Monday, January 14, 2008

I Knew It Was Coming

I actually wondered why it hadn't happened before. Our press tends to assassinate us. In their fervor to recreate the journalistic glory of Viet Nam, you knew that they had to do it. They had to begin to portray veterans of this struggle as "troubled," leaning towards, "murderous." Perhaps it has happened before and I didn't notice it, but here it is;

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/13/us/13vets.html?em&ex=1200373200&en=1fa9132d20f1b605&ei=5087%0A

Here's the headline:

Across America, Deadly Echoes of Foreign Battles - New York Times

Chilling. Dramatic. Oooooh, deadly. What's deadly?

The New York Times actually did a series addressing the "trend" of murderous veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan. No less than 9 journalists and researchers created new demographics in order to suit their needs, drawing the conclusion that veterans are a dangerous lot because so many of us suffer from PTSD and the government refuses to help us. The Viet Nam specter is clearly invoked, and the underlying theme is that hundreds of thousands of mentally diseased trained killers are knowingly and/or negligently unleashed upon the peaceful people of the United States by an uncaring military establishment and a wantonly careless government.


"The New York Times found 121 cases in which veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan committed a killing in this country, or were charged with one, after their return from war. In many of those cases, combat trauma and the stress of deployment — along with alcohol abuse, family discord and other attendant problems — appear to have set the stage for a tragedy that was part destruction, part self-destruction." - New York Times


Not only that, but we are very very very likely to kill our own families. And... SHHHHH... we tend to own GUNS. >gasp! <

Imagine the horror. I, personally, am totally angst-ridden. I can't believe that any responsible government would create monsters like... well, like me... and then unleash us upon an unsuspecting society?!?!? What in the name of all that is decent is going on in this world?

We, ladies and gentlemen, are the Love Canal. We are the radon gas of society. I am the avian flu.

The article actually made me afraid of myself. Since reading the article I am constantly looking around to see if I am sneaking up on me with murderous intent.

Well, let's take a look at that, shall we? With the limited information that I have available on the internet, I've discovered that there are roughly 700,000 veterans of the Global War On Terror who have been discharged. That does not count the number who have not been discharged (remember, there are nearly 1.4 million active duty military members.) I have also discovered that the murder rate in the United States is roughly 7 per 100,000 people per year. That means that in a population of the size of the discharged veterans, you would expect a total more along the lines of 294 homicides over the course of six years.

Now... am I stretching here, or is someone manipulating information to make it appear that I and my brothers (females accounted for 1 of the 121 murders cited) are unconscionable risks to society? Now, remember, 9 people worked full time to produce a printed series on this issue. Tragic stories were told. Tragic graphics were created. Any story of a senseless murder is tragic. You can manipulate all kinds of emotions when you tell stories of a 20 year old father who beats his 2 year old to death.

Unfortunately, that happens several times a year in most decent sized cities. It was one of the cases involved. One. Not a dozen, not a hundred. One. Yes, it is pitiable. Yes, it is heinous. It's absolutely heartbreaking; but it is one guy out of 700,000 in six years.

Again, I say to you; our own media is manipulating this war and the information that is coming from it in some twisted attempt to recreate their society-shaping role of the 1960's. Where were the teeth of the people who run the media at this point in time cut? They were cut on the stories of Watergate, Viet Nam, McNamara, My Lai, and Kent State. Deranged combat veterans are mother's milk to these most esteemed professionals.

Oooops... here's another number; they earlier mentioned 121. Now they bring in another number. Let's see what that is, shall we?


"The Times used the same methods to research homicides involving all active-duty military personnel and new veterans for the six years before and after the present wartime period began with the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.

This showed an 89 percent increase during the present wartime period, to 349 cases from 184, about three-quarters of which involved Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans. The increase occurred even though there have been fewer troops stationed in the United States in the last six years and the American homicide rate has been, on average, lower.

The Pentagon was given The Times's roster of homicides. It declined to comment because, a spokesman, Lt. Col. Les Melnyk, said, the Department of Defense could not duplicate the newspaper's research. Further, Colonel Melnyk questioned the validity of comparing prewar and wartime numbers based on news media reports, saying that the current increase might be explained by "an increase in awareness of military service by reporters since 9/11." He also questioned the value of "lumping together different crimes such as involuntary manslaughter with first-degree homicide." " -New York Times


Uhhhhh-huh. Hmmmm. A little more arithmetic, Copernicus, please? Ah-ha! Okay... now we see that three quarters were combat veterans. Okay. Three quarters of 349 is 274. Now, we already know that we are missing some veteran's numbers... the ones who haven't left the service. Oh, perhaps a hundred thousand or so (out of a pool of approximately 1.4 million, I think I'm being generous.) But we'll just go with the number that we have. We already determined that over a 6 year period, we would see roughly 294 in the standard population, or twenty more than in the comparable military population... actually an admittedly larger population, which should have more homicides, not less.

