Marinna Rollins killed herself. She was a 23-year-old U.S. Army veteran who, according to the Fayetteville Observer, suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, meaning she is the latest in a long line of military veterans killing themselves at a higher rate, a trend that developed during the longest wars in U.S. history.
It’s the kind of war-related carnage that took a backseat when President Donald Trump gave the green light to launch missiles into Syria in response to a chemical attack. The necessity of that decision can be fairly debated by critics and supporters, as well as what should happen if another chemical attack is unleashed. Deciding when to use military force to intervene in foreign wars or for humanitarian purposes is seldom clear-cut. Doing so can destabilize a region. Deciding not to may embolden dictators.
But when the discussion quickly turned into bipartisan praise because Trump became “presidential” by launching missiles, it illustrated how far we’ve strayed from the purpose of war. It isn’t something to be hailed – even when it is necessary – but should be fretted about every step of the way. Its costs are great and vast and never-ending, and they now include Rollins, and her service dog, which she had been charged with shooting five times in April.
Those costs include the “beautiful little babies” killed during the chemical attack Trump said were among the reasons he ordered the strikes. They also include the “beautiful little babies” killed by our bombs, something we seem to forget even more easily than the relative handful of men and women we send to experience hell on the battlefield to return with untold obvious and not-so-obvious scars.
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Americans quickly expressed horror at the images coming out of Syria, but not nearly as much when the story of a 4-year-old girl badly wounded by a U.S.-led coalition attack on Mosul in March designed to root out ISIS.
“Bits of shrapnel are still coming out of her head wounds, and larger pieces remain lodged in her legs,” 28-year-old Ala’a Ali told The Intercept about his daughter’s condition.
Neither was there an outcry in the U.S. about reports of a spike in civilian deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan this year, even as The Associated Press, Buzzfeed and Amnesty International and others began noting an unprecedented level of such deaths.
“Never has the US been accused of killing so many in such a short period of time,” Buzzfeed reported. “According to Airwars.org, there have been 1,000 alleged civilian deaths in Iraq and Syria by coalition airstrikes in the month of March alone, a record high since the US-led coalition’s strikes began.”
War, even just war, often results in unjust consequences. Sometimes they show up in battlefield images of children, sometimes in Fayetteville in the struggles a young soldier brings home, sometimes in the Middle East among young fathers trying to process what we casually call collateral damage.
All the while, the beat goes on as the Pentagon and White House considers sending thousands more troops back to Afghanistan.