Janet's Conner

This Blog tell the Truth and will never not tell the Truth. Impeach Bush

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

ROVE vs. REALITY.........................................................................................................


It was the middle of a question-and-answer session yesterday after a speech defining President Bush's economic record tht Karl Rove let drop a phrase that told us everything.

Speaking at the American Enterprise Institute, Rove started talking about "game changers," a nice, wonky term to throw around at a leading conservtive think tank. The idea is that certain changes in policy can push the political debate in a new and---from the point of view of the game changer---more congenial direction. The phrase told us everything about what Bush's No. 1 guy had once hoped to accomplish---and everything about the fix he and the president are now in.

Rove's hope was that at the end of the Bush presidency, he and his boss would have so changed the rules of the policy and political game that all the pressures would be for lower taxes, less domestic spending, more market-friendly approaches to health care, and private accounts within Social Security.

There has indeed been a lot of game-changing going on, but Rove's remarks served to underscore that the game has, from his point of view, been changing in exactly the wrong way. At certain moments, he almost admitted as much.

Contrast Rove on offense in January before the Republican National Committee with yesterday's more defensive Rove. Rove spoke of the battle against terrorism and said this fall's election would turn on the contrast between "two parties that have fundamentally different views on national security."

In his speech yesterday, Rove shelved the world-historical perspective in favor of the staple issue of midterm politics, pleading with his audience to think kindly of the Bush economic record. He spoke at length about the mess the economy was in toward the end of Bill Clinton's term (though he did not mention Clinton's name), and how our economic problems were deepened by the consequences of the Sept. 11 attacks.

Bush's economic policies, particularly his tax cuts, helped cure what ailed us, Rove said bravely. They "have strengthened the economy, increased productivity and created new jobs."

That Rove needed to make this case in the first place tells you the trouble the administration faces. All the polls, which Rove played down but acknowledged reading avidly ("I love these polls," he said before dismissing the idea of poll-driven policies), show large majorities disapproving of Bush's handling of the economy.

There is also a rather widespread sense that the economy did very well under Clinton---better than under Bush---and it's doubtful that getting voters to think about the Clinton days will do Republicans much good in Novmber.

Most astonishingly, Rove tried to make the case that Bush's tax cuts actually left the rich paying more. Everyone knows that Bush cuts in levies on dividends, capital gains and inheritances overwhelmingly benefited the wealthy, but here was Rove playing class politics by arguing that the wealthy now pay A LARGER SHARE OF TOTAL INCOME TAXES than they did before Bush.

This is statistical flimflam, of course. It leaves out payroll taxes, which hit most Americans the hardest. And the wealthy are paying more of the total share on income taxes, even though their rates are much lower, because their share of national income has gone up. Rove's numbers actually prove the rich are getting richer. But the fact that Rove tried to sound like William Jennings Bryan is the surest indicator that the administration is worried about its image as protector of the privileged.

The real game changer is the very question of national security that Rove has used over and over as the killer issue against Democrats. In explaining Bush's poor standing, Rove kept going back to the war in Iraq. "They're just sour right now on the war. And that's the way it's going to be," Rove said of the voters. At another point, he acknowledged that the war created discontent in the land. "I think the war looms over everything," he said. Indeed.

Rove joked about being way "off message" in talking about the economy just hours before his president was to address the nation in immigration.

Rove needn't worry. The problem is not that Rove was off mesage but that the country has gone off Bush's message, and shows no sign of coming back. Everything Rove said yesterday shows that the smartest man at Bush's side knows it.

Source: Washington Post
By: E. J. Dionne Jr.
May 16, 2006
IRAQ: MENTALLY UNFIT, FORCED TO FIGHT---PART IV........................................

A SINGLE QUESTION

The mandate that troops receive a pre-deployment mental health evaluation grew out of the first Gulf War, when returning service members reported mysterious illnesses that military officers insisted were unrelated to combat. In response, Congress in 1997 ordered the Defense Department to obtain a clear picure of the baseline health of all troops deploying to war zones, including an "assessment of mental-health."

