May 18, 2009
John Russell, a 44-year-old Army sergeant, shot and killed five fellow U.S. soldiers in Iraq on May 11.
The incident happened in a mental health clinic at “Camp Liberty,” a U.S. military base near Baghdad. A fellow soldier in Russell’s unit said that Russell was angry because he thought the doctors at the clinic were refusing to treat him.
That description of the doctors’ attitude towards Russell matches the words of Tim Albone, a British journalist, about the same clinic at Camp Liberty: “Soldiers are referred to as warriors, not patients; PTSD is referred to as post-traumatic growth; and trauma is talked about as something to be learned from – something that will ‘help you grow.’ ” Albone also quoted Major Kevin Gormley, the clinic’s commander: “Our job is to keep soldiers on the battlefield, not send them home.”
Those words too, as inhumane as they sound, ring true. The U.S. military has been using and re-using its troops in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars since 2001. Nearly half of the 1.7 million troops who served in the two wars have completed at least two tours. And, according to Rand Corporation, more than 300,000 of these troops suffer from either PTSD or major depression – probably a conservative estimate, considering that Rand is a think-tank with close ties to the military.
John Russell was near the end of his third tour in Iraq. His father, Wilburn Russell, said that Russell’s job involved salvaging robots that set off roadside bombs, and that he probably saw “a lot of carnage and a lot of things that he shouldn’t have seen, that nobody should have seen.”
Shawna Machlinski, the mother of 19-year-old Michael Yates, one of John Russell’s victims, agreed: “As much as I have a lot of anger towards him, I also have some sympathy because I know he must have been going through a lot, as well.”
“They broke him,” the elder Russell said, referring to his son’s superiors. “Nobody should have to go three times. They should’ve realized that.”
It’s not that they don’t realize. But their bosses, the big warmongers, need cannon fodder for their wars – wars fought to control other countries. These warmongers, whether they wear uniforms or gray suits, care about American soldiers as little as they care about Iraqi and Afghan people, whose lives are also ended, or otherwise ruined, by these horrible wars.