<\body> Stories in America: Innocent Casualties of the Iraq War - Intervention is Inadequate

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Innocent Casualties of the Iraq War - Intervention is Inadequate

The following articles illustrate the woefully inadequate treatment of returning veterans. With all the money being spent on the war, surely the government has the funds to hire more than one psychologist trained in treating post-traumatic stress disorder for all returning veterans who live between Los Angeles and San Francisco, including Jeffrey Lehner, a 40-year-old Marine sergeant who recently shot himself and his father:
He had joined the Marines enthusiastically, he told me, and served as a flight mechanic for eight years. Not long after 9/11, he began helping to fly materials into Afghanistan with the first wave of U.S. troops.

In the beginning, Jeff supported the administration's policies in the region. But over time, that began to change. As we talked, Jeff brought out an album of photos from Afghanistan. He pointed to a series of photographs of a trailer and several huts behind a barbed-wire fence; these were taken, he said, outside a U.S. military camp not far from the Kandahar airport. He told me that young Afghans -- some visible in blue jumpsuits in his photos -- had been rounded up and brought to the site by a CIA special operations team. The CIA officers made no great secret of what they were doing, he said, but were dismissive of the Marines and pulled rank when challenged.

Jeff said he had been told by soldiers who had been present that the detainees were being interrogated and tortured, and that they were sometimes given psychotropic drugs. Some, he believed, had died in custody. What disturbed him most, he said, was that the detainees were not Taliban fighters or associates of Osama bin Laden. "By the time we got there," Jeff said, "the serious fighters were long gone."

Jeff had other stories to tell as well. He said the CIA team had put detainees in cargo containers aboard planes and interrogated them while circling in the air. He'd been on board some of these flights, he said, and was deeply disturbed by what he'd seen.

His case was compounded, his friends said, by strong feelings of "survivor's guilt" involving the crash of a KC-130 transport plane into a mountain in January 2002 — killing eight men in his unit. He'd been scheduled to be on the flight and had been reassigned at the last minute. As part of the ground crew that attended to the plane's maintenance, he blamed himself. Afterward, he went to the debris site to recover remains. He found his fellow soldiers' bodies unrecognizable. He also told me he was deeply shaken by the collateral damage he saw to civilians from U.S. air attacks — especially the shrapnel wounding of so many Afghan children.

Jeff told me that he often couldn't sleep at night, thinking about what he had seen and heard. He had gone to Afghanistan a social drinker but came home, like so many veterans, a problem drinker. And he admitted self-medicating with drugs. He was seeking help — and just days after we met, he drove 100 miles to enter a treatment program in Los Angeles. But the Veterans Affairs hospital's PTSD ward was full, he told me, so he was placed in a lockdown ward for schizophrenics, which only aggravated his isolation and despair.
In another tragic killing that possibly could have been prevented if appropriate intervention measures were in place, a 19-year-old vet has been accused of stabbing his 18-year-old wife 71 times with knives and a meat cleaver:
Spc. Brandon Bare, 19, of Wilkesboro, N.C., was charged with premeditated murder and indecent acts related to the mutilation of his wife's remains.

Bare had returned to Fort Lewis from Iraq in April to recuperate from cuts and internal ear injuries in a grenade attack on his Stryker brigade unit in Mosul. He was there as a machine-gunner with the 1st Brigade, 25th Infantry Division.

His wife, Nabila Bare, 18, was killed July 12.

"The murder was premeditated, deliberate and savage," prosecutor Capt. Scott DiRocco said in January during Bare's Article 32 hearing, similar to a preliminary hearing in civilian court. "He did not stop after he killed her."

Bare's lawyer said there was nothing to show the killing was planned.

"What this looks like ... is an act of rage, or some sort of other unexplainable act," defense attorney Capt. Patrick O'Brien said.

Witnesses testified that Bare had enrolled in treatment programs for anger management and combat stress after his return from Iraq. He had said he was having trouble controlling his anger and didn't like his wife going out and partying, said Michael Collins, a nurse and case manager at Madigan Army Medical Center.