To many members of Congress, that meant a face-to-face encounter with a mental health expert, in part to ensure that troops would be adequately screened for mental illness and would not pose a risk to themselves or others.

Instead, the military's assessment consists of the single yes-or-no answer on a form filled out by deploying service members. "During the past year, have you sought counseling or care for your mental health?"

Defense officials rely on the slef-reported question, even as they acknowledge that the armed forces are beset by a strong aversion to discussing mental health issues. In 2003 and again in 2004, military researchers surveyed soldiers who showed signs of mental illness. Both years, more than half the soldiers said they would be seen as weak and that they would be treated differently if their commanders knew they were having mental health troubles.

"There's still that stigma attached in saying that you've needed to go get help," said retired Navy Cmdr. John S. Class, a deputy director at the Military Officers Association of America.

And that stigma helps explain why only 3% of troops were willing to acknowledge having sought mental health care.

"There's a fair amount of deception," said David Rudd, former chief of psychology service for the Darnall Community Hospital at Fort Hood in Texas. "People simply don't report mental halth problems if they're trying to get into the service.

Rudd said service members would have a harder time deceiving a clinician in a face-to-face interview, and he said a single question is not an adequate mental health screening method.

Col. Elspeth Ritchie, the psychiatric consultant to the Army surgeon general, readily acknowledged that the questionnaire developed by the military to comply with the 1997 law is "not very effective" in identifying troubled soldiers. She said the military relies on fellow soldiers and commanders to pick out colleagues who are mentally unfit.

"The most important things pre-deployment are for people to train and be prepared for combat together," she said. "This is a small medical piece of that...A pen-and-paper screen is seldom going to pick up something that isn't already apparent."

She said the screening was useful for "picking up those who are on medications, to make sure they have the medications that they need" while in Iraq.

Even as Ritchie downplayed the usefulness of pre-deployment screening, she also acknowledged it was an important tool in identifying combat-related mental problems affecting the growing numbers of troops serving second and third tours.

"The pre-deployment screen is going to be useful, because that's going to be a checklist, in that if someone has been on medication or sought counseling, then hey, let's look at this guy or girl a little more carefully to make sure they're going to be OK over there," she said.

Told of The Courant's findings that very few deploying troops receive a mental health evaluation, Ritchie said the questionnaire in not intended to be a barrier to deployment.

"We don't want to deter those who sought counseling from going over," she said.

Some suspect the military intentionally does a poor job screening, in order to deploy as many soldiers as possible.

"It's still a numbers game," said Gerry Mosley, a retired Army Reserve first sergeant with the 296 Transportation Company who said medical screeners showed little interest in soldiers' health when his unit deployed. "I don't think they really want to know what your mental condition is."

Mosley, who called pre-deployment screening "grossly inadequate," said service members with serious mental illnesses are put at great risk when they are sent to war.

"One of two things is going to happen," he said. "They're either going to get worse in-country, or they're going to get a hell of a lot worse when they come home."

But the Courant found that even among the small fraction of service members that indicate a mental health issue, only a handful receive a full "assessment of mental health" from the military.

Answering yes to the mental health question typically triggers an interview with a medical provider---but it isn't with a mental health specialist.

Instead, troops are often questioned by a physician's assistant or medical technicians, who more than 93% of the time, conclude on their own that the service members are mentally fit for deployment to a war zone, The Courant's review found.

Last week, the government Accountability Office reported that among soldiers who screened positive for possible PTSD on a post-deployment questionnaire, only 22% were referred for a mental health evaluation. That figure---which caused outrage among some in Congress---is still more than three times as high as the percentage of soldiers referred to a mental health professional after self-reporting on the pre-deployment form.

Overall, From March 2003 to October 2005, the military processed 935,797 troops facing deployment. Of those, 2,538 were referred for a mental health evaluation---less than 0.3%. That amounts to an average of 18 referrals per week worldwide.

Some troops have gone through the initial screening interview recounted being questioned briefly by a low-level medical provider.

