Battle at Home

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Statistics suggest that until relatively recently the majority of soldiers in combat never fired their weapons. For most of us it is next to impossible to open fire on someone, so the military goes through great efforts to teach soldiers to become killers and to desensitize them. The products of these efforts are trigger-happy soldiers who at times report that they find it difficult to switch off this aggressive, vigilant mentality when they return home. This combined with PTSD and BTI is the recipe for disaster. Battle at Home investigates some of the cases of civilian killings for sport, acts of torture, opening fire on fellow servicemen and murder of friends and families at the hands of US soldiers either during their deployments or back at home.

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Shawn Musgrave:

When The United States first entered Afghanistan in 2001, I was 11 years old. When America invaded Iraq in 2003 I was 13 years old. Like many Americans my age at the time I was given very simple reasons for these wars. Our soldiers were fighting terrorism, supporting democracy. Spraying peace. United States involvement in the Middle East was presented to us as an unquestionably benevolent force for peace in the region.

Shawn Musgrave:

We graduated from high school and became old enough to vote and adolescent to military, as president Obama replaces President Bush. He promises to end the wars and close Guantanamo. We were welcomed to adulthood with the WikiLeaks, Afghan and Iraq war dairies which challenged the liberation narrative with chilling accounts of civilian death tolls, unreported friendly file and revelations from the battle field.

Shawn Musgrave:

But in the decades since the Afghanistan and Iraq wars began my generation has come a wage in a country struggling to a comprehended true complexity behind these two conflicts. My classmates and I learned about the Vietnam War just as despondents were beginning to debate the parallels between Iraq & Vietnam. We learned about the My Lai massacre in the class room and recoiled from the modern horrors of the Bagram, Haditha and Abu Ghraib on the nightly news.

Shawn Musgrave:

Crimes committed by soldiers who have returned to the US suggest further urgency as more soldiers return from deployment and try to integrate into life outside the military.

Shawn Musgrave:

With these crimes both those committed in the thither of war and those committed in the US, isolated events committed by wavered soldiers or are they perhaps symptomatic of wider concerns with the US military. Its training and selection and supervision of its soldiers, its capacity to treat and screen foe mental wounds and its process of reintegrating the soldiers into civilian life after deployment.

Shawn Musgrave:

What lessons should my generation of Americans and those that come after us draw from these wars? From the actions of our soldiers and the best way forward as they return home.

Narrator :

In November 2010 the US army charged 5 soldiers from its 5th striker brigade for the killing and mutilating of several Afghan civilians for sport. The soldiers who called themselves the kill team including the Private first class Andrew Homes who was 19 years old at the time of killings and Corporal Jeremy Morlock who was 22.

Daniel:

As the defence attorney I’m representing my clients but I’m also a part of broader search for truth and I too am interested in the truth and I’m interested in justice and sometimes our jobs as defence attorneys is to ensure that justice is served and by that I mean justice is not excessive .

Narrator:

Daniel Conway is a former marine staff surgeon and a military defence lawyer. Conway has defended numerous soldiers accused of misconduct in Afghanistan and Iraq including those charged in the Haditha massacre.

Daniel:

PFC Homes was required to set up the security on top of a hill. Now his team leader corporal Morlock rented the bottom of the hill and decided unbenounced to PFC homes that on January 15th 2010 , the PFC homes did not know what corporal Morlock was about to do.

Narrator:

Conway represented private Andrew Homes in the Striker 5 case.

Narrator:

As the Striker 5 soldiers face court Martial Proceedings in 2011 the Spiegel and rolling stones published gruesome pictures of the soldiers posing with the bodies of the murdered Afghans. On January 15th 2012 Corporal Morlock and the so called kill team murdered the first of three Afghan civilians. For months they have planning to kill Afghan civilians using unaccounted four grenades.

Daniel :

Corporal Morlock, he took this as a target of opportunity and Corporal Morlock was at the bottom of the hill about a hundred and 10 feet away from PFC Homes who was facing the opposite direction. Corporal Morlock spotted two farmers, young Afghan farmers in a field and motioned to one of them to come over to him, like this. He called the man over.

