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Update: The Toll of War

September 9, 2008

Over the past couple of days, I have written on the limits of military force and the terrible human costs of war. Sadly, two news stories appearing today drive the point home.

In a post on the U.S. Army’s report that this year the number of suicides among active duty military personnel would likely be the highest on record, I noted that the problem is in fact much worse among veterans.  A story in today’s USA Today confirms this. VA statistics released Tuesday show that the suicide rates for young male Iraq- and Afghanistan-era veterans hit a record high in 2006 (the latest year for which statistics are available), and are more than double the rate for males of the same age in the general population.

In a follow-on post yesterday on growing evidence that a recent U.S. airstike killed many more civilians than the military has so far acknowledged, I wondered if war could ever be moral or practical when, despite our military’s best efforts, so many innocent lives are sacrificed. This story appeared in the NY Times today:

September 9, 2008

More Afghans Being Killed, Report Says

KABUL, Afghanistan — Civilian deaths caused by United States and NATO airstrikes in Afghanistan nearly tripled last year from 2006, fueling a public backlash, a report by Human Rights Watch said Monday.

The report also blamed the Taliban, who have staged a broad offensive across half the country since 2006, for endangering Afghans’ lives “by deploying their forces in populated villages” and by using civilians as human shields.

Human Rights Watch, a New York-based group, said the behavior of insurgents did not excuse those dropping the bombs and firing the missiles.

“Mistakes by the U.S. and NATO have dramatically decreased public support for the Afghan government and the presence of international forces providing security to Afghans,” Brad Adams, the group’s director for Asia, said in a statement.

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