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Jan 23rd, 2009


U.S. Army: Stress, Command Flaws Behind Suicides


Jan. 22, 2009

HOUSTON — A U.S. Army probe into suicides among Houston-based recruiters, all veterans of combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, said medical problems factored in the deaths but none had been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Four members of the Houston Recruiting Battalion, which covers hundreds of square miles from Houston to the Arkansas border, took their lives between January 2005 and September 2008, and U.S. lawmakers including Texas Sen. John Cornyn are pressing the military for answers.

In October last year, Cornyn told top Army officials he had seen evidence that senior battalion leaders interfered with official investigations and covered up serious problems like “a toxic command climate” and poor morale.

An Army statement on the investigation, released on Wednesday, made no mention of cover-ups.

“Relevant factors included the command climate, stress, personal matters, and medical problems,” it said.

The Army said none of the dead recruiters was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, which can stem from wartime trauma such as being wounded or seeing others killed.

Each had troubled relationships with wives and girlfriends, and many were subjected to “abusive and humiliating treatment” by their superiors for failing to meet quotas, Cornyn said.

The Army Recruiting Command will hold a rare “stand down” day on Feb. 13 to train staff on suicide prevention, and the Army’s inspector general will assess the “command climate” among all U.S. recruiters, the Army said.

Cornyn has called for the Senate Armed Services Committee to hold hearings on the Army recruiter suicide trend. Suicides among active duty U.S. troops have risen from 67 in 2004 to an estimated 130 in 2008, according to military data.

The Army must address the root cause of the problem — the stigma associated with masculine warriors seeking mental counseling, said Todd Bowers, director of government affairs with advocacy group Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.

Nationwide, 17 recruiters have killed themselves since 2001, and the Army’s suicide rate could surpass that of the general U.S. population for the first time since the Vietnam War.

——

Related reports on this site

Reported Fragging in Iraq (Sept. 27, 2010)

Heartbreak at Ft. Hood (Nov. 5, 2009)

GI Opens Fire on U.S. Troops in Iraq (May 12, 2009)

Army Ponders Suicide Prevention (Feb. 7, 2009)

Army: Stunning Spike in Suicides (Feb. 6, 2009)

Military Suicides Continue to Rise (Jan. 29, 2009)

Army Issues Statement on Suicides (Jan. 23, 2009)

Military Suicides Probed (Dec. 23, 2008)

——

IRAQ UPDATE

Iraq Cuts Spending as Oil Prices Drop

Worry job losses could trigger heightened violence

Image: Man pulls a cart through a street
Iraq’s government will have dramatically less money to spend on rebuilding plans than expected in 2009 because of plunging oil prices. (Photo credit: Khalid Mohammed / AP file)


Jan. 22, 2009

BAGHDAD — Iraq’s government will have dramatically less money to spend this year than expected because of plunging oil prices — a dire economic situation that’s already forced the country to slash rebuilding plans by 40 percent, The Associated Press has learned.

As the U.S. seeks a timetable for withdrawal, cutbacks on spending and jobs could trigger heightened violence.

U.S. commanders have repeatedly warned that without speedy economic development and reconstruction, the sharp improvements in security since the U.S. troop surge of 2007 could be at risk in a country where about 38 percent of the work force is estimated to have no job or just part-time employment.

But rebuilding requires money. And with oil prices plummeting, the government has been forced to cut planned spending — by one-third overall and 40 percent for rebuilding, Iraqi officials told the AP — and to consider even deeper reductions. …

Iraq is almost entirely dependent on oil money. More than 90 percent of the government’s revenues come from oil sales. The government says it earned about $60 billion from oil sales in 2008 but hasn’t said publicly how much it expects to take in this year.

