Here's Why PTSD Is No Excuse For Sen. John Walsh's Plagiarizing

Senator john walsh montanaASSOCIATED PRESSU.S. Senator John Walsh (D-Montana)

Senator John Walsh (D-MT) plagiarized portions of a paper he wrote while at the U.S. Army War College, according to a New York Times investigation. The paper’s conclusion was copied almost word-for-word from a Carnegie Endowment for International Peace report.

Walsh is the only US Senator to have served in the Iraq War. And, earlier in the day, he said he was being treated for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) brought on by his experiences in Iraq when the “unintentional” plagiarism occurred.

“I don’t want to blame my mistake on PTSD, but I do want to say it may have been a factor,” Walsh told the Associated Press.

Several hours later, the campaign issued a statement insisting that Walsh ” did not suggest that these circumstances [surrounding Iraq] were an excuse for incorrect citations in a research paper.”

PTSD was officially classified as a diagnosable mental disorder by the American Psychiatric Association in 1980. It is triggered by a traumatic event, also known as a catastrophic stressor, which are common in war zones. For example, while in Iraq, Walsh survived a roadside bomb explosion that hit his Humvee.

Symptoms of PTSD are characterised by “upsetting memories of the event, increased jumpiness, or trouble sleeping,” according to the Department of Veterans Affairs. Individuals can also display self-destructive behaviour, including “making decisions that are not going to advance your success in life or to help you accomplish your goals,” according to Craig Bryan, a PTSD expert and executive director of the National Center for Veterans Studies at the University of Utah.

While PTSD could have played a role in Walsh’s decision to plagiarize, he still would have been aware that he was breaking the school’s code of ethics.

“Could [PTSD] influence his decision-making? Absolutely. Would it completely erase his understanding of right versus wrong? No,” Bryan said.

Walsh was appointed in February after President Obama tapped former Montana Senator Max Baucus as ambassador to China. Walsh goes up against Congressman Steve Daines (R-MT) in the election for the senate seat this fall.

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