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Suicides among the Iraq War casualties

In any war, there will be casualties. It’s a simple, inescapable fact that war kills. It’s also pretty much to be expected that at least a few of those casualties will be soldiers who simply can’t take it any more and decide to kill themselves. Though we haven’t been hearing much about suicides in Iraq, they’re happening - and the military is reporting that the suicide rate has increased enough that they’re looking into why and what can be done about it.

In the past seven months, at least 11 soldiers and three Marines have committed suicide in Iraq, military officials say. That is an annual rate of 17 per 100,000. The Navy also is investigating one possible suicide. And about a dozen other Army deaths are under investigation and could include suicides. The numbers suggest the rate in Iraq is above normal. Last year, the military services reported 8 to 9 suicides per 100,000 people. The Army rate is usually higher, 10 to 13 per 100,000. That mirrors the rate for the same age group in the general population.

Most of the suicides have occured since May 1st, when President Bush declared the "Mission Accomplished." The difficult conditions that soldiers are having to live under in Iraq, combined with the uncertain nature of guerilla warfare and the long deployments soldiers are facing are all factors that can trigger or exacerbate depressive episodes. While the military provides mental health assistance to the soldiers, because they don't have necessary resources available to them in Iraq, they've so far had to send almost 500 soldiers home.

Many of the soldiers who are being deployed to Iraq are Reservists and National Guardsmen and women, who, admittedly, knew when they signed up that they might be deployed to actual war zones, but never expected that it would be this kind of a war or for as long as they're now being told they may have to stay. It's sadly ironic that a man who chose to avoid serving as an active duty soldier during Vietnam by joining the National Guard and then failed to show up for the last part of his agreed-to term of service is now sending our National Guardsmen and women to fight in a long-term, active duty war - a war he quite clearly mislead the country into. That these - and other - soldiers are finding conditions there so intolerable that they become depressed enough to commit suicide is a national tragedy.

Posted by at October 13, 2003 7:39 AM