"They didn't go into any depth. It was a few-minutes. 'Why'd you check this? How's it going?' type of thing," said Paul Scaglione, an Army mechanic from Michigan who answered "yes" on the questionnaire before his second deployment to Iraq in November 2004, because he had been treated for depression during his first deployment.

"They don't go like, 'Here's what you should do if you're having problems over there' or 'Are you feeling depressed now?' or anything," said Scaglione, 23. "I don't know if I'd really call it screening.'"

Army sergeant Thomas J. Sweet, 23, of Bismark, N.D., also answered "yes", to the mental health question, based on past diagnoses of attention-deficit disorder and generalized anxiety. But a physician's assistant ruled that Sweet was mentally fit for combat and that there was no need for a referral to a licensed mental health professional.

"How many hours of training does a mental health physician get, unless they're pursuing a specialty in psychiarty?" Sweet's mother, Elizabeth, asks. "Now how many hours in mental health training---in assessment---does a physician's assistant get? I think it's pretty negligible."

A month later, Sweet was sent to Iraq. And 2-1/2 months after that, following a confrontation with a superior, Sweet was found sprawled in a stairway, having shot himself in the head, an Army investigation concluded. It was Thanksgiving Day 2003.

"You have a form," Elizabeth Sweet says. "He honestly checked 'yes' and nothing happened."


TOUGH TALK, NO CHANGE

Year's before a physician's assistant declared Thomas Sweet mentally fit for war, experts hired by the military had warned that pre-deployment mental health screening was adequate. And 6 months before Sweet deployed, Defense Department officials were summoned to Capitol Hill, where skeptical members of Congress berated them over flaws in the pre-deployment process.

But despite the tough talk, nothing changed.

At a March 2003 hearing of the Subcommittee on National Security, Emerging Threats and International Relations, members of Congress, including the subcommittee chairman, U.S. Rep. Christopher Says, R-14th District, challenged the military's top health official on his interpretation of the law requiring a mental health assessment.

"Let me just tell you, from my standpoint, you're not meeting the letter of the law clearly, and I don't even think you're meeting the spirit of the law," Shays told William Winkenwerder Jr., assistant secretary of defense for health affairs. "So, I'd like to know where it says that the examination should be a self- assessment. Where in the law do you read self-assesment?"

Shays also said he had trouble seeing the diagnostic value of a question that simply asked depolying troops if they have sought mental health counseling. "If you said yes, maybe it's a good thing and maybe more of us should be doing it," Shays said. "And if you say no, maybe you should have. And so, I don't really know what it tells you.

"I don't know whether no or yes is the right answer."

Winkenwerder insisted that not only was the self-reported questionnaire acceptable, but it was actually superior to a hands-on examination, which he described as being "of very little value."

Even after a spike in suicides in 2003, military health leaders defended pre-deployment screening, saying a variety of personal issues---not pre-existing mental illness or the impact of combat---led soldiers in Iraq to kill themselves.

Col. Bruce Crow, an Army suicide prevention expert, told the military-run Armed Forces Press Service in 2004 that none of the soldiers who killed themselves in the war had a history of mental health treatment, and none exhibited warning signs.

Bailey and Sweet, who had pre-existing disorders, were among those soldiers.

A month after the March 2003 congressional hearing, the military issued a revised health assessment questionnaire for soldiers---but only for those returning from war. The new form still relied on self-reporting, but added questions designed to evaluate the soldiers' mental state, not simply whether they had or had not sought counseling.

But the military never changed the pre-deployment form or screening process. And Congress lost the momentum for change.

Class of the Military Officers Association of America, beleives that the Defense Department should at least expand the pre-deployment form, to include better diagnostic questions.

"If you changed the post-deployment questionnaire, then why didn't you make the same changes to the pre-deployment?" Class asked. "It would seem to me as if that would not be a hard thing to do."

Critics, including the GAO, say the military has been reluctant to offer clear and consistent quidelines on what medical and mental conditions ought to disqualify service members from being sent into battle.

Last year, for the first time, the Army identified broad medical conditions that could be incompatible with deployment to a war zone, including psychiatric conditions that might interfere with duty.

