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Monday, January 14, 2008


The hidden victims of U.S. imperialism

I've written before about some of the hidden victims of the U.S. invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan - the spouses and others murdered by returning vets suffering from PTSD (or just suffering from an excess of testosterone and rage fueled by years of shooting and being shot at). Now the New York Times (and yes, folks, this is why bloggers will never replace news organizations, who have the resources to do such things) has made an attempt to quantify those victims, at least with a minimum number:
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.

Three-quarters of these veterans were still in the military at the time of the killing. More than half the killings involved guns, and the rest were stabbings, beatings, strangulations and bathtub drownings. Twenty-five offenders faced murder, manslaughter or homicide charges for fatal car crashes resulting from drunken, reckless or suicidal driving.

About a third of the victims were spouses, girlfriends, children or other relatives, among them 2-year-old Krisiauna Calaira Lewis, whose 20-year-old father slammed her against a wall when he was recuperating in Texas from a bombing near Falluja that blew off his foot and shook up his brain.

A quarter of the victims were fellow service members, including Specialist Richard Davis of the Army, who was stabbed repeatedly and then set ablaze, his body hidden in the woods by fellow soldiers a day after they all returned from Iraq.

And the rest were acquaintances or strangers, among them Noah P. Gamez, 21, who was breaking into a car at a Tucson motel when an Iraq combat veteran, also 21, caught him, shot him dead and then killed himself outside San Diego with one of several guns found in his car.
Needless to say, members of the military do commit murders like other people, but these rates are even excessive compared to the rate for military people in previous years:
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.
I'm a little unclear on the different numbers (121 according to the material quoted above, 349 here); evidently I'm missing something, I'm not sure what. And unfortunately the article provides no statistics on a comparable civilian population, adjusted for age and sex. It seems highly likely these numbers are much higher, but it would be nice to see them.

Incidentally, researching this post I came upon this old post on the tragic death of Sgt. Frank Sandoval, a brain-injured vet who appeared to be making a good recovery until he died during a second operation, eight months after his injury and leaving Iraq. I was skeptical, but his death was indeed listed by the DoD an an "Iraq death," so for those who insist that the DoD doesn't include such people, you're wrong. But who they don't include, for sure, are people like Krisiauna Calaira Lewis and Richard Davis and Noah P. Gamez, all just as surely victims of these wars of aggression.

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