July 6, 2008

War Trauma, Media Style

Hatched by Dafydd

A judge in upstate New York has set up a special court for veterans, evidently on the media-driven, criminal-justice theory that staggering numbers of vets, far more than ever in the past, are returning PTSD-struck from the parade of horribles in Iraq and Afghanistan:

While the defendants in this court have been arrested on charges that could mean potential prison time and damaging criminal records, they have another important trait in common: All have served their country in the military.

That combination has landed them here, in veterans treatment court, the first of its kind in the country.

[Judge Robert] Russell is the evenhanded quarterback of a courtroom team of veterans advocates and volunteers determined to make this brush with the criminal justice system these veterans' last.

"They look to the right or to the left, they're sitting there with another vet," Russell said, "and it's a more calming, therapeutic environment. Rather than them being of the belief that 'people don't really understand me,' or 'they don't know what it's like' - well, it's a room full of folks who do."

All right; I don't really have any objection to such a special court... in theory; though I have yet to see any evidence that veterans, as a group, tend to be more criminal-minded than civilians who have never seen an actual battlefield. (In fact, I'm of the impression vets are less likely to commit crimes than eternal civilians.)

I would expect such a court to be geared specifically towards those vets with extensive combat experience, having seen their best friends murdered by Islamist terrorists, who have seen children blown to pieces by al-Qaeda bombers. I can imagine a veteran who has had to deal with such death-worshippers and human-sacrificers might have problems adjusting to civilian life.

You know, vets like this guy:

Charles Lewis, who stood before Russell at a recent session, may be exactly the kind of defendant the judge had in mind. The 25-year-old acknowledged walking out in frustration from his last counseling session.

"We all know that you're a good person who at times has done some inappropriate things," Russell told him. "It's time to get past the nonsense, don't you think?"

Lewis nodded in agreement. A jet mechanic four years into what he thought would be a 20-year Navy career, he severely injured his leg on the flight deck of the carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt in 2004 and was discharged.

One can only imagine the horrors he must have seen. I don't exactly recall which combat operations in Iraq or Afghanistan used carrier-based aviation, nor do I quite understand exactly what trauma would be faced by a mechanic who stayed on the ship. But it must have been something pretty horrendous to produce such symptoms...

Admittedly stubborn -- he walked out of counseling because he got tired of hearing people complain -- the 25-year-old father of four is only now addressing anxiety and attention disorders linked to his wartime service and the toll it took on his leg and hearing. A 30-day stay in rehab to get off prescription drugs began his path through veterans treatment court.

Here is another obvious case of combat psychosis:

The approach cultivates a sense of trust and understanding, said Guy LaPenna, a 40-year-old veteran with a history of stealing and drug violations. The high-stress life of Navy duty aggravated problems he had before, but he said he left the service an angry alcoholic battling mental health issues.

Russell is "appreciative that we're working so hard," said LaPenna, a high-energy personal trainer. He is following the veterans court program to see a petit larceny charge dismissed, "but the real reward is getting my life back and functioning as a member of society, a productive member of society," he said.

Before I get lynched by vets, I want to say that I don't begrudge any service veteran getting some special treatment later in life; vets give a portion of their lives to their country, it's reasonable that they get some consideration in return.

But when the media begins slinging around words like "post-traumatic stress disorder" causing "anxiety and attention disorders" that are "linked to his wartime service" or "the high-stress life of Navy duty," I honestly expect better examples than four gut-churning years working below decks on an aircraft carrier which never came under attack (none of them have).

Rather than allow what could be a valuable program to be hijacked by anybody who has ever worn a uniform, no matter how far removed from the action or whether he even left the United States, I wish they would direct the benefits to those vets who actually fought and bled for America.

And I really, really wish the elite news media would stop trying to portray all veterans -- even those whose service was more or less indistinguishable from similar jobs in the private sector -- as ticking time bombs just waiting to explode. It's offensive and jarringly tendentious.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, July 6, 2008, at the time of 10:10 PM

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The following hissed in response by: Mr. Michael

Bah. Erase a thousand words and start over. Military Courts exist because the UCMJ is a different group of laws under which the members of the Military are held responsible. There is no excuse for 'Special Laws' in the public Justice system, whether it applies to the rich vs poor, black vs white, Veteran vs Civilian...unless you wish to set up a separate system of laws under which they are held responsible out in the public sphere.

This is a TERRIBLE path to go down... which OTHER groups should get this privilege? Which groups DON'T qualify, and on what grounds? With all due respect to our Veterans (which is a LOT...) this is a terrible plan.

The above hissed in response by: Mr. Michael [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 7, 2008 4:28 AM

The following hissed in response by: BarbaraS

It is a terrible plan just like so many of the democrats plans. If these people have mental problems they should be treated through veteran affairs. Congress has assigned funds for this. A civil judge has no experience in dealing with these problems. "done inapproriate things" betrays his leftist mentality and to make the military ashamed of what they were required to do in the name of war is outrageous.

BTW, in speaking of what other kinds of courts could be set up I read where the UK has 10 sharia courts that rule on divorce and inheritances. Even thou a woman gets a divorce through the laws of UK, according of Islam she cannot marry again until her husband divorces her through this court. One foot in the door.

Canada also has some of these courts. How long will it be before we have them also?

The above hissed in response by: BarbaraS [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 7, 2008 3:52 PM

The following hissed in response by: scrapiron

And the leader of this joke calls himself a judge and expects respect from the public. Someone tell him all respect for judges and the judicial system went away when liberal judges decided they could make the law.

The above hissed in response by: scrapiron [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 7, 2008 4:42 PM

The following hissed in response by: AMR

Another stupid PC piece of crap.

At sentencing a veteran with actual combat experience could be looked at differently if the crime could be showed as a reaction to the stress. But this is getting ridiculous as the false NYT story was about veterans being more inclined to murder attempted to show. I know quite a few combat veterans and not a one has a criminal history nor views his life’s problems as being related to combat. And several have had good reason, from their experiences, to be affected.

I served aboard missile launching subs during the height of the cold war. We had constant missile launch drills where we were not told they were drills until the “keys” were not turned. I was involved in an underwater collision where we thought we were going down and a missile explosion during a test launch. So should I get special treatment if I went on a rampage of violence? That would be BS and I would accept punishment rather than be embarrassed to rely on such a defense. Such a defense would impugn the character of all veterans in my mind; something I could never do. But, hey, I was raised to face the truth of your actions, not some PC drivel.

The above hissed in response by: AMR [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 9, 2008 6:11 AM

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