By: Greg Mitchell
The slaughter of five comrades by a “stressed out” U.S. soldier in Baghdad is a true tragedy — but should not come as a shock.
Some of us have warned about this kind of thing happening for years, but many in the media have either ignored the brutal and lasting effects of the war on our soldiers and veterans, or paid attention for just a short while and then moved along. There are plenty of exceptions, of course, such as Mark Benjamin at Salon and Kelly Kennedy at the Military Times papers.
It’s revealing that the incident took place at a clinic for soldiers suffering from trauma or mental fatigue.
Suicides both in Iraq and among vets back home have been surprisingly high almost from the beginning of the war and have surged in recent months.
Also truly shocking is the number of veterans with brain trauma. These numbers get reported when a study emerges, then are forgotten. At least President Obama has upped money for treatment.
Nearly one in five American soldiers deployed in Iraq suffer Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), according to the U.S. military’s battlemind.army.mil website.
Too often the media treats our presence in Iraq as essentially benign now, ignoring the plight of those serving there and the trevails when they come home, until a local suicide or murder involving a veteran appears.
I have written about soldier suicides here for almost six years now. I always have plenty to write about, unfortunately. And now, mass murder, if these reports pan out.
UPDATE: Mark Benjamin at Salon has now revealed that the soldier suicide rate this year is on a pace to nearly double last year’s rate.
Paul Rieckhoff, head of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America said this afternoon: “Unlike during the Vietnam War, today’s military is a professional, all-volunteer force. There have been only five cases of intentional fratricide by U.S. service members in Iraq. But these incidents, however rare, draw public attention to an important issue: the enormous stress on our armed forces. Many troops are under great psychological strain and are not receiving the treatment they need. Over 600,000 troops have served more than one combat tour since 9/11. Military suicide rates have hit record highs every year since 2003. Much more must be done to address troops’ psychological injuries before they reach a crisis point.”
And remember: We still have as many soldiers in Iraq as we did before the surge — and are sending thousands more to Afghanistan.