Suicide rates among U.S. Soldiers surpasses General Pop rates

by Bronwyn Lepore

“War is always a betrayal. It is about betrayal of the young by the old, of cynics by idealists and of soldiers and Marines by politicians” Chris Hedges, author of War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning.

More soldiers died from committing suicide after the Vietnam War than were killed in combat, and statistics show that combat veterans are twice as likely to commit suicide as those in the general population. A recent spate of suicides among U.S. soldiers who have fought or are still serving in Iraq and Afghanistan soldiers highlights the continuation of such trends.

At Last a Perfect Soldier

Isolation, long hours, multiple deployments (many soldiers are on their third or fourth “tours”), dangerous interactions between medications prescribed to reduce the stress of combat and caffeine and alcohol, sleep disorders, anxiety, lack of treatment for or tracking of depressed soldiers, and PSTD caused by the trauma of combat have all contributed to an increase in suicides by more than 60% since 2003, outpacing the rate for the general population. Fort Campbell, Kentucky, base for the oft-deployed 101st Airborne Division experienced 14 suicides last year. Dan De Luce of Agency France-Presse explains that “tours of duty since 2001 have come ever more frequently and last longer” contributing to the rise in stress-related outcomes.

Such stress has also caused increases in rates of spousal abuse and murder, brutal and violent acts upon return to “civilian life” - recently two returned soldiers trying to rob a farm in Iowa brutally beat 2 52-yr-old farmers and tied them to a fence; a 35-yr-old vet shot his pregnant wife 5 times in the head and neck before shooting himself – social alienation and acute and debilitating depression.

While Obama has talked up an end to the occupation of Iraq, the plan to keep 50, 000 troops indefinitely on 14 permanent bases there, the continuing 8-year occupation of Afghanistan with the recent troop surge of 30,000 and plans for increased military ops in Pakistan where U.S. drone strikes have already caused civilian casualties, hardly dampens our war-based economic trends, which will continue to cause suffering among soldiers and civilians alike: In May 20 U.S. soldiers were killed and over 50 wounded, and the Iraqi death toll is typically 10 times the number of troop casualties.

For more info, go to (Iraq Veterans Against the War) and check out independent journalist Dahr Jamail’s ongoing reports at

Defenestrator 45
Summer 2009

def 45