Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Thoughts on Palin and the state of women

So Katie Couric is hosting Good Morning America this week and, as a counter-programming move, Today brought on Sarah Palin as a co-host for Tuesday's show. And NBC ended up winning the ratings battle. The former Governor Palin said that it was a "blast" co-hosting.

POLITICO gathered up some of the reviews:

Newsday: “It was, in other words, a slam dunk for Palin: She was poised, relaxed (more or less) and confident. All that natural, to-the-camera-born ease came out; the political savvy remains very much intact. She’ll get all the ink, and everyone, at least for the moment, will forget about Katie. She gets the free ride. Katie gets to wake up at 4 a.m. the rest of the week. Zzzzzing!”

Business Insider: “Sarah Palin has just wrapped up a guest stint on the Today Show, and the appearance was bizarre, but oddly charming.”

Well good for her. If you were reading back in the fall of 2008, you know I come from a different point on the political spectrum than Sarah Palin but that I did not bash her or trash her and defended her here many times. There were nights when I'd just want to cry after blogging because I couldn't believe that all the crap they pulled on Hillary was now being pulled on Palin and that most of the small number of brave women who defended Hillary were now either silent about the sexism aimed at Palin or, worse, taking part in it.

It was not a proud moment to be a woman or a feminist.

Looking back, I take pride in what I did here and what we did community wide. There were a few other sites outside the community (Reclusive Leftist being one) that refused to play sexist just to defeat the Republican. I appreciate that. But we were such a small number.

When I'd cry about how it was happening again and how even fewer women were speaking up, I'd think about something like Ava and C.I.'s amazing "The Vagina Strikes Back" and know that the feminists who wouldn't be pushed around were doing their part and I'd be proud to have made it into that group.

And maybe it's because of all she went through in 2008 -- or maybe because, as my cousin Stan has pointed out*, we have a relative who got her degree in the spring of 2008 and she had to start and stop and work and raise kids and our family never approved of or endorsed the attacks on Palin for being strong enough to get a degree -- but I never get any joy out of Sarah Palin failing or being mocked. And I always feel a little better about the state of women when the forces hoping to gloat over something she did are denied the chance.

There was no new episode of Unforgettable on CBS last night (in case you're wondering why I'm not blogging tonight about the best show CBS has). *And on TV, be sure to read Stan's "What is NBC's highest rated sitcom?" -- the answer may surprise you.

Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Wednesday, April 4, 2012. Chaos and violence continue, the Thursday national conference gets the axe, Tareq al-Hashemi continues his diplomatic tour of the region, PTSD issues, and more.
This week's. Black Agenda Radio, hosted by Glen Ford and Nellie Bailey (first airs each Monday at 4:00 pm EST on the Progressive Radio Network), features coverage of the United National Anti-War Coalition conference in Stamford, Connecticut where both hosts were among the speakers. Another speaker was International Action Center's Sara Flounders.
Sara Flounders: In fighting today's wars, it's more important step is building a movement that acknowledges the relationship between the war at home and the war abroad. It's a big challenge. How dare any US official lecture any, any other country on prisoners, human rights or on democracy. What hypocrisy. This -- this country has the largest prison population in the world and that's not counting the secret prisons, the secret renditions, the secret kidnappings, the drones, it's not counting immigration detention. We need to consciously step back from ever being an echo of the State Dept and their arrogant charges and target other countries. US wars, they rely on an arrogance of empire. Can they once again get a population to believe that humanitarian war is possible? That they're bringing democracy, advancement for women, an end to sectarian violence. We need an anti-war movement that is really, consciously against all US wars. That's simple. And against all the forms that US wars take today. Bombs and occupations, yes. But sanctions, sabotage, drones, media onslaughts, demonetization of leaders, racist stereotypings of whole peoples. We represent here many different political currents and traditions here in this room. And we can't and won't agree on many issues. So how do we proceed how do we stay united and keep our focus? If we focus on US imperialism, on its crimes, whatever our views on many social issues, we will be together because we need an antiwar movement that opposes US war. Consider the US-NATO war against Libya. Eleven countries simultaneously dropping bombs on a country with no means of defense all claiming they were on a humanitarian mission while they target the electric grid, the water supply, civilian communications. Now let's talk about WikiLeaks' latest Stratfor revelation -- and, by the way, Free Bradley Manning -- the latest WikiLeaks' document in the Stratfor files, they describe in some detail the White House meeting that reviews British and French and US Special Forces, units on the ground in Syria, planting bombs, running guns, training and seeking total destabilization. Now that's the truth. UNAC today stands for self-determination and demands that all US troops, drones and sabotage teams out. Unconditional US withdrawal. That's a big contribution, a big step. We can't be making demands on any country at the very time it's under attack, at the time that the bombs are falling, at the time the sanctions are strangling, Today, in the last weeks, we see the most cynical and arrogant approach. Kony. Kony 2012. Right? Invisible children? And what is it? Young people cheering AFRICOM, US troops in Africa? That's the way they sell US wars today. There's a rapidly expanding US military presence in Africa. It includes troops in Uganda, a military mission in Mali, drone bombings in Somalia, political intervention in Sudan, all under the umbrella of AFRICOM. It's blame the victim. It saturates the media and it saturates the mass movement. We need to stand up to it. And a just on a personal level and to give a comparison, there was a time when if a woman was attacked, sexually assaulted, what was the defense of the attacker, of the courts and of the police? It was to ask, what was she wearing? Doing? Where was she walking? That she invited or deserved this attack. And one gain of the women's movement was to say: It's irrelevant. That is irrelevant. That's the way we have to see US wars. That is the way. Let's talk about Syria and Libya and Iraq and Iran and Venezuela and Bolivia and Sudan. US imperialism wants to destroy each of these countries. Not because they've made any compromises to survive -- and they have. But because they've nationalized the source of wealth, because it's US domination, corporate domination, that they want. This empire has problems they can no longer solve. Capitalism can no longer bail itself out with war. The capitalist crisis is global. It's unsolvable So our unity is more important. The United National Anti-War Coalition, UNAC, was founded on the principle of self-determination for all the oppressed nations and people. What do we want to demand that they abolish NATO, we want to talk about march on the RNC and the DNC. Abolish NATO and end the wars abroad.
Yesterday, we noted Margaret Kimberley's speech to the conference. Of the conference, Glen Ford explains:

I was privileged to present the coordinating committee's draft of the Action Plan to UNAC's national conference in Stamford, Connecticut, this past weekend. "This action plan does not just target some U.S. wars," said the committee's statement. "It does not target the currently unpopular wars. It does not shy away from condemning wars that remain acceptable to half the population because the real reasons for them are obscured in the rhetoric of humanitarian intervention. It does not advocate that we avoid putting U.S. boots on the ground by mounting embargoes that bring economic devastation on the peoples of Iran. It does not condone war by other, more sanitized, means. It does not cheer on wars that minimize U.S. combat deaths by the use of robotic unmanned planes or the highly trained murder squads of the Joint Special Operations Command. It does not see war by mercenary as somehow less threatening to the peoples of the world and the U.S. than war by economic draft. It does not give credit to Washington for removing brigades from one country in order to deploy them in the next."

The document demands an end to "all wars, interventions, targeted assassinations and occupations" and U.S. withdrawal from "NATO and all other interventionist military alliances."

UNAC's reasoning is rooted in the principle that all the world's peoples have the inherent right to self-determination, to pursue their own destinies -- the foundation of relations among peoples, enshrined in international law but daily violated by the United States.

