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Anatomy of a Massacre
March 31, 2012 8:12 PM   Subscribe

On March 11 United States Army Staff Sergeant Robert Bales allegedly murdered 17 Afghan civilians. A reporter from Australia's SBS is the first journalist to interview survivors of the deadly Kandahar massacre.(via)
posted by AElfwine Evenstar (66 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 

Yalda Hakim of Australia's SBS on Youtube

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UfhCUhw16vg
posted by Israel Tucker at 8:32 PM on March 31, 2012


Special Ops are special for a reason. This attack was carried out by Special Forces. Plural.

Bales, is the bale-out.

Declare World Peace.
posted by Israel Tucker at 8:34 PM on March 31, 2012


If some "special ops" had been involved, there would have been some evidence of the presence of militants, which there is not. Despite the reputation of special forces as snake eating monsters, they don't actually gun down houses full of women and children in sleeping villages.

The village in question was less than 1 km from the base where Bales was posted at. This was not a helicopter-inserted night raid on a mountain village near Gardez, this was a farm village in the flat land around Kandahar.
posted by thewalrus at 8:42 PM on March 31, 2012 [4 favorites]


This attack was carried out by Special Forces.

Who wanted to kill a bunch of civilians...why?
Who left one of their own to get caught...why?
Whose actions are being covered up by the US government...why?

Somebody is being 'special' here, that's for sure.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 8:51 PM on March 31, 2012 [11 favorites]


There's no reason for special ops to have done this. If this was an official military action, there wouldn't be any need for a coverup, and certainly no need for a fall guy. It would have been no different from any other military raid
posted by delmoi at 9:04 PM on March 31, 2012


I don't know why it is so hard for people to believe that one guy did this. Dunno why anyone's surprised either. There are a lot of parallels between the pressures soldiers faced in Vietnam and Afghanistan. Long, repeated deployments, utterly different culture (down to the population looking different than you), paranoia when around the population due to enemy effectively integrated in with the civilian population, paranoia when not around the population due to makeshift traps, attempts made to befriend or understand the local population largely unsuccessful . . . Which is not to say these things are specifically the soldiers' faults or the Afghanis faults, but the mishandling of the human side of this conflict has really "Othered" the Afghanis to the soldiers and the soldiers to the Afghanis.

The result of this shit in Vietnam was total psychological breakdown and My Lai & Co. Now, we get this. I hope to God that this guy gets the book thrown at him though, because what with the Qu'ran burnings and the pissing on bodies and whatnot if he's perceived as getting off light it will be the utter end of whatever hope is left for the US in Afghanistan.
posted by schroedinger at 9:05 PM on March 31, 2012 [2 favorites]


Some of the people who think more than one guy did this are the people who were in the villages when they were attacked. I'm sure it's very disorienting and confusing to be attacked by a gunman in the middle of the night and watch your family members be killed, but the villagers seem to be saying that he had operational support, at least.

It does not seem unreasonable to me to take eyewitness reports into evidence.
posted by misfish at 9:26 PM on March 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh, I was writing that assuming by "multiple guys" they meant "Special Ops team". My mistake! No, it does not seem crazy to suggest multiple soldiers did this, especially after watching the interviews with those kids, they said they saw someone holding up lights to illuminate the houses while the shooter went in.
posted by schroedinger at 9:32 PM on March 31, 2012


fwiw eyewitness evidence is often the most unreliable evidence. Not because of any duplicity on the eye witnesses' account, but because memory (especially memory in high stressful times) is not partially reliable.

I am not really taking a position on whether or not it was an individual, or multiple assailants, but that there can be reasons for discrepancy in what people remember. Should it be listened to and investigated, absolutely. But it is not unreasonable to assume it was an individual either.
posted by edgeways at 9:52 PM on March 31, 2012 [4 favorites]


I don't know why it is so hard for people to believe that one guy did this.
Because that's far, far scarier than believing in a massive conspiracy. These same people don't want to believe that 19 dudes could crash 4 airliners, including one into the Pentagon and two into the World Trade Center. That's some scary shit, right? It's much easier to believe that this sort of thing isn't random, that it's planned at the highest level, and that regular folks like me and you are safe, isn't it?
posted by MrMoonPie at 10:02 PM on March 31, 2012 [3 favorites]


Did they get ballistics from the bullets? It seems like if there had been a whole team, 15 people, they could have wiped out the entire village.
posted by delmoi at 10:03 PM on March 31, 2012


I take your point, edgeways, and I was not being facetious when I said it must have been disorienting and confusing.

