Saturday, January 19, 2008

A Veteran’s Descent, and a Prosecutor’s Choice

From the link above... click link for entire story....

TOOELE, Utah — Not long after Lance Cpl. Walter Rollo Smith returned from Iraq, the Marines dispatched him to Quantico, Va., for a marksmanship instructor course.

Mr. Smith, then a 21-year-old Marine Corps reservist from Utah, had been shaken to the core by the intensity of his experience during the invasion of Iraq. Once a squeaky-clean Mormon boy who aspired to serve a mission abroad, he had come home a smoker and drinker, unsure if he believed in God.

In Quantico, he reported to the firing range with a friend from Fox Company, the combined Salt Lake City-Las Vegas battalion nicknamed the Saints and Sinners. Raising his rifle, he stared through the scope and started shaking. What he saw were not the inanimate targets before him but vivid, hallucinatory images of Iraq: “the cars coming at us, the chaos, the dust, the women and children, the bodies we left behind,” he said.

Each time he squeezed the trigger, Mr. Smith cried, harder and harder until he was, in his own words, “bawling on the rifle range, which marines just do not do.” Mortified, he allowed himself to be pulled away. And not long afterward, the Marines began processing his medical discharge for post-traumatic stress disorder, severing his link to the Reserve unit that anchored him and sending him off to seek help from veterans hospitals.

The incident on the firing range was the first “red flag,” as the prosecutor in Tooele County, Utah, termed it, that Mr. Smith sent up as he gradually disintegrated psychologically. At his lowest point, in March 2006, he killed Nicole Marie Speirs, the 22-year-old mother of his twin children, drowning her in a bathtub without any evident provocation or reason.

“There was no intent,” said Gary K. Searle, the deputy Tooele County attorney. “It was almost like things kept ratcheting up, without any real intervention that I can see, until one day he snapped.”

Friday, January 18, 2008

2 Below-

There are two articles below this one. One is about the violence perpetrated by rogue veterans after serving in Iraq and Afganistan. One is a strong reaction agains that kind of reporting. Both are valid arguments.

Is it responsible journalism to sensationalize the few killers who have returned from battle in foreign lands, only to unleash that fury on Americans?
Is it responsible journalism to highlight the plight of PTSD affected veterans who have returned from war only to find that they can't fit back into society, and find it easier to revert to their skill, stealth killing, as a solution to the new stress?

Is it responsible to rant about how that makes these people lepers and it just isn't fair to defame these valiant heroes?

I am on the fence. I am on the fence after living, breathing and co-existing with a veteran. I am on the fence about telling people honestly what anger can do. I am on the fence of personal privacy, which keeps me from saying yes, they sure are armed, wouldn't you be if you if your gun meant your life...

Not everyone comes back and shifts right in. On the contrary, going to Iraq fresh out of high school, a young adult has little coping strategies for making it in society. Also, upon return the young person sees friends that are more established and it is frustrating. Especially if he or she is still taking a knee at the boom of the fourth of July show, or when a car backfires. You start to feel like a freak, a freak who has lost time. A freak that has valuable skill on a battle field and no commensurate skill or task in society.

It seems easier to just go back.

Not only might these folks lack everyday coping strategies and decision making skills, but they have all new burdens. A combat vet can have exposure to spent uranium, traumatic brain injury, digestion problems, and PTSD. A combat vet can have fewer limbs, constant pain, and the possibility of never returning to what was known before deployment. How many deaths, howmany friends lost, how many images are stuck in that man or woman's head? It just isn't easy or pretty for many returning home.

"Two years of shells and bombs, a man's not
likely to peel that off like a sock" from All Quiet on the Western Front

Not all veterans are the same. My friends in blue seem to have limitless support to help them with any and all prolbems. My friends in green, the ones with the pretty blue braid or the ones with the medic patch, they aren't the same.

If they aren't the same, we can't generalize. What we can do as a society is provide real loving support, real medical support, real lifetime support. It means more than waving a flag on that one day, or visiting that one memorial that one time. It means work, and when it really comes down to it, most folks would rather pop open a drink and zone out to the boob tube.

We really shouldn't fear the unknown veteran, we should fear the unknown consequences of knowingly turning our back on our own creations.

When you get past all the blue state red state, gun ownership, self-righteousness, what we lack is a logical connection between our actions, our politics and the outcomes in society. We seem to get far enough to question authority, but we don't question who benefits from the lobbyists and the business behind the authority.

Who really benefits from this war, would they benefit from recognizing a problem with the combat veterans, their quality of life or what we really owe them in society? Would they?

The New Lepers (New York Post) click title for link


Defending America: That's why the Times insists he's a freak.

