To Reduce Military Suicides
by Laurence M. Vance: Republican
Politics According to the Bible
Since the invasion
of Iraq in 2003, I have been quite vocal in my opposition to most
of what is done by the U.S. military in the name of defending our
freedoms and other nonsense. Because of this I have been accused
over the years of not appreciating and not supporting the troops
(I plead guilty) and indifference to and wishing harm to the troops
(I plead not guilty).
this latter point it needs to be said that it is only natural to
expect that foreigners on the receiving end of U.S. military invasions,
occupations, bombings, and killings would retaliate against U.S.
troops. Just think of what Americans would do if these things were
done to them.
So, on the
one hand, as Herbert Spencer wrote over a hundred years ago in his
essay on patriotism:
"When men hire themselves out to shoot other men to order,
asking nothing about the justice of their cause, I don’t care if
they are shot themselves." But on the other hand, as an American,
I don’t want to see any American soldiers harmed, and especially
those that were duped into fighting some unnecessary and senseless
to the dilemma is to not send American soldiers overseas to fight
foreign wars, which are inherently unjust. This keeps foreigners
from having to shoot invading American soldiers and American soldiers
from having to shoot resisting foreigners.
between a warmongering Republican or conservative (like every major
conservative talk show host and every major Republican presidential
candidate except Ron Paul) and yours truly is that I don’t want
anyone on either side to die.
One way that
American soldiers are increasingly dying is at their own hands.
More U.S. military personnel have died because they committed suicide
than from suicide bombers detonating explosive devices near U.S.
troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. I would like to see military suicides
a new policy brief titled "Losing
the Battle: The Challenge of Military Suicide," published
by the Center for a New American
Security (CNAS), from 2005-2010, "service members took
their own lives at a rate of approximately one every 36 hours."
The Army had a record number of thirty-three suicides in July of
2010. That is eight times more soldiers dead by suicide than were
killed in Iraq that month. That is over half the number of soldiers
killed in the much-more-dangerous occupation of Afghanistan that
month. The report also says that the Veterans Administration estimates
"that a veteran dies by suicide every 80 minutes." Although
only 1 percent of Americans have served in the military, veterans
account for 20 percent of all suicides.
- The mental
health screening process following deployment is flawed.
among service members and veterans threatens the health of the
is losing its battle against suicide by veterans and service members.
And, as more troops return from deployment, the risk will only
who deploy are more likely to die by suicide. Data have long indicated
definitive links between suicide and injuries suffered during
factors that heighten risk include chronic pain and post-traumatic
stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms such as depression, anxiety, sleep
deprivation, substance abuse and difficulties with anger management.
These factors are also widely associated with deployment experience
in Afghanistan and Iraq.
also noted that military hazing caused some of the suicides and
that excess prescription medication in the military community was
also a problem.
At an event
launching the CNAS report, Vice Chief of Staff of the Army Peter
Chiarelli said that trying to reduce the number of suicides
in the Army has been "the most difficult challenge" in
his forty years in the military. One of the authors of the report,
Margaret Harrell said that the battle against suicide was being
lost "multiple times a day."
of Defense Suicide Event Report (DoDSER) for calendar year 2010,
295 service members died by suicide in 2010 (Air Force – 59, Army
– 160, Marine Corps – 37, Navy – 39). There were 863 known suicide
attempts. The suicide rate for divorced service members was 55 percent
higher than the suicide rate for married service members. Most of
those who successfully committed suicide were white, male, and under
25 years old. The number of suicides in 2009 was 309; the number
in 2008 was 268.
Report of the Department of Defense Task Force on the Prevention
of Suicide by Members of the Armed Forces, in the nine-year
period from 2001 to 2009, more than 1,900 members of the military
took their own lives. This is more soldiers than have died fighting
in Afghanistan since the war on terror was launched.
am not a physician, a psychologist, a psychiatrist, or a mental
health or suicide prevention counselor, I can think of four things
that would reduce military suicides. And not only that, these things
would also save the taxpayers money, improve America’s image in
the world, keep us safer, and make it honorable to serve in the
One, stop fighting
are sent to fight unnecessary, unjust foreign wars (is there any
other kind?), there will always be questions in their minds about
why they are fighting in a place they couldn’t locate without a
map and against a people that never harmed an American until Americans
first stuck their noses in their business. And we wonder why soldiers
get depressed and suicidal?
CNAS report found a direct connection between deployment and suicide.
Some soldiers don’t even wait until they get home to suffer chronic
pain, PTSD, depression, and unemployment – they kill themselves
in Iraq or Afghanistan.
The fewer foreign
wars our soldiers are told to fight (the ones who have to do the
actual fighting are never asked for their opinion), the fewer cases
of traumatic brain injury, loss of limbs, depression, PTSD, anxiety,
substance abuse, and chronic pain our soldiers will needlessly have
to suffer with.
