Suicide itself now an act of war

A motivation not yet mentioned in the extensive scientific literature on suicide was offered by the US Government for why three inmates killed themselves in Guantanamo Bay – apparently, it was a well-planned “act of asymmetric warfare“.

Perhaps, someone could email the organisors of the US Department of Defense 2006 Military Suicide Prevention Conference and let them know that their opening talk on the Theoretical Considerations of Suicide by Dr. David Jobes (powerpoint slides here) obviously missed out this important explanation in an otherwise comprehensive coverage of the medical literature?

UPDATE: Six hours after the first story, the suicides are now being explained as a ‘PR move‘. Doesn’t science move fast.

Link to BBC News Story (via MeFi).
Link to 2006 Military Suicide Prevention Conference homepage and slides.

2 thoughts on “Suicide itself now an act of war”

  1. I think you are being a bit disingenuous Vaughan.
    There is a massive difference between an Islamist fighter who carries out a suicide bombing and a GI who hangs himself? One is well accounted for in medical literature, the other is barely understood.
    The culture that these inmates belong do sees suicide as a tool of war (amongst other things).
    It is entirely possible that they killed themselves as part of a fighting sacrifice knowing it would wound the enemy as surely as if they had suicide bombed a US foot patrol.
    If you are searching medical literature to learn about Islamist suicides, your search will be long and fruitless. It is not the suicide that is the subject of the Military Suicide Prevention Conference.
    Perhaps if you were current on research into suicide murder – the Islamist speciality – you might come to understand how the US Army may be completely right about these particular inmate.
    You appear to have an ethnocentric view of suicide (one that holds that the Military Suicide Prevention Conference represents all suicide) and this may be blinding you to probable truth of the US Army’s claim.
    Kind regards
    Avid reader of Mind Hacks

  2. I agree with your point about suicide murder being different from ‘regular’ suicide and that suicide murder can be an act of war. In suicide murder and suicide bombing, however, it is not the death of perpetrator that is, in itself, an act of war – it is the damage inflicted upon the supposed enemy.
    However, the suicides in Guantanamo Bay were of prisoners who could not do any damage to their captors in any way.
    Therefore, to class the suicide of individuals in solitary confinement as an ‘act of war’ is just ridiculous. And suggesting that the damage is in the form of ‘PR damage’ is equally bizarre, particularly considering that the captives have no contact with the outside world, and hence no knowledge of whether their actions would be reported or not.
    What we do know about suicide from the medical literature is that it is vastly increased in people who are humiliated, hopeless and socially isolated, and that the suicide rate is much higher in prisoners. Considering the abominable situation the captives find themselves in, with no recourse to a fair trial or the Geneva convention, this would seem the most likely explanation by far.
    I note that the explanation of these suicides as an ‘act of war’ or a ‘PR move’ has subsequently been rejected by the US Government itself, which is another reflection of how plainly ridiculous it seemed even to the lay public.

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