Screen Shot 2014-12-17 at 4.15.41 PMA new poll shows Americans, by almost a 2 to 1 margin, are A-OK with government torture methods: 9/11 justifies whatever it takes they say. The president won a Nobel Prize but has constantly kept the country at war. None of his supporters has complained. No one marches for peace. No artist can make money singing anti-war songs. Death and destruction far, far away, might as well be a video game.

While Dick Chaney says he’d torture all over again, I’m happy to report there is an anti-war book out–although I’m sure the author wouldn’t call it that. The Invisible Front: Love and Loss in an Era of Endless War is about the conflicts overseas, but more importantly the battles taking place in soldiers’ heads.

Yochi Dreazen’s book has been selected by the New York Times as one of the 100 most important books of 2014. It’s a story about a military family, the Grahams.  Mark Graham never saw combat but worked his way to being a general, accomplishing other things like evacuating New Orleans after Katrina.  His wife Carol dutifully followed her husband around the world. They had two sons and a daughter.

Both boys entered the military. The eldest son Jeff deployed to Iraq.  Before he ships off, his younger brother Kevin hangs himself.  All-around good guy on an academic scholarship at the University of Kentucky as well as a top cadet in the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps program, it was thought Kevin had a bright future.

But his thoughts were dark. Kevin was diagnosed with depression and prescribed Prozac Of course he didn’t tell anyone because admitting to taking anti-depressants in the military would stop his career immediately.

Jeff was killed by an IED while on patrol in Khaldiyah. His body disfigured beyond recognition. By warning the men under his command he had saved dozens of lives and was decorated posthumously for his valor.

The grieving parents and sister were dismayed at the difference between the two brothers’ funerals.  They considered both to be heroes. The government did not. Some of their religious friends showed no sympathy for Kevin, believing suicide is a sin.

These attitudes turned Mark and Carol into activists within the army at a time when military suicides began to skyrocket.  The military’s suicide rate increased more than 80% between 2002 and 2009. By 2012 more soldiers killed themselves than died in combat. In 2013 total military suicides since the start of the current wars passed the 1,000 total. This year, the Pentagon released figures revealing that male veteran suicides (ages 30 and younger) increased 44% from 2009 to 2011.

Mark’s sympathy for depressed soldiers landed him the command at Fort Carson in Colorado, said to be the post traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD) capital of the armed services.  The Invisible Front offers little in the way of sterile statistics, focusing on individual stories like Private Tyler Jennings at Fort Carson.

Jennings was big and burly, but had witnessed friends decapitated and mauled by Sunni insurgents.  A close friend had shot himself in the barracks. The private’s wife would have to wake him in the middle of the night as he tried to choke her in his sleep.  He wanted to put an end to his suffering. He chugged a bottle of vodka, tied an orange extension cord around his neck, and stepping out the window of his apartment. But he was too drunk pull it off and passed out before he could kill himself. Jennings had sought help, but the military rejected a civilian doctor’s PTSD diagnosis. He was discharged from the army for “patterns of misconduct.”

Mark Graham’s first year at Fort Carson, 2008, saw 8 soldiers kill themselves, a suicide rate for the base of 66 per 100,000, triple the rate of the army as a whole and four times the national average. Graham found that Fort Carson’s mental health staff looked down on soldiers who sought psychiatric help.  Less helpful were some soldiers from the 3rd Brigade Combat Team who designed a fake “Hurt Feelings Report” and left copies near where soldiers signed out to see base doctors.  Soldiers were to circle yes or no, to questions like, “I am thin skinned; I am a pussy; I have woman-like hormones; I am a queer; I am a little bitch; I am a crybaby; I want my mommy; all of the above.”

Mark Graham worked to change the culture, beefing up medical staff and instituting a hotline. He went as far as telling the base commanders, in tears, about his son Kevin’s suicide.

Graham didn’t get sympathy from everyone. The author quotes Sargent First Class Kalena Hodges, who said, “People in the hallways would talk about how Mark wanted to babysit all of these troops who should really be thrown out of the army.”

What’s especially jarring, according to the author, is that the suicide rate will continue to escalate because the all-volunteer army reflects civilian population’s problems and “suicide is one of those problems, and it’s getting worse. More people take their own lives than die in car crashes, a vivid illustration of the skyrocketing civilian suicide rate.”

Baby boomers and middle aged Americans especially, are killing themselves in increasing numbers.  “From 1999 to 2010, the suicide rate for adults aged thirty-five to sixty-four jumped nearly 30 percent, to a record 17.6 deaths per 100,000.”  Dreazen writes that male baby boomers were hit particularly hard with a suicide rate of 30 per 100,000.

While the author doesn’t mention the financial crash, there’s no question that was a contributing factor. Millions of Americans were left underwater on their homes and out of work. In a recent talk for Mises Canada, I mentioned Las Vegas lawyer Tish Black had 29 clients commit suicide after the crash, distressed over their failing finances. I told the individual stories of three people I knew personally, who had blossomed in the boom, only to take their lives in desperation after the bust.

War and business cycles are the work of the state, a massive, unfeeling apparatus that destroys its people callously as it takes on gargantuan proportions.  What’s chilling is the citizenry supports this human sacrifice in the name of safety.  How many more will take their lives as the wars rage on and the next crash destroys the people’s finances and futures?