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March 6, 2005 2:20 AM   Subscribe

The Incentives for Silence: [login or Google required] An Army intelligence sergeant was ordered to a psychologist for voicing concerns about the safety of Iraqi prisoners. After finding nothing wrong with him, his commanding officer told the psychologist that, “I don't care what you saw or heard, he is imbalanced, and I want him out of here.”

“The next day... the soldier was evacuated from Iraq in restraints on a stretcher to a military hospital in Germany, despite having been given no official diagnosis”
[via Drudge]
posted by trinarian (36 comments total)

 
"Soldier Who Reported Abuse Was Sent to Psychiatrist"

I cannot believe how understated the headline is. It sounds like he went to shrink to talk about his broken home. This man was more or less Baker Acted - strapped down to a stretcher and flown to another continent - for telling command officers what they didn't want to hear.
posted by trinarian at 2:26 AM on March 6, 2005


Looks like they took a lesson from how Soviets used to deal with dissidents when hard prison time got them too much bad press. Since the State is always right, any deviation is ... er ... well ... "deviant".

Spooky.
posted by RavinDave at 2:28 AM on March 6, 2005


Clearly he is on the side of the evil doers and is an enemy of freedom and therefore should be treated as a non person and treated accordingly.

Of course he is still an American citizen and so as bad as his situation may be, he will enjoy infinitely better treatment than the vast majority of the world.
posted by milkwood at 2:43 AM on March 6, 2005


Creepest news story, ever today.
posted by TwelveTwo at 3:11 AM on March 6, 2005


War. It's not like in the movies.
posted by spazzm at 3:52 AM on March 6, 2005


They were just putting into practice the time-honored maxim of former US Surgeon General Sam Goldwyn:

"Anyone who goes to a psychiatrist ought to have his head examined"
posted by kcds at 4:10 AM on March 6, 2005


Homer: This isn't fair! How can you tell who's sane and who's insane?
Doctor: Well, we have a very simple method. [stamps his hand, `INSANE'] Whoever has that stamp on his hand is insane.
posted by kingfisher, his musclebound cat at 4:53 AM on March 6, 2005


Salon is the only other place I've seen mention of this, all the way back in December. Given the details, it sounds like it the same story, although the soldier (Sgt. Frank Ford) gave his name and picture openly to the Salon reporter, and the soldier here is unnamed.
posted by melissa may at 5:28 AM on March 6, 2005


I could swear I saw this posted here a few weeks ago. I can't find it though.
posted by sciurus at 5:44 AM on March 6, 2005


You guys got it all wrong. We're bringing freedom to the world. Why do you guys hate freedom so much? If you're not for freedom, you're against freedom and therefore must be delusional and should be locked away in solitary confinement so that your non-freedom thinking disease doesn't spread.

Hey, that national tax we're all going to get isn't a War Tax. Let's call it Freedom Tax. Or maybe Protection Money so that da boyz don't have to come over and get rough wit' me.
posted by fleener at 5:44 AM on March 6, 2005


Salon is the only other place I've seen mention of this, all the way back in December. Given the details, it sounds like it the same story, although the soldier (Sgt. Frank Ford) gave his name and picture openly to the Salon reporter, and the soldier here is unnamed.

Read page 2. Ford acknowledges that he is the person in the report.
posted by srboisvert at 5:46 AM on March 6, 2005


Psikhushka (????????, the nut house): the forced medical treatment in psychiatric imprisonment was used, in lieu of camps, to isolate and break down political prisoners. This practice became much more common after the official dismantling of the Gulag system.

__________

I cannot believe how understated the headline is

I blame the lib'rul media. as always, "Shape Of The Earth: Views Differ". I'm sure the "citizen journalists" at InstaPundit et al will be all over this outrage.

