As Congress struggles to understand the shocking report of a massive increase in suicides in the Army, they might want to study the case of Army Pvt. Adam Lieberman to see how some officers treat soldiers in mental distress. Lieberman was experiencing severe mental problems after a year in Iraq qith the Ist Battalion, 67 Armored Regiment — known as “the Death Dealers.” When he tried to kill himself, he wrote his suicide note on the wall in his room. The Army reportedly responded to the suicide attempt by charging him criminally and cut a deal with this mom. If she re-painted the wall, his charges would not include defacing of government property. After she painted the wall with the help of her handicapped sister, they charged him anyway with the crime.
When he attempted to end his life with pills, Lieberman painted the following words on the wall: “I FACED THE ENEMY AND LIVED! IT WAS THE DEATH DEALERS THAT TOOK MY LIFE!” They never told the mother, who finally reached her son in the hospital days later. She says that his battalion commander, Lt. Col. Lance Kohler, at Fort Carson, Kansas, told her that she would only be notified for sure if he had succeeded in the attempt. When she asked why he was not put into a mental health treatment area of the hospital, Kohler allegedly said that he was given legal assistance instead because they wanted to criminally charge him. She said that she was told that he faced a charge of petty larceny for breaking a candy machine, going AWOL to say goodbye to a friend, and defacing government property.
The mother then went to her son’s commander, Capt. Phelps. She says that Phelps told her that if she didn’t want her son charged on the defacing count, she could get paint and equipment from supply and re-paint the wall. She did the job, but says that they charged her son anyway with the offense.
Under this logic, if a soldier jumps from a window and splatters over a bench or crushes a car’s roof, they would be guilty of the same offense if they survive.
The military continues to enjoy immunity from tort lawsuits under the infamous Feres Doctrine. In the case of a private employers ignoring the signs of mental illness and self-medication that the mother has described, there would be a serious threat of liability. Ultimately, most suicide attempts are not treated as a matter for liability for an employer. However, Feres has been blamed for decades in producing a lack of response or concern in many cases.
For the Salon article, click here.
54 thoughts on “Cutting a Deal with the “Death Dealers”: Soldier Attempts Suicide So Army Charges Him Criminally and Has His Mother Paint His Suicide Note On His Bedroom Wall”
There does seem to be a disconnect in the military between acknowledging and appreciating ptsd on the battlefield and at home. Perhaps with this new generation the two will meld.
One instance: a reporter was forbidden to report on a mass grave found during the Kosovo war ~ Samuel Johnson was prescient!
“As well, I know reporters who have witnessed things they are not allowed to report.”
One wonders who gets to make that call and for what reasons.
“Among the calamities of war may be jointly numbered the diminution of the love of truth, by the falsehoods which interest dictates and credulity encourages.”
–Samuel Johnson (from The Idler, 1758)
I hear a very interesting report on battlemind. Many times I’ve heard PTSD described as mental weakness which is both insulting and inaccurate. If a person is unaffected by seeing horrific things on a battlefield or otherwise, that is of concern. Battlemind acknowledges that PTSD symptoms are actually excellent coping behaviors in dangerous, fluid situations. The key becomes turning the skills off when no longer needed, once one has returned to safer, saner conditions in one’s life.
Yes, I believe Jill is right – the cumulative affect for some reporters is part of the difficulty and witnessing trauma is included in the diagnosis. The U.S. Dept of Veterans affairs has done some work on it as well. They’re also doing some interesting work with ptsd and guided imagery.
The movie version, or myth, of the reporter is they are in control and unaffected. Aloof and selfish. They are not seen as helpless or as victims because they can actually do something about what they see – report it. However, journalists do not just bear witness, but oftentimes are part of the story. They are not stones. As well, I know reporters who have witnessed things they are not allowed to report. They’re a complicated bunch.
My understanding of PTSD has been that it included witnessing as well as actually going through an experience or culmulative experiences. Here’s what the military says:
“PTSD is an anxiety disorder caused by witnessing or experiencing a traumatic event;…” Doglover is correct about reporters/medics, civilians etc…everyone can be effected. Many reporters don’t come home the same as when they left. But I leave more details to doglover who made this important point in the first place!
Incredibly interesting perspective. I would like to know if there is any research about observational PTSD. DSM IV and NIMH define the disorder as having a component of threat against personal safety.I did not know it could be developed from empathetic experiences. Can you tell me more?
Reporters observe horrors like mass graves, mass killings, children shooting and children being killed. Reporters get kidnapped, shot at, blown up, and are witnesses to all sorts of atrocities. They do these things while not carrying a weapon. Historically, the networks have provided no support for the reporters or their crews. Not until the last(current) Iraq war did the networks begin providing some measure of instruction; the Networks trained them for chemical warfare pre-Rummy’s fast take-down of Saddam. PTSD? Not ever addressed. And it’s a problem.
Buddha -> Thank you!
Could you please elaborate?
The reporters who help inform us are also terribly neglected in this sad PTSD tale.
rofl . . . um . . . no. My dad is quite a character, but even he draws the line at nuns.
Sure. That works too. No sexism intended, I just liked the image. It carries a certain value load of “petulance”.
If I may, “angry bitchy little girl” is an incredibly sexist phrase. How about angry little “person” or a*hole or f*ker or….”?
No Blood for Hubris: The reporters who help inform us are also terribly neglected in this sad PTSD tale.
“They didn’t tell you in my day either. I only know mine because my dad was sleeping with one of my teachers and she showed me my file.”
Just to clarify, you didn’t go to Catholic school with rafflaw did you? Oh the horror!! Sorry, couldn’t resist.
“…my logical analysis *abilibility* is o.k.” & “stae solid geometry Regent’s…”
If you improved your spellin’ scores, you ‘dun’ far overtrumped me…
Welcome HftB, but this ain’t Mensa…
They didn’t tell you in my day either. I only know mine because my dad was sleeping with one of my teachers and she showed me my file.
I am impressed with the viciousness of your posting where you suggested people who supported the war in Iraq should kill themselves. Noone has been more against the war in Iraq and the people who fell prey to the fear tactics of the Bush regime, but I don’t want anyone dead! As to this business about how well you scored on IQ tests and the rest, I honestly can’t tell you what my score was/is because in my day the Nuns wouldn’t tell us. And that is probably one of the few things that the Nuns did that I agreed with. My first reaction is who gives a flying you-know-what. Secondly, in court, the facts and the argument that you bring is what matters, not your IQ or your grade point average. I think someone asked a famous trial attorney if he was the best lawyer in the world and his response was no, but that he was the best prepared.
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