Thursday, June 11, 2009

This is NOT OK.

Suicides are on the rise among soldiers returning from combat. Read this story about one young man.

The article states that, "According to the Army, soldiers are killing themselves at the highest rate in nearly three decades, surpassing the civilian suicide rate for the first time since the Vietnam War." (Sacramento Bee, 6/11/09) Suicides that occur after discharge, like the soldier in this article, are not counted in that figure. "The Army has estimated that as many as one in eight soldiers returning from combat suffer from PTSD, which is caused by severe psychological trauma and can cause flashbacks, nightmares, sleeplessness, detachment and irritability, among other problems." (ibid) For comparison, one in eight is the same statistic quoted for women's chances of getting breast cancer. And many who work with veterans estimate much larger numbers, due to the length of time it takes for PTSD to show up, the amount of bureaucracy that puts barriers in the way to treatment, and many soldiers' shame at admitting to "weakness."

There are several reasons why I am philosophically opposed to war. People have told me that being opposed to war means I don't support my troops (or my country, but that's another post). But how is it supportive to assign someone to possible death; certain trauma; and, if they're lucky, years of recovery from PTSD or other mental health issues; if they're unlucky, suicide, homelessness, unemployment, and/or isolation? Taking care of our troops means taking care of the whole person, not just using them for our purposes and throwing them away. Have we learned nothing from Vietnam, Korea, WW II, or WWI?

These soldiers, they're our children, spouses, friends. We can do better. We must do better.

1 comment:

Dave said...

"Support our Troops" is a euphemism for "Invest in a bigger military." It has nothing to do with actually providing the kind of support that our soldiers deserve. For example, most people who claim you don't support our troops would also claim GWB supported our troops. When in fact, GWB was our troops' worst enemy. GWB sent far more Americans to their death in the name of terrorism than OBL ever did.

If someone understands exactly how much of a sacrifice is inherent in even the smallest military operations, they will only call for such operations in a truly desperate scenario. Since politicians can easily scare citizens and since they can hide the true expense of war, our democracy has a built-in negative externality. This is exactly what we have learned from Vietnam, Korea, WWII and WWI: War gets politicians re-elected, and the true cost is very easy to hide.

The only antidote is for those of us more resistant to political scare tactics to risk social stigma and educate our fellow citizens in the true costs and benefits of war. As you are doing.