Narrator:

As the farmer approached Corporal Morlock called for Homes to join him at the bottom of the hill. Homes was unaware that Morlock was about to act on his plans to kill.

Daniel

When the man got to approximately 20 feet from Corporal Morlock, Corporal Morlock called for PFC Homes who was on top of a hill. Homes repositioned. Now at that time PFC Homes started running down the hill with his squad automatic machine gun and his goggles on. It was that morning. Started running down the hill. Corporal Moral was already behind about a 3 foot high wall. The man was 20 feet away from Corporal Morlock. Corporal Morlock was going through with the co-standard escalation of force procedures to ensure that the man didn’t have any weapons. So he told the man in the local dialect to lift his shirt to demonstrate that there was no suicide west and he told him to turn around.

Narrator:

The man complied with Morlock orders clearly showing that he carried no weapons or explosives. Meanwhile Homes continued down the hill stopping to take a drink and catch his breath.

Daniel

About that time PFC Homes was getting down to the bottom of the hill behind the wall. He was out of breath, he was breathing hard and he kneeled down to take a stip of water. Now at that time again corporal Morlock unbenounced PFC Homes tossed the grenade over the wall. The grenade didn’t go very far with probably 5 or 6 feet

Narrator

Morlock had told his fellow soldiers of plans to murder civilians and frame the killings as self-defense. But until that day Homes had not taken Corporal Morlock seriously.

Daniel:

Corporal Morlock’s planed and they had talked about this, PFC Homes never thought Corporal Morlock was serious about it because it’s a Psychotic plan. So PFC Homes never took him seriously. Corporal Morlock drops the grenade over the wall and screams for PFC Homes to shoot. PFC Homes stands up, places his squad automatic weapon on the wall and lit out about a five to six round burst which with a machine gun is an instant. Now whether the rounds actually hit the man or not. We aren’t exactly sure. PFC Homes believe they did. Forensic evidence was inconclusive in the matter. We had probably one of the leading forensic pathologists in the world, Doctor Michael Barden. Doctor Barden was unable to identify any wounds in the photos of the man that were consistent with machine gunfire.

Narrator :

Forensic experts were unable to determine whether Homes shots actually hit the civilian man. During his court Martial the next year Private Homes said he knew he should have taken cover against the grenade blast rather than following Morlock’s order to shoot.

Daniel :

While PFC Homes pulled the trigger he didn’t know the grenade was on the ground as long as it had and he was still standing when it was about to detonate. Corporal Morlock screamed: “Homes get down” and reached out and grabbed them by his uniform and pulled him to the ground just as the grenade was detonating and PFC Homes nearly took shrapnel to the head from the grenade which of course we believe killed the man.

Narrator:

Striker 5 team would kill two more civilians by May 2012. Jeremy Morlock confessed to his crimes as part of a plea bargain the next year and were sentenced to 24 years in prison in exchange for testimony against the other 4 soldiers. Private Homes plead guilty to the first of the killings and were sentenced to 7 years in prison. The striker 5 case was certainly not the first incident of violent misconduct in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. On March 23rd 2003 at the eve of the Iraq invasion Sergeant Hassan Akbar killed two of his fellow soldiers and wounded 14 in an attack on a US army base in Coy.

Professor Victor Hansen of Flormar Army Jag officer led Sergeant Akbar’s defense team during his court martial. Since leaving military service in 2005 Hansen has taught military law in criminal procedure in the New England School of Law in Boston.

Hansen:

On the night of the incident he was on guard he was out kind of on his zone on guard. Well he was out on guard. He got some grenades, he got some ammunition and he left his post and he went over to another area in the unit and walked though that area. He opened one tent. He knew these were officers’ tent, other officers in his unit and he threw a grenade into one tent and began firing. He struck a couple of people with a weapon, with his firing he went to another tent, I believe threw the second grenade, fired some more rounds from his riffle and then he went to the third tent and did the same. He shot and killed one person in that tent and then another person who was outside of the tents, a captain, he shot him I believe two or three times and killed him as well. He was quickly apprehended after that and confined and the criminal process against him began.

