Consequences for the US Military

Picture Credit: Where is the Outrage?
Picture Credit: Where is the Outrage?

The US military is suffering from the effects of six years of war in Afghanistan and Iraq as part of the US "War on Terror." Heavy casualties, longer deployments and an exhausted force have left troop numbers stretched. The rate of suicide and mental illness in the military is at its highest level in 26 years. Many top commanders and veterans of the war are speaking out against the flawed US policy. With the Bush administration signaling its long term plans to keep over 100,000 troops in the country beyond 2008, the strains on the military and the impact on its soldiers are likely to worsen.


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Wikileaks Iraq War Logs Reveal Private Military Contractors Killing With Impunity (October 24, 2010)

Wikileaks exposes a higher number of deadly shootings by unregulated private security contractors than those deliberately mis-reported by media and government. Pratap Chaterjee demands an inquiry into the privatisation of the military that has led to a considerable increase in violent incidents, while reducing military accountability. The US government plans to double the number of private security contractors in Iraq. Iraqi civilians are unable to raise the issue to the military as they are unable to tell which of these companies are licensed and which are not.. (The Guardian)

Disposable Soldiers (March 6, 2010)

According to figures from the Pentagon and a Harvard University study, the US military is saving billions by fraudulently discharging soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan citing "personality disorders." In many cases soldiers have no documented history of psychological problems, are deemed physically and psychology fit for service by US military doctors and welcomed to the military. When subsequently wounded during service and seeking treatment, soldiers are diagnosed with a pre-existing "personality disorder," discharged and denied benefits which the military is required to provide soldiers who are wounded during service. (The Nation)

Battling the Inner Demons of War (March 25, 2010)

In 2009, 334 US soldiers committed suicide, more than double the 149 soldiers killed in combat in Iraq. Approximately one in five US soldiers returning from service in Afghanistan and Iraq have battled traumatic neuroses, with many young veterans describing constant and overwhelming feelings of "guilt, panic and rage."  In 2008, military doctors discovered that each month, around 1,000 veterans attempt suicide, and confirmed that 300,000 veterans suffer from post traumatic stress disorder. (SpiegelOnline)

Young Veterans Face Steep Unemployment (March 12, 2010)

Young veterans returning from combat in Iraq and Afghanistan face steep unemployment with more than one in five unable to find work. The unemployment rate for veterans aged between 18 and 24 reached 21.1% in 2009, rising significantly from 14% in 2008. Veterans groups attribute the high jobless rate to health and mental issues, as well as a lack of education and job experience. Many employers, especially small businesses are reluctant to hire reservists due to the economic impact of losing these employees to multiple deployments after expensive job training. (Los Angeles Times)


Where Will They Get the Troops? (November 8, 2009)

US troops who desert or go AWOL face an uncertain future if they turn themselves in. Currently, the US Army makes them to wait months to face military justice. But the US Army "offers" them amnesty and a way out of this legal limbo - if the person agrees to return to Afghanistan or Iraq. The US Army will do this regardless of whether a soldier is suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or has other mental health issues. The  Army has also generally been downplaying severe mental health issues in order to keep troops "deployable." (TomDispatch)


'I Don't Think This Place Is Worth Another Soldier's Life' (October 27, 2007)

This Washington Post article follows a battalion of soldiers as they reach the end of their 14 month tour in Iraq. The soldiers say that when they first began patrolling the streets of Sadiyah, a middle-class suburb of Baghdad, the shops were open and people were walking around. At the end of their tour, the soldiers say the area is littered with trash, open sewers and burnt out houses and cars. One soldier remarked that he will leave "being very skeptical of everything."

Ill-Equipped Soldiers Opt for "Search and Avoid" (October 24, 2007)

Both active duty soldiers and veterans of the war in Iraq say that a lack of training and proper equipment and distrust in the chain of command has led to an increase in "search and avoid" missions. The soldiers say that to avoid roadside bombs many soldiers pretend to be on patrol and instead park their humvees and "hang out, listen to music and smoke cigarettes." The growing death toll and lack of morale has also led to an increase in mental illness in the military. The Office of Veterans Affairs indicates that the total number of mental health cases among war veterans increased by 58 percent from 2006 to 2007. (New York Times)

Ex-General Calls Iraq a "Nightmare" (October 13, 2007)

Former US military commander, Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez, says the current White House policy in Iraq is flawed. The General argues that the US is living an endless nightmare and criticizes the surge strategy of President George Bush and General David Petraeus. He suggests that "there has been a glaring, unfortunate display of incompetent strategic leadership." Sanchez' comments join a long list of complaints from other returned military commanders. (Aljazeera)

