“Standards in Our Society Have Changed Over the Years”

Here’s an investigative series from the Sacramento Bee that might rate a Pulitzer nomination. The Bee spent a year researching the civilian and military records of U.S. service members, “focusing on those who entered the services since the Iraq war began and those linked to in-service problems.”

Here are some of the findings from Part 1 of the series (three more parts to follow this week): 

  • More than twice as many Army recruits were granted “moral conduct waivers” in 2007 as in 2003 (11.2% of recruits received the waivers last year as opposed to 4.6% in 2003). And the number of such waivers issued for Army recruits who had been arrested for or convicted of felonies “more than tripled, from 459 in 2003 to 1,620 in 2007.”
  • “The military is required to screen applicants for drug or alcohol abuse, mental health history and prior criminal conduct [but they] are not required to call former employers, research all information held by law enforcement agencies, check civil court files or, unless a security clearance is involved, attempt to contact relatives, former spouses, schoolteachers and neighbors – all techniques used by law enforcement agencies to screen applicants and by The Bee in its examination.”
  • The Iraq war is a significant part of the reason for the increased number of waivers issued — the military is stretched to the gills and is in constant and desperate need of fresh bodies.
  • Numerous military studies and reports warned that accepting recruits with criminal backgrounds was risky and dangerous for numerous reasons, but these warnings were ignored. 
One of the soldiers uncovered in the Bee‘s investigation who had a previously unrevealed criminal record is Army Spc. Mario L. Lozano Jr. He is the soldier who opened fire on a car in which an Italian journalist and her bodyguard were driving to the airport, killing the bodyguard (who was also an Italian intelligence agent) and wounding the journalist. That incident had consequences that went well beyond the shooting itself, tragic and unnecessary as that was:

The shooting of Nicola Calipari, an Italian intelligence agent, and journalist Giuliana Sgrena, whose freedom Calipari had helped secure, bolstered anti-war sentiment in Italy credited with helping elect a new government, which pulled its troops from Iraq in late 2006.

Though the shooting was the subject of hundreds of news accounts, including a “60 Minutes” segment, and described in two books, The Bee uncovered criminal records on Lozano not previously made public.

In 1994, a man who repossessed Lozano’s car told Hollywood, Fla., police that Lozano threatened him.

“My Rottweiler was barking,” Lozano explained in an interview. “I look out my window, and there’s a guy rolling the car back. So I came out. I grabbed a bat.”

Lozano joined the Army in 1998. Two years later, his wife dialed 911 and told Hollywood police that Lozano had hit her in the face with his open hand because she had been seeing another man.

“I’ve never done anything like that to any female,” Lozano countered. He left after the incident and was back at his military post in Alaska in a day, he said, because “I know that … even if she dials 911 and hangs up, the cops are going to come.”

A domestic violence conviction could have ended Lozano’s military career, but with Lozano in Alaska, records indicate, authorities had trouble pursuing the case. His wife subsequently filed for divorce.

In Alaska, Fairbanks police twice sought Lozano regarding threats to a man there, he was accused of writing bad checks, and eventually owed child support of more than $5,500, prompting a Florida court to take legal action.

Lozano left the active duty Army in 2001 but joined the National Guard in July 2003. Less than two years later, he was sitting atop a Humvee parked near a road leading to the Baghdad airport, manning an M-240B belt-fed machine gun that can fire 10 large-caliber rounds per second.

Lozano said he shone large lights on the vehicle carrying the Italians before firing, but Sgrena’s book, “Friendly Fire,” said the illumination and the shots came simultaneously.

An Italian court threw out the murder charge against Lozano, his attorney said, after realizing the United States is allowed to prosecute its own soldiers.

Lozano blamed the journalist for the shooting. “If it wasn’t for her, it wouldn’t have happened,” he said. “It was her idea to go over there and mingle with terrorists.”

Lozano said he left the Guard after commanders refused to let him deploy to Afghanistan.

“They got like 5,000 Italian soldiers over there,” he said. “They don’t want to create no kind of problems.”


One Response to ““Standards in Our Society Have Changed Over the Years””

  1. melanie aucello says:

    How ironic. Mario lozano is now a bouncer at a popular lounge named Traffic in NYC @ 52 n 2nd ave. He has a rep 4 violence there n has never been drug tested

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