It should also be noted that Parnell’s acknowledgements, especially those directed to and honoring his family, both actual and extended, imply that the cure for what ailed him, for his “dis-ease” was to be found in the private realm. That is, there was, in his mind, no connection between his “dis-ease” and the political order in which he lived, had fought, and had killed. It was in “the family” that he found “the support” to go on, apparently also to “cure” his “dis-ease.”
So there would be no need to confront or even discuss the policies that had taken Sean Parnell and many others into Afghanistan. Those policies were, for all practical purposes, irrelevant to the suffering, the anger, the loneliness, the depression that Parnell and others felt as a result of their service to their country.
But this take on matters must seem especially controversial, even weird, because how could it possibly be the case that what Parnell was doing in Afghanistan, the policies he was implementing and those he was victimized by – such as the duplicity of the Pakistani government and armed forces – had not affected him deeply? And it doesn’t take much insight to see, after reading Outlaw Platoon, that Parnell was affected and affected deeply by those policies. And is it any wonder that given these policies and their futility that significant numbers of military personnel suffer from what are called psychological traumas as a result of their “service?”
That these traumas have political roots needs to be recognized, not buried or obscured by a kind of “psychologizing” that focuses on individuals and their “character” or lack thereof. A politics of the warrior and of the leader asks human beings to be a certain way, and it is anything but clear that that way is good for the human soul, for the human psyche. It could well be that “the war on terror” actually terrorizes those fighting it. And this too is a remarkable state of affairs.