Different perspectives on the Afghan shooting
First, from the Chicago Tribune:
ABOARD A U.S. MILITARY AIRCRAFT (Reuters) - Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said on Monday that the death penalty could be sought over the massacre of 16 villagers in Afghanistan, which U.S. officials said they believe was the work of a rogue American soldier.
The shooting spree in the southern province of Kandahar, which killed mostly women and children, has triggered angry calls from Afghans for an immediate American exit from the country, as Washington tries to negotiate a long-term presence to keep it from sliding into chaos again.
Panetta, however, attempted to portray the shooting as an isolated event that would not alter plans for a gradual, orderly withdrawal of American combat forces by the end of 2014.
"War is hell. These kinds of events and incidents are going to take place, they've taken place in any war. They're terrible events. And this is not the first of those events, and it probably won't be the last," the defense secretary told reporters on a flight to Kyrgyzstan.
"But we cannot allow these events to undermine our strategy or the mission that we're involved in."
The Afghan parliament demanded on Monday that a US soldier accused of killing 16 civilians, including nine children, be put on trial in Afghanistan as a growing tide of local anger added to the pressure on the US-led war against the Taliban.
“Yesterday’s incident in Kandahar is inexplicable; it cannot be forgiven on any account,” said Shinki Karokheel, a member of parliament from Kabul.
So far, it looks like everyone under the sun is blaming PTS, and while that might be true, I want to remind everyone that people like Dr. Phil were telling everyone that Hassan shot up Ft Hood for the same reason and it turned out later that he had never deployed. So, I would be reticent before jumping fully on that bandwagon. Reuters does a fair job of discussing that in this article:
Experts caution against jumping to conclusions, but two facts are known. This was the sergeant's fourth deployment. And the risk of mental illnesses such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, and anxiety-related disorders is generally higher during subsequent deployments than during a soldier's first.
"The more exposure there is to trauma the worse it's going to be," said Dr. David Reiss, a psychiatrist in private practice who has treated patients with PTSD. "Especially if someone is deployed repetitively, then the whole issue of expecting to go home, not going home, just amplifies it."
As with most aspects of mental illness, however, the link between deployments and mental illness is not straightforward. For instance, the incidence of PTSD during a third deployment is 2.7 percent among male members of the armed forces, according to a study released last September by the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Center in Silver Spring, Maryland.
But the incidence of PTSD for GIs serving a fourth deployment is lower: 1.9 percent, found the study, which analyzed medical records of 1.3 million U.S. military members who had served in Afghanistan or Iraq.
On this side of the pond, some are already going nuts over this.
"This was not just a rogue soldier," said Jorge Gonzalez, executive director of G.I. Voice, a veteran-run nonprofit organization that operates a soldiers' resource center near the base called Coffee Strong. The base is "a rogue base, with a severe leadership problem," he said.
"If Fort Lewis was a college campus, it would have been closed down years ago," Gonzalez said.
In the wake of Sunday's shootings, he called for a congressional investigation and hearings "into the multiple crises" at the base.
That CNN article above then goes on to rehash some of the problems they have had at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, but I dispute Mr. Gonzalez' portrayal of a sort of Lord of the Flies scenario going on up there. My buddy Jonn Lilyea did an interview with both the BBC and MSNBC calling for restraint.
Retired Army platoon Sgt. Jonn Lilyea, a Desert Storm veteran who writes the blog "This Ain’t Hell," told msnbc.com he expects the military to make an example out of the shooter as the case moves through the justice system.
Still, Lilyea cautioned that people should not rush to blame the killings on the soldier’s deployments during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"I’d wait to see if he really was in a position that would have affected him in this way," Lilyea said. "But I’m more concerned people will try to use this like they did after Vietnam with the My Lai massacre and taint all combat veterans of this generation as if they were like this one guy." Millions of Americans have served in combat, seen and done "terrible things," but have gone on to normal productive lives after their service, Lilyea pointed out.
As one might suspect, I am with Jonn on this one. Until we get some answers on this, we should really try to tamp down the rhetoric. Even the info we are getting seems to be counter factual. For instance, I've heard that this SSG was a Green Beret, now I am hearing he is only attached. There's a HUGE difference. Also, was it only one guy that went out? If so, why did the gate allow a solo troop to just walk out? I have a million unanswered questions, but I hope folks will refrain from speculating too much until we know more.