An average of 18 US military veterans are taking their lives every day as the Obama administration and the Pentagon grow increasingly defensive about the epidemic of suicides driven by Washington’s wars of aggression.
The stunning figure was reported last week by the Army Times, citing officials in the US Veterans Affairs Department.
The department estimates that there are 950 suicide attempts every month by veterans who are receiving treatment from the department. Of these, 7 percent succeed in taking their own lives, while 11 percent try to kill themselves again within nine months.
The greatest growth in suicides has taken place among veterans returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, who accounted for 1,868 suicide attempts in fiscal 2009, which ended on September 30. Of these, nearly 100 succeeded in killing themselves.
The connection between the “surge” in military suicides and the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is undeniable. The suicide rate within the military doubled between 2001 and 2006, even as it remained flat among the comparable (adjusted for age and gender) civilian population. And the numbers continue to rise steadily. In 2009, 160 active-duty military personnel killed themselves, compared to 140 in 2008 and 77 in 2003. …
Craig Bryan, a former Air Force officer and University of Texas psychologist who advises the Pentagon on suicides, linked the phenomenon to the training given by the military itself.
“We train our warriors to use controlled violence and aggression, to suppress strong emotional reactions [the conscience – ed.] in the face of adversity, to tolerate physical and emotional pain and to overcome the fear of injury and death,” he told Time magazine earlier this month. These qualities, designed to prepare soldiers to kill unquestioningly, “are also associated with increased risk for suicide,” he said. He added that these psychological traits cannot be altered “without negatively affecting the fighting capability of our military.” To put it bluntly, suicide, according to Bryan, is an occupational hazard. “Service members are, simply put, more capable of killing themselves by sheer consequence of their professional training,” he said.