On July 13, the New York Times reported on a U.S. Army brigade at Ft. Bliss, revealing that “its troops are statistically at greater risk at home than while deployed.” More soldiers in this unit have died from the effects of the psychological wounds they endure in combat—suicide, drug overdose and drunk driving—than are dying in Iraq.
Why are these forgotten casualties of war dying at such an alarming rate? One of the battalion’s command sergeants major, CSM Mustafa, has the answer: “They were leaving a war zone, coming back home and not getting the care and supervision necessary.”
This is a heartbreaking glimpse into the lives of service members in the U.S. military today. It’s also an indictment of the system.
If you are not killed fighting in wars against innocent people abroad, you could easily be killed when you get home--by the willful inaction of U.S. military and Department of Veterans Affairs.
When we die far away lands, our blood is on the hands of the generals and politicians. They know full well that the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are for profits, but they send us to die because they follow the dictates of Big Oil, banks, and defense contractors.
When we die after coming home—whether it’s from suicide, drugs or alcohol—the same generals and politicians are to blame.
It is their decisions that send us to be killed in combat fighting to expand the reach of U.S. corporations; and it is their decisions that deny us the care and treatment that could save our lives.
Scandal after scandal about the criminal mistreatment of returning veterans has forced the military brass to claim it is trying to improve a system in shambles. But the situation at Ft. Bliss, with its stunning number of suicides, and the high rate of alcoholism and drug addiction throughout the military, reveal how well they are actually doing.
We veterans and GIs have only been offered tiny band-aids to hide the situation from the public. But the fact remains that we will continue to endure the deep psychological and physical wounds of fighting in two wars of aggression.
The soldiers at Ft. Bliss and everyone serving in the U.S. military must ask: How much more clear does it need to be?
We have been sent abroad to serve as cannon fodder in Afghanistan and Iraq. We have seen that neither war has anything to do with helping the people who live there. Neither has anything to do with “defending” the United States.
We have come home from these wars to find out how little this government cares about our lives.
The generals and politicians are incapable of deciding our fate. All they can promise us is more of the same: deployments to wars we have no reason to fight and nothing but neglect and mistreatment once we get home.
But we can take our lives into our own hands—we don’t have to follow their orders. We have the right to refuse to fight in these criminal wars. We can organize as GIs and veterans to fight for our rights.