[Marxism] British soldier kills himself to avoid Iraq

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Fri Aug 25 07:41:50 MDT 2006


The Independent, 25 August 2006 09:40
'I can't go to Iraq. I can't kill those children' - Suicide soldier's dying 
words to his mother
By Cahal Milmo

While his peers from St Augustine's Catholic school were this month 
contemplating university careers or first jobs, Jason Chelsea was 
preoccupied with a different future: his first tour of duty in Iraq.

The 19-year-old infantryman, from Wigan, Greater Manchester, was tormented 
by concern about what awaited him when the King's Lancaster Regiment 
reached Iraq, where 115 British soldiers have been killed since 2003.

He had even told his parents that he had been warned by his commanders that 
he could be ordered to fire on child suicide bombers.

It was a fear that he never confronted. Within 48 hours of confessing his 
concerns to his family, Pte Chelsea was dead after taking an overdose of 
painkillers and slashing his wrists.

On his death bed, he told his mother, Kerry: "I can't go out there and 
shoot at young children. I just can't go to Iraq. I don't care what side 
they are on. I can't do it."

Today, mourners including comrades from his unit will attend Pte Chelsea's 
funeral, wearing the colours of his two favourite football teams, Chelsea 
and Wigan. The Ministry of Defence (MoD) is to begin an investigation into 
his death, including allegations that the teenager was bullied. In a 
suicide note, the young soldier had said that he was "just a waste".

His parents said yesterday that their son's ordeal had convinced them of 
the need for an urgent review of the pre-deployment training given to 
British soldiers bound for Iraq.

Tony Chelsea, 58, a factory production supervisor, said: "My son was made 
very, very lonely by what was happening to him. He was very sad inside and 
he bottled up what was causing it. It was only after the overdose that he 
told us about his fears over what might happen in Iraq.

"In training, they were made to wrestle with dummies. Jason said they were 
also told they might have to fight kids and that they might have to shoot 
them because they were carrying suicide bombs. He said the policy [where 
there was a suspected suicide bomber] was to shoot first and ask questions 
later."

His mother added: "Jason said that during the training for Iraq he had been 
told that children as young as two carry bombs and the time may come when 
he would have to shoot one to save himself and his friends. I think they 
need to think again about the training they give to young soldiers before 
Iraq."

It is understood guidelines on training for British troops heading for Iraq 
offer no warning on child suicide bombers. But defence sources confirmed 
that the details of the advice given to soldiers are decided by each 
regiment. There have been no known cases of suicide attacks in Iraq 
committed by young children.

The death of Pte Chelsea, who had served in Germany and Cyprus, will renew 
concern about the psychological pressures faced by British troops as they 
deal with deployment to Iraq. Four days before the infantryman attempted to 
take his life, the MoD released figures showing that 1,541 soldiers who 
served in Iraq are suffering from psychiatric illness. Last year, 727 cases 
were recorded, amounting to nearly 10 per cent of the British deployment. 
Special units have now been set up in the country to help soldiers deal 
with combat stress. While services were also available in Britain to Pte 
Chelsea to discuss his concerns within the Army, it seems he felt unable to 
disclose them.

He had joined the Army at 16 after a visit to his school, St Augustine's, 
telling his family the Army was to be his life. He was at home on leave 
when his fears came to a head this month.

After watching a football match on the night of 10 August, he calmly wrote 
the suicide note, telling his father it was a letter to a relative, took 60 
painkillers then slashed his wrists. As he lay bleeding, the soldier 
dialled 999, telling the operator: "I have done something stupid."

In normal circumstances, Pte Chelsea, who suffered from dyslexia, may have 
recovered from his injuries. But when doctors began tests to assess the 
damage caused to his liver by the drugs, it was found that the organ had 
been irreparably damaged by alcohol. His family were told his liver was 
similar to that of someone who had been an alcoholic for 20 years and he 
would not survive a transplant. He died on 14 August at St James's Hospital 
in Leeds after his family gave consent for his other organs to be used for 
transplants.

His father said he believed t he reasons behind his son's drinking had 
provoked a previous suicide attempt in 2004, when he cut his wrists in his 
barracks. After this incident, Pte Chelsea was treated by an Army 
psychiatrist which the family said had restored his confidence.

Mr Chelsea said: "My son started drinking 18 months ago. He destroyed his 
liver in less than a year and a half. I believe that is because he was 
being bullied again. He did not want to make anything of it. He was in the 
Army, he knew he had to be tough. But it only takes a few words. He said he 
would hear comments aimed at him because of his dyslexia. He was told he 
would get his colleagues killed because he was stupid.

"I support the British Army and what it does. But I would like to stand 
before my son's unit with a picture of him in uniform and ask those who 
made these comments to him time after time to think about the effect they had."

The young soldier's despair was displayed in the note he wrote to his 
parents before his overdose. He said: "Really sorry, mum and dad. I'm just 
no good for you. I have got to finish it. I am just a waste."

The MoD said it was "greatly saddened" by the death but the details of his 
treatment remained the subject of an inquiry. A spokesman said: "We send 
our heartfelt sympathies to the family of Pte Chelsea. It is our intention 
to convene a board of inquiry which will examine the circumstances around 
his death."

