Today's Chicago Tribune reports on the rising suicide rate among soldiers in Iraq. The survey (the first of its kind in a combat situation) shows an increase in suicide from 11.9 per 100,000 soldiers to 17.3 per 100,000 soldiers.
Any suicide is a tragedy, and may be a growing problem in Iraq (or may not; this may be a one time blip in the statistics).
As the Tribune warns:
"While experts and GI advocates were pleased that the Army was acknowledging a problem, they remained cautious on whether the military would heed the recommendations.
"It's no longer a disputed issue," said Dr. Paul Ragan, a Vanderbilt University professor who was a Navy psychiatrist for 11 years. "These are sentinel events and if they are not addressed now, it will become catastrophic if it's not addressed with the proper science and vigor."
But as bad as it is, is it a catastrophe? Will this story, as framed by the Tribune, cause concerned citizens to demand that we pull our troops home?
A little more information for comparison will be useful to an informed citizen. This, via the New York Times, where the first two sentences are identical to the Tribune's story. The Tribune omitted the last sentence (Ed.: emphasis mine):
"That number put the suicide rate at 17.3 per 100,000 soldiers, compared with 12.8 for the Army overall last year, and an average rate of 11.9 for the Army between 1995 and 2002, Army officials said. The civilian rate for 18- to 34-year-olds, the age range of most soldiers, is 21.5 per 100,000."
Though the suicide rate, tragically, did increase in Iraq last summer, the rate is still much lower than the suicide rate among a soldier's civilian peers back home.
Information such as this gives an informed citizen the tools he/she needs to make a reasoned decision about this situation and our commitment in Iraq.
For the Chicago Tribune to deprive its readers of this information and context, is disingenous and a disservice to each of us.
The UK's Prime Minister's speech justifying military action in Iraq and warning of the continued threat of global terrorism. Tony Blair has been one of the clearest speakers on the problems that today face our civilization. His entire speech is concise and lucid. Read it in its entirety at the above link.
"We know now, if we didn't before, that our own self interest is ultimately bound up with the fate of other nations. The doctrine of international community is no longer a vision of idealism....
The essence of a community is common rights and responsibilities. We have obligations in relation to each other. If we are threatened, we have a right to act. And we do not accept in a community that others have a right to oppress and brutalise their people. We value the freedom and dignity of the human race and each individual in it....
Which brings us to how you make the rules and how you decide what is right or wrong in enforcing them....
This dilemma is at the heart of many people's anguished indecision over the wisdom of our action in Iraq. It explains the confusion of normal politics that has part of the right liberating a people from oppression and a part of the left disdaining the action that led to it. It is partly why the conspiracy theories or claims of deceit have such purchase. How much simpler to debate those than to analyse and resolve the conundrum of our world's present state....
This agenda must be robust in tackling the security threat that this Islamic extremism poses; and fair to all peoples by promoting their human rights, wherever they are. It means tackling poverty in Africa and justice in Palestine as well as being utterly resolute in opposition to terrorism as a way of achieving political goals. It means an entirely different, more just and more modern view of self-interest....
But in the meantime, the threat is there and demands our attention.
That is the struggle which engages us. It is a new type of war. It will rest on intelligence to a greater degree than ever before. It demands a difference attitude to our own interests. It forces us to act even when so many comforts seem unaffected, and the threat so far off, if not illusory. In the end, believe your political leaders or not, as you will. But do so, at least having understood their minds."
This blog features the letters of my sister "Major Pain" (pseudonym, of course). She is a nurse and was stationed at the 21st CSH in Iraq from August of 2003 to February 2004. Read her letters from Balad for a riveting and irreverant slice of life at the 21st CSH.
Her letters are listed in chronological order in the left hand column.