Third Party & Independents Archives

Military Suicide in Iraq

The signs of low morale are everywhere. Embedded reporters tell about longer deployments and troops who are confused and upset when told they will not come home until December or later. The daily drumbeat of casualties and deaths must have a chilling effect on these brave men who have been put in harm’s way. There are increasing reports of soldiers becoming frantic in their desire to return home. The recent discrepancy between what is reported and what is kept close to the Pentagon causes one to wonder if there is a growing cause for alarm. Alarm that our troops may be so desperate, they are willing to injure themselves (malingering), or commit suicide.

The facts that have come out are themselves scary and revealing. This is a story of American kids who have chosen to end their lives. It's the story of a concerted effort to keep the folks at home thinking that everything is going okay, and that it's normal that a some soldiers will fall asleep and then never wake up. It's normal and positively expected that soldiers "fall" from roofs while on patrol, or that there are an unusually high number of deaths related to "non-combat related weapons discharge". It's about suicide, and it's staring us in the face.

The evidence is everywhere, read the news. Read between the lines, then read candid tales from soldiers of actual suicide:

"An American soldier attached to the 101st Airborne Division died Monday in another non-hostile gunshot incident near Balad, 55 miles north of the capital. Soldiers at an air base near Balad said on condition of anonymity that the soldier had taken his own life."

The question is not: is it true? No, the real question is: How big? That's one question this writer doesn't know. In researching this piece, there were large pieces of the puzzle that began to come together. One article notes that entire units have been put on suicide watches because they are so disheartened. Another, older article, outlines 7 suspected suicides that the Pentagon is investigating:

Overall, the military has not released an official count of possible suicides under investigation, and the total could be higher than seven, given a number of unexplained deaths included in the Pentagon's casualty statistics. The military has reported nine cases of accidental death that could include suicides, most of which were from "noncombat weapons discharges."

In 12 other cases, the cause of death has been officially listed as "other" and described only as "noncombat injuries."

There is a large, inexplicable, number of non-combat related deaths and injuries. It would be fallacy to say they are all suicides, but there are indications that there is a growing number of soldiers who are willing to kill themselves, or at the very least malinger in order to be transferred out of Iraq. What percentage this constitutes is unknown, but the facts speak for themselves, this is a cause for concern for the Pentagon and for the morale of our military and soldiers.

Posted by Stephen VanDyke at September 24, 2003 1:05 PM