Barack Obama is jumping on the latest indication of the toll the Iraq war is taking: An Army report says 115 soldiers committed suicide in 2007, a nearly 13 percent increase over the previous year and the most since at least 1990.
More US troops died last year than in any of the previous years in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the report suggests that a factor was the extension of deployments to 15 months from 12 months, a practice ending this year.
"Today’s news is a tragic reminder of the staggering and ongoing costs of the Iraq war, particularly on our troops and their families," Obama said in a statement. "We are more than five years into this war, and the Pentagon and VA are still unprepared to treat the unseen wounds of battle. We know that incidence of psychological injury increase with each additional tour of duty in Iraq, and that our troops are not getting the support they need. Too many are falling through the cracks because they need help but feel they can’t get it. When I am president, we’ll hire more mental health professionals, increase training to recognize the signs and to reject the stigma of seeking care, and enhance mental health screening and treatment from enlistment, to deployment, to reentry into civilian life."
Obama and presumptive Republican nominee John McCain tussled last week over a bill to offer the military improved educational benefits. McCain said it was too generous to troops with only a single tour of service and would hurt retention in the ranks.
And, of course, they differ markedly on policy on the Iraq war.
About Political Intelligence
Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.