It sounds like forensic evidence that might support or contradict the eyewitness accounts was not collected. It also seems unwise and unfair that Bales is facing trial in the US for this, and not in Afghanistan.
posted by misfish at 10:25 PM on March 31, 2012


It's certainly not unfair to Bales. You heard his defense lawyer - there's no evidence for his prosecution!
posted by Joe in Australia at 10:31 PM on March 31, 2012


Because he'd totally get a fair trial in Afghanistan.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 10:32 PM on March 31, 2012


It is unfair to Bales if he is not convicted of cold-bloodedly murdering people, assuming that's what he did.

But I was thinking that it is particularly unfair to the people of Afghanistan to be so cut out of the prosecution of a murder that happened in their country, to their people.
posted by misfish at 10:38 PM on March 31, 2012 [15 favorites]


it will be the utter end of whatever hope is left for the US in Afghanistan

Is there still any hope for any sort of positive outcome, from the US perspective? The only hope I can see is that the Afghans hope the Americans will leave soon, and the Americans hope they'll get to go home without being killed or maimed.

It is so much like Vietnam that it boggles the mind. My hope is that the casualties during this window dressing / political cover for withdrawal phase of the conflict will be as limited as possible. Because they are completely pointless.
posted by Meatbomb at 10:47 PM on March 31, 2012 [3 favorites]


it is particularly unfair to the people of Afghanistan to be so cut out of the prosecution of a murder that happened in their country, to their people.

The people of Afghanistan will be far better-represented by a U.S. military prosecution than by whatever inept, corrupt, kangaroo court could be arranged in Afghanistan. Justice will be done - Bales will never breathe free air again - and it will be all the better for the fact that Bales will have the benefit of a proper defence. A country that jails rape victims for adultery should absolutely not be trusted with this prosecution.
posted by Dasein at 11:01 PM on March 31, 2012 [6 favorites]


Do soldiers go off base at night alone and armed alot in Afghanistan?

I have no idea what the hell happened, but perimeter control I would guess is a priority.
posted by dglynn at 11:15 PM on March 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


A brave, competent and relatively even-handed bit of journalism there, whatever your ideology.
posted by islander at 11:24 PM on March 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


A country that jails rape victims for adultery should absolutely not be trusted with this prosecution.

Well this country(USA) "jailed" people for being Japanese. As far as I know this Supreme court ruling has never been overturned.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 11:26 PM on March 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's certainly not unfair to Bales. You heard his defense lawyer - there's no evidence for his prosecution!

Because he'd totally get a fair trial in Afghanistan.
Fair trials are a good thing, but his scumbag lawyer isn't doing anyone any good going on TV saying "There's no evidence! This is a fascinating case for a defense lawyer!!" There doesn't seem to be a lot of concern on his behalf for the dead afghans. That's not his job, of course, but why not save it for the courtroom rather then going on TV spouting that bullshit?
posted by delmoi at 11:32 PM on March 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


Well this country(USA) "jailed" people for being Japanese.

[picardfaceplam.jpg]
posted by obiwanwasabi at 11:48 PM on March 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't know why it is so hard for people to believe that one guy did this.

Because multiple witnesses have said more than one guy did it. But they don't count for some reason.
posted by mobunited at 12:01 AM on April 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


I guess analogies and comparisons can't be helped, but I don't see how they matter in the short run. Afghanistan is a star. America is a rug. I am a hot dog left on the seat of a slowly-moving roller-coaster. Vietnam lives. I will match hypotheticals with anybody. If I am overpowered with logic I will trump you with a been there-done that.

All right. I settle down now: we are apples and they are oranges.

When you find out what actually happened--I promise you that you don't yet know--what will you think? Do you want to hear about some sort of oops event?-- or maybe you want to hear about the wounded warrior, and pray for his soul. What about the dead?--would the depth of the horror matter? That's to say, do you want to see pictures of the bodies? Just how much do you not want to know? You can't keep crying 9-11 every time this sort of thing happens. What if it were the other way around, and Americans were slaughtered that night....yes, that night, and only that night--horrors only compound, they don't offset, but don't you dare go there, on account of the hundreds of thousands of corpses that we have piled up on our own steam, and the perhaps tens of thousands the enemy has managed to provide to this mess. This is not about body counts. No. Don't count them.

