“In the three months after Marine Maj. John Ruocco returned from Iraq feeling numb and depressed, he couldn’t sleep. He had lost weight. He had nightmares. He was distracted and withdrawn from his two young sons,” on May 28, 2007, Jennifer C. Kerr of the Associated Press wrote. “One night, he promised his wife Kim that he would get help. The next morning he was dead. The 40-year-old Cobra helicopter pilot, based at Camp Pendleton, California, had hanged himself.”
There are many other such tragedies that we don’t hear about because the Marine Corps and the Army under the cover of investigation hides the reality facing the servicemen - the number of soldiers in depression, financially in debt, on the verge of homelessness, suffering from family disintegration and feeling the guilt of being part of an army whose highest goals are to bring a nation to submission by killing the fathers, mothers and the children of tens of thousands of families that they know nothing about their history and don’t even speak their language.
The rate of U.S. soldier suicides was the highest among active-duty Marines last year than any year since the U.S. invaded Iraq in March 2003. The rise in suicides made the rate among the Marine Corps equal to the rate in the civilian population in the U.S. In 2008, forty-one active-duty Marines are confirmed to have committed suicide, which amounts to 16.8 persons per 100,000 troops, the Marine Corps report said. The victims of the suicides were almost all enlisted and under 24 years of age, and about two-thirds were deployed to foreign lands.
On February 5, the Army announced there were 128 suicides in 2008, the highest since it began keeping records in 1980. It was the fourth year in a row that the numbers rose as the wars in the Middle East continued. Last year's Army suicide rate of 20.2 per 100,000 soldiers was also the first time since the Vietnam War that the rate was higher than the adjusted civilian rate. This is also higher than the current rate of the Marine Corps. The reason for the higher rates of suicides in the Army and the Marine Corps could be attributed to the fact that the two services have suffered the cruelty of the war in Iraq and have been subjected to repetitious deployments back to the killing fields of the Middle East.
The statistics of Marine Corps suicides were released during a suicide prevention workshop in San Antonio, CA, sponsored by the Defense and Veteran’s Affairs Departments. The main speaker of the conference was Army Maj. General Mark Graham, who lost one son to suicide and the second one to the battle zones in Iraq. The servicemen and women’s suicides are an extension of the casualties of war whose painful infliction is not only on the lives of the soldiers but also remains an agony for the families of the deceased. The responsibility of these tragedies lies with the supreme commander who began and continued the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and now Pakistan: George W. Bush, and the class whose interests lie in the continuation of war and militarism.
If the current U.S. foreign policy plans of escalating troops inside Afghanistan continues as has been suggested by the new administration (possibly sending 30,000 more soldiers into the vast Afghanistan battles), one cannot expect the number of suicides to diminish.
Any peaceful and long-lasting resolution of the conflicts and agony in the Middle East seriously necessitates a real change of policy, and not tactical maneuvers on the part of the Obama Administration.
Ardeshir Ommani is an Iranian-born writer and an activist in the U.S. anti-war and anti-imperialist struggle for over 40 years, including against the Vietnam War, and now the Iraq war. During the past seven years, he has participated in the U.S. peace movement, working to promote dialogue and peace among nations and to prevent a U.S.-spurred war on Iran. He holds two Masters Degrees: one in Political Economy and another in Mathematics Education. Co-founder of the American Iranian Friendship Committee, (AIFC), he writes articles of analysis on Iran -U.S. relations, the U.S. economy and has translated articles and books from English into Farsi, the Persian language. After many years of absence, he has been traveling back to Iran and is witnessing first-hand the myriad of changes in all spheres of life inside his homeland. Please visit AIFC’s website to learn more about Iran and Global issues at www.iranaifc.com.
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