Hansen:

Sergeant Akbar who was a soldier in 101 was the one responsible for initiating the attack.

Hansen:

Sergeant Akbar was a soldier in 101 Air born division. They were in fort Campbell Kentucky, he had been…He was a combat engineer. He’d been in the army four or five years by this point. He was a little older. He graduated from collage just barely. He graduated from college and didn’t have a success in finding the job so he joined the army. Right before the beginning of the military operations in Iraq the decision was made, 101 Air born force deployed to Kuwait. The Sergeant Akbar would go with the unit and deploy and more significantly and frankly more troubling to me was he was put in the leadership position and he was not just capable. He was not competent to be leading other soldiers.

Hansen:

He was prosecuted. He ultimately did receive the death penalty. So he is now at fort eleven worth on death room.

Narrator:

As with Jeremy Morlock, there were signs that sergeant Akbar was not fit for armed service. Investigations after the attack revealed the sergeant had a history of behavioral issues before deployment and found that he was even known for violent sleep walking episodes. Still, the 31 year old was sent to Kuwait ahead of the Iraq invasion.

Daniel

In terms of the debate, as to whether the PTSD or TBI to what extent those conditions are responsible for a soldier committing murder. I personally have been dealt with number of these cases, would be reluctant to scribe an individuals’ conduct to suggest those things have caused them by themselves to commit violence, no I think there are some other factors involved than just TBI or PTSD and its almost always a personality defect.

narrator

In the striker 5 and Akbar cases, lack of supervision and screening of soldiers, clearly played a significant role. What about another incidents in the military misconducts such as Abu Ghraib. What role did factors such as training and orders from superior officers play.

Hansen

So I got a call one day basically from my senior jag officer and he said we need to fly to Germany and meet with General Sanchez. He was certainly responsible for directing some initial investigations. We’ve all seen the photos and they are horrific. I think the feeling I had like many of my fellow service members was just feeling of disbelief, we couldn’t believe that this would happen, that our service members would be involved in something like that, it was I mean sickening. I mean that’s kind of the overall feeling that many of us felt. At the end of those investigations there were certainly some very critical findings that found that he and his leadership team had not done everything that they should have done to ensure that these things didn’t happen and to clarify what our responsibilities are. One of the most significant I think investigative outcomes was the determination that some of the interrogation techniques that had been used in Guantanamo had migrated, it was determined in these investigations, had migrated to Abu Ghraib and so the soldiers who were there in Abu Ghraib were using the same kind or had been told about these investigation techniques at Guantanamo and were using the same kind of techniques.

Narrator:

Abu Ghraib exposed to the world a shocking image .American soldiers committing acts of torture. As pictures from Abu Ghraib surfaced and details of the US torture program became known world and US citizens alike wondered what had led soldiers to committee such acts and whether their leaders had ordered them to do so.

15:33 Sound Bite Professor Stephen Soldz, Psychologist and anti-war activist

The word was passed down:” gentlemen, the gloves are coming off along with a list of torture techniques that was brought over from Guantanamo via Afghanistan.” Even though this was resent some weeks later it sent a message, this is the kind of thing that we want to do. There was an incredible pressure on people to get intelligence.

Narrator:

Orders such as the gloves are coming off suggested that the rules for proper treatment no longer applied. Memos and emails for within the Bush administration direct the interrogators to break detainees.

Soldz:

There was a commander in Iraq who win that message about taking off the gloves happened. He sent a response that said gentlemen let’s take a step back, take a breath and think what we are doing and he put the orders out, there would be no abuse in my command and there was no abuse from what I understand. But that was not what was done in general, what was done was, the message sort of was well we don’t torture, however, do whatever you have to do to get the intelligence, because they were in a situation where they occupied Iraq and went very smoothly, within a couple of months this insurgency developed. They hadn’t anticipated it. They were so self-absorbed, never occurred to them that people in Iraq might not take so kindly to being occupied by Americans. They didn’t know what was going on. They were desperate to get intelligence and they sent down basically the command was: do whatever you have to do.

