Tuesday, March 30, 2004


In addition to our troops being killed off in Iraq, 'other' damages are adding up.

Sexual violence directed towards our female troops is a perennial problem. And so it is in Iraq.
    The president has also failed to address a shocking scandal that has occurred on his watch as commander in chief: At least 112 female soldiers have reportedly been the victims of sexual assault or rape during the past 18 months in the war-front Central Command of Iraq, Afghanistan and Kuwait.

    Many of these high-ranking women soldiers, moreover, have reported poor medical treatment, lack of counseling and incomplete criminal investigation by senior military officials. Some say they received threats warning them not to report the rapes.

    Even worse, servicewomen who become pregnant as the result of rape must pay for their own abortions, because these procedures -- for political reasons -- are not covered as part of a soldier's medical care.

    "What does it say about us as a people, as a nation, as the foremost military in the world, when our women soldiers sometimes have more to fear from their fellow soldiers than from the enemy?" asked Sen. Susan Collins, R- Maine, during a hearing last month.

    The military has launched investigations, but President Bush, who has declared himself a war president, has failed to acknowledge and condemn the fact that female soldiers, while risking their lives in combat, simultaneously face sexual terrorism from some American troops.

Record suicide rates are being reported by the Army.
    In its findings on suicide, the report confirmed data previously released by the Army that the rate among soldiers in Iraq in 2003 was higher than for the Army generally, but lower than that of U.S. men of a similar age range. There were 23 confirmed suicides among Army troops in Iraq in 2003, for a rate of 15.6 per 100,000 soldiers, the report said. That compares with an Army average in recent years of 11.9, they said.

Low morale documented also in this Army report.
    "I'd be extremely worried by these numbers," said the officer, who specializes in morale issues. Having more than half the soldiers surveyed say they are unhappy should "set off alarm bells," the officer said.

    Jonathan Shay, a Veterans Affairs psychiatrist, called it "a painful report to read." Shay, who wrote two books on cohesion and leadership problems in the U.S. military during the Vietnam War, said the report shows morale and cohesion were "seriously low" among troops in Iraq.

    The report faulted the Army's handling of mental health issues for troops and called for appointment of a "czar" to coordinate such services in Iraq and Kuwait. Patterson said a medical specialist would fill that new position next month.

And it's taking a toll on the families.
    Morgan's experience is part of a significant change in Army life brought about by the post-9/11 world: The extended, or repeated, deployments that have characterized the Army since then have intensified the burdens traditionally borne by military families. And most of the spouses who have remained behind are wondering how long the Army can keep it up.

    This change is reflected in a recent poll conducted by The Washington Post, the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation and Harvard University, and in dozens of supplemental interviews. The poll, the first nongovernmental survey of military spouses conducted since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, included more than 1,000 spouses living on or near the 10 heaviest-deploying Army bases.

    While most of them said they have coped well, three-quarters said they believe the Army is likely to encounter personnel problems as soldiers and their families tire of the pace and leave for civilian lives.
Given the putative reason why we are there in the first place, all these things highlight what a huge loss this all has been. I'm upset with the personal cost to our troops, who shouldn't have been there in the first place. With last week's developments, it seems much clearer that this is such an incredible betrayal of our troops, not just for these involved directly but for all of us.