That still leaves broad discretion to commanders, and the GAO recommended more specific quidelines "so that in future deployments [the Defense Department] would not experience situations such as those that occured with members being deployed into Iraq who clearly had pre-existing conditions that should have prevented their deployment."

The Defense Department rejected the recommendation.

Some family members of soldiers with psychiatric problems say that regardless of military rules on deployment, their efforts to convince officials that a loved one should not be deployed have been ignored.

Dee Bartlett of San Marcos, Texas, who served seven years in the Army herself, said she had tried to warn her husband's commander that he was mentally unstable and should not be sent to Iraq in early 2003. Her husband, Chris, an 18-year veteran who was assigned to special forces, had been treated for a back injury and depresion and was taking painkillers and Xanax, she said.

"I sat down with his commanding officer about two weeks before they deployed and told him how bad Chris was, that he was just going up and down and using his pain meds to try to sleep," Dee Bartlett said. "I said, 'My concern is he's going to get himself killed or one of you guys killed.'"

Chris, 40, fell apart within weeks of arriving in Iraq and was evacuated to Germany, then back to the U.S. for psychiatric treatment, Dee said. She said he had been in and out of psychiatric hospitals ever since and has tried to kill himself three times. They are now divorced.


TOO MANY UNFIT SOLDIERS

Even within the military, some health professionals have been perplexed by the deployment decisions made by medical screeners. At a hospital in Heidelberg, Germany, Army Col. Holly Doyne began receiving e-mails soon after the war began from the staff of a field hospital in Kuwait, complaining about newly arrived troops who were not fit for duty. Among them: a woman on lithium and Zyprexa who had been released just three weeks earlier from a psychiatric hospital.

Before long, Doyne also encountered troops who were evacuated to her medical center, and who never should have been sent to the Middle East in the first place. Doyne and a medical provider in Kuwait drafted and distributed a pointed e-mail, saying medical screeners were not doing their jobs, and too many unfit soldiers were being sent to war.

Doyne thought her criticism has chastened the screeners, but in 2004, a fresh round of soldiers rotated into the war zone---with some of the same problems she had seen earlier in the war.

Doyne, who returned to Germany after a tour in Kuwait, said she is not currently involved in evaluating troops and could not comment on whether mental health screening had improved.

But deployment statistics from the Defense Department indicate growing pressure to send troops into combat, and suggest that screeners are now more likely to deploy troops with possible mental health probelms than they were at the start of the war.

In 2003 and 2004, for example, fewer than 40% of service members who were given a mental health referral were ultimately deployed. In 2005, deployments jumped to 50%.

Among troops who reported receiving mental health care, 84% were ultimately deployed in 2003 and 2004. Last year, the number climbed to 88%.

With no change in the pre-deployment form and no apparent improvement in screening, Elizabeth Sweet fears that soldiers with mental health issues are bing put in the same danger that led to her son, Thomas' death.

"If you aren't using the form any better than you did when you deployed my son, what makes anyone think they're doing it any better now?" she says. "And it's a piece of paper. It was useless."

Source: The Hartford Courant
Story By: Matthew Kauffman and Lisa Chedekel
May 15. s006



IRAQ: MENTALLY UNFIT, FORCED TO FIGHT---PART III.......................................


SLIPPING THROUGH THE SYSTEM

A Courant Investigation has found that less than 1% of deploying troops receive an evaluation from a mental health professional, even though the military admits that more than 9% have a serious psychological illness.


In the 17 months after their son, Eddie, announced he was heading off to fight the war on terror, Margaret and Edward Brabazon of Bensalem, Pa., had held their breath.

They were accustomed to holding their breath with the boy they had taken in as a foster child at age 3 and adopted at 12---the boy who had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and attention-deficit disorder by the time he was 10, and who had spent his early teenage years in a psychiatric hospital and group homes for the emotionally disturbed.

Thy watched with bewildered pride as the young man they had affectionately nicknamed "Crazy Eddie" was handed a uniform and a M-4 rifle and accepted into an elite fraternity---the 505th Parachute Infrantry Regiment based at Fort Bragg in North Carolina. Although Margaret protested, the 18-year-old soldier also had informed his parents that he had stopped taking his psychotropic medications because he "wanted to be like everyone else," Margaret recalled.

