Posts Tagged Afghanistan massacre

Dehumanizing the Opponent: US Soldiers Pose with Body of Suicide Bombers in Afghanistan

When you want to sell a war that is going to cost people the lives of their sons and daughters, then obviously you cannot show the true face of war. You cloak it and shroud it in a romantic veil – like a hero movie, like something with honor. You turn it into an honorable and desirable act: fighting for one’s country, fighting for freedom.  But war is none of that. War is killing and destruction, leaving people emotional, physical and most importantly spiritual wrecks and there is no honor to be had in that.

When I see people in this country cheer for war, as if they were cheering for their favorite football team, I seriously doubt most truly comprehend what is involved here. I mean this is war; it means killing, it means ending lives and often it is for reasons most of us don’t understand, nor are likely to benefit from.

Last month, Staff Sargent Robert Bales massacred 17 innocent civilians in two small villages in Afghanistan, nine of which were children. He killed them in cold blood and then torched them. Today, pictures of  US troops have surfaced showing them posing with bodies of suicide bombers – as if they had gone hunting and are now posing for pictures with their kill to be placed in the country club trophy section. That is contemptuous and unacceptable behavior – war or not and it says a lot more about us than about the ones we are at war with.

One could argue that those suicide bombers are worthless human beings who don’t deserve any better. After all, they blow others to pieces.

But the point really is that it is not about them, it is about us. When we start acting like the terrorists and wrongdoers we condemn, we lose credibility and the moral high ground and thus the ability to judge. Killing is killing. Ending a human life, is ending a human life. Having no respect for life, is having no respect for life, regardless of who does it. It is not better or more acceptable when an American does it.

A soldier from the Army's 82nd Airborne Division with a dead insurgent's hand on his shoulder. It's one of 18 photos given to The Times of troops posing with corpse

Killing in war time should be seen and handled as a necessary evil, not as an enjoyable act to be memorexed. Such actions strip those committing them off their humanity. The suicide bombers was not born a suicide bomber, he was made into one. For whatever reason, circumstances in that person’s life lead him to take this path. But he is still a human being and no one should pose with a picture of their dead, charred bodies as if it were a sport. It is dehumanizing.

Dehumanizing the Opponent

In order to acquire such a mindset as we have seen in Bales and now with the above mentioned soldiers, you have to think of your enemy as unhuman, you have to view them as something much less than you, so that you can go out there and treat them accordingly without remorse. This, in turn, requires dishonoring and devaluing life itself.

The army and the propaganda machine they run, understand that; they need to in order to create efficient soldiers. They cannot have people on the field feeling remorse or questioning why they have to kill others. This is a wise strategic policy for warfare but such a mentality also backfires, resulting in the kinds of actions we have seen with Bales and various other similar incidences over the years in that regard.

Dehumanizing and disrespecting life is what Robert Bales did; that is what the soldiers above did and that is how most Americans view the people in the Middle East.  That is also precisely the reason why people continue cheering for war and why Robert Bales’ atrocities did not receive much outrage and public outpouring of condemnation. Even Anderson Cooper did not talk about the issue much and when it was talked about it was more in the context of trying to understand (read: find an excuse for)  Bales, rather than to truly condemn his behavior.

They did not even post pictures and biographies of his victims.  They remained face and nameless because posting pictures and telling us about who those children were would place a human face on those victims, which is the last thing the war department (DOD) in this nation needs.

Bales’ victims remain faceless for the same reason body bags containing the remains of US troops killed in combat are not allowed to be filmed, photographed or else broadcast. The moment people realize that these are human beings there whose lives have been extinguished, they will not freely embrace war and treat it like a team sport.

Cooperation and Diplomacy as the Paths to Peace

The use of force for self defense is justified. If you are being attacked, you have to defend yourself. Standing by and watching being killed is stupid and futile. However, that is where it should end.

