The Role of Political Practices in Moral Injury: A Study of Afghanistan Veterans
SourcePolitical Psychology, 40, 2, (2019), pp. 261-275
29 augustus 2018
Article / Letter to editor
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SubjectGlobal-Local Divides and Connections (GLOCAL); Institute for Management Research
While much research has been conducted on military trauma, conceptualizations of deployment‐related suffering have been predominantly approached through a medical, individual‐focused lens. Since the military is an instrument of the state, it is crucial to expand the conceptual scope to include political processes, particularly for the fast‐growing literature on “moral injury,” which refers to the emotional impact of perpetrating, witnessing, or falling victim to perceived wrongdoing. This article examines the role of political practices in the onset of moral injury as well as the micropolitical responses of morally injured veterans. A study of the Dutch mission in Uruzgan, Afghanistan, shows that decisions and frames at the political level helped create distressing quandaries on the ground and that in all the ways the political leadership acknowledged the problems that veterans subsequently developed, it also maintained a silence on its direct contribution to these problems, as such perpetuating them. Consequently, veterans tried to make the political leadership take a material and symbolic share in their burden. Clearly, moral conflict may exist both in the veteran and between the veteran and the political domain, and therefore, experiences of institutional betrayal and a resultant search for reparations should be included in theory on moral injury.
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