"Matthew knew he shouldn't be taking his AK-47 to the 7-Eleven," Detective Laura Andersen said, "but he was scared to death in that neighborhood, he was military trained and, in his mind, he needed the weapon to protect himself."
In the end, one gang member lay dead, bleeding on the pavement. The other was wounded. And Sepi fled, "breaking contact" with the enemy, as he described it. With his rifle raised, he crept home, loaded 180 rounds of ammunition into his car and drove until police lights flashed behind him.
"Who did I take fire from?" he asked. The diminutive young man said he had been ambushed and then instinctively "engaged the targets."
He shook. He also cried.
"I felt very bad for him," Andersen said
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 charges for murder, manslaughter or homicide for fatal car crashes resulting from drunken, reckless or suicidal driving.
To compile and analyze its list, The Times conducted a search of local news reports, examined police, court and military records and interviewed the defendants, their lawyers and families, the victims' families, and military and law enforcement officials.
This reporting most likely uncovered only the minimum number of such cases, given that not all killings, especially in big cities and on military bases, are reported publicly or in detail. Also, it was often not possible to determine the deployment history of other service members arrested on homicide charges.
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 October 2001.
This showed an 89 percent increase during the present wartime period, from 184 to 349 cases, 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 homicide rate in America has been, on average, lower.
Decades of studies on the problems of Vietnam veterans have established links between combat trauma and higher rates of unemployment, homelessness, gun ownership, child abuse, domestic violence, substance abuse - and criminality. On a less scientific level, such links have long been known.
"The connection between war and crime is unfortunately very ancient," said Dr. Jonathan Shay, a psychiatrist for the Department of Veterans Affairs in Boston and the author of two books that examine combat trauma through the lens of classical texts.
The army has recently developed a course called "Battlemind Training," intended to help soldiers make the psychological transition back into civilian society. "In combat, the enemy is the target," the course material says. "Back home, there are no enemies."
This can be a difficult lesson to learn. Many soldiers and marines find themselves at war with their spouses, their children, their fellow service members, the world at large and ultimately themselves when they come home.
"Based on my experience, most of these veterans feel just terrible that they've caused this senseless harm," Shay said. "Most veterans don't want to hurt other people."
The above excerpts are from an article concerning soldiers returning from Iraq and committing homicide or being involved in other violence. I, like many I'm sure, was concerned when I saw this. However as we all know, all writing - books, newspapers, all press - has a bias; all of us do, which is why we must read with care, looking further than the words. We must take note of who wrote the piece, when, and in what political and cultural environment. I have no doubt, and a great deal of concern, that some of this is true and needs our attention.
However - there is another side. I am fortunate to have as a friend, a young man (and yes ladies, he is hunky just like the ads, only better) who is a Marine Special Forces officer. The following is an article he sent me. A response to the article above. I think we need them both to have an informed point of view. I must say on a personal level, I do not agree with the Post anti-Times rant; which is why I read the Times. I fear I have seen too much violence in my life not to know for certain that violence begats violence - it becomes the easy solution. And I know from experience as well, that combat does affect our soldiers, each of them in different ways for sure, depending on the person they were going in. I know for certain, that being against the continued war in Iraq and being concerned about the soldiers when they return home is NOT BEING UNPATRIOTIC - quite the opposite. It is the DUTY of a citizen in a republic or a parliamentary democracy to question war and to see to the well being of our armed forces.
Also, contrary to the Post's ranting - the above article is from the International Herald Tribune, also printed in the New York Times.
New York Post
January 15, 2008
The Gray Lady's Killer-GI Lie
By Ralph Peters
THE New York Times is trashing our troops again. With no new "atrocities" to report from Iraq for many a month, the limping Gray Lady turned to the home front. Front and center, above the fold, on the front page of Sunday's Times, the week's feature story sought to convince Americans that combat experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan are turning troops into murderers when they come home.
Heart-wringing tales of madness and murder not only made the front page, but filled two entire centerfold pages and spilled onto a fourth.
The Times did get one basic fact right: Returning vets committed or are charged with 121 murders in the United States since our current wars began.
