Tuesday, May 27, 2008


...is a bitch.

I haven't been officially diagnosed (that will have to wait until I get back stateside, in August) but the signs are all there: obsessive thoughts about horrific scenes I witnessed in Iraq, anxiety at the mere mention of anything having to do with that war, extreme guilt at having willingly participated in such a colossally wicked venture, sleepless nights, mood swings, constant fidgeting, and the strong proclivity to self-medicate by any means necessary. I have good days and bad days, but they've been mostly bad, and certainly worse than they were when I blogged about them before.

The worst for me is the guilt and the anger. Guilt for what I was a part of and anger that such a war could happen, or that people could still believe there is anything remotely positive about our military presence in Mesopotamia. As Thoreau put it so ably at Unqualified Offerings:

It outrages me more than I can describe that there are still apologists for this. It outrages me more than I can describe that there are people who can look at this and say "Yep, we sure made the right choice there!" And it outrages me more than I can describe that the people who look at this and see no evil are actually taken seriously. They are invited to speak and write in serious venues. They are warmly thanked for offering their amoral apologies. They are allowed to remain in power rather than impeached, convicted, removed, and stripped of privilege. They are able to walk down the street undisturbed when they should be cursed and pelted with trash. They should be sprawled on a sidewalk next the McPherson Square Metro Station, hoping to cadge enough quarters to enjoy the rare treat of laundering the vomit out of the only shirt they own, praying all the while that decent people do not recognize them beneath the matted beard and tangled hair.

In a real republic Bush would have been drummed out of office by now and the last thing any major candidate for the Presidency would say is that we might be in Iraq for another 100 years. Just thinking about it makes me so... anxious. Every time I hear a war apologist speak I am overcome with grief and it's a good hour before my mind's back on track. This is my war casualty: a complete inability to escape from that place for longer than a couple of hours.

Seeking mindless distraction, I went to see Ironman the other day, and boy was that a mistake. The predictably evil defense contractor (played by Jeff Bridges, who always looks like Jeff Lebowski to me, which is a bit disconcerting) reminded me so much of my old boss in the war-profiteering biz--warm and friendly on the outside, cold and heartless on the inside--that I spent half the movie trying to will away my flashbacks, then spent the next several hours after the movie drinking alone in my apartment. Such an innocuous reference from such a banal movie shouldn't produce such a powerful reaction, but such is life after war, for me at least. Suffice it to say I won't be watching Rendition or In the Valley of Elah any time soon.

So there it is: I'm pretty messed up in the head right now, and there's not a lot I can do but try to work through it. It's not like there are VA programs for DoD Contractors with PTSD. That's why the federal government loves contractors so much: there's no long-term commitment. A servicemember has all those whiny legislators demanding benefits (and overriding Bush's veto... we hope) for the troops, but us temps, we're on our own. Now that I'm not working for the company that paid me to go to Iraq, I'm nobody's problem but my own. Hell, I don't even have medical insurance any more. I swear to FSM I'm moving to Canada or Denmark some day.

Discovering that your soul has a price isn't a pleasant experience, but I'm the guy who signed on the dotted line, so it's my cross to bear. I wish I had read the fine print.

Cross-posted at Decline and Fall.