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The ever-increasing toll that an endless number of deployments necessitated by our state of perpetual war is taking on our soldiers. In Iraq:

“When Lt. Col. Dave Wilson took command of a battalion of the 4th Brigade of the 1st Armored Division, the unit had just returned to Texas from 14 months traveling some of Iraq’s most dangerous roads as part of a logistics mission.

What he found, he said, was a unit far more damaged than the single death it had suffered in its two deployments to Iraq.

Nearly 70 soldiers in his 1,163-member battalion had tested positive for drugs: methamphetamine, cocaine and marijuana. Others were abusing prescription drugs. Troops were passing around a tape of a female lieutenant having sex with five soldiers from the unit. Seven soldiers in the brigade died from drug overdoses and traffic accidents when they returned to Fort Bliss, near El Paso, after their first deployment.”

In Afghanistan:

“The U.S. soldiers hatched a plan as simple as it was savage: to randomly target and kill an Afghan civilian, and to get away with it…For weeks, according to Army charging documents, rogue members of a platoon from the 5th Stryker Combat Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, floated the idea. Then, one day last winter, a solitary Afghan man approached them in the village of La Mohammed Kalay. The “kill team” activated the plan.

One soldier created a ruse that they were under attack, tossing a fragmentary grenade on the ground. Then others opened fire…According to charging documents, the unprovoked, fatal attack on Jan. 15 was the start of a months-long shooting spree against Afghan civilians that resulted in some of the grisliest allegations against American soldiers since the U.S. invasion in 2001. Members of the platoon have been charged with dismembering and photographing corpses, as well as hoarding a skull and other human bones.”

Steve Hynd at Newshoggers (my emphasis):

“Drug abuse and suicide rates are at record highs, misdemeanours committed while in uniform have almost doubled in the last five years, sexual assaults by those in uniform have trippled since 2001.

Over a million US servicemen and women have passed through Afghanistan and Iraq since 2001. Estimates on how many suffer from some form of PTSD-related illness range from 40-60%. If current psychological data on how mental illness spreads its hurt like ripples in a pool are any guide, each of them will adversly affect between five and twelve friends and close family, who will see negative behavioural changes themselves ranging from mild PTSD-like symptoms to full shell-shock caused by a mentally ill but still abusive partner or parent.

And this is why you should care. The American victims of Bush’s adventures, continued by Obama, are your brothers, sisters, parents, spouses and friends. Their troubles will affect your sister, your brother…you get the idea. This is one area where both Iraq and Afghanistan are like Vietnam.

Bring them ALL home.

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