Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service
Military must take preventive steps
The following editorial is reprinted from the Detroit Free Press.
Almost lost amid the daily death count from Iraq is the grim fact that 15 of the 440 deaths among U.S. forces have been suicides.
The Army's criminal investigation unit is now undertaking the delicate task of trying to determine why so many service people would take their own lives in the eight months since the war began. A thorough examination is warranted.
The government owes some answers to the families of these soldiers, and the military needs to know of any common threads leading to the suicides, so that others might be prevented.
A forthcoming report from a mental health assessment team that spent a month in Iraq examining conditions should include findings that offer GIs and their commanders tangible strategies to battle anxiety and stress.
True, suicide in the military is not new. But surely someone should have foreseen a higher likelihood in Iraq, given the near unprecedented battle conditions, extended assignments, daily ambushes, sniper attacks and suicide bombings. The military cannot arm soldiers with the finest combat weaponry but overlook the tools they need to handle the mental toll of war.
And Iraq is still very much a war. Americans are at risk there every day against the most dangerous kind of enemy -- one who is willing to die to try to send a message of hatred.
When you can't be sure who the enemy is, you have to assume it is everyone. This can create a numbing, unending pressure on every soldier in every assignment. The troops have been brave about this, but they are, after all, only human. The suicides indicate some mental and emotional reinforcements would be welcome.