Pentagon & Congress

Sebastian Junger: American political extremism is hurting the troops

WASHINGTON — Noted war journalist Sebastian Junger thinks partisan politics is hurting troops.

Junger, who has authored numerous books on the impact of combat both during and after military service, visited Capitol Hill Wednesday to testify before the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee on issues related to military post-traumatic stress disorder.

But his comments also covered what he sees as a lack of leadership among politicians on Capitol Hill and how that has had a negative effect on service members’ morale, resiliency and missions. Without a more responsible approach, he warned, problems like PTSD and veteran isolation will only increase.

Below is an except from his testimony:

"In order for soldiers to avoid something called ‘moral injury,’ they have to believe they are fighting for a just cause. And that just cause can only reside in a nation that truly believes in itself as an enduring entity.

"When it became fashionable after the election for some of my fellow Democrats to declare that Donald Trump was ‘not their president,’ they put all of our soldiers at risk of moral injury.

"And when Donald Trump charged repeatedly that Barack Obama — (then) the commander in chief — was not even an American citizen, he surely demoralized many soldiers who were fighting under orders from that White House.

"For the sake of our military personnel, if not for the sake of our democracy, such statements should be quickly and forcefully repudiated by the offending political party. And if that is not realistic, at least this committee — which is charged with overseeing the welfare of our servicemen and women — should issue a bipartisan statement rejecting such rhetorical attacks on our national unity.

"That unity is all soldiers have when they face the enemy, and you must do everything in your power to make sure that it is not taken away from them."

Leo Shane III covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He can be reached at

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