Monday, January 14, 2008

Bill and Bob's Excellent Afghan Adventure

I had to post this in the hopes that the very few people who read this site will be aware of this excellent American Soldier working with Afghan troops and writing about his experiences. He is absolutetly the best blogger writing from Afghanistan at this time. The following is a piece he wrote today.

Monday, January 14, 2008

I Knew It Was Coming
I actually wondered why it hadn't happened before. Our press tends to assassinate us. In their fervor to recreate the journalistic glory of Viet Nam, you knew that they had to do it. They had to begin to portray veterans of this struggle as "troubled," leaning towards, "murderous." Perhaps it has happened before and I didn't notice it, but here it is;
Here's the headline:
Across America, Deadly Echoes of Foreign Battles - New York Times
Chilling. Dramatic. Oooooh, deadly. What's deadly?

The New York Times actually did a series addressing the "trend" of murderous veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan. No less than 9 journalists and researchers created new demographics in order to suit their needs, drawing the conclusion that veterans are a dangerous lot because so many of us suffer from PTSD and the government refuses to help us. The Viet Nam specter is clearly invoked, and the underlying theme is that hundreds of thousands of mentally diseased trained killers are knowingly and/or negligently unleashed upon the peaceful people of the United States by an uncaring military establishment and a wantonly careless government.
"The New York Times found 121 cases in which veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan committed a killing in this country, or were charged with one, after their return from war. In many of those cases, combat trauma and the stress of deployment — along with alcohol abuse, family discord and other attendant problems — appear to have set the stage for a tragedy that was part destruction, part self-destruction." - New York Times

Not only that, but we are very very very likely to kill our own families. And... SHHHHH... we tend to own GUNS. >gasp! <

Imagine the horror. I, personally, am totally angst-ridden. I can't believe that any responsible government would create monsters like... well, like me... and then unleash us upon an unsuspecting society?!?!? What in the name of all that is decent is going on in this world?
We, ladies and gentlemen, are the Love Canal. We are the radon gas of society. I am the avian flu.

The article actually made me afraid of myself. Since reading the article I am constantly looking around to see if I am sneaking up on me with murderous intent.
Well, let's take a look at that, shall we? With the limited information that I have available on the internet, I've discovered that there are roughly 700,000 veterans of the Global War On Terror who have been discharged. That does not count the number who have not been discharged (remember, there are nearly 1.4 million active duty military members.) I have also discovered that the murder rate in the United States is roughly 7 per 100,000 people per year. That means that in a population of the size of the discharged veterans, you would expect a total more along the lines of 294 homicides over the course of six years.

Now... am I stretching here, or is someone manipulating information to make it appear that I and my brothers (females accounted for 1 of the 121 murders cited) are unconscionable risks to society? Now, remember, 9 people worked full time to produce a printed series on this issue. Tragic stories were told. Tragic graphics were created. Any story of a senseless murder is tragic. You can manipulate all kinds of emotions when you tell stories of a 20 year old father who beats his 2 year old to death.

Unfortunately, that happens several times a year in most decent sized cities. It was one of the cases involved. One. Not a dozen, not a hundred. One. Yes, it is pitiable. Yes, it is heinous. It's absolutely heartbreaking; but it is one guy out of 700,000 in six years.

Again, I say to you; our own media is manipulating this war and the information that is coming from it in some twisted attempt to recreate their society-shaping role of the 1960's. Where were the teeth of the people who run the media at this point in time cut? They were cut on the stories of Watergate, Viet Nam, McNamara, My Lai, and Kent State. Deranged combat veterans are mother's milk to these most esteemed professionals.

Oooops... here's another number; they earlier mentioned 121. Now they bring in another number. Let's see what that is, shall we?

"The Times used the same methods to research homicides involving all active-duty military personnel and new veterans for the six years before and after the present wartime period began with the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.

This showed an 89 percent increase during the present wartime period, to 349 cases from 184, about three-quarters of which involved Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans. The increase occurred even though there have been fewer troops stationed in the United States in the last six years and the American homicide rate has been, on average, lower.
The Pentagon was given The Times's roster of homicides. It declined to comment because, a spokesman, Lt. Col. Les Melnyk, said, the Department of Defense could not duplicate the newspaper's research. Further, Colonel Melnyk questioned the validity of comparing prewar and wartime numbers based on news media reports, saying that the current increase might be explained by "an increase in awareness of military service by reporters since 9/11." He also questioned the value of "lumping together different crimes such as involuntary manslaughter with first-degree homicide." " -New York Times

Uhhhhh-huh. Hmmmm. A little more arithmetic, Copernicus, please? Ah-ha! Okay... now we see that three quarters were combat veterans. Okay. Three quarters of 349 is 274. Now, we already know that we are missing some veteran's numbers... the ones who haven't left the service. Oh, perhaps a hundred thousand or so (out of a pool of approximately 1.4 million, I think I'm being generous.) But we'll just go with the number that we have. We already determined that over a 6 year period, we would see roughly 294 in the standard population, or twenty more than in the comparable military population... actually an admittedly larger population, which should have more homicides, not less.

A crime wave. It's shocking. It's heinous. How can we, as a society, tolerate the wanton abandon with which our veterans murder us??? I demand action.

Thankfully, our press, led by no less than the venerable New York Times, has leapt to our rescue with the greatest of attempts to educate us all about the dangers that people like this bring. Oh, I'm sorry... I mean people like me.

