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Nothing is stranger than war

Another soldier has committed an atrocity, only this time the soldier was acting alone, and therefore, he has the DSM is on his side. We have this absurd headline from CNN on the subject, Mental illness more likely behind Afghan shooting than PTSD, psychiatrist says. The first paragraph of the report makes the matter a little clearer.

While officials have provided few details about the U.S. Army soldier accused of killing 16 Afghan men, women and children in a house-to-house shooting rampage in two villages, one psychiatrist speculated the incident may have stemmed from mental illness, but not necessarily post-traumatic stress disorder.

The enemy, man! It’s the enemy we’re supposed to be shooting! That’s hostile forces, and not innocent civilians! As I’ve noted previously we’ve got this problem with a legal definition of insanity that reads ‘a danger to oneself or others’. I’m not sure we’ve got a legal definition for soldier, otherwise, they would all be locked up.

This is serious.

Afghans approached the gate to the outpost, saying there had been a shooting and carrying their wounded, according to a senior Defense Department official. The death toll included nine children, three women and four men.

To his credit, he turned himself into military authorities afterwards.

This man’s army does not recruit psycho or sociopaths.

“A sociopath or a psychopath is somebody who isn’t going to fit into the rules of something like the U.S. military, and that kind of person would have been likely drummed out or released from the military many years ago,” he [psychiatry professor Paul Newhouse] said. “I understand this individual was, had been, in the Army for quite some time, so I think a better likelihood is that this person suffered from some severe illness or mental illness that may have come on more recently and perhaps is linked to this terrible incident.”

This psychiatry professor thinks he was probably just nuts (i.e. delusional, psychotic) instead.

On pretrial confinement, uncharged as of yet, the death penalty hasn’t been ruled out in this soldier’s case.

The suspect had 3 tours of duty in Iraq under his belt before this event occured according to the report. The brigade he had been assigned to was initially stationed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord near Tacoma, Washington. Here’s what this article tells us about Lewis-McChord.

In December 2010, the Stars and Stripes military newspaper said Lewis-McChord had gained a reputation as “the most troubled base in the military.” It also reported that year that multiple investigations were under way into the conduct of troops at the base and the adequacy of the mental health and medical care soldiers were receiving upon their return home.

I wouldn’t rule out PTSD just yet.

7 Responses

  1. I read the article. I cannot believe that sensate people actually pay any attention to this sort of self-important psychiatric blather.

    The armed forces are a total playground for psychopathic personalities. They blend in quite well, as war is a behavior where all conventional rules are turned upside down– something that such people delight in.

    However, if I can be an armchair psychiatrist, I don’t think this poor guy is psychopathic. I think he just got mad as hell and refused to take it any more. End of story.

    • According to the psychiatry professor psychopaths and sociopaths can’t survive army disicipline. I’m not so sure. If the marines still turn men into “killing machines” the way they used to do, I don’t think you can say that about that branch of the service anyway.

      Some pathological spin can probably be given to “mad as hell”.

      I see some sort of not guilty by reason of insanity (NGRI) plea used as a defense in this case. What other defense can he have?

      ALthough some of us don’t believe in such a defense, I can see it coming.

      PTSD, or no PTSD, there is no way they’re going to use an insanity defense without bringing trauma into it. Almost any pathological tag at all would open up the possibility of attributing his actions to trauma.

      The difference between insanity and sanity, as I suggested in the first sentence, is going to be determined by numbers. Lone gunmen, effective or not, nowadays have the insanity defense on their side. One of a troop, and it’s rat your comrade out. One soldier is expected to roll over on another. Collective bad behavior, and they call it peer pressure.

      Anyway you look at it, this is a tragedy. I don’t think this is going to be a good day for accountability. Any ‘troubled’ person anywhere involved in a violent crime can now try to cop an insanity plea.

      If there’s any good news to be had from the insanity defense, it’s that it saves some people from homicide by state or execution. Death row though I hear is turning into an old folks home. It’s turning into an old folks home, that is, unless you happen to live in Texas, or in Virginia, or in Florida.

  2. This will bring to a head the difference between our legal systems, and our governments.

    “KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — Gunmen on Tuesday attacked an Afghan memorial service for 16 villagers killed by a U.S. soldier, shooting dead a member of the Afghan military and wounding a policeman in a hail of gunfire.
    The United States has portrayed the shootings as an isolated incident. But Karzai called them “unforgivable” and the Afghan parliament said “people are running out of patience” over the behaviour of foreign troops in the country”.

    but its ok to kill U.S. troops

    “Burning of Qur’ans led to initial violence: Afghan forces also turned their guns on their allies, killing six U.S. troops as violent protests racked the country. The weeks of violent protests and attacks also left some 30 Afghans dead, despite an apology from Obama.”

    The numbers theory of MindfreedomVirginia is working. “Gunmen” and “forces” are a group of people killing, so its a sane killing ( no single person to point at ).

    • The body count mounts and, yes, these bodies are going to be accounted casualties of war rather than victims of a criminal madness.

  3. Firstly, I do not concur that breaking into houses and killing women and children in their own homes is the equivalent of “shooting the enemy” or “hostile forces”. It is hard to know whether the men were involved but these families sound enough like “innocent civilians” to me.

