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Bullying in the U.S. Military

By chance, I stumbled upon last month’s New York Magazine article on the life and tragic death of Army Pvt. Danny Chen, who died of suicide in October of 2011. Chen was severely bullied and hazed by his superiors in Afghanistan. Among other things, he was made to run while carrying a sandbag, made to do push-ups with a mouthful of water, and was called racial slurs to his face. Bullying in general, and in the military in particular, is a major issue that needs urgent addressing. You might think that soldiers should develop strength of body and spirit and hence endure bullying – and indeed, some harsh treatment is part of basic training -, but I strongly disagree. It is this attitude that reinforces the widespread abuse of military personnel, especially those belonging to minorities. While the Army should reinforce toughness, it should also be based on equality and fairness. This seems to be far from the case, given that Chen’s death is not an isolated incident. According to ABC News, Mr. Chen was the second Asian American to die of apparent suicide in Afghanistan in 2011. Probably, more people killed themselves thanks to the culture of discrimination and taunting in the U.S. military. I don’t know whether the investigation called for by Sen. Gillibrand (which the ABC News article is about) has been initiated yet, but if it hasn’t, it needs to soon.