Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Military's Creature

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Steven Dale Green is one of the most compelling characters to emerge from the war in Iraq.  The army private was serving with the 101st Airborne Division in a particularly bloody part of Iraq that was known as the “triangle of death” in March of 2006 when he led some of his fellow soldiers in the savage rape of a fourteen-year-old Iraqi girl and the bloody murder of that girl, her parents, and little sister.  Green was subsequently discharged from the Army with a “personality disorder.”  When the crimes came to light later and his part in them was revealed, the government reclaimed its former private and brought him to trial as a civilian in Paducah, Kentucky, for the crimes that had committed in Iraq.

Green was arrested and convicted under the Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act, a relatively new law that allows the government to charge civilians in American courts with crimes that were committed overseas.  Green was the first person tried and convicted under this law, and he has an appeal going forward challenging the constitutionality of that law.

But, legal maneuverings aside, it is Steven Dale Green’s disordered personality that begs examination.   He is currently incarcerated in a federal penitentiary in Tucson, Arizona, from where he has been corresponding with the Associate Press for over a year.  Recently Green agreed to a telephone interview with AP.   His comments during that interview give a chilling insight into the dark places of a mind that was shaped by the horrors of war.

Ironically, Steven Dale Green grew up in Midland, Texas, the same community that foisted George W. Bush on the world.   However, the similarities between the two men end with their shared hometown.  George Bush, a child of privilege, was able to finesse his way out of going to Vietnam through family connections, and went on enjoy a prolonged adolescence dependent on the largess of his parents for a couple of more decades.  Green, a poor kid who dropped out of high school, managed to get a correspondence GED so that he could join the Army, grab a gun, and get the hell out of Midland.

Green takes full responsibility for the physical aspects of his horrific acts, but he places his state of mind squarely at the feet of the military.  His argument is basically that he was just a dumb kid from Texas who was turned into a monster by the monstrousness of war.   Unfortunately for our national psyche, it is a compelling argument.

A major component of war is the successful dehumanizing of the enemy.  Young kids who grew up at least within the shadows of Christianity, have an intrinsic, moralistic notion that killing is wrong.  The  military tries to overcome that “weakness” with flag-waving and patriotic fervor, but the act of killing another human being can still be (and should be) profoundly disturbing.  To combat that, it is necessary to create and constantly reinforce a mindset that the enemy is not human, but rather they are so sub-human that they require killing.  Unfortunately, this portrayal spills over into the civilian population as well – particularly in a war zone in which civilians are often an integral part of combat.

Steven Dale Green had gone through all of the Army conditioning, intentional and otherwise, and was filled with hatred for the Iraqis.   That hatred grew more intense with the killing of two of his sergeants by a formerly friendly Iraqi at a traffic checkpoint.  The former private said that those deaths “messed me up real bad.”  He added, “There’s not a word that would describe how much I hated these people.  I wasn’t thinking these people were humans.”

The army provided Green with minimal mental health care over the next few months, but the limited counseling and mood-altering drugs that he did receive were not enough to counteract the animal rage that had consumed this simple kid from Midland, Texas.  In March of 2006 Green had spotted pretty Abeer Qassim Al-Janabi at a checkpoint and was able to figure out where she lived.  A few days later he rounded up some of his buddies to join him for a gang rape of the fourteen-year-old girl.  Once at the girl’s house the rape and savagery consumed the soldiers, and when the carnage ended all four family members were dead and their bodies burned.   It had been a wild and wicked boys’ night out, and tomorrow they would sober up and go back to work.

Steven Dale Green does feel some remorse for his actions – now that he is away from Iraq and has some clear perspective on what he and his friends actually did.  But thinking back to that time, he sees himself as someone totally different, a true victim of war.  “I was crazy,” he told the Associated Press.  “I was just all the way out there.”  Green admits that he had “an altered state of mind.”  He added, “I wasn’t thinking about more than 10 minutes into the future at any given time.  I didn’t care.”

The army created its monster, and when he grew beyond their control they stamped him with the label “personality disordered” and sent him home.  Unfortunately for Mr. Green and the Al-Janabi family, the army waited too long to rid themselves of their creature.

Today Steven Dale Green sleeps on a prison bunk serving five life sentences while George W. Bush lies curled up in the lap of luxury like a gilded slug – and life goes on.  We may someday claim a “victory” for our national efforts in Iraq, though that is doubtful. We will always, however, bear the stain of the actions of Private Green and his buddies who were themselves little more than victims of the cruel affront on civilization perpetrated Bush and Cheney and Rumsfield.  Perhaps if those three had manned-up and gone to Vietnam, the War in Iraq would never have happened and Steven Dale Green would have gone on to become a productive member of society. 

And who knows what pretty Abeer and her little sister could have made of their lives?


Don said...

War depends on the successful dehumanizing of the enemy --- your observation lies at the heart of conflict since the beginning of "civilization."
Then, when war has ended, the winning corporations are handed the spoils and the gradual "re-humanizing" of the former enemy takes place. And that's not because of any inherent desire to heal the wounds of war, but rather to increase the number of people expected to buy whatever the winners are selling. In many cases, the "product" they're expected to buy is the way of life that dehumanized them in the first place.

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