Real Cost of War

What war does to people and nations. 'Cost' is much more than a monetary valuation. War really costs most of us our Humanity!

Wednesday, June 08, 2005
On this day:

Our soldiers are suffering Terrible Psychological Damage

Well... the ones who are still living anyway!

There are also thousands who have been cruelly maimed for life, but that is 'another story'.

Here is an article detailing what is happening to many of our service-men, and probably also service-women too:

From "Signs of the Times"

The War Comes Home
By Gert Van Langendonck
Guerilla News
Wed, 8 Jun 2005 06:59:38 -0700

By the standards of Columbus, Georgia, the Platinum is a classy place. Meaning that it's a strip club where a five dollar cover charge will get you all the 'Hot Women' and 'Cold Beer' you can afford. Only a handful of customers are around to appreciate a half-naked girl wrapping herself around the ubiquitous pole. It's a quiet night in Columbus; most of the soldiers from Fort Benning, the sprawling military base outside of town, have gone back to Iraq for a second tour of duty

Things were very different on July 13, 2003. Business was booming for strip clubs in Columbus as thousands of soldiers were returning from the war in Iraq. At Fort Benning, five young soldiers piled into a car and took off for a night on the town. Jacob Burgoyne, Mario Navarrete, Alberto Martinez, Douglas Woodcoff and Richard Davis, all twenty-three years old, had come back from the war zone just 72 hours earlier. After months in Iraq and Kuwait, where women and alcohol were mostly out of reach, they were determined to make up for lost time. They five had been drinking heavily by the time they arrived at the Platinum club. Tony, the Platinum's bouncer, remembers them as a rowdy bunch. Twice, he'd had to warn them to tone it down. When Richard Davis hit one of the dancers in the eye, Tony's patience ran out and he kicked the whole group out. In the parking lot, Jacob Burgoyne picked a fight with Davis, whom he blamed for ruining everybody's evening. When someone called the police, the soldiers got back into Martinez' car and disappeared into the summer night.

Four months later, the Muscogee County coroner would count no less than thirty-three stab marks on what remained of Richard Davis. According to the statements made to police by Burgoyne and Navarrete after their arrests on November 7, 2003, the five soldiers had stopped at a dark spot by the road where the fight with Davis had resumed. At some point, Alberto Martinez had produced a knife. Both Burgoyne and Navarette later claimed that they had tried in vain to stop Martinez. One thing we know for sure: after Martinez killed Davis, the others all helped to cover up the crime. They drove to a nearby convenience store to buy lighter fuel; they doused Davis' body with it and set it on fire. They dumped his remains in the woods, where they were discovered in Nov. 2003.

Diagnosis: PTSD

"Jake told me Martinez just went into a rage that night. There was no stopping him," Billy Urban says. Jacob Burgoyne's mother lives in a modest redbrick house in the small town of Keystone Heights in Northern Florida. There is a police car parked in front; Urban's second husband Dennis, Jacob's stepfather, is the deputy sheriff here. Billy Urban says she is "not the kind of mother who believes her son can do no wrong." But, being a mother, that's exactly what she is. She is not surprised, she says, that it was probably her son's indiscretions that eventually led to him and the others being arrested. "Already as a little boy he was incapable of lying. Whenever he did something wrong, we could tell right away."

But the boy in the Little League pictures in the bedroom at his mother's house was clearly not the same person as the twenty-three year old in the mug shots taken by the Columbus police department. Something had changed, as Billy Urban soon found out when she went to collect her son's personal belongings after his arrest. In them, she discovered Jake's medical file. "Diagnosis: PTSD," it read, post-traumatic stress disorder. "Patient seems to have severe anxiety issues exacerbated from stress and multiple traumatic events. Patient must be monitored by unit members at all time, not be able to carry weapons or munitions. Patient has homicidal/suicidal ideations. Patient will be command directed to psych upon return." Urban was even more shocked to learn that Jake's being diagnosed with PTSD came as the result of a failed suicide attempt: Jake had swallowed an overdose of anti-depressives in Kuwait on July 6, just a few days before his return to the States. "You would think that the Army would tell his mom about something like that. But when I confronted them about it, all they said was Jake was an adult and they had to respect his privacy."

Like Jacob Burgoyne, more than one hundred thousand U.S. soldiers are estimated to have returned from the fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan with symptoms of PTSD. An official Army study, the results of which were published in the New England Journal of Medicine in Dec. 2004, concluded that 15.8 to 17.7 percent of soldiers who took part in Operation Iraqi Freedom, the initial invasion of Iraq, showed signs of "severe depression, generalized anxiety or ptsd." That's roughly one in six soldiers out of more than one million soldiers who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan over the past three years. (The percentage of PTSD among Afghanistan veterans is slightly lower.) [...]

PTSD is generally defined as "a psychiatric disorder that can occur following the experience or witnessing of life-threatening events." People who suffer from PTSD "often relive the experience through nightmares and flashbacks, have difficulty sleeping, and feel detached or estranged. These symptoms can be severe enough and last long enough to significantly impair the person's daily life." It is, of course, hardly a new phenomenon. [...]

