PTSD, The Grand Scapegoat

By Joseph Tarantolo, M.D.


The diagnosis of PTSD was created in response to pressure from Vietnam veterans who wanted to be sure of their right to receive medical and financial benefits as befitting any man (the military was minimally integrated at that time) who fought in an unpopular and hateful war. We must be clear about this to be able to take PTSD out of the sphere of medical diagnoses and place it where it belongs:  a social, political, and moral position in a country ambivalent about its warriors.

If PTSD is not an illness, a medical condition, if we are clear about that, we can then be able to ask pertinent questions about the function and purpose of this pseudo-illness. What purpose does this diagnosis serve? Whereas initially, post-Vietnam, the diagnosis allowed an outlet for the country’s guilt for over 50,000 American deaths and a million Vietnamese deaths for an ill-begotten war which ultimately detracted from our world status and security, we are once again faced with harrowing questions about our national character:

  1. Are we a peace-loving or warmongering nation?
  2. Are we freedom-loving? Do we love freedom more than security?
  3. Are we committed to a noble view of the “warrior class” or is our deeper value more darkly cynical?

In answering these questions certain truths should be addressed:

  • A large chunk of our volunteer military, perhaps a majority, seek out the military for a secure job, not out of patriotic love of country or the honor and courage associated with military service. This is particularly true in difficult economic times. We now have a type of military socialism – not quite what Eisenhower warned about a “military-industrial complex” but close – where very large numbers of the populace directly rely on the war machine to earn a living.
  •  Our freedom has been lessened, not enhanced, by the misnomer “war on terror:” restrictions on movement, unauthorized government intervention wiretaps, restrictions on habeas corpus and more. This is important given that the rationale for the war machine is to “protect our freedom,” literally die for our freedom. To understand pseudo-diagnoses one has to address Orwellian misspeak.
  •  With the perfecting of drone attacks, killing increasingly comes from afar. Killing from afar runs contrary to every cultural notion of a noble warrior class. This idea got significant play under the Clinton administration with the sending of bombers but no foot soldiers to make war on Serbia. There were actually some national/international voices calling us cowards. “Why don’t you fight like a man?!”

My thesis is that the function of the PTSD pseudo-diagnosis is that it gives voice as scapegoat to disowned parts of our national laments. We might think of PTSD as scapegoat – those with the diagnosis hold the revulsion that we can’t express more directly because of political and cultural constraint.

The PTSDer gets an enormous amount of pseudo-sympathy directed at him. The complexity is that he is also held in contempt, drugged as if he is unable to bear his memories, pathetic, requiring medical attention in lieu of compassionate understanding.

He, the PTSDer, must hold both our shame and our guilt, our guilt in that we have become the primary international killers and our shame in that we kill out of fear rather than noble cause.

A true “treatment” of PTSD needs a national voice that will not be spoken. We are not allowed to “apologize for American values” nor criticize our rationale for war. Recall, a decorated veteran( J Kerry) of the Vietnam War, running for President, was called a liar and coward because he headed a band of vets who condemned the war. On the other side of that coin we were not allowed to criticize another nominee ( J Cain) for his bombing of innocent Viet Nam civilians.

We are now faced with an overwhelming number of veterans demanding disability benefits. I suspect much of this “disability” is the inability to speak out against the “war on terror.” Rage has become pathos, spousal abuse, suicide, homicide, drunkenness, and wounded brains. As Stan White (father of 2 vets lost because of the war on terror and who has championed better treatment of veterans) says, “Anger doesn’t accomplish anything.” Indeed.

Treatment Principles: ( The term “treatment “ is problematic but for now we are stuck with it.)

