U.S. Military Suicides Outnumbered Combat Deaths in Afghanistan in 2012

Wednesday, January 16, 2013
(photo: AP)


The bigger struggle facing the U.S. military isn’t how to “win” in Afghanistan, but how to get the troops home and keep them alive.


Last year, more military personnel committed suicide (349) than the total of soldiers killed in the war (295).


The suicide total was the highest ever recorded since the Department of Defense began keeping track in 2001. The new mark shattered the previous high of 301, set in 2011.


The suicides among Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans may be attributed to depression, post-traumatic stress or substance abuse, according to David Rudd, a military suicide researcher and dean of the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Utah. Suicidal military personnel who have not seen battle may face personal problems relating to financial, legal or relationship problems, Rudd told The Associated Press (AP).


Kim Ruocco, director of a suicide prevention program for the support group, Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS), told AP: "Now that we're decreasing our troops and they're coming back home, that's when they're really in the danger zone, when they're transitioning back to their families, back to their communities and really finding a sense of purpose for themselves.”


The U.S. Army had the highest number of suicides among active-duty troops in 2012 (182). But the largest percentage increase in suicides belonged to the Marine Corps, which saw its numbers increase by 50% from the prior year. A total of 48 Marines took their own lives.


The Air Force recorded 59 suicides, up 16% from 2011, and the Navy had 60, up 15%.


“Stress, guns and alcohol constitute a dangerous mixture,” retired Army generals Peter W. Chiarelli and Dennis J. Reimer told The Washington Post. “In the wrong proportions, they tend to blow out the lamp of the mind and cause irrational acts."

-Noel Brinkerhoff, Danny Biederman


To Learn More:

2012 Military Suicides Hit a Record High of 349 (by Robert Burns, Associated Press)

Army and Navy Set Suicide Records (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

U.S. Military Still Considers Attempted Suicide a Crime (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)




I Know Not 10 years ago
Nowhere do I see this put in context of the goal of war. The goal is not to kill the enemy, but to change his mind. According to thousands of years of experts, this is best done by discouraging him, not killing him. You discourage him by killing his buddies, interdicting his food, surprising him on the battlefield, persuading his wife to divorce him, depriving him of sleep - by making his life miserable. If he commits suicide as a result of that misery, it is an indicator of success. Historically, a successful general is alarmed if all he nets are enemy bodies. It isn't until his cages are full of prisoners - until the enemy is surrendering faster than he is being killed - that the general can feel confident of victory; confident of changing the enemy's mind. The Mid-East is peculiar in that respect. As long as this war has lasted and as discouraging as it has been to our soldiers, some of our people should have surrendered. They haven't. Why? Perhaps the absence of prisoners indicates a flaw in the enemy's battle plan. The rule is that you always leave your enemy a way out... For Ginghas Khan this was because a routed enemy was easier to slaughter, but for modern armies it is because the goal is to make the enemy come over to your side; become a spokesman, a taxpayer, a trading partner. Another possibility is that our dehumanization of the enemy is too good -- perhaps if the enemy appears too alien, death becomes preferable to surrender. Perhaps if the enemy appears too alien, suicide appears better than surrender.

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