January 18, 2008 -- I'VE had a huge response to Tuesday's column about The New York Times' obscene bid to smear veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan as mad killers. Countless readers seem to be wondering: Why did the paper do it?
Well, in the Middle Ages, lepers had to carry bells on pain of death to warn the uninfected they were coming. One suspects that the Times would like our military veterans to do the same.
The purpose of Sunday's instantly notorious feature "alerting" the American people that our Iraq and Afghanistan vets are all potential murderers when they move in next door was to mark those defenders of freedom as "unclean" - as the new lepers who can't be trusted amid uninfected Americans.
In the more than six years since 9/11, the Times has never run a feature story half as long on any of the hundreds of heroes who've served our country - those who've won medals of honor, distinguished service crosses, Navy crosses, silver stars or bronze stars with a V device (for valor).
But the Times put a major investigative effort into the "sensational" story that 121 returning vets had committed capital offenses (of course, 20 percent of the cases cited involved manslaughter charges stemming from drunken driving, not first- or second-degree murder . . . ).
Well, a quick statistics check let the air out of the Times' bid to make us dread the veteran down the block - who the Times implies has a machine gun under his bathrobe when he steps out front to fetch the morning paper. In fact, the capital-crimes rate ballyhooed by the Gray Lady demonstrates that our returning troops are far less likely to commit such an offense.
Again, the Times' smear certainly wasn't an accident. The paper's staff is highly paid and highly experienced. Its editors know that a serious news story has to put numbers into context. But their sole attempt at context was to note that offenses by former soldiers have ticked up since we went to war.
The Times is trying to make you fear our veterans (Good Lord, if your daughter marries one, she's bound to be beaten to death!). And to convince you that our military would be a dreadful place for your sons and daughters, a death-machine that would turn them into incurable psychopaths.
To a darkly humorous degree, all this reflects the Freudian terrors leftists feel when confronted with men who don't have concave chests. But it goes far beyond that.
Pretending to pity tormented veterans (vets don't want our pity - they want our respect), the Times' feature was an artful example of hate-speech disguised as a public service.
The image we all were supposed to take away from that story was of hopelessly damaged, victimized, infected human beings who've become outcasts from civilized society. The Times cast our vets as freaks from a slasher flick.
The hard left's hatred of our military has deteriorated from a political stance into a pathology: The only good soldier is a dead soldier who can be wielded as a statistic (out of context again). Or a deserter who complains bitterly that he didn't join the Army to fight . . .
At the risk of turning to anecdotal evidence - a technique much-abused by the left - I have to declare that I personally know hundreds of veterans. (Can anyone at the Times head office make that claim?) Not a single one of them has committed a crime worse than exceeding the speed limit on the Interstate.
Not one vet I know is in prison for a crime he or she committed after taking off the uniform. And in nearly 22 years of active service, I encountered only two soldiers who committed violent crimes (no murders).
Contrary to the Times, veterans are consistently among the most upstanding members of their communities. They volunteer. They vote. They take pride in being good neighbors. And those I know have raised their children more successfully than the average liberal household.
But what's the image that the left, whether the Times or the silly people in Hollywood, presents to us? Vets are nuts. Violently nuts. They kill their neighbors. They kill their own kind. And they're just waiting for the right moment of madness to kill you.
A longstanding goal of the left, recently invigorated, has been to drive a wedge between our military and our society. The real vet is the neighbor who fixes your kid's bike (or your computer). But the left's archetypal vet is the Marine colonel in "American Beauty" who, frustrated in his suppressed gay passions, murders poor Kevin Spacey.
Yes, war is a terrible crucible. Some vets, past and present, do need help. And they deserve the best help our country can give them. But the left-wing fantasy of hordes of psychotics driven mad by drill sergeants and Army chow is just that: a fantasy.
Of course, if the Times responds at all to the storm of protests their insult to our veterans aroused, the editors will try to fudge the numbers in their favor. You just can't argue with ideologues. They lie and they cheat. And they justify it as being for the greater good of ignorant fools like us.
So let me suggest the best-possible revenge on the veteran-trashing jerks at The New York Times: Instead of fleeing in terror the next time you see a veteran you know, just thank him or her for their service.
And let's save the leper's bells for dishonest journalists.
Ralph Peters is a retired Army officer who has yet to kill any of his neighbors (although they'd better keep their grass cut).

Monday, January 14, 2008

Report: 121 vets charged in deaths after tours

The Associated Press
Posted : Monday Jan 14, 2008 12:56:22 EST
NEW YORK — At least 121 Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans have committed a killing or been charged in one in the U.S. after returning from combat, The New York Times reported Sunday.

The newspaper said it also logged 349 homicides involving all active-duty military personnel and new veterans in the six years since military action began in Afghanistan, and later Iraq. That represents an 89 percent increase over the previous six-year period, the newspaper said.

About three-quarters of those homicides involved Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans, the newspaper said. The report did not illuminate the exact relationship between those cases and the 121 killings also mentioned in the report.

The newspaper said its research involved searching local news reports, examining police, court and military records and interviewing defendants, their lawyers and families, victims’ families and military and law enforcement officials.

Defense Department representatives did not immediately respond to a telephone message early Sunday. The Times said the military agency declined to comment, saying it could not reproduce the paper’s research.

A military spokesman, Lt. Col. Les Melnyk, questioned the report’s premise and research methods, the newspaper said. He said it aggregated crimes ranging from involuntary manslaughter to murder, and he suggested the apparent increase in homicides involving military personnel and veterans in the wartime period might reflect only “an increase in awareness of military service by reporters since 9/11.”

Neither the Pentagon nor the federal Justice Department track such killings, generally prosecuted in state civilian courts, according to the Times.

The 121 killings ranged from shootings and stabbings to bathtub drownings and fatal car crashes resulting from drunken driving, the newspaper said. All but one of those implicated was male.

About a third of the victims were girlfriends or relatives, including a 2-year-old girl slain by her 20-year-old father while he was recovering from wounds sustained in Iraq.

A quarter of the victims were military personnel. One was stabbed and set afire by fellow soldiers a day after they all returned from Iraq.