Lt. Whiteside, Brain, Mind and PTSD: Update
(The image comes from Goya’s Napoleonic War-inspired series of eighty two prints titled Los Desastres de la Guerra – The Disasters of War. The rest of the series is worse.)
I’ve been remiss in not following up this post. The Washington Post reported last month that the Army examining officer reviewing Lt. Elizabeth Whiteside’s case recommended leniancy — no court martial, and discharge with full access to benefits, including the care she will require for PTSD.
As Dana Priest and Anne Hull reported in a very powerful piece in the Post, Lt. Whiteside was under threat of courtmartial for an incident in the hospital in Iraq where Saddam Hussein, among others, had been held. She had a breakdown, pointed her gun at a psychiatric nurse before turning her weapon on herself and attempting suicide.
Initially, Army prosecutors pressed for a court martial and warned Lt. Whiteside’s lawyers not to try a “psychobabble” defence. This is thus good news an a bunch of levels, most important for the apparent recognition that combat-induced stress produces real injuries, even if they are harder to perceive than a bullet hole.
No word yet on the final disposition of the case — the recommendation still has to go through Maj. Gen. Richard J. Rowe Jr., commander of the US Army Military District of Washington. He can accept, reject, or modify the decision. But the langauge of the recommendation is pretty strong and I very much hope that this is the way the matter rests.
One last note — in my first post on this, I gave some grief to Philip Carter, author of the excellent blog Intel-Dump. He posted the update on the case in a much more timely manner than I have. In his initial post on the subject, he seemed to see this case as a much more ambiguous one than I did. In his follow-up he writes, “I agree with this decision. Lt. Whiteside should not be entrusted with the burden of battle command again. But she should also not be punished for suffering the psychological wounds of combat, nor denied the treatment she needs now that she’s home.”
Carter got the point, in other words: among the psychological consequences of combat are traumas that should be seen as wounds. When they are, they need to be recognized and treated appropriately.
Image: Francisco de Goya from Los Desastres de la Guerra, 1810-1820. Source: Wikipedia CommonsExplore posts in the same categories: brain and mind, Law, War