Why Letting Criminals Join the Military is a Bad Idea

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Exhibit A: Pfc. Steven D. Green, the apparent mastermind behind the gang rape and murder of a 14 year old Iraqi girl, and the murderer of her parents and 5 year old sister.

According to statements given at the hearing, the soldiers were drinking whiskey, playing cards and hitting golf balls when Green brought up the idea of going to a house near the checkpoint where they were stationed, to rape the girl.

Barker described Green as very persistent, Bierce testified. The statements said the five soldiers -- Green, Cortez, Barker, Spielman and Howard -- then changed into dark clothing and covered their faces, before going to the house.

According to Barker, Howard was the lookout and was given a radio to use if anyone approached, Bierce said. The four remaining soldiers then entered the home, at which point the statements from Barker and Cortez about what happened diverge, according to testimony.

Barker told investigators that Cortez pushed the 14-year-old girl to the floor and made "thrusting motions" as Barker held down her hands; then they switched positions, Bierce said.

Sometime during the assault, Barker said he heard gunshots come from the bedroom, where the girl's parents and sister had been taken, and an agitated Green emerged and said he had killed them, Bierce said.

According to Barker, Green then put down the AK-47 he had been carrying and raped the girl, while Cortez held her down, and then picked up the gun and shot her several times, Bierce said.

Green then went into the kitchen and, when he returned, said he had opened the propane tank and they needed to get out of the house because it was about to explode, Bierce said.

Pfc. Green was in the Army thanks to a moral-waiver and we will probably be seeing a lot more Steven Greens, more atrocities, and an overall degradation of military values and discipline. As we learn today from the New York Times, Army waivers for criminals are up 65% as the military clamors to fill recruiting quotas.

“The data is crystal clear; our armed forces are under incredible strain, and the only way that they can fill their recruiting quotas is by lowering their standards,” said Representative Martin T. Meehan, Democrat of Massachusetts and chairman of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight. He has requested more detailed data from the Defense Department on the use of waivers.

“By lowering standards, we are endangering the rest of our armed forces and sending the wrong message to potential recruits across the country,” Mr. Meehan said. “Our men and women in uniform represent the best and brightest in America, and we need to keep it that way.”. . .

Mr. Belkin said the increases in moral waivers in the Army posed a problem only to the extent that the military failed to track these recruits or provide special integration training for them.

Since more than 125,000 service members with criminal histories have joined the military in the last three years, Mr. Belkin said, “you have a sizeable population that has been incarcerated and is not used to the same cultural norms as everybody else.”

“The chance that one of those individuals is going to commit an atrocity or disobey an order is higher,” he said. “Many of those individuals can be good soldiers, but in some cases they have special needs. The military should address those needs rather than pretending they don’t exist.”

But ignoring an obvious problem is exactly what the Army did in the case of Pfc. Green. After granting a waiver to the high school drop-out with three criminal convictions in his history, the Army green-lighted him for duty in spite of glaring indicators of mental pathology.

Pfc. Steven D. Green was found to have "homicidal ideations" after seeking help from an Army Combat Stress Team in Iraq on Dec. 21, 2005. Green said he was angry about the war, desperate to avenge the death of comrades and driven to kill Iraqi citizens, according to an investigation by The Associated Press.

The treatment was several small doses of Seroquel a drug to regulate his mood and a directive to get some sleep, according to medical records obtained by the AP. The next day, he returned to duty in the particularly violent stretch of desert in the southern Baghdad suburbs known as the "Triangle of Death.". . .

From interviews with people who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized by the military to discuss the case, and from viewing the Army's medical and investigative records, the AP also has learned:

Three months passed without Army doctors and clinicians from the Combat Stress Team having any contact with Green. He was summoned for a second examination on March 20, 2006 eight days after the killing of the family. Green was diagnosed as having an anti-social personality disorder and declared unfit for service. The process of discharging him began a week later and he was sent home.

The Army's own investigation of Green's initial treatment, prompted by concerns he and others would use mental health problems as a defense in trial, is highly critical. Among the most salient findings from a July review of Green's treatment: "Although a safety assessment was conducted, there is no safety plan addressing how Soldier (Green) will keep from acting on his homicidal thoughts."

Obviously there are dirtbags in the military, who have no documented criminal history that would require a waiver (Exhibits: Barker through Cortez, for instance) but these standards are and have been in place for good reason.

John D. Hutson, dean and president of the Franklin Pierce Law Center in New Hampshire and former judge advocate general of the Navy, said the military must tread carefully in deciding which criminals to accept. There is a reason, he said, why allowing people with criminal histories into the military has long been the exception rather than the rule.

“If you are recruiting somebody who has demonstrated some sort of antisocial behavior and then you are a putting a gun in their hands, you have to be awfully careful about what you are doing,” Mr. Hutson said. “You are not putting a hammer in their hands, or asking them to sell used cars. You are potentially asking them to kill people.”