News anchor :

It was awful news from Afghanistan. Astounding and so far inexplicable mass killing by an American soldier inside a small Afghan village. That soldier acting alone, US officials, say opened fire early today just outside his base in Kandahar province.

Hansen :

Certainly when you see a situation like Sergeant Bails who had killed 16 people in Afghanistan. Any time you see something like that I think almost the first thing that comes to mind is something is wrong mentally. How could you otherwise explain what‘s going on.

Narrator 2

In 2002 he was accused of assaulting a girlfriend and was required to undergo anger management. In 2008 he was sighted for leaving the scene of an accident. He joined the army soon after the 9/11 attacks. Over11 years he was deployed to war zones 4 times. He reportedly suffered a traumatic brain injury when his Humvee rolled over.

Hansen:

So, clearly they are under a lot of mental stress. It could be raised to the level of insanity. When you see situation like this I think the natural reaction for anybody is. How could it not be the factor in explaining their behavior? The reality is that these people are put under enormous amount of stress. If you have a soldier who ‘s deployed and has been subjected to combat and stresses of combat and traumatic brain injury, concussions, those kinds of things of course is going to have some consequences.

Narrator:

Between 300 and 500 unarmed civilians were massacred by American soldiers at My Lai Vietnam in March 1968. The shocking revulsion from My Lai prompted the US military to reexamine its rules of engagement in battlefield training. In senses of gross misconducts such as Abu Ghraib calling the question that high standards put in place after the Vietnam War.

Hansen:

During Vietnam there was an incident referred to as My Lai massacre that occurred towards the end of the Vietnam War where you had to put tuner or a couple of put tunes of infantry , American infantry that assaulted a village and massacred 4 or 500 hundred civilians , massacred them in cold blood and as a result of that and other situations that occurred during Vietnam the moral in the force was very law at the end of the Vietnam War and there was a feeling among the American people that the military , you know, was not an honored profession. The reference you often heard to the end of the Vietnam War is that soldiers were referred to as baby killers and that was directly coming out of that My Lai massacre incident.

Narrator:

Incidents of misconduct like these may be the exception, but just as generations will remember My Lai as a defining event in the Vietnam War, events such as Abu Ghraib, Haditha, Bagram, Striker 5 killings and others will always define how the world perceives the US and its role. Misconduct by soldiers is not limited to crimes committed overseas. An outbreak of violent crime in fatal shootings by soldiers from one Colorado Combat Brigade prompted David Philips of Reporter to investigate its source.

Philips:

It was only one Battalion, One group of about 500 guys that almost all of this violent crime was coming out of and when I saw that, When I saw that it was just come from more or less one specific group I said my God. What happened to these guys collectively in their experience, in their deployments to Iraq, in their time coming home that would lead to this? When we looked at what made that unite different, it was pretty stark. They had been deployed to Iraq in 2004, to the worst place in Iraq, a stretch of road between Fallujah and Ramadi and they had taken causalities at a raid that was 4 times that of other combat unites and then they came back after a year there and they were supposed to have about 2 and a half years to sort of recharge and reorganize here in the United States. But the Iraq war was going so bad that the army couldn’t spare them that time and so they sent them back to Iraq after only one year. Again they were sent to the worst place in Iraq this time that it moved to downtown Baghdad and again they faced casualties that were several times the normal raid. Now when these guys started melting down from being in the field facing death daily and watching their friends be maimed or killed, there was really no good plan in place.

There was no plan to take care of them, to treat their mental wounds and so a lot of times when these guys started losing it the Battalion’s solution was hey this guy is now too dangerous to be in Iraq so let’s send him back to Colorado Springs.

Narrator:

Courtney Lockhart and Kenneth Eastridge both served in the fort Carson lethal warriors’ brigade. Both were convicted to murder after returning from Iraq. In total 12 soldiers form Lockhart and Eastridge’s Brigade were arrested for murder or attempted murder after returning from Iraq.

Philips:

There may be other Battalions that have a very similar stories to this one and we just don’t know about it. I got to tell you, the military is not advertising when they have outbreaks of violent crime.

There may have been something to do with the culture of this unit that made it particularly susceptible.

