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Soldier Killed Herself After Refusing to Participate in Torture

Following news that Iraq is prepared to compensate foreign victims of war-related trauma - while the U.S. prevents alleged torture victims from so much as filing lawsuits - the Nation's Greg Mitchell has written a moving series on Spc. Alyssa Peterson, a young soldier who committed suicide after refusing to participate in torture. Peterson died on September 15, 2003, one of the first female soldiers to die in Iraq. Her death from a "non-hostile weapons discharge" didn't raise suspicions at first, but an investigation by an Arizona journalist revealed that she hadn't been killed by an accidental shooting. The soldier, who had been in "suicide prevention training" had killed herself and left a message noting the irony of learning how to commit suicide in a suicide-prevention class. Peterson was assigned to the suicide prevention course shortly after arriving in Iraq, where she was appalled by the military's interrogation tactics. She asked to be transferred away from the interrogations after just two days and was "'reprimanded' for showing 'empathy' for the prisoners." No one knows exactly what drove Peterson to kill herself, but her brother says the things she was asked to do as an interrogator must have had something to do with it. "She was extremely sensitive and empathetic to others," he wrote. "I think she probably did kill herself over this." According to the official report on Peterson's death, "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."

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