And I’m back. Sorry for the absence–friend visiting from out of town, then I caught a cold. Anyway, today’s the first day I’m pretty much back to normal (or, at least, back to being healthy). And so this morning, while perusing the day’s online papers to find out what I’d missed over the last week, I found this Associated Press story at the Honolulu Advertiser.
Yes, you read that right: last month, the United States Army lost more soldiers to suicide than to combat deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan combined.
Keep in mind these are “suspected” suicides (investigations are pending), but given the fact that January 2009 saw 24 suspected suicides while January 2008 saw just four, it would seem that something is seriously, tragically, horribly messed up. And army officials are baffled at why this is occurring.
“Why do the numbers keep going up? We cannot tell you,” Secretary of the Army Pete Geren said in the AP story.
And why should he know? A soldier who kills him or herself is a human problem, not a weapons problem. For the Pentagon, human problems may as well deal with aliens from Mars.
“Civilians unacquainted with the ways of the Building have only vague ideas about what it is the Pentagon does,” Robert Coram wrote in his superb 2002 biography Boyd, about fighter pilot/military philosopher/Pentagon critic John Boyd. “They think the real business of the Pentagon has something to do with defending America. But it does not. The real business of the Pentagon is buying weapons.”
Don’t believe me? Take a look at this “information paper” on the Army’s suicide prevention program. It was clearly not written with the view that soldiers are human beings with feelings and emotions. If you can get halfway through it, you’re sharper than I am.