The Midtown Massacre

If the library at the Muscogee County Jail had a copy of The Iliad, Jacob Burgoyne might well relate to Homer's description of the horrors of war. We have agreed not to talk about the events of July 13, 2003, for which he is on trial, but only about what led into them: Burgoyne's experiences during the war in Iraq, and his involvement in what has come to be known as the 'Midtown Massacre'.

"It must have been around 11 a.m. on April 11 when we got the call," Burgoyne says over the jailhouse phone. The U.S. invasion force had pretty much taken Baghdad, but isolated pockets of resistance remained. It was to one such pocket, near the main Baghdad airport, that Burgoyne's Bravo Company was dispatched. The men had been told that around fifty 'fedayeen', Saddam's paramilitary troops, including some Syrian fighters, were making a last stand there.

Burgoyne remembers the eerie calm at the scene. "When we first arrived, it was business as usual. There were cars going past, people were crossing the road. And then everything went real quiet. The next thing we knew they were shooting at us from all directions. It was obvious they had been waiting for us."

By the time the shooting stopped, some six hours later, the sun was setting over Baghdad. Depending on the source, one- to two-hundred enemy combatants lay dead in the street, but miraculously not a single American life was lost. It was the soldiers themselves who dubbed the events of that day the 'Midtown Massacre', after a famous mob killing in New York City. When Bravo Company returned to Kuwait six weeks later, their reputation preceded them. "Nobody would talk to us. They said we were crazy murderers and rapists," Specialist Donald Duncan would later recall. "Well, I can see the murder part, seeing as how we did kill a lot of people."

The Duncan quote is from a May 2004 article in Playboy magazine. It was the first detailed account of the 'Midtown Massacre', and it led to an internal inquiry at Fort Benning in July of last year. A major Hollywood movie, 'Death and Dishonor', based on the article, is currently under development at Warner Bros. with Paul Haggis of "Million Dollar Baby" fame directing. Clint Eastwood will play the part of Richard Davis' father Lanny, who for months had to battle the military hierarchy to get them to investigate the disappearance of his son, who had simply been listed as 'AWOL," Absent Without Leave.

But in this story, it seems, the victims are often also the perpetrators. The handwritten statements made by the members of Bravo Company during the Fort Benning inquiry, were recently obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). And they paint a less than flattering portrait of Richard Davis. There was an incident, during the Midtown Massacre, when Douglas Woodcoff had taken two enemy prisoners who had been hiding in a basement. One of the men had his arm shot off. As one soldier testified, "the guy with the shot up arm, [Richard Davis] stuck his finger in his wound, and put cigarettes out on him. The other guy, he only had a shirt on, other than that he was buck-naked, he punched him and stepped on his balls. He thought it was funny."

The inquiry also confirmed that Davis had, at one point, put a skull on a stick outside their temporary base at Baghdad's Technical College, possibly to evoke a scene from "Apocalypse Now!," although it turned out that the skull was made of plastic. And several soldiers testified that Davis and others in his platoon had sex with Iraqi women, probably prostitutes, at a shopping mall in Baghdad. This was not a secret. Davis boasted about it to other soldiers all the time. "Everybody knew about it," a soldier testified, "they were the only ones to get some in months."

In the end, the Army concluded that there was "insufficient evidence to prove or disprove the allegations" in the Playboy article. The investigation was closed, even though several soldiers had testified that they had also killed women and children during the firefight.

When Jacob Burgoyne talks about the Midtown Massacre, he goes into 'soldier mode'. "We were really in the enemy's hands out there. Everybody's just shooting. AK rounds being shot at you, guys with RPG's running across the road. You're trying to stay disciplined, trying not to O-cross nobody. There's bunkers all over the road, and the bunkers are all booby-trapped. We're shooting up the bunkers. Then, about two hours into the fight, we hear over the radio that we've got suicide bombers as well."

The Midtown Massacre had already led to an earlier inquiry into war crimes. The investigation centered on Lt. Col. John Charlton, the commander of the 1st Battalion 15th Infantry Regiment, which Bravo Company was part of. Charlton had executed an unarmed enemy combatant as he was lying on the ground. The Army cleared Charlton of any wrongdoing, accepting his argument that he, mistakenly, thought the enemy combatant was a suicide bomber. Minutes earlier, a suicide bomber had indeed blown himself up, wounding a U.S. soldier. "We really didn't take no prisoners after that," Burgoyne says. "We were told to just strip them, leave them tied to a post and get the hell out of dodge. You're not thinking about the Geneva Convention, you're thinking about staying alive."

There is one sentence that jumps out from Burgoyne's medical report: "The patient views his role in killing enemy soldiers in a poor light, inquiring if he should feel like a murderer."

"What made me say that is because some people that died didn't deserve to die; they were just in the wrong place. What we did in Iraq is what we were trained to do. But it's still hard when you're looking through a scope and you're about to kill somebody of flesh and bone, someone who has feelings just like you. You're killing your own kind. I just don't think it's something that people should think that it's OK to do. Killing, I mean. It's something I'm going to have to live with for the rest of my life. I still don't know what it is, this PTSD. I just know they diagnosed me with it, and that I'm going to have to find a way to deal with it." [...]

