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Letter to the Editor
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Psychiatric News
Volume 38 Number 6 page 39-49

I think Dr. Carl Cohen and the 50-some "concerned psychiatrists and mental health professionals" who signed on to the letter titled "Public Education Justified" in the February 7 issue may be a little presumptuous when advocating psychiatric analysis of U.S. policy and decision making with regard to the potential conflict in Iraq. The decision to go to war has been discussed by many thoughtful politicians on both sides of the argument for quite some time. The discussion has been hot and polemical at times, as well it should be, for many lives are at stake.

I do not believe for a second that psychiatrists and mental health professionals can be neutral and provide an objective analysis of the decision to go to war. Every professional carries with them his or her own biases and political viewpoints, which will undoubtedly determine the outcome of any analysis. What will we do with our findings? Accuse Mr. Bush, Mr. Cheney, and Mr. Powell of "irrational" decision making?

We need to be careful where we tread. Remember the stain on our profession after a number of psychiatrists publicly questioned the mental health of Barry Goldwater prior to the 1964 presidential election.

Of course we are experts in identifying and treating the psychological consequences of war in soldiers and civilians. It is hoped that our services will not be needed, but we must stand ready and mobilize quickly if the unfortunate happens. The respect that we will get from helping people at a critical moment will win more political allies, public support, and medical funding than pseudo-psychoanalysis of our nation’s leadership.

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