Republian Jim Banks attacks war survivor Ilhan Omar for invoking her “PTSD” amid Iran tensions

“It’s shameful that you as a member of Congress would erase the PTSD of survivors," Omar responds

By Igor Derysh
January 9, 2020 4:08PM (UTC)
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Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., hit back at Rep. Jim Banks, R-Ind., after he attacked her for claiming that she was “stricken with PTSD” every time she hears conversations about a potential war between the U.S. and Iran.

Omar said during a news conference with fellow Congressional Democrats on Wednesday that the escalating tensions with Iran made her feel "ill a little bit because of everything that is taking place."

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"And I think every time I hear about — I hear of conversations around war, I find myself being stricken with PTSD," she continued. "And I find peace knowing that I serve with great advocates for peace and people who have shown courage against war."

Banks, a Navy veteran who served in Afghanistan, attacked Omar over her remarks.

“Rep. Ilhan Omar complained she’s ‘stricken with PTSD’ because of recent events in the Middle East,” he tweeted Wednesday. “This is a disgrace and offensive to our nation’s veterans who really do have PTSD after putting their life on the line to keep America safe.”

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Omar responded by pointing out she had been through war, too, as a child. Omar’s family fled a civil war in Somalia when she was 10 years old and lived in a refugee camp in Kenya for four years before coming to the U.S., according to The Washington Post.

“Hi Jim, I survived war as a child and deal with post-traumatic stress disorder—much like many who have served or lived through war,” Omar responded on Twitter. “It’s shameful that you as a member of Congress would erase the PTSD of survivors.”

The anti-Trump veterans' group Common Defense also slammed Banks for his comment.

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“This is a tremendously ignorant thing to say,” the group said on Twitter. “Veterans like us know that people wearing uniforms aren’t the only ones impacted by war. @Ilhan is a refugee. We stand with her against hawkish elites like you.”

Jason Kander, an Afghanistan veteran and former lawmaker who dropped out of the Kansas City mayoral race after revealing his struggles with PTSD, said that Banks’ comments were out of line.

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“Rep. Banks, You and I spent a few months in Afghanistan. Rep. Omar grew up in war-torn Somalia before spending years in a Kenyan refugee camp on the Somali border,” he tweeted. “It’s not up to us to decide who is and is not ‘worthy’ of PTSD. Trauma is trauma. A uniform is not required.”

MSNBC host Chris Hayes pointed out on Twitter that Omar has a unique experience on the issue, because she may be the “only member of Congress who has directly experienced war *as a civilian* in her country.”

Charlotte Clymer, an Army veteran who now serves as the communications director of the Human Rights Campaign, called Banks’ comments “disgraceful.”

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“I have PTSD unrelated to my military service. Veterans do not own PTSD,” she wrote. “We don't get to arbitrate who does + does not have PTSD simply because we served. I find it disgraceful and offensive that you would use service to shame Rep. Omar over PTSD.”


Igor Derysh

Igor Derysh is a staff writer at Salon. His work has also appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Herald and Baltimore Sun.

Tips/Email: iderysh@salon.com Twitter: @IgorDerysh

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