Five other suicides since Iraq invasion

* JULY 2004

Pte Gary Boswell, 20, of the Royal Welch Fusiliers, hanged himselfnear his 
home in Milford Haven. He was on leave from Iraq

* 31 OCTOBER 2004

Staff Sgt Denise Rose, 34, who served in the Special Investigation Branch 
of the Royal Military Police, was found dead from a gunshot wound at a 
British Army base in Basra

* 26 DECEMBER 2004

Sgt Paul Connolly, 33, of the 21st Engineer Regiment of the Royal Engineers 
was found dead from a gunshot wound at Shaibah Logistic Base, south-west of 
Basra

* 15 OCTOBER 2005

Capt Ken Masters, 40, of the Special Investigation Branch of the Royal 
Military Police, hanged himself in his office in Basra, just five days 
before the end of a tour

* 22 MARCH 2006

Cpl Mark Cridge, 25, of 7 Signal Regiment, shot himself at Camp Bastion in 
the Helmand province of Afghanistan.

While his peers from St Augustine's Catholic school were this month 
contemplating university careers or first jobs, Jason Chelsea was 
preoccupied with a different future: his first tour of duty in Iraq.

The 19-year-old infantryman, from Wigan, Greater Manchester, was tormented 
by concern about what awaited him when the King's Lancaster Regiment 
reached Iraq, where 115 British soldiers have been killed since 2003.

He had even told his parents that he had been warned by his commanders that 
he could be ordered to fire on child suicide bombers.

It was a fear that he never confronted. Within 48 hours of confessing his 
concerns to his family, Pte Chelsea was dead after taking an overdose of 
painkillers and slashing his wrists.

On his death bed, he told his mother, Kerry: "I can't go out there and 
shoot at young children. I just can't go to Iraq. I don't care what side 
they are on. I can't do it."

Today, mourners including comrades from his unit will attend Pte Chelsea's 
funeral, wearing the colours of his two favourite football teams, Chelsea 
and Wigan. The Ministry of Defence (MoD) is to begin an investigation into 
his death, including allegations that the teenager was bullied. In a 
suicide note, the young soldier had said that he was "just a waste".

His parents said yesterday that their son's ordeal had convinced them of 
the need for an urgent review of the pre-deployment training given to 
British soldiers bound for Iraq.

Tony Chelsea, 58, a factory production supervisor, said: "My son was made 
very, very lonely by what was happening to him. He was very sad inside and 
he bottled up what was causing it. It was only after the overdose that he 
told us about his fears over what might happen in Iraq.

"In training, they were made to wrestle with dummies. Jason said they were 
also told they might have to fight kids and that they might have to shoot 
them because they were carrying suicide bombs. He said the policy [where 
there was a suspected suicide bomber] was to shoot first and ask questions 
later."

His mother added: "Jason said that during the training for Iraq he had been 
told that children as young as two carry bombs and the time may come when 
he would have to shoot one to save himself and his friends. I think they 
need to think again about the training they give to young soldiers before 
Iraq."

It is understood guidelines on training for British troops heading for Iraq 
offer no warning on child suicide bombers. But defence sources confirmed 
that the details of the advice given to soldiers are decided by each 
regiment. There have been no known cases of suicide attacks in Iraq 
committed by young children.

The death of Pte Chelsea, who had served in Germany and Cyprus, will renew 
concern about the psychological pressures faced by British troops as they 
deal with deployment to Iraq. Four days before the infantryman attempted to 
take his life, the MoD released figures showing that 1,541 soldiers who 
served in Iraq are suffering from psychiatric illness. Last year, 727 cases 
were recorded, amounting to nearly 10 per cent of the British deployment. 
Special units have now been set up in the country to help soldiers deal 
with combat stress. While services were also available in Britain to Pte 
Chelsea to discuss his concerns within the Army, it seems he felt unable to 
disclose them.

He had joined the Army at 16 after a visit to his school, St Augustine's, 
telling his family the Army was to be his life. He was at home on leave 
when his fears came to a head this month.

After watching a football match on the night of 10 August, he calmly wrote 
the suicide note, telling his father it was a letter to a relative, took 60 
painkillers then slashed his wrists. As he lay bleeding, the soldier 
dialled 999, telling the operator: "I have done something stupid."

In normal circumstances, Pte Chelsea, who suffered from dyslexia, may have 
recovered from his injuries. But when doctors began tests to assess the 
damage caused to his liver by the drugs, it was found that the organ had 
been irreparably damaged by alcohol. His family were told his liver was 
similar to that of someone who had been an alcoholic for 20 years and he 
would not survive a transplant. He died on 14 August at St James's Hospital 
in Leeds after his family gave consent for his other organs to be used for 
transplants.

His father said he believed t he reasons behind his son's drinking had 
provoked a previous suicide attempt in 2004, when he cut his wrists in his 
barracks. After this incident, Pte Chelsea was treated by an Army 
psychiatrist which the family said had restored his confidence.

Mr Chelsea said: "My son started drinking 18 months ago. He destroyed his 
liver in less than a year and a half. I believe that is because he was 
being bullied again. He did not want to make anything of it. He was in the 
Army, he knew he had to be tough. But it only takes a few words. He said he 
would hear comments aimed at him because of his dyslexia. He was told he 
would get his colleagues killed because he was stupid.

"I support the British Army and what it does. But I would like to stand 
before my son's unit with a picture of him in uniform and ask those who 
made these comments to him time after time to think about the effect they had."

The young soldier's despair was displayed in the note he wrote to his 
parents before his overdose. He said: "Really sorry, mum and dad. I'm just 
no good for you. I have got to finish it. I am just a waste."

The MoD said it was "greatly saddened" by the death but the details of his 
treatment remained the subject of an inquiry. A spokesman said: "We send 
our heartfelt sympathies to the family of Pte Chelsea. It is our intention 
to convene a board of inquiry which will examine the circumstances around 
his death."

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