A day before his wife was found dead in the couple's kitchen, Bare told his rear detachment commander Capt. Mickey Traugutt that he was taking a new prescription that made it hard to get up and that he had missed a treatment.
A 2005 study by the Department of Veterans Affairs found that out of nearly 170,000 Iraq veterans about 34,000 were diagnosed with psychological disorders. You would think the current 'support our troops' president would spend some of his precious time publicizing this issue and ensuring resources are in place to deal with these escalating problems. Instead, he's attending a $500-per-plate luncheon for Indiana Rep. Chris Chocola today. He'll be posing for photos with those who pay $4,000 per person or $6,000 per couple. Thanks again for the tax cut, Mr. Bush. Don't forget to pretend to 'support the troops' once in a while.

Update: The American Psychiatric Association says Bush's proposed budget fails to meet the needs of veterans with mental illnesses:
While the Administration’s budget does allow for increases in spending over FY06, the APA is concerned that the budget assumptions, such as the reliance of legislative proposals to collect user fees and copays from priority level 7 and 8 veterans, might be overly ambitious. The Friends of the VA advocacy group estimates that up 200,000 vets will drop out of the VA system with the proposed copays. While level 7 and 8 veterans are not service-connected for disability, we are concerned that the VA has not considered the impact on those 200,000 who rely on the VA to pay for psychiatric medications such as anti-depressants that keep them well and employable.

Veterans with substance use disorders are drastically underserved. The dramatic decline in VA substance use treatment beds has reduced physicians’ ability to provide veterans a full continuum of care, often needed for those with chronic, severe problems. Funding for programs targeted to homeless veterans who have mental illnesses or co-occurring substance use problems does not now meet of the demand for care in that population. Additionally, despite the needs of an aging veteran population, relatively few VA facilities have specialized geropsychiatric programs.

The APA is concerned that VA mental health service delivery has not kept pace with advances in the field. State-of-the-art care requires an array of services that include intensive case management, access to substance abuse treatment, peer support and psychosocial rehabilitation, pharmacologic treatment, housing, employment services, independent living and social skills training, and psychological support to help veterans recover from a mental illness. The VA’s Committee on Care of Veterans with Serious Mental Illness has recognized that this continuum should be available throughout the VA. However, at most, it can be said that some VA facilities have the capability to provide some limited number of these services to a fraction of those who need them.


At 2/23/2006 11:29 AM, Anonymous timmy said...

If Bush is so anti-support-the-troops, why did the troops overwelmingly vote for him? I've seen estimates at around 80% and above.

At 2/23/2006 11:58 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Because there's a huge misconception that the GOP supports the troops (spoon fed by the higher ups) and the Dems don't. Let's not forget about Swift Boat Veterans for Lies.

At 2/23/2006 1:05 PM, Anonymous timmy said...

So they're just not as enlightened as you....even though it's their asses on the line.

But why wouldn't they support Viet Nam war hero Kerry? It's not like he didn't remind us more than a few times about his service in Viet Nam. And again, how come you are so much more enlightened about the Swift Boat guys than our soldiers?

Spoon fed by higher ups? I'm not exactly sure what you're refering to here although it sounds a little condesending. Anyway, what are your sources for that? This is news to me.

At 2/23/2006 5:21 PM, Anonymous p said...

I don't support this war, but I believe the troops deserve more. The sad reality is their problems are being swept under the rug. Look at timmy's response. Instead of saying, yeah, we really need to look at better intervention, he talks about the troops supporting Bush.

At 2/23/2006 7:06 PM, Anonymous timmy said...

Look, I'm only asking a question. Why haven't the guys who are the victims of evil GOP overlords stopped voting and supporting them? Seems they'd be voting for dems like crazy if you guys are right. But they don't...and by substantial margins.

And I don't think they're stupid...or brainwashed by spoon-fed propaganda.

So whats the story?

At 2/23/2006 7:59 PM, Blogger storiesinamerica said...