"We were surprised they took him, with the kind of mental problems he had, but we figured the Army must know what they are doing," Margaret said. "We didn't think they'd send him into combat."

Today, the Brabazons regret those assumptions.

On March 9, 2004, less than three months into his second deployment to the Middle East, Spec. Edward W. Brabazon shot himself in the head with his rifle at a palace compound in Baghdad, the Army has concluded. He was 20.

The Brabazons say they have trouble making sense of the Army's investigation into his death, which notes his psychiatric past.

"They talked about how he had a history of mental problems," Margaret said. "I said, 'No kidding. If you knew he had mental problems, then why was he there?'"

Eddie Brabazon was there because the U.S. military has knowingly sent mentally ill troops to Iraq---in conflict with its own regulations---and turned a blind eye to the mental fitness of thousands of other service members, a Courant investigation has found.

Despite a congressional mandate to assess the mental health of every soldier sent to a combat zone, interviews and Defense Department records obtained by The Courant reveal a fractured pre-deployment screening process in which less than 1% of deploying soldiers ever see a mental health professional. It is a practice that has put unfit service members in harm's way, increasing the risk for suicide and post-traumtic stress disorder.

The military's own studies suggest that as many as one in 11 troops is suffering from a major depressive disorder, anxiety disorder or PTSD that subtantially impairs their ability to function at the time they are deployed to war. But military screeners have arranged mental health evluations for fewer than 1 in 300 deploying troops, according to a Courant analysis of screening data for more than 930,000 troops processed from March 2003 through October 2005.

And some troops have been sent to war in violation of military regulations, which bar the deployment of troops with mental disorders that can interfere with their duties.

In addition, despite the military's promises to pay closer attention to the mental health of service members following a spate of suicides in 2003, the data indicate that the soldiers who report psychological issues are more likely to be deployed now than at the start of the war.

Overall, soldiers who screened positive for mental health problems were deemed fit for war 85% of the time, according to the data. Those deployment decisions were made with more than 93% of troops who screened positive never receiving a referral for a mental health evaluation.

With the military scrambling to find enough combat troops, some soldier advocates say the reason for the inadequate mental health screening is evident.

"Command pressure to deploy their people has kind of swept away any efforts that might have been made to improve screening," said Kathleen Gilbred, who counsels service members in San Diego and serves as co-chairwoman of the Military Law Task Force of the National Lawyers Guild.

For some, that pressure has proved fatal. The Courant's analysis of confirmed and likely suicides cases among U.S. troops in 2005 shows that at least 7, or about one-third, of the soldiers who killed themselves in Iraq did so within 3 months of being deemed mentally fit and sent into combat. Suicide experts say the vast majority of those who take their own lives are suffering from depression or bipolar disorder at the time, and say it is doubtful soldiers would spontaneously develop a serious mental illness so quickly after their deployment.

The pre-deployment screening misses so many troubled troops in part because it relies entirely on self-reporting in the form of a single question on a written form that asks service members whether they have received mental health care in the past year---a disclosure the military kn0ws its members are unlikely to make.

The reluctance is borne out by Defense Department records obtained by The Courant. In the first 32 months of war, just 3% of deploying troops disclosed that they had sought care or counseling for their mental health in the past year. The small percentage captured through self-reporting is far lower than the more than 20% of deploying troops who were found to have mental disorders---9.3% of them considered serious---in a 2004 study by military doctors.

The 3% figure "sounds like a ridiculously low number," said Paul Rieckhoff, a former platoon leader in Iraq and executive director of Iraq and Afghanastan Veterans of America.

And when troops don't disclose, the military doesn't dig deeper.

Defense Department records show that those who conceal past mental health care are almost never questioned about their mental fitness. Since the war began, service members who checked the 'no' box on the mental health question had less than a 1 in 1,000 chance of being referred for a mental health evaluation.

