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Thursday, July 22, 2004

PTSD and Washington 

Richard Cohen's column Our Forgotten Panic is a good one. I know we are a great and brave country, but sometimes we react to threats by simply going to pieces. It's great that we have multiple commissions looking into intelligence failures, but none of those commissions will come close to the greatest intelligence failure of all -- our inability to use our heads when we most needed to. The terrorist attacks coupled with the anthrax scare unhinged us a bit -- or maybe more than a bit. We eventually went into a war that now makes little sense and that, without a doubt, was waged for reasons that simply did not exist. We did so, I think, because we were scared. You could say we lacked judgment. Maybe. I would say we lacked leadership.
Before the war, John LeCarre wrote an article entited The United States of America Has Gone Mad, and Margaret Atwood wrote A Letter to America just after the war began. I reread both after seeing Cohen's column because they both also discussed America's panic and fear. Now, I don't think it matters how great and brave a country is, just about everyone always reacts to trauma, initially, by going to pieces. But after 911, I think everyone in Washington descended into Post Traumatic Stress Disorder - some of the symptoms of poor coping with PTSD are "isolation, workaholism, violent behavior, angry intimidation of others . . . and self-destructive behavior" -- and doesn't this just characterize Washington over the last three years? Its a tragedy that the Bush administration took the cynical approach, using America's panic and playing on Bush's own cowardice, just to advance the neocon political agenda and make a few bucks. America deserved better.

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