Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The worsening problem of US Military suicides

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US Army soldier
US Army soldier
[source: The Tension]

Oddly enough, it’s becoming increasingly apparent that keeping soldiers trapped in a cruel and seemingly endless cycle of combat and repeat deployments may be a very bad idea in the long run:

Question: What is behind the recent spike in army suicides?

Paul Rieckhoff: There are a number of factors, but here's the bottom line: we lost 32 active duty soldiers to suicide in the month of June. That's just the Army, that's just active duty, that's just in June. If we lost 32 troops in Fallujah today, the national media would be focused on it, the President would be moving hell and high water, Secretary Gates would be saying, “Get to the bottom of this.”

But over the last few years, suicide rates have continued to climb. Earlier this year, for a month in the winter, we lost more soldiers to suicide than we did to Al Qaeda. So I think that's an important framework to understand going in. The military does not have the suicide issue under control, and it's getting worse. And there are a number of factors that go into this kind of cauldron that leads to suicides, but a big driving factor is that our people are tired; they are worn out. They are not robots.

You can't send people back to Iraq and Afghanistan for 20th tours. The President spoke at the Disabled American Veterans this week and brought up a soldier as someone who is inspiring, a soldier who was wounded. The soldier was on his 10th tour... ten times to a combat zone, and he was 27 years old. So at some point, the American public has to stand up and go, “Enough.”

It’s just a horrible situation overall. Soldiers are forced to go into distant regions filled with traumatizing violence, hatred and a permeating fear of death or injury, then they get go come back home to what are all-too-often failing marriages and children who barely know them. And only a few weeks or months later, they’re just shipped right back for another year in the pits of Hell on Earth.

One thing that’s important to note is that this isn’t a partisan issue; neither Republicans nor Democrats are any better or worse than the other, in the sense that neither do anywhere near enough to help support the troops, especially once they’re back home. And that’s when veterans, especially those who are injured or disabled, don’t get hopelessly screwed by the profit-oriented system, either, which is yet another wretched reality for the armed forces.

(via Dispatches from the Culture Wars)