The Curmudgeon


Sunday, February 03, 2008

Soldiering On

Despite the distinct possibility that troops will soon be needed as replacements for disaffected policemen, postmen, schoolteachers, midwives and so forth, New New Labour continues to treat war veterans with the sort of contempt usually reserved for pensioners, single mothers and other people without guns.

In the face of a significant increase in referrals of war veterans by doctors to charities that assist with post-traumatic stress, the Government has moved on from the good old British line that there is no such thing as shell shock: "It is our policy that mental health issues should be properly recognised and appropriately handled," said a spokesbeing for the Ministry of Humanitarian Intervention, which recently closed Britain's only remaining dedicated military hospital. A "national network" of fifteen military mental health departments has been opened in hospitals around the country, and the Ministry says that the rate of discharge from the army because of psychological illness is "low", thanks doubtless to the wonders of PFI and the well-known sensitivity of the British military to the emotional difficulties of its human resources.

Psychiatric treatment for post-traumatic stress is largely unavailable without a war pension, but war pensions are unavailable unless it can be proved that the stress is linked to the war rather than to, say, being dropped on the head at birth or to the kind of treatment that gets meted out to teenagers at places like Deepcut. "If a link is proved, then [veterans] will receive a war pension," the Ministry spokesbeing assured. The catch, of course, is just how to prove the link. If a soldier comes home from Iraq and commits suicide, how is the Ministry to know that they did it because of war trauma and not out of a lazy, single-motherish urge to defraud the taxpayer?


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