Saturday, May 9, 2009

The Worst Person in the World

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Keith Olbermann has a regular segment on Countdown where he identifies the three worst people in the world. Each day three new individuals are selected for this honor based on their crimes, outrages, or dumb comments. Usually Bill O'Reilly of Fox News (whom Keith refers to as "Bill-O the Clown") makes the daily top three, accompanied by a couple of other buffoons like Rush Limbaugh ("Comedian Rush Limbaugh" or, more recently, "Boss Limbaugh"), Sean Hannity, Sarah Palin, Karl Rove, Dick Cheney, or any other easy mark.

And while it would be nice if those Neanderthal jugheads were the worst people in the world, clearly they aren't - well, with the possible exception of Cheney.

My nominee for Worst Person in the World is Steven Dale Green. The twenty-two-year-old Green was serving with the United States Army in Iraq when he and three of his buddies decided that breaking into an Iraqi home and raping a young girl would be an entertaining way to spend an evening.

According to at least one of the attackers, the four had spotted the fourteen-year-old girl while working at a checkpoint. They found out that she lived close by. The girl's mother, fearing that he daughter had attracted the interest of some unsavory U.S. soldiers arranged for the daughter to sleep at a neighbor's house. The problem didn't come that night, though, it happened late the next afternoon.

Private Green and his friends had spent that afternoon playing cards, drinking whiskey, and hitting golf balls. At some point after they began to get their drunk on, Green brought up the idea of breaking into the Iraqi home and raping the girl. One of the gang later described Green as being persistent about wanting to rape the young girl. At some point the group gave in to Private Green. They put on dark clothing, painted their faces, and proceeded to the girl's house.

One of the men related that after pushing their way into the home, Green took the parents and the five-year-old little sister into a bedroom and gunfire was heard. When Green emerged alone from the bedroom he said simply, "I just killed them. All are dead." Green and one of the others then got what they had come for. They raped the fifteen-year-old. After they were done, Green reportedly shot her in the head two or three times. They finished off the evening by burning the girl's body.

When the murders were discovered, the Army was quick to blame it on insurgents, even though the locals suspected that it had been committed by American soldiers. The FBI was brought in to assist with the investigation. A few months later two soldiers were abducted from Green's platoon by Iraqi insurgents. When their mutilated bodies were discovered, some felt that they had been murdered in response to some outrage committed by the Americans. One of the men who had been with Green that day was overcome with guilt for his dead comrades, and blurted out the story of the killings of the Iraqi family.

By the time the story of that awful evening in Iraq came to light, Private Steven Green had been honorably discharged from the Army after being diagnosed with a "personality disorder." The three who were still in the Army were tried for murder and rape in a military courts-martial and received sentences ranging from 27 months to 100 years in prison.

Steven Green, by virtue of no longer being in the military, was tried in a Federal Court in Paducah, KY. This past Thursday he was found guilty of murder, rape, conspiracy, and obstruction of justice. The penalty phase of his trial will begin on Monday, and it is likely that he will be sentenced to death.

The four young men who committed this awful crime were part of the Army's 101st Airborne Division out of Ft. Campbell, KY. I didn't know Mr. Green or any of his gang, but I was at Ft. Campbell during the time they were there. And while I never met, and probably never even saw, Steven Green, I feel like I do know quite a bit about him.

Though it has not been reported in the press, be assured that Steven Green was seriously abused as a child, physically without doubt - and probably sexually as well. Children aren't born bad - ever. They are often taught to behave badly by those who are entrusted with their care. A brutalized child learns to cower in weakness or to lash out against anything that gets in his way. A child who is repeatedly raped learns to fear sex, or use it to survive, or to use it as a weapon. Every child, and each of us, is a product of our life experiences.

Steven Green grew up flawed - and then he joined the Army. He became part of a large enterprise that valued violence, an organization that saw Iraqis as something less than good Christian humans. His deeply flawed character became immersed in the military and the occupation of a foreign country, and the result was almost inevitable. He was an open can of gasoline sitting in a room full of burning candles.

Society failed Steven Dale Green, and society suffered his rage for that failure. How many more Steven Greens can we bear before society completely breaks down? We need to be watching our children and listening to what they tell us. We need to be respecting our children and celebrating the fact that they are our future. When it comes to children, we truly do reap what we sow.

And we need to be highly selective about who we allow to serve in our military. Psychological tests are available that would have weeded out Steven Green - but some recruiter was hard pressed to make his quota. By the time he was weeded out with a "personality disorder," two innocent children and their parents had lost their lives.

So is it fair for the government to take the life of Steven Dale Green if he is indeed the product of forces beyond his control. Of course it isn't. If he is sentenced to prison for the rest of his life, can he be rehabilitated and be of any use to society? Probably not. Green who grew up in Midland, TX, the same affluent community that produced President George W. Bush, will either be killed for his crimes or warehoused.

Death or warehousing? Two bad choices, but what other choice is there?

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