Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Suicide Epidemic Amongst US Veterans

Originally posted on the Class Warfare blog:

One story making the international news at the moment is that relating to the Pentagon's concealment of the number of US troops that have committed suicide since the war with Iraq. According to the CBS Investigative Unit, the true figure for US troops killed since the invasion of Iraq - their new suicide figures added - is now above 15,000 – far in excess of US troops officially reported killed since the US hostilities with Iraq began.

Apparently CBS applied to the Dept, of Defence under the Freedom of Information Act, in an attempt to ascertain the true military suicide figure. The DoD responded by supplying grossly erroneous data, suggesting here had been 2,200 suicides among "active duty" soldiers in the past two years.

Unhappy with the figure, CBS then began investigating suicide data state by state. They requested data from 50 states and 45 responded. The findings revealed that in 2005 alone there had been 6,256 Iraq War veteran suicides – 120 per week. Who the hell needs the Iraqi resistance!

The story unfolds at CBS here.

These figures are not unique, nor is the story new. While 58,000 US troops were killed in the Vietnam War, it has been estimated that 700,000 of the soldiers who served in that war have since suffered from some form of mental disorder. According to figures published by the Washington State Department for Veteran Affairs, over 100,000 of these soldiers have committed suicide since returning from Vietnam.

Even a 'small-scale' war like the Falklands revealed a post-conflict suicide epidemic. The number of British troops killed defending that tiny rock in the south Atlantic was 255. Since then 264 have committed suicide. The current Argentine suicide toll is 454, according to an Argentine film (Iluminados por el fuego by Tristán Bauer, 2006) about the suicide of a Falklands veteran.

But war does not only result in the death of the combatants and the civilians caught up in the killing game – as I write an estimated 1,112,000 deaths are attributed to the Iraq War – the madness continues long after hostilities cease, affecting the mental health of hundreds of thousands of ex-military personnel, blighting the lives of tens of millions of families for many years. Add to this the unnecessary production given over to the global war machine (in Britain alone it involves 100,000), the destruction of endless resources, the trillions of wasted hours of human labour power (i.e. bridges, roads, airports, power stations indeed entire cities) and vast areas made uninhabitable, unable to support fauna or flora (the jungles of Vietnam come to mind, sprayed by the toxic defoliant Agent Orange).

You could cite to the masters of war all the statistics you want, but still they would beat their drums to summon the next generation to the battlefield, their appetite for blood never satiated, ever regurgitating their hackneyed cant that it is noble and fitting to die for one's country, never letting on that the cause of conflict has nothing to do with the peace and freedom and democracy they cite, but in reality the trade routes, foreign markets and areas of influence they wish to monopolise and the oil and mineral wealth they hanker after.

And Bush wants a war with Iran? What the acceptable death toll from that coming conflict? What the true cost to humanity?

A few poignant quotes on war:

"I dream of giving birth to a child who will ask, 'Mother, what was war?"'" - Eve Merriam

"Give me the money that has been spent in war and I will clothe every man, woman, and child in an attire of which kings and queens will be proud. I will build a schoolhouse in every valley over the whole earth. I will crown every hillside with a place of worship consecrated to peace." - Charles Sumner

"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its labourers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. This is not a way of life at all in any true sense. Under the clouds of war, it is humanity hanging on a cross of iron." ~ Dwight D. Eisenhower, in speech to the American Society of Newspaper Editors, 16 April 1953

"If we let people see that kind of thing, there would never again be any war." -Pentagon official explaining why the U.S. military censored graphic footage from the Gulf War.

John Bissett

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