I saw the wholesale slander that was levied against Viet Nam veterans. I remember that it went so far that the Veterans Administration had to run television ads begging people to hire veterans. Laws were passed to protect the rights of veterans. I am protected by those laws at my civilian employer. But where did the man on the street get the idea that war veterans were undesirable? Gee... I don't know. What do you think?

Remember "The Deer Hunter?" You know, Christopher Walken is still crazier than a shithouse rat after that one, just from playing a Viet Nam vet. I'm assuming that's what did it to him. "Rambo"... great entertainment; it played upon that Viet Nam killer vet who's really no good for anything other than killing kind of thing. Hassle him for vagrancy and he'll tear your whole town down. Tens of thousands of Viet Nam veterans struggled for years, practically ashamed of their veteran's status. I remember that. My brother was a Viet Nam veteran. He never forgot what his country... not his government; his country did to him. His country threw dog crap at him and turned their back on Viet Nam veterans for years.

I was wondering when it was coming. Our media is so damned predictable. You knew it had to start sometime. Now it has. Now comes the slander of the soldier. Oh, their statistics are constructed by the best journalists they could find sitting around the assignment desk... at least as reliable as mine, I'm sure. I mean, if you can't find a real statistician, find a journalist, because they are the most trustworthy and accurate people in the world, other than statisticians and tobacco company PR guys.


Yep, some of us are going to have problems. Guess what? Lots of people have problems. A Marine just murdered some girl that he apparently got pregnant by raping her and he was apparently afraid of the baby turning out to be his. Guess what? Scott Peterson wasn't even in the military, and he killed someone he got pregnant while he was married to her. Oh, by the way... that Marine was never deployed to a combat zone. That's not a military issue, it's a human issue. That's not PTSD, it's just crime.

I am a tiny voice in a corner of the web. I started this to share with some of my friends and to jog my memories when I get home. I never want to forget what this feels like. It turns out that sometimes people who I don't know read this. So, I will raise my feeble cry and throw the bullshit flag. I will not tolerate this without raising my voice, for I have one.

I just sent a bunch of the finest young men that South Carolina has ever offered the world home. Don't you dare slander them. Shame on the New York Times for trying to paint our veterans with this brush. Shame on them as much as I have ever shamed anyone in my life. Those nine people have earned my everlasting disgust.

Here are their names:
DEBORAH SONTAG and LIZETTE ALVAREZ, Alain Delaquérière, Amy Finnerty, Teddy Kider, Andrew Lehren, Renwick McLean, Jenny Nordberg and Margot Williams

Now, ladies and gentlemen, if you would care to make amends, why don't you come to where I am and see what is being done for the people in the little AO (Area of Operations) that I work in? Why don't you come here and see the flood control project in the village down the road? How about the bridge up the other way? I got a road for you to see. Why don't you come here and see the village assessments, involving the village elders in improving their conditions, the schools that have been built? Why don't you come here and see the huge hearts that these young soldiers have? Why don't you come here and see the clinic on this FOB that is specifically for the local nationals? Why don't you come here and see how we are working to iron out the corruption and improve the Police? Why don't you come here and see how we are working to get this problem-riddled young nation to stand up?
Why don't you write about that? Because it's easier to sit find stories of shocking crimes and heart-wrenching human tragedy. It's easier to manufacture data and then make the blanket statement that our homicide rate is higher because... you say so. Because a school in a tiny valley in Afghanistan doesn't sell. Bastards.

I know that was just wasted electrons, but I had to offer you the opportunity to make it right.
Now, I have seen young men who have been referred for treatment. One was the young man who had a machine gun blown in half right in his face and then just scant days later, he took an RPG in the door and was wounded. Yup, it shook him up. Yup, he needs a little help. Can't blame him at all. That was so scary that most of you can't imagine it. He's going to be fine. The other one from our little group was referred because he saw his friend (the aforementioned soldier) blown up with not one but two RPG's. Of course, he was a half a bubble out of plumb when he got here, so I'm not sure that he counts. It's good that he got a little help, though. Doubtless he needed it.

Just this week a Combat Stress Team came here to the FOB. Leaders were encouraged to have their soldiers talk to the trained mental health professional who was here. Plenty did. Our government has abandoned us and is clearly not taking combat stress disorders seriously. It took a helicopter to get that team here. Total lack of commitment.

There are people who will have problems. There are millions of Americans who will suffer from mental illness this year. There is stigma about mental illness in every sector of American society, including ours. But to manipulate data and emotions to stir the shadow of fear in people about our combat veterans is a careless misuse of the power of the press. Shame.

This article was on the front page of the New York Times web site. Journalistic integrity is an oxymoron.

My sources were the US Department of Justice, the DOD, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and my own eyes full of the dust of Afghanistan.


Long-time RN said...

Thanks so much for posting "Bill and Bob's" current blog. After reading the same article in the paper, I was left speechless.
Guess I'm what is called a 'lurker' to your site, accessed through a link within the site of a soldier we both follow and have enjoyed reading for the past few years now. The one who photo journaled the newly created hole in his leg!
Thanks again,
Cathy B

Lynnis said...

Another lurker here, I just wish that you would post more often...

Just thought I would let you know that there are others out here who agree with your opening statement. But then I've been told that I'm biased regarding his blog. :-)

I'm just thrilled to see him getting more and more readers. We really need to know what is going on with our "guys" over there.

Thanks so very much for the promotion of "Bill and Bob"!

Ky Woman

Anonymous said...

Great post membrain, I have very extreme opinions about why so many soldiers are coming back with ptsd, or coming back with addictions. Maybe we could get into that sometime through email, but I wouldnt want to post my views on your blog. Keep up the good writing, you are very informative of the serious issues.