A crime wave. It's shocking. It's heinous. How can we, as a society, tolerate the wanton abandon with which our veterans murder us??? I demand action.

Thankfully, our press, led by no less than the venerable New York Times, has leapt to our rescue with the greatest of attempts to educate us all about the dangers that people like this bring. Oh, I'm sorry... I mean people like me.

I saw the wholesale slander that was levied against Viet Nam veterans. I remember that it went so far that the Veterans Administration had to run television ads begging people to hire veterans. Laws were passed to protect the rights of veterans. I am protected by those laws at my civilian employer. But where did the man on the street get the idea that war veterans were undesirable? Gee... I don't know. What do you think?

Remember "The Deer Hunter?" You know, Christopher Walken is still crazier than a shithouse rat after that one, just from playing a Viet Nam vet. I'm assuming that's what did it to him. "Rambo"... great entertainment; it played upon that Viet Nam killer vet who's really no good for anything other than killing kind of thing. Hassle him for vagrancy and he'll tear your whole town down. Tens of thousands of Viet Nam veterans struggled for years, practically ashamed of their veteran's status. I remember that. My brother was a Viet Nam veteran. He never forgot what his country... not his government; his country did to him. His country threw dog crap at him and turned their back on Viet Nam veterans for years.

I was wondering when it was coming. Our media is so damned predictable. You knew it had to start sometime. Now it has. Now comes the slander of the soldier. Oh, their statistics are constructed by the best journalists they could find sitting around the assignment desk... at least as reliable as mine, I'm sure. I mean, if you can't find a real statistician, find a journalist, because they are the most trustworthy and accurate people in the world, other than statisticians and tobacco company PR guys.

It's ALL CRAP.

Yep, some of us are going to have problems. Guess what? Lots of people have problems. A Marine just murdered some girl that he apparently got pregnant by raping her and he was apparently afraid of the baby turning out to be his. Guess what? Scott Peterson wasn't even in the military, and he killed someone he got pregnant while he was married to her. Oh, by the way... that Marine was never deployed to a combat zone. That's not a military issue, it's a human issue. That's not PTSD, it's just crime.

I am a tiny voice in a corner of the web. I started this to share with some of my friends and to jog my memories when I get home. I never want to forget what this feels like. It turns out that sometimes people who I don't know read this. So, I will raise my feeble cry and throw the bullshit flag. I will not tolerate this without raising my voice, for I have one.

I just sent a bunch of the finest young men that South Carolina has ever offered the world home. Don't you dare slander them. Shame on the New York Times for trying to paint our veterans with this brush. Shame on them as much as I have ever shamed anyone in my life. Those nine people have earned my everlasting disgust. Here are their names:


DEBORAH SONTAG and LIZETTE ALVAREZ, Alain Delaquérière, Amy Finnerty, Teddy Kider, Andrew Lehren, Renwick McLean, Jenny Nordberg and Margot Williams


Now, ladies and gentlemen, if you would care to make amends, why don't you come to where I am and see what is being done for the people in the little AO (Area of Operations) that I work in? Why don't you come here and see the flood control project in the village down the road? How about the bridge up the other way? I got a road for you to see. Why don't you come here and see the village assessments, involving the village elders in improving their conditions, the schools that have been built? Why don't you come here and see the huge hearts that these young soldiers have? Why don't you come here and see the clinic on this FOB that is specifically for the local nationals? Why don't you come here and see how we are working to iron out the corruption and improve the Police? Why don't you come here and see how we are working to get this problem-riddled young nation to stand up?

Why don't you write about that? Because it's easier to sit find stories of shocking crimes and heart-wrenching human tragedy. It's easier to manufacture data and then make the blanket statement that our homicide rate is higher because... you say so. Because a school in a tiny valley in Afghanistan doesn't sell. Bastards.

I know that was just wasted electrons, but I had to offer you the opportunity to make it right.

Now, I have seen young men who have been referred for treatment. One was the young man who had a machine gun blown in half right in his face and then just scant days later, he took an RPG in the door and was wounded. Yup, it shook him up. Yup, he needs a little help. Can't blame him at all. That was so scary that most of you can't imagine it. He's going to be fine. The other one from our little group was referred because he saw his friend (the aforementioned soldier) blown up with not one but two RPG's. Of course, he was a half a bubble out of plumb when he got here, so I'm not sure that he counts. It's good that he got a little help, though. Doubtless he needed it.

