A new survey of soldiers and Marines reveals startling figures concerning the impact of the war in Iraq upon those in combat. Suicides are up among combat vets, mental health issues are worse among those who deploy often and for longer periods, and one out of 10 service members surveyed said they have hit or kicked non-combatant Iraqis or destroyed their property. Only half admitted they would report another service member who hurt or killed an Iraqi civilian.
The survey offered concrete figures to support its conclusions. For example, suicide rates for Army combat vets are 16.1 per 100,000 compared to 11.1 for non-deployed soldiers. Of those on a second, third or fourth deployment, 27% screened positive for mental health issues compared to 17% of first-time deployers. And 225 of those in combat for six months or more screened positive for mental health issues compared to 15% of those who had been there fewer than six months.
The survey found that soldiers and Marines who are on their third or fourth trip to Iraq are often the most likely to hurt noncombatants. Only 25% said they would risk their lives to help an Iraqi civilian in danger.
Information from Stars & Stripes
It is all well and good for people like Anne Coulter and Rush Limbaugh to talk blithely about fighting wars against “terrorists.” Bush and Cheney dodged military service (Rumsfeld served when there was no fighting) and have no comprehension of what killing and being frightened of getting killed does to the mental health of humans. It would be wonderful if all the Republican supporters of the war in Iraq urged their own children and children of family members to serve their country. I(f that ever happened, Democrats wouldn’t have to worry about establishing benchmarks to get the soldiers home, Republicans would be introducing such legislation.