By Tony Russell

"Well, folks, as you know, we've been commissioned to conduct a mental health survey following reports of widespread depression and a rather disturbing rash of suicides among U.S. troops in Iraq. Congratulations on being selected to design and implement the survey. To kick things off, why don't we just brainstorm on issues we might want to include in our survey. Dave?"

"Uh, Ed, could you give us some idea of the scope of the problem here? How many suicides are we talking about, anyway?"

"Good question, Dave. This seems to be the situation: Most of the suicides have actually taken place after the President declared an end to major combat operations on May 1. There have been seventeen suicides, officially, which is about three times the usual rate, but even that may be inaccurate. Dozens of other deaths are being investigated. Over five hundred soldiers were evacuated recently because of mental health concerns. Yes, Mark?"

"Do we have any preliminary data to work with, Ed?"

"We do have a starting point, Mark. Stars and Stripes did a survey of about 2,000 troops in Iraq, and nearly half said their morale was 'low' or 'very low.' A third also indicated that their mission was 'not clearly defined' or 'not at all defined.' Almost as many said the war in Iraq was 'of little value' or 'of no value at all.'"

[Voice from audience] "Excuse me, but is it really that hard to figure out why the troops in Iraq are depressed? Aren't the causes clear enough?"

"Would you please raise your hand, Lola, rather than shouting out like that?"

"I've been waving my hand. You just won't call on me."

"You're imagining things, Lola. I'd like to have everyone's input, even including yours."

"What!? Why 'even including mine'?"

"If you must know, Lola, questions have been raised about your loyalty. I had to assure my superiors that you would be a team player."

"A 'team player'? What's that supposed to mean? I'm a psychologist, not a football player."

"Lola, our mission is to help safeguard the mental health of troops who are defending our freedom and helping build a model for democracy in the Middle East. We have received a rather sizable grant, which will help sustain your employment, as well as mine, for the next several years. I hope I can assume that you will support our troops?"

"Of course I'll support them. That's my job as a psychologist-to support people in their struggle to become mature, responsible, autonomous human beings. But you've got troops who thought they were going overseas for a month, and they're stuck there for at least a year. Attacks on our forces are averaging more than thirty a day. They're hot, scared, bored, lonely, tired, angry, and homesick. They've been lied to by their President, exposed to radiation from their own munitions, turned into target practice every time they leave base, and spit on and shot at by people they thought they were liberating. They don't see any end to the war in sight. Why wouldn't they be depressed? If they were happy, I'd be really worried."

"Yes, well, we're all aware of your political agenda, Lola…"

"Mine! You mean if you go along with this invasion and occupation, you don't have a political agenda? Depression and low morale are perfectly normal responses to being used, abused, screwed, and stewed. So why don't we turn our efforts to where they might do some good, and check out the mental health of the people who put the troops there in the first place-Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, that whole crew?"

"Are you out of your mind? You want to do a mental health study of the President and his closest advisors?"

"Of course. You know yourself that, from the standpoint of a mental health professional, these are people who look to be in serious trouble! They're aggressive, secretive, paranoid, cast aside normal social constraints, demand their own way, are incapable of cooperating with others, and feel they have a divine mission to stamp out evil. If you had people like that living next door, you'd be scared out of your wits! These are people who went on for months, all over TV, claiming they had conclusive evidence that Saddam Hussein had tons of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons he was ready to use on the U.S. Every piece of that was unreal! They claimed it was indisputable that Saddam Hussein was involved in the attack of September 11. That was unreal! They claimed Jessica Lynch was a female Rambo. That was unreal! They claimed troops killed 54 Iraqi combatants in a major skirmish. That was unreal! What's the mental health status of somebody who's out of touch with reality and lives in denial?"

"Does anybody else have any suggestions on the survey…?"

"I wasn't finished! What's the mental health status of somebody responsible for starting a completely unnecessary war who has the blood of hundreds of U.S. soldiers and thousands of Iraqi civilians on his hands, and sleeps like a baby? Who has body bags flown in at night to remote portions of airfields, so the public won't have images that make real the cost of the war? Who jets onto an aircraft carrier and declares 'Mission accomplished,' while Iraqi society collapses into chaos?"

"Ladies and gentlemen, I was afraid it would come to this. Please pardon the interruption [gives a signal] while the men in white coats escort her away."

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