Had the Times' "journalists" and editors bothered to put those figures in context - which they carefully avoided doing - they would've found that the murder rate that leaves them so aghast means that our vets are five times less likely to commit a murder than their demographic peers.
The Times' public editor, Clark Hoyt, should crunch the numbers. I'm even willing to spot the Times a few percentage points (either way). But the hard statistics from the Justice Department tell a far different tale from the Times' anti-military propaganda.
A very conservative estimate of how many different service members have passed through Iraq, Afghanistan and Kuwait since 2003 is 350,000 (and no, that's not double-counting those with repeated tours of duty).
Now consider the Justice Department's numbers for murders committed by all Americans aged 18 to 34 - the key group for our men and women in uniform. To match the homicide rate of their peers, our troops would've had to come home and commit about 150 murders a year, for a total of 700 to 750 murders between 2003 and the end of 2007.
In other words, the Times unwittingly makes the case that military service reduces the likelihood of a young man or woman committing a murder by 80 percent.
Yes, the young Americans who join our military are (by self- selection) superior by far to the average stay-at-home. Still, these numbers are pretty impressive, when you consider that we're speaking of men and women trained in the tools of war, who've endured the acute stresses of fighting insurgencies and who are physically robust (rather unlike the stick-limbed weanies the Times prefers).
All in all, the Times' own data proves my long-time contention that we have the best behaved and most ethical military in history.
Now, since the folks at the Times are terribly busy and awfully important, let's make it easy for them to do the research themselves (you can do it, too - in five minutes).
Just Google "USA Murder Statistics." The top site to appear will be the Department of Justice's Bureau of Justice Statistics. Click on it, then go to "Demographic Trends." Click on "Age." For hard numbers on the key demographics, click on the colored graphs.
Run the numbers yourself, based upon the demographic percentages of murders per every 100,000 people. Then look at the actual murder counts.
Know what else you'll learn? In 2005 alone, 8,718 young Americans from the same age group were murdered in this country. That's well over twice as many as the number of troops killed in all our foreign missions since 2001. Maybe military service not only prevents you from committing crimes, but also keeps you alive?
Want more numbers? In the District of Columbia, our nation's capital, the murder rate for the 18-34 group was about 14 times higher than the rate of murders allegedly committed by returning vets.
And that actually understates the District's problem, since many DC-related murders spill across into Prince George's County (another Democratic Party stronghold).
In DC, an 18-34 population half the size of the total number of troops who've served in our wars overseas committed the lion's share of 992 murders between 2003 and 2007 - the years mourned by the Times as proving that our veterans are psychotic killers.
Aren't editors supposed to ask tough questions on feature stories? Are the Times' editors so determined to undermine the public's support for our troops that they'll violate the most-basic rules of journalism, such as putting numbers in context?
Answer that one for yourself.
Of course, all of this is part of the disgraceful left-wing campaign to pretend sympathy with soldiers - the Times column gushes crocodile tears - while portraying our troops as clichéd maniacs from the Oliver Stone fantasies that got lefties so self-righteously excited 20 years ago (See? We were right to dodge the draft . . .).
And it's not going to stop. Given the stakes in an election year, the duplicity will only intensify.
For an upcoming treat, we'll get the film "Stop-Loss," starring, as always, young punks who never served in uniform as soldiers. This left-wing diatribe argues that truly courageous troops would refuse to return to Iraq - at a time when soldiers and Marines continue to re-enlist at record rates, expecting to plunge back into the fight.
Those on the left will never accept that the finest young Americans are those who risk their lives defending freedom. Sen. John Kerry summed up the views of the left perfectly when he disparaged our troops as too stupid to do anything but sling hamburgers.
And The New York Times will never forgive our men and women in uniform for their infuriating successes in Iraq.
Ralph Peters' latest book is "Wars of Blood and Faith."
It is up to all of us to read the data and form an opinion, take a stand, and express our view. These men and women are part of the generation that will form our history to come. If we send them to fight for us, I think we owe it to them to see them out of the combat and back into their lives.