PTSD: Reality Versus Rhetoric

March 1, 2006

Published as “Reality vs. the Rhetoric:
Iraq Vets and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder”
on Counterpunch Weekend Edition, March 18 / 19, 2006

I was flabbergasted to read Sally Satel’s March 1, 2006 New York Times Op-Ed, “For Some, the War Won’t End,” describing the diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as creation of a suspicious “culture of trauma” providing veterans a “free ride” as they approach retirement age. A flag immediately went up for me because of my own history with PTSD, but also because Satel is a former VA psychiatrist who now is a resident scholar at the very biased, neoconservative American Enterprise Institute (AEI). AEI is a very wealthy think tank funded largely by old-line conservative family money such as the Scaife and Olin Foundations, and is closely associated and shares headquarters with the Project For A New American Century (PNAC), the latter offering a 1997 blueprint for an aggressive, unilateral U.S. global hegemony, including domination of Middle Eastern and Central Asian energy reserves.

The American Enterprise Institute

AEI, a more than 60-year-old think tank committed to preservation of private enterprise at the expense of The Commons, supports such policies as censorship of the arts, required prayer in schools, and privatizing Social Security. It has a list of current and past fellows, scholars and trustees which makes those interested in a just human community shudder in angst. Lynne and Dick Cheney, John Bolton, Ken Lay, Richard Perle, Newt Gingrich, John Yoo, Charles Murray, and many, many others are affiliated with AEI. One might remember Korean-American John Yoo who, only a few years ago as a young lawyer in the Justice Department, wrote legal memos supporting torture while denying legal protections for “illegal combatants” and advocating the legal imperative of the Patriot Act. It is worth reminding ourselves that Charles Murray is the architect of the Bell Curve concluding existence of intelligence differences between the “races,” meaning in fact the superiority of the White “race,” just as Hitler’s vision motivated German Aryan efforts to conquer Europe.

AEI’s Board of Trustees includes present and past corporate insiders such as the Chair of Dow Chemical which exposed several million people like me and the Vietnamese to the most intense chemical warfare in human history, and more recently, with the acquisition of Union Carbide, continues to ignore responsibility for the Bhopal, India chemical leak disaster that killed and severely maimed thousands. Other trustees include the CEO of huge corporations such as ExxonMobil, State Farm Insurance, and Merck Pharmaceutical, the latter still reeling from misrepresentations about its painkiller, Vioxx, which, it turns out, increases risk of heart attacks.

George Bush II The Younger, in a February 2003 speech to the AEI lauded them as possessing some of the “finest minds in our nation” and noted that he had grabbed twenty of its thinkers for his administration. Along with Sally Satel, Lynne Cheney is also an AEI scholar, and they have worked together with the Independent Women’s Forum (IWF) to counter efforts of the National Organization For Women (NOW) and to oppose feminist politics in general.

Dr. Satel & “Oppression-Based Therapy”

In Sally Satel’s book, PC, M.D.: How Political Correctness Is Corrupting Medicine (Basic Books, 2001), she defines “politically correct” medicine as a dangerous orthodoxy intended to maintain victim status. She insists that the healing profession’s concern for “social justice” interferes with patient health because it downplays the role of personal responsibility. Satel condemns three popular “oppression-based therapies”: (1) those encouraging patients to be part of what she calls “victim groups”; (2) those suggesting that psychic stress results from racist or patriarchal society; and (3) those suggesting that healing is enhanced by activism that assumes a malignant political-socio environment that contributed to illness of the patient in the first place. She goes so far as to accuse these therapies of being malpractice. She opposes “consumer and psychiatric survivor” organizations and believes in the necessity of coerced drugging.

By subscribing to these “malpractice” techniques I was rescued from the scrapheap of war-induced traumas being part of veteran’s groups where we safely share experiences and help process our cognitive dissonance crises; recognizing that many of our decisions and harmful behaviors resulted from a cultural racist ideology and blind obedience to patriarchy that disempowered and dumbed us down; and becoming active in addressing the causes of war and working for a just society has assisted in our validation and redemption as human beings.