Anyhow, sort it out and get the facts, but then what to do? Equity? Justice? Vengeance? How about closure? You'll never get to a disinterested verdict that way, but you could succeed in driving yourself nuts with grand, looping hyperbole, or maybe paralyze yourself with equivocation. Lots of room for wingnuts on that train.

Okay, let's just settle for the relevant statutes. Do we have a SOFA paragraph that covers this?

Ah, crap. Here we go again. I can see infinity from here, but I don't really buy any of it. All I know is that if Bales did that to my kids I'd somehow figure out how to slip into his cell and put a bullet in his head. Somehow. On the other hand, no, I won't take summary action on behalf of those poor Afghanis he is said to have slaughtered.

Sure makes me feel better, now that I've got it figured out.
posted by mule98J at 12:05 AM on April 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


[picardfaceplam.jpg]

Yeah I thought we lived in a brave new post colonial world where superior cultures didn't have to teach the ass backward natives how to mete out justice and form a civil society. Those stupid afghans with their backward ways, we can't trust them to do anything right. I mean its not like their country and culture have been totally destroyed several times by Superpowers or anything.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 12:11 AM on April 1, 2012 [5 favorites]


As a civilian Bales was a financial broker for a series of firms that seem to have specialized in ripping off old people:
The U.S. soldier accused of killing 16 civilians in Afghanistan left for war without paying a $1.5 million judgment for defrauding an elderly client in a stock scheme, and remains shielded from the obligation as long as he remains in the military, legal experts said.

Before beginning his military career in November, 2001, Robert Bales worked almost five-and-a-half years at a series of largely intertwined brokerages that received repeated regulatory censures, according to regulatory records.

Bales joined the Army 18 months after an Ohio investor filed an arbitration complaint alleging unauthorized trading, breach of contract and other abuses against him, his securities firm and the firm's owner. In 2003, the arbitration panel ordered them to pay the investor $1.2 million, including $637,000 in punitive damages for willful or malicious conduct and $216,500 in attorneys' fees.
...

Even if Bales's victim had pressed the claim, Bales had protection under laws that shield members of the military from some financial obligations.
...
His service in Afghanistan was complicated by mounting financial pressures back home, his lawyer has acknowledged. His home in Washington state had been listed for sale shortly before the alleged massacre.
The timing of his enlistment makes it look like he joined up to get of the hook on that lawsuit, and I would be surprised if military service didn't render criminal prosecution much less likely, too.

When the shit caught up with him (as much as it could as a soldier) and he was going to lose his house, it looks like he became enraged and needed someone to take it out on.

All this crap about about IED brain damage and multiple tours being responsible for Bales' acts makes me laugh-- he was a broker who stole the life savings of old people. He'd lost all humanity before the first day of basic training.
posted by jamjam at 1:05 AM on April 1, 2012 [28 favorites]


I hope to God that this guy gets the book thrown at him though, because what with the Qu'ran burnings and the pissing on bodies and whatnot if he's perceived as getting off light it will be the utter end of whatever hope is left for the US in Afghanistan.

Unfortunately, that ship sailed long before this guy ever walked off base.
posted by indubitable at 1:06 AM on April 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


Yeah, going from stock fraud to machine-gunning a dozen people in their sleep a decade later is a pretty much a given.
posted by ShutterBun at 1:19 AM on April 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


Yeah I thought we lived in a brave new post colonial world where superior cultures didn't have to teach the ass backward natives how to mete out justice and form a civil society

So from Japanese internment camps 80 years ago to a drooling straw man. You're not particularly good at this, are you? But here, I'll come join you on your pole in the corn for a moment:

Yes, they are ass backward. No, they don't know how to mete out justice. No, they haven't formed a civil society. Would you want to live there? Be accused and tried under their laws in their courts by their judges and suffer their punishments? Be willing to accept those standards in your own country? (I double-dare you to reveal yourself as a gutless moral relativist and that 'their laws are OK because they're over there'.) Come on - put your money where your mouth is. Do try to keep any bizarre analogies to this century if possible.

It'd also be great if you could demonstrate an understanding of real live international law - the ICCSt, the Article 98 bilateral non-surrender agreement between Afghanistan and the US etc - before you start flailing about again. There was no way this guy was ever, ever going to be tried in Afghanistan, and that was decided long before the killings.

Because multiple witnesses have said more than one guy did it. But they don't count for some reason.