Moving from wars to one, Iraq. We're going to do a little exercise first. It's 2016. I decide to throw a party and send out invites to Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor and Al Jazeera), Sam Dagher and Gina Chon (Wall St. Journal), Liz Sly, Alice Fordham, Ernesto Londono and Ed O'Keefe (Washington Post), Jack Healy, Tim Arango. Alissa J. Rubin, Damien Cave, Sabrina Tavernise and Stephen Farrell (New York Times), Nancy A. Youssef, Sahar Issa and Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers), Deborah Haynes and James Hider (Times of London), Lourdes Garcia-Navarro, Quil Lawrence and Kelly McEvers (NPR), Borzou Daragahi, Ned Parker, Alexandra Zavis, Tina Susman (Los Angeles Times), Lara Jakes, Rebecca Santana, Hamza Hendawi and Brett Barrouquere (Associated Press), Jomana Karadsheh, Mohammed Tawfeeq and Arwa Damon (CNN), Trudy Rubin (Philadelphia Inquirer) and Anna Badkhen (San Francisco Chronicle, among others).
That's 34 people. I need a head count so I'm asking everyone to RSVP. It's a week away and only 10 have. That's not a really good sign. 12 show up (11 invited, one not invited). Tim Arango insists he Tweeted his RSVP and since I'm not on Twitter, I missed it. 5 show up just to be kind (Damien Cave, Liz Sly, Borzou Daragahi, Ed O'Keefe and Alissa J. Rubin). 5 show up to tell off the crazy bitch that's slammed everyone online for so many years (Jane Arraf, Arwa Damon, Stephen Farrell, Sam Dagher, Jomana Karadsheh and party crasher David E. Sanger). As we sit down to eat, there is silence that only momentarily vanished during dinner, most people talk to one another, I make some idiotic toast that further alienates everyone present.
The next morning, not even I am stupid enough to delude myself into thinking my dinner party was a success. If someone says to me, "Well people showed up," even I'm not stupid enough to assume they showed up due to some love for me. They showed up for various reasons including manners and to tell me off. I am not idiotic enough to assume that my decision to host a party means my hosting a party makes it a success. Good or bad (and mine was bad), my just hosting a party I invited people too does not make it a success.
The Arab League Summit was not a success for Iraq. Less than half of the heads of countries who are members of the Arab League attended. With the exception of Kuwait, no leader attended because of Nouri. Those other heads of state that attended did so for a variety of reasons but Iraq and Nouri weren't among them.
Today, Liz Sly (Washington Post) offers that "the goodwill generated between Iraq and its Arab neighbors by an extravagant summit in Baghdad last week began unraveling at speed." No goodwill was generated. Iraqi President Jalal Talabani was lavishly praised in public remarks by those attending. And some of that praise was probably for him (he was a gregarious host from all account) but some of the heavy praise was just to make a point -- via contrast -- about Nouri al-Maliki (prime minister and thug of Iraq) who got far less public praise from those attending. When you grasp that most were not there for Nouri and not impressed by Nouri, you can grasp that he's shot himself in the foot every day since as he's verbally attacked Qatar and Saudi Arabia. He has no real ties to the Arab neighbors. If Kuwait didn't want the borders redrawn, they probably wouldn't be as chummy with him as they are.
Sameer N. Yacoub (AP) broke the news this morning that the national conference had been called off according to Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi. Yamei Wang (Xinhua) adds that the the Speaker "attributed the postponement to the mounting differences among political blocs during a meeting by the prepatory committee held on Tuesday." The national conference is something that Jalal Talabani and Osama al-Nujaifi have been calling for since December 21st in order to address the ongoing political crisis.
Political Stalemate I (when Nouri wouldn't honor the results of the March 7, 2010 elections) only ended in November 2010 because all parties -- including Nouri -- agreed to the US-brokered Erbil Agreement. Once he was made prime minister -- the main gift to Nouri in the Erbil Agreement -- he tossed it aside, that's December 2010 and the start of Political Stalemate II which has been ongoing ever since. Over the summer, the Kurds began calling for a return to the Erbil Agreement. They were then joined by Iraqiya (who came in first in the March 7, 2010 elections) and Moqtada al-Sadr, among others. The Erbil Agreement found Nouri making various concessions if the others would allow him to remain prime minister. But he got to be prime minister and trashed the agreement, refusing to honor what he agreed to, the very things that made the other political blocs sign off on the agreement.
Maliki had agreed to hold the reconciliation conference as a last-minute concession to the Sunnis and Kurds ahead of the Baghdad summit, which the government hoped would showcase Iraq as stable, safe and assuming its rightful place in the firmament of Arab nations after the withdrawal of U.S. troops late last year.
But relations with Arab states have since been deteriorating fast, along with any hopes that Iraq will soon be able to resolve its own internal problems. On Sunday, Maliki issued a forceful defense of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, saying his ouster would destabilize the region. On the same day, at a U.S.-backed gathering of "Friends of Syria" in Istanbul, Saudi Arabia endorsed a plan to fund and equip Syrian rebels.
Did Nouri want the meet up to take place? Rami Ruhayem (BBC News) argues that today "his opponents said they would not attend, and his allies said there was no point."
