Friday, August 11, 2017

Imperial Death Throes: Requiring Veterans To Swear They Won't Commit Suicide

By my own schedule I should be writing a post about closing the U.S. military bases right near North Korea's border with their southern region, partitioned by the U.S. and U.S.S.R. in 1945 and not yet reunited. (Such a post would be part of a series about the need to close bases left behind in other vanquished enemy's territories e.g. Germany and in Okinawa, Japan.)

This is a map of all the U.S. bases in South Korea, and all the North Korean and Russian bases near U.S. borders.
Source: U.S. Department of "Defense"

And the story of untapped mineral wealth in North Korea (and, incidentally, occupied Afghanistan) is also one probably worth telling.

Then there are the nuclear taunts by two lunatic demagogues with bad hair on opposite sides of planet -- alarming many of my normally complacent neighbors, some so badly that they have forgotten to use spellcheck.

 Waterville Morning Sentinel, Aug. 9, 2017

But I write this blog to keep my head from exploding, not yours.

The most explosive news I stumbled across in my research about U.S. military bases in Korea was an item from Stars and Stripes headlined "Plans to institute military oath against suicide could backfire, some experts say."


Most of us are aware by now that suicide is the leading cause of death among U.S. troops, either active duty or, especially, veterans. Since war is increasingly waged by flying killer robots the actual boots on the ground continue to diminish in number, bringing down the likelihood of dying in combat. 

The moral injuries that lead to suicidal thoughts and actions? Those roll ever onward.

There were 22 veteran suicides each day at last reckoning. That number counts completed suicides, and does not include those attempted but not completed. Some studies show 30% of veterans report having suicidal ideation.

I was surprised to learn that an ill-advised oath against suicide was included in the National "Defense" Authorization Act passed by the House of Representatives on July 14.

A legless veteran who is a Republican from Florida, Rep. Brian Mast, is the lead promoter of the "Oath of Exit" which reads:
“I, ________, recognizing that my oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, has involved me and my fellow members in experiences that few persons, other than our peers, can understand, do solemnly swear (or affirm) to continue to be the keeper of my brothers- and sisters-in-arms and protector of the United States and the Constitution; to preserve the values I have learned; to maintain my body and my mind; and to not bring harm to myself without speaking to my fellow veterans first. I take this oath freely and without purpose of evasion, so help me God.”
We'll leave aside the question of why a mandatory oath would include reference to a religious entity when we are alleged to have separation of church and state (a rapidly eroding concept as the current regime's cabinet holds weekly Bible study sessions on the taxpayers' dime). 

The bottom line is that mental health experts say suicide oaths, popular ten years ago, don't work.

In fact, they can be counterproductive because they deter folks with suicidal ideation from seeking help; they can't admit they want to end it all because they made a promise not to think like that.

I firmly believe that friends don't let friends enlist in the first place, but my heart aches for the youngsters that are lured into military life by means of billions in advertising and marketing schemes that pervade 21st century life in the USA. Even grown men and women succumb to their blandishments, because they want a new truck, or to take care of their aging mom, or to see the world, or to be able to afford college.

Very little information about what they are really signing up for is actually shared. Eight years of life killing and destroying other people's homes at the behest of commanders like the demagogue with bad hair in the White House, for a pittance.
"Hairswap" by Redditor GallowBoob 

There are many signs that we're nearing the end of the horrific age of American Empire.

Endless wars that no one else wants to even know about take their toll on the 1% of the population that actually wages them. Empty b.s. like "thank you for your service" just increases the mental anguish and feelings of isolation, according to many. The disillusionment that sets in as veterans struggle with feelings of guilt, futility and, in many cases, actual poverty don't seem to fulfill the shiny promise of serving their country that was hyped by the recruiters.

Requiring military personnel to swear they won't kill themselves seems like a sign of the death throes of an empire.

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