Satel stoops to the comforts of reductionist thinking, denying the holistic interplay among dispositional, situational and systemic factors. In so doing, she ignores the need for understanding the revolutionary role that historical, social, racial, economic, and political contexts have had in shaping our thinking, assumptions, and behavioral patterns. Thus, Satel advocates, in the name of therapy, perpetuation of the politics of massive obedience to the prevailing authority and power system, even as such obedience assures rapid deterioration of the necessary ingredients for a healthy society — empathy, equity, and mutual respect for all life. Of course, it is likely that her sense of mental health “requires” ideological adherence to the prevailing system. I prefer the emergence of homo humanus, replacing homo hostilus, and the terrifying possibility of homo extinctus.

I would like someone like Satel, and all those folks associated with AEI to have shared just one or two hours of my traumatic experiences. A dose of that reality likely would overwhelm their ad nauseum rhetoric in a matter of minutes, if not seconds.


Coming from the “indentured servant” class, I was drafted out of law school in 1966 at 25 years of age. Unlike Vice-President Dick Cheney, I possessed no special connections or family money that enabled me to keep my deferment in order to pursue those other things that I would have preferred. So, I enlisted in the USAF in lieu of going into the Army to more likely avoid a combat experience. In 1969, however, I was ordered to Vietnam as head of a special ranger-trained AF combat security unit. While there, as fate would have it, I experienced sickening patterns of crimes that led to my opposition to the war. I was discharged in 1970 as a Captain at 29 years of age.

In 1981, twelve years after those traumatic experiences, I suffered, at age 40, a near psychotic flashback that revealed graphic details of what I had witnessed on a special assignment in April 1969 while documenting the aftermath of bombing missions that intentionally annihilated a number of inhabited villages. The flashback revealed that I had observed somewhere between 700-900 Vietnamese, mostly women and young children in five separate villages in a week’s time. In the very first village I initially heard, then observed a water buffalo screaming in pain from a 3-foot gash in its belly. Taking several additional steps I could walk no further. There were bodies lying everywhere; I estimated more than 125. I covered my face with a handkerchief as the stench from burning flesh and lingering napalm was overpowering and I began to weep, then vomit. This was just the beginning of the memory. The flashback shook me to my roots and it took me several months to recover from the sudden recall of what had been buried in my subconscious.

I attended a few VA rap sessions but didn’t feel safe, so sought my own therapy, both group and individual, and continued to pursue my life. I avoided alcohol or drug use and was considered quite functional. But I began to experience chronic insomnia; hyper-alertness to noises; sudden crying periods; distracting, intrusive memories during daytime hours; avoidance of public crowds; terrifying bodily sensations later termed “panic attacks,” etc. Nonetheless, for a while I even directed a state-funded veteran’s outreach center as I struggled to mask my symptoms the best I could.

In the early 1990s my symptoms were becoming more acute and I sought Jungian therapy. Several people suggested I was suffering from PTSD and advised me to consider help from the VA. In 1994, at age 53, I had my first scheduled assessment with a VA psychiatrist. I was so terrified at the thought of baring my soul to an employee of the government that I remained in my car outside the VA hospital and never made my appointment. Three years later, in 1997, with the emotional support of other veterans, I re-applied and within a year I was diagnosed with PTSD at age 57, twenty-nine years after the worst of the traumas. Now 64, I have discovered lessons about managing the symptoms, and am more mindful of taking care of myself. However, the trauma and memories of the events remain vivid, though I allow space for them in my psyche.

PTSD is nothing to make light of and Dr. Satel, I would submit, needs a dose of war to grasp a reality about her “theories.” War is insane, and those of us thrust into it for God, Country and Right of Passage pay a dear price for the remainder of our lives, even though we may have been politically awakened as a result. WWI German soldier Paul Baumer, in the epic film, “All Quiet on the Western Front” (1930), had it right when he proclaimed, “I’m no good for back there anymore.” That was true then, and it is true now.

Don’t Blame the Victim

Instead of questioning motives of veterans who have been forced to endure wars, the vast majority of which are grotesquely illegal upon honest examination, it would behoove psychiatrist Satel and others who think similarly, to condemn the criminality of the political leaders who continually conspire, plan, prepare, initiate, and wage wars of aggression in violation of international treaties, agreements or assurances, and the Constitution itself. Blaming the victim, rather than the intellectual and political architects of this supreme international crime, practices the ad nauseum trick of “shadow” projection of fault onto others, perpetuating cultural denial and avoidance of accountability.

