A newly released trove of documents confiscated from the Pakistani home in which al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was killed by Navy SEALs includes a speech that notes a spike in suicides among U.S. troops because of the brutality of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The documents, kept secret by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence until Tuesday, cover an array of themes, and includes one called “The America Speech.”
The speech is not dated, but likely was penned before Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, al-Qaeda’s leader in Iraq, was killed in a U.S. airstrike in June 2006. Bin Laden said in the speech that Zarqawi had started an organization “whereby Iraq has become a point that attracts and gathers Mujahid energies.” Bin Laden then underscored the psychological impact on U.S. troops as they faced insurgents attacks in Iraq and Afghanistan, and noted that one American officer had recently compared U.S. soldiers in Iraq to ducks in a barrel.
“Do you know why the rate of suicide among your soldiers in Iraq has risen?” bin Laden asked. “Look at these pictures from the battlefield in Iraq and Afghanistan that reveal that hell and the psychological state of the soldier as he gathers the limbs of his brothers, and he will be like them today or tomorrow.”
The speech shows again how bin Laden — who possessed a library that included everything from U.S. counterinsurgency manuals to porn — kept up with the news of the day while facing a massive manhunt by the United States. In 2006, the Army, in particular, coped with a rash of suicides. There were 99 confirmed suicides in the service that year, a third of which occurred in Iraq or Afghanistan.
Bin Laden argued in the speech that the intensity of combat faced by the U.S. military in Iraq had prompted U.S. officials to “dispense with optimistic phrases about the war.” That again may provide a hint on when it was written: U.S. officials began to acknowledge skyrocketing sectarian violence in 2006, ahead of the U.S. troop surge there that was ordered in January 2007.