What They Died For

By Peter Van Buren, Truthout | News Analysis –

Of the 4,486 American military deaths in Iraq, 911 were considered “non-combat related,” that is, non-accidents, suicides. In some years, more soldiers died by their own hand than in combat. They died of the war, but not in the war. What for?

soldiers iraq

US soldiers provided security at the refinery in Baiji, northwest of Baghdad, in 2008. The facility at Baiji, Iraq’s biggest oil refinery, fell to Islamic extremists Wednesday morning, June 18, 2014. (Photo: Eros Hoagland / The New York Times)

I think of it now, all the time as I see the images of Iraq’s unfolding civil war. Sometimes, I think I even recognize a place I had been, having spent a year in the midst of the United States’ occupation there, 2009 to 2010. I was a State Department civilian, embedded with an Army brigade of some 3,000 men and women far from the embassy and the pronouncements of victory and whatever bright lights Iraq might have had. I grow weary now of hearing people talk about the United States’ sacrifices, our investment, the need for troops or air strikes, our blood and treasure spent to free Iraq, or whatever it was we were supposed to have gone there to do.

So many people say those things. But before another one says another thing, I wish they could have seen what I saw in Iraq. This.

Private First Class (PFC) Brian Edward Hutson (name changed), in Iraq, put the barrel of his M-4 semiautomatic assault rifle into his mouth, with the weapon set for a three-round burst, and blew out the back of his skull. He was college-aged but had not gone and would never go to college. Notice appeared in the newspapers a week after his death, listed as “non-combat related.”

Of the 4,486 US military deaths in Iraq, 911 were considered “non-combat related,” that is, non-accidents, suicides. In 2010, as in 2009, the years I was in Iraq with PFC Hutson, more soldiers died by their own hand than in combat. Mental disorders in those years outpaced injuries as a cause for hospitalization. The Army reported a record number of suicides in a single month for June 2010. Thirty-two soldiers in all, more than one a day for the whole month, around the time PFC Hutson took his life.

Read more….. http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/24583-what-they-died-for

Reprinted with permission