "Absolutely not! No one has the right to wrongfully kill another human being. The fact that the U.S. government has placed them in a position of kill or be killed does not excuse their killing of an Iraqi who happens to be shooting at them."

Consider a burglar who breaks into someone's house in the middle of the night. When the owner opens fire, would we praise the burglar for heroically defending himself by shooting the owner? Of course not. Since the burglar has no right to be in the house, he has no right to defend himself by shooting the owner in self-defense.

For some 12 years, all too many Americans, including many church ministers, have steadfastly chosen to remain in denial about Iraq by avoiding the central issue -- that the United States had no legal or moral authority to attack, invade, and occupy that country and, therefore, that the troops had no right to kill Iraqis.  Instead, the notion has been that if we just keep on praising and honoring the troops for their "service" in Iraq, everything will be fine.

But everything isn't fine, as evidenced by the suicides, murders, divorces, family violence, drug addiction, alcoholism, and mental problems manifested by Iraq War veterans. As long as Americans, including the troops, remain in denial of what the United States did to Iraq, the problem isn't likely to go away.
Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and received his B.A. in economics from Virginia Military Institute and his law degree from the University of Texas. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas. He also was an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, where he taught law and economics. In 1987, Mr. Hornberger left the practice of law to become director of programs at the Foundation for Economic Education. He has advanced freedom and free markets on talk-radio stations all across the country as well as on Fox News' Neil Cavuto and Greta van Susteren shows and he appeared as a regular commentator on Judge Andrew Napolitano's show Freedom Watch. View these interviews at and from Full Context. Send him email.

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Comments 1 - 11 of 11 Add Comment Page 1 of 1

Posted: Feb 06 2013, 9:45 AM

75164 So true.

Posted: Feb 06 2013, 1:05 PM

76193 When you're given a weapon and told you can murder with complete impunity; - AND YOU DO. Told that you're held unaccountable for all crimes you commit - and you COMMIT UNTOLD ATROCITIES. It doesn't take a genius to predict that when you return to a civilized and law-based society, you'll have trouble coping.

My feelings are not pity, not sympathy, but frustration at the lack of moral backbone. The US military is no longer an honorable endeavor. It is become the enemy.

Posted: Feb 06 2013, 4:55 PM

157234 It is Reptilans in charge, they are the one's ordering these troops to kill all the innocent people, all in the name of the New World Order.

Posted: Feb 06 2013, 5:03 PM

157234 You also need to consider the amount of Soldier suicides. Think about it............
If you were given a gun and told to kill without ANY regard for human life...........and ORDERED to do it,...............I know if that was me, I'd rather take my own life rather than kill Women and Children.........

That's what's happening, many of the soldiers know that what they're being told to do is wrong, and rather than kill innocent people...........they are "Offing" themselves.

How come Obama doesn't address this statistic in any of his speeches...........nor does he address the amount of multiple deployments..........WHY..............?

Because he doesn't give a SH*T, these statistic sdon't suit his Evil he doesn't bring any attention to it.........

Posted: Feb 06 2013, 5:48 PM

76193 I'm waiting...HOPING that these soldiers finally start thinking for themselves and turn on their commander and COME HOME on their own. A coup would be a good thing considering that the US military is nothing but a pawn for Israel.

Posted: Feb 07 2013, 12:14 AM

I just hope that the people responsible for ALL of this mind-split are held accountable. Killing people is NEVER a solution, especially when innocent people are being pulled into a war, that they don't understand.

I know I CAN'T tell which side is good anymore. Perhaps our government needs an overhaul, before the entire country loses any more faith, in the future that lies before them.

I can only speak from experience, as an outsider looking in, but people are looking for something to believe in. historically, people have turned to God for solutions, when the very people who they were supposed to trust, have mislead and deceived them. our government only offers fear, war, and a police state, (that they can't even control anymore).


Posted: Feb 07 2013, 4:41 AM

9822 This is an excellent, relevant article refreshing in it's bluntness. Perhaps it's not politically correct to prescribe pharmaceutical drugs for old fashioned guilt. So much more money to be made with a disease like PTSD. These young men and women have been raised in ignorance and fear, that all mid eastern people are eager to murder westerners and that there is a terrorist behind every tree. When they become adults they want to be independent, marry and have kids and that takes money. More than they can earn flipping burgers. The military offers housing, full time employment and a rudimentary form of social structure. It's better than nothing, plus you get to save the Home Land from the boogie men.
Then the reality hits them that the United States have little to fear from the average Iraqi or the people of Afghanistan. They are broke too and just want to have a chance at a life.
However, we can't just let anyone access the ores being mined in Afghanistan and those poppy fields won't guard themselves, nor can we neglect our duty to British Petroleum to ensure they are able to control all the cheap Iraqi oil. After all, if the Iraqi's were controlling their own oil they might be inclined to sell to anyone at fair-market-value and that would assuredly drive the price of gasoline down in an open market, and we can't have that.
When you realize you've been punked by the megalomaniac money-changers it's pretty depressing.
In the United States we are victims too, not to the degree of having our houses droned and children blown up at night, but in the sense that we have bought into this nonsense and have surrendered almost completely any vestigial illusion of liberty we may have once possessed, and we have bequeathed our children a decayed economy founded on paranoia and government control. If the jobs that went to China ever come back the wages and standard of living of the past won't return with them. So the military and military industrial complex are where the jobs are. We are in perpetual war now. The Islamic terrorist are a distraction. The larger war has been instigated on the lower class people of the world waged by the powers that be. I fear that if we ever bring all the troops home it won't be as discharged men free to go about their lives, growing crops, building cars or developing solutions to cheap, clean energy. It may be under the banner of the U.N. flag to round up the dissidents and useless eaters. The guilt will grow.

Posted: Feb 07 2013, 10:45 AM

72223 War is a Racket.

Posted: Feb 12 2013, 10:29 AM

198204 This is really no different than Vietnam. My father a Vitenam Veteran, twice, was injured on his first tour and came back home. The media at homd was saying 'We are winning this war'. This was a blatant lie. My father got so sick of this that he decided to go back for a second tour, to be with those he trusted most, brother-in-arms.

Years later, my father, in drunken stupor, would talk about all the crap that happened over there. How our own Government would give them hashish in their rations to cope with the stress of jungle warfar. Upon coming home, the injustice the veterans recieved (thank you sir but we don't need you in the army anymore), made him even sicker. So much for fighting a war we couldn't win, only to let thousands of great men die. And still, a zero-sum game.

I think all acts of war should be voted on by the American People at large and not some idiots in a closed room making decisions for us with our tax-paying dollars... Only then, might things be differently.

Posted: Mar 20 2013, 2:29 AM

206207 wow I can't believe there are soldiers dying for you to say shit like this.

Posted: Mar 20 2013, 3:00 PM

72223 wow I can't believe there are soldiers dying for the banking military industrial complex.
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