Petraeus Report Means More Soldier Suicides

How can Petraeus, with a clear conscience, say that he's going to continue the "surge" through 2008? The suicides of abused American soldiers are now on his head.
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In their testimony before Congress Monday, General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker somehow forgot to mention the tremendous number of American soldiers killed and injured in the war.

We're not only talking about those killed by "enemy fire." In addition, to the 3,774 dead, more than 56,000 are listed as wounded, injured, or ill; and another 250,000 have filed for disability. Then there are those, like Sergeant Brian Jason Rand of North Carolina, who took his own life after multiple deployments to the war-zone.

After he got back from his first tour in Iraq, Sgt. Rand filled out a military mental health survey and wrote he was suffering from combat-related nightmares, depression and mood swings.

Instead of getting treatment, Brian Rand was ordered deployed a second time. On February 20, 2007, he put a bullet through his head, collapsing under the Cumberland River Centre Pavilion in Clarksville outside Fort Campbell, Kentucky.

Sgt. Rand is hardly alone.

In December 2006, the service organization Swords to Plowshares reported, fully half of American troops in Iraq were enduring their second tour, while another quarter were in their third or even fourth tour. In addition, a stop loss program, which some call a "back door draft" is forcing members of our country's supposed volunteer armed forces to remain in service beyond their contractually agreed-upon term.

Those factors, the Amy admitted last month, have lead to the highest suicide rate in 26 years.

So how can General Petraeus, with a clear conscience, say that he's going to continue the "surge" through 2008?

The suicides of abused American soldiers are now on his head.

Consider the case of Sergeant James Dean.

After Dean returned from had a tour in Afghanistan he was diagnosed by the Veterans Administration with post-traumatic stress disorder, and anxiety disease that can develop after exposure to a terrifying event or ordeal in which grave physical harm occurred or was threatened. A person experiencing PTSD may lose touch with reality and believe that the traumatic incident is happening all over again.

"Jamie wasn't one to open up anyway," his widow Muriel Deal told me of his time back home in Maryland. "The only thing he would ever say is 'Nobody understands unless they've been there. You just don't understand.' And he told me that I didn't want to know what he had to do over there. And the things he'd seen and the things that had gone one. And I never asked why."

Then, in early December, the other shoe dropped -- a letter came in the mail ordering Jamie Dean deployed to Iraq effective January 14, 2007.

"Around Christmas, he started doing little things for me as well just so I wouldn't forget that he loved me," Muriel Dean told me. "He bought me little things and would make me dinner and things like that, but in the same night he would withdraw. One minute he was doing really good things for me and telling me he loved me and the next thing he was withdrawing from me and from what I understand that's there way of detaching themselves for where they have to leave."

Then, at 9 p.m. on Christmas Day, Jamie barricaded himself inside his father's farm-house. He called his sister and told her he, quote, just couldn't "do it anymore" and fired a gunshot.

In response to Jaime's sister's call to 911, the State Police and county Sheriff's Deputies showed up in force. They cordoned off the house and fired tear gas inside. Both agencies brought in armored vehicles and the state police blew a hole in the right side of the house. Just past midnight on December 26th, a state police sharp-shooter shot Jaime Dean dead.

Muriel Dean blames overzealous police for her husbands' death -- and certainly there's blame that can be assigned there.

But I can tell you for a fact that if George Bush and David Patreaus have their way, we can look forward to a lot more deaths like Jamie Dean's in the future.

Aaron Glantz is an award-winning journalist who reported from Iraq over the first three years of the war. He runs the website War Comes Home, which is a project of KPFA Radio.

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