The latest round of document releases from WikiLeaks regarding the Iraq War will be getting a lot of attention through the weekend, rightly so. It's too bad that will probably mean a report from California's Bay Citizen will probably be overlooked (hat tip to Truthout). A good portion of the whistleblowing WikiLeaks' internet dump of classified documents relates to the tracking of civilian casualties during the Iraq War, something the Pentagon claimed not to be doing. A full accounting of those deaths in Iraq will probably never be made; likewise with the Bay Citizen's story, which track the number of California vets who died, not in Iraq, but after their homecoming, where many were felled by suicide, drugs and car accidents. According to reporter Aaron Glantz's investigation, "An analysis of official death certificates ... reveals that more than 1,000 California veterans under 35 died between 2005 and 2008. That figure is three times higher than the number of California service members who were killed in the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts over the same period."
Glantz reports that Iraq and Afghanistan veterans from California killed themselves at a rate two and a half times higher than Californians of the same age with no military service. They were twice as likely to die in a vehicle accident and five and a half times as likely to die in a motorcycle accident. The suicide rate speaks for itself, and the car and motorcycle death rates may reflect risk-taking behavior that is typical of post-traumatic stress disorder.
It would appear appropriate that as we try to learn what we can about the true casualties and cost of the Iraq war, courtesy of WikiLeaks, we reserve a little attention for what may be an epidemic of mortality among the men and women who have endured multiple tours of combat in recent years in service to their country. Otherwise we can anticipate casualties from this particular war to proceed far into the future.