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Location: St. Louis, Missouri, United States

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Rules of Engagement and PTSD

Jack Kemp

While reading the 2010 book "Once a Warrior Always a Warrior" by Charles Hoge, MD, a former Army Colonel, Iraq War veteran, and "director of the research program on the mental health and neurological effects of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq from 2002 to 2009 at Walter Reed Army Institute of Research," this was revealed on pages 24-25:

There are some unique situations in which warriors will acknowledge feeling helpless, and it appears that these can contribute to them developing serious PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) symptoms on return from combat.

These are situations in which warriors are unable to respond militarily, either because the enemy is elusive or because they're constrained by the rules of engagement (ROE)...Here are some examples:

     Watching IEDs (remote controlled bombs) go off, locking and loading but not firing due to the ROE, left me feeling helpless.  - Junior Enlisted Soldier, Iraq

     The most stressful part of my job is going out every day and wiating to get blown up. When / if someone gets hit, ROE prohibits us from doing what should be done. Everyone here is "innocent." Yeah, right. If someone dug up the road in front of YOUR house and buried a bonb there, YOU would know about it. - Senior NCO, Iraq

In the last quote, this soldier is expressing anger at not being allowed to attack or detain Iraqis living in homes close to where a roadside bomb was planted. But the important underlying emotion being expressed is helplessness. In several assessments of warriors deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan, nearly half reported being in threatening situations where they were unable to respond due to ROE (the Rules of Engagement). There is evidence that this may play a role in developing mental health problems after coming home. This feeling of helplessness - being unable to respond because of ROE - has been a prevalent theme throughout multiple operations over the last twenty years (e.g., Panama, Somalia, Haiti, the Balkans), where warriors have been in situations where they've been unable to help civilian women, children, or elderly suffering in the operational environments.

What the good doctor - and the good soldiers - are essentially saying is that an exploding remote controlled bomb, which would likely qualify in American stateside FBI civilian police work as at least grounds for knocking on the door to talk to the home owners next to the explosion, if not a Homeland Security basis for probable cause to investigate the entire building, now results in no entry into the houses near the explosion under the Rules of Engagement. Many other accounts of the war in Iraq tell of a number of these IEDs exploding on open supply route highways with no houses nearby, but what is being described by Dr./Col. Hoge is pathetic.

In the last war that the U.S. won outright, World War II, did we refuse to enter someone's house in France or Germany if our soldiers thought that sniper fire or artillery coordinates and corrections were being called in by the enemy from that house? I believe the answer is no.

Civilians make certain logical assumptions about the generals and the politicians in our current wars. They assume that they don't hamper the troops - and some civilians assume that those in the military that describe these severe limitations are whiners. And many civilians just don't want to know the "post-modern" Rules of Engagement. But the effects of those current rules come back to our cities and small towns either walking, hobbling or in a casket.

While politicians such as Hillary Clinton have debated the need for extra body armor (a difficult tradeoff which limits mobility and is swelteringly hot to wear),  the thought of the military THEMSELVES doing a (roadside) house investigation - rather than a House (of Representatives) investigation in front of television cameras on Capitol Hill - is beyond the comprehension of many in Washington.

This ROE situation needs to change - and fast, for that would truly be Change We Can Believe In. A nation can only LOSE a protracted politically correct war.

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