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Commentary Last Updated: Aug 15th, 2008 - 00:41:02

Lost when they came home
By Jerry Mazza
Online Journal Associate Editor

Aug 15, 2008, 00:24

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While the Bush administration is busy once again antagonizing Superpower Russia and inciting Georgia�s attack on South Ossetia, let us turn to some of the administration�s less flashy claims to fame: the shocking suicide rates of soldiers returning from Iraq, more than twice the number of US civilian suicides. The figure in 2005 alone ran at the rate of 120 suicides a week, according to CBS News, which described this tragedy as a Suicide Epidemic Among veterans.

The age group most severely affected is the 20- to 24-year-olds, a tender age in any locale, when a young man is wetting his feet in the tides of life let alone war. For those young men exposed to the violence of Iraq and the demands that were made on them (which too often seemed totally immoral), their suicides run at twice the rate of non-veteran suicides, between 22.9 and 31.9 percent per 100,000 as opposed to 8.3 percent per 100,000 of non-vet deaths.

Like the decent boys they were, they fulfilled their duties, obviously at an unbearable price. They returned with horrific memories of what they saw and had to do and with demons that just could not be shaken. In fact, they shied away from veterans organizations, believing the afflictions they had developed were unshakable.

One young man hanged himself with a double-looped rubber garden hose in the family garage. Another shot himself on Thanksgiving Day. Still another jumped off a bridge. All were in the prime of their lives. The stories in the linked study are heartbreaking, the video that accompanied it gone, removed, replaced by an ad for the United States Postal Service ( and an ExxonMobile ad that boasts, �Taking on the world�s toughest energy challenge.� Right, we know all about that.

In a blog response, a reader begged that returning soldiers should be met immediately upon return by veterans� organizations and scheduled for psychological care. But it seems, once the Army has gotten its share of killing out of a soldier, it cannot extend itself to immediate help for these kids.

They are left to languish with the haunting nightmares. This is more than callous and unjust. It is still another disgrace for an administration suffering from dementia. Scarier is that the current Republican candidate, John McCain, who plans to continue these wars �for a hundred years� if necessary. It seems he learned nothing from his own bad dreams of Vietnam.

The McCain nightmare

As Wayne Madsen reported, the Navy recently released McCain�s military record after a FOIA request from the AP. Particularly bizarre were McCain�s antics on board the USS Forrestal in 1967. McCain was personally responsible for the deadliest fire in the history of the US Navy. That catastrophe, with 27 dead and over 100 wounded, leaves McCain�s record as a POW in North Vietnam in the dust.

Madsen�s report also appeared in the June 8 Rock Creek Free Press. It said �McCain and the Forrestal�s Captain John K. Beling were warned about the danger of using M-65 1000-lb bombs manufactured in 1935 . . . deemed too dangerous to use during WW II and, later, on B-52 bombers.

�The fire from the Zuni missile misfire resulted in the heavy 1000 pound bombs being knocked loose from the pylons of McCain�s A-4 aircraft, which were only designed to hold 500-pound bombs. The unstable bombs had a 60-second �cook-off� threshold in a fire situation and this warning was known to both Beling and McCain prior to the disaster . . .

�McCain �wet-started� his A-4E to shake up the guy in the plane behind his . . . �Wet-starts,� done either deliberately or accidentally, shoot a large flame from the tail of the aircraft. McCain�s �wet-start� apparently �cooked-off� and launched the Zuni rocket from the rear F-4 that touched off the explosions and massive fire. The F-4 pilot was reportedly killed in that horror. . . .�

Yet, McCain�s father, Admiral John McCain, Jr., who was commander-in-chief of the US Naval Forces Europe (CINCUSNAVEUR), was tied up covering up details of the deadly, pre-meditated June 8, 1967, attack on the USS Liberty by the Israeli Air Force. The combined deaths that the father and son McCain were responsible for came to 168, with 234 injured.

So what is learned?

Given this sobering tale, what would we expect for returning and even active soldiers from a McCain presidency? What has the �100-year warrior, wet-starter� learned from his experience? And I might ask the same question of draft-dodging George Bush and Dick Cheney. They did not dodge the draft out of principle, either an anti-war or pacifist stance. They simply desired not to serve. Yet, these are the commanders in chief of our soldiers.

Bringing this back to those soldiers whom we are losing at home, what improvement in dealing with the alarming veteran suicide rate could we expect from these leaders? Very little I suspect. Yet the Bush administration continues to ask more and more of our fighting men and women, that is until the wheels fall completely off them and they�re left in a scrap pile. If that seems cruel to say, so too is it cruel to read those statistics and the comments of the families of the lost.

What�s more, beyond Iraq and Afghanistan, Bush bellicosity threatens to attack Iran, this time with the help of Israel, which also had in hand in the training of Georgian soldiers, and sold massive amounts of arms to Georgia, as well. The usual suspects keep turning up hither and yon, the new nexus of nuttiness, the US, the UK, and Israel. Iran, of course, is being accused of developing its nuclear power for weapons of mass destruction (where have I heard that before?) while Israel�s 200 nuclear warheads are for what?

In addition, it has been reported by top Internet writers, like Madsen, Larry Chin, Mike Whitney, Karl Schwarz, Paul Craig Roberts and others, that the US and Israel had been stoking the Georgian leader to commit this stupid attack on South Ossetia. This has occurred just as the CIA has continued to stoke the flames 0f the Chechnyan �insurgency� to the northeast in Russia for years now. The ops are to create havoc and instability.

Therefore, you could easily end up with a NATO or American army facing down a Russian army in the bye and bye. And the bodies will keep coming home, dead or to die, charged by men who never faced a battlefield in their lives. And even the one that did, McCain, did more damage than good. Yet it is the sons and daughters of America who must pay for these men�s mistakes, over and over again.

Looking back to Vietnam

Finally, what these lost-at-home suicides bring to mind are those Buddhist monks of Vietnam who set themselves aflame to protest the conflagration around them. These are images that linger forever on the eye�s mind. Those monks� sacrifices are oddly reminiscent of our American suicides, giving their lives to awaken the conscience and anger of a sleeping befuddled Congress and citizenry, which ironically largely supports McCain on defense.

In my heart, I think those lost boys committed their last heroic act, horrific as it might seem, in trying to wake their country up to what is going on. The question is do we get the message, whether from a burning monk of 40 years ago or from a dangling corpse of a young man today, tossed aside like an old tire by the war makers safely ensconced in their bunkers in hell.

Jerry Mazza is a freelance writer living in New York. Reach him at

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