*eagerly waits for the usual MeFi John Birchers to show up*
posted by matteo at 5:53 AM on March 6, 2005


*also wonders why MetaFilter hates the Cyrillic Alphabet*
posted by matteo at 5:54 AM on March 6, 2005


I feel for the commander. How can he be expected to work with a medic who is so clearly divorced from reality?
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 6:22 AM on March 6, 2005


I know I saw this before. And I could have sworn it was here on the blue.
posted by grouse at 6:23 AM on March 6, 2005


Yup. I remember reading this and thought it came from MetaFilter. Not a bad thing to get repeat access to, though. Worrisome.
posted by mmahaffie at 6:36 AM on March 6, 2005


wonders why MetaFilter hates the Cyrillic Alphabet

it was half-coded, half-designed that way!
posted by quonsar at 6:38 AM on March 6, 2005


(I hadn't seen this before)

"What the.. this soldier.. projecting some kind of.. cognitive dissonance field! Head.. feels like it's going to explode.. goddammit, get him out of here!! Crazy! Crazy in the head! I'm.. he's.. damnit, more restraints!"
posted by Drexen at 6:56 AM on March 6, 2005


I saw this here on mefi before. There was more to it though - I remember something about a helpful doctor or other medic who helped evacuate a guy not because she believed he really was nuts, but because she believed he was in serious physical danger staying close to the people he accused of abuse. So, she got him out of there to save his ass, basically.
posted by beth at 7:27 AM on March 6, 2005


First, a quick aside. My cousin emailed me to tell my that his elementary school in the NY ghetto got him into trouble: seems some kids turned him in for teaching religion. He was giving them samples of Greek mythology!

As for the military: it was all made clear in Joseph Heller's Catch-22 back in the 50s--a classic, still.
posted by Postroad at 7:29 AM on March 6, 2005


it was half-coded, half-designed that way!

to prevent Soviet infiltration?
posted by matteo at 7:46 AM on March 6, 2005


(looks about) wher're m'boots & m'gun?

Boots should seriously be put in major asses on this.
...and more than a few other incidents.
posted by Smedleyman at 7:50 AM on March 6, 2005


Note the statistics on this page, which is an internal site for the Army medical team. (I was given the URL by an Army doctor when I was writing my previously-FPP'd story for Wired on the high number of amputations and "orthopedic" injuries in this war, "The Painful Truth," which also gives a very detailed description of an evacuation.)

The Army figures say that, out of the over 9000 soldiers evacuated from Iraq for reasons of "disease" up through January 31, 2005, over ten percent of them were flown out for "psychiatric" reasons.

I can't pursue this angle because I'm already deep into my next story for Wired, but if you're a journalist reading this, or know any journalists who work for major media, I think there's a very big story here, which would require some serious reporting.
posted by digaman at 8:31 AM on March 6, 2005


Was this an isolated instance of an officer doing something stupid to make a potential court-martial offense of his men go away, or does the US military have some sort of official policy to ostracize and marginalize whistleblowing "troublemakers" by having them declared psychologically unfit? The linked article makes me think the former, while the snarky posts in this thread make me wonder it it's really the latter.
posted by alumshubby at 8:52 AM on March 6, 2005


I wouldn't dismiss my post as "snarky," alumshubby. It was a pointer to the Army's own statistics. That one-in-ten breakout is the kind of figure you rarely see in articles about "the wounded" in Iraq. It's the tip of some iceberg, and will require more diligent reporting to figure out which kind of iceberg it is.
posted by digaman at 9:09 AM on March 6, 2005


(Tiny nitpick to Trinarian: Nice link, but I'm wondering why you didn't tag the FPP with the words "Iraq," "Army," "psychaitric" or "war." Tags like scary, understated,and headline will not help anyone out in searches.)
posted by digaman at 9:16 AM on March 6, 2005


The linked article makes me think the former, while the snarky posts in this thread make me wonder it it's really the latter.

Do you really judge the "truth content" of a story based on what other people (who are virtual strangers to you) say about it in an online forum?
posted by clevershark at 9:16 AM on March 6, 2005


*psychiatric
posted by digaman at 9:17 AM on March 6, 2005


Washington Post reporters R. Jeffrey Smith and Josh White wrote:
Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, asked about detainee abuse yesterday on CNN's "Wolf Blitzer Reports," said he was not surprised. Gonzales said that he presumed the military used lawful interrogation techniques but that "sometimes people do things that they shouldn't do. People are imperfect . . . and so the fact that abuses occur, they're unfortunate but I'm not sure that they should be viewed as surprising."
Or as Secretary Rumsfeld more succinctly put it: "You go to war with the torturers you have, not the torturers you want."