I just can’t
see U.S. soldiers getting depressed and suicidal or suffering PTSD
and sleep loss over having to kill enemy soldiers who actually tried
to attack the United States.
Two, end the
Why does the
United States still have tens of thousands of troops in Germany,
Japan, and South Korea? Why does the United States have any troops
at all in Djibouti, Australia, and Argentina? Why does the United
States have 250,000 troops in foreign countries? Why does the United
States have troops in 160 countries and territories? Why is it now
so commonly accepted that someone in the military is being deployed
to Germany or Japan?
is destructive to children, families – and service members. The
strain of separation or relationship breakups, or the guilt over
temptations succumbed to, can certainly lead to suicide.
Navy ships in Jacksonville should sail down around the Florida Keys
and up through the Gulf of Mexico to Texas and then turn around
and go back and see their families. No landing in Mexico, the Caribbean,
or South America – for any reason. That will do more to keep America
safe than sailing in the Persian Gulf or the Gulf of Tonkin. And
it will certainly do more for morale and military families than
most roles for women in the military.
mother wears army boots" used to be a derogatory remark. Now
it is true for 207,308 women in the U.S. military. This is about
15 percent of the 1,425,115 total members of the military. (All
are as of September 30, 2011.) And these numbers don’t include the
Coast Guard. Women comprise an even higher percentage in the Guard
women have served in Iraq and Afghanistan. There have been 111 female
U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq. There have been 30 female U.S. soldiers
killed in Afghanistan, the most recent one being Sarina Butcher,
aged 19, who died on November 1, 2011. It is a terrible tragedy
that we send young men to die in senseless foreign wars; it is a
horrendous evil that we send young women.
Call me a sexist,
a chauvinist, and a misogynist all you want, but no woman has any
business flying a helicopter in Iraq, like twenty-seven-year old
Army captain Kimberly
Hampton, who died when the OH-58 Kiowa Warrior helicopter she
was piloting was shot down. (No man does either, but that is not
my point here.)
Carlson, the U.S. Department of Defense is the nation’s largest
child-care system. Up to 40 percent of military pregnancies occur
among unmarried military personnel. The 10 percent of military personnel
who are "service couples," with both husband and wife
in uniform, are 64 percent more likely to be divorced by age 24
than comparable civilian couples. Carlson made the case many years
ago for the "Bachelor Army" in Policy Review (the
Fall 1993 issue in which it appeared is apparently not online).
only get worse since the Military
Leadership Diversity Commission, established by Congress two
years ago, recommended that the Pentagon do away with the policy
that bans women from serving in combat units.
the previously mentioned DoDSER, one fourth of attempted suicides
in the military are by women. Relationship issues are a factor in
both male and female military suicides.
perverting the purpose of the military. As I have said in one form
or another on many occasions:
military should be limited to defending the United States, securing
U.S. borders, guarding U.S. shores, patrolling U.S. coasts, and
enforcing no-fly zones over U.S. skies instead of defending, securing,
guarding, patrolling, and enforcing in other countries. The U.S.
military should be engaged exclusively in defending the United
States, not defending other countries, and certainly not attacking,
invading, or occupying them. Using the military for any other
purpose than the actual defense of the United States perverts
the purpose of the military.
know without a doubt that what they are doing is moral, just, and
right. Limiting the military to actually protecting the United States
is the surest way to do this.
no more offensive wars. No more nation building. No more spreading
democracy at the barrel of a gun. No more policing the world. No
more providing disaster relief. No more dispensing humanitarian
aid. No more preemptive strikes. No more bombing. No more extraordinary
renditions. No more enhanced interrogation techniques. No more peacekeeping
operations. No more enforcing UN resolutions. No more regime changes.
No more assassinations. No more overseas deployments. No more foreign
military bases. No more containing communism. No more opening markets.
No more enforcing no-fly zones. No more training foreign police
and armies. No more invasions. No more occupations. No more foreign
I support the
troops. I support the troops not being put into positions where
they face unnecessary danger. I support the troops not fighting
senseless foreign wars. I support the troops not being separated
from their families. I support the troops not being sent to kill
foreigners. I support the troops not being stationed on overseas
bases. I support the troops not being misused by presidents, politicians,
and military brass. I support the troops not being killed as invaders
and occupiers. And I support the troops not killing themselves.
M. Vance [send him mail]
writes from central Florida. He is the author of Christianity
and War and Other Essays Against the Warfare State, The
Revolution that Wasn't, and Rethinking
the Good War. His latest book is The
Quatercentenary of the King James Bible. Visit his
© 2011 by LewRockwell.com. Permission to reprint in whole or in
part is gladly granted, provided full credit is given.
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