Just this week a Combat Stress Team came here to the FOB. Leaders were encouraged to have their soldiers talk to the trained mental health professional who was here. Plenty did. Our government has abandoned us and is clearly not taking combat stress disorders seriously. It took a helicopter to get that team here. Total lack of commitment.

There are people who will have problems. There are millions of Americans who will suffer from mental illness this year. There is stigma about mental illness in every sector of American society, including ours. But to manipulate data and emotions to stir the shadow of fear in people about our combat veterans is a careless misuse of the power of the press. Shame.

This article was on the front page of the New York Times web site. Journalistic integrity is an oxymoron.


My sources were the US Department of Justice, the DOD, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and my own eyes full of the dust of Afghanistan.

26 comments:

  1. Yes, we knew it was coming. I can only hope we here at home are up to the fight we need to make so that those of you serving now will not be faced with insult. Please know that fight has already started, and we will do our very best to see it through.

    My Momma and I love your blog, and appreciate so much reading and learning about the Afghanistan you see. Stay safe, and know you are in our thoughts

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  2. Well said. There are some great books out there regarding the impact of the general public (and their opinions) on both Vietnam vets and the Vietnam War as a whole. Sadly, I've taken some paragraphs, replaced the word Vietnam with Iraq, and they are still perfectly applicable.

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  3. Bless your heart for this post! I have fired off a letter to The Sacramento Bee where they spewed forth the NYT article, this morning, 1/13/08. My daughter has written the new editor of the Bee (she of The News & Observer, Raleigh, NC fame for the shameful escalation of the Duke Lacrosse team accusations). Yesterday, we joined a crowd of cheering flag-waving folks to welcome home a medical team from Bagram, and members of the 3/61. One of the Patriot Guards told us about how he was "welcomed home" from Vietnam. We must not let that ever happen again. I'm sending your post to the soldiers I write to (as a Soldiers Angel). Thank you for all your terrific writing, and thank you for your service to our country.

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  4. I, and many others, will be standing by you throwing the BS flags and raising our voices right along with you. There are many back home who no longer believe (If we ever did!) the media's reports on anything. Take heart in knowing there ARE intelligent Americans who know what's really going on.

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  5. Saw this article in our local paper, after reading your post today. Statistical manipulation...bend 'em the way you want 'em. The jerks.

    p.s. I added your blog to my sidebar. You're a very passionate writer.

    p.p.s. are you 'Bill' or 'Bob' ?

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  6. Scream it from the rooftops man! I'm just a small minnow in the big fish pond but I'll pass this on to as many as I can. God Bless.

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  7. you're right, it's a poorly written and researched article which serves no purpose but to capitalize on sensationalism expand readership.

    on the other hand, the sarcasm and extremism of your post doesn't make you look much better. and taking into account your previous posts, i think you're better than that.

    i think the poorly presented point of the nyt article is that the soldiers don't have enough of a support network when they return and would never have found themselves committing those crimes if it weren't for their service and the lack of services for them on their return from combat. again, it's a very poor example of jouralism.

    i think back to your post about how strange you found your own behavior on your last visit home. i think back to my own behavior 20 years ago after i had been shot at and then found myself a civilian again.

    don't let the words get to you.

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  8. I turned on the TV the other night and just happened to catch this story on the evening news. I knew it was a big ol' stinking pile of BS when I heard about it. I don't know who I have more contempt for, the people that wrote the article or the people who are going to believe it as gosple. I would love to believe that the American public is smarter than the NYT is giving them credit for, but, I'm afraid that I'm going to be disappointed. Keep up the good fight and stay safe. You and your men are in our thoughts and prayers.

    LMJ

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  9. If it helps at all most of us who follow your blog do so because we know the NYT is going to write crap about the military.

    That's why we seek out writers of integity such as yourself, who are actually doing the work on the ground in Afghanistan and Iraq.

    Like Alison said I'm just a small minnow in the big fish pond but I'll do what Ican to direct more people to these well researched, well considered words of outrage.

    As an aside your comment: "The article actually made me afraid of myself. Since reading the article I am constantly looking around to see if I am sneaking up on me with murderous intent." made laugh out loud.

    Thanks again.

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  10. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  11. BULLSHIT

    "already determined that over a 6 year period, we would see roughly 294 in the standard population"

    you didnt determine SQUAT!

    you ASSUMED shit !

    I just hope all GIs are not dumb as you!

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  12. My heart was pounding out of my chest by the time I had finished reading your post. I couldnt even finish the NYT article. I was so enraged. Americans need to realize that the men and women in our military are just the same as all of us, the only difference is that some have been to hell and back. They just need our unwavering support. You dont have to agree with what is going on in the Mid East. Just support those that chose to serve our country by serving in our military. They are just doing the job they chose. Just as you and I every monday through friday.

