Recovering from Moral Injury after War
Excerpt from the book Soul Repair: Recovering from Moral Injury after War discusses how moral injury is not Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), but often overlaps with it.
When such dialogues occur, they mine a deeper level of moral questioning in which language moves from being descriptive to being deeply transformative. Speaking about moral injury places morality, justice, and human dignity at the center of public attention and exposes a collective amnesia about war, its victims and its aftermath. To listen to the witnesses of veterans that struggle with moral injury shifts the conversation from the individual issues of some soldiers after the war to larger questions about war.
The veterans that speak about their moral injury and the cost of the latest wars on US soldiers do so with a deep concern for the people they fought against. They are not asking for public interest in U.S. veterans that would disregard the realities and the humanity of Iraqi and Afghani people.
The veterans in this book are very clear about the complexity of their moral positions and do not indulge in the easy and self-indulgent stance of slipping into a victim role. They remain fiercely committed to avoiding denial and forgetting. They seek to remember what they did personally to harm others and to take responsibility for how they violated their own moral conscience as their route to recovery.
Engaging in collective conversations about moral injury and war can help us all to strengthen the moral fabric of society and the connections that tie us to the rest of the world. Our collective engagement with moral injury will teach us more about the impact of our actions and choices on each other, enable us to see the world from other perspectives, and chart pathways for our future. If we achieve deeper and more open ways to grasp the complexities of human relationships, we will be able to understand power and the vast and complex ways we can misuse our power.
We cannot turn the clock back to pre-war times; we cannot bring back the dead, or undo atrocities and environmental destruction. We must resist offering hasty forgiveness to absolve ourselves and others. If we can take the time, instead, to listen to what veterans say to us, to befriend them as we journey together toward a different world, we can together, discover how deep transformation leads us toward the moral conscience that is the deepest most important dimension of our shared humanity. In doing so, we can come to understand the honor and integrity of military service and the importance of the moral criteria for war, which the military itself teaches, and what it would require of every one of us to send any one of us to war.