Our problems as a society in particular, and human kind in general, cannot be solved through warfare and killing. They can be solved through cooperation and diplomacy and war, while sometimes a necessary evil, should be used sparsely and as the last resort. Something the United States and its people are yet to truly comprehend.

We have been in Afghanistan for ten years now –  we were in Iraq for almost the same amount. Thousands of people, mostly innocent, have lost their lives on both sides; US mothers and fathers and children who will never see their loved ones again. Innocent Iraqi and Afghan families that are just as much the victims of their society as those killed during the 9/11 attacks, have lost people in the most gruesome and atrocious ways.

There is nothing romantic in this; nothing heroic

The sad thing is that while we see these kinds of stories,  there are those who still cheer for another preemptive, baseless war.  This time against Iran. An act which will require dehumanizing your opponent as well as your own soul to be able to go in and pull the trigger and justify creating havoc and blood-shed once again – not to defend yourself, but to preemptively go against people whom you suspect, but have no evidence, are up to no good.

Fighting a war for a decade is insane and requiring young Americans to die and fight in a cause that was always unwinable, is without honor by our elected leaders.

The Public is to Blame

Unfortunately, the public is to blame for this as much as our elected leaders. Remember that they cannot do anything without our consent and unfortunately, the public has been supporting such wars.

A Pew Research Survey found voters strongly in favor of aggression towards Iran. “Of those following the Iran situation,” Pew finds, “54% say the U.S. should take a firm stand against Iran’s actions, while 39% say it is more important to avoid a military conflict with Iran.” Trevor Thrall at The National Interest picked up on this at the time, noting that “support for military action against Iran today is almost exactly the same as support for the invasion of Iraq right before the war began.” And that was after one of the most coordinated and aggressive propaganda efforts in American history.

These people were voted in, they didn’t just take over.

So if you are reading this and you are one of those people who voted for an official that signed off on the war but think that you are absolved of carrying any responsibility towards this since you did not personally pull the trigger, you are sorely mistaken and in high denial. There is as much blood on your hands as on the hands of those soldiers that have been rendered soulless.

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Making Excuses for Executioners and Murderers. Case in Point: Robert Bales

On March 11, 2012, Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales  –  a worthless human being for whom pretty much every excuse under the sun is being currently used to justify the massacre he committed –  after drinking on a southern Afghanistan base, crept away to two slumbering villages overnight, shooting his victims and setting many of them on fire. Nine of the 16 killed were children and 11 belonged to one family.

Because the perpetrator is an American, true to form, every news media outlet in the US is making an array of excuses for this guy, from citing his personal money and job problems, to a concussive brain injury, alleged Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) brought upon by his three tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan as well as marital problems.  The man has not even been charged yet – as if there was some sort of a dispute exactly as to what he did – and in fact they are still trying to determine what the charges ought to be.

It is interesting to note that this violent murderer and executioner is being held in the same maximum security military prison in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas where they just a few months ago held Pfc. Bradley Manning, a non-violent individual whose only offense allegedly is leaking materials documenting war crimes, among other things, to WikiLeaks.

Bale’s defense attorney, John Henry Browne, 65,  whose clients range from serial killer Ted Bundy to Colton Harris-Moore, is said to probably not try to argue for a complete acquittal of Bales but instead work to ratchet down the charges. A full acquittal would require that Browne convince a military jury that his client “was unable to perceive the wrongfulness of his or her acts.”  More likely, Bales’ defense will argue that his client’s acts “were not premeditated.” That could possibly expose him to lesser offenses, such as second-degree murder or even manslaughter.

I must say that the thought of this executioner and murderer getting off the hook and being set free with something like second degree murder or manslaughter after shooting and setting on fire nearly a dozen children and women turns my stomach and makes me lose any kind of vestigial hope I may have had in humanity.

When the Whole Country Makes Excuses for Murderers and Executioners

As his legal preparations get under way, the news media, Bale’s family and friends as well a colleagues and every commentator in this nation are working hard to paint him as the real victim here under the guise of everything they could come up with doing a quick internet search for “getting murderers acquitted”.  As if what Bales did really couldn’t be true and something else was going on there. Everything but personal accountability.

