In late December 2013 Heather Linebaugh wrote a powerful piece for The Guardian discussing her experience with United States Air Force from 2009 until March 2012. Linebaugh worked in intelligence as an imagery analyst and geo-spatial analyst for the drone program in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The article called out politicians and pundits who praise and support the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Predator and Reaper program without accurately conveying the violence and trauma that results from the program.
“How many soldiers have you seen die on the side of a road in Afghanistan because our ever-so-accurate UAVs [unmanned aerial vehicles] were unable to detect an IED [improvised explosive device] that awaited their convoy?”
Linebaugh makes it clear that the idea that these machines are “unmanned” is false. She writes, “It’s also important for the public to grasp that there are human beings operating and analyzing intelligence these UAVs. UAV proponents claim that troops who do this kind of work are not affected by observing this combat because they are never directly in danger physically.”
The human beings behind the UAVs are susceptible to Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and suicide attempts just like the soldiers on the ground. This is an important point that goes against the narrative that the drones keep people safer and soldiers out of harm’s way.
Since her time in the Air Force Ms. Linebaugh has chosen to focus on pursuing methods of healing from PTSD related to her experiences. Specifically, she is interested in alternatives to psychotropic drugs. I recently spoke with her about her move towards alternative healing methods.
In the interview Heather discusses yoga and transcendental meditation being effective for helping her manage stress levels. Her personal experiences are confirmed in studies on meditation and breathing. A new study from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, published in the Journal of Traumatic Stress, found that a practice known as Sudarshan Kriya Yoga can help those with PTSD better manage their situation. The idea behind this is that breathing affects the autonomous nervous system, so a consistent breathing practice as seen in yoga can help manage symptoms of PTSD such as hyperarousal.
Cannabis is also discussed and widely known for its medicinal benefits. The group Veterans for Medical Marijuana have written about the plants ability to help PTSD victims. Ben Swann recently did a Truth in Media report on the medical marijuana industry, CBD, and THC.
Cannabis is not the only medicine available to PTSD sufferers. 3,4-methylenedioxy-N-methylamphetamine, or MDMA is another controversial substance that has been shown to relief symptoms. MDMA is more commonly known as the street drug ecstasy. Despite the Drug War propaganda, MDMA has a history of being studied by psychologists for its many potential benefits. More recently, studies have begun to look at the possibilities for treating PTSD with MDMA.
Other alternatives include spending time in flotation or isolation tanks. WKRC recently reported on a veteran based in Austin, Texas who has begun treating his PTSD symptoms through “float therapy”. In the therapy participants are suspended in 12 inches of salt-water. Army Veteran Cody Austell said, “When I come into here I literally just, it allows me to not be distracted by everything else around me and purely focus on what’s going on with me.”
There have also been interest in the potential benefits for gardening therapy treatments for PTSD.
As important as it was for Heather Linebaugh to speak out about her experiences working with drones and the lies that are sold to the American public, it is just as important to shift the focus on how to heal the men and women who are suffering from their time in America’s many wars. If the public wants to support the troops it might be time to listen to them. Veterans like Heather Linebaugh are looking for help and healing. I say it’s time we start listening.