Dire security implications

Iraq’s government has in the past often used money to create jobs and projects as a way to keep different political groups happy, such as the money it threw into Baghdad’s Sadr City district last summer to ease Shiite tensions there. That will become harder now that revenue expectations have fallen sharply. …

The reductions have cut the money earmarked for reconstruction projects from $21 billion in the original budget to $12.54 billion in the latest revision, a member of parliaments budget committee, Alaa Saadoun, told the AP. That figure had not previously been disclosed. …

The most recent Iraqi budget was based on an assumption that oil prices would average $50 a barrel this year. This week, oil prices fell below $34 a barrel but recovered to about $44 Thursday. That is down from the high, just last summer, of $147 a barrel. …

For now, the prospect of even a slowdown in reconstruction money holds dire security implications. It is not clear if the United States would change its still-evolving plans to draw down American troops if violence in Iraq worsened. President Barack Obama said in his inaugural address that the U.S. would begin leaving Iraq to its people.

Mosul a danger area

Key danger areas include the shell-pocked streets of Mosul, where Sunni militants are still holding out; Anbar province, where Sunni tribes turned against al-Qaida; and the southern city of Basra, where U.S.-backed Iraqi forces broke the grip of Shiite militias last spring.

In those areas and more, U.S. commanders have warned that security improvements are fragile, and badly need economic development and rebuilding money to boost them. In Mosul, Iraq’s third-largest city of nearly 2 million people, police Gen. Khalid Soltan said last month that “half of the terrorists” in the city could be defeated “if we defeat unemployment,” now estimated at more than 60 percent.

That’s no small task in a city filled with abandoned and bullet-riddled shops, rutted streets, bomb-shattered buildings and heaps of uncollected garbage from past fighting.

Overall, Iraq still needs significant rebuilding. The U.N. estimates that more than half the countrys 27 million people lack access to one or more essential services such as clean water, electricity and health care. …

——

Security Developments

Gates says U.S. studying range of options on Iraq withdrawal

Gunmen kill family, including six women, in Iraq


Residents stand near empty coffins as they wait to claim the bodies of their relatives, killed by gunmen, outside a hospital morgue in Baquba, 40 miles northeast of Baghdad, Jan. 24, 2009. Gunmen shot dead eight members of a family, six of them women, in an overnight raid on their home in Iraq’s volatile northern Diyala province, police said. (Photo credit: Helmiy al-Azawi / Reuters)

——

AFGHANISTAN/PAKISTAN UPDATE

18 Dead as Suspected U.S. Missiles Hit Pakistan

Alleged U.S. spy planes attack in first strikes of Obama era


Jan. 23, 2009

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Two suspected U.S. missile attacks killed 18 people Friday on the Pakistan side of the Afghan border, security officials said, in the first such strikes since President Barack Obama took office.

At least five foreign militants were among those killed in the strikes by unmanned aircraft in two parts of the frontier region, an intelligence official said without naming them. There was no information on the identities of the others.

Pakistan’s leaders had expressed hope Obama might halt the strikes, but few observers expected he would end a tactic that U.S. officials say has killed several top al-Qaida operatives and is denying the terrorist network a long-held safe haven.

The United States has staged more than 30 missile strikes inside Pakistan since August last year. The barrage is seen as a sign of frustration in Washington over Islamabad’s efforts to curb militants that the U.S. blames for violence in Afghanistan and fears could be planning attacks on the West. …

The first attack Friday took place in the village of Zharki in North Waziristan, when a single drone fired three missiles in the space of 10 minutes, the security officials said.

The missiles destroyed two buildings, killing 10 people, at least five of whom were foreign militants, the officials told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

Hours later, a second missile struck a house in South Waziristan, killing eight people, the officials said, giving no more details.

The United States does not acknowledges firing the missiles, which are believed to be mostly launched from drones operated by the CIA and launched from neighboring Afghanistan.

According to an AP tally based on accounts from Pakistani security officials, at least 263 people — most of them alleged militants — have been killed in the strikes since last August. …

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9 Responses to “Army Issues Statement on Suicides”
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