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Sunday, June 17, 2007

This will not be reported by the pundits who love faux-macho leaders
Posted by Jill | 6:15 AM
Last week Glenn Greenwald took a page from Digby's book and wrote about Chris Matthews' manlove for Fred Thompson in a larger post about the celebration of (faux) masculinity on the right, a milieu in which toughness is all about talk and not at all about action.

Republicans have long tried to exploit masculinity images and depict Democrats and liberals as effeminate and therefore weak. That is not new. But what is new is how explicit and upfront and unabashed this all is now. And what is most striking about it is that -- literally in almost every case -- the most vocal crusaders for Hard-Core Traditional Masculinity, the Virtues of Machismo, are the ones who so plainly lack those qualities on every level.

There are few things more disorienting than listening to Rush Limbaugh declare himself the icon of machismo and masculinity and mock others as "wimps." And if you look at those who have this obsession -- the Chris Matthews and Glenn Reynolds and Jonah Goldbergs and Victor Davis Hansons -- what one finds in almost every case is that those who want to convert our political process and especially our national policies into a means of proving one's "traditional masculine virtues" -- the physically courageous warriors unbound by effete conventions -- themselves could not be further removed from those attributes, and have lives which are entirely devoid of such "virtues."

Meanwhile, the REAL tough guys, the guys who have put their asses out there on the line, are coming back like this:

U.S. troops returning from combat in Iraq and Afghanistan suffer "daunting and growing" psychological problems -- with nearly 40 percent of soldiers, a third of Marines and half of the National Guard members reporting symptoms -- but the military's cadre of mental-health workers is "woefully inadequate" to meet their needs, a Pentagon task force reported yesterday.

The congressionally mandated task force called for urgent and sweeping changes to a peacetime military mental health system strained by today's wars, finding that hundreds of thousands of the more than 1 million U.S. troops who have served at least one war-zone tour in Iraq or Afghanistan are showing signs of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, anxiety or other potentially disabling mental disorders.

"Not since Vietnam have we seen this level of combat," said Vice Adm. Donald Arthur, co-chairman of the Department of Defense Mental Health Task Force. "With this increase in . . . psychological need, we now find that we have not enough providers in our system," he said at a Pentagon news conference yesterday unveiling the report. "Clearly, we have a deficit in our availability of mental-health providers."

The ongoing "surge" of more than 30,000 additional U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan will exacerbate this gap, as will the rapid growth in the number of soldiers, Marines and other troops -- now about half a million -- who have served more than one combat tour, heightening the risk of mental illnesses, the report said.

As in the aftermath of Vietnam, the costs of untreated mental illness will rise dramatically over time, the report warned. "Our nation learned this lesson, at a tragic cost," it said. "The time for action is now."

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates is required by law to develop a plan of action within six months on the 95 recommendations included in the 64-page report.

The task force, composed of seven military and seven civilian professionals with expertise in military mental health, was formed in May 2006. It based its report on visits to 38 U.S. military care facilities in the United States, Europe and Asia; interviews with care providers, military personnel and their families and commanders; as well as expert testimony and research.

Good luck getting a plan in action in place -- and funded -- by this bunch. This country is led by a guy who couldn't even lay off the blow long enough to show up for his cushy stateside National Guard assignment and a guy with a bum ticker who "had other priorities" when it was his time to serve, and who thinks doing the quail equivalent of shooting fish in a barrel makes him a tough guy. These guys are cheerled by a wizened little Jewish man whose idea of being in combat is to pump his fist at the screen and shout "Yeah!" and "All right!" while watching a fictional portrayal of American troops in Bosnia and a cadre of talk show heads not one of whom has ever served.

In the faux machismo world of these chickenshit politicians and the pundits who worship them, PTSD is a sign of weakness -- and flies in the face of the myth of the American soldier. Military training may be designed to turn human beings into killing machines, but when even those killing machines have what remains of their souls after the military tries to pry them out of them ripped from their bodies, we owe it to them to try to help -- and to speak out against those who would continue to worship the kind of dick-waving bullshit that brought them to this state.

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