Culture

The Only Story You'll Ever Need to Read to Demand an End to All Wars

Like a lot of soldiers, Pvt. Steven Dale Green's heinous acts in Iraq led him to PTSD and suicide.

This article originally appeared on AllisonKilkenny.com, and is reprinted here with their permission.

U.S. Army Pfc. Steven Dale Green was found hanging in his cell at the federal maximum security prison in Tucson last week. The name may mean nothing to you, but his crimes probably ring a bell:  He’s the guy who raped and killed a 14-year-old Iraqi girl in 2006 after shooting and killing her parents and younger sister. Then he and some other soldiers from a nearby U.S. Army checkpoint set the girl’s corpse on fire.

Abeer Kassem Hamza Janadi

Abeer Kassem Hamza Janabi [Source: AllisonKilkenny.com]

For a long time, several soldiers attempted to cover up this horrific crime by blaming the act on “insurgents.” Finally, the truth came out and Americans reacted will collective shock. Even though the

U.S. Army Pfc. Steven Dale Green was found hanging in his cell at the federal maximum security prison in Tucson last week. The name may mean nothing to you, but his crimes probably ring a bell:  He’s the guy who raped and killed a 14-year-old Iraqi girl in 2006 after shooting and killing her parents and younger sister. Then he and some other soldiers from a nearby U.S. Army checkpoint set the girl’s corpse on fire.

For a long time, several soldiers attempted to cover up this horrific crime by blaming the act on “insurgents.” Finally, the truth came out and Americans reacted will collective shock. Even though the United States had been systematically invading and occupying multiple Muslim countries for years, and committing all kinds of destructive acts, the Green incident was considered particularly heinous, and he ultimately received five life sentences in prison.

However, even though Steven Green’s name was plastered across headlines, he didn’t commit these crimes alone. He explained in disturbing detail during his testimony at the federal trial in Kentucky that he and fellow soldiers specifically targeted the Iraqi girl, Abeer Kassem Hamza Janabi who they “watched from the checkpoint as she performed household chores.” Sitting around day after day, Green said he and his buddies abused alcohol and drugs and came up with a plan to rape the girl.

Steven Dale Green

Steven Dale Green [Source: AllisonKilkenny.com]

Green said he was brought along to the girl’s home on March 12 because he had expressed a desire to kill Iraqis. A group of five soldiers entered the home while a sixth stood guard at the checkpoint. Then two soldiers took the girl into a room and raped her while Green held the teenager’s father, Kassem Hamza Raheem, and her mother, Fakhriya Taha Muhasen, and her 6-year-old sister, Hadeel Kassem Hamza, at gunpoint in another room.

While the soldiers were raping Abeer, Green executed all three family members. Then he raped Abeer and when he was finished, shot her in the head. The LA Times reports the soldiers then fled, but not before burning the girl’s body.

Understandably, this crime has been frequently cited as one of the worst crimes committed during the U.S. occupation of Iraq. The comment section on any article about Green is traditionally full of individuals breathlessly accusing him of being a monster, or evil, but always somehow exceptional to other “normal soldiers.”

But what’s clear from Green’s own testimony is that he’s actually not exceptional. If anything, he’s the poster boy for unending war, the inevitable end game of a military stocked with the poor and marginalized, sent abroad to maintain an occupation that (at the time) had no end date, and told to eradicate strange “others” who detest America for miscellaneous reasons.

“There’s not a word that would describe how much I hated these people,” Green said of Iraqis. “I wasn’t thinking these people were humans.”

Those words sound horrible to you and me — the rantings of a true sociopath. Except, this is typical military brainwashing in which the enemy is always dehumanized. This is the only way military brass can get otherwise untrained individuals to overcome their natural fear and empathy in order to mow down hordes of poor brown people (including women and children). You’re much less likely to pull the trigger if you identify targets not as the enemy, but as human beings with thoughts and emotions.

In a December 2010 interview from prison with the AP, Green blamed his behavior, in part, on the deaths of two fellow soldiers killed by insurgents near the checkpoint. Those deaths “messed me up real bad,” he said.

