It’s been news for a few years that suicide rates among US military personnel surpass combat deaths. The Pentagon attributes the alarming statistic to family or relationship issues. Everybody has relationship issues so that’s no explanation for why soldier suicides are higher than those of the general population. For the US–recognizing the Pentagon isn’t entirely forthright about such matters–the average is 300 soldier suicides a year. That does not include veteran suicides or those who drug or drink themselves to death.
The same kind of reports are now coming from the Israeli military. Last year the number of soldier suicides doubled. The numbers aren’t sky-high like in the US military & they are also not fully reliable coming from the Israeli command. But once again, the military officials denied any connection between suicide & army operations, including the IDF occupation of the West Bank & East Jerusalem & the 2014 siege of Gaza.
Now there are reports the Indian military is facing similar problems with soldier suicide. In an army with 1,325,000 active frontline personnel (over 700,000 of them occupying Kashmir), there were 597 soldier suicides between 2009 & 2013. Another figure is 413 suicides since 2012. The Indian minister of defense said “The major reasons for such incidents include occupational hazards, family issues/domestic problems, perceived grievances, personal issues, mental built, financial problems & inability to withstand stress.” No mention of the brutal occupation & crimes committed against the people of Kashmir–unless that’s what “occupational hazards” means.
No matter how much young men & women are nurtured with prejudice, racism, & supremacy, most are not emotionally equipped to handle the barbarisms of war & occupation. For every soldier who takes his/her own life, there are thousands more who drug or drink themselves to death or suffer a myriad of mental health & social adjustment problems–often inflicting their suffering on others as well. War is not suited for human life.
Some people hold soldiers culpable for doing what a soldier does in war but the antiwar movement has always taken a different attitude toward them & integrated antiwar soldiers & veterans into antiwar activities without demanding an accounting but only asking they use their experience to educate others about the barbarisms of war & occupation in order to end them.
Since Vietnam, veterans & active duty soldiers have played a central role in antiwar activities in the US & that is becoming true among Israeli veterans with groups like Breaking the Silence. There doesn’t appear to be such a development yet in India. But building a civilian antiwar movement is an essential element for helping soldiers break with the ideology of war & join the forces opposing them.
Photo is US military; could be Indian or Israeli. They all look alike when they’re coming at you with tanks & AK-47s.
(Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images/AFP)