Thursday, March 15, 2012

New claims and speculation about the Kandahar massacre shooter

Nancy Youssef and Matthew Schofield report for McClatchy on the single suspect so far in last weekend's Kandahar massacre, Medical records offer few clues to motive in Afghan shooting Miami Herald 03/15/2012

The most surprising part of the story to me is the last sentence: "The suspect's family is in protective custody, Army officials said." Is this routine procedure in such cases? The suspect's name hasn't been released yet. And the article reports, "the military is not expected to release the suspect's name, a process that in complicated cases can take weeks. He was a sniper in the 3rd Infantry Regiment of the 3rd Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, based at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state."

I don't see anything wrong with putting the suspect's family in protective custody, I just don't recall seeing that about the families of suspects in these cases.

Youssef and Matthew Schofield are reporting claims from anonymous military officials that reject previous reports that the suspect had suffered brain damage in a previous tour in Iraq. I'm not at all surprised the Pentagon would decide to deny that earlier report, even if it were true. That would implicate more senior officers than the single sergeant who is the current suspect in related misconduct, and raise uncomfortable questions about the Army's personnel policies.

They do quote a physician on the record:

Dr. Elspeth Cameron Ritchie, formerly a behavioral health director in the surgeon general's office, didn't know the intimate details of the case but speculated that the suspect's actions were inconsistent with post-traumatic stress disorder or traumatic brain injury.

"His reported behavior was more in line with a psychotic episode," Ritchie said.
They further report:

Twenty-seven percent of troops screened positive for mental health problems following their third deployment, according to the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, an advocacy group.

The suspect is known to have undergone standard psychological testing after each tour. In addition, he underwent several medical evaluations after the 2010 accident in Iraq.

Matt Gallagher, who served 15 months in Iraq and is now a senior fellow at the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, said that the line between experience and burnout from multiple tours is difficult to draw. Many veterans of multiple tours blur the distinction between combat and civilian life, and experts say the stress can be enormous - especially in wars in which creating goodwill among the population is seen as fundamental to success, meaning every interaction with locals has strategic importance.

"But we don't know what happened here, and far and away most people serve honorably and go home," he said.

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