Kenneth Eastridge interview in jail:

I am surprised that’s all [crime] there is. I’m surprised that there is not way more [crimes]. I tell my attorney I know people who do same [criminal] things; they haven’t got caught. I know of people who are in gun battles in Colorado Springs and never got arrested, multiple times. Even between tours, I know of guys got into gun battles in apartments; and those never got arrested.

Narrator;

Eastridge was convicted for the killing of another 24 year old veteran who had served with his unit in Iraq. The victim was shot 3 times and left on the side of a road. Eastridge confessed to being an accessory of the murder in the case.

Kenneth Eastridge interview in jail:

It’s like a mechanical reaction. The way I deal with it [murder] and how I’m good at it is; I’m dissociated. Like I don’t think about; later I can think about at the time I don’t think about I’m taking this guy’s life; I’m shooting, I’m taking a shot. That’s what I’m doing; I don’t think at all about killing this thing whatever; [it is I’m killing] I killed animals in Iraq too. I take a shot, and then this guy dies. It doesn’t bother me; but it’s an enemy; I do it through dissociation.

Narrator :

In 2010 the army released a study on the health effects of repeated deployment. Research found that soldiers with previous deployments for more than 3 times is likely to develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and depression. Some soldiers deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq served three or four tours, sometimes back to back.

Philips:

What the army found after looking at thousands and thousands of deployments that repeated deployment push you down the spectrum towards the negative outcomes. Does that mean that if I went to Iraq for 12 months I would come back a murderer? No, it doesn’t. But does that mean that someone who might have been married and never had a problem with alcohol might get divorced and have a problem with alcohol or might get arrested for assault or something like that? Yes and can some people get shoved even further down the line or start further down the line to get shoved even more. A lot of these guys that I wrote about are considering doing that when they were in high school. They saw the army as an opportunity because their other opportunities had been shut off and they were good at what they were doing and number of them said to me you have got to be a little crazy to be in the infantry and a lot of times the crazy guys are the ones who do the best in Iraq, but when they come back they are already set up pretty low on the negative outcome spectrum and when they start dealing with depression, PTSD, substance abuse, its game over.

Narrator:

Kenneth Eastridge was open with army recruiters about his criminal history, including a homicide charge as a juvenile. Several recruiters turned him away, but with enough persistence Eastridge was able to convince one recruiter to enlist him despite his record of violence.

Kenneth Eastridge interview in jail:

I was telling them, “Hey, I have a juvenile record; it’s pretty serious”. And then they are like, “Well, what is it?” I’m like, “Uh, its reckless homicide.” They’re like “Homocide?!” I’m like “Yeah, reckless homicide”, and they’re like “You killed somebody?!” I was like, “Yeah”. And they’re like “I don’t know, can you call me back?” I said, “Yeah, I can call you back.” And a lot of them said “No”, but I kept calling recruiters and finally I found one that said, “Yeah, I can do it.”

Philips

A lot of them were just kicked out of the army for being bad soldiers because they were melting down emotionally. And once they were kicked out, they were sort of cut loose and had nowhere to go. They started drinking, they were carrying weapons all the time because they were extremely paranoid. They started using a lot of drugs. You put those things together with the training of an infantry soldier and it’s not long before somebody gets killed.

Narrator

Courtney Lockhart enlisted to the army after high school as a computer operator but was deployed to Iraq as a foot soldier. Like many soldiers he did not want to go to Iraq.

Courtney Lockhart interview in jail:

I didn’t want to go to Iraq. In [south] Korea, they asked a question” Are you willing to kill someone?” and I told them, “No, it goes against my religion.” And they put a big ‘D’ on my paper. I’m afraid to kill somebody, but they don’t care.

Narrator

His traumatic experiences in Iraq, including regular roadside bomb attacks on his brigade and the deaths of close friends haunted Courtney upon his return from deployment. Like many of the soldiers in his unit Courtney showed many of the signs of the Post-Traumatic Stress.

He began smoking Marijuana to calm his nerves from nightmares and paranoia. And was discharged from military for Marijuana use and violence but was never screened for mental illness.

