Category Archives: Military

Suicide Soldiers. Why are So Many Killing Themselves in active duty?

The Army says there are already as many active duty suicides in their ranks this year as all of last. That number has reached 140. This news won’t get nearly as much play as whether the terror trials should be held in New York, or whether alleged Ft. Hood Shooter Hasan is a radical  Muslim terrorist. Yet it ought to concern everyone who say they honor the service of our military.

SoldierCrying

In addition to the active duty soldiers who took their own lives, another 71 committed suicide after being taken off active duty, a 25% increase over last year. Army brass are cautioning about drawing any conclusions about why more soldiers are killing themselves. However, the stress being sent to Iraq and/or Afghanistan more than once might be a good place to start.

I can’t imagine what it must be like to do one tour in either of these war zones, spend a few weeks home with your family, then find out you’re going back. Obviously this may not represent the experience of a majority of suicides, and in fact one third of them had never been deployed abroad. Yet it could play a role.

This increased suicide rate takes on added significance in the wake of the Ft. Hood Massacre. The actions of the alleged shooter, Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, have caused the military to take a second look at whether it’s missing signs of depression in its ranks. Consider that the rate of suicides per 100,000 people in the US is 11.1. Among active duty soldiers, that number is 20 per 100,000.

Something is wrong here. The folks at the top of the military food chain acknowledge this, and let’s hope they get to the bottom of it. Even as the President talks about phasing out the stop loss policy that sends soldiers back into harm’s way again and again, it hasn’t stopped yet.

Part II may have a bit to do with the current state of the US economy. Even as we say we honor the service of our military, the economic downturn has made it more difficult for them to find work after their service is done. Some may see staying in the military as an unpalatable job of last resort.

And then there’s this. Could some soldiers be so stressed out at the prospect of being sent into a combat zone that they take their own lives? Until the hysteria began, Maj. Hasan was believed to be experiencing  just that kind of stress.

So you tell me. Why are so many soldiers killing themselves? And what do we need to do to stop it?

Resources:

Soldier Suicide Prevention

Suicide Prevention Lifetime

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911 attack Civilian Trials vs. Military Tribunals – What’s the Fuss?

So now we’ve got all manner of partisan hatchetmen coming after President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder for deciding to try Khalid Shiekh Mohammad and the men charged in connection with the 9/11 attacks in a New York civilian courtroom.

Khalid Shiekh Mohammad
Khalid Shiekh Mohammad

Holder says he’s going after the death penalty, but that doesn’t seem to be good enough for the likes of Rudy Giuliani.

The so-called “hero of 9/11” took time out of his busy schedule this weekend to Fox News that the President “just doesn’t get it” when it comes to the war on terror. Rudy, of course, does get it.

He’s the guy whose recommendation for chief of homeland security will instead be going to jail after the holidays. But, no matter. He’s an expert at these things after all.

Am I the only person who gets the irony of a former US Attorney for the Southern District of New York saying the current US Attorney for the Southern District of New York can’t handle this trial? That Rudy Giuliani spews this crap on national TV is offensive.

Then there are those who whine about Khalid Shiekh Mohammad and his cronies having a platform to spout anti American rhetoric.

Whether their cases are held in civilian courts or military tribunals, they’ll do that. People may forget, but that’s just what they did at their arraignment, and virtually every appearance before a military tribunal to date. By the way, in case anyone’s forgotten, they have confessed, and say they want to be put to death. Just what else do the tribunal advocates want?

Fact is, none of these GITMO detainees have actually faced justice up to now. Trying them in New York does pose some legal obstacles, but the benefits of showing American justice in the light of day far exceeds them. I remain opposed to the death penalty for anyone, but if the nation’s bloodlust over 9/11 is to be sated, what difference does it make what type of court reaches that conclusion?

And then there is the record, which Rudy Giuliani and his ilk  avoid talking about at all costs. From a Huffington Post piece by Brian Levin from Cal State University.

“After 9/11 the government prevailed in civilian criminal courts in some high profile extremist cases like that of the “Lackawanna Six” (participation in al Qaeda terror training), attempted airline “shoebomber” Richard Reid, al Qaeda member Zacarias Moussaoui, attempted terror camp organizer James Ujaama, New York City bridge bomb plotter Iyman Faris, Al Qaeda supporter Jose Padilla, and lesser figures like Jewish Defense League leader Irv Rubin, and white supremacist Matt Hale.”

However, justice isn’t on the agenda for Rudy and his fellow travelers, partisan attacks are. He tries to tie together President Obama’s deliberations on Afghanistan (“He has delayed inordinately in making this decision about the war strategy in Afghanistan,”), the Ft. Hood massacre (“He doesn’t get the fact that there is an Islamic war against us.”) along with the civilian trial decision to make Barack Obama look soft on national security.

What a joke, coming from this man.

Rudolph Giuliani
Rudolph Giuliani

In Rudy’s world, taking the five defendants and Major Hasan together and shooting them without trial, followed by nuking Afghanistan would solve all our problems.

Maybe keeping him off TV would work better. What do you think?

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Are Afghanistan Leaks on Purpose?

President Barack Obama has been given, if published reports are true, four ways forward to deal with his most vexing foreign policy problem, Afghanistan. He’s chosen none, not even the one most thought he would, a surge of about 40,000 new troops. That’s the one promoted by the chief military commander Gen. Stanley McChrystal. We know this because his recommendation was leaked to the Washington Post.

Now comes word that the US ambassador to Afghanistan, Karl Eikenberry, has a different view.

Karl Eikenberry
Karl Eikenberry

He’s nervous about sending thousands of US troops into harm’s way on behalf of a government many see as hopelessly corrupt and marginally competent. That would be the administration of Hamid Karzai, who will be inaugurated for a second term shortly. Of course, we know this because two cables from Ambassador Eikenberry to President Obama were leaked to (guess who?) the Washington Post.

At the root of all this is Karzai’s reported anger at US pressure to acknowledge his first round majority in the last election was fraudulent. Now that Eikenberry’s sentiments have been made public, expect the Afghan president’s position to harden as well. This begs the question, however, who’s doing all this leaking? Trying to figure this out had become a parlor game in DC. In the case of Gen. McChrystal, speculation centered on hawks in the Pentagon.

If President Obama was to make good on his pledge to follow the dictates of the military on the ground, leaking McChrystal’s report made perfect sense. But who leaked the Eikenberry cables, which some now say may have played a role in Obama’s decision not to accept any of the four options he was given? There’s been some speculation the leak may have come directly from the White House, from the President’s inner circle. That would be without the President’s knowledge, I think. It’s happened before, in the recent past.

On Thursday President Obama told soldiers at an Alaskan Air Force base that any troops sent in harms way will have a clear strategy and mission. But there’s still the thorny question of mission and strategy in Afghanistan. There seems to be a consensus that simply bringing the troops home is not an option. That, the thinking goes, would leave Karzai’s ill equipped military to the tender mercies of the Taliban and Al-Qaeda. It might also create huge problems for Afghanistan’s neighbor and nominal US ally Pakistan. Yet there is still that desire to end US involvement in this almost nine year conflict, and bring the country’s fighting men and women home. That’s what a growing number of Americans want.

That would mean admitting there is no clear and definable mission for the US in Afghanistan. It would also be a political firestorm for President Obama. But in the end it would save American lives, lives that could well be lost in pursuit of an unattainable goal.

What to do about Afghanistan? That’s way above my pay grade. And what about the leaks? You tell me.

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