by Pa Rock
Angry Citizen Journalist
I don't want to write about Army Sergeant John M. Russell, the soldier accused of killing five American troops at a mental health clinic at Camp Liberty in Baghdad. There hasn't been much hard news released on the sad event, just a lot of surmising and second guessing. So I really don't want to write about it until I have a clearer understanding of what actually happened out in that mean desert. I don't want to write about it...but I can't help myself!
You see, for the past five years I have worked in military mental health clinics - so this shit is personal - very effing personal!
Every man or woman who does a tour in a combat zone is negatively impacted - every single one, no exceptions! No, they don't all go on a killing rampage, but they suffer physical hurts - and psychological injuries that may not manifest themselves for months after the troop returns home. And their relationships with loved ones suffer also. It's damned hard to keep a marriage together after one partner has spent twelve or more months living in close proximity with a group of strangers - people who tend to become more like family than the actual families as the stress of war takes it toll.
That's after one long tour. Sgt. John M. Russell, 43, of Sherman, TX, was on his third tour in Iraq. Why, one would wonder, would anyone have to serve three tours? (I know some Special Forces troops who have been to the desert five times!) Vietnam required one tour, and a person could volunteer for a second tour if they wanted an opportunity to get out early.
Why three or more tours? Our troops were forced to do multiple tours because chicken hawks like George Bush, Dick Cheney, and Don Rumsfield (who all declined to take part in Vietnam, but were not too proud to send your kids off to the Middle East) wanted in the worst way to avoid a draft. They were spared Vietnam tours due to family privilege, but all were in college during the draft protests of the sixties - and none wanted to see those types of events soaking up valuable newsprint or television air time. That was not the story they wanted told. "Stop Loss," the practice of not allowing soldiers to exit the service when their enlistments were up, was another form of this back door draft.
Sgt. Russell's unit apparently did everything right. According to some news sources, his superiors recognized signs that he was losing it. They took his weapon and had him escorted to the mental health clinic. Once inside, the angry sergeant got into a loud disagreement and was told to leave. Somewhere outside of the clinic he acquired another weapon, reentered the clinic, and opened fire. Where did he get another weapon? Hey, it's Iraq, a country where guns are as ubiquitous as grains of sand.
Two of the casualties were supposedly doctors, one Navy and the other Army. I've known several Army doctors (psychiatrists) who served in Iraq, as well as countless combat soldiers from Ft. Campbell, and I am, quite obviously, hoping that none of my friends or acquaintances were among the victims - but whoever died, they were friends, and relatives, and loved ones of many, many people.
I can't bring this to a close without folding in the case of Steven Green, a former Army private who was convicted last week of masterminding the murder of an Iraqi family and the rape of their young daughter. Green was only on his first tour of Iraq, but he obviously did not have the psychological strength to deal with it - a fact that should have been caught as he was trying to enlist. But we had quotas to meet - and an honest draft to avoid.
And I have to take one swipe at Texas, the home of record of Sgt. John M. Russell and Pvt. Steven Green. Texas is pure testosterone - a place where any seven-year-old boy who isn't a sissy is expected to be learning how to play football, and every ten-year-old male has at least two guns and an NRA membership card. Football and killing things. If there are any better indicators of emerging manhood, I'd like to know what they are. (Somehow George Bush missed the macho boat, though. He went to college and became a cheerleader, and then graduated and hid from the war.)
The killings at Camp Liberty this week marked the fifth incident of the Oil War in which one of our own has gunned down his comrades. The gun advocates will quickly point out that guns don't really kill people (and other assorted horse shit), and the fuzzy headed liberals will argue with equal fervor that those young people are not responsible because the war is so damned loud and wrong and stoked with machismo that no one could hear their cries for help.
So, if they guns can't be held responsible, and the shooters were themselves victims, who then is to blame?
My vote goes to the chicken hawks: Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfield! Boys, you broke it, and damn you all - now you own it!
Peace, brothers and sisters. It's the only real answer!