Okay Gonzales, you say lawful interrogation techniques were used, but at the same time, abuses occurred. You're the nation's chief law enforcement officer: do you plan to bring charges against anyone for these abuses?

I mean, I know you're busy, what with fighting terrorism and your really important work, a renewed crackdown on dirty pictures made by consenting adults.

Because it makes my country safer when guys who torture Muslims for real go free, and guys who make BDSM pornos go to jail.
posted by orthogonality at 9:18 AM on March 6, 2005


digaman, apologies if your feathers are ruffled by my remark about snarkiness; I didn't have you in mind when I made it.

There's undoubtedly a story in the statistic you cite, and I imagine it's got something to do with the type of conflict US forces are now faced with in Iraq. Straight-on combat is one thing, but a war of insurgency, where any innocent-looking curbstone, discarded Coke can or cardboard box can hide an IED, where any automobile or even human can explode, is another entirely. I wonder, for instance, what rate of psychologically-related casuaties the IDF has had from dealing with the intifada. (The Israelis are a different culture and may view the pychological impact of dealing with insurgency differently, though; there are no perfect analogies.)

Do you really judge the "truth content" of a story based on what other people (who are virtual strangers to you) say about it in an online forum?

Straw man. Why do you have quote marks around the words truth content anyway? I certainly never wrote them.

On reflection, I seriously doubt the US Army has any more policy of turning dissenters and whistleblowers into psych cases then that Patton's famed soldier-slapping incident suggests that he made official policy on dealing with "combat fatigue." No, I was merely letting myself be swayed briefly by the usual MeFi suspects' atttempts to score style points over a tragic and outrageous story.
posted by alumshubby at 10:05 AM on March 6, 2005


posted by alumshubby: Was this an isolated instance of an officer doing something stupid to make a potential court-martial offense of his men go away, or does the US military have some sort of official policy to ostracize and marginalize whistleblowing "troublemakers" by having them declared psychologically unfit?
What if it was one of many such "isolated incidents," absent a stated "official policy?" If it happens enough, and is never addressed, it becomes a defacto policy. That provides plausible deniability for the command structure. You're not going to find a policy stating, "Whistleblowers will be punished." That doesn't mean they aren't, inside and outside the military. They are, and frequently. And the more often it happens, the less likely it is that a commander will see it as "something stupid."
posted by Kirth Gerson at 10:39 AM on March 6, 2005


Classic false dichotomy. To suggest that the choice is between it being Army policy to turn whistleblowers into psych cases vs. it being an isolated incident he ignores the much more greater likelihood that it falls in the vast middle ground: that of it being simply the way they do things.

Of course it's not "official policy". That would make it public, publicly actionable and reportable. Furthermore, we could check that. To even suggest this as one option is in effect to imply the other, that it's an "isolated incident". That's the purpose of the false dichotomy: to suggest that the only alternative to the conclusion you want the listener to reach is a preposterous one.
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:26 AM on March 6, 2005


digaman: i'm still unclear what the tags are specifically used for. i've been under the assumption that I should put in words that aren't necessarily in the FPP that might help bring it up in a relevant search.
posted by trinarian at 12:28 PM on March 6, 2005


kirth and george, good point. It's dismaying to think that you may well be right -- this could be an unofficial but habitual way for commaders to deal with subordinates who rock the boat. I surely hope it's not a widepread phenomenon. Given the stigma of mental illness in US society, it's likely going to prove chillingly effective if there isn't some serious pushback from the rank and file. And it'll be damaging, too. Some good people are going to find their military careers ruined and their lives smeared. I'd almost feel nostalgic for the "old" military where "troublemakers" simply got stuck with extra duty, s**t details and getting transferred. And another unintended consequence I just thought of is that if this gets to be the norm, sanctioned or not, it'll unfairly taint the people who are having honest psychological problems as being bad eggs, too.
posted by alumshubby at 12:55 PM on March 6, 2005


Here'sthe previous mefi discussion. I'm surprised it took three months for this to get to the MSM. (Oh, and this clusterfuck is developing clusterfucks of its own.)
posted by MikeKD at 3:38 PM on March 6, 2005


My apologies. I'll mark for deletion. I couldn't find the story anywhere else, so figured it a Washington Post exclusive. I should have done a more exhaustive search of MeFi.
posted by trinarian at 4:04 PM on March 6, 2005


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