  1. Best in a group where multiple points of view are aired.
  2. Group leader quickly establishes that he does not think they have a disease.
  3. Minimal emphasis on symptoms such as insomnia, anxiety, depression, etc.
  4. The object of the intervention is clarity of thought, not in “ feeling better”.
  5. Therapist must be able to hold a whole spectrum of points of view, “ God bless America” “ God damn America”
  6. The position of the therapist/facilitator is we are dealing with a moral, political, spiritual, existential problem, not a brain disease
  7. Encouragement to “Speak-Up” about what you think about country, war, the “enemy”, government, leaders, particularly the negative views. In the negative views one will find the anger and ultimately the deeper sadness about themselves as “failed” warriors and failed peacemakers.
  8. The object, ultimately is to transform the military scapegoat ( alias PTSD) into a role model for honest debate about who & what we are as a nation & a people.
  9.   The group, as they reflect & debate will discover they are a microcosm of their country/culture debate, a debate poorly articulated. As they experience the conflict within the group, they will begin to see the conflict within each individual.
  10. Bad dreams & flashbacks are respected as the mechanism whereby we dare not forget. We must all hold the various horrors together.

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8 Responses to "PTSD, The Grand Scapegoat"

  1. Dale R. Suiter  October 4, 2012 at 4:20 pm

    “Sledgehammer” in the HBO speical “The Pacific” was told by Dad – words to the effect:” I treated men from the Great War (World War I). It wasn’t the scars to their body – it was their torn souls that were so damaged and tormented.”

    Normal men transit the stages of life -childhood, the teen years, young and middle adult life and finally early, middle and advanced old age without a lot of major trauma. Sure there are exceptions. Those who engage in close quarters combat and survive can never be “normal” in the sense most men are. Neither can PTSD be cured – in my rather extensive experience with combat vets. Near by local area has a 100% disabled PTSD “in the rear with the gear” type. One of those real war heros. Guy does not have and will never have PTSD. He is a phony. Vet Admin has gotten stupid with the PTSD critieria. Folks that drive trucks where there are bad guys know real combat. Folks that operate mine clearing equipment, sure. Grunts, always. MP’s very often so. Clerk with a computer in a major built up base or a JAG? Give us a break. Take these fools out and have then cook a grenade and throw it at the bad guys. Have them follow up with a fixed baynoet to complete the butchering. Bet they know about PTSD then. Lotta clowns say they have PTSD – and they have lotta medals to prove it, i.e. fire watch ribbon, latrine medal etc.

    Always been this was and always will be. Men that have walked point, tail end charlie or main body, humped a 60, changed a magazine under fire, dropped dozens of rounds down a tube, taken part in a “high diddle diddle right up the middle” military manuver, cannon cockers, engineers with their tonka toys and others too never get over it. Some even learn to live with it. Few civilians know the path the combat vet walks for a lifetime.

    Take care all. We gotta take care of us. Know one else.

    Dale R. Suiter
    once upon time was a tail end charlie

  2. taosword  October 2, 2012 at 9:41 pm

    It is true that the Vietnam war and the current wars can put many soldiers and veterans in an existential dillema which if not worked through can cause multiple psychological, physical, emotional, social, and quality of life issues. Some of the problems in therapy may be that the therapists agendas get in the way of the healing path. There are neurological changes in the brains of many combat soldiers/veterans and not in a good way. Because of the neuro-plasticity and neuro-genesis of the brain after trauma, healing does occur. But it cannot occur in a vacum that does not include the physical, psychological, emotional, social, and quality of life issues. This also has to occur in the context of the countries denial of its own projections, meaning the need for an enemy, a gook, someone to scapegoat because of an inability to look inside and see ones own dark side, ones own shadow. This involves responsibilty, shared responsibilty, guilt, shared guilt, and as Robert Jay Lifton taught us, animating the guilt. Like in the 12th step of AA where you help heal other alcoholics once you have your shit together. So Dr. Tarantolo has made some good points but you cannot deny the neurological changes from war trauma. I believe some of those changes start in the endoctrination (brainwashing) of boot camp and advanced training. Once the brainwashing techniques are admitted to and their consequences admitted to and dealt with, the political and military leaders of this country will get really concerned that they may give another war and no one will show up. That would be wonderful unless we are really being directly attacked and the attackers are accessible and can be dealt with. This has not been the case, probably since WWII. So, yes, there are some combat zone vets who may not have a very serious case of the neurological changes to the hippocampus and the endocrine system but they are deserving of whatever pension they can get from the military or VA for the betrayal and loss of inocense. The problem is that unless you were in 20+ years you cannot get a pension so the combat vets of Vietnam and many from the current wars get zip unless they have physical wounds or injuries or can claim PTSD. It is a dilema for the country like you say.These wars have been immoral, unethical, illegal and damaging to our country as a whole and that keeps getting denied while war vets carry most of the burden. Vets should continue to get the VA pay for PTSD but the whole context of this needs to be changed and the pain of war not denied by the leaders but admitted to and dealt with. War crime trials may be in order here but that would take alot of shifting from denial to awarness of most patriotism and nationalism being neurotic attachments that contribute to unnecessary pre-emptive wars. Good luck with that.