And multiple witnesses said one guy did it. Or perhaps you believe the latest stories of the Afghan ministerial taskforce, a worst-case scenario cobbled together from the worst of the worst stories: 20 soldiers, in two teams, who attacked twice, supported by two helicopters...

...but who suddenly decided to pretend they weren't involved, faked security footage of a lone soldier leaving and returning to surrender, bribed some civilians to say only one person did it, left the rest alive to contradict those claims, sent one guy out to be observed by Afghan forces, coerced / bribed / brainwashed one person to take the fall, go light on him by charging him with capital offences...because, you know, underpants, or something.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 1:54 AM on April 1, 2012 [7 favorites]


Multiple witnesses also said there was more than one shooter on Utøya. There wasn't. Witnesses aren't always the most reliable when they're in the middle of a massacre.
posted by knapah at 3:00 AM on April 1, 2012 [5 favorites]


Yeah, going from stock fraud to machine-gunning a dozen people in their sleep a decade later is a pretty much a given.

As you know, nothing in the open-ended narrative that is life is "pretty much a given." But there's an established pattern of Bales' disregard for the well-being and rights for others. He wants other peoples' retirement money for himself, so he bilks them. He wants revenge for misery his deployments have brought him, so he kills some random people. You or I might have punched some walls or broken some equipment, because we're not monsters-- we intrinsically understand that we're no more important or deserving than other human beings. But this bag of shit doesn't get that.
posted by Mayor Curley at 5:47 AM on April 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


What bothers me about the coverage is that even the most objective news sources are still carefully using 'allegedly' for this, but then immediately launch into "insurgents killed XXXX in response to the massacre." Why are our crimes still alleged, but theirs certain?
posted by Dr.Enormous at 5:48 AM on April 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


What bothers me about the coverage....

"Arsonists burned down this house." (No question someone did, the smoke is still rising.)

"Allegedly, Jimmy Jones burned down this house " (As yet unproven under law that Jimmy Jones did it.)

That help? (Though granted, the insurgents might be killing XXXX for unrelated reasons.)
posted by IndigoJones at 6:22 AM on April 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


"Arsonists burned down this house." (No question someone did, the smoke is still rising.)

Because when there's smoke, there's arson?
posted by eriko at 6:36 AM on April 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


I suppose some soldiers could have, like, fell on a bullet or something.
posted by ShutterBun at 6:41 AM on April 1, 2012


What bothers me about this coverage besides the "allegedly" point above...

Is that pretty much from day one, papers were saying things like "Bales is on his third tour..." "He was stressed out by news from home..." and variations thereof. Yes, it's all true, just like the eventual news that he was on the hook for stock fraud or whatever. But it sounded like a bunch of rationalizations at the time, and we could have guessed right away that he's going to be brought back to the US for trial. No sense leaving him anywhere the Afghanis could get their hands on him. During his trial, those rationalizations will go all long way towards painting him as a regular guy who had too much on his shoulders, whatever the eventual outcome of an investigation.

What about the Afghan people that he killed? Were they stressed out at all? Were they concerned about family members in other towns? Will we ever hear about who they were in the MSM?
posted by sneebler at 7:13 AM on April 1, 2012 [1 favorite]



I suppose some soldiers could have, like, fell on a bullet or something.


Don't be ridiculous. They were all 'cleaning their weapons'.
posted by Artaud at 7:28 AM on April 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Will we ever hear about who they were in the MSM?

No, we will not.
posted by Meatbomb at 7:41 AM on April 1, 2012



If some "special ops" had been involved, there would have been some evidence of the presence of militants, which there is not. Despite the reputation of special forces as snake eating monsters, they don't actually gun down houses full of women and children in sleeping villages.


I know some "special ops" from Russia, France (Legion etrangere) and the US. Many of these guys are somehow nuts. They will never be able to perform again in a civil environment. I really pity them. They acutally remind me at a Star Trek episode.
posted by yoyo_nyc at 7:46 AM on April 1, 2012


It is so much like Vietnam that it boggles the mind.

1968: "It became necessary to destroy the town to save it."
2011: "Why I Flattened Three Afghan Villages"
posted by kirkaracha at 7:56 AM on April 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


[picardfaceplam.jpg]

Less than a decade ago, the US tortured a fair few Afghanis, Iraqis, and mercenaries. Tortured some of them death. Your sense of superiority is perhaps not warranted.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:12 AM on April 1, 2012 [4 favorites]


It does not seem unreasonable to me to take eyewitness reports into evidence

Every time there's a mass shooting in the US, there are reports of multiple gunman from eye witnesses and even from the police. It usually turns out that there was just one.