But there are deeper flaws. While many soldiers with mental illness opt to stay in the shadows, others, like Army Staff Sgt. Nathan Bailey of Nashville, had made no secret of their psychiatric problems before the military handed them the guns they used to kill themselves.

Bailey took powerful anti-psychotic medication and most of the time, it was enough to keep him mentally even.

But not always.

In 2002, Bailey's sister and mother found him in a panicked sweat in his apartment, darting from place to place, telling his relatives that they were in danger, that they were being tracked through their cellphone signals. Doctors at a veterans hospital in Nasville eventually put him in a locked psychiatric ward for several days.

So a year later, When Bailey's unit was preparing to deploy in support of the Iraq war, his sister, Robbie Snapp, urged military leaders to leave him behind. But his commanders had other plans.

"The only thing they could tell him," Snapp said, `was that as long as you're on your medicine, you'll be OK.'"

He wasn't.

Seven months into his tour, military records show, Bailey placed the muzzle of his rifle under his chin, stretched one hand over the barrel of the weapon, and squeezed the trigger.

A military investigation into Bailey's death confirmed his long history of mental illness, and revealed the Army was aware that Bailey had attempted suicide once before, Snapp said.

"If that really happened," Snapp wonders, 'then why would you sent someone to war that has tried something like this?'"


DISQUALIFYING DISORDERS

Bailey, Brabazon and other mentally ill soldiers were sent to war despite Army regulations designed to keep troubled service members away from the front lines.

The military has acknowledged that certain mental disorders are not compatible with service, and recruiting standards for all of the armed forces identify a number of disqualifying disorders, including a history of suicidal behavior, schizophrenia or post-traumatic stress disorder, as well as current treatment for bipolar disorder or major depression. The standards for deployment to combat zones are even broader, barring soldiers with "any disorder that has the potential to prevent performance of duty, even controlled by medication."

That leaves Patricia Powers of Skiatook, Okla., at a loss to explain how her 20-year-old son, Joshua, was on his way to Iraq barely six months after he enlisted with the Army.

"He did have Asperger's, which is a form of autism, and I just couldn't beleive that the Army took him in. I just couldn't beleive that," Powers said.

People with Asperger syndrome tend to be highly intelligent, but have trouble processing social cues, and are often, as Joshua was, quiet loners who have difficulty building relationships.

But Asperger's wasn't Joshua's only neurological issue. Powers said she read through the medical records of her son's frequent visit to a base doctor, "every one mentioned something about severe depression. Everytime he went in, they marked that."

Less than twow eeks after arriving in Iraq, Joshua helped find a large cache of weapons, and his mother said he sounded proud and happy in a telephone call.

But a week later---on Feb. 24 of this year---Pvt. Joshua Powers left his barracks after midnight and walked toward the latrine. When fellow soldiers found him, he was dead of a gunshot wound to the head.

At a war service memorial in Iraq, Joshua's commander, Capt. Vaughn D. Strong, Jr., told his troops that Joshua's death was a reminder of the importance of looking after each other.

"We must look for the indiators and signs of struggle within our ranks," Strong said, "so we can be there to help our comrades fight through their tough times...so that we can all make it home alive and safe."

Patricia Powers fears her son was a victim of a severely strained Army fighting an unpopular war.

"They have an issue with trying to get people to sign up and join," she said. "And I think in that case, they're going to take whoever they can get, and they're going to keep them if they can."

Since the war began, the military has repeatedly lowered its recruitment standards---or granted waivers of those standards---in the areas of obesity, education and criminal background. With pressure on recruiters to meet monthly goals, military advocates say screening for troops going to war is especially important as a safeguard against recruiting lapses.

In Bensalem, Pa., Eddie Brabazon was eager to sign up, so on his 18th birthday, he left the group home where he was living and headed straight for a recruiting office.

It wasn't a surprise to his parents---Eddie had always pretended to be GI Joe---but they weren't sure he had the emotional well-being to survive in the military.

From the time Eddie became their foster child at 3, the Brabazons worked to control his hyperactivity and deal with his short attention span.

By age 5, Eddie would fly into a rage each day at precisely 4 p.m.---an outburst that can only be contolled by a ritual in which Margaret would lift him up and plant him on top of the refrigerator, where he would calmly talk about what was bothering him.

