The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

High suicide rates testify to a brutal war

Aug 20, 2007

According to a new U.S. military report, the suicide rate in the army is the highest it’s been in the 26 years since records were kept. In 2006, 99 active duty soldiers killed themselves. More than a quarter of these suicides occurred among troops stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The way the military presents the figures hides the fact that the number of suicides is actually higher. This report looks only at active duty soldiers in the U.S. military today. Where are the studies that track the lives of the nearly one million soldiers who left the military after being in Iraq and Afghanistan?

What will be the actual suicide figures down the line, over the next number of years? What we know from the experience of Viet Nam is that suicide figures will go up many times higher.

The study concludes that the suicides were caused by the failure of the military to provide adequate mental health care facilities – as though you could wipe out horrific memories with a chat with a psychologist or a few pills.

Of course the army would like to believe that they could dope people up enough to get them to be willing to carry out daily atrocities.

But a little chat can’t wipe out memories of Abu Ghraib. Or seeing children killed. Or being the one to kill the children. Or seeing civilians killed at a checkpoint. Or driving a truck ordered to run over children. Drugs can’t wipe that out, although we can be sure that alcohol use and hard drug addiction will skyrocket among soldiers, as it did after Viet Nam.

The current high suicide rates are one more indictment of the war, a reflection that some soldiers don’t feel they can live with what they did.

But there are other soldiers also believing they can’t live with it, who come back to oppose the war, to reveal all they know about it.

They put their bad memories to use to try to stop the war.