When a Canadian decides to join the military no one ever questions his or her mental health. Why would they? He's a hero! He's fighting for our freedoms! The propaganda around the military is so thick that I questioned whether I should write this piece. The number of suicides from the Canadian Armed Forces now exceeds the death count from the Afghan mission. Meaning that, Canadian forces are killing themselves faster than the enemy is. Which begs the question – who is the enemy?
138 soldiers have been killed in combat since 2002. However, 118 male regular force members, 10 females and 32 reservists have killed themselves. That's 160 suicides. NDP MP Jack Harris asked “Will the minister now admit that there is a mental health crisis in the Canadian Forces and finally move to address it with the urgency that the soldiers deserve?” Of course there's a mental health crisis in the Canadian Armed Forces. I suggest, first and foremost, pulling them out of Afghanistan and from around the world. This is probably a case of post-traumatic stress disorder, so let's nip it in the butt. Prevention is key in health care.
Second is to dissolve the taboo around criticizing the military. When someone signs up for the military, they're essentially signing up to kill or be killed. That's not to say every position is a kill-position, but anyone thinking about signing up should read Catch-22 first. A lot of kids are so in debt from school that a soldiers pay is worth the risk. Fine, if that were truly voluntary. But that money is all of ours to begin with. There is a disconnect between the image of the military and what they actually do. They fight for our freedoms, right? Like the ones we keep losing. Or are they keeping the world safe for democracy. Getting those terrorists who attacked us on 9/11!
Maybe these 160 started discovering the truth.
It must be a small world in Afghanistan. Especially within the English-speaking, Occupying Forces community. People gossip, no matter how well trained and indoctrinated they are. Troops must know about the poppy fields. They must know that the Americans are guarding the fields and that the opium trade has skyrocketed since the invasion. Unless the troops are deliberately ignoring all evidence to the contrary – they must know that this war is about the drug trade. No doubt, some of them profit on it.
Then again, perhaps the propaganda is too strong. The men and women who have killed themselves probably didn't do it because they discovered the truth about the mission. Suicide is an irrational act, a permanent solution to a temporary problem as Robin Williams once said. This is probably is a case of post-traumatic stress disorder, hence why they never should have joined the military in the first place.
Joining the military is not patriotic, it doesn't make you a hero and you don't deserve anymore respect for it. You risk being killed or killing someone. Why would you want to put yourself in that position? For your country? You become a hired-killer for the state; a pawn in a game that equals big bucks for them and death for you. That is, unless, you enjoy it.
If you like to murder people, you'll go pretty far in the military. You won't return to Canada with a mental illness that leads to suicide. If you like to kill, you had a mental illness before you even signed up. One can imagine if Justin Bourque, the Moncton cop-killer, joined the military instead of shooting those RCMP officers. He could have killed people in Afghanistan while wearing a Canadian Armed Forces uniform and be lauded as a hero for defending our freedoms by fighting terrorists “over there” so we don't have to fight them “over here.” Instead he sits in a jail-cell where killers not sanctioned by the state reside. Unless you're Karla Homolka.
If you are good at killing people, not getting killed, following orders, giving orders, and playing on people's instincts, intellect and fear – you'll go far in the military. Just like all aspects of government – the worst rise to the top. If you've got an antisocial personality that shows no empathy towards others, you won't commit suicide from post-traumatic stress disorder. You'll be promoted.
Of course not everyone in the military is a sociopath. And certain corporations house the crazy too, but dishonestly only goes so far. Those 160 soldiers certainly weren't sociopathic. No one deserves that fate.
I asked at the beginning of this piece, who is the real enemy? The Afghani fundamentalists? Or the corporate-state system that, in order to protect drug and energy investments, wilfully misinform young men and women to fight and die in pointless wars?
What do you think?
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