In 2008 Courtney Lockhart abducted an 18 year old girl from her college dorm, rubbed and attempted to rape her before killing her with a handgun. Lockhart confessed and was convicted of the murder.

The jury in his case recommended life imprisonment without parole, but the judge sentenced Lockhart to death by lethal injection.

Soldz

One of the things that we have learned is, in the military have learned over the number of decades it’s not so easy to get people to kill, until recently the majority of soldiers in the combat never fired their weapons.

In World War II this become the major preoccupation of the military.

Narrator

Surveys of American soldiers who served in World War II showed that only 15 to 20 percent actually fired their weapons even when ordered to do so.

Soldz

For most of us it’s very very hard to shoot to kill somebody. So the military goes through great effort to teach soldiers to become killers, to desensitize them and that’s what basic training is about. There are all kinds of chance that are rather horrific about killing people, because you have to get these people to not to think about people that are killing people.

Narrator

As a result of these findings, the US military intensified its training and conditioning of soldiers to fire at and kill the enemy.

Narrator

Some soldiers report they find it difficult to switch off this aggressive vigilant mentality when they return home.

Hansen

If a soldier report s mental illness or problems that they are having that can have an impact on their carrier. I mean let’s say an officer goes and tells his superior that I’m feeling a little off today, I think I might be losing it. I’m having a difficulty, you know, maintaining and touch with the reality. Well, are you going to give that officer a job that requires him to handle weapons, to increase his responsibilities, or are you going to promote that officer? You are not. It’s going to be carrier damaging to self-report that and that’s why I think you see a lot of increased rate of suicide, a lot of alcoholism and a lot of these other acting out scenarios that we have seen from the soldiers that return after facing those kinds of stress.

Soldz

You come back and you suppose to fit into the civil society, you know, either people want to ask what’s its like being in War and you don’t want to talk or they don’t want to hear about it. They want you to come back and hug the kids, love the wife and you’re just not quite there. You don’t feel you fit in and so it can have magnify things because you’ve left this whole life, you’re trying to return to it but you’re not quite there for many of them and then you’ve got the whole set of experiences, you’ve got the fact that you’re on alert all the time, you know, a car back fires and it’s like you’re back on the streets of Basra and it’s just very very hard for a lot of people to live with this.

Philips

One of the things that shocked me about learning about these crimes, you know, maybe a dozen soldiers may be arrested for senseless shootings basically, is how easy it is. It seems to be a long way to go from being a law abiding normal person to a murderer, but really it isn’t. These are the guys who had extensive weapons training. They know not only how to use a weapon but, at list all the ones I ‘de spoken to, had killed people in Iraq. One of the guys had killed over 60 people.

Soldz

In the wars that we’ve had recently in Iraq and Afghanistan, you have as you do in kind of insurgency type situations, you have an enemy who can’t be distinguished from the civilian population. You don’t know who’s your enemy. So you are on a constant alert, you’re fearing people on a daily basis. You’re sometimes killing people without being completely certain as to who they were, because that’s the nature of these types of actions.

Philips

Now, take a young man with that kind of training, that kind of experience, bring him home, give him lots of alcohol, because that’s what they did to medicate themselves, give them some drugs. They were looking for the high of combat and a lot of times they replaced it with crystal math, Cocaine. Give them a loaded weapon that they carry it all the times, and that’s what these guys did. For some reasons I didn’t feel safe when they came home and the thing that made them feel safe was carrying a loaded weapon and they all did it. I’m sure there are thousands and thousands of people in Colorado Springs right now who are doing it. Now you combine all these things, and add a little stress, a fight with somebody, someone cutting you off, a bad day and it’s very easy, it’s very easy to kill somebody and then you’ve crossed the line. It’s a very thin line between thinking it and doing it and having done it.

Narrator

John Turner served as a marine infantry man in Iraq including tours in Fallujah and Ramadi. Since returning from war, he has become a peace activist and a vocal advocate for the soldiers’ mental wounds.

