Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Some observations about post combat stress issues

An account  has surfaced in Sushant Singh's book  which speaks of a Para (Cdo) officer ordering his Man Friday/Buddy to kill a 2 yo toddler during one of the IPKF operations. The  officer is identified in the account as Bhaduria. AFAIK there were two officers that match that name in the Para (Cdo) battalions in IPKF ops. I think I know who this is, but as I am not certain who this is I don't want to name names.

The IPKF was the first time that the IA carried out large COIN ops outside India. The UN experiences were nothing like what was encountered by IA in Op Pawan. The traditional civilian controls which exist on IA COIN ops inside India were completely absent in SL. There was little to no coordination and the result was a total fuckup. The IPKF killed RAW-OSO people, they killed Para(Cdo) operators on recon missions, they killed Tamil and Sinhala civilians - they handed a political victory to the LTTE. This account summarizes why some Indians called it the Indian People Killing Force at the time*.

I realize that the IPKF was mistake to begin with but this account is above and beyond the pale.  I find the act described here unconscionable. The decision to kill the toddler was deliberate and the officer clearly disregarded the warnings of his own conscience. Ordering your bodyguard to do something you can't bring yourself to do is simply disgusting. There is no justification for this. The officer's claims of the kid probably becoming a suicide bomber are totally absurd.

This officer has brought dishonor to the men of the Para.The whole point of using special forces instead of bombing people from the sky is to avoid killing innocents especially children. I can understand if someone is killed by mistake but to order your buddy to to do it when your own conscience doesn't let you is the opposite of everything that the special forces stand for. I don't expect this level of competence from every IA officer, but I do expect it from an SF officer.

At the very least the officer should have resigned his commission. I find it extremely hard to respect such an officer. I find it appalling that the officer continued in his position. I guess the standards for a probie weren't high enough back in the day!

This brings me some issues that I have known about for a while but not shared due to reasons of sensitivity. Without getting into details about how and why I came to have this information, I present to you my views on post combat stress. Bear in mind I am not a  professional so if you fit any of the descriptions listed here, please reach out to a mental health professional- they are better placed to help you than you may realize.

Barring issues like forms of high functioning emotional autism, homicidal psychopathy or extreme narcissistic personality disorders etc...

1) If you knowingly kill kids (accidentally or deliberately) in combat you will most likely take your own life. This act is so morally abhorrent that it is matter of time before you kill yourself. This is mental trauma that no normal human being can carry for very long.  You can mute that voice in your head but it will eventually make itself heard. Professional mental health care can compensate for a while, but the basic act is so toxic that it will take you down. It is highly possible that the mental health professional you see will be equally damaged by the mere act of interacting with you. See reports about the Nidal Hussein case in the US for more helpful hints.

2) If you have knowingly killed innocent adults (accidentally or deliberately) in combat you will need medication. If you do not get professional mental health care you will most likely end up with substance abuse issues. These issues will cascade into damaged relationships and the vortex of negativity will ultimately lead you to suicide. Counseling and psycho therapy may offer some relief but these wounds are as real as a severed arm or leg and healing may be a permanent process rather than an achievable goal.

3) If you have seen high intensity combat with a lot of death, or you have suffered physical injury - you will see a lot of the symptoms of PTSD - i.e. lack of sleep, panic attacks, depression etc... these fortunately can be addressed through available mental health paradigms and it is best to seek help when it is available.

Any mental health issue when left untreated can become very nasty. In a socially cohesive unit like a family or a hierarchical organization - toxicity at the top can cascade or infect others. A small personal mental health issue can become a terrible case of toxic leadership.

If you are an officer or have command responsibilities, it is your personal responsibility to keep the people you command from toxic influence. Your personal failure to manage your mental health need not cascade into a mental health issue that affects the performance of your unit. You need to look past the culture of toxic masculinity and relieve yourself of command. To do otherwise is to fail your oath of loyalty**.

* Back in the day, those people were considered as anti-national as RW-Bhakts think Arundhati Roy is. I used to hate people that called the IPKF names but then I realized they actually knew what they were talking about. My enlightenment came from an India Today cover which showed an 18 yo IA soldier lying dead in Jaffa as an LTTE cadre walked past him. That picture instantly told me something was completely wrong with the IPKF - that it was not being welcomed as a liberator by the Tamils.As I "red-pilled" I realized the truth and became very careful in what I said.  I realize the idiot brigade in the BJP lives in a suspended reality where details of actual COIN ops do not penetrate but that BJP leadership will not shut this down tells you how bad things have become in India. Modiji's reliance on his Twitter Army is what is making it so bad.

** The reason I am bringing this up is that MOUT/COIN is becoming the war of the future. This is a problem in the US and in IN and elsewhere too. I realize the IA is going through a crisis of sorts over the actions of Major Gogoi of the RR. The human shield incident is an example of toxic leadership. I realize that the COAS is caught in a political quandary but I hope he can find his way to greater mental clarity on this issue.

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