In kindergarten, Margaret recalls, "They were glad when he didn't come to school, when he was sick or something."

By sixth grade, he was attending an alternative school, where he was an average student, the Brabazons said. Despite his strong build, he never excelled into athletics; in team sports, coaches would often find Eddie zoned out in the field, unable to concentrate on the game at hand.

Over the years, Eddie had taken lithium for bipolar disorder, the anti-psychotic drug Zyprexa and other pshchotropic drugs. But shortly after graduating from an alternative school for students needing education and emotional support, he headed to Fort Bragg for basic trining.

In Afghanastan and Iraq, Brabazon had gotten in trouble for mouthing off at superiors, and two weeks before his death, he was punished again after his weapon accidentally discharged.

While assigned to clean trash out of a Humvee, he told a sergeant how much he hated messing up. "When I let you down, I feel like going to a Porta-john and blowing my...brains out," Brabazon said, according to a military investigative report.

The sergeant told investigators he talked to Brabazon for two hours until he was satisfied he was not going to kill himslef.

Days later, the same sergeant became concerned that Brabazon was suicidal when he took his rifle with him to the portable toilets and stayed there for 45 minutes.

"No, sergeant, it's not like that. "It's not like that," Brabazon told the sergeant, explaining that he just needed a peaceful place to think.

But on March 9, 2004, after returning from a night mission, Brabazon made a disparaging remark about a superior officer and was told that he---and his entire platoon---would be punished as a result.

Ninety minutes later, in the pre-dawn darkness, Brabazon's roommates heard a powerfulblast. Turning on the lights, they found Brabazon face down on the floor, lying on top of his rifle, a gunshot wound running from below his left jaw out the top of his skull.

The Brabazons find it hard to beleive that Eddie would kill himself. But they equally perplexed thta the Army would send him to Iraq at all.

"Didn't they look at his records?" Margaret Brabazon asks. "I mean, if you're flat-ffoted, you don't go in. So isn't there a clause in there if you had mental problems?"

The family of Army Spec. Michael S. Deem also questions the Army's decision to send the 35-year-old father of two to war.

When Deem transferred from Texas to Fort Stewart in Georgia in 2004 to be closer to his 7-year-old daughter from a previous marriage, he knew he was transferring to a unit that was facing deployment to Iraq, his wife, Lynn Deem, said.

Deem accepted the consequences of his decision, but after his Georgia unit was called up, his lomgstanding depression and anxiety deepened, Lynn Deem said.

In the weeks before deploying, Deem saw a military psychiatrist to help him in handling his heightened stress, his wife said. She said the doctor gave him "multiple drugs," including "a year's supply of Prozac."

There was no decision of his not deploying.

"The way he portrayed it," she recalled, "it was not negotiable."

The year's supply of antidepressants would be wasted. Less than a montha fter arriving in Iraq, Deem, an information systems operator in the SPecial Troops Battalion of the 3rd Infantry Division, was found dead in his bunk at Camp Liberty in Baghdad.

The Armt determined that he died of an enlarged heart "complicated by elevated levels" of Prozac---the very drug that was supposed to help him through his tour.

Saying the Prozac alone did not kill him and that there was no indication of suicide, the Army has classified Deem's cause of death as "natural." But months after the military has closed its investigation, Deem's family still wrestles with questions.

"To know that he's got a history of anxiety and depression and to load him up on pills and send him to a war zone---how could they do that?" asks his aunt, Mary Ann Warner, of Lakeland, Fla.

"Michael is someone who was sent with them knowing he had some mental health issues," said Lynn Deem. "There's no way they can say they didn't know."

Patricia Powers said she is now left with searing grief, and gnawin questions about how and why her son died. She's heard talk of a sniper targeting Joshua's base camp. But there are also indications that Joshua was having trouble coping soon after he arrived in the war zone.

*This is the end of PART III. Watch for PART IV.

Source: The Hartford Courant
By: Matthew Kauffman and Lisa Chedekel
May 15, 2006