When the Columbus case goes to trial some time this summer, chances are you will hear about it. What with a Hollywood movie in the making, and at least one news network signing up relatives for exclusives, the case is sure to attract a lot of media coverage. David West is no longer Martinez's lawyer – his newly established private practice is taking up too much of his time – but he has asked to stay on as co-counsel. "Because, by now, there isn't another lawyer in Georgia who knows more about PTSD than I do. And because I like an historic trial. This is an important case, one that's going to have repercussions long after I'm gone." [...]

The irony is that Jacob Burgoyne was all set to become a success story for the Army's new approach to dealing with PTSD. Unlike Martinez and Davis, Burgoyne had been diagnosed with PTSD well before leaving the combat theater, and for a while, everything was done by the (newly established) book. In 2002, a mild panic had swept through the military hierarchy after four soldiers from Fort Bragg in North Carolina killed their spouses in a six-week period. Three of the soldiers had recently returned from Afghanistan; two committed suicide afterwards. For a while, the anti-malaria drug Lariam was seen as the culprit. (Lariam invariably comes up in cases like these, and the Army has since stopped giving it to soldiers.) An official inquiry concluded that the killings were the result of pre-existing marital problems, combined with the stress of separation. But it also said that military culture prevented troubled soldiers and their families from seeking the help they needed. "We're not doing what we need to be doing yet," said Col. Dave Orman, the Army psychiatrist who led the team of investigators. "There was a prevalent attitude that seeking behavioral health care was not career-safe." [...]

The "traitor"

People who are afflicted with war-related PTSD have different ways of coping, and this is Jimmy Massey's way. Several times a month, he puts on his old Marines uniform, his desert boots and his dark sunglasses. He throws a big handwritten sign over his shoulder, and proceeds to walk down the Main Street of Waynesville, North Carolina, population: 9,255. The sign says: "I killed innocent civilians for our government."

It is not the kind of thing you get away with in Waynesville. To get to Waynesville, you take the Billy Graham Freeway, named after the infamous TV evangelist whose vocational training center is nearby. A huge sign along the freeway declares North Carolina "the most military-friendly state in the nation." When Jimmy Massey walks down the Main Street, there are those who will spit at him and call him a traitor. Twice, people have tried to run him over in their cars.

There was a time when Jimmy Massey might have been one of those people. The old Massey was a gung-ho marine. After the Sept. 11 attacks, he says, "his hands were itching to go kill me a couple of ragheads." He didn't know it then but two years later he would have ample opportunity to do just that in Iraq. But there was no satisfaction after Massey killed his first "raghead." On the contrary, at the end of a forty-eight hour period in which he says his unit killed "at least thirty innocent civilians." Jimmy Massey would never be the same again.

It was early April 2003. Massey's unit was manning a checkpoint near the old Al-Rashid barracks in Baghdad. There is one incident that Massey recalls with more detail than any other because it was key to his transformation. "A red Kia was approaching our checkpoint and made no sign of slowing down. We fired warning shots but the care kept coming towards us. That's when we opened fire."

When the marines approached the car, they found three civilians dead. The driver, miraculously, had survived unscathed. They found no weapons in the car. "What I will personally never forget is how the driver looked me straight into they eye and shouted: 'Why have you killed my brother? He has done nothing to you!' That was the defining moment for me. After that, I was no longer a marine."

The facts are not disputed, merely their interpretation. In a letter to The Mountaineer, the local newspaper in Waynesville, Maj. Dan Schmitt, Massey's superior in Iraq, writes: "Staff Sergeant Massey was personally fired from his position by me. I have no regrets. He was ineffective at leading Marines, and was a liability to those very Marines. (…) There is no profit for anyone by discrediting his story in any way. There were civilians injured and killed during our last fight. What everyone needs to know, however, is the measures we took to avoid that. Your Marines are not killers. They are honorable, ethical warriors. Your community should be proud of them."

"You can call if fog of war if you wish but for me it was murder," Massey says, "and I want Americans to know this." The new Massey is a popular speaker at left-wing political events. He has traveled to Japan to meet with the peace movement there. He has testified at a Toronto hearing for Jeremy Hinzman, an American deserter who has asked for asylum in Canada. He has sold his gun collection. His own mother refuses to speak to him anymore, but his wife Kathy has followed him on his new path. Political activism has become his new career, but the PTSD is always present. "It's the nightmares, the flashback to those forty-eight hours in Iraq that can e brought on by nothing more than a car's screeching tires." And there is the fact that whenever Massey plans to walk down Main Street with his sign, he does the same route by car the previous night, taking GPS coordinates of possible sniper positions.

Back in Washington, D.C., Stephen Robinson had said he was worried about Massey. "If I was the Army and I wanted to shut Jimmy up, I would arrest him and charge him with war crimes." But Massey is unfazed. "What more can they do to me? Put me in prison? I'm already in prison. My PTSD, the knowledge that I have murdered innocent people, is my prison. It is what I have to live with every day of my life." [...]


At 5:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You posted so much incorrect information, misquotes, and unquantifiable data that this became tedious to continue reading. You are just awful at reporting.


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