Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

How to give someone a howling case of PTSD: The Army’s recipe in action

Much talk of post-traumatic stress disorder has come out of the Iraq War, but little is as striking as that of Lt. Col. Bill Russell Edmonds, a Special Forces officer whose memoir is scheduled to appear in a few months. In the book, titled God Is Not Here: A Soldier’s Struggle with Torture, Trauma, and ...

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Much talk of post-traumatic stress disorder has come out of the Iraq War, but little is as striking as that of Lt. Col. Bill Russell Edmonds, a Special Forces officer whose memoir is scheduled to appear in a few months.

In the book, titled God Is Not Here: A Soldier’s Struggle with Torture, Trauma, and the Moral Injuries of War, Edmonds says in his first sentences, "I’m a good person forced to make many horrible choices."

What especially makes it stand out is that it amounts to a textbook on how to develop a howling case of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). All the ingredients identified by the noted psychiatrist and veterans’ counselor Jonathan Shay in his two groundbreaking books on the syndrome are here.

Much talk of post-traumatic stress disorder has come out of the Iraq War, but little is as striking as that of Lt. Col. Bill Russell Edmonds, a Special Forces officer whose memoir is scheduled to appear in a few months.

In the book, titled God Is Not Here: A Soldier’s Struggle with Torture, Trauma, and the Moral Injuries of War, Edmonds says in his first sentences, “I’m a good person forced to make many horrible choices.”

What especially makes it stand out is that it amounts to a textbook on how to develop a howling case of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). All the ingredients identified by the noted psychiatrist and veterans’ counselor Jonathan Shay in his two groundbreaking books on the syndrome are here.

If the Army in some perverse experiment had consciously wanted to try to induce PTSD in one of its officers, it could not have done a more effective job than it did on Edmonds.

(For the rest, click here.)

 

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. Twitter: @tomricks1

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