Collateral damage

Rising suicides among U.S. soldiers


by Ardeshir Ommani

It is a natural course of human development that no matter how intensely the U.S. troops are trained to be senseless killing machines, and are advised not to allow their human emotions to get in the way of their killing functions, inevitably at least some allow their better human instincts to overcome the routine predatory behavior and confront the truth and pain of their savage acts.

This often gives rise to torrents of guilt feelings and self-hatred for killing innocent men, women and children whom the soldier did not even know and who hadn’t harmed him/her. When some of these soldiers realize that they have been hired to commit crimes against people thousands of miles away from the shores of the U.S., they often come to realize that by taking the lives of other human beings, they are also killing the essence of humanity in themselves and this can become an unbearable burden.

This phenomenon of suicide among the soldiers has its deep roots in the fact that the U.S. war on the people of Iraq is an unjust and brutal war of subjugation of the nation, regardless of the maniacal claims of George W. Bush and some Iraqi mercenaries chained inside the Green Zone. It is this savage character of the war which is responsible for the heightened rate of suicide among returning American soldiers. This rate has had a 500 percent increase since the start of the open war on Iraq, hitting levels not seen in more than a quarter century.

Every day five U.S. soldiers attempt to take their own precious lives in the U.S. army, while before the war on Iraq, the number was less than one suicide attempt per day. In 2007, two thousand one hundred (2,100) American soldiers tried to commit suicide, compared with about 350 suicide attempts in 2002.

In a front page story of the Washington Post on January 31, 2008, Dana Priest wrote, “The Army was unprepared for the high number of suicides and cases of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among the troops…Many army posts still do not offer enough individual counseling and some soldiers suffering psychological problems complain that they are stigmatized by commanders.”

One example of these lifeless statistics is Lt. Elizabeth Whiteside, a psychiatric outpatient at Walter Reed Army Medical Center whose story was cited by Dana Priest in the Washington Post on January 31 this year. “She was waiting for the Army to decide whether to court-martial her for endangering another soldier and turning a gun on herself last year in Iraq, and attempted to kill herself.” “I am very disappointed with the Army,” Whiteside wrote in a note before swallowing dozens of anti-depressant pills. “Hopefully, this will help other soldiers,” she wrote.

The number of suicides committed in the U.S. Army continued to grow. As many as 121 soldiers committed suicide in 2007, which showed in increase of more than 20 percent as compared to 2006, which was 109 and in 2005 was only 89 suicides. It should be added that these victims of the Iraq war are not counted among the 4000+ servicemen and women killed in Iraq during the last five years and those whose lives were cut short in Afghanistan in the last seven years, periods longer than WWI, WWII, the U.S. war on Korea and the U.S. Civil War. Naturally, the rate of suicide attempts in the army is higher among the members of infantry units who use firearms to commit the savage act of killing and at times come face to face with their ‘prey’, who most of the time, are resting in their homes.

The high correlation of the heightened number of suicides with the hardship of the Iraq war becomes clear when we learn that last year the Pentagon decided to extend the tours of duty from 12 months to 15, and send some troops back to the killing fields of Iraq several times in order to satisfy the requirements of Bush’s “surge” and his legacy.

While the rate of suicide per 100,000 active duty American soldiers was as low as 9.1 in 2001, in 2006, the index had risen to 17.5 and in 2007 it reached even higher per 100,000 active duty service men and women. Many U.S. veterans of the 2003 U.S. war in Iraq have complained of a range of serious diseases, including tumors, chronic blood strains in their urine and stool, sexual dysfunction, migraines, frequent muscular spasms, and other health issues similar to the debilitating symptoms of the “Gulf War Syndrome” and the Vietnam War Syndrome, known as “Agent Orange”.

More than a quarter of those U.S. soldiers committing suicide are the servicemen who can no longer withstand the cruelty of the war in Iraq. The total number of 121 suicides last year, if all are confirmed, would be more than double of the 52 reported before 2001, before the 9/11 tragic events that set the ground for the Bush Administration to begin its “counter-terrorism” war and cause the deaths of over one million Iraqis. Undoubtedly, in history the mass killings of the people of Iraq would eternally be the highlight of George Bush’s legacy.

