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Tuesday, May 30, 2006

How the Administration doesn't Support the Troops

(Keywords: , , , let's give 's job)

CNN reports that the Senate will hold hearings into the likely massacre at Haditha, Iraq:

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Senate Armed Services Committee will hold hearings into allegations that U.S. Marines committed an atrocity last year in the Iraqi city of Haditha, the panel's chairman said Sunday.

Senior Pentagon sources said Friday that an ongoing investigation supports allegations that Marines killed 24 innocent Iraqi civilians without being provoked.

And Rep. John Murtha, appearing Sunday on ABC's "This Week," alleged a "cover-up" and said the fallout could be "worse than Abu Ghraib."

But Sen. John Warner, chairman of the Armed Services Committee, told ABC that there should be no rush to judgment about the matter.

"We've got to let the Uniform Code of Military Justice, the investigation system, proceed before we reach any conclusions on this matter," Warner said.

The Marines involved originally reported that fifteen civilians died from an improvised explosive device (IED), but all evidence since shows that the iraqis were shot by those Marines. Charges of murder and falsifying a report, among others, may result from this action.

"This is the kind of war you have to win the hearts and minds of the people. We can't win this militarily," Murtha said. "It's now got to be a political victory. And we're set back every time something like this happens. This is worse than Abu Ghraib."

The problem, of course, is that we aren't treating our military personnel very well and that, in turn, isn't serving us all that well. Many of the soldiers were sent back for a third or fourth tour, due to 'stop loss' order that keeps them in the military after their tours of duty have ended.

Add to this that soldiers returning from (and to) Iraq aren't getting the help they need or deserve. The Des Moines Register reported May 13 that "More money and cooperation are needed to make sure Iraq war veterans are tested and treated for mental health problems 'so that no one else gets lost in the shuffle' like Joshua Omvig, U.S. Rep. Leonard Boswell of Iowa said Friday.

"Omvig, a 22-year-old veteran from Grundy Center, suffered from untreated post-traumatic stress disorder and felt so hopeless that he killed himself in front of his mother four months ago."

If we're sending people like this home and not treating them, how likely is it that we're sending untreated and emotionally unbalanced soldiers back to Iraq? Extremely. According to a Washington Post report:

Rep. Michael Michaud (Maine), the ranking Democrat on the House Veterans’ Affairs subcommittee on health, said screening service members for PTSD was the right thing to do, but questioned the utility of the screening if people at risk did not receive help.

"When 78 percent of the service members who are at risk of developing PTSD do not get a referral for further evaluation, then it’s clear the assessment system is not working," he said in a statement.

"Early assessment can prevent tragedy. Untreated PTSD can lead to substance abuse, severe depression and even suicide."

If 78% of discharged troops aren't screened, then how likely is it that most soldiers returning to Iraq are screened?

Don't get me wrong, this would not reach the level of legal insanity. These troops knew what they did was wrong - that's why they lied about it. And if they're guilty, they should be held responsible.

But responsibility should also rest with the policy makers who limited screening over concerns about cost. Ultimately, this responsibility rests with the Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld. Expect new calls for Rummy's resignation if it turns out there was a massacre. As John Murtha said, "This is worse than Abu Ghraib."