On Tuesday, 19th October the Australian Parliament will debate Australian military involvement in the war and occupation of Afghanistan. Stand Fast, a group of veterans and former military personnel opposed to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, is calling on the debate to openly consider and recognise the hidden casualties of this war and the long term cost this has on communities.
Hamish Chitts, Stand Fast spokesperson and veteran of East Timor, said,
“Much has been made of the sharp increase in soldiers’ deaths and physical wounding in Afghanistan over the past few months, we’d like to point out that since 2001 there has been thousands of Australian troops psychologically injured in Afghanistan since 2001. These casualties have been deliberately hidden by the government and Australian Defence Force and need to be brought out in the open if any serious examination of ADF involvement in the war is to be had.”
According to a 2008 report by the RAND Corporation, nearly one in three U.S. service members returning from Iraq and Afghanistan are affected by post traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injuries or major depression. Already in the US the number of veteran suicides have outnumbered the number of those killed on the battlefield.
“We simply cannot get the figures for Australian veterans, but, given the similar cultural and economic societies in Australia and the US and the fact that ADF personnel are operating in the same hostile environment it’s logical to conclude a similar psychological casualty rate amongst the thousands of Australian troops that have been deployed to Afghanistan. As veterans of conflicts from WWII through to Iraq we know through our own experiences and those of our mates that no one comes back the same,” Chitts said.
“While thousands of veterans will have to deal with these hidden injuries for the rest of their lives from a war not worth fighting in the first place, it does not stop there. Partners, children and even grandchildren can suffer psychological injuries as a result of a veteran’s own injuries,” said Chitts.
Information collated from a “grassroots” self-reported study conducted by the Partners of Veterans Association of Australia of 2500 children and grandchildren of Australian Vietnam War veterans has found that 70% of children and 30% of grandchildren suffer mental health problems. The general Australian average of people suffering these problems is 18%. A supplementary report to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare study Morbidity of Vietnam veterans
(2000) found that the children of Vietnam veterans have three times the suicide rate of the general community.
“Will Julia Gillard or Tony Abbott go to the hundreds of funerals of those who kill themselves as a result of this war and give noble speeches about sacrifice – I think not,” Chitts said.
“We need this debate to expose the real cost of this war on Australian communities, while at the same time also considering the almost genocidal scale of psychological injuries being inflicted upon the people of Afghanistan by the occupation that both Gillard and Abbott support. These reasons alone expose the lies that this war somehow makes us safer and somehow improves the lives of the people of Afghanistan. Stand Fast believes this debate is nine years too late and we call on the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan,” said Chitts.
For more information:
Phone Hamish 0401 586 923