Satel wants only the lowly troopers to take responsibility for their healing, ignoring the responsibility of war policy makers and profiteers, who are committing the supreme international crime of aggressive wars deserving Nuremberg-style prosecutions. And I suspect also that it would not occur to her that these policy making men and women be subjected to forced therapy or coercive drugging to cure them of their dangerous psychopatholgical behavior. Thus, we witness the typical double standard imposed by those at the top in hierarchical power systems.

If Satel and her comrades were really concerned about saving taxpayer funds, they would cease their glib support for extraordinarily costly aggressive wars of hegemony. Then the psychiatric community could truly be proud that they are preventing hundreds of thousands of people from becoming PTSD patients. How about that for modern psychiatry? But then the shrinks would have to possess the courage to confront the inherent contradictions of a market-obsessed, capitalist economy that values private profit over public justice and caring. Hmm!


  1. Posted June 16, 2017 at 3:57 pm | Permalink

    ačiū už šį straipsnį autoriui, tikrai įdomus man buvo kaip Kauno gyventojui.
    Daugiau informacijos manau galite rasti domėdamiesi apie plastinę chirurgiją, estetinės
    paskirties plastines operacijas Lietuvoje, t.y.
    Plastines operacijos issimoketinai, kas yra atliekama daugelyje plastinės chirurgijos klinikų.

  2. Posted June 24, 2017 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

    Hi there this is somewhat of off topic but I was wondering if blogs use WYSIWYG editors or if you have to manually code with HTML.
    I’m starting a blog soon but have no coding know-how so
    I wanted to get guidance from someone with experience.

    Any help would be greatly appreciated!

  3. Posted June 29, 2017 at 9:00 am | Permalink

    First of all I would like to say superb blog!
    I had a quick question in which I’d like to ask
    if you don’t mind. I was curious to find out
    how you center yourself and clear your thoughts before writing.
    I’ve had a tough time clearing my mind in getting my thoughts out there.
    I do enjoy writing however it just seems like the first 10 to 15 minutes are generally lost just trying to
    figure out how to begin. Any ideas or tips? Kudos!

  4. Posted July 8, 2017 at 6:13 am | Permalink

    This excellent website truly has all the info I wanted concerning this subject and didn’t know who to ask.

  5. Posted July 9, 2017 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

    Evaluate the space you ought to allocate for meals, refreshments and a lot important, socials.
    Every day many people elect to get a tattoo, but can’t pick which design to use.
    In times like this, I really like to look to see a comedy movie
    to distract me for a few hours.

  6. Posted July 9, 2017 at 10:20 pm | Permalink

    This post is really a nice one it assists new internet
    people, who are wishing in favor of blogging.

  7. Posted August 26, 2018 at 8:22 pm | Permalink

    great issues altogether, you just gained a new reader.
    What could you suggest about your post that you made a few days in the
    past? Any positive?

  8. Posted August 29, 2018 at 9:48 am | Permalink

    „Er sagt nichts weiter.

  9. Posted September 1, 2018 at 7:36 am | Permalink

    I think what you said was very logical. However, consider
    this, suppose you composed a catchier title? I ain’t
    saying your content is not solid, but suppose you added something that grabbed a
    person’s attention? I mean PTSD: Reality Versus Rhetoric | S.
    Brian Willson is kinda plain. You could look at Yahoo’s
    home page and watch how they create article headlines
    to grab people to click. You might add a
    related video or a picture or two to grab people interested about everything’ve
    got to say. Just my opinion, it would bring your website a little bit more interesting.

  10. Posted September 3, 2018 at 6:54 pm | Permalink

    Asking questions are actually fastidious thing
    if you are not understanding something completely, except
    this article provides pleasant understanding yet.

  11. Posted September 7, 2018 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

    This is a great tip particularly to those new to the blogosphere.

    Simple but very precise info… Thanks for sharing
    this one. A must read post!

  12. Posted September 8, 2018 at 12:31 am | Permalink

    Very good write-up. I definitely appreciate this site.
    Continue the good work!

  13. Posted September 10, 2018 at 1:21 am | Permalink

    I was wondering if you ever thought of changing the structure of
    your site? Its very well written; I love what youve got
    to say. But maybe you could a little more in the way of content so people could connect with it better.
    Youve got an awful lot of text for only having one or two pictures.
    Maybe you could space it out better?

  14. Posted September 13, 2018 at 8:31 am | Permalink

    Every weekend i used to go to see this web site, for the reason that i wish for enjoyment, for the reason that
    this this web site conations in fact nice funny stuff too.