This morning, before the meet-up got the axe, Dar Addustour reported on Nouri's paranoia and how he was girding himself for a possible takeover attempt. He doesn't name Barzani but, as Dar Addustour points out, that is who he's referring to when he frets that he may be replaced. Nouri fears his puppet masters in the US may be about to dump him and that's why Barzani is in DC. (Why would the White House dump him? Nouri thinks they might move towards someone more willing to favor an attack on Syria.) He also fears Tareq al-Hashemi's current diplomatic tour of other countries might have something to do with Arab leaders of other countries gearing up for a coup. Unnamed confidants of Nouri state that he is preparing himself for those possibilities and also for a military coup staged by Iraqi security forces loyal to DC. (Last month, State of Law repeatedly floated that there were several Iraqi military officers -- high ranking -- who were spying for the United States.)
Does that really sound like he wanted the meet-up?
Yamei Wang (Xinhua) reports, "Nujaifi attributed the postponement to the mounting differences among political blocs during a meeting by the prepatory committee held on Tuesday." Wang's reporting that the agenda was agreed to but some other issues came up on Tuesday.
Nouri al-Maliki is not a genius, he's barely literate. But when throwing out possibilities, it's worth remembering that Nouri stalls and stalls and stalls again. He stalled on the national conference to begin with. As Liz Sly noted he postponed it until after the Arab League Summit. Most of the other players -- not just Iraqiya -- were saying that it needed to be held in February, then that it needed to take place before the summit.
The reason for the national conference is what? The Erbil Agreement. He's stalled on implementing that for over a year. When the major protests hit Iraq on February 25, 2011 and the people were demanding basic services, jobs and end to corruption and to the 'disappearing' of people in Iraq's legal system, what did Nouri do?
He said, "Give me 100 days and I'll address it." He took 100 days, he never addressed it. Even now, approximately 400 days after he asked for 100 days, he's never addressed the issues that Iraqis raised. He stalls and stalls. He hopes people forget or that he can exhaust them. That's what he did in his first term as prime minister.
Others may have called off the meet-up (they may not). But if something happened on Tuesday night to bring about this decision, don't put it past Nouri to have instigated that. It his pattern.
The political crisis did not start half-way into December when Nouri started demanding Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq be stripped of his post and then that Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi be arrested. That is, however, when certain media outlets began to take the ongoing political crisis seriously. (Please note, that week that started with Nouri ordering al-Hashemi arrested, it was never news to American broadcast network news because the only one that reported on it that week was The NewsHour on PBS -- CBS Evening News, ABC World News Tonight and NBC Nightly News all ignored the prime minister ordering the arrest of the vice president.)
An Iraqi correspondent for McClatchy Newspapers reviewed much of that time yesterday at Inside Iraq noting:
In a press conference Maliki said that he had a criminal file on Hashimi that he had been sitting on for three years, and was now ready to prosecute him. For the objective observer, the timing of this announcement was telling. [. . .] Confessions of Hashimi's security personnel were aired on state television and an arrest warrent for Hashim himself was issued and also made public on state TV -- All this publicity on Maliki's side in order to burn the bridges and make any political deal impossible in this country where government is glued together with political deals.
A day after al-Hashemi went to the KRG, Nouri issued the arrest warrant. Tareq al-Hashemi has remained in the KRG as a guest of Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and KRG President Massoud Barzani. Until Sunday when he traveled to Qatar. Despite Nouri's bluster, Qatar refused his request to extradite al-Hashemi (who stated it was a visit and that he'd return to the KRG when he finished his diplomatic tour. Habib Toumi (Gulf News) explains, "Al Hashemi was received by the Qatari Emir Shaikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani received Al Hashemi at his court." Alsumaria notes that when asked at a press conference today, Osama al-Nujaifi declared that he understood al-Hashemi to be making an official trip and that, as he understood it, al-Hashemi would be returning to the KRG.
Mohammed Jamjoon (CNN) reports that al-Hashemi has now traveled onto Sadui Arabia. Jamjoon quotes Usama al-Nugali, spokesperson for Saudi Arabia's Foreign Ministry, stating, "He came to Saudi Arabia and met with Prince Saudi Al-Faisal, the foreign minister. He is, after all, the vice president of Iraq."
Turning to the topic of violence, AFP reports that a Baquba sticky bombing claimed 1 life today. AGI notes 5 people have been killed in a Dhuluiya car bombing with at least ten more injured. Fang Yang (Xinhua) reports, "The booby-trapped car went off when a team of police explosive experts were defusing a roadside bomb nearby in the town of al-Duluiyah, some 90 km north of Baghdad, the source from Salahudin's operations command said on condition of anonymity." AFP offers, "The police officer said that the explosion took place at about 8:30 am (5:30 GMT) when Dhuluiyah police chief Colonel Qandil Khalil's convoy was passing by." And they also note, "It was the second attack against Colonel Khalil's convoy this year, after a previous car bombing in January that he also survived." Dhuluiya is in Salahuddin Province. Yesterday journalist Kamiran Salahudin was killed in the province by a sticky bombing. Also yesterday, Al Sabaah reports, the Turkish military shelled Dohuk and Erbil in their continued pursuit of the PKK. The paper notes that the shelling was continuous and lasted for approximately 30 hours.

