Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN


June 12, 2012

Lion and the Lamb: Our Afghan tar baby

CROSSVILLE — In the Uncle Remus folktale, Br'er Rabbit finds a tar baby sitting in his path. When it doesn't respond to him, he angrily starts punching the unresponsive figure, hitting it first with one paw and then another.  Soon all four paws are stuck to the Tar Baby.

In a sense, this is the story of our nation's involvement in Afghanistan. We have now been in a war there for the longest period in our nation's history — over ten years, with no positive results. The financial costs have been huge, and the loss of life on both sides has been increasing.

During the last two weeks, published reports state that the suicide rate among our active-duty troops in Afghanistan has increased to one a day. And the daily suicide rate among veterans of both wars in Afghanistan an Iraq has now increased to eighteen.

Reasons for the increase are not fully understood yet, but a number of factors are becoming evident. There are no front lines in this war, and combat is 24/7. To keep safe and alive in such an environment, one must be quick to react to movement or sound, and be ready to use violence and to kill. Each soldier feels surrounded by enemies. Because he is not familiar with the language or culture, he is not given much opportunity to know Afghans as real people (or to hear their side of the story for opposing the American invasion). Besides, killing another human being is not something he is proud of doing. To add to this problem, repeated combat deployments in such a corrosive environment greatly increase the battering of a soldier's psyche.

Repeated deployments have also had a negative effect on the family relationships of the soldiers, not only during the deployment, but when the soldier returns home for an interval between them. He has found it hard to turn off his war-related reactions. Many return with a post-traumatic stress disorder, unable to sleep well. And not a few seek relief through drugs or alcohol.

According to a study published by the American Journal for Public Health, the Iraq and Afghanistan wars "have produced the highest ratio of wounded to killed of any previous military operations. Orthopedic injuries are the most common class of injury, and pain is one of the most frequently reported symptoms." If a soldier has escaped a nearby IED (improvised explosive device) explosion, he may also have suffered brain injury.   

Craig Bryan, a University of Texas psychololgist and suicide expert who previously had been in the Air Force, states, "We train our warriors to use controlled violence and aggression, to suppress strong emotional reactions in the face of adversity, to tolerate physical and emotional pain, and to overcome the fear of injury and death. While required for combat, these qualities are also associated with increased risk for suicide."

One serious deficiency our nation has in the area of treatment: most veterans' hospitals are overcrowded these days. For those seeking medical and psychiatric help, the waiting period for entry can stretch into several months. Suicides often take place in this waiting period.

There is an interesting side issue related to those mentioned above: military dogs can also show signs of post-traumatic stress disorder. Trained dogs are used to sniff out mines, track down enemy fighters, and help clear buildings, but they are often affected mentally and emotionally by combat resulting from explosions, gunfire, and violence. They sometimes undergo sharp changes in temperament, becoming unusually aggressive with their handlers, or especially timid, avoiding buildings or work areas they had previously been comfortable in.  Most stop doing the tasks they were trained to perform. Unlike humans, however, they have not been known to commit suicide.

The Afghan Tar Baby has received quite a pummeling for over ten years through our ongoing imperial war in the Middle East. The question is not only what this has done to the Afghan people and homeland but what it has done to us, as well. Our fingers seem to be stuck on gun triggers and drone buttons. Somehow we need to find a way to disengage ourselves from this fruitless effort to achieve peace through violence, and to engage in a more positive and creative pathway to peace.

• • •

This column is sponsored by Cumberland Countians for Peace and Justice, an organization composed of representatives from various churches in the area, and dedicated by the local writers to the theme that the lion and the lamb can and must learn to live together and grow in their relationship toward one another to ensure a better world. Opinions expressed in “Lion and the Lamb” columns are not necessarily those of the Crossville Chronicle publisher, editor or staff. For more information, contact Ted Braun, editor, at 277-5135.

Text Only
  • Lion and the Lamb: A promised land?

    Back in biblical times there was a group of people who believed that God had promised them a segment of land on this planet that would be theirs forever. Who could have known back then that this ancient promise and territorial justification would be used by their descendants today to claim the same segment of land?

    July 29, 2014

  • We the People: Bring back the American dream

    Our economy continues to expand. The stock market is at record levels, yet many ask why so many of us are struggling?  Barely half of us believe the American dream is attainable.

    July 29, 2014

  • Tidbits: Taking a low-tech break

    Feeling increasingly strangled by my electronic leash, with phone, text messages, email, social media and a variety of other forms of communication always at my side, I took the weekend off.

    July 28, 2014

  • Stumptalk: Governing before and after mass corruption

    Laws in America were originally written simply. Every citizen could read them quickly and understand their meaning. The founders wrote the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, the Northwest Ordinance and the Constitution of the United States, none of which was longer than 4,500 words.

    July 28, 2014

  • We the People: The last dance

    Charlie Hayden’s last recording session with his early partner, Keith Jarrett, was in 2007.  The songs they played were mostly melancholy.  The second album coming from that session includes Weil’s “My Ship” and Porter’s “Every Time We Say Goodbye.” The dark ballad “Goodbye,” by Gordon Jenkins, was the final track.

    July 22, 2014

  • Lion and the Lamb: Living in a pressure cooker

    The Gaza Strip, a small Palestinian territory about the size of Washington, D.C., has been in the news almost every day.  Its key location at the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea has attracted a number of occupying powers over the years, and it has  been at the center of much Middle East history.

    July 22, 2014

  • Tidbits: The excitement of election day

    On March 12, 1996, there were 427,183 votes cast in the presidential primary election. Among those votes was mine, the first vote I cast in an election, just two days after my 18th birthday.

    July 21, 2014

  • Raising the minimum wage

    My first job from which FICA was withheld was a minimum wage job, seventy-five cents an hour. And yes, even then no one could live on that little money. However, I was a high schooler living at home where my father provided room and board. The job gave me pocket money to buy gasoline, to take my girlfriend out for movies and burgers, and to buy tickets for baseball games.

    July 21, 2014

  • Lion and the Lamb: Children on the move

    The news this past week has focused on the humanitarian crisis developing on our southern border. Thousands of unaccompanied children from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras seeking to escape from the violence, human trafficking and extreme poverty in their countries have been entering the United States.

    July 15, 2014

  • We the People: Memo to gun rights groups

    The recent incident in California helps us understand why we cannot rely on mental health services alone to solve the problem of gun violence.

    July 15, 2014

Marketplace Marquee
Must Read
Section Teases
Seasonal Content
AP Video
Netanyahu Vows to Destroy Hamas Tunnels Obama Slams Republicans Over Lawsuit House Leaders Trade Blame for Inaction Malaysian PM: Stop Fighting in Ukraine Cantor Warns of Instability, Terror in Farewell Ravens' Ray Rice: 'I Made a Huge Mistake' Florida Panther Rebound Upsets Ranchers Small Plane Crash in San Diego Parking Lot Busy Franco's Not Afraid of Overexposure Fighting Blocks Access to Ukraine Crash Site Dangerous Bacteria Kills One in Florida Workers Dig for Survivors After India Landslide Texas Scientists Study Ebola Virus Smartphone Powered Paper Plane Debuts at Airshow Southern Accent Reduction Class Cancelled in TN
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
Weather Radar
2014 Readers' Choice
Graduation 2014