When U.S. Sergeant Robert Bales stands trial for the premeditated murder of 17 innocent Afghan civilians, the United States should be right there beside him.
There is no pretty way to say it.
Our government and military leadership murdered them – including 9 women and 3 children – as surely as if they had pulled the trigger themselves.
By all accounts, Bales was a troubled man. On March 11, he left his military base in Southern Afghanistan at 3:00 a.m. walked approximately one mile to a rural village, going door to door shooting and stabbing innocent villagers in their homes. As swiftly as he had come, he turned his back on the carnage and ruined lives and calmly walked back to his base. With his arms raised in surrender, he allegedly confessed to his crimes. For days following the murders, witnesses claimed that there were a few to twenty U.S. soldiers operating with Bales. Of course, their side of the story has been suppressed and Bales awaits trial for crimes that he now claims he “can’t really remember.”
Deployed four times to Iraq and Afghanistan over the past 10 years, Bales lost a foot and suffered a traumatic head injury. During his time away, his family struggled financially and was reportedly on the verge of losing their home. In addition to his personal issues, the night before the massacre, he was present when a close friend’s leg was blown off by a land mine and was later seen drinking on base.
According to reports, he asked and was subsequently assured that he would not be deployed a fourth time, but he was – to disastrous consequences.
Now, we could rehash the numbers.
The 10-20% of soldiers who suffer from PTSD. Or the fact that more U.S. soldiers have committed suicide than have died in combat. We could even discuss why in the hell 57% of soldiers who experienced traumatic brain injury have not been evaluated by a physician.
More specific to this situation, though, is that the U.S. government — initially under the executive power of George W. Bush and now under the leadership of President Barack Obama – repeatedly sends troops into combat in unstable condition and when women are raped, children are murdered and limbs are torn from innocent men, they offer sincere apologies and say that the guilty parties will be punished.
Yet the real guilty parties, our imperialistic government who feels that it’s perfectly normal to murder presidents of sovereign nations in clandestine night raids, bomb schools for Down Syndrome and send drones to blindly massacre innocent children in the “name of war,” continue to make poetic speeches about “progress.”
This is not to say that Robert Bales deserves a pass. To assume that just because a person potentially suffers with mental illness that they are capable of more heinous crimes than the next person is to perpetuate the stigma that surrounds psychological disorders. It’s my opinion that Bales should receive a full psychological evaluation, and if he is deemed fit for trial and found to be “sane” in the minutes before the killings, he should be found guilty on all charges.
As should the accomplices who sent him back into combat.
“We have traveled through more than a decade under the dark cloud of war. Yet here, in the pre-dawn darkness of Afghanistan, we can see the light of a new day on the horizon.”
Those are the words of President Barack Obama as he stood 7,000 miles away at Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan, to discuss the strategic partnership agreement signed between the United States and Afghan governments. Though the words sound pretty, in a country whose president calls us “disgusting assassins,” what exactly do they mean, Mr. President? We have troops killing women and children in their sleep, taking pictures with and urinating on corpses and burning Qurans — and you say that we can see the light of a new day? I fail to see how the actions of Bale are any different than the crimes carried out in the name of the United States of America every, single day. If our entire system isn’t placed on trial, this will happen again.
Murder is murder is murder – even when it’s draped in a United States flag.