For almost five years, I have been chronicling the shocking number of suicides among U.S. troops in Iraq - and after they come home (it's a major component of my new book). They now number well over 1000, and a new one has come to light this past week. Or perhaps it was murder.
No matter, it can be said, as in the countless other cases, that he was "killed by Iraq."
Sgt. James Musack, 23, who hailed from Riverside, Iowa, died on Nov. 21, 2006, north of Baghdad. In an investigation completed in December 2007 -- but only received by family members last week -- the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command determined Musack died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Oddly, he was due to finish his tour one week later.
The Cedar Rapids Gazette reported, "Musack's body was found in a secluded area used to make phone calls and as a bathroom at Patrol Base South, according to the report. Musack was found lying on his right side, his left arm cradling his M4 Carbine gun, a single bullet wound to his head. There were no defensive wounds on Musack and no signs of foul play, the report said. No suicide note was found.
"Several soldiers interviewed under oath during the investigation said they knew of no reason Musack would kill himself. He had no medical, financial or personal problems they were aware of. Some described him as a quiet person who held in his feelings. When asked what he thought happened, the sergeant told investigators: 'Honestly, I have no idea. Nothing he did was out of the norm.'"
Musack's friends and family say he had become upset by an incident he never fully described, beyond saying he had made someone angry. According to the report, his girlfriend, Melissa Martin, said he called her in mid-October and said, "Honey, I am being set up." At Musack's funeral, Martin said he had made her make a promise. that "if he did not come home, we would all keep doing what we were doing."
According to the report, Musack's aunt, DeeAnna Newlin, said he had said he saw a little girl killed. Family members are exploring options to get the Army to reopen the investigation.
Also this week -- as happens all the time -- the military started investigating the "nonhostile" death of a National Guard sergeant from Gulfport, Miss. found dead in Iraq last week.
Candice Brown, widow of Sgt. Lerando Brown Jr., 27, said she was told her husband died in Balad, Iraq, on Friday of a gunshot wound to his chest, and knows no other information about his death. The Defense Department listed the soldier's death as non-hostile and that the circumstances surrounding his death are under investigation.
Greg Mitchell's new book is So Wrong for So Long: How the Press, the Pundit -- and the President -- Failed on Iraq. It has been hailed by our own Arianna, Bill Moyers, Glenn Greenwald, and many others.