Washington Post columnist, Sarah Stillman, has penned the sort of pretentious column that is blind for its self-indulgence and foolishly extrapolates the author’s singular experience as one ubiquitous or as a universal representation of our soldier’s lives once back in the states. In this case, Stillman seems to imagine that the Iraq war has made all our returning soldiers drug addicts, drunks, and social outcasts. Worse, she naively seems to imagine that no returning soldiers in history have ever experienced such difficulties returning to “normal life” once back from war’s jarring experience, or at the very least today’s soldiers have it worse than any others. Her condescension is infuriating and her obvious bias against our soldiers and this action is painfully obvious.

Stillman starts by describing a bar fight in an establishment near Walter Reed Army Medical Center, and relating that such fights are far too common of late. Of this there is little doubt and that it isn’t a good thing is obvious.

But, she then goes on to imagine that our veterans today are mistreated and ignored.

Half a decade into the “war on terror,” America’s bars have become our barometers: instruments that measure the extent to which our veterans have been left to wrestle alone with substance abuse, anxiety disorders and other mental health problems after long tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.

What makes today’s vets any different than any other era? It is woefully common to see vets “left to wrestle alone” with war’s harsh experience. Unfortunately, it is just a sad example of human nature. It’s hard for young men (and now women) to deal with what they went through and even harder for the folks back at home to understand and lend a helping hand. But, today’s soldiers are NOT going through anything that has never been experienced by humanity, nor is it somehow worse than it ever has been.

The men and women who come back from the traumas of war “are often hyper-alert, quick to respond and susceptible to a loss of impulse control,” says clinical psychologist Jeffrey Jay of the Center for Post-Traumatic Stress Studies in Washington. “The brain is actually altered by these experiences — it’s part of a survival mechanism, and it’s very confusing for them.”

Again, this is unfortunately common to man’s natural reactions to a war experience. For Stillman to present this as if it is somehow different or singular is absurd, but fits with the desire to cast this particular war as a uniquely “bad” one. And that this partisan woman would use our troops to push her own agenda is disgusting.

But, even in trying to present our troops as ignored and mistreated, she still proves that this isn’t the case.

In Massachusetts, meanwhile, the Norfolk County district attorney’s office has begun an initiative called “Beyond the Yellow Ribbons” to prepare police and others to deal with struggling vets and the stigmas they face. District Attorney William R. Keating says he has received requests for the program’s training video from organizations in more than 20 states, because “the federal government simply isn’t providing enough guidance on how to deal with this.”

Now, here is something that has never happened before; civilian agencies trying to make an effort to understand the difficulties our returning troops face and attempting to alter policy to deal with it. This is a promising change in social responsibility that Stillman seems to want to treat as a sad thing instead of a good thing. (And the Federal gov’t has no role, anyway, in providing “guidance” in such things in the first place)

Next, Stillman tries to hint that only the “poor” in America are in this war and that everyone else is blissfully ignorant of what is going on.

Perhaps that’s because the Bush administration’s $500 billion-plus “global struggle against violent extremism” has so far proved to be one of the most socially and economically quarantined conflicts in U.S. history.

Whereas 12 percent of the population served in World War II and 4 percent in the Vietnam War, less than half of one percent of Americans are engaged in active duty in Iraq or Afghanistan. Translation: Only a sliver of my generation has been exposed to war’s dirty psychological laundry.

First of all, it has been proven over and over again that this war is not a “poor man’s war.” Still, she has a small point in that many, many Americans have not had a direct personal experience with the war on terror. But, what is the alternative? That we ALL have lost family to the war? Is that what this woman wants? MORE misery?

Stillman goes on to decry the bar fights and troubles of our troops, and seems to revel in her pity for them. Curiously, she also seems to decry that soldiers have far more opportunities to lead more productive lives, even after major injuries.

I suspect these aren’t just the sort of routine bar fights that have typified military culture since George Washington’s troops sneaked their first swigs of moonshine. Strike Pete Yazgier, and you may slice your knuckles on his titanium skull. Toss an elbow at the man in the corner, and you could get a shin-kick from his $26,000 motorized foot, an emblem of the spectacular violence that new technologies are helping today’s troops survive.

She thinks today’s bar fights aren’t “routine” because so many soldiers have had procedures that make their lives better after such traumas? So, what is the alternative she’d prefer? That the “titanium skulls” not exist, that the “motorized foot” be eliminated, or that these technologies not be used to save our soldiers even more mental anguish for having such injuries? Stillman also seems to blame our better front line medicine for the higher incidents of PTSD because of the fact that head injuries do not result in death as often as it may have in wars past.

One damning manifestation is traumatic brain injury (TBI), the unforeseen consequence of modern military technologies and equipment such as Kevlar helmets. Sixty percent of all injured vets entering Walter Reed suffer from TBI as a primary or secondary injury, according to the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center.

Again, what would she have? That we don’t use our medical expertise to save the lives of these soldiers? Is “damning manifestation” the sort of language one should use to discuss the fact that our medical knowledge is saving more lives in this conflict than in any previous war? Really… “damning?” How many doctors who have given a soldier a “bionic arm” would term their efforts “damning” for that soldier?

And even as she seems all torn up over these bar fights and imagining that every returning soldier has these pervasive mental problems that no one cares about, she reveals that she isn’t helping any herself.

On a recent night, I loaded up the car with TBI-afflicted friends, including Pete (who, for the record, is funny and smart and kind), and drove to a happy-go-lucky bar in Adams Morgan in the District, where the drinks come with cheerful pink umbrellas.

Wait a minute. She is all upset over this alcohol problem, yet she is contributing to it by driving guys to bars herself? I just don’t get that one!

Her closing line is probably one that is as pretentious as it is cynical, both at the same time.

The exchange was a perfect reflection of how the true costs of war have been outsourced to a very few Americans, and a great many Iraqis. But it also reminded me that full-scale containment of the wreckage is impossible — that, as Nigerian novelist Chinua Achebe wrote of imperial ventures in years past, “things fall apart.”

Certainly this Nigerian novelist’s quote is rather pedestrian and really adds little to the piece, but her allusion to being well read was far more the point of its usage than its prescience or depth — her pretension was the point here. And what is this “true costs of war have been outsourced to a very few Americans” doggerel? There is no “outsourcing” Miss. Stillman. Our soldiers are volunteers. Not mercenaries and not employees caught unawares of the results of their duty performed.

All in all, there could hardly have been a more condescending, pitying article about the serious troubles some of our soldiers face re-integrating themselves into society. But, it is hardly surprising if one views some of Miss. Stillman’s anti-war tirades on the HuffingtonPost.com site and no one should be surprised when it is found that this article is from someone proud of her “armpit hair,” something she happily notes in her bio on a website called “Letters from young activists.”

Sarah Stillman, 21, enjoys rabble-rousing with groups like the Student Legal Action Movement, Critical Resistance, and the Yale Coalition for Peace. She edits MANIFESTA, a bi-annual feminist journal, and is writing a collection of essays about corporate globalization’s consequences for young women worldwide. She has lots of glorious armpit hair.

I spy someone “damning” her bad luck that she wasn’t born in the late 1950s so that she could have been a proper dirty, teenaged hippie during the vaunted “Summer of love.”

Sadly, this woman has an agenda that is far less inclusive of “helping” our vets than it is a political one that is meant to undermine them. Her agenda, though, is part and parcel to that of the paper her article appears in, of course.

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