US Army Running Out of Troops (August 20, 2007)

The US military considers options to maintain troop levels in Iraq as six years of war, heavy casualties and an exhausted fighting force leave troop numbers stretched. Options include, using National Guard units, keeping soldiers in Iraq for longer than the promised 15 months and breaching a commitment to keep soldiers at home for a full year before redeployment. While General David Petraeus says he expects to have fewer forces in Iraq by summer 2008, military commentators expect the number of troops to remain the same. (Journal Star News)

Army Says Stress of War on Soldiers' Marriages, Personal Lives Is Helping Boost Suicides (August 16, 2007)

In 2006, 99 US soldiers committed suicide - the highest rate of suicide in the US military in 26 years. The Army claims soldiers in Iraq are committing suicide for the ‘traditional' reasons, namely "underdeveloped life coping skills," and financial and relationship stress. The Army contends there is no direct link between suicide rates and the length of deployment and stresses of combat. However, strains on relationships and finances are inextricably linked to longer deployments in Iraq. (Associated Press)

Fatigue Cripples US Army in Iraq (August 12, 2007)

In light of rising desertion rates and the US military's declining recruitment levels, combat troops face multiple Iraq deployments. As a result, more and more US soldiers suffer from exhaustion, sleep disorders and mental health problems. These issues reflect the strain of the war on the Army as well as US troops' growing dissatisfaction with the seemingly endless Iraq operation. (Observer)



Final Report of the Mental Health Advisory Team (November 17, 2006)

A Pentagon report compiled by the Mental Health Advisory Team (MHAT) reveals the worsening behavioral health condition of US soldiers. Crippling illnesses like depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder afflict soldiers, but this consequently affects Iraqi civilians. The survey revealed that more than a third of the troops condone the torturing of Iraqis, less than half believe Iraqi civilians deserve dignified treatment which adds up to a vast number of humanitarian breaches.

Sickened Iraq Vets Cite Depleted Uranium (August 13, 2006)

Many Iraq war veterans have sued the US Army over damages caused by depleted uranium. The US fired an estimated 130 tons of "its new favorite weapon" at the start of the invasion in 2003, leaving thousands of shells and hundreds of tanks coated with the dense, "radioactive, and chemically toxic metal." Inhaled, the dust can lodge in the lungs, emitting radiation and causing severe side effects. The troops claim US officials knew the hazards of depleted uranium, but concealed the risks. (Associated Press)

Thousands of Troops Say They Won't Fight (August 5, 2006)

The US Army insists that fewer soldiers have abandoned their military posts each year since the Iraq war began in 2003. However, critics of the war say that the Pentagon's figures hugely understate the desertion rate. While some deserters do not oppose war, many do object to what they consider the illegality of the conflict in Iraq. As during the Vietnam War, thousands of US military deserters have fled to Canada, either seeking refugee status or to lead "clandestine lives." (Gannett News)

A Safer Weapon, With Risks (May 18, 2006)

The US military has developed a laser weapon device for use in Iraq that temporarily blinds oncoming drivers approaching military checkpoints. The device, which can be attached to an M-4 rifle, was designed to allow soldiers to "dazzle" rather than fire at drivers who fail to stop. Though the military designed the device to reduce death and injury, human rights groups have criticized laser weapons, calling them cruel, unusual and illegal under Protocol IV of the Convention on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons Which May Be Deemed to Be Excessively Injurious or to Have Indiscriminate Effects. (Los Angeles Times)

Iraq Mess Is Literally Making People Sick (April 10, 2006)

Despite severe health problems facing both Iraqis and US military veterans exposed to depleted uranium (DU) during the 1991 Gulf War, the US military has fired an even greater quantity of DU munitions – over 2,200 tons – on Iraqi cities and people since the 2003 invasion. As a radioactive substance, DU "wreaks havoc" on DNA and RNA, causing cancer and genetic mutations over longer periods, along with numerous painful symptoms following immediate exposure. Nonetheless, the Pentagon denies that DU causes severe harm, and continues to use DU munitions in Iraq. (Uruknet)

Losing Their Minds (January 5, 2006)

As a result of heavy US bombing in Iraq, an increasing number of US troops sustain traumatic brain injuries. From January 2003 to April 2005, thirty one percent of battle-injured soldiers admitted to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, DC were diagnosed with brain trauma. Despite the severity of these injuries, many soldiers are passed off as psychological cases and some are accused of exaggeration and malingering. (Salon)