What Green described was likely Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, a very typical byproduct of extended exposure to extreme violence. In fact, Dr. Pablo Steward, a psychiatrist at the University of California-San Francisco, told jurors during the trial that Green exhibited clear signs of PTSD and acute stress disorder. But instead of seriously treating an obviously disturbed young man, he testified that Lt. Col Karen Marrs gave Green a sleep medication and sent him back into combat.

“Her work with Pfc. Green ... does not meet the acceptable standard of care,” he said.

He added that Green and other soldiers with similar symptoms seemed to have been left in combat to satisfy the need for battlefield troops.

“She’s trying to please her command and at the same time treat her patients,” Stewart said. “I can see that’s an almost impossible job.”

Jurors also heard from Ruben Gur, director of neuropsychology at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, who reviewed a 2008 MRI and found Green had brain damage. People with such injuries have “major difficulties” restraining their impulses, he said.

“They won’t have the brakes and they’ll be easily aroused into action,” said Gur.

Here too Green was not an anomaly. After all, one in five veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars are diagnosed with PTSD, and veterans account for 20 percent of U.S. suicides.

“I wasn’t thinking about more than 10 minutes into the future at any given time,” Green said of his time in the military. “I didn’t care.”

His crimes didn’t come to light until he was already given a honorable discharge from the military “due to an antisocial personality disorder.” But to be fair, it is rather antisocial to rape and kill a 14-year-old and her entire family.

By all accounts, Green was a bottom rung fuck up who dropped out of high school in 2002 (he later earned his high school equivalency in 2003). Days after a January 2005 arrest for alcohol possession, he enlisted in the U.S. Army, which worked out great because he was granted a moral character waiver for prior alcohol and other drug related offenses that might have otherwise disqualified him. At this time, the military wasn’t exactly picky about who they shipped overseas to kill Iraqis because, weirdly, most Americans didn’t want to go fight in violent occupations (in the U.S. only around one percent of the population fights all our wars). Remember, this is when recruiters were so desperate to meet quotas that they were signing up Neo-Nazis and gang members, and Green happened to walk into the recruiting station at the very moment that the Army was increasing by nearly half the rate at which it granted “moral waivers” to potential recruits.

So here we have Steven Green: born in Camp Nowhere, Texas, a lad squeaking by with a GED, who abused drugs and alcohol. Where can such a man find a home in the world? Why, the place with all the guns and bombs, of course!

Maybe if Steven Green had been born somewhere else, to a different family, his life would have turned out differently. According to a 2007 AP analysis, “nearly three-fourths of [U.S. troops] killed in Iraq came from towns where the per capita income was below the national average. More than half came from towns where the percentage of people living in poverty topped the national average.”

All future wars will be fought by Steven Greens because only the Steven Greens of the world are desperate enough to join the military. That’s not to say all troops rape and kill 14-year-old girls, but taking Green’s pre-military situation into account, in addition to his likely PTSD, it’s clear the horrific crime committed against Abeer and her family isn’t an anomaly. If anything, it’s the direct result of unending war fought by soldiers trained to become unfeeling machines of destruction.

When a guy like Green dies (or commits suicide, as it looks like he did), a common reaction is to shrug and say, “Oh well. Good. He deserved it,” and I get that reaction. I really do. But casting aside men like Green and labelling them monsters does us all a disservice, and it puts future Abeers at risk. We should’t consider Green extraordinary because he wasn’t. He was just a poor kid from Texas who fucked up his life and then joined the military where he became traumatized and psychotic, and unleashed every ounce of pain inside him on total innocents. That’s bigger than the story of Steven Green. That’s the story of war.

Allison Kilkenny co-hosts Citizen Radio, an alternative political radio show. Her work has appeared in the American Prospect, the LA Times, In These Times, and Truthout.

Sign Up!
Get AlterNet's Daily Newsletter in Your Inbox
+ sign up for additional lists
[x]
Select additional lists by selecting the checkboxes below before clicking Subscribe:
Activism
Drugs
Economy
Education
Election 2018
Environment
Food
Media
World