Suicides and Corporate Wars
by Iftekhar A Khan
Published: Dec. 02, 2009 – The Nation
While President Barack Obama ponderd over whether or not to send more troops to boost the demoralised US-led NATO forces in Afghanistan, the active duty suicide rate in the US military this year has already equalled the number of last year’s tally – 140 deaths. General Peter Chiarelli, US Vice Chief of Staff, has revealed in his briefing to the Pentagon that “suicides in the army will escalate.” Certainly, these incidents among the troops have increased because the soldiers see no point in laying down their lives in purposeless wars. To risk lives on the battlefield, the soldiers are motivated on the basis of either religion or the country. However, in Afghanistan, both factors are missing. Therefore, the soldiers think they are mercenaries fighting in the interest of the US conglomerates: large oil companies, military munitions and hardware manufacturers.
Many soldiers returning from protracted wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD); as a result, they have become social outcasts. The soldiers after all are humans and not robots or drones. They have a moral conscience and families back home. Operating in alien lands, when they shoot and bomb innocent Iraqi and Afghan men, women and children, they must surely be calling up images of their own families. Thus, the guilt of committing atrocities upon the innocent must haunt them. More so, when they believe that the wars are based on deception and they serve as cannon fodder. Even the chaplains embedded with army units in Iraq and Afghanistan to motivate soldiers on religious lines have failed to boost their will to fight. They believe that the wars are not meant to protect their religion or their countries but to protect the interests of corporations and their beneficiaries – the politicians.
Ordinary US citizens are clueless about how their political leaders and retired generals reap the benefits of warfare. For instance, former US ambassador, Peter Galbraith, reportedly skimmed $100 million by negotiating a deal between a Norwegian oil company and the Kurdish authorities in Iraq. Similarly, former Secretary of State, George Shultz, served on the US defence policy board at the time of planning and invading Iraq and at the same time he served as president of Bechtel. Bechtel was later awarded the highest no-bid contract for the reconstruction of Iraq. Shultz first participated in the country’s destruction then in its reconstruction. Could such lucrative deals materialise without the US occupation army in Iraq? Soldiers lose their lives; politicians reap the benefits.
The questions are: who plans the wars and who does the fighting? Where do the foot soldiers from financially disadvantaged segment of society stand? What choice do they have other than to kill themselves or face court marshals and humiliation if they avoid deployment? About 100 British soldiers have been killed and 400 wounded so far in Afghanistan. Those wounded are incapacitated for life. But who has gained out of the loss of young lives – British oil companies, arms manufacturers, and their patrons in politics.
Corporate wars have seriously affected the mental health of the troops. A recent study by the US army revealed that one in five soldiers suffered from depression. Shooting by psychiatrist Major Nidal Hasan at Ft Hood is a clear case of mental sickness. Although he could not have killed 13 soldiers and wounded 30 using only two pistols. At least a bullet each was fired to kill and maim 43 soldiers, which was not possible by using two pistols as reported. Believably, there were more shooters involved in the shootout beside Hasan, but he was made the scapegoat because of his religion. However, such events will likely increase, if the soldiers are continuously exposed to phoney wars.
The writer is a freelance columnist. Email: pinecity @ gmail.com