And More Fear

I loved asking people on my road trip: what has Bush done to improve this country over the past four years? You can't use the words 'war' or 'terror' in your answer. 80 percent said, "He's winning the war on terror. Oh! I wasn't supposed to use those words."

What else?


At 2/23/2006 8:10 PM, Anonymous timmy said...

Why should fear have played into our troops voting for Bush? Kerry essentially had the same message on the war as Bush (except he said he'd do it better, which would be a reason for our troops to vote FOR him I'd think), but still, no real substanitive defferences. Much to the chagrin of the anti-war crowd I might add.

Sorry, the "fear" thing doesn't make any sense....is that all you got?

At 2/23/2006 8:59 PM, Blogger storiesinamerica said...

I was speaking generally...I just watched tortured victims at Abu Ghraib speak about how the experience completely shattered their lives, so this is all I have for the rest of the evening. All were found innocent, btw. And I wonder why so many people are choosing to ignore the news altogether.

At 2/24/2006 1:17 AM, Anonymous timmy said...

Well, okay. I'm still wondering why our troops vote for and support Bush (and the GOP) in huge numbers if it's not in their best interest to do so.

At 2/24/2006 7:04 PM, Blogger storiesinamerica said...

Unfortunately, it's not that complicated. Too many Americans still believe there was a connection between Saddam and 9/11.

Watch this and you'll find your answer:

At 2/24/2006 7:50 PM, Anonymous TC said...

I am a veteran of the lost war. I have been dealing with PTSD since one Sunday afternoon in 1971. As long as we continue to send people to war their will be those of us with shattered lives to live. It's been that way since the beginning of warfare. We as a species never seem to learn. Hence men and women will be doomed each generation to fight for some ideal that will never be realized in this world.

At 2/24/2006 7:59 PM, Blogger storiesinamerica said...

TC, have you checked the site VAWatchdog.org, run by veteran Larry Scott? It's an incredible resrouce. Larry is not liked by the VA for exposing the truth.

At 2/25/2006 8:37 AM, Anonymous timmy said...

"Too many Americans still believe there was a connection between Saddam and 9/11."

Those Americans are right. Go read some Christopher Hitchens.

At 2/25/2006 8:45 AM, Blogger storiesinamerica said...

Go buy the 9/11 report and listen to your heroes, Bush and Cheney.

At 2/25/2006 11:39 AM, Anonymous p said...

Sen. Orrin Hatch backpedaled Tuesday from a recent claim he made asserting that deposed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was supporting al-Qaida, and that "Nobody with brains" would deny the connec- tion.
The assertion was striking not so much for its audacious tone, but because it contradicted the findings of multiple intelligence reviews, including the 9-11 Commission's report and a review by the Senate Intelligence Committee, on which Hatch sits.
Appearing before a group of Iron County, Utah, business leaders Saturday, Hatch said: "And, more importantly, we've stopped a mass murderer in Saddam Hussein. Nobody denies that he was supporting al-Qaida," he said, according to The Spectrum newspaper in St. George. "Well, I shouldn't say nobody. Nobody with brains."
Said John Pike, director of the national security think tank GlobalSecurity.org: "I guess I don't have a brain, then.
"There's no doubt that [Iraq] had contact with [al-Qaida]. OK. But I think that it would be something of a stretch to suggest they provided material assistance to them."

At 2/25/2006 4:00 PM, Anonymous timmy said...

Also, Lee Hamilton, Democratic co-chairman of the 9-11 commission:

"I must say I have trouble understanding the flack over this. The Vice President is saying, I think, that there were connections between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein's government. We don't disagree with that. What we have said is what the governor just said, we don't have any evidence of a cooperative, or a corroborative relationship between Saddam Hussein's government and these al Qaeda operatives with regard to the attacks on the United States. So it seems to me the sharp differences that the press has drawn, the media has drawn, are not that apparent to me."


Yup, them Jesuslanders will surprise you with their smarts sometimes....

At 2/26/2006 8:19 PM, Anonymous timmy said...

And More Fear

Ah, yes...the "climate of fear"




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