Monday, April 15, 2013


(A Cagle cartoon published 4/13/13 and snagged from All Voices.  Click on image to enlarge.)

Here's today's punch in the gut from the Los Angeles Times

Overall, at least 349 U.S. service members committed suicide last year, the most since the Pentagon began releasing statistics about a decade ago. In comparison, 295 Americans were killed in combat last year in Afghanistan. So far this year, 99 more suicides have been confirmed. 

Even for the Army, where soldiers have little privacy, the Ft. Bliss program is intrusive.

Each company-sized unit and above must submit a monthly list of soldiers with known emotional, financial or drug problems. Other soldiers may be assigned to watch those considered high-risk. Ranking officers follow up.

Soldiers are trained to recognize warning signs in themselves and others, and told to inform superiors if they suspect a potential suicide. Mental health counselors have set up offices near brigade headquarters. Troops are tested for drugs up to eight times a year; the Army normally does only one. The hospital doubled the beds in its psychiatric ward to 28 after complaints about long waits for treatment.

The system seems to help. Ft. Bliss saw only five suicides last year, down from seven in 2011. The number of suicides rose sharply at nearly every other major Army base, including Ft. Bragg, Ft. Hood and Ft. Campbell.

"If you get a soldier to treatment, the chances are he'll live," said Maj. Gen. Dana Pittard, a West Point graduate who commands Ft. Bliss and once served as President Clinton's military aide. "We're really emphasizing getting help." ...

For decades, the suicide rate in the Army was less than half the male civilian rate. It began rising as the Army expanded to meet manpower needs for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan..  [Emphasis added]

OK, so the Fort Bliss program seems to work, which is a good thing.  The problem is that other bases don't have the same program, primarily because there isn't the money and manpower available right now for the development of comparable programs, either because of the sequester or the knowledge that the defense budget is going to be cut anyway and this Congress isn't going to cut those fancy tank and fighter jets out of the picture, thereby angering the defense contractors.  (Hence the cartoon.)

But I think there is more going on here.  You will notice that there are still American troops in Afghanistan and there will be for the foreseeable future.  Why?  Well, when the Taliban was running the country, locals discovered their country was sitting on an amazing amount of rare and very valuable minerals.  The locals didn't tell the Taliban about the find, but the Americans sure know about it.  In the long run, those minerals may be worth more than the oil in Iraq.  Thats why I think we'll stay in the country known as the place empires go to die.

Yes, that's cynical, jaded, and (perhaps) just a little tin-foil chapeau-ish.  But it certainly would explain a lot, wouldn't it?

Occam's Razor at work.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

If Afghanistan actually does have easily mined deposits of valuable minerals, it might change history. The only products Afghanistan has ever exported in industrial quantities are opium and hashish. The reason empires died there was simple: There's nothing there worth maintaining an empire for.

Until now. Money really does change everything. If major mining industry actually does inundate Afghanistan, even the Taliban will be loathe to slow it down. And 'civilization' and secularization might materialize and create a working, non-failed state.

Not that I actually believe that...but it is possible. Just possible.


8:53 AM  

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