Given these conditions, the sole Republican Party candidate, Senator John McCain, wants to keep the U.S. army in Iraq for the ‘next hundred years’, which in certainty, the Senator would not be on this planet to be “the commander-in-chief” of his war in Iraq, unless he assumes that through his spirit from another world he can use the American youngsters as his cannon fodder for the U.S. war industry.


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by Anonymous-today (not verified) on

Suicide amongst soldiers is a common thing and need not be limited to an occupying army who is witness to atrocities, although it's greatly exacerbated by a nasty situation like Iraq. Long, bloody tours of duty can affect anyone, even those who believe in what they do. I hate to veer off the topic but what about the rate of suicide amongst the Iranian youth? What about the high rate of addiction and prostitution in Iran? Is Ommani going to draw the same kind of direct cause and effect conclusions there too? Somehow I doubt it. This pseudo cold war mentality among Iranians is very depressing. It seems each side is totally blind to other side.


War and PTSD

by IRANdokht on

Whether you're a soldier fighting an unjust invasion or defending your own country from foreign invaders, war is a terribly traumatic experience for many.

I remember a soldier who came home from Iran/Iraq war, so shattered that even his family couldn't recognize him. He was put on suicide watch. We didn't know what PTSD was back then, people called these young defenders of Iran "mowji".

This article is repeatedly mentioning the "US soldiers", I think this issue a more widespread phenomenon. Even the young men from our country who heard stories of Imam zaman coming and beheading %90 of the world, until his horse is knee-deep in blood, and yet they still cried for his return and the coming of such brutal and bloody day, can be emotionally and mentally stressed when they experience "war" to the point of committing suicide.




by Killjoy (not verified) on

Ever heard of the internment capms for the Japanese-Americans during the 2nd World War? There will be similar ones for those who might be thinking of foul play!
Posting threatening comments here and there will get you nowhere.


suicides are half the story

by Kalvoks on

The ticking bombs are the other half ; the byproduct of the war i.e the manufactured psychopaths .

US Debriefing can not undo million years of evelution ... though they have recently come up with some miracle drugs.

The other half of the story is the ticking bombs waiting to go off. May be next time, your in a bank or 7-11 or at your child's day care you will get to see the fire works.

all in good time ...

Meanwhile be sure to read my latest blog ...

Why the occupied USA is forced to eat SHIT?

Ali P.

Anything to support the claim?

by Ali P. on

"This phenomenon of suicide among the soldiers has its deep roots in the fact that the U.S. war on the people of Iraq is an unjust and brutal war of subjugation of the nation", you claim.

White men commit suicide at a rate almost ten times higher than black women. What do you contribute this to?


The suicide number may be high, and the war may be unjust, but how would you show  one has its roots in the other, or one is the result of the other? This is an interesting claim, but I read the whole article looking for some kind of connection, but never did find any.

Ali A Parsa

For fairness sake

by Ali A Parsa on

Mr. Ommani is exercising his rights to express his views and what he does for a living has nothing to do with that. Can we ask what you do for a living to spend time to oppose him? Oviously Mr. Ommani is showing empathy for those who are fighting and dying without necessarily believing in it. They have to make a living and imperialism has left no other choice. Most Americans are opposed to this war and they are decent people like Mr. Ommani. Should we ask each of they what they do for a living?

To assume that the soldiers who die "are part of the impreialist forces that you fight all the time" is another fallacy, ridiculous and irrelevant statement. See above. If we do not want to admit that most of ther ecent wars have been nothing but explitation of majority by a minority we cannot be considered as friends of America and with such "friends" America need no enemies.



my question is

by MRX1 (not verified) on

beside fighting imperialism, does the author have any other job? how does he make a living?
don't worry about suecide rate among the U.S troops. After all they are part of the impreialist forces that you fight all the time, so it should come as a victory for you!