Dropping back to Monday's snapshot:

Lastly, Jonathan Fisher (WebProNews) covers new threats to the internet from around the world and he notes this on Iraq:
According to a translation from the Centre for Law and Democracy, Articles 3, 4, and 5 of Iraq's Informatics Crimes Law would impose a mandatory life sentence for anyone using a computer or the Internet to do any of the following:
      "compromise" the "unity" of the state;
      subscribe, participate, negotiate, promote, contract or deal with an enemy … in order to destabilize security and public order or expose the country to danger;
      damage, cause defects, or hinder [systems or networks] belonging to security military, or intelligence authorities with a deliberate intention to harm [state security].
      promote "ideas which are disruptive to public order";
      "implement terrorist operations under fake names or to facilitate communication with members or leaders of terrorist groups";
      "promote terrorist activites and ideologies or to publish information regarding the manufacturing, preparation and implementation of flammable or explosive devices, or any tools or materials used in the planning or execution of terrorist acts";
      facilitate or promote human trafficking "in any form";
      engage in "trafficking, promoting or facilitating the abuse of drugs".
The Act also includes provisions to punish network users who "create chaos in order to weaken the trust of the electronic system of the state," "provoke or promote armed disobedience," "disturb public order or harm the reputation of the country," or "intrude, annoy or call computer and information network users without authorization or hinders their use," the Electronic Freedom Foundation reports. Copyright infringement and hacking would also land users in big trouble under the Act, which proposes a 2- to 3-year prison term for either offense.

