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More on the Toll of War….

September 7, 2008

At a recent Pentagon news conference, a U.S. Army spokesman reported that the suicide rate of active duty soldiers could surpass last year’s record rate.

Michael J. Iafrate at Vox Nova noted that McCain and Palin have had nothing to say about the terrible toll of the war on our soldiers, and PolitiCatholica took him to task for smearing Palin:

Here. Oh, and a running count of failed attempts to ‘get Palin’. But . . . but . . . “She didn’t mention that military suicide might actually rise enough to be on par with those of the civilian population! Tsk Tsk.”

Some people . . . .

Not that the redoubtable Michael J needs me to defend him, but….

First off, Iafrate’s point may be a bit ungenerous, but it is not even in the same universe as the certifiably whacky stuff that PolitiCatholica links to. So speaking of whacky smears…..

Much more importantly, if PolitiCatholica’s point is that military suicides are only on par with civilian suicides and so no problem, then it’s sadly off base. To begin with, let’s remember this story originates with an Army press conference, not a liberal blogger. Here is more from a Washington Post story which explains why rates being on par with the civilian rate are such a concern to the military:

The officials voiced concern that an array of Army programs aimed at suicide prevention has not checked a years-long rise in the suicide rate. Still, they said, the number of deaths probably would have climbed even more without such efforts.

“What does success look like? Frankly, we do not know,” said Col. Eddie Stephens, deputy director for human resources under the Army’s personnel division.

The Army’s suicide rate has increased from 12.4 per 100,000 in 2003, when the Iraq war started, to 18.1 per 100,000 last year. Suicide attempts by soldiers have also increased since 2003, Stephens said.

This year the death rate is likely to exceed that of a demographically similar segment of the U.S. population — 19.5 per 100,000, Stephens said. According to service officials, the last time that occurred was in the late 1960s during the Vietnam War, when the United States had a draft Army that suffered from serious discipline problems. In 1973, the nation created an all-volunteer force that has generally enjoyed an above-average level of mental health, a condition contradicted by the recent rise in suicides.

More troubling still, remember that this is the suicide rate among active military personnel only. A longitudinal study showed that the suicide rate among male veterans is about twice as high as that of the general population, and – although no precise numbers are available – there is evidence that the rate is significantly higher still among Iraqi veterans.

I think it’s perfectly fair to wonder why McCain and Palin have not talked about the terrible toll these wars are taking on our soldiers.

Of course, McCain, Palin, and bloggers like PolitiCatholica are perfectly free to ignore this, to pretend it’s not a problem. But I don’t see how you can do that and claim to support the troops….

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. September 7, 2008 11:42 pm

    I think it’s perfectly fair to wonder why McCain and Palin have not talked about the terrible toll these wars are taking on our soldiers….

    Of course, McCain, Palin, and bloggers like PolitiCatholica are perfectly free to ignore this, to pretend it’s not a problem. But I don’t see how you can do that and claim to support the troops….

    Yes, exactly. My initial post was not so much an attempt to “smear” Palin, but to point to the fact that the republican party’s war cheerleading, so present in the RNC speeches, ignores the reality of what they are cheering for.

  2. tizzidale permalink
    September 8, 2008 11:22 am

    Other than my link to Vox Nova, I can’t for the life of me think of any ‘whacky’ stuff I link to. As for me, I’ve made it clear that I am not happy with the ‘war cheerleading’ (as Michael states above), and I would have liked far less emphasis on the war on terror, “our enemies”, etc. etc at the convention. I do not want to denigrate the real problem of military suicide . . . but to make it a point of criticism for a convention speech? Come on.

  3. September 9, 2008 12:01 am

    Other than my link to Vox Nova, I can’t for the life of me think of any ‘whacky’ stuff I link to.

    In your post responding to Michael J, you link to two posts on other blogs — one decrying “nutcase bloggers” who evidently were concocting a patently nonsensical theory that Palin is trying to cover up an affair, and another one cataloging the number of rumors circulating about Palin and her family, ranging from the true but grossly overblown to the “kidnapped by aliens” variety. These posts quite rightly dismiss nonsense as nonsense.

    But in linking to them in the context of your disagreement with Michael J, you seem to be suggesting that his criticism of McCain and Palin for not speaking to the terrible toll that the war is having on our soldiers is the same sort of thing — a whacky smear or conspiracy theory that can and should be dismissed out of hand.

    I strongly disagree. I am glad to hear that you acknowledge the seriousness of “the real problem of military suicide.” Since it is a very real problem, I think it is perfectly reasonable to ask that candidates for the highest executive office in the land discuss it in their speeches as well.

    I am glad to hear as well that you join Michael J in being unhappy with the excessive “war cheerleading” at the RNC.
    Why then do you think it unreasonable to demand that political leaders speak more realistically about the real costs of war, about the toll it takes on our soldiers and on the people living in the countries we aim to help?

  4. tizzidale permalink
    September 9, 2008 10:03 am

    I simply think it’s ridiculous to criticize a convention speech for its lack of discussion of military suicide. I wouldn’t mind seeing the issue addressed in the debates.

  5. September 9, 2008 4:57 pm

    Fair enough on the narrow point of whether a speech covers the specific issue of military and veteran suicide rates.

    But I think we should expect candidates for the U.S. executive to talk realistically about the human costs of war and the limits of military force. Instead we got chest-thumping militaristic fantasy.

    I think criticism of that is in order.

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  1. Update on The Toll of War « A Little Bit of Change

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