- Nine years ago, the Cheney/Bush/Rove/Rumsfeld administration
started, by a series of treasonous lies, its so-called endless wars on
the nebulous "terrorism", much of which was provoked by decades
of anti-Muslim/pro-Israeli US foreign policies. According to the US Department
of Defense more US military personnel have taken their own lives since
2001 than have been killed in action (KIA) in either Iraq or Afghanistan.
In 2009 alone, more than 330 active servicemen and women have committed
suicide - more than those KIAs in Afghanistan and Iraq. And this number
doesn't count the veterans who have killed themselves following their discharge.
- The suicide rate in the US military, prior to 2001, was
lower than that for the general US population. In the years since 2001,
the suicide rate for active duty personnel is nearly double the national
- When military campaigns result in suicide numbers that
exceed those killed by enemy combatants, there should be a massive hue
and cry demanding to know the reasons why. And the reasons behind the secret
decisions to send our previously mentally healthy soldiers "into harm's
way" to become unnecessary mental health casualties must be questioned.
- It needs to be pointed out again that the official Pentagon
figures only keep track of completed suicides that occur in active duty
personnel but these numbers are artificially low and always have been.
- Indeed, many Vietnam vets say that there should be another
Wall in DC just to honor and/or lament the ones who died after that atrocious
war ended. Likewise, the numbers of suicides are just as deceptively low
as are the KIA count, which does not number as KIA those who died after
clearing Iraqi or Afghani air space en route to military hospitals in Europe.
- Also not included in Pentagon figures are the large numbers
of veterans who take their own lives following discharge. These are veterans
who "come home crazy", justifiably angry, understandably hopeless
about the endless struggle to return to normalcy, instead finding a toxic,
nearly bankrupt nation (largely because of consistent and excessive military
spending over the decades) where life does not have the same meaning for
them compared to what they experienced in the camaraderie of the combat
zone. Those soldiers, who all-too-frequently have gradually become psychologically
and spiritually damaged, return to civilian life totally changed. They
return to unsuspecting and unprepared loved ones, who are often secondarily
traumatized by the soldier. Those loved ones often can't understand (and
sometimes don't want to hear about) the painful hellish realities that
their soldier almost didn't survive.
- On top of the underestimation of completed suicides among
active duty soldiers and discharged veterans, the Department of Defense
apparently makes no attempt to measure the incidence of suicidal thinking
or unsuccessful suicide attempts. The exact figures are obviously not known,
For an estimate of such suicidality, it has been suggested that one might
just multiply the incidence of successful suicides by 5 or 10. One PTSD-related
study of Vietnam-era veterans showed that 20% of that study group were
chronically plagued by a preoccupation with suicidal thinking. An example
of this sobering reality is Tim O'Brien, the honored author of a number
of award-winning novels about the Vietnam War, including "The Things
They Carried", "Going After Cacciato" and "In the Lake
of the Woods". O'Brien still suffers from intermittent suicidal thinking.
- As another indication of the hidden consequences of being
in a kill-or-be-killed warzone, many historians estimate that there may
have been as many as 200,000 Vietnam veterans who committed suicide after
they came home from the war. The KIA/MIA number in that war was "only"
58,000. There are obviously plenty of reasons to build another Wall or
- It should come as no surprise that the suicide rate among
demobilized veterans from the Gulf Wars may now be as high as four times
the national average! And it is apparently climbing. The US Department
of Veteran Affairs calculates that over 6,000 former service personnel
(from all wars) commit suicide every year. What is this saying about what
will probably go down in history as another of the many useless, senseless
and nation-bankrupting wars?
- Many of these discharged men and women came home understandably
depressed, sleep-deprived, irritable, malnourished, angry, demoralized
and, on top of all that, perhaps even feeling guilty about the gruesome
sights, sounds and smells that they had seen or been responsible for. Only
the most ethical soldiers refused to obey illegal orders under fire, perhaps
saving their souls in the process.
- An alarming number of combat soldiers are being given
brain-altering psych drugs to numb their emotional pain, artificially stimulate
their understandable low mood, quell the equally understandable nervousness
or produce a chemically-induced semi-coma that might simulate sleep.