  15. Posted September 18, 2018 at 3:40 am | Permalink

    Right here is the perfect webpage for anybody who wants to understand this topic.
    You know so much its almost hard to argue with you (not that I actually will need
    to…HaHa). You certainly put a brand new spin on a subject that has
    been written about for ages. Wonderful stuff, just great!

  16. Posted September 19, 2018 at 11:01 pm | Permalink

    Hello to every , since I am really eager of reading this webpage’s post to be updated regularly.
    It includes good information.

  17. Posted September 20, 2018 at 2:27 am | Permalink

    Hi to every body, it’s my first pay a visit of this webpage; this webpage includes remarkable and
    genuinely excellent stuff in support of readers.

  18. Posted September 21, 2018 at 11:07 am | Permalink

    Quality articles or reviews is the crucial to invite the people
    to pay a quick visit the site, that’s what this site is providing.

  19. Posted September 27, 2018 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

    view it now
    I quite like reading through a post that can make men and women think.
    Also, many thanks for allowing for me to comment!

  20. Posted September 28, 2018 at 12:27 am | Permalink

    In fact no matter if someone doesn’t know after that its up to
    other visitors that they will assist, so here it takes place.

  21. Posted October 6, 2018 at 6:14 pm | Permalink

    Very good website you have here but I was curious if you knew
    of any discussion boards that cover the same topics discussed here?
    I’d really like to be a part of online community where I can get opinions from other knowledgeable individuals that share the same interest.

    If you have any recommendations, please let me know.
    Thanks a lot!

  22. Posted October 6, 2018 at 10:59 pm | Permalink

    Добрый вечер … Я посещаю ваш веб-сайт довольно часто, и мне очень интересно,
    как вы защищаете интернет портал от интернет-спама?
    Что вы можете порекомендовать? Я
    наблюдаю в последнее время крайне много интернет-спама на своем интернет сайте, и это злит, поэтому любая помощь
    очень приветствуется 🙂

  23. Posted October 15, 2018 at 7:57 am | Permalink

    What’s up, after reading this amazing post i am also
    cheerful to share my experience here with

  24. Posted October 22, 2018 at 11:02 am | Permalink

    Ich beschreibe ihm am Telefon wie ich ausschaue und was ich gerade mit mir mache.

  25. Posted October 22, 2018 at 7:41 pm | Permalink

    We are a gaggle of volunteers and opening a new scheme in our
    community. Your site provided us with helpful info to work on. You’ve done
    a formidable job and our entire group might be thankful to you.

  26. Posted October 22, 2018 at 11:01 pm | Permalink

    Continued –
    I read this article fully concerning the comparison of newest and earlier technologies, it’s
    amazing article. next page –

  27. Posted October 25, 2018 at 11:25 pm | Permalink

    search engine optimization company –
    What’s up mates, how is all, and what you want to say
    on the topic of this article, in my view its genuinely awesome designed for me.

    Check onsite seo packages –

  28. Posted October 27, 2018 at 1:41 am | Permalink

    dog health tips – – You must go on it under consideration and don’t forget
    that it could become challenging to lose fat when you are getting
    more detailed your objective. Personal trainers can easily utilize social websites such
    as You – Tube to enhance people experience. However, a toothache
    or some other dental problem doesn’t develop overnight.

  29. Posted November 24, 2018 at 5:35 pm | Permalink

    Your style is very unique in comparison to other people
    I have read stuff from. Many thanks for posting when you’ve got the opportunity, Guess
    I’ll just book mark this site.

  30. Posted November 26, 2018 at 10:24 am | Permalink

    Hello colleagues, pleasant articlee and pleasant urging commented here,
    I am really enjoying by these.

  31. Posted December 4, 2018 at 9:11 am | Permalink

    Great article, exactly what I wanhted to find.

  32. Posted December 8, 2018 at 1:50 am | Permalink

    whoah this weblog is wonderful i like studying your posts.

    Stay up the good work! You know, a lot of individuals are looking around for this info, you can aid them greatly.

  33. Posted December 10, 2018 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

    Amazing! Its truly remarkable paragraph, I have got much clear idea concerning from this piece of writing.

  34. Posted February 4, 2019 at 5:15 am | Permalink

    Excluir palabras: Si deseas buscar contenido sobre un término, mas quieres excluir cualquier resultado que contenga
    un término en concreto, debes emplear el signo – delante de la
    palabra excluida.

