Suicide Letter from Iraq War Veteran Says He Was Made to Commit War Crimes

During my first deployment, I was made to participate in things, the enormity of which is hard to describe. War crimes, crimes against humanity. Though I did not participate willingly, and made what I thought was my best effort to stop these events, there are some things that a person simply can not come back from. I take some pride in that, actually, as to move on in life after being part of such a thing would be the mark of a sociopath in my mind. These things go far beyond what most are even aware of. To force me to do these things and then participate in the ensuing coverup is more than any government has the right to demand. Then, the same government has turned around and abandoned me. — Daniel Somers, whistleblower
By: Kevin Gosztola
Dissenter June 22, 2013
“The simple truth is this: During my first deployment, I was made to participate in things, the enormity of which is hard to describe. War crimes, crimes against humanity.” Those are the words of Daniel Somers, according to a letter posted at Gawker.
Daniel Somers, when he was on active duty

Daniel Somers, when he was on active duty

Somers served in Joint Special Operations Command in a unit in Mosul from 2006-2007. He ran the Northern Iraq Intelligence Center and was a senior analyst for Levant, which oversaw operations in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Israel and part of Turkey.

Prior to that, the short biography attached to the letter he wrote indicates he was a part of an intelligence unit called Task Force Lightning. The unit was a Tactical Human-Intelligence Team (THT) in Baghdad, Iraq. He was a “machine gunner in the turret of a Humvee” and “ran more than 400 combat missions.” He also “interviewed countless Iraqis ranging from concerned citizens to community leaders and and government officials, and interrogated dozens of insurgents and terrorist suspects.” Continue reading

‘I watch him bleed out’

Drone operator who helped kill 1,626 targets reveals trauma of watching them die on a computer screen

By Hayley Peterson, Daily Mail Online

A former drone operator who helped kill 1,626 targets says he’s haunted by the carnage he witnessed from behind his computer screen.

Brandon Bryant, 27, served as a drone operator from 2006 to 2011 at bases in Nevada, New Mexico and Iraq. It was a desk job of sorts, but unlike any other, it involved ordering unmanned aircraft to kill faraway targets while he watched.

In an interview with NBC News‘ foreign correspondent Richard Engel, Bryant recalled one operation where his team fired two missiles from a drone at three men in Afghanistan. 

He can’t forget seeing the carnage of the victims

‘The guy that was running forward, he’s missing his right leg,’ he said, recalling what he saw of the scene through the thermal images on his screen. ‘And I watch this guy bleed out and, I mean, the blood is hot.’

He recalled watching the mens’ bodies grow cold, as slowly the red color detecting the heat of their bodies grew smaller.

‘I can see every little pixel if I just close my eyes,’ he said. Continue reading

Suicides of US soldiers continue to grow

New York Times, October 11, 2010

Fort Hood (Texas): At 3:30 a.m. on a Saturday in August, Specialist Armando G. Aguilar Jr. found himself at the end of his short life. He was standing, drunk and weepy, in the parking lot of a Valero station outside Waco, Tex. He had jumped out of his moving pickup. There was a police officer talking to him in frantic tones. Specialist Aguilar held a pistol pointed at his head. 

 

This moment had been a long time coming, his family said. He had twice tried to commit suicide with pills since returning from a tough tour in Iraq a year earlier, where his job was to drive an armored vehicle to search for bombs.

Army doctors had put him on medications for depression, insomnia, nightmares and panic attacks. Specialist Aguilar was seeing an Army therapist every week. But he had been getting worse in the days before his death, his parents said, seeing shadowy figures that were not there, hallucinating that he heard loud noises outside his trailer home.

“He wanted help — he was out there asking for help,” said his father, Armando Aguilar Sr. “He just snapped. He couldn’t control what he was doing no more.”

Specialist Aguilar was one of 20 soldiers connected to Fort Hood who are believed to have committed suicide this year. The Army has confirmed 14 of those, and is completing the official investigations of six other soldiers who appear to have taken their own lives — four of them in one week in September. The deaths have made this the worst year at the sprawling fort since the military began keeping track in 2003.

The spate of suicides in Texas reflects a chilling reality: nearly 20 months after the Army began strengthening its suicide prevention program and working to remove the stigma attached to seeking psychological counseling, the suicide rate among active service members remains high and shows little sign of improvement. Through August, at least 125 active members of the Army had ended their own lives, exceeding the morbid pace of last year, when there were a record 162 suicides. Continue reading