New England editorial roundup
The Rutland (Vt.) Herald, Aug. 15, 2014
For a while, it appeared certain the United States would have no choice but to intervene militarily in Iraq on a scale President Barack Obama — and the American people — clearly would prefer to avoid.
Then it was learned that thousands of Yazidis, members of a minority religious sect fleeing brutal persecution by the Islamist extremists rampaging through Iraq, had been safely removed from their haven on Mount Sinjar.
American air attacks, combined with advances by Kurdish ground troops, repelled the extremists, allowing the Yazidis to escape.
That made the rescue effort much less likely, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel observed.
That should please those who had hoped our nation’s involvement in Iraq had ended, but Iraq remains vulnerable and may yet require our nation’s involvement on a larger scale.
Politically, Iraq remains a rudderless ship in danger of disintegration, a situation that would adversely affect the entire region. This isn’t how it was supposed to be after the United States and our allies pulled out, believing the Iraqi people were prepared to govern themselves.
So there may be a good argument for greater involvement by America and its allies. France, Britain and Germany have already decided to participate in the fight against the extremists (although not, so far, with troops).
France, which had opposed the 2003 invasion of Iraq, said this week it was sending weapons to the Kurdish fighters who are the main force opposing the Islamists.
Iraq’s own troops, trained and equipped by the United States, have too often fled in the face of the enemy’s advances, abandoning their vehicles and their weapons to the Islamists.
Obama’s final decision may very well be influenced by the behavior of these extremists who are tearing Iraq apart and treating their foes with relentless cruelty.
Despite Hagel’s assessment of the situation, the United Nations on Wednesday said it still regarded Iraq in general to be suffering the highest level of humanitarian crisis. The aggressors show no signs of mercy or moderation.
Let’s face it: These people must be stopped. Even Saudi Arabia, a Sunni stronghold, has decided to contribute millions of dollars to the United Nations to help the fight against terrorism even though the extremists wreaking havoc in Iraq are themselves Sunnis.
Those who stand in their way and don’t share their extremist religious beliefs are being executed. Women are reportedly being kidnapped and sold as slaves.
Ideally, the government in Baghdad should be prepared to defend Iraq on its own, but the political situation there has been so unstable that no effective response can be expected at this time.
Thursday, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki reluctantly agreed to step aside now that Iraq’s president has named his replacement, Haider-al-Abadi. By giving up the office he won in April’s elections, al-Maliki will please Washington and his many other critics who accused him of looking after his own political allies and therefore failing to unite the country.
Meanwhile, David Ignatius, a columnist for The Washington Post and a longtime observer of the situation in the Middle East, suggested that Obama consider sending retired Gen. David Petraeus and former Ambassador Ryan Crocker to Baghdad as his special envoys.
That, Ignatius wrote, would send a signal that the president is serious about helping the new Iraqi government. And there’s abundant evidence that such help is badly needed in Baghdad.
Had the al-Maliki government been more interested in serving all of the country’s people and less determined to favor its own partisan supporters, the present crisis might have been avoided altogether.
Foster’s Daily Democrat of Dover (N.H.) Aug. 14, 2104
Suicide is an insidious choice due to the lies that depression tells us. When a person is suffering from severe depression, as apparently Williams was, it can tell that person, “Hey, you’d be better off dead. Life isn’t going to get any better.”
And sadly, sometimes people listen. Even brilliant, accomplished individuals such as Robin Williams.
— John M. Grohol, Psy. D.
As the hours have passed since the death of Robin Williams, attention has turned from his status as beloved actor and comedian to what drove him to commit suicide.
We, too, join those who mourn his loss. He brought smiles to our faces, laughs that strained our bellies and roles that made us think, such as those of Dr. Sean Maguire in “Good Will Hunting” and John Keating in “Dead Poets Society.”
In his memory, we must turn our attention to the role Williams found most challenging in real life and ended his life — that of someone suffering from mental illness. In this case bipolar disorder.
According to the American Psychiatric Association, bipolar disorder rarely appears “out of the blue.” Most often family, friends, teachers, or individuals themselves recognize that “something is not quite right” about their thinking, feelings, or behavior before one of these illnesses appears in its full-blown form.
As for suicides, TreatmentAdvocacyCenter.org tells us:
“An estimated 51 percent of individuals with this condition (bipolar) are untreated in any given year. Individuals diagnosed with this disease have mood swings that alternate from periods of severe highs (mania) to extreme lows (depression). Suicide is the number one cause of premature death among people with bipolar disorder, with 15 percent to 17 percent taking their own lives as a result of negative symptoms that come from untreated illness.”
What should family and friends be looking for if they are going to help?
If several of the following are occurring, says the APC, a serious condition may be developing.
— Recent social withdrawal and loss of interest in others.
— An unusual drop in functioning, especially at school or work, such as quitting sports, failing in school, or difficulty performing familiar tasks.
— Problems with concentration, memory, or logical thought and speech that are hard to explain.
— Heightened sensitivity to sights, sounds, smells or touch; avoidance of overstimulating situations.
— Loss of initiative or desire to participate in any activity; apathy.
— A vague feeling of being disconnected from oneself or one’s surroundings; a sense of unreality.
— Unusual or exaggerated beliefs about personal powers to understand meanings or influence events; illogical or “magical” thinking typical of childhood in an adult.
— Fear or suspiciousness of others or a strong nervous feeling.
— Uncharacteristic, peculiar behavior.
— Dramatic sleep and appetite changes or deterioration in personal hygiene.
— Rapid or dramatic shifts in feelings or “mood swings.”
“One or two of these symptoms can’t predict a mental illness,” according to the ACA.
If you know someone who is struggling, as we learned Williams was, please encourage them to get help. In New Hampshire that can mean contacting the Seacoast Mental Health Center which has a bipolar support group meeting on Sept. 8. (http://www.smhc-nh.org, 431-6703 or 772-2710).
Just as with the flu or a broken leg, there should be no shame in admitting you need assistance.