The US has been killing innocent women and children in Afghanistan for a decade now, and they always just apologize and cut a check. Why would they start lying about it now?
posted by empath at 8:19 AM on April 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Whoa, I don't think acknowledging that these events could've been triggered by severe combat stress at all absolves him from the guilt. You do not slaughter a bunch of innocent civilians (with kids!) without clearly carrying some dicktitude around. My argument is it would be super easy, too easy, to say "Gosh, what an evil guy!" and call it a day. But My Lai, the Rwandan genocide, Sabra and Shatila, these were committed by humans, not Jeffrey Dahmer clones. If multiple guys were involved in the attacks it makes it even more likely it's not just a bunch of clinical sociopaths who just stopped from a kitten-skinning convention to mow some kids down.

How do you go from being a regular guy, who at worst commits white collar crime, into mass murder? There are clear sets of circumstances involving continuous stress, outside encouragement, systematic dehumanization of the "enemy", etc etc that make this shit more likely and it is really important that we acknowledge and understand them so that we can better work to subvert whatever psychological processes build up to attacks like these.

No, it is way too easy to dismiss this as someone being fundamentally evil. If we can just call him evil we can tell ourselves we aren't capable of similar actions.
posted by schroedinger at 8:32 AM on April 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


straw man.

Usually for something to be a strawman there has to be an antecedent argument. I don't think a picardfacepalm.jpg counts as an argument. I am also quite surprised to see that colonialism is alive and well...oh wait no I'm not. Either way I'm done responding to you because I made the fpp and you know how that goes.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 8:34 AM on April 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Being a first-worlder is hard work. There are so many countries out there that have no idea how to govern themselves.
posted by El Sabor Asiatico at 8:47 AM on April 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


Will we ever hear about who they were in the MSM?

The names are listed in an Aljazeera blog, but no individual stories are provided. We'll never know what Faizullah or Robeena dreamed or hoped.

And we'll never know all the details. According to his lawyer, Bales remembers very little of what happened that night. Eyewitnesses say that other American soldiers were present, but they aren't likely to testify in an American court -- and it's easy to believe that they are confusing those events with any other occasion when soldiers broke down their door in the middle of the night to shove them around and shout incomprehensible demands.

But clearly there's another bad apple here, somewhere. Nobody could have anticipated that.
posted by fredludd at 8:56 AM on April 1, 2012


This massacre was carried out by Special Americans.
posted by telstar at 9:34 AM on April 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


How do you go from being a regular guy, who at worst commits white collar crime, into mass murder?

He wasn't a "regular guy" committing typical white collar crime. Regular guys committing white collar crime lie about the tax they owe or the amounts they should be reimbursed by corporations. This dude singled out vulnerable elderly people and drained them. He didn't defraud the government, he didn't defraud companies, he ruined individuals.

How do you turn a narcissist from fraudster to murderer? Apparently you give him a gun, some gnawing stress, some booze and lax supervision.
posted by Mayor Curley at 10:25 AM on April 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


How do you turn a narcissist from fraudster to murderer? Apparently ...

The same way you twist any brittle soul. 'Broken people' have even been prime targets of military recruitment for years.

Since Vietnam (when 'experts' learned that humans have no real killing instinct in war ) the US military developed and honed brain-washing techniques to turn recruits into skilled Killing Machines. It was simply a matter of overriding the innate human conscience. And then -- right out of a scifi plot -- the resulting violence was out of control ... and irreversible . Some believe that there were not even any plans to return these twisted souls to society.

We have been here before. This massacre is just one more piece of evidence against our society's march toward inhumanity. This is the real crime -- the one that should be discussed long and loud in America.
posted by Surfurrus at 11:15 AM on April 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


against = of our society's march
posted by Surfurrus at 11:16 AM on April 1, 2012


Maybe when he was following them, they punched him in the nose and beat his head on the concrete. Then he would have had no choice but to stand his ground.
posted by leftcoastbob at 11:19 AM on April 1, 2012


The US has been killing innocent women and children in Afghanistan for a decade now, and they always just apologize and cut a check. Why would they start lying about it now?
posted by empath at 8:19 AM on April 1 [+] [!]