Turner

You know it’s so easy to send somebody off to do dirty work but you come home and there is nothing man. There is no purification, right, there is no ceremony to welcome you back, to being home and it’s a shame and it took me a long time to realize that I was home. You know I‘m back for six years, almost six years now and I still never had a proper welcoming ceremony.

Philips

A lot of guys that I’ve talked to said that they wished they were something more, sort of structured and removed from society that was sort of a half-way house in between combat and home. You know they feel, especially guys that go back and forth every couple of years or just yo-yoed between two worlds and find out that they belong in neither.

Soldz

It’s a very hard thing to do because even when they are trying set up programs, they have it on the ships coming back and it was a period when they put people on ships rather in the airports to give them a period of decompression. But all the soldiers won’t just get home to their families and you know even if you set up programs they don’t want to be thinking about it and it’s a very hard task you know, just turn on a killer and then turn them off.

Turner

All of a sudden you’re in thither (?) and you’re being blown up and then two days later you’re looking at your family, you know, on the green. It’s a wild experience and you don’t care because all you want to do is to get home. That’s all that matters, it’s getting home. But what is so important is that the time in between there to talk the stories over with your fans, with your buddies that you were in those experiences with and that’s got to be one of the hardest transitions in the world, you know.

John Needham, Iraq War veteran

My music art is going to be a part of my life. I don’t like to call myself an artist but I like to believe that expression is definitely very important as the human, Humans express their feelings as if we don’t bottle them up, they’re going to come up.

My life has definitely changed drastically. I used to paint with a lot of colors and used to paint with a lot of happy emotions, now everything is more abstract. There is definitely more tension or you could tell I’ve completely changed as a person, definitely, there is really no color right now, no happiness.

Philips

The story I think that touched more than the others in these interviews was the story of a guy named John Needham. He was a kid from California, actually he was a professional surfer before he joined the army and he joined the army pretty late in 2004 when it was clear that Iraq war was going pretty badly and he thought to himself well here it is. Here’s the time when my country actually needs me and I’ll sign up and by all accounts he was the best soldier in his platoon. The right hand of the Lieutenant, big, strong, smart, good looking, everyone liked him. According to him under a tour in Baghdad his platoon went dark. They started doing things that he thought were unnecessary. They started, for example, mutilating dead bodies and putting them on their Humvee and then driving them round the neighborhood which they were suspected was full of insurgents and they were probably right and saying you’re next. They started killing people that he thought didn’t deserve to be killed, a kid on a bicycle, a guy walking down the street and they would cover it up and he didn’t want to do that and he turned against his platoon And they turned against him and he felt trapped in this position where there was no way out. It eventually drove him crazy and he tried to shoot somebody in platoon. After that happened, they sent him back to Fort Carson because the model of that battalion was if someone starts acting crazy and they’re too dangerous to be in Baghdad send them back to Colorado Springs . That’s obviously a very dangerous solution for everybody. He got back to Colorado Springs and they told him they were going to Court Martial him for trying to shoot someone in his platoon, someone he believed was doing something very illegal. Fortunately his father who was a well-educated retired army officer, intelligence officer intervened and said look! This kid doesn’t need to be punished, he needs help and so they got him into treatment for PTSD but it wasn’t effective. It wasn’t effective and his father finally brought him home after he retired from the army. He couldn’t hold a job. He just stayed inside all day and he would have these flash backs, usually during the middle of the night where he take off all his clothes and think he was back in Iraq and he would hide behind furniture thinking that there were insurgents everywhere. You know, his father didn’t know what to do. He tried to get him committed to the VA hospital because he needed in patient care, but there was no room and he didn’t qualify and eventually John Needham beat his girlfriend to death.

John Needham Interrogation:

John: She was mad, she was holding up her hand, she was… We yelled toward each other.

Interrogator: What made you snap her and beat her, what made you do that? That’s what I want to know.

John: what made me snap and beat her

Interrogator: She is beaten to death John, and you were the only person in that room, so what happened, that’s what we are getting at. What was one thing that she did that would have set you off like that. She had to do something to set you off to pull the trigger right?

John: I don’t know

Interrogator: You do know John.

John: I don’t know. I don’t know, Ok I’m a vet. I have issues, I get set off, I get set off over, I don’t know.