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  13. Argh. The media is out to marginalize the opinions of veterans by means of perpetuating the "crazy-vet" stereotype. While PTSD needs to be addressed, I think this article highlights the disconnect between vets and mainstream society.

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  14. Excellent essay. With your permission, I would like to re-post it on my blog? Please let me know if you would prefer an excerpt with a link, or if the entire piece with a link is ok.
    -Woody

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  15. All I have to say is "Amen". Thank you for posting this one.

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  16. Dunno.
    Did Nam, but, being a helicopter crewchief on a LOH meant I didn't always have to go to the "work" as it were.
    On the other hand, when we stepped up in 71, I found myself in an engineered foxhole (great guys, the engineers! Would have taken us weeks to have such a nice bunker!) and from our view atop an oddly barren mountaintop (d'ya suppose they cleared the vegetation with anything orange? Is that why I have strangely colored spots growing up my legs? Who knows...)
    We could see Cambodia to the West and N. Viet Nam North. I turned 20 there.

    Finally got back to base (Quang Tri, thirty miles south of DMZ, but, happiness wasn't with me.
    My pilot got killed and the co-pilot limped the bird back to base with a near blown off leg.
    I got to clean the inside of the cockpit, and, prior to that, I never knew that meat parts went flying with the blood.
    But I DO know that one can puke up a dinner from a day prior.

    I didn't take much to believing anything I saw in the media. They said we were needed, I volunteered army, went Airborne (I knew the 101 was into the stuff ) and volunteered Nam.
    Got out and did my best to leave it behind, but, as I look back now-a-days, I see that I fall into a different class of vet status.
    Married and divorced twice.
    House got foreclosed.
    Heck, I had some fifty jobs the first few years out.
    Can't concentrate easily, but, when I do concentrate, I'm all in, and it ain't always wise to sneak up behind me.

    Weird, huh?

    Well, y'know what we used to say?
    Have some fun, y'all.
    And keep yer head down.

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  17. The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the - Web Reconnaissance for 01/15/2008 A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention, updated throughout the day...so check back often.

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  18. Excellent post, and particularly resonant, coming from a soldier in the field. BTW to Nick: I thought your comment was disrespectful and out of line.

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  19. That was one hell of a post. As a fellow soldier awaiting my turn in the box it sickens me to watch what the media has turned this into. I just found your blog tonight through another members blog. I will definately be following along. Thank you forchoosing to let it out.

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  20. B&B: Here's myown response to the NYT frag attack on vets:
    http://susankatzkeating.blogspot.com/2008/01/fragging-vets-about-that-new-york-times.html

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  21. The thing is, PTSD does exist. It does exist, and it's a real problem-and it may be taken seriously where you are, but I see too much of it not being taken seriously. People told 'Forget your dead soldiers, thinking about it is going to make you a bad soldier.' People told that mental injury isn't a real injury, and that they're probably just faking it anyway. I don't know where you stand, but where I do, I see that there aren't enough mental health professionals to adequately see the soldiers they deal with. People come in and are diagnosed with something and prescribed medication within half an hour. It's a routine response. They don't pay attention to individual cases, because they don't have time.

    Your soldier may be fine. But some of them aren't fine, and won't be fine-and the "he's going to be fine" attitude is exactly the culture that those of us who have had soldiers with severe PTSD are fighting against every day. Or those of us that know them.

    The NYT article is not the best in the world. But it does attempt to draw attention to a problem-and whether you like the reporting, that problem is in fact real. PTSD people aren't getting much support. The NYT emphasized a civilian aspect of looking at things, but the problem does still exist. I'm not a fan of the article as it was written, but to mock what it stands for isn't necessarily the most helpful way to go.

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  22. Amen. That's all I can say.

    My soldier in Iraq just made similar comments to me the other day. I told him about the "GI Jill" (reserve combat medic who is now Miss Utah) who was going up for Miss America. He said he'd love for her to win so that maybe the press would say something positive about the military.

    Thanks to you. For all that you do.

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  23. The NYT should only be used to line bird cages! The American people know better, my friend. The difference between Viet Nam and today is night and day, and we have an alternative media; talk radio where hosts have been pointing out the real ratio of military veteran incidents and the general population is 5 times LESS likely to happen with military.

    BTW, we just mailed out two huge boxes of stuffed animals for you guys to give out to the kids! e-mail me again, I can't find your e-mail address in my mailbox.

    God bless and keep you safe, Hero!

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  24. The NYT and many other sources of "news" have become publications filled with fantasy. It would seem that "Nick" is a fan of fantasy.

    As others have said here we are grateful for those of you who take the time to write from the front and give us the facts about what you see each day.

    You definitely have a gift for writing and I always look forward to your posts.

    Thank you for your service. Be safe.

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