Former U.S. soldier Steven Dale Green received life in jail on Friday for raping and murdering 14 year old Abeer al-Janabi, as well as murdering her mother, father and six year old sister in Baghdad.
According to Al-Jazeera, Green led a group of U.S. soldiers who planned the attack over a game of cards and whiskey. Three soldiers were given life sentences with eligibility for parole in 10 years, and a fourth soldier who kept watch while the others attacked received a 27 month long jail sentence.
While Green apologized to the al-Janabi family in May, his defense attorneys claimed that military leaders had ignored his complaints about emotional stress. Green added, “You can act like I’m a sociopath. You can act like I’m a sex offender or whatever. If I had not joined the Army, if I had not gone to Iraq, I would not have got caught up in anything.”
Incidentally, by the time charges were pressed in June 2006, a month after the rape and murders, Green had been honorably discharged with a personality disorder and returned to the U.S. He was therefore tried as a civilian, not as a soldier. He is the first person to be charged under the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act, passed in 2000, which allows former members of the military to be tried for crimes committed overseas.
This story raises the issue of mental health services for soldiers. There is no excuse for rape, no matter the stress level, but if soldiers were to receive better access to care, perhaps less disturbing behavior such as that of Green and the other four soldiers would occur. The New York Times recently reported that soldiers will soon be required to receive training in “emotional resiliency” by emphasizing cognitive behavioral therapy to combat the high rates of post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and suicide that soldiers face.
More focus on soldiers’ emotional health is imperative also for the sake of the innocent people in Iraq and Afghanistan. While Abeer al-Janabi’s rape and murder made headlines, there are undoubtedly countless other victims who have remained silent and without justice.