Today Alice Fordham (Washington Post) reports on attempts to curb speech in Iraq where bills are being considered that could imprison people who criticize the government or make new requirements/hurdles for demonstrating. She speaks with Iraqi blogger Hayder Hamzoz:

The law also contains a sentence of life imprisonment for using computers or social networks to compromise "the independence of the state or its unity, integrity, safety."
Hamzoz, who does not use his real name out of concern for his safety, said he believes the legislationis intended to allow the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to control social media. The government essentially did just that more than a year ago, when it swiftly smothered an uprising inspired by the Arab Spring revolts sweeping the region.
"It's to attack the activists," he said.
Moving over to the United States, Senator Patty Murray is the Chair of Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. Her office notes:

Wednesday, April 4th,

CONTACT: Murray Press Office
2012 (202) 224-2834

TOMORROW: Murray in Spokane with VA Health Officials to Host Roundtable Discussion with Local Veterans, Tour Homeless Veterans Facility

Veterans will discuss experiences with homelessness, mental health issues, and transition

(Washington, D.C.) – Tomorrow, Thursday, April 5th, U.S. Senator Patty Murray will hold a roundtable discussion with VA officials and local veterans in Spokane to discuss a range of topics including veterans homelessness, issues specific to female veterans, mental health, basic service problems in rural Washington, and transition. Following the roundtable, Senator Murray and Dr. Petzel, Under Secretary for Health in the Department of Veterans Affairs, will tour the Spokane Veterans Homelessness Outreach Center. Senator Murray will discuss her efforts to improve veterans care and benefits nationwide, and will use the stories and suggestions she hears on Thursday to fight for local veterans in Washington, D.C.

WHO: U.S. Senator Patty Murray

Dr. Petzel, Under Secretary for Health in the Department of Veterans Affairs

Dr. Bastian, Chief of Behavioral Health at the SVAMC

Julie Liss, Women's Veterans Coordinator at the SVAMC

John Davis, Program Coordinator, Healthcare for Homeless Veterans

Monica Giles, Program Coordinator at the SVAMC

Local veterans

WHAT: Roundtable with local veterans and service providers about the difficulties they face in regards to:

homelessness, women veteran's issues, mental health, and transition.


Roundtable begins at 12:00 PM PT, tour will take place immediately following roundtable

WHERE: Spokane Veterans Homelessness Outreach Center

705 W. Second Avenue

Spokane, WA 99201-4412

A new study of PTSD by UCLA's Semel Institute (and published in the Journal of Affective Disorders) is garnering attention. Stephanie O'Neill (KPCC -- link is text and audio) reports, "The new study suggests that a person is more likely to suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or if they carry two particular gene variations that interfere with the body's ability to produce Serotonin. That's the brain chemical that regulates, mood, sleep and alertness." Medical News Today quotes the study's lead author, Dr. Armen Goenjian, stating, "People can develop post-traumatic stress disorder after surviving a life-threatening ordeal like war, rape or a natural disaster ... If confirmed, our findings could eventually lead to new ways to screen people at risk for PTSD and target specific medicines for preventing and treating the disorder." Science Daily notes, "PTSD can arise following child abuse, terrorist attacks, sexual or physical assault, major accidents, natural disasters or exposure to war or combat. Symptoms include flashbacks, feeling emotionally numb or hyper-alert to danger, and avoiding situations that remind one of the original trauma." The study examined 200 survivors of the December 7, 1988 Armenian earthquake which claimed at least 45,000 lives.

On the topic of PTSD, Randy Griffith (Tribune-Democrat) explains, "There are three general characteristics of the disorder, Zitnay said. They are re-experiencing the trauma, avoidance and hyper-arousal. Those with PTSD re-experience the event through nightmares, flashbacks and increased anxiety when reminded of the event. Avoidance is characterized by seclusion, amnesia of the incident and taking pains to stay away from locations, people or objects associated with the trauma." Shuka Kalantari (KALW) reports on PTSD by speaking to Iraqi refugee Jasmine who studies engineering in California.

Shuka Kalantari: Jasmine remembers one of those flashbacks. She was at a women's studies class at her college in San Jose. They were watching a documentary about a war in Chile. After the film, the teacher asked students to try and imagine how their life would be if they lived in war.

