Why 'Stressed Out' U.S. Soldier Killing Comrades in Iraq Was Inevitable

06/11/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

The slaughter of five comrades by a "stressed out" U.S. soldier today in Baghdad is a true tragedy -- but should not come as a shock.

Some of us have warned about this kind of thing happening for years, with many in the media ignoring the effects of the war on our soldiers and veterans, or paying attention for just a short while and then moving along. Of course, there are exceptions, such as Salon's Mark Benjamin.

It's revealing that today's incident took place at a clinic for soldiers suffering from trauma or mental fatigue, and the killer, a sergeant, apparently was a patient himself.

Suicides both in Iraq and among vets back home have been unusually high almost from the beginning of the war and have surged in recent months. Also truly shocking is the number of veterans with brain trauma or mental problems. These numbers get reported when a study emerges, then are forgotten. At least President Obama has upped money for treatment.

Nearly one in five American soldiers deployed in Iraq suffer Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), according to the U.S. military's website.

Too often the media treats our presence in Iraq as essentially benign now, ignoring the plight of those serving there, and the travails when they come home.

I have written about soldier suicides for almost six years now. I always have plenty to write about, unfortunately. And now, mass murder.

Paul Rieckhoff, head of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America said this afternoon: "Unlike during the Vietnam War, today's military is a professional, all-volunteer force.  There have been only five cases of intentional fratricide by U.S. service members in Iraq.  But these incidents, however rare, draw public attention to an important issue: the enormous stress on our armed forces.  Many troops are under great psychological strain and are not receiving the treatment they need.  Over 600,000 troops have served more than one combat tour since 9/11.  Military suicide rates have hit record highs every year since 2003.  Much more must be done to address troops' psychological injuries before they reach a crisis point."

And remember: We still have as many soldiers in Iraq as we did before the surge -- and are sending thousands more to Afghanistan.

Greg Mitchell's book "So Wrong for So Long" included several chapters on soldier suicides. His latest book is "Why Obama Won."