The foreign war of occupation in Afghanistan is coming home with a stunningly high incidence of spousal abuse, suicide attempts, assaults in bars and drunk driving by Canadian soldiers who survive one or more tours of duty.
From privates to warrant officers, light-armoured-vehicle drivers to snipers, those with physical injuries and those without, the proportion suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is skyrocketing.
According to a Toronto Star study, at the Phoenix Centre for Children and Families, near Canadian Forces Base Petawawa, 170 km north-west of Ottawa, the military family caseload has soared from 12 in 2005 to 85 today, with 20 on the waiting list. The Centre is grappling with issues from bed wetting and aggression, to domestic violence, depression and marital breakdown. Conflict and depression often lead to substance abuse, assault with a weapon, impaired driving and confinement.
“More deployments actually compound the stress on many of our soldiers,” says the Centre’s Director Greg Lubimiv.
Since 2006, the proportion of military family clients at Phoenix who have experienced the stress of multiple deployments has risen from 33 per cent to higher than 60 per cent.
In the seven years the Canadian state has been part of the imperialist occupation of the mineral-rich, oil and gas cross-roads of Afghanistan, 26,800 Canadians have been deployed and 120 have died. This is the most of any Canadian intervention since the Korean War. More than 400 have been injured by improvised explosive devices (IEDs), mines, rocket attacks and direct combat. At least 1000 have suffered severe psychological trauma.
More than one in five Canadian soldiers and police officers who spend time in Afghanistan leave the force with psychiatric problems, a number that has rapidly risen in the last 12 months.
And this is to say nothing about the devastation caused to Afghanistan and its people. Nearly eight thousand Afghan civilians have died from insurgent and foreign military action, 50 to 60 per cent killed directly by NATO forces. In addition, up to 20,000 Afghan civilians died as a consequence of displacement, starvation, disease, exposure, lack of medical treatment, crime and lawlessness resulting from the war.
By all accounts, the situation is only getting worse. The time has come to demand: Canada Out of NATO. NATO Out of Afghanistan. Now! – Barry Weisleder