  3. Subvet416  October 2, 2012 at 7:15 am

    “We must be clear about this to be able to take PTSD out of the sphere of medical diagnoses and place it where it belongs: a social, political, and moral position in a country ambivalent about its warriors.”

    The whole concept of “mental illness” is also out of the sphere of medical daignosis as well, and has always been a social, “political, and moral position in a country ambivalent about its warriors” and even the general population, especially the young. Prior to 1980, veterans who exhibited or complained of any of the myriad symptoms considered pathological by psychiatry were diagnosed with mental illness.

    Mental illness is defined by the pseudo-science of biological psychiatry, which has attached itself to Veterans Health Care, as an “incurable brain disease” with an as yet unidentified genetic component, the symptoms of which can only be managed with FDA-approved psychatric drugs, or approved therapies like ECTs. After the deployment of the PTSD diagnosis, only a minute percentage of veterans priviously diagnosed with “mental illness” were reevaluated and found to have PTSD instead.

    In practice, and from the point of view of veterans, the new diagnosis of PTSD made little difference, for the “treatment” was exactly the same, psychiatric drugs and ECTs. The side effects of such treatments are well-known to cause exactly the same symptoms of mental illness or PTSD they are supposedly intended to relieve. Unfortunately, the financial and professional rewards for such practices are overwhelming, just as in wars of agression.

  4. Excalibur  October 1, 2012 at 4:32 pm

    I thought that I would reproduce one of my previous comments to add to this article – although my first comment is awaiting moderation:

    PTSD – Special Forces

    Pressure is growing in Great Britain for all Special Forces soldiers to receive mandatory counselling in the course of their career. This is because soldiers are unlikely to ever volunteer for it themselves and it is thought it might head off PTSD at a later date – even long after discharge from the Armed Forces. The Psychoanalyst authorities do need to be careful what they delve into, however, as ultimately the very purpose of these men is to visit instant death and destruction on our enemies as and when required. Not only that – but to do it in a cold, workman-like and professional way.

    An interesting study into Psychopathy in Britain was carried out some years ago. I recall that US scientists also discovered a way to try to identify the psychopathic brain by displaying pictures of pleasant flowers and countryside scenes followed alternately with horrific ones of death and injury – whilst simultaneously reading the brain wave readings that resulted in a subject. Marked brain activity as the brain adjusted to the shock between the differing scenes indicated normal brain patterns. No change at all in brain activity between the images was a strong indication of a psychopath!

    British military authorities in the Great War of 1914 to 1918 were concerned at the development of what was called ‘shell shock’ in some soldiers. It took men out of the line, was very debilitating and clearly distressing for the sufferer. In the early years of the war many sufferers were shot for cowardice. Eventually they discovered that in order to prevent shell shock it was necessary to pull men out of the front line trenches every 28 days for 3 or 4 days of complete rest and recuperation in an area of relative safety. If they did not do this – then shell shock was liable to set in on some people. What triggered the problem was the unnatural state of a constant fear of imminent death. The brain could remain in a state of fear of death for some time but eventually it caused brain damage and physical collapse. Just a few days of rest – away from this fear – ‘re-booted’ the brain and it quickly recovered. In their study they unexpectedly found that two percent of men were completely unaffected by any fear of death. In fact – they were positively blooming at the front line – and couldn’t wait to get back to it! Military Psychiatrists also noticed that these men were also the ones that coincidentally were killing large numbers of the enemy by comparison to others. The Army Psychiatrists assessed that these men were probably psychopaths. (It was quipped at the time by doctors that 98 per cent of men were brain damaged by service at the front – and 2 per cent were probably damaged before they arrived!)

