Jan 24, 2005
On January 9, Andres Raya, a 19-year-old Marine recently returned from Iraq was killed in a shootout with police in Ceres, California. He had gunned down two cops, killing one, before being shot by the police.
The Ceres police quickly tried to paint him as a gang member high on cocaine at the time of the incident – neither of which turned out to be true.
Raya had been on a weekend leave from Camp Pendleton near San Diego. Raya's family says he snapped because of what he had gone through in Iraq. People in the neighborhood attempted several times to set up a shrine to him in the alley where he was shot and spoke out against the police at a public meeting held in a nearby school.
Of course, no one can say for sure what relation exists between service in a war and subsequent actions of one person.
But one thing is certain. There already are serious problems faced by soldiers returning from Iraq. An Army study of veterans of combat in Iraq found that one in six reported symptoms of major depression, serious anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder. That figure is apt to grow as time goes on, since it takes many months, even years for these symptoms to gain full force. Among Vietnam vets, the rate finally turned out to be one in three.
Doctors are already seeing the effects and worry about how they will care for all the returning soldiers needing psychiatric care. Officials at six out of seven Veterans Affairs hospitals said in a survey that they "may not be able to meet" the demand for treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder.
In response to a New York Times article on the problem, Dr. William Peterson, the chief of Mental Health Services at an Army health clinic in Germany wrote, "I have only one quibble with your fine article: as an Army psychiatrist working daily with recently returned soldiers from Iraq, I assure you that the flood is not 'in the offing,' as your headline says; the flood is here."
That there would be this kind of psychological toll is obvious. U.S. soldiers are today engaged in a war of occupation directed against the population of Iraq. In such a situation, you are an enemy to every man, woman, and child who may act against you.
War-mongers pass around these bumper stickers telling us to put them on our cars to support the troops. Yes, we should support the troops – but the only way to do it is to demand they be brought home immediately.