Dana Priest of the Washington Post reports Soldier suicides at record level: Increase linked to long wars and lack of Army resources.
Suicides among active-duty soldiers in 2007 reached their highest level since the Army began keeping such records in 1980…
Last year, 121 soldiers took their own lives, nearly 20 percent more than in 2006. At the same time, the number of attempted suicides or self-inflicted injuries in the Army has jumped sixfold since the Iraq war began. Last year, about 2,100 soldiers injured themselves or attempted suicide, compared with about 350 in 2002, according to the U.S. Army Medical Command Suicide Prevention Action Plan.
The Army was unprepared for the high number of suicides and cases of post-traumatic stress disorder among its troops, as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have continued far longer than anticipated. Many Army posts still do not offer enough individual counseling and some soldiers suffering psychological problems complain that they are stigmatized by commanders. Over the past year, four high-level commissions have recommended reforms and Congress has given the military hundreds of millions of dollars to improve its mental health care, but critics charge that significant progress has not been made.
The conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan have placed severe stress on the Army, caused in part by repeated and lengthened deployments. Historically, suicide rates tend to decrease when soldiers are in conflicts overseas, but that trend has reversed in recent years. From a suicide rate of 9.8 per 100,000 active-duty soldiers in 2001 — the lowest rate on record — the Army reached an all-time high of 17.5 suicides per 100,000 active-duty soldiers in 2006.
Last year, twice as many soldier suicides occurred in the United States than in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Meanwhile, U.S. commanders in Iraq favor pause in troop cuts reports the Washington Post. “Senior U.S. military commanders here say they want to freeze troop reductions starting this summer… There are about 155,000 U.S. troops in Iraq now, with about 5,000 leaving every month; the proposed freeze would go into effect in July, when troops levels reach around 130,000. Although violence is dropping in Iraq, commanders say they want to halt withdrawals to assess whether they can control the situation with fewer troops… Officers are still debating the length of the proposed freeze, with some arguing for 90 days and others saying it could be as short as 30. Because it can take as long as 75 days to withdraw a brigade, a freeze could result in troop levels remaining steady through most of the rest of Bush’s term, deferring any continued drawdown to his successor. Military planners fear that maintaining the current pace of withdrawals could lead to an unstable situation just as a new administration takes office in January.” Bush’s ‘temporary surge’ now becomes permanent. Surprised?
According to the AP, “At least 37 U.S. soldiers have been killed in January – well above the 23 who died in December but still sharply lower than a year ago. In January last year, 83 soldiers were killed in Iraq. Since the beginning of the war in 2003, at least 3,942 members of the U.S. military have died. The total for January could rise; occasionally the military reports new casualties a few days after they occur.”
Four at Four continues below the fold with news about the fate of Afghan journalism student Sayed Pervez Kambaksh and Atlantic hurricanes.
The Independent reports Sentenced to death: Afghan who dared to read about women’s rights.
A young man, a student of journalism, is sentenced to death by an Islamic court for downloading a report from the internet. The sentence is then upheld by the country’s rulers. This is Afghanistan – not in Taliban times but six years after ‘liberation’ and under the democratic rule of the West’s ally Hamid Karzai.
The fate of Sayed Pervez Kambaksh has led to domestic and international protests, and deepening concern about erosion of civil liberties in Afghanistan. He was accused of blasphemy after he downloaded a report from a Farsi website which stated that Muslim fundamentalists who claimed the Koran justified the oppression of women had misrepresented the views of the prophet Mohamed.
Mr Kambaksh, 23, distributed the tract to fellow students and teachers at Balkh University with the aim, he said, of provoking a debate on the matter. But a complaint was made against him and he was arrested, tried by religious judges without – say his friends and family – being allowed legal representation and sentenced to death.
The Guardian reports Warmer Atlantic fuels hurricanes, UK study finds. “Warmer waters in the north Atlantic have made hurricanes stronger and more frequent in the past decade, according to a study by British scientists. The finding has raised fears that global warming could unleash more devastating storms in the region, if sea temperatures continue to increase. A rise in surface water temperatures of 0.27C between 1996 and 2005 was responsible for 40% of the increase in Atlantic hurricane activity… The power and number of hurricanes vary enormously from year to year, but since the mid-1980s there has been an overall rise in both.”