  35. Posted February 21, 2019 at 1:33 am | Permalink

    Toll gemachte Website, das Layout gefaellt mir sehr gut! War
    sicher ‘n haufen Aufwand.

  36. Posted March 26, 2019 at 3:47 am | Permalink

    Extra resources ( –
    Wonderful beat ! I would like to apprentice while you amend your website, how can i subscribe for a blog website?
    The account helped me a acceptable deal. I had been a
    little bit acquainted of this your broadcast provided bright
    clear idea

  37. Posted April 11, 2019 at 1:52 am | Permalink

    Hello! I’m at work browsing your blog from my new iphone 4!
    Just wanted to say I love reading your blog and
    look forward to all your posts! Keep up the outstanding work!

  38. Posted April 16, 2019 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

    controlata, destinate ambalarii produselor pe masinile de vidat,
    cu atmosfera modificata sau ambalare sub vid.Oferte produse si servicii: ambalaje termoformate.
    Producatori, distribuitori, furnizori – Interior termoformat pentru cutii din carton, Ta.18 mar.
    2014 – Lider pe piaţa ambalajelor termoformate. „Forma aleasă a
    paharului-ambalaj a constitui o provocare având în vedere necesităţie
    funcţionale şi

  39. Posted April 20, 2019 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

    Me ha llamado la atencion demasiado la publicacion, realmente excelente, gracias por la aclaración, muy ilustrativa.
    Me quedo fisgoneando por la web a leer mas notas interesantes,
    gracias again.

  40. Posted May 12, 2019 at 9:54 am | Permalink

    Hey Danke fuer die schoene Zeit auf dieser Webseite. Macht
    weiter bitte so. Da kommt man gerne wieder vorbei.

  41. Posted May 24, 2019 at 1:29 am | Permalink

    Klasse gemachte Homapage, das Layout gefaellt mir sehr
    gut! War sicher ‘n haufen Aufwand.

  42. Posted May 26, 2019 at 11:09 am | Permalink

    Interessante Webpage. Das Design und die nuetzlichen Infos gefallen mir besonders

  43. Posted June 7, 2019 at 3:29 pm | Permalink

    Very good blog post. I definitely appreciate this site.


  44. Posted June 21, 2019 at 7:04 am | Permalink

    Thanks for such wise content, I apreciate it. Also, you can check my mother’s profile on Smashwords
    she’s writing some articles and books about mentality etc.

  45. Posted June 29, 2019 at 1:56 am | Permalink

    Ich bin gerade zufaellig auf Ihrer Page gelandet (war eigentlich auf der
    Suche nach einer anderen Websiete). Ich moechte diese websiete nicht verlassen, ohne Dir ein Lob zu dieser
    klar strukturierten und schick designten Page zu hinterlassen!

  46. Posted July 3, 2019 at 3:31 am | Permalink

    Danke fuer die schoene Zeit auf dieser Webseite.
    Macht weiter so. Da kommt man gerne wieder vorbei.

  47. Posted July 7, 2019 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

    Hey Danke fuer die schoene Zeit auf dieser Webseite. Macht weiter so.
    Da komme ich gerne wieder.

  48. Posted August 2, 2019 at 11:33 am | Permalink

    Don’t forget your pc and internet connections
    have to be sound, stable and reliable. The Random Number Generators (RNG) they use make certain that almost every bet
    is random and you’re therefore just like likely to win a jackpot
    with your initial few bets while a thousand bets
    later. One from the top benefits of using Pay – Pal using your gaming accounts may be the simplicity of accessing your winnings.

  49. Posted August 26, 2019 at 1:18 pm | Permalink vient de publier un Plugin WordPress dédié au Content Spinning ca permet de
    faire varier vos contenus directement dans vos interfaces de rédaction WordPress
    avec des dictionnaires communautaire.

  50. Posted September 6, 2019 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

    Ich bin gerade zufaellig auf Ihrer Webpage gelandet (war eigentlich auf der Suche
    nach einer anderen Seite). Ich moechte diese Seite nicht verlassen, ohne Ihnen ein Lob
    zu dieser gut strukturierten und schick designten Seite zu hinterlassen!

Post a Comment

Your email is never shared. Required fields are marked *


Real Time Web Analytics