- Along with these prescription drugs, these troubled soldiers
might be, like their civilian counterparts back home falsely-labeled with
a mental illness diagnosis or two and be told that they need to stay on
drugs for the rest of their lives! In reality civilians and soldiers alike
may only be experiencing a situation of "overwhelm" of known
etiology that is likely to be temporary and therefore treatable without
- Many psychiatric drugs are known to actually increase
the incidence of suicidal thinking and usually cause many other adverse
effects that can be misinterpreted as mental illness symptoms. These widely
used psych drugs, whether legal or illegal, are also well known to produce
various degrees of altered thinking (called "spell-binding" by
psychiatrist Peter Breggin in his recent book titled "Medication Madness").
These drug effects include altered impulse control, rage reactions, worsening
depression, drug-induced mania, insomnia or irrational behaviors such as
criminal or antisocial behaviors. Many psych drugs can cause dependence
and addiction, so that serious withdrawal symptoms can occur when a patient
tries to cut down or quit the medication, good for the pharmaceutical industry
but very bad for patients and their brains. These withdrawal symptoms
are often misdiagnosed as a "relapse" of the patient's "mental
illness" whereas the symptoms may have never been seen prior to the
use of the drug.
- How crazy-making must it be for physically and spiritually-wounded
veterans, who thought that they were defending their country, being willing
to die for democracy, and then finding out too late that they had actually
been fighting and killing and dying for thousands of corporate war profiteers
like Halliburton, Gulf Oil, Blackwater, the big financial institutions,
the weapons-makers, the gun-runners and the reflected glory for ChickenHawk
politicians and talking heads like Cheney, Bush, Rumsfeld, Rice, Ashcroft,
Wolfowitz, Rove, Limbaugh, Hannity and numberless others who never experienced
the horrors of war themselves?
- So now we are saddled with tens of thousands, in dramatically
increasing numbers, of seemingly expendable, increasingly unpatriotic and
very angry young men and women who are newly haunted by unseen demons,
coming home to a country that is said to be undergoing what is euphemistically
called a "jobless recovery" by guilty Wall Street cheerleaders
who, for the benefit of their satisfied investors, went along with another
highly profitable war that changed forever the lives of the duped soldiers.
And now they can find no work, may not be able concentrate well enough
to handle college and may have finally tumbled to the fact that they had
been deceived by their military recruiters who had promised valuable work
experience in the military, a college education but made no mention of
the psychological costs of going to war.
- Often these soldiers came back to find out that their
homes had been repossessed by a corrupt banking industry that had been
rescued of their reckless, unethical and criminal activities by multi-billion
dollar bailouts with no bail-outs for the grunts who worked so hard
doing what they thought was their patriotic duty. Too often they returned
to find their marriages on the rocks and their family on food stamps. Is
it any wonder that many ex-soldiers have simply lost the will to live?
- It seems to me that any ethical person who is still thinking,
who is trying to read between the lines, who cares about the survival of
his faltering nation and perhaps has sworn to defend the US against its
domestic enemies, knows that it is time to stop the hemorrhage that is
bleeding the US dry at a rate of $450,000,000 per day (450 million dollars
a day!!) down a seemingly bottomless Pentagon pit, a pit that is also "disappearing"
thousands of previously healthy young uniformed American men and women,
many of whom look like they might wind up permanently disabled in body,
mind and spirit.
- Most Americans don't think continuing these useless and
senseless wars is worth the huge costs we all will bear
costs that are known and unknown, current and future - whether
the wars are ultimately declared "won" or "lost". Most
Americans in their heart of hearts know that we can't afford to continue spending
massive amounts of money that our nation doesn't have on destructive
wars when so many human needs are being left unmet. It's time
to cut our losses, declare victory and bring the troops home before
more damage is done to them and our nation.
- Dr. Kohls is a recently retired physician who practiced
holistic mental health care and came to understand the importance of psychological
and spiritual trauma (and the mostly neurologic disorder called posttraumatic
stress disorder (and its variants) as a major root cause of what are most
often instead called "mental illnesses of unknown etiology".
If the reader is interested in exploring those realities, a number of videointerviews
on the topic are available online at www.iHealthTube.com. Many of the videos
are also on YouTube.