“War is hell” is no mere clilche.
The U.S. military’s inadvertent burning of Korans in Afghanistan triggered a backlash that left almost 40 dead, including six American service members, culminating in this week’s horrific killing of 16 Afghan civilians–allegedly by a U.S. soldier. These events may or may not represent a milestone in the Afghan war. Having stared into the abyss of the recent riots over the Koran burnings, both governments have stepped back and attempted to calm matters. What already seems clear, however, is that real life is defying the Obama administration’s determined portrayal of a war that is winding down toward a negotiated settlement and a relatively smooth transition to Afghan security forces by the end of 2013.
Meanwhile, suicides are on the rise in the US military:
From 1977 to 2003, suicide rates in the Army closely matched the rates of suicide in the civilian population, and were even on a downward trend. But after 2004, the rates began to climb fast, outpacing the rates in civilians by 2008.
In 2007 and 2008 alone, 255 active duty soldiers committed suicide. The vast majority of the suicides since 2004 were by men; and 69 percent had seen active combat duty. Nearly half were between ages 18 and 24. And 54 percent of those who committed suicide were from among the lower ranks of enlisted personnel.