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An Epidemic of Military Suicides
Box me up and ship me home
Pin my medals upon my chest
Tell my mom I’ve done my best
- Marine Corps Cadence
On June 10th of this year, Daniel Somers, a veteran of more than 400 combat missions in Iraq, killed himself. One more name to be added to the list of US veterans who have committed suicide.
It’s a very long list. And it is growing at an astonishing rate. Just about every single hour, of every single day, another name gets added to it. What America’s enemies could not accomplish in hostile zones, American society appears to be able to do with complete abandon; facilitate the death of US soldiers.
It’s quite an impressive accomplishment when one thinks about it, really. In 2012, the number of active duty soldiers who killed themselves was greater than the number killed in combat (about every other day a US soldier committed suicide). The same was true for 2011.
The family of Daniel Somers agreed to make his suicide note public. It can be found here.
In his final letter Mr. Somers says that he “was made to participate in things, the enormity of which is hard to describe. War crimes, crimes against humanity.” He says that to return to society and to “move on in life after being part of such a thing would be the mark of a sociopath” in his mind.
He goes on to talk of being sick and injured, and of having been abandoned by his government in his time of need. Furthermore, he tells us that he is fully aware of the crisis currently going on in the US with regards to veteran suicides, citing the statistic that the number of veterans who kill themselves per day is greater than the number of children killed at Sandy Hook in Connecticut.
Think about that for a minute. The suicide epidemic among US soldiers and veterans is the equivalent of one Sandy Hook massacre every single day.
Finally, Mr. Somers talks of the freedom and peace that suicide will bring him, no longer having to be subjected to the pain, nightmares, flashbacks or hallucinations caused by what he saw and took part in Iraq.
It has been estimated that 655,000 Iraqis have died as a direct result of the US led invasion of 2003. According to the principles put forth at the Nüremberg War Crimes Tribunal and the founding charter of the United Nations this is clearly a war crime that borders on being a crime against humanity. The war in Afghanistan and America’s use of targeted drone strikes (in what can only be described as a terror campaign) can also be considered as war crimes.
One lowly US soldier found it impossible to live with himself due to his perceived complicity in America’s war crimes.
How President George Bush and President Barack Obama can unapologetically live their lives knowing the deeds they have engineered, committed and are responsible for is unconscionable.
Tonight President Bush and President Obama will sleep quietly in their beds. If we lived in a correct and just society they would be on trial.
Tom McNamara is an Assistant Professor at the ESC Rennes School of Business, France, and a former Visiting Lecturer at the French National Military Academy at Saint-Cyr Coëtquidan, France.
“655,000 Iraqis killed since invasion” by Sarah Boseley, October 11th, 2006, The Guardian.
“I am sorry that it has come to this: A soldier’s last words” Suicide note of Daniel Somers, Published in Gawker. Accessed at: http://gawker.com/i-am-sorry-that-it-has-come-to-this-a-soldiers-last-534538357
“More U.S. soldiers on active duty committed suicide than died in combat last year, shocking new figures reveal” January 4th, 2013, The Daily Mail. Accessed at: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2256924/More-U-S-soldiers-active-duty-committed-suicide-died-combat-year-shocking-new-figures-reveal.html#ixzz2XJi6Nz7P
“Principles of International Law Recognized in the Charter of the Nüremberg Tribunal and in the Judgment of the Tribunal, 1950” Report of the International Law Commission covering its Second Session, 5 June – 29 July 1950, Document A/1316. Accessed at: http://www.icrc.org/ihl.nsf/full/390
“Suicide Rate Among Vets and Active Duty Military Jumps” – Now 22 A Day by Melanie Haiken, February 5th, 2013, Forbes. Accessed at: http://www.forbes.com/sites/melaniehaiken/2013/02/05/22-the-number-of-veterans-who-now-commit-suicide-every-day/
“The Charter of the United Nations” June 26, 1945. Accessed at: http://www.un.org/en/documents/charter/intro.shtml