Survey: Veterans of Recent Wars Deeply Ambivalent, Many Traumatized

 An important new Pew survey of veteans of "post-9/11 wars" in Iraq and Afghanistan has been released, revealing some interesting findings about this group of recent vets.

The most headline-worthy diccovery is that these soldiers aren't universally convinced the wars they fought in were for the right reasons or were "worth it" and more than half are dubious that military force can truly end terrorism:

  • Veterans are more supportive than the general public of U.S. military efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq. Even so, they are ambivalent. Just half of all post-9/11 veterans say that, given the costs and benefits to the U.S., the war in Afghanistan has been worth fighting. A smaller share (44%) says the war in Iraq has been worth it. Only one-third (34%) say both wars have been worth fighting, and a nearly identical share (33%) say neither has been worth the costs.
  • About half of post-9/11 veterans (51%) say relying too much on military force creates hatred that leads to more terrorism, while four-in-ten endorse the opposite view: that overwhelming force is the best way to defeat terrorism. The views of the public are nearly identical: 52% say too much force leads to more terrorism, while 38% say using military force is the best approach.

Meanwhile, many are having trouble reajdusting to civilian life:

  • At the same time, however, 44% of post-9/11 veterans say their readjustment to civilian life was difficult. By contrast, just 25% of veterans who served in earlier eras say the same. About half (48%) of all post-9/11 veterans say they have experienced strains in family relations since leaving the military, and 47% say they have had frequent outbursts of anger. One-third (32%) say there have been times where they felt they didn’t care about anything.
  • Nearly four-in-ten (37%) post-9/11 veterans say that, whether or not they were formally diagnosed, they believe they have suffered from post-traumatic stress (PTS). Among veterans who served prior to 9/11, just 16% say the same.
  • These psychological and emotional problems are most prevalent among post-9/11 veterans who were in combat. About half of this group (49%) say they have suffered from PTS. And about half (52%) also say they had emotionally traumatic or distressing experiences while in the military. Of those who had these types of experiences, three-in-four say they are still reliving them in the form of flashbacks or nightmares.

As we think about the 99% during this heady period of Wall Street occupation, we should remember that our veterans are among them.

There's much more fascinating datahere at the Pew report.

AlterNet / By Sarah Seltzer

Posted at October 5, 2011, 5:07am

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