“I am not yet born; forgive me. For the sins that in me the world shall commit, my words when they speak me, my thoughts when they think me, my treason engendered by traitors beyond me, my life when they murder by means of my hands, my death when they live me.” – Louis MacNeice
When the British government ordered its troops to invade Iraq, it conveniently forgot to inform them that when they entered the land between the two rivers, the sights that lay before them were not those of weapons of mass destruction or Al-Qaida cells but a country whose entire infrastructure had been decimated as a result of sanctions previously imposed on them.
The march into Baghdad, was not one which was met with the glee of the throwing of sweets and flowers but a world which had been reduced to a “pre-industrial age”, which after the First Gulf War had to contend with the deaths of over one million children under the age of five, a country whose population had to endure a systematic cultural, technological and educational starvation which according to Madaline Albright, former US secretary of state, in the 1990’s was a “Price worth paying”, if it meant containing Saddam Hussein.
So why, in 2009, has it come as a shock that war trauma has occurred as a direct consequence of the invasion? Following the deaths of more than one million people inside of Iraq since the occupation started, the continuing Iraqi war has finally come home to Britain and now it appears, that it is our turn to start paying the price.
When Daniel Fitzsimmons returned to Iraq after finishing a stint as a “contractor” for Armor Group, little did he know that he would soon experience the “justice” system of a regime, which was partially installed by his own Labour government, that having killed two other British contractors and injuring one Iraqi, Fitzsimmons now faces a trial with the possibility of execution if found guilty of pre-meditated murder.
According to the family of Fitzsimmons and psychiatric reports, he was suffering from severe Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) with repeated flashbacks, nightmares and anxiety attacks. He had also been dismissed by the security firm Aegis while working in Iraq for “extreme negligence”. At the time he was taken on by Armor Group he was awaiting trial for assault having already been convicted in Britain of three other crimes including robbery, possession of ammunitions and public order offences.
Both his father and step-mother admitted to the British media that they weren’t even aware he had gone back to Iraq. That coupled with his addiction to alcohol and other substances, the failure of the security company to carry out proper medical checks, and with many independent witness reports stating that Fitzsimmons had appeared incredibly disturbed whilst back home, it appears that the intelligence of the two Manchester based teachers should have outweighed that of the Ministry of Defence, when they stated: “He patently should not have been allowed to go to Iraq. He is extremely poorly.”
So why on earth was he sent back? The fact that the bad publicity surrounding this case has only now forced many uncomfortable questions to be raised in the parliament is worrying. Less than one month before the case of Fitzsimmons hit the front pages across Great Britain, 25 year-old Andrew Watson threw himself off the top of a tower block in London, having saluted in front of the television, the televising of the returning bodies of eight soldiers who were brought back from Afghanistan.
Whilst serving in Basra, Watson witnessed the deaths of two friends as a result of a landmine, and on a separate occasion had to carry out bodies of dead babies from a bombed out building. According to Glynis Watson, his mother, psychologically Watson “was dead when he came back from Iraq and we were desperately trying to get him the help he needed.”
The family also believe that his suicide, which took place in July this year, coincided with his Army roll-call time and whilst his mother recalled her son “crying in my arms and saying, “I know I’m really, really ill”, she hit out at the Ministry of Defence for failing to provide him with the emotional support he needed.
Having ordered an invasion of Iraq, on the grounds of preventing Saddam from stockpiling “weapons of mass destruction”, which could be launched to hit their targets within “forty five minutes” and the countless allegations relating to human rights abuses and unproven links to Al-Qaida, the Ministry of Defence themselves admit to washing their hands of traumatised war veterans’ by claiming that they “cannot be held responsible” for what happens to Army personnel after they leave the forces.
Combat Stress: the Veterans’ Mental Welfare Society have even publicly stated that since the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, that new referrals have gone up 66 per cent, with many Veterans from the occupations resorting to self medicating drugs, substance and alcohol abuse, along with suffering from various phobic disorders.
These statistics coincide with the dramatic increase in PTSD among US soldiers returning from the potential “forty year” occupation of Afghanistan and with the Iraqi people witnessing over 90 per cent of their children living with learning impediments brought on by trauma, we can only begin to question the legacy of Blair and Brown and what the future will hold for humanity, if PTSD is not made a priority issue on the international agenda.
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This post was written by Hussein Al-alak