Healing is painful.
Coming out from under the shadow cast by the past 8 years (and the even larger shadow cast by the long ascendency of the rabid religious right) is going to take time. A long, painful, and ultimately freeing process in which the stories that emerge, both large and small, are heartbreaking and infuriating.
Here’s one – the story of Alyssa Peterson – a brave US soldier who refused to participate in the torture of prisoners in Iraq, early on – and killed herself soon after. This was in September 2003. She was the first female soldier “killed” in Iraq – and the circumstances (and meaning) of her death were (of course) hushed up. Kevin Elston – an Arizona radio and newspaper reporter pursued the story doggedly (thank goodness). Here’s what was found and reported on the Flagstaff public radio station, KNAU, where Elston worked:
“Peterson objected to the interrogation techniques used on prisoners. She refused to participate after only two nights working in the unit known as the cage. Army spokespersons for her unit have refused to describe the interrogation techniques Alyssa objected to. They say all records of those techniques have now been destroyed.”
The official probe of her death would later note that earlier she had been “reprimanded” for showing “empathy” for the prisoners. One of the most moving parts of the report, in fact, is this: “She said that she did not know how to be two people; she … could not be one person in the cage and another outside the wire.”
She was then assigned to the base gate, where she monitored Iraqi guards, and sent to suicide prevention training. “But on the night of September 15th, 2003, Army investigators concluded she shot and killed herself with her service rifle,” the documents disclose.
The official report revealed that a notebook she had written in was found next to her body, but blacked out its contents.
The Army talked to some of Peterson’s colleagues. Asked to summarize their comments, Elston told me: “The reactions to the suicide were that she was having a difficult time separating her personal feelings from her professional duties. That was the consistent point in the testimonies, that she objected to the interrogation techniques, without describing what those techniques were.”
Elston said that the documents also refer to a suicide note found on her body, which suggested that she found it ironic that suicide prevention training had taught her how to commit suicide. He filed another FOIA request for a copy of the actual note. It did not emerge.
Peterson, a devout Mormon, had graduated from Flagstaff High School and earned a psychology degree from Northern Arizona University on a military scholarship. She was trained in interrogation techniques at Fort Huachuca in Arizona, and was sent to the Middle East in 2003.
Faced with stories like these – how does Dick sleep at night? You have to wonder. Were he to ever stop defending his legacy and let reality seep in, he would likely be unable to carry on. Repression, denial, delusion … reaction formation … whatever you call it the guy is clearly ill. But being ill doesn’t mitigate the fact that he’s damn nasty, too. Careful – he bites!
Must move on this morning. But first – a reminder – that the Breakers play the Red Stars in Chicago tonight. The game will be available for viewing via webcast at the Red Stars site. Tue in – 8:30 PM ET (and GO BREAKERS)! Danielle Slaton will be doing the analysis. (Sure miss her as a player – she was amazing to watch, prior to her injury.)