A Soldier’s Suicide Note

A Soldier’s Suicide Note June 26, 2013

Gawker publishes a letter written by Daniel Somers, a soldier who served in Iraq both as a machine gunner and as an interrogator, to his family before he killed himself only two weeks ago. It’s difficult to read without crying, though I don’t know why anyone would try to do so. What he says about the horrors of war, the guilt he feels for the things he did and the resulting PTSD is simply haunting.

My body has become nothing but a cage, a source of pain and constant problems. The illness I have has caused me pain that not even the strongest medicines could dull, and there is no cure. All day, every day a screaming agony in every nerve ending in my body. It is nothing short of torture. My mind is a wasteland, filled with visions of incredible horror, unceasing depression, and crippling anxiety, even with all of the medications the doctors dare give. Simple things that everyone else takes for granted are nearly impossible for me. I can not laugh or cry. I can barely leave the house. I derive no pleasure from any activity. Everything simply comes down to passing time until I can sleep again. Now, to sleep forever seems to be the most merciful thing.

You must not blame yourself. The simple truth is this: During my first deployment, I was made to participate in things, the enormity of which is hard to describe. War crimes, crimes against humanity. Though I did not participate willingly, and made what I thought was my best effort to stop these events, there are some things that a person simply can not come back from. I take some pride in that, actually, as to move on in life after being part of such a thing would be the mark of a sociopath in my mind. These things go far beyond what most are even aware of.

To force me to do these things and then participate in the ensuing coverup is more than any government has the right to demand. Then, the same government has turned around and abandoned me. They offer no help, and actively block the pursuit of gaining outside help via their corrupt agents at the DEA. Any blame rests with them.

Please read the whole thing. And have tissues ready.

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  • timberwoof

    I am angry at those people who during the Gulf War and the invasion Iraq told me that being against the war meant not supporting the troops. I said I support the troops—but I do not support misusing them. And this is why.

  • What’s truly horrifying is how little impact war has on the average American. We’ve gone about our lives during the past decade completely divorced from what is being done in our name half a world away. I never thought I’d come to support restoring the draft, but I’ve come believe that Americans would be less enthusiastic about going to war if their was a possibility that every family would have to sacrifice a son or daughter to it.

    Maybe we’d care about more than the new Kardashian baby then.

  • thomasmorris

    The problem with the “reinstate the draft” thing is that it’s not quite clear that it would have the intended effect of ending the war. It could also result in the government’s increased confidence that it will have enough bodies to fight any number of conflicts for an indefinite period.

    A lot of people use Vietnam as an example of how the draft motivates people to resist an unjust war – but the fact of the matter is that, even then, it took at least 5 years of mass protests for the war to end.

    Yeah, the draft would motivate more people to get out and protest. But there will also be a lot of people who remain complacent, and plenty of others who find their nationalistic, “my country right or wrong” attitudes even further entrenched when they know someone who is over there and fighting (“If we withdraw without victory, my sister’s sacrifice will have been in vain!”)

    After all, the political leaders can always appeal to that magical “Silent Majority” who would rather see young people (not to mention hundreds of thousands of residents of the countries we invade) continue to get killed for an unjust cause than face the ignominy of defeat.

    We had a draft in this country from 1940 to 1973. During that time, we participated in three major “conflicts” – one of them completely just (WW2), one of them questionable (Korea), and one of them rather decidedly unjust. The Vietnam War “escalated” in 1965 and the massive national protests began a few years later – yet the draft didn’t end until 1973 and the war didn’t end for a while after that. In the meantime, hundreds of thousands of conscripts were being forced to kill and die for a war that many of them strongly opposed. And even then, a good percentage of the population was complacent and removed from the war.

    Even IF the reinstatement of the draft did have the intended affect of increasing activism against the war to a breaking point, it would almost certainly still take months or years before the political wheels turn enough to the point where we’re able to withdraw the troops from the war. Meanwhile, the young people still at home face the dread of being drafted (a terrible kind of fear) and, once again, many others are being forced into military training (then combat situations) against their well.

    There are too many unknowns – and there’s too much misery involved with the draft itself – for me to ever support reinstating conscription (except perhaps in the most dire of national emergencies – a “being invaded by foreign enemies on both coasts” kind of scenario.)

    Don’t get me wrong – this story horrifies me. If we aren’t going to end the wars (by far the best choice), we at least need to invest far more resources in helping our veterans. I just think the draft would just increase misery, rather than reducing it.

  • @d.c. wilson: I’ve heard that argument before, but the US got into to plenty of unjustified wars when we had a draft, so I don’t think it stands to scrutiny.

  • I’m not saying it’s a panacea against all unjust wars, but the draft did motivate people to oppose the Vietnam War and Ultimately, helped bring it to an end. Without those protests, I think we would have been fighting that war well into the 80s.

    Afghanistan is now America’s longest war and it’s still going with little public pressure to end it sooner. It was barely an issue in the last election! All I’m saying is that the American people need to feel that they will pay a heavy toll by going to war. Hell, Bush had half the country believing that war with Iraq would be a profitable adventure.

  • frog

    What we need are journalists who are not hamstrung by agreements with the government. Embedded journalists are not free to see everything, nor to broadcast anything they want to. During Vietnam, there were graphic pictures of dead American soldiers and foreign soldiers and civilians on the news. Now, you barely find such things on the internet.

    Please note: this isn’t a call for gruesome. But I can’t help thinking the average American has no fucking idea how awful war is, because they are living in a bubble of censorship and manufactured reality.

  • dougbob

    I think thomasmorris makes a good point regarding the potential “sacrifice will have been in vain” backfiring of a draft.

    Sadly, I think that driving home financial costs of war would be a more effective way to stop a war than reinstating the draft. Imagine the public mood if there were some way to segregate the cost of war out of the federal budget and bill it to the American people directly, separately. On April 15 you pay both your income tax and also your war tax.

  • congenital cynic

    The government really doesn’t want to face up to this kind of thing. They send young people to strange and foreign lands to do things that we are not evolved or socialized to do, and then they claim that there is nothing wrong with those who are forced to do these horrible deeds, and who are obviously traumatized to a huge degree.

    All of that is bad enough, but then they refuse to assist them when they come home. And lost lives aside (with all of the concomitant devastation that brings to the many around the lost), the US has yet another generation of seriously MENTALLY/EMOTIONALLY damaged war vets, and a government that wants little to do with them.

    So sad. So sad. Now to find the strength to read the whole letter.

  • naturalcynic

    I’m not saying it’s a panacea against all unjust wars, but the draft did motivate people to oppose the Vietnam War and Ultimately, helped bring it to an end. Without those protests, I think we would have been fighting that war well into the 80s.

    Maybe. I like to think so, however history does not give you the chance to be certain about the true effects of any action. I was there marching, writing and canvassing, but the ultimate effects of my and so many others actions cannot be certain. The social milieu of the 60’s made the anti-war movement inevitable.

  • I go to the VA clinic in the town where I live and the Health Center in Syracuse. The VA does a much better job with the resources at hand than many people are aware of.

    One of the problems with mental health care is that many of the patients are oppositional and in denial. When you consider that the overwhelming majority of Iraq (Phase 2) and Afghanistan veterans with PTSD and other combat related psych issues learned that violence is a solution to their problems in the field and that the U.S. military is more than happy to dump them back onto civvy street without ensuring that they are OK; well, it comes as no surprise that violence (against themselves and others) is the tool they employ to solve their problems.

    “It was barely an issue in the last election! ”

    Because the GOP knew that if they wanted to crow about Obamandingo’s failure to STOP the war there, that they might get a little blowback about their having STARTED it.