Philips

He was arrested. He got on bail miraculously. His father put up I think about 2000 thousand dollars in bail and he later died under very uncertain circumstances of a drug overdose. Whether it was intentional or accidental. But he was a guy who was so together, was such sort of a someone who had everything who was just totally undone by his experience until he had nothing left and I think about him all the time and how could have been really different for him.

Conway

There was a case that specifically stuck with me for a long time, I was representing an American Sniper who killed a 17 year old boy, Iraqi boy’s father and I was expressing my sympathy to the young man. I couldn’t possibly understand what he had gone through and I felt terribly sorry and I was trying to convey that to him but what was most astounding about the young man was his own forgiveness for the soldier that had taken his father in Iraq, in his country. He said to me, you know, this is Iraq we deal with death every day. I am sorry for the loss of my father but this is life in Iraq is like and I grieve for the loss of my father but your client, he is a father two and he has little children and I don’t want to see him taken away from his children.

So what was astounding to me was this young man’s forgiveness in his own heart and the understanding that occurred to me very quickly as an American, it’s next to impossible for me to possibly understand what everyday life is like for a 17 year old boy living in a place like his country in that particular case replace like Muhammad clay.

Turner

Everything that I have gone through, everything that my friends have gone through are forgiven. You know, it’s just I can keep saying that word and hopefully to set in somewhere and every person. You know, forgive, forgive, forgive and learn. It doesn’t matter what someone did to you. It’s not going to make a difference. You can either let eat that shit out of you or you can move forward

Song being sang

Turner

And there is a huge split between veterans. I don’t want to label people as being pro-war veterans or anti-war veterans, but there is like a split in the middle. And there are people who just hush- hush no talk about the experience and I’ve had a couple of friends that people the they knew on college didn’t even they were veteran after like three years of knowing them, you know. And that all goes back to being afraid to tell your story to somebody, but our stories are what matter, you know this is really what is going to change our future and change our lives for our children and our grandchildren and every generation to come is they have to know of our mistakes, you know, just as much as we have to know of our mistakes and where we’ve made faults in our lives because if we keep doing the same shit over and over again everyone still going to be suffering.

Philips

We didn’t have to go into Iraq. We didn’t have to be there. We didn’t have to do all the things that we did there and we did and one of the reasons that we did is that I think the American public which is reasonable and adverse to war but not opposed to it. We sold a bill of goods. If you would say to them look we are going to have guys like this, guys like the lethal warriors. We are going to have it for decades. It doesn’t go away and we really don’t have a way to treat it, I think people would have given things a second thought and that’s really why I tried to do what I do, is that if you don’t have all the information you can’t make the right decision and I don’t think we did and I hope next time we do.

Narrator

We have seen the destruction war brings to all sides. We have struggled to comprehend the horrors of war inflicted through more than ten years in Afghanistan and Iraq or envisioned the many years of healing these millions of soldiers and civilians require.

The legacy in fall out of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars belong to my generation and those who will come after us. We have grown up watching these wars unfold through events like Abu Ghraib, Haditha and Striker 5 killings. We have seen the million US soldiers who served in Iraq and Afghanistan return home to face increase unemployment, high rates of Alcohol and drug independence, mental trauma and suicide as a result of their experiences in Battle.

A number of factors contributed to the misconduct and crimes committed by members of the American Military both abroad and upon returning home. Some soldiers should not have been in the military or in conflict zones in the first place, whether due to behavioral issues or underlying mental disorders.

What lessons should my generation and future generations of Americans take from Iraq and Afghanistan, to better screen who we put in uniform and train to kill, to properly train and supervise members of the military and maintain high standards for conduct, to better recognize and treat trauma from military service? All of these things, clearly. But the common element in these horrific events, is the war itself, fighting better supervised wars with a better screened and better trained military, will do little to shield against the horrors of war as a traumatic experience. Even as the US welcomes its soldiers home from Iraq and Afghanistan and realizes the damage that has done to thousands of his own, some of our leaders call for additional wars. So the question remains, had we really learned the cost of war?

   

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