Jasmine: So she tried like to make the student feel like the feelings of these people. So she stated [. . .] to the class, "You imagine that you lost your husband." As she came to me, "You imagine that they tried to kidnap you."

Shuka Kalantari: Jasmine didn't have to imagine.

Jasmine: I feel like I'm out of air. I left the class and I remained outside -- for over like 20 hours just like crying in a way.

Shuka Kalantari: For the next her mind was flooded with bad memories. She said that even seemingly unrelated things would trigger her symptoms.

Jasmine: Sometimes like part of songs would make me like really like sad and depression if something happened to me. I feel like I'm out of the war for a couple of days.

Shuka Kalantari speaks to the Center for Survivors of Torture's Dr. James Livingston who explains PTSD is fairly common among those forced to flee their homes. Jasmine's father was shot dead in Baghdad and she left the country when it appeared she was being targeted for kidnapping.
The Defense Dept needs to get out the message that PTSD knows no boundaries, that it could happen to anyone and that seeking treatment is taking control of PTSD. As part of that effort, they have released this video of Chaplain Steve Dundas discussing his PTSD.

Chaplain: Steve Dudnas: I am Lt Commander Steve Dundas. I've been in the military 30 years, the Navy since 1999. When we got to Iraq our mission was to support US Marine Corps and Army advisers across the entire Al Anbar Province. These teams were out by themselves and they would very seldom if ever see a chaplain because of their isolation. I would go out and provide counseling, religious services. The hardest parts of the deployment? One, I've had a lot of experience as a trauma department chaplain and seen a lot of death. But when I got there and actually saw our wounded Marines and soldiers, prayed with them, anointed them, that was one of the really hard things -- was to see what war does to these warriors. I had studied a lot about PTSD and dealt with Marines who had it. I thought I was pretty much untouchable to it because I thought I'd seen everything. But I was really surprised by some of the things I saw and the impact that they had. The sites, the smells especially. The exhaustion. The travel. We went through some of the most dangerous areas of Iraq. Occasionally got shot at. And there was always an understanding that al Qaeda had chaplains at the top of their target list. When I came back to the States, I just felt so disconnected from people, church. I didn't even know if God still existed. And that was one of the most painful parts of my life. Prayer became really hard. Just going -- Doing life became really hard. I was depressed, angry, on edge all of the time. Finally, our medical officer did an assessment and was convinced that I was really starting to suffer PTSD and got me connected with the Deployment Health Clinic at Portsmouth Naval Medical Center and I started seeing a therapist there trying to figure out how to deal with my experiences. For me, writing is something that allows me to work through things and if I didn't write them out [they] would gnaw at me. And some of that deals with my own struggles with PTSD and faith, some of it deals with how I see the world now, and part of it are those things that are part of me: my dad, growing up, baseball. About the only place I can be in a crowd of people and still feel really safe is at a baseball game. And part of it is just the way the diamond's laid out and just the peacefulness of it. My role as a chaplain is to provide the spiritual support as they make this journey and as they begin to open up about what they've gone through. But many times, it requires more than just the chaplain. And so, I'll say, I know it's scary but I think that you need to seek the help of a mental health professional because it's a way to get better. And I tell them my experiences which are good experiences with both the therapists I've had. That they understood and they didn't push me to some track that I was unable to go to. I realize that you can't go back, you can't go back to what you were, you have to adapt to what you are. Do you want to be healthy? Yes. Do you want to be well adjusted? Yes. Does that mean you're going to be the same person you were before you went to war? No. Nobody is. But that's okay if we open ourselves up to get help. It's not something that we're going to be better overnight. What it will be though is a step on the way to healing, a step on the way to integrating those experiences with our daily life now. I don't think it is weakness to seek help. In fact, I think it's a sign of strength. I think it's a sign that you want to move forward. And what I hope is that when I spend time with people, when I share with people, when I listen to people, that I can help them to begin that process if they haven't already started. And to encourage them if they're already getting some therapy. Provide that extra bit of support, that extra bit of connection so that they don't feel that they're alone.

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