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Bush's Iraq death toll


A crater is visible in the road near a destroyed U.S. Army Humvee after a suicide car bomb attack in Baghdad August 2, 2005. (Ceerwan Aziz/Reuters)

This just popped up on Reuters. The official body count for U.S. soldiers keeps on rising (who knows how many Iraqis), and there’s no end to the violence in sight. It’s laughable that they are trying to market the idea that enough Iraqi soldiers are trained to handle the chaos going on. At least 1,820 U.S. troops have died in Iraq since the beginning of the war.

Fourteen Marines were killed in a roadside bomb blast in western Iraq on Wednesday, the U.S. military said, in one of the single deadliest attacks against U.S. forces since the beginning of the war.

The bomb exploded near a Marine amphibious assault vehicle as it was traveling south of Haditha, a town on the Euphrates river about 200 km (120 miles) northwest of Baghdad. A civilian translator was also killed. One Marine was wounded. It is the second major deadly attack against Marines in the area in the past three days. On Monday, six Marines were killed in clashes with insurgents in Haditha, and a seventh was killed by a car bomb blast in Hit, southeast of the town.

The western Anbar province of Iraq is the heartland of the Sunni Arab-led insurgency and has been one of the deadliest regions for U.S. forces since they invaded in March 2003. The towns of Falluja and Ramadi are also in Anbar.

The report also notes that U.S. forces have launched two major offensives in the area in recent months to crush insurgents. It isn’t working, dude.

The problems are compounded by our government’s pressuring of the Iraqis to finalize its Constitution. The draft was just released, and they have not settled major issues such as religious role in government, ethnic enclaves and borders, and unbelievably, the rights of women. The draft gives equal rights to women only if they follow Sharia law, which would be winding the civil rights clock back to pre-Saddam times. Mission accomplished.

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He contacted Veterans Affairs for help with post-traumatic stress disorder since returning home.

And for some that return home, it doesn’t get any better. Soldier home from Iraq is arrested for slaying in Las Vegas.

When Matthew Sepi returned from Iraq a few months ago, he spoke to his family reluctantly of gunbattles and the “weird noises” children make when they die. He never told relatives whether he killed anyone during combat but said he recently had been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and had been placed on a waiting list for treatment.

To help shield his psyche from images of bodies, family members said, the 20-year-old soldier had adopted a simple technique: Just don’t think about it. But early Sunday morning, Army Spc. Sepi found himself thinking about killing in front of homicide detectives. They interrogated Sepi about a double shooting in a neighborhood near Las Vegas Boulevard and Sahara Avenue.

Based on Sepi’s version of events, a 1 a.m. walk to a 7-Eleven proved nearly as dangerous as his tour of duty in Iraq. According to an arrest report filed in Clark County District Court, Sepi told investigators he dressed in a black coat, tucked an assault rifle under his arm and left his apartment for a beer run. As the 120-pound Sepi journeyed on foot and passed through a dark alley, a man and woman confronted him and yelled for him to leave the alley, police said in the report.

Sepi said the man, identified by authorities as 26-year-old Kevin Ratcliff, produced an object that he thought to be a gun and opened fire. “(Sepi) explained that he had been trained in the military that in a situation in which he was ambushed, he was to engage the targets and retreat from the area,” police wrote in the report. “He felt that the situation in the alley was an ambush, and he reacted the way he had been trained.” Sepi recalled firing four shots. Sharon Jackson, 47, fell to the ground and died at the scene of multiple gunshot wounds, police said. Ratcliff was hit by gunfire and was taken to a hospital. He is expected to survive.


Lavena Johnson is shown in her 2004 Hazlewood Central High School graduation photo; Linda Johnson walks with her husband, John, left, as she is led with other family members to her daughter’s grave. (Andrew Cutraro/P-D)

Then you have the tragedy and mystery of LaVena L. Johnson — how did she die in Iraq? Her body’s loose teeth and head wound suggest foul play, according to her father, but that’s not what the Army told her family.

The family of Army Pfc. LaVena L. Johnson buried her on Thursday without knowing exactly how she died. Her father and sister fear that foul play may have been involved.

…Johnson died July 19 near Balad, Iraq. Wednesday, the day of her visitation, was her 20th birthday. She was the first female soldier from Missouri to die while serving in Iraq or Afghanistan. An Army representative had told her father, John Johnson, that she died of self-inflicted, noncombat injuries, but that it was not a suicide.

After the funeral, John Johnson said he now thinks his daughter’s death may have involved foul play, although he would not elaborate. He said a military source had told him the military was investigating her death as a “criminal investigation.” …George Heath, the Army public affairs officer at Fort Campbell, Ky., at first confirmed a report that Johnson had been shot in the head. Later Thursday, he said he could not confirm whether she had been shot. An employee of Austin A. Layne Renaissance Chapel in Jennings, which handled the funeral arrangements, said a wound on the left side of Johnson’s head appeared to be a bullet hole. The employee asked not to be identified.

There are five major causes of deaths that can be labeled “noncombat-related”: accident, illness, foul play, suicide or an act of God, such as lightning, according to the AP. The Johnsons will be waiting for an answer.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding