Soldier Diagnosed With Mental Problems

The Associated Press
Tuesday, January 9, 2007; 3:51 PM

FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. -- An Army private charged with the slaughter of an Iraqi family was diagnosed as a homicidal threat by a military mental health team three months before the attack.

Pfc. Steven D. Green was found to have "homicidal ideations" after seeking help from an Army Combat Stress Team in Iraq on Dec. 21, 2005. Green said he was angry about the war, desperate to avenge the death of comrades and driven to kill Iraqi citizens, according to an investigation by The Associated Press.

The treatment was several small doses of Seroquel _ a drug to regulate his mood _ and a directive to get some sleep, according to medical records obtained by the AP. The next day, he returned to duty in the particularly violent stretch of desert in the southern Baghdad suburbs known as the "Triangle of Death."

No follow-up exams or further treatments were scheduled, records indicate. But Green had a conversation with his battalion commander one month after the examination in which he expressed hatred for all Iraqis.

On March 12, 2006, Iraqi police reported a break-in at the home of a family in Mahmoudiya, about 20 miles from Baghdad. The intruders shot and killed the father, mother and two young daughters. The older girl, 14-year-old Abeer Qassim al-Janabi, was raped and her body set afire.

The carnage first was assumed to be the work of insurgents. That changed in late June when two members of Green's unit told their superiors of suspicions that soldiers were involved in the killings. Now the Army believes Green and four other soldiers are responsible. One of them has confessed and provided information to prosecutors; in testimony at his court-martial, the soldier identified Green as the ringleader.

If the charges are true, the attack would be among the most horrific instances of criminal behavior by American troops in the nearly four-year-old war. It also would represent a worst-case scenario for the military's much-criticized practice of keeping mentally and emotionally unfit personnel in the killing fields of Iraq.

Col. Elspeth Cameron Ritchie, psychiatry consultant to the Army Surgeon General, would not specifically discuss Green when contacted by the AP. She did defend the military's policies regarding the treatment of emotionally or psychologically distressed soldiers.

"If unresponsive to treatment and/or a persistent danger to self or others, they will be evacuated," Ritchie said in an e-mail.

The 101st Airborne Division declined to comment on Green, saying it would be inappropriate to discuss an ongoing federal case. An Army spokesman at the Pentagon did not return calls.

The Army and the Marines, who have the most personnel on the ground in Iraq, have been faulted for the manner in which troops with mental and emotional difficulties are being treated.

Sending troops already in Iraq who have been diagnosed with mental illness back to combat duty _ often under medication that has not been prescribed long enough to have provided relief _ has been a particular criticism.

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