I know this is an April fools post, but if any of you think the Pentagon has just begun to *ahem massage the facts, you have not been paying attention. cf. Jessica Lynch, Pat Tillman, and most recently, The Operators.

It would seem mission-critical to portray this event as a 'lone gunman, who snapped' event, rather than the inevitable result of COIN on young american men, divorced from their country, who have no purpose other than their own survival, and the survival of their platoon comrades. The local people have claimed it was a revenge house raid and murder for a soldiers' lost leg. Seems quite plausible.

There has been over a decade of training platoon after platoon of young men to conduct endless home raids on the occupied populace. didn't this kind of "blame the one guy for the collective punishment of innocent civilians" already happen recently, in Iraq? Haditha, was it? why would this home raid be so different?


From the Haditha wikipedia article:

By June 17, 2008, six defendants had had their cases dropped and a seventh found not guilty.[11] The exception was former Staff Sgt Frank Wuterich. On October 3, 2007, the Article 32 hearing investigating officer recommended that Wuterich be tried for negligent homicide in the deaths of two women and five children, and that charges of murder be dropped.[12] Further charges of assault and manslaughter were ultimately dropped, and Wuterich was convicted of a single count of negligent dereliction of duty on January 24, 2012.[13][14] Wuterich received a rank reduction and pay cut but avoided jail time.[15][16] Iraqis expressed disbelief and voiced outrage after the six-year US military prosecution ended with none of the Marines sentenced to jail. A lawyer for the victims from Haditha said, "This is an assault on humanity." and he as well the Iraqi government said they might bring the case to international courts.[17]

Incidents such as these have been claimed to be one of the main reasons that U.S troops left Iraq at the end of 2011.[18][19][20] In 2011 the New York Times found classified transcripts of military interviews from an investigation into the Haditha killings. In these interviews Marines said civilians were killed on a regular basis and one sergeant testified that he would order his men to shoot vehicles that failed to stop at military checkpoints even if it were possible that children could be in the car.[21]

posted by eustatic at 12:17 PM on April 1, 2012


yoyo_nyc :
"I know some "special ops" from Russia, France (Legion etrangere) and the US. Many of these guys are somehow nuts. They will never be able to perform again in a civil environment. I really pity them. They acutally remind me at a Star Trek episode."

I love Star Trek in all its manifestations. I was on Lunar V for years, so to speak, but Picard never showed up.

Being somehow nuts is not necessarily a bad thing. It's just that everybody draws all these lines that ought not to be crossed--everywhere, lines.

Sometimes a guy just gets lucky. It's that handful of unlucky psychopaths who give the rest of us a bad name. Maybe you cheered when those SEAL snipers killed the pirates. I did. Think about it. A bunch of these guys are going to survive their military service, and get jobs, and buy houses in your neighborhood. Maybe one of them will marry your sister.

Anyhow, I ain't like that anymore. Somewhere along the line I realized that I never was the man I used to be. Ha ha here, if you please. I look at Bales and I see me, but on the other side of the mirror. I don't have to carry that weight, don't know if I even could. (No, not spec ops, just an ex infantryman.) When I came home I found out that people wanted to watch the movie, but they didn't want to smell the blood. I got it. Then the first Rambo movie came out, and I thought, "At last, they get it,too." But then the sequels began to arrive and along came disco, and I realized that America was turning into a shit sandwich...well, you get the idea. I have since calmed down.

While we are busy noticing our society's march toward inhumanity, or any of the other trends that Bales' actions bring to mind, I'm reminded that we all are in the ranks, stepping right along. If not in time with the same drummer, we all sing along with the piccolo.

There's enough pity to go around.
posted by mule98J at 12:35 PM on April 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Since Vietnam (when 'experts' learned that humans have no real killing instinct in war ) the US military developed and honed brain-washing techniques to turn recruits into skilled Killing Machines. It was simply a matter of overriding the innate human conscience. And then -- right out of a scifi plot -- the resulting violence was out of control ... and irreversible .

No one's going to accuse me of being too kind to the mindset of people who enlist to fight corporate wars, but it doesn't look like US troops are out killing bunches of civilians recreationally, except for the occasional loathsome individual or band.

I'm uncomfortable with your theory's removal of accountability from the people behind the trigger. And it doesn't give fair credit to the thousands of troops who haven't vented their frustrations by mowing down a village.