    Prior to ‘D’ Day in World War 2 the War Office medics were concerned about this scenario once again. It was assessed that the men who went ashore on ‘D’ Day may not be able to be relieved from the vanguard of fighting within the first 28 days as supplies and reserves were built up – and therefore it would be important for psychiatrists to study and to ‘debrief’ them psychologically when they were eventually pulled out of the front line. Once again the figure of 2 per cent kept cropping up – as 2 per cent of the men wanted to get straight back into the fighting again. Private consultation with them also threw light on the fact that this handful of men were killing large numbers of the enemy combatants that they came across – with the vast majority of soldiers only admitting privately to firing in the general direction of the enemy.

    Most enemy soldiers were killed in that war by bombing and heavy artillery – but the ‘2 per cent’ accounted for a great many of the rest. This information horrified the War Office. What was the point of having huge armies of men if most of then did not kill on demand, as required.

    After the Second World War this led military scientists to experiment with drugs to see if they could artificially build ‘aggression’ into infantry soldiers during battles. The tests failed miserably. Some Royal Marines suffer with flashbacks to this day because of experiments with LSD to see how it would make them react. All that drugs did, of course, was to prevent soldiers from performing even the most simple of tasks.

    Then came the realisation that smaller elite infantry units could be trained up to levels of extreme aggression. I recall that in the 1960s and 1970s if a young recruit joined up with criminal convictions for violence – he was immediately put into an assault unit. Nowadays the exact opposite is the case – and they would probably even be refused entry to the armed forces. (A bit strange I always thought – fighting bans them from joining the armed forces!) During this period in Britain the Paras, Marines and special forces could be ‘beasted’ through extreme levels of training with only 10 percent of applicants making it through long training programmes. If you did not show ‘psychopathic’ tendencies when you joined – you either left, transferred to another unit – or developed them by the end of it. Deploying the ORCS of Middle Earth come to mind. Most soldiers then at the end of initial training wanted nothing more than a bayonet – and an enemy to confront.

    The military authorities finally had what they wanted – smaller groups of extremely aggressive and heavily armed bands of men that could and would ruthlessly visit instant death and destruction on any enemy anywhere in the world without a moments hesitation or argument.

    A lot of effort over recent years has been done to reverse this and water it down completely – partly by the bleeding hearts brigade concerned more about the enemy than our own forces – and partly in order to service the continual policing style operations required of the phoney zionist inspired ‘terrorist’ wars. The subversion programmes of so called ‘political correctness’ – enforced by academics – also now plays a part in reducing the effectiveness of troops in their core role and leaves them more concerned about criminal prosecution by their own legal system than fear of enemy combatants.

    It is difficult to know how this will affect ‘PTSD’ as it has been loosely defined. No such problem has ever affected me but it does seem to strike at random and can even affect people who have not seen much active service. I can understand this. For example I recall moments during the cold war when we believed that the balloon had gone up and we were about to go into action against the Soviets – action that would mean almost certain death. Such incidents put extreme strain on service families – and it is service families, after all, that are the main bulwark against the likes of PTSD.

    This is a scenario that most civilians cannot comprehend – when going to work may well mean not coming back – ever. Normal and happy family life and societal respect for the military is the best prescription against ANY psychological trauma in soldiers. The fact that the cold war in Europe all ended harmlessly in the end is really neither here nor there. We had to be ready then – and if called on we were. The Northern Ireland campaign involved soldiers being killed daily over thirty years by an often unseen enemy that could fire from any open window in a built up area. Every patrol, every day, was target practice for the (communist inspired and organised) terrorist enemy – and it was almost impossible to then strike back effectively within an urban area. This led to a generation of ex-soldiers back home diving for cover at a car backfiring and instinctively looking edgily at the Venetian blinds flowing out of any open window. You cannot switch this off in a soldier on discharge.

