Dennis Prager
On his army blog of January 19, the commanding general of Fort Bliss (Texas), Major General Dana Pittard, wrote regarding members of the military who commit suicide:

"I have now come to the conclusion that suicide is an absolutely selfish act. I am personally fed up with soldiers who are choosing to take their own lives so that others can clean up their mess. Be an adult, act like an adult and deal with your real-life problems like the rest of us."

According to the National Journal, "Pittard's blunt comments about suicide have raised eyebrows throughout the military. . . . Suicide-prevention experts believe that Pittard's blog posting has already conveyed precisely the wrong message to emotionally-fragile troops.

"In the words of Barbara Van Dahlen, the founder of Give an Hour, an organization that matches troops with civilian mental-health providers: 'Soldiers who are thinking about suicide can't do what the general says: They can't suck it up, they can't let it go, they can't just move on. They're not acting out of selfishness; they're acting because they believe they've become a burden to their loved ones and can only relieve that burden by taking their own lives. . . . His statement -- whatever motivated it -- can do little good for those who are already on the edge.'"

As a result of the furor, on May 23, the Wednesday before Memorial Day, the general wrote the following:

"Thanks to many of you and your feedback, I have learned that this was a hurtful statement. I also realize that my statement was not in line with the Army's guidance regarding sensitivity to suicide. With my deepest sincerity and respect towards those whom I have offended, I retract that statement."

There are three questions that need to be answered here:

1) Was the general's original blog right? 2) Even if it was right, should the general have made it public? 3) Should he have been pressured to retract his original comments?

Regarding the first question, unless suicide is committed as a result of terrible and unrelenting physical pain -- especially if one is suffering from a terminal illness -- or a person knows that he is about to be tortured, most suicides are selfish acts. This is said with no lack of compassion for the terrible psychological suffering that people who commit suicide experience.

Dennis Prager

Dennis Prager is a SRN radio show host, contributing columnist for and author of his newest book, “The Ten Commandments: Still the Best Moral Code.”

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