I get it. There's a coordinated campaign by the American soft left to make it clear that they're the ones who really support the troops by blaming everything from incident to atrocity on the military establishment and the government; in a cynical, futile attempt to shield themselves from accusations of not supporting The Troops. Know what? Everyone is free to choose to enlist or not, and everyone is free to decide whether mowing down civilians is an appropriate response to the frustrations of the situation in which they placed themselves.
posted by Mayor Curley at 12:39 PM on April 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


The people of Afghanistan will be far better-represented by a U.S. military prosecution than by whatever inept, corrupt, kangaroo court could be arranged in Afghanistan.

That may very well be so, but I feel it's still a shame that this man won't be tried under Afghani law, for the crimes he committed in Afghanistan, on Afghani people - whether or not that might have ever been the case. I dunno, I find the developed world hypocrisy when it comes to international criminal acts somewhat sickening. If an Afghani dude shot a killed a buttload of people in America or Australia, there's no fucking way in Hell we would consider extraditing them back to their home country. But at the same time, when one of "ours" kills a whole lot of people in what is indisputably - despite the feeble attempts of his defence lawyer - a massacre, we can't bring em back fast enough.

Indeed, the very existence of Guantanamo Bay is a testament to this hypocrisy. I dunno from a very young age, I was always taught that when traveling, it doesn't matter what the laws of your home country are, you are a guest in another country and it is incumbent on you to follow its laws, whether you think they are inane, silly, immoral etc - or face the punishment meted out in that country. Obviously this reasoning only goes so far when you're comparing it to a massacre, but still.
posted by smoke at 3:55 PM on April 1, 2012 [5 favorites]


when 'experts' learned that humans have no real killing instinct in war

Well, no. Some humans have no desire to kill. Others do. Even within the flawed methodology used by On Killing, you are left with the conclusion that some folks (10 - 15% by Grossman's calculation) have the taste for it. Based on my own reading of first person accounts of battle, preceding Korea and Vietnam, I think Grossman underestimates the flexibility of human nature. Still, even accepting Grossman's numbers, is it really that extraordinary to think that there are certain tasks that some people are emotionally better suited for than others?

Consider surgery. I can't imagine the stress of cutting into someone and holding a vital organ in my hand. Right now, my palms sweat even thinking about it. Yet, there are those who do this every day, calmly and reasonably. (And thank goodness for that!)

Back in the day when American armies were filled with conscripts, I could accept the idea that some poor bloke, dragged off the street and stuffed into a uniform, could not adjust to living in the bush and shooting that poor asshole over there just because that poor asshole was shooting back at you. War, for a conscript, is an Kafka-esque comedy/tragedy of "wait... you want me to do what now?" Screw Catch-22. To survive in that environment, madness has adaptive value. And why would you not carry that lesson with you for the rest of your life?

But an all-volunteer army? Well, even if you signed up because the Army at least offers the promise of three-hots-and-a-cot, you must have given the matter some thought beforehand. Are you a "surgeon?" Can you shoot, can you kill, if the situation demands? Can you do this, even if doesn't make sense to you right now? Because that is what war, even "just war" demands.

In Bales' case, I imagine he thought that "public service" was his way out of a jail cell. Not the first, not the last to hope for that. As it happened, his hope proved unfounded and his sins demanded an accounting back in the world. And Bales, well, he "bailed" on that.

tl;dr: Bales wanted to either die in this excursion, or to surrender himself to higher powers that would carry him away from his old life into the smaller, simpler life of a jail cell.
posted by SPrintF at 4:57 PM on April 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


1968: "It became necessary to destroy the town to save it."
2011: "Why I Flattened Three Afghan Villages"


Did you read the articles you linked to?

1968: "killing hundreds of civilians who lived there"
2011: "The fighters had evicted the villagers from their land...What he didn’t see also stuck with him: people...The Taliban had pushed the populace out..."

Hundreds of civilian casualties versus...none. Seems like incredible progress. I suppose you would have preferred that Americans soldiers walked through the booby-trapped villages on foot? Perhaps you'd care to volunteer for that mission?
posted by Dasein at 6:57 PM on April 1, 2012


I suppose you would have preferred that Americans soldiers walked through the booby-trapped villages on foot?

I don't know what anyone else would prefer, but personally I would prefer that we didn't invade countries that have never attacked us. That would kinda cut down on the need to walk through booby traps and destroy entire villages in order to save them...what ever the fuck that means.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 12:43 AM on April 2, 2012


it is incumbent on you to follow its laws, whether you think they are inane, silly, immoral etc - or face the punishment meted out in that country.

