January 13, 2008

The New York Times, Violence, Vets, And Alleged War Crimes In Colorado

The New York Times (via Instapundit) began a series "War Torn: Across America, Deadly Echoes of Foreign Battles":
A series of articles and multimedia about veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan who have committed killings, or been charged with them, after coming home.
It continues:
Town by town across the country, headlines have been telling similar stories. Lakewood, Wash.: “Family Blames Iraq After Son Kills Wife.” Pierre, S.D.: “Soldier Charged With Murder Testifies About Postwar Stress.” Colorado Springs: “Iraq War Vets Suspected in Two Slayings, Crime Ring.”

Individually, these are stories of local crimes, gut-wrenching postscripts to the war for the military men, their victims and their communities. Taken together, they paint the patchwork picture of a quiet phenomenon, tracing a cross-country trail of death and heartbreak.

The New York Times found 121 cases in which veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan committed a killing in this country, or were charged with one, after their return from war. In many of those cases, combat trauma and the stress of deployment — along with alcohol abuse, family discord and other attendant problems — appear to have set the stage for a tragedy that was part destruction, part self-destruction.
Armed Liberal takes apart the Times' assertion that violence among returning soldiers exceeds that of the same age group who are not veterans and have never seen combat. The blog Democracy Project questions the paper's methodology, as does the Army.

The final story in the opening paragraphs of the Times' piece, however, refers to the alleged murders and other crimes perpetrated by a "ring" of soldiers in Colorado:
Pfc. Bruce Bastien Jr. and former soldier Louis Edward Bressler are charged with first-degree murder in the shooting deaths of Spc. Kevin Shields on Dec. 1 and Pfc. Robert James on Aug. 4. Another former soldier, Kenneth Eastridge, also is charged in Shields' death.
The motives for the two homicides differed:
Investigators believe Shields was killed after a fight with one of the suspects, while James is believed to have been killed as part of a robbery.




What the Times leaves out, however, is the secondary subplot underlying the alleged homicides--the assertion by Bastien that while in Iraq (the men accused all served together) he and Eastridge used stolen AK-47s to shoot randomly at Iraqi civilians, with the type of weapon used giving them cover:
Fort Carson officials confirmed they "immediately" notified military officials in Iraq about allegations of soldiers shooting at Iraqi civilians, but specifics about that investigation were scarce Wednesday.

Military law experts, however, said any criminal investigation in a war zone months after the alleged crime will be especially difficult.

The allegations surfaced in an El Paso County homicide case involving soldiers accused of killing fellow soldiers in Colorado Springs and allegedly committing a wave of violent crimes here in recent months.

"It may be tough," said Eugene Fidell, a Washington, D.C.-based military law attorney and military justice professor. "The trail may have grown cold. But this is the type of thing that has always challenged military investigative organizations."
. . .
After Bastien was arrested in connection with the Colorado Springs homicides, he told a U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command agent that Eastridge would often shoot at Iraqi civilians while the pair patrolled the streets of Baghdad.

"Bastien said that he knows that an Iraqi civilian was struck on at least one occasion," according to a motion filed Tuesday by prosecutors in the Shields homicide. The men used stolen AK-47 rifles commonly used by insurgents so if the shootings were questioned, they could "claim they were taking on hostile fire," Bastien told the investigator.
The Army's investigation failed to turn up anything credible:
A soldier's claim that he and another soldier randomly fired at Iraqi civilians while they patrolled neighborhoods in Baghdad is unfounded, Army investigators said Thursday.

"To date, our investigative processes that we have used have not been able to uncover any credible information or evidence to substantiate the recent allegations," said Chris Grey, spokesman for the Army Criminal Investigation Command.
That the MSM--represented by the NYTimes--would use such anecdotal stories to grind a larger axe, whether against the war, the veterans, or the administration is not surprising. What is surprising is that the MSM has failed to pick up on the alleged war crimes angle presented by these Colorado cases. As with any alleged crime, the accused are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law--it just seems odd, however, that the first thing out of one of the accused's mouth is to assert alleged war crimes violations--perhaps a strained attempt to garner support as victims of precisely the type of "combat trauma" that the MSM is so eager to prove is the cause of a new war-based crime spree? Or, as hinted in one of the follow-up articles, an attempt to frame one of the other soldiers with fantastic stories of shooting Iraqi civilians (the reports in the links above conflict over whether Bastien accused Eastridge of shooting Iraqi civilians, or admitted that they both did)?

Others--Blue Crab Boulevard and JammieWearingFool--question the Times' agenda and smear campaign.

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