The war in Afghanistan has taken a devastating toll on mental health–from depression to suicide, domestic violence to murderous rampages. And financial and family strains, as well as attempts at self-medication, have exacerbated the casualty count.
I am talking about the war’s effect on Afghans. But after U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales allegedly massacred at least 17 civilians, including nine children, on March 11, media and experts quickly rallied to lament how the mental stress of Bales’ multiple combat deployments provided sympathetic context to the Panjwai butchery. The ignored context is an Afghan population traumatized by more than four decades of cultural and military devastation wrought by invading armies, mercenaries, women-hating Taliban and warlords – on top of a life expectancy in the low 60s.