The law in Afghanistan is that US military personnel won't be handed over to the ICC, who normally have jurisdiction over this sort of thing. So which law isn't being followed, exactly? Why are we sitting here defending Afghan legal sovereignty on the one hand, then second-guessing the legal choices they've made on the other?

I would prefer that we didn't invade countries that have never attacked us.

See, I just knew you were a moral coward. 'It's over there. It's none of our concern. Let's just mind our own business. Fuck those little people, we got ours.'

Usually for something to be a strawman there has to be an antecedent argument.

Yes, and yours was 'Japanese Americans in 1944, no, wait, global colonialism.' You're yet to explain what either has to do with Afghani legal jurisdiction over a US soldier stationed in the country. Maybe that's because you're not actually interested in the content of your own FPP. You just want to push your little red wagon full of moral and legal fail.

Either way I'm done responding to you because I made the fpp and you know how that goes.

Awww, diddums. Was the bit where I challenged you to actually demonstrate a basic understanding of the applicable legal context too taxing? Or was it the bit where I asked if you'd be happy to live under that sort of legal regime? Tough question, huh? Think about it some more while you're not being dragged into a public square to be shot in the head with an AK47 for questioning the authority of your government.

Less than a decade ago, the US tortured a fair few Afghanis, Iraqis, and mercenaries. Tortured some of them death. Your sense of superiority is perhaps not warranted.

I bet they're doing it right now. The difference is we think that sort of thing is wrong, rather than the divine right of whoever happens to be sporting the right kind of beard. No, it's not perfect, but please, go ahead trying to claim there's some sort of moral equivalency between the justice systems that operate in Western democracies and the three-ringed flea circus that passes for the same in Afghanistan. Next time you do something slightly dodgy - or hell, if somebody we happen to like just accuses you - we'll bury you up to your waist and stone you to death. Or maybe we'll hang your eight-year old kid. Or cut off your wife's nose. It's all good.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 1:44 AM on April 2, 2012


Wow obiwanwasabi, given how hard you are on others on this thread making sweeping generalizations, I sure hope you have hard data to back up your condemnation of an entire population and culture. Do enlighten us with the historical data demonstrating the thousands of years of savagery the Afghanis have engaged in that brought them to their current position today, as opposed decades of war and misrule that were strongly facilitated by the Western powers meddling in the region. Do tell.
posted by schroedinger at 2:58 AM on April 2, 2012 [5 favorites]


obowanwasabi: Yes, they are ass backward. No, they don't know how to mete out justice. No, they haven't formed a civil society. Would you want to live there?
I think, as "gutless moral relativists," we should go easy on obiwanwasabi. After all, he's from Australia, a country that didn't grant its indigenes full legal personhood until 1967, and where it was perfectly OK for policemen to, say, form a posse and massacre a bunch of people (because they were "ass backward" savages who hadn't formed a "civil society") as recently as 1928. Considering the cultural context in which he's been raised, we really shouldn't judge him.
posted by Sonny Jim at 5:02 AM on April 2, 2012 [4 favorites]


The law in Afghanistan is that US military personnel won't be handed over to the ICC, who normally have jurisdiction over this sort of thing. So which law isn't being followed, exactly?

Geez, Obiwan, in your frenzy, you seem to have missed out on the last part of my sentence when you quoted me: "whether or not that might have ever been the case."

Further, I think it's a bit rich to say, "Oh the Afghan laws permit the US to do whatever the hell they like without fear of local judicial reprisal!", without mentioned those laws were signed into being by the corrupt leader the US installed, who would never have either assumed or held onto power without US military intervention. Come now. I'm no fan of the Taliban, but you can hardly argue the Afghan decision to waive internationally accepted rights was either democratic or voluntary.
posted by smoke at 3:17 PM on April 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


White man's burden is a heavy burden indeed. Just ask the Brits.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 4:12 PM on April 2, 2012


The U.S. Military and Massacres
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 10:20 PM on April 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Staff Sergeant Bales – Or His Lawyer — Refuses a Sanity Board
posted by homunculus at 10:10 AM on April 28, 2012


Emotional casualties of war: We owe it to our soldiers to help them find ways to cope -- and to truly come home

Collateral Insanity in Afghanistan: After decades of military devastation, Afghans are traumatized.
posted by homunculus at 10:17 AM on April 28, 2012


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