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Iraq Is Such a House of Trauma, It Doesn't Take Much to Get PTSD

Our idea of what used to be called "shell shock" tends to be limited to terrible battles, not just the daily stress of living in a war zone or surviving a couple of close calls.

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It doesn't take much to develop PTSD symptoms. The folks clamoring for new wars should remember that. Those defending the Obama administration's drone-missile targeted assassination campaigns should keep that in mind, too. Admittedly, robots don’t develop the disorder, but  drone pilots hundreds or thousands of miles away are at risk, and civilians who live where drones regularly hover and strike  are already suffering from PTSD. For me, it only took a few explosions.

Civilian officials who beat their chests about making "hard choices" and "tough decisions" should listen up. They have no idea how many eggs they are breaking to make their proverbial omelets. Would it matter if they did? I suspect that it would, if they recognized that people have soft shells, if they considered how war harms most everyone it touches, if they spent even a moment laying their cold assumptions aside and empathizing with war's victims -- their victims -- both foreign and domestic.

I have a mental image of them relaxing in their homes, watching a movie. On the flat screen, scenes of war flash by, inspiring them, giving them ideas. I used to love war movies, too. Almost six years later, I still can't watch them. The old panic sets in and I have to walk away.

Jeremiah Goulka's writing has appeared in the American Prospect and Salon. He was formerly an attorney at the U.S. Department of Justice. He lives in Washington, D.C. Follow him on Twitter @jeremiahgoulka or contact him at His website is

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