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On Sixth Anniversary of War: Suicides Skyrocketing

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More than most in the media, I have followed the disturbing rate of suicides among our troops in Iraq, Afghanistan and here at home for nearly six years. Often I have hailed Mark Benjamin, who has kept close tabs on the same issue (and many others related to soldiers and vets) first for UPI and then for Salon.

Today, at the sixth anniversary of the start of the war, he does it again with a major piece at Salon on this subject. It follows his multi-part series last month chronicling the upsurge in acts of violence and suicides among vets back in the USA.

Thank goodness that someone is following this closely. I feel like I should do a sequel to my book of last year on Iraq and the media titled So Wrong for So Long and call it So GONE for So Long.

Last week here, I noted that the military had just reported that in the Army alone, 18 troops committed suicide in February -- down six from January's shocking high but still above what they expected. They say they are continuing to push forward with more and better counseling but, of course, multiple deployments to war zones continue.

Mark's piece today opens:

The Senate Armed Services Committee hearings Wednesday on the rising suicide rate among U.S. ground troops in Iraq and Afghanistan revealed some frightening new data, but did little to investigate the underlying causes of what is emerging as one of the darkest, most disturbing legacies of the wars.

Last year the Army had its highest suicide rate on record -- 140 soldiers. But new data from the Army on Wednesday showed the number jumping even higher. Forty-eight soldiers have already killed themselves so far this year. If that rate keeps up, nearly 225 Army soldiers will be dead by their own hand by the end of 2009.

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., called the latest trends "alarming." Army Vice Chief of Staff Peter Chiarelli admitted, "I, and the other senior leaders of our Army, readily acknowledge that these current figures are unacceptable."

In an email to me this morning, Mark struck an even more alarmed note.

More from his piece, and then follow the link.

Meanwhile, healthcare officials at various installations who are struggling to help say they're overwhelmed by huge numbers of troops returning from two, three or even four deployments with acute mental problems from combat.

Top brass in the military continue to be evasive about the problem, however. While some admit that combat stress may be a factor, others deny that seven long years of war with multiple deployments has anything to do with escalating suicide rates.

Link to full article.

Greg Mitchell's latest book is "Why Obama Won." He is editor of Editor & Publisher.