Soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan are returning from the wars maimed and traumatized only to find no jobs, no homes and a broken medical system. A study in 2007 found that 18 percent of the veterans who applied for jobs within one to three years of discharge were unemployed, while one out of four who did find jobs earned less than $21,840 a year. Rates of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder are higher among Iraq and Afghanistan vets than for those of any other U.S. War.
But the Department of Veteran’s Affairs is keeping benefits from reaching tens of thousands of vets. For those vets who qualify for benefits, they are put on a VA waiting list with over 650,000 people on it. These veterans can wait sometimes a year and a half before seeing a doctor.
The number of Iraq and Afghanistan vets who are killing themselves is higher than the number of actual combat deaths. According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, of the 23.2 million veterans in the U.S., 1.6 million having fought in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars since 2001. An average of 18 veterans commit suicide everyday. That is over 6000 a year. Most of these are among veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. Since 2003, more than 76 suicides, including ten so far this year, have happened at Fort Hood alone.
In towns near U.S. bases, reports of violent crime and domestic abuse are skyrocketing. In Killeen, Texas, home to thousands of Fort Hood soldiers and their families, reports of domestic abuse have increased by over 75 percent since 2001 and violent crime has increased by 22 percent. Clearly, the violence of war doesn’t leave the soldiers when they return home.
The Fort Hood Shooting – Political Capital for The War On Terror
On November 5, 2009 at Fort Hood, a U.S. Army psychiatrist, Nidal Malik Hasan entered the base, where he worked, and opened fire with a gun killing 13 people and wounding 30 others. The immediate reaction in the media was that this attack was the worst terrorist incident since 9/11.
From the reports that have emerged, it seems Hasan was disturbed and deeply revolted by the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. As a psychiatrist hearing stories from returning veterans, Hasan became concerned, reporting what he heard to his superiors and requesting that those who admitted to atrocities be tried for war crimes. He began to see the conflict through the lens of political Islam – a conflict between the Christian West and the Muslim community. He began frequently posting on political Islamic websites and discussion boards.
Hasan had hoped that Obama’s election would reverse the policies in Iraq and Afghanistan. When they didn’t, he became bitterly angry. He became even more upset when he received orders to deploy to Afghanistan on November 28. The shootings took place shortly after his orders for deployment.
A great deal has been made of Hasan’s Palestinian background and Muslim beliefs. The major news sources link Hasan’s acts to Al-Qaeda and speculate on the threat of terrorist activities on American soil. In other words, the incident has become political capital for the “War on Terror” espoused by American politicians, whether Democrat or Republican.