It turns out that the nut jobs on the Far Right are ready to go after Muslim-Americans because of the recent actions of Major Malik Nadal Hasan. What they forget is that our military personnel have been under stress, and killing themselves at record rates, for some time now. The following two posts detail the strain of conducting a never-ending war on the backs of soldiers doing 3-4 tours of duty because of "stop-loss" orders. The following (in red) were originally posted during November/December 2007 ...
No, Seriously, We're Not Overstretched ...
According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, the number of service members returning from Iraq with mental health problems is 19.1% (compared with 11.3% after returning from Afghanistan and 8.5% after returning from other locations). So, what does Mr. Compassionate Conservative “I’m the Decider” Guy do? He maintains his back door draft “stop-loss” orders which have reportedly been used more than 50,000 times to keep military personnel on extended duty (currently there are 12,500 "stop-loss" troops). The results should have been predictable.
According to the Associated Press U.S. military personnel, strained by six years at war and constant rotations, are now deserting their posts at the highest rates since 1980. Indeed, the number of Army deserters this year showed an 80 percent increase since the United States invaded Iraq. This should not come as a surprise. For many, desertion is better than the alternative: It turns out that Army suicide rates are the highest ever since suicides were tracked in war time.
Still, the Associated Press found that despite the increase in desertions the military does little to find those who bolt. Unless, of course, you’re this guy, and need help ... (follow me to the next "Support the Troops" post)
Support the Troops ... But Only if They're Healthy
According to the Military Times Kentucky soldier, SPC. Justin Faulkner, shared his concerns over his deteriorating mental condition with his superiors. He was rebuffed. So Faulkner checked himself into a Veteran's Administration hospital on his own, where doctors wanted to hold him for observation.
To bad for Faulkner. By checking himself into the VA hospital, where he could be found with minimal effort from the MP, Faulkner got himself arrested … for going AWOL.
“It’s humiliating, degrading,” Faulkner said in an interview with The Associated Press Monday afternoon, just minutes before his release from the Fayette County Detention Center. “It’s made me lose respect for the military. To come and arrest me at the VA, it wasn’t like I was trying to hide, trying to run. I was getting help. I am being punished for getting help.”
It’s no wonder that more U.S. troops disapproved of the president’s handling of the war than approved of it (35% approval) last year. While there are those who believe the insurgents are in their “last throes” (I guess a “throe” unit equals 2 ½ years), somehow I can’t see the president’s standing with the troops improving this year.
The Fort Hood Connection
One of the things that becomes clear from these posts is that mental stress from a war with unclear objectives (Democracy? Nation building? al Qaeda?) has already caused some serious problems with our military personnel. Record desertions, record suicide rates, divorce rates double the national average, and lower recruiting standards, are not an indicator of an organization that is running on all cylinders. These problems will only get worse now as we continue to be mired in a war longer than we were involved in World War II, and now are on the verge of surpassing our presence in Vietnam.
Incredibly enough, it's taken a sordid and ugly event at Fort Hood to get the nation's attention on how President Bush's Bungled Wars Project is affecting our military. Sadly, because of the Right-Wing media's penchant to promote stereotypes our attention is being directed away from the stress placed on our military personnel, and our military as an organization, and shifted to American muslims and Islam. Specifically,
* To declare that "every jihadist is a Muslim" while losing sight of what abortion clinic bombers do and doctor killers do (and Pat Robertson's fatwa) is to suggest that only Muslims advocate killing in the name of their faith.
* To declare that only Muslims conduct indiscriminate violence and mass murder in this manner loses sight of Timothy McVeigh and Oklahoma (and the KKK in the early 20th century).
* To declare that all Muslims serving their country should be "debriefed" loses sight of how Japanese-Americans - many with parents in internment camps - performed as American soldiers during war.
At the end of the day, to suggest that we need to focus on all Muslims rather than seeing a disturbed and cowardly man in a difficult situation loses sight of how a bungled a seemingly never-ending war is affecting our military on many levels. Were signals missed by Hasan's superiors (and the FBI)? No doubt. But record suicides, record desertion rates, divorce, and lower recruiting standards all suggest that our military and political leadership need to reevaluate more than the events that led up to the massacre at Fort Hood.