Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Camp Liberty Shooting UPDATE

Yesterday, CNN reported (and the Egg passed on) the story that a US soldier in Iraq had gone a shooting spree, and ended by killing himself.

Turns out that was wrong.  The military now tells Reuters (linked above) that they have arrested Sgt. John Russell for killing five US soldiers and wounding others.

Per the Times
The dead included two officers on the staff at the clinic — one each from the Army and the Navy — as well as three enlisted soldiers who were at the clinic. ...

Sergeant Russell’s superior officers had taken his weapon from him and referred him to counseling sometime over the past week, presumably because of concern over his mental state, [Maj. Gen. David Perkins] said. Somehow, he got a new weapon, which he used to go to the clinic and open fire, he said.

The episode has sparked military investigations into both the circumstances of this attack, as well as into how mental health services are being given for soldiers, the general said. Sergeant Russell was “almost certainly” on his third tour in Iraq, General Perkins said.

This is a very sad story, and we don't want to assign blame to anybody -- except, of course, the killer.  And Donald Rumsfeld, who sold America (and America's gullible then-president) on the myth of a cheap, fast war, which has since required soldiers to serve extended and repeated tours.

But we do have to say, gently and with all due respect, to the superior officers who quite rightly took Russell's weapon away from him:  You do realize you're in the Army, right?  In a heavily fortified camp, inside a war-torn country?  It's not like a guy can't find a gun.


clark said...

He has been in for how many years? Was it 15 and he's still and E-5. I couldn't imagine why his leadership would have a problem with him (Sarcasm). He's also a communications specialist. Being one myself, I have deployed twice to Iraq with a special operations unity and have a pretty good idea that his stress was not caused by combat. He sounds like a piece of work that shouldn't have been in the Army in the first place. When will we stop allowing the bottom of the barrel to stay in an organization that preaches excellence. Furthermore I think he needs to be put to death. An example needs to be made for committing the ultimate treasonous act possible. I don't feel sorry for him.


Father said...

Well, a quick poll of the Egg's pressroom staff reveals some ambivalence about capital punishment. Generally speaking, we do lean against it.

But otherwise, your thoughts on Russell seem to be at least worth thinking about. We do know that the Army has lowered some of its standards in response to the current military situation -- welcoming older recruits, as well as those with prior criminal records. But has there been a less public lowering of standards over a longer period of time? Letting the incompetent stay in when they should be drummed out?

I don't know enough about it to guess, but invite comment from military readers.