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Who Should Get the Dishonorable Discharge? December 2, 2007

Posted by Jim Satterfield in Does Not Compute, Politics, The War in Iraq.
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The Washington Post tells us about a truly tragic situation where a soldier in Iraq broke down, threatened fellow soldiers and then attempted suicide. The professional consensus is that she was truly insane at the time of the incident and should receive the treatment she needs. The Army’s response? Court-martial her. Threaten her. Bully her. This drove her to seek an alternative to court martial, offering to resign her commission even though this would result in the loss of her veteran’s benefits. Of three recommendations, the only one from a physician said that this shouldn’t happen because there was no doubt that she had

But…

But then, from her battalion commander in Iraq, Whiteside learned that an investigation there had concluded that there was “insufficient evidence for any criminal action to be taken against” her. Furthermore, it had found a hostile command climate and recommended that the officer who had been her nemesis be removed from his position and “given a letter of reprimand for gender bias in assignments and use of intimidation, manipulation and hostility towards soldiers.”

With this news, Whiteside asked that her letter of resignation be withdrawn. She would fight the charges.

In an e-mail exchange, the prosecutor, Wolfe, told MacLean that even if Whiteside won in court she would probably end up stigmatized and in a mental institution, just like John Hinckley, the man who shot President Ronald Reagan.

Wolfe suggested that the military court might not buy the mental illness defense. “Who doesn’t find psycho-babble unclear . . . how many people out there believe that insanity should never be a defense, that it is just, as he said, an ‘excuse.’ “

 What kind of incompetent physician do the Army personnel who want to prosecute her seek to override? The man who is now the Army’s surgeon general, Major General Eric B. Schoomaker.

To answer the question in the title I propose that the prosecutor and every single officer involved in deciding to bring this prosecution are the ones who deserve dishonorable discharges for failing in their duties to their fellow soldiers in the most callous and incompetent way possible. Failing that, some long and intense courses in the real world of psychiatric medicine before they are ever put near a situation like this one again is certainly called for.

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