Soldiers, veterans, & suicide

The suicide rate among soldiers & veterans of US wars has long been sky-high despite attempts to waffle about the extent & actual statistics. That doesn’t even include the thousands of veterans who drank or drugged themselves to death & those who suffer long-term affects of PTSD.

The same is now reported about Israeli soldiers. According to IDF data from a few years ago, more soldiers have died from suicide than combat deployment in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, & Gaza, & from traffic accidents, illness, or other causes combined.

The antiwar movement never viewed soldiers & veterans as enemies (whether the army was conscription or not) but rather as men & women who had to be won over to antiwar/anti-occupation perspectives. Their testimony condemning war has a moral authority which should not be squandered by moralizing denunciations about war crimes. Of course they committed human rights crimes; that’s the nature of war. The issue is whether we want to denounce them to salve moralism or embrace them as those who can speak powerfully to the savagery of war & occupation & thus strengthen opposition against them.

We know the young are indoctrinated with racism & xenophobia in their military training. But when confronting other human beings, roughing them up, assaulting them (young & old), shooting them down, many soldiers who were not raised to be psycho feel profound guilt, grief, & remorse. Many cannot live with that & take their own lives; others who cannot break with racist ideology simply drink themselves to death or engage in antisocial behaviors.

Our job is to rebuild the antiwar movement & Palestinian solidarity–not to build a wall of condemnation between us & veterans. The point is to provide another political explanation to them & incorporate their experiences & voices to weaken the drumbeats of social hatred used to turn them into cannon fodder for colonialism.