What Happened Today at Camp Liberty in Iraq?

A shooting at Camp Liberty in Baghdad has military officials puzzled and concerned.

The United States military reported on Monday, May 11th 2009 that five American soldiers had been shot to death by a fellow American soldier. According to the military, the shooter opened fire on his fellow soldiers at Camp Liberty, which is one of the biggest American bases in Baghdad. The military also reported that the suspected shooter was in custody.
The shooting took place at around 2 p.m. local time in Baghdad. Camp Liberty is a massive and sprawling base located next to the Baghdad airport. The military did issue an official statement, though the names of the dead soldiers were being withheld pending the notification of their family, as is tradition.

The killings appeared to be the worst case of lethal non combat related casualties for the American forces in Iraq since the start of the invasion more than six years ago.

In the military statement released this morning in the United States, Colonel John Robinson, a spokesman for the military forces in Iraq, had this to say: “Anytime we lose one of our own, it affects us all.”
Major news network CNN, citing “un named officials”, said that at least three other soliders were wounded in the violent attack. According to CNN’s sources, the shooting took place at a base clinic for soldiers suffering from “war stress”.

In general, the killing of American troops by their fellow soldiers is a rare even, although it is not unheard of. The most recent Iraq incident of murder among the troops occured in September, when an American soldier was arrested following the alleged shooting of two American soldiers while they were on patrol at their base near Iskandariya. The military is concerned that this outbreak of violence is directly related to battle stress, an issue that is at the forefront of the argument against our military presence in Iraq. Not only does the military have to deal with a high suicide rate among their troops — now they must be concerned about homicide as well.

All three soldiers killed in the shooting in September were assigned to the Third Battalion, Seventh Infantry Regiment, Fourth Brigade Combat Team, Third Infantry Division of Fort Stewart, Ga. The alleged shooter is awaiting trial in America.

Back in late 2006, Staff Sgt. Alberto B. Martinez, a soldier serving with the New York National Guard, was charged in a military court with the offense of murdering two officers in an explosion at one of Saddam Hussein’s former palaces in Tikrit. The attack allegedly occured in June of 2005. Before that incident, we learned that Sgt. Hasan Akbar, of the miltary’s 101st Airborne Division, was sentenced to death for a grenade attack made on his comrades in March 2003 in Kuwait, at the very onset of the war in Iraq. It is unknown what any of these attacks were motivated by.

Sergeant Akbar, the airborne soldier who killed fellow soldiers with grenades, was convicted of premeditated murder and attempted premeditated murder after he threw handheld explosives into tents and then fired on soldiers, killing two officers and wounding as many as 14 other soliders at Camp Pennsylvania in Kuwait.

The death toll from Monday’s shooting was the highest for American personnel in a single attack since April 10 of 2009, when a suicide bomb delievered by a truck driver killed five American soldiers in a huge blast near a police headquarters in Mosul.

While it is true that combat violence has dropped sharply in Iraq in recent months, a series of major bombings by insurgents has raised questions about our troops’ security. All this is happening less than two months before American forces are scheduled to withdraw their combat forces from urban centers in Iraq.