    Take a closer look at these excerpts from the article:

    “Post-traumatic stress disorder has a cluster of symptoms, and violence, or violence against, others is not usually considered part of that diagnosis,” said Paul Newhouse, a professor of psychiatry at Vanderbilt University and a former Army psychiatrist. “So I think it’s more likely that we’re going to discover that there was some either psychotic illness or delusional condition or some evidence that this person was more seriously deranged or impaired than we would typically see in PTSD.”

    Right. I wonder how much they paid him to say that.

    The article is headed “Mental illness more likely behind Afghan shooting than PTSD, psychiatrist says”. I wonder why that title rather than anything else. I start to wonder who is pulling the strings at CNN.

    PTSD symptoms include extreme violence towards others, particularly when the sufferer has a history of violence. Paul Newhouse is lying through his teeth. PTSD occurs when the fear response is on overload and does not switch off. These on-the-ground situations that soldiers are dropped into where they do not know from where the next attack will come are the perfect stimuli for it. Where a civilian might run or quake, a soldier will fight. It is what he is trained to do. Kill.

    It has emerged that the soldier saw his friend’s legs blown off the day before his rampage. That would be plenty to send him over the edge. Perceived threat is the same as real threat to a PTSD sufferer so his actions, although awful, are logical.

    See how Paul Newhouse is trying to establish a gap between PTSD and “either psychotic illness or delusional condition or some evidence that this person was more seriously deranged or impaired than we would typically see in PTSD.”

    Oh yes, those harmless lads who come home with PTSD and take up knitting classes.

    Establishing PTSD as some sort of separate entity from other conditions and giving it some sort or respectability is necessary spin for an out of control problem the military is facing with the return of damaged individuals to civilian life. Being fully aware of the “stigma” associated with other so-called mental illnesses, he is putting PTSD into a class of its own – and so is CNN.

    Without getting into an argument about labels, please, the symptoms associated with “psychotic illness or delusional condition” or being “seriously deranged or impaired” are PTSD to a tee.

    And how did we get to know about this?

    “The suspect “basically turned himself in and told individuals what had happened,” Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Monday.”

    Ah, “individuals”. He must have told someone they couldn’t get to keep quiet. No surprise then that they want to execute him, or maybe leave him with the means to do it for them. That or lock him up in some high security mental facility until he gathers dust.

    For doing his job? Hmm. Discuss.

    • Obviously killing innocent civilians wasn’t his job. He’s a soldier. He was doing service to his country before this incident occurred. The outraged Afghans have reason for being outraged. Any prosecution involved will probably have reason to ask for the death penalty. This kind of thing makes the USA look bad. He is also a US citizen, and in this country people are accorded certain rights, the right to due process of law, for instance. He will have a defense team. If the death penalty is called for, about the only defense they will have available to them, in this instance, to save his life with will be the insanity defense. Given officially sanctioned state murder, and we could always discuss that one, the insanity defense has become the only way to save some people from execution.

      Me, I’m against the death penalty, but I’m also against the insanity plea. When it comes down to it, this leaves me having mixed feelings about the insanity defense because sometimes it can be used to save people from that murder a courtroom jury has been given the power to commit.

  4. Innocent civilians make up the majority of casualties in any armed conflict.

    He is a soldier. His job is to kill people. See that long pointy thing he carries around? Well, I hate to break it to you..

    The service to his country he is employed to do is to kill. He is not a PR representative for ‘the American abroad’.

    The Afghans would have been more outraged if he had rounded up those people and burned a copy of the Koran in front of them. They are quite happy to murder their own people and place little value on life. They would have been delighted to murder as many Americans.


    “Relations plunged to an all-time low last month after the burning of Korans at an American-run military base sparked days of deadly anti-US protests, which left some 40 people dead and prompted an apology from Obama.”

    Apparently NATO termed the book burning a “tragic blunder”. It is a book, for goodness’ sake. Nobody died. Oh wait, yes they did. Quite a lot of people actually. Because somebody burned a book.

    It is all relative. If a stray bomb had blown up a few Afghans then nobody would have had much to say about it. It is the more personal door to door method that people have an issue with. Vietnam guilt plays a part here as well for this reason.

    I don’t think he should get the death penalty for making America look bad, but he might. The death penalty is contentious internationally so probably not, but he is going to be made an example of. Whatever sentence he gets should be for murder. There is always a chance they will take him out and call it suicide, of course.

    I don’t know what to make of the fact that you believe in your rights after what you have been through. They don’t exist. If you were arrested for something you did not do, you would be guilty until proven innocent. I know you get reminded of how wonderful the US legal system is on every show going but it just isn’t so.

    This guy will be tried in a military court anyway and they are a law unto themselves.

    I think execution is entirely wrong. It is murder whichever way you look at it. I think people who do commit heinous crimes should be incarcerated as punishment. Death seems like a quick out in a way.

    I hear you about the insanity plea. The trouble is that when it is actually applicable in a case, it could get run out of court because the judge is fed up of hearing that defence.

    It is hard to say what happened here but it took some premeditation. He is reported to have gone off base heavily armed and with night vision equipment. I am sure we will hear more about it in due course.

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