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Alcohol and soldiers don’t mix in Iraq

March 22nd, 2007

American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan have reverted to alcohol and drugs as a way to deal with the stress of being in a combat zone.

Alcohol- and drug-related charges were involved in 240 of the 665 Army criminal prosecutions of soldiers. These 240 cases resulted in convictions, according to records obtained by The New York Times through a Freedom of Information Act request.

Seventy-three out of the 240 cases involve very serious crimes, such as murder, rape, armed robbery and assault.

According to The New York Times, liquor can be purchased from Iraqi Army soldiers or civilian contractors working on American bases. Iraqi soldiers have also sold locally produced prescription drugs to the American soldiers, making a good profit.

An Ohio Army soldier, who goes by the nickname of Chet, and wanted to remain anonymous, said that he was aware of the illegal usage of alcohol on the base in Baghdad.

“I experienced certain individuals drinking on the base. They obtained alcohol from so-called civilian federal employees. There was a so-called place on the base to get alcohol, which was kept secret.”

This soldier said that he was not aware that terrible crimes, such as murder and rape, were being committed.

He did acknowledge, however, that he was aware that lower-enlisted soldiers had been caught under the influence.

“Some soldiers were suspended from duty for possession and/or under the influence of alcohol.” Soldiers would go out on a mission, after drinking, and be sent right back to the base. It was not safe for them or anyone else, while under the influence.

Chet said that he found that only lower-enlisted soldiers were being careless by drinking. He never drank any alcohol, because he wanted to be prepared for anything that might happen.

Heavier drinking is found more in the Army and Marine Corps. Those are the forces that are doing most of the fighting. According to defense lawyers and military doctors, more than 90 percent of sex crimes involve alcohol abuse.

In March 2006, a group of 101st Airborne Division soldiers raped a 14-year-old Iraqi girl in Mahmudiya. They then killed her and her family, after consuming many bottles of whiskey that the Iraqi Army soldiers supplied.

Two of the soldiers charged in this case have pleaded guilty to murder, and another soldier involved, labeled as the ringleader, Steven D. Green, is awaiting trial for rape and murder. A lot of the alcohol abuse with the soldiers is due to high level of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Many troops from Iraq and Afghanistan are coming home depressed and with mental issues. Suicide is also prevalent with active-duty servicemen. Soldiers, who are drinking and using drugs, hinder their unit’s combat and support missions.

Mindy Peden, assistant professor of political science at John Carroll University, said, “There is a long history in warfare of rape and pillage. We know red light districts pop up around military bases.”

According to The New York Times, it recommends that service members “reject binge drinking because it detracts from the things they care about: family, friends, dating, sex, money and reputation.”