Monday, January 14, 2008

Increased Incidents of Violence Among Returning War Veterans has posted an article that appeared today (January 14, 2008) in The Independent/UK regarding the increase in violent crimes committed by those returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Here are some excerpts from "Traumatised Veterans ‘Have Killed 120 in US’", by Stephen Foley:

"While public anger is directed at the Pentagon for sending American soldiers ill-prepared to fight in Iraq, an equally troubling problem is rearing its head at home. Military veterans are returning from the warzone just as ill-prepared for civilian life and dozens suffering from post-traumatic stress are committing murder and manslaughter.

A new study has identified more than 120 killings committed by veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, as psychologically troubled soldiers slip through the net of an overextended military mental health system.

The study, which was conducted from examining local news reports, and which may well dramatically understate the scale of the problem, suggested that killings by military veterans have almost doubled since the start of the wars.

Although the Pentagon immediately questioned the accuracy of the figures, the mounting number of incidents across the US add up to a social problem akin to the traumas of returning Vietnam veterans a generation earlier. ..."

"Collectively, the stories attest to the inadequacies of the US military mental health system, which a Pentagon task force last year described as "woefully understaffed", poorly funded and undermined by the stigma still attached to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The disorder has been a major concern since veterans' associations found that 15 percent of Vietnam vets still suffered from PTSD a decade after the conflict ended in 1975. ..."

"The study of killings by military veterans was conducted by The New York Times. It showed an 89 percent increase - from 184 cases to 349 - in the six years following the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan in the number of homicides involving active-duty military personnel and new veterans. About three-quarters of these cases involved Iraq and Afghanistan veterans.

More than half of the crimes involved guns while the rest were stabbings, beatings, strangulations and bath drownings, the report said. Twenty-five offenders faced murder, manslaughter or homicide charges for fatal car crashes resulting from drunken, reckless or suicidal driving.

A Pentagon spokesman questioned the methodology of the study, which examined local press reports to identify cases, and rejected the comparison of post-9/11 coverage with the previous six years. The rise might be due to newspaper reporters increased awareness of military service, a spokesman suggested, and questioned the 'lumping together' of different kinds of crimes.

The New York Times said its study was conservative. 'This reporting most likely uncovered only the minimum number of such cases, given that not all killings, especially in big cities and on military bases, arereported publicly or in detail,' it added."

Read the full article at
Numerous veterans with mental illness have been sentenced to death and executed in this country. Perhaps the best example is Manny Babbitt, a veteran of the Vietnam war. Manny, the recipient of a Purple Heart for his service in Vietnam, was a paranoid schizophrenic who suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder. He was convicted of the murder of an elderly woman who died as the result of a heart attack after a break-in and beating. Mr. Babbitt's defense attorneys argued that their client was suffering from a Vietnam flashback at the time of the crime. Manny Babbitt was executed by the State of California in 1999.


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