November 08, 2009 5:37 pm
From TomDispatch.com In a grim November 3rd Wall Street Journal piece (buried inside the paper), Yochi Dreazen reported record suicide rates for a stressed-out U.S. Army. Sixteen soldiers killed themselves in October alone, 134 so far this year, essentially ensuring that last year's "record" of 140 suicides will be broken. This represents a startling 37% jump in suicides since 2006 and, for the first time, puts the suicide rate in the Army above that of the general U.S. population.
After eight years of two major counterinsurgency wars (and various minor encounters in what used to be called the Global War on Terror), with many soldiers experiencing multiple tours of duty, with approximately 120,000 U.S. troops still in Iraq and almost 70,000 in Afghanistan, with the Afghan War clearly in an escalatory phase, commanders in the field calling for 40,000-80,000 more American troops, and base construction on the rise, the military's internal problems are clearly escalating as well.
As Dahr Jamail, author of The Will to Resist: Soldiers Who Refuse to Fight in Iraq and Afghanistan, and Sarah Lazare report, under these circumstances, the Army is digging deep for deployable troops; in fact, it's dipping into a pool of soldiers who have already been damaged or even broken by their experiences in our war zones -- and that's just to meet present deployment needs. Perhaps it's not surprising then that Dreazen included this striking passage in his report: "
At a White House meeting Friday, the Joint Chiefs of Staff urged President Barack Obama to send fresh troops to Afghanistan only if they have spent at least a year in the U.S. since their last overseas tour, according to people familiar with the matter. If Mr. Obama agreed to that condition, many potential Afghanistan reinforcements wouldn't be available until next summer at the earliest."
In translation (if Dreazen is correct), that means, in a private brainstorming session with the president, the Joint Chiefs have evidently put the brakes on implementing the full-scale plan of Centcom Commander David Petraeus and Afghan War commander Stanley McChrystal to send a massive infusion of new troops to Afghanistan any time soon.
It's worth asking -- though no one, as far as I can tell, yet has -- whether this may be a modest Afghan equivalent of the "Shinseki moment" before the invasion of Iraq. (Then, Army Chief of Staff General Eric Shinseki warned in Congressional testimony that, if we invaded, we would need "several hundred thousand" troops -- numbers not available -- for the occupation to follow. He was laughed into retirement by the Bush-appointed civilian leadership of the Pentagon.)
At the same time, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Admiral Mike Mullen, has just made it clear that the Pentagon will once again request supplemental war-fighting funds sometime next year, over and above the $130 billion Congress appropriated only a month ago in the Defense Department budget. These will be based, in part, on a calculation that each 1,000 new troops sent to Afghanistan must be supported by an extra billion dollars in funds. (You can do the math yourself on those 40,000 troops and then wonder just where all that money is going to come from.)
We are, in fact, facing an ongoing disaster not just for the U.S., but for the U.S. military. Read the following piece and ask yourself: What state would a military have to be in to consider sending such men back into a war zone? A desperate military is, of course, the answer -- a military rubbed raw and, as the shocking mass murder spree at already stressed-out Fort Hood may indicate, on edge in a way that perhaps no one has quite grasped. Tom
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