Society 09:59 27/03/2015

Veteran suicides tell the truth

By Rodney Shakespeare, Press TV

There are lies, damn lies – and statistics. There are even government statistics which are usually a combination of lying and fantasy.

But, alas, sometimes there are statistics which tell the truth.

One such statistic is the number of USA veteran (ex-military) personnel who commit suicide every day. The statistic is astonishing and it takes a while to comprehend because it is the number of suicides per day, and not per week, per month, or per year. Indeed, if an ordinary person were to be asked to guess the statistic they would probably say there could only be a handful of suicides in the course of a year.

But it is not a handful. The figure is twenty two and it really is per day or one every sixty five minutes. That’s over eight thousand per year. It has been roughly the same over the last decade. This is astonishing because it is more than those being killed in combat – at the moment it is at least ten times the combat death level!

So what on earth is going on? Very obviously, coming home from war does not mean that a soldier’s war is over. Rather, for the individual, it can be the start of a bigger, even nastier, battle, often fought alone. In February, 2015, the USA passed the Veterans Suicide Prevention Act but it difficult to see how it will make any difference.

Many factors, of course, can induce suicide, for example, loss of a spouse or income, and the general uncertainties of returning to civilian life.

Yet chief among the factors must be the mental flashbacks to some ghastly horror, perhaps long ago, and the question arises as to how the individual veterans view their participation in the horror.

In particular, it raises the question as to whether or not the individuals believe that their participation was part of something which, after all is said and done, was right, necessary, and for the general good of humanity.

And THAT is the problem. Around fifty thousand Americans died in Vietnam as did, in a slaughter, millions of Vietnamese. But how many of those Vietnam veterans who are still living really believe that what they did, or were ordered to do, was both right and necessary? In particular, both right and necessary when the gross disparity between American and Vietnamese deaths is taken into consideration?

And, today, when it is realized that the effect of American military intervention, in country after country, is only to cause death and the destruction of the country what, then, do the veterans feel as they suffer those flashbacks?

Well, they feel awful. They feel they have betrayed themselves, betrayed the human race and, most of all, feel betrayed by those who told them that they were helping humanity when, in reality, they were only serving the interests of global financiers and a vicious, narrow elite intent on only looking after itself.

War against Hitler was right and necessary. Although ultimate blame may lie in the collapse of the global economic system, the Nazis did have a racist doctrine of horrible practical consequence − those held to be of inferior race were to be whipped into work until utterly exhausted whereon a wire garrote was a cheap way of dispatching them.

Although there are issues as to the American blockade of Japan and whether one atomic bomb could have been dropped into the countryside, followed a few days later by another a little nearer a major town, those who fought the Japanese had a very bad time. Indeed, I remember that, in my youth, those who had been prisoners of war of the Japanese never wanted to talk about their experience because those who had not undergone that experience could never understand....

So the question gets down to what is right and necessary. How many American veterans who served in Iraq feel that their service was nationally honorable, right and necessary? How many in Afghanistan?

Of course there are those chicken-hawks, unable to distinguish between reality and an arcade video war game, who sit in chairs and press buttons to make a drone blast apart a wedding party. They never suffer flashbacks because they have been brainwashed to believe that they could never be doing wrong. Indeed, they are unlikely ever to commit suicide because, every night, they sleep the sleep of the self-righteous, the bumptious, the cocky and complacent.

But what of ordinary Americans who, in order to get a job, joined the military or who, genuinely believing that they would be doing good by serving their country, begin to realize in the small hours of the night that they have served evil and so what they did was evil.

For them life itself can be terrible and, feeling alone, suicide might seem the only way out. Yet, for those who suffer there can be a way forward (a way unknown to the American government) and that is to vow to fight for justice and get involved in the fight in a practical way.

And that is why more and more American veterans are splendidly involved in the fight for justice and we take off our hats to them. 

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