Monday, March 19, 2012

The Afghan massacre: Well, what did you expect?

The story of Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, the solder from Joint Base Lewis-McChord who went on a killing spree in an Afghan village that left 16 people dead including 9 children, has been on my mind lately. He should and will be held responsible for his actions, but there's enough blame to go around. A Canadian blogger who goes by the nom de clavier "The Mound of Sound,"  published an article on Sunday, entitled "Afghan Murder Spree Blame Lies on Capitol Hill." Mr. Sound put into words a lot of what I was thinking. So, unless he objects and asks me to delete it, here is his article in full.

Following the recent killings of 16-Afghan civilians by a US Army sergeant, the critical details began rolling in.  Married man, father of two.  Ten year veteran.  Three tours in Iraq, one in Afghanistan.   Two previous head injuries sustained in combat.   Sent to Afghanistan against his will.   Tick, tick, tick.  

The soldier's name isn't important.   What matters is his profile.  He enlisted in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.  He wanted to defend his country.  He thought he'd do his bit.   What he didn't understand, what no one told him before he signed on, is that he'd be sent to war for a country that wouldn't stand behind him.

The U.S. government has shamelessly exploited those volunteers.   They were never enough for the job handed to them, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  More were needed but the supply of volunteers dried up.  So they had two choices.  Reinstate the draft or take the politically cowardly way out and simply keep recycling the existing volunteers, sending them back into war again and again and again.

Head injuries are a signature wound of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.   The concussive blast of an improvised explosive device can be more injurious and longer lasting than the shrapnel.  We're a lot better at patching up torn bodies than we are fixing pulped brains.   This sergeant in Afghanistan had been pulped, twice.   He thought his combat days were safely behind him.  He was promised as much.   And then he got his orders to Afghanistan.

Does this mean he's not responsible for killing those Afghan civilians?   No, a court will have to decide that on the medical evidence.   What it means is that there are others who are probably just as responsible, perhaps even more so.   This guy shouldn't have been sent back into combat.  His commanders shouldn't have been left so short-handed that they had to send him back.   Someone, at the very top, should have stood up for this guy and all the other walking wounded like him and at the very least resigned in protest.   And, above them, the political leadership is morally if not criminally liable for dodging the draft that, of itself, ensured this man was sent to Afghanistan.   And that indictment includes Congress and the White House.

You can read the original article at .

In case you don't think a Canadian has any business commenting on this topic, consider these facts: (a) Canadians are part of the coalition that's over there (or they were - 950 are still there); (b) I'm Canadian; and (c) I have a dog  two dogs three American dogs in this fight.

And (d) Mr. Sound isn't the first person, American or Canadian, to think these thoughts, or write them down.

And (e) while you may not agree with everything he says, you have to admit that he makes a lot of really good points.

UPDATE: You can read a follow-up news story, one that clearly aims to be sympathetic but ends up being very fair and even-handed, on Yahoo! News. I don't know how long that link will remain valid.

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