    Like I said – doctors should be careful what they are delving into. Proper respect and support for veterans built into civilian society – produces the best outcome. Academics openly reviling their own soldiers (and hence their own national protectors) produces the worst outcome.

  5. duay khwaam nap theuu  October 1, 2012 at 2:54 pm

    There are other sources of psychological trauma and its lingering effects than soldering for the military. That said, this article certainly has food for thought.

  6. Excalibur  October 1, 2012 at 2:20 pm

    Dr Tarantolo certainly dismisses an awful lot of people with this article. I have never suffered PTSD – but then I never fought in the Vietnam War – where (infantry) men were on patrol and in harms way for an average of 210 days out of every year deployed in that theatre. There is no doubt that Vietnam was ‘different’ to other wars – and certainly different to any previous war when (lets be honest) the job of an invading army was far more simple: – to smash through countries like a steamroller and destroy everything in their path.

    Firstly I question the constant dismissal of the value of the Vietnam War by so called academics as a complete waste of time. One thing that it DID do was to make countries think twice about embracing so called ‘communism’. It showed that part of the free world was still ready to stop it – and as an ideological war then it did not really matter where it was fought. The British had fought a similar war in Malaya and Borneo – which today is virtually never spoken of. I suspect that this is because it was 100% successful – drove the communists out – and that Malaya today is a highly successful nation and a good place to live.

    It should also be remembered that many soldiers in Vietnam were called up for national service – and THAT was why they ended up there, certainly not for financial reasons. It is extremely disingenuous to suggest that most soldiers join for socio-economic reasons only. Surely the doctor realises that the military is not a ‘job’ – it is a 24 hours a day 7 days a week way of life – not something that is easy to do if your heart is not fully in it. It is a vocational employment. My reasons for joining the military were neither cynical nor unpatriotic – and I never met anyone that had enrolled in that mindset.

    Young soldiers today operate with both feet tied together – and one arm tied behind their back. This is not the fault of the Military – it is the fault of the pressure from delusional academics and evil politicians ON the military. In very modern times a soldier quickly realises that his most dangerous enemy is not a protagonist combatant – but the system in which he serves – where more danger to his person lurks within his own ranks from lawyers, treasonous politicians and criminal drug dealers disguised as senior officers.

    Soldiers throughout history have had the job of attacking and invading – or defending – often unto death. A unique service and a potential sacrifice for the greater good and safety of society as a whole. Soldiers do not need to be great thinkers beyond getting the job done in a workmanlike way for the common good. Soldiers rely on their superiors (and their academics) making the right decisions and comprehensively backing them up. Soldiers were never meant to be ‘new world order’ policemen either.

    Let me give an alternative explanation as to why we find ourselves where we do. This suggestion lays blame not at the young men who have often ruined their career path (or lost their life and limb) by serving their country – but at the traitors and ‘infected’ academics that attack returning veterans, deliberately denigrate their sacrifices and make their lives impossible on their return by trashing society and praising the lowest common denominator.

    How many doctors and academics are aware of how THEIR input to society as a whole is destroying freedom and the western nations? How many have seen this truthful account from a communist defector as to how academics have been subtly indoctrinated and used to infiltrate and reduce our way of life – removing all the cohesion that previously made us unstoppable and socially functional:

    Running parallel with this subversion has come the sickening and disgusting efforts of the satanic ‘Frankfurt school’ of marxist subversion. The upshot and the consequences of this being actively implemented onto society BY ACADEMICS, PSYCHIATRISTS, DOCTORS and politicians – means that we start to ask the question: who is responsible for what is known as PTSD? The Frankfurt school’s main objectives have already been imposed from above onto society. See their eleven principle objectives here (which many fully subverted academics will not even recognise as societal subversion):

    Indeed – in wider society we are now seeing individuals that have been traumatized to the limits of their endurance by our new satanic way of life – slaying their own children, their wives and their families when ‘cornered’ by doctors, psychiatrists and social workers. This horrific phenomena is becoming more widespread every day – and many of these men have never served in the military at all.

    I would be interested to see what our doctors, academics and traitorous politicians have to comment about THEIR PART in reducing our lifestyle to that of slavery, hopelessness and despair.

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