And the only thing that seems to surprise and pain his family is not the fact that 16 people were brutally killed and torched at his hands, but how such a sweet, dedicated little golden boy who did such unique things such as being a high school student once and engaging in extracurricular activities, could have possibly done such a thing. They are said to stand behind the man they know as a “devoted husband, father and dedicated member of the armed services.” It is almost like children who just cannot believe Santa Clause isn’t real.

No tactics aimed at evoking sympathy for this murderer are spared. His victims remain faceless and nameless, seen as nothing but a bunch of dirty Arabs and terrorists no one cares about (note to the reader: Afghans are not Arabs). Bales is remembered fondly by everyone; neighbors recite his “gregarious, chatty and engaged” attitudes as a teen, his army colleagues describe a sunny man, using words like “solid,” and offering up photos of him wearing a broad grin, and his commanding officer Maj. Brent Clemmer describes him as “a really good” soldier and “one of those guys who was always positive”. In fact, in what appears to be a moment of keen character judgment, Clemmer once nominated Bales to receive a medal of valor for his conduct in the battle of Najaf in 2007.

With the high esteem everyone seems to have for this guy it surprises me they haven’t put a medal on him already.

Needless to say I am pissed.

I really can’t believe how the news media in this country and journalists and this guy’s friends and family and pretty much everyone it seems are trying to make excuses and almost feel sorry for him: “he had money problems“, “he had job problems“, “poor baby was under stress“, “he once saved people “, “he was such a nice guy“, “he was deployed to war” blah blah blah. Are you kidding me? I don’t care what your problems are and what stress you are under, you don’t go torching children and innocent civilians.

We all have problems, we are all not feeling great; in fact, not feeling great is the reality for everyone after childhood ends.  In recent years, a lot of people lost their homes and retirements and livelihood; we are all somehow having issues of varying degrees – from the traumatic and serious to the mundane –  but we don’t go on killing sprees setting people on fire.

Behaving Like the Enemy

If the situation had been the other way around, as in an Afghan soldier had torched and killed over a dozen of American children and families, you bet that no one in the US news media would be sitting here reciting to us the story behind the Afghan soldier’s childhood and tough personal circumstances in attempts to evoke sympathy for him or make his atrocities more “understandable”.

But since the perpetrator is American, everyone is making excuses for him instead of seeing this as what it is: the cold blooded massacre of innocent people by an individual who belongs locked up for the rest of his life for his crimes.

From citing the military industrial complex, the way our troops and veterans are treated, to the Bush administration as well as the rationale behind the war – all legitimate points on their own merit – everyone seems to think that it is everyone else’s fault but his.

While it is important to take the mental state of a person committing a murder into account, in a gruesome case like this and of such proportions where the facts speak for themselves, it is seems asinine to be employing the cowardly tactics of defense attorneys who represent the Ted Bundys and Scott Petersons of this world to somehow absolve this guy of any wrong doing.

Glimpses of a Darkness in Bale’s personal life

A New York Times article shows that Bales was not really the stable, swell and upright citizen everyone is falsely painting  him out to be.  Bales’s past includes an arrest on a misdemeanor charge of assault on a woman, which was dropped after he completed anger-management counseling; an accident in which he overturned his car, something he attributed to falling asleep at the wheel; and an accumulation of rejections and disappointments.

He also seemed to be enjoying his deployments. During his June 2006 to September 2007 deployment to Iraq, Bales injured his foot. When he returned to the Tacoma area, he was limping, neighbors said, but also working hard to rehabilitate his foot because he wanted to return to full duty. “He was a gung-ho Army guy,” said Tim Burgess, 59, a retired trucker and warehouse worker who lived next door to Bales at the time. “He still wanted to see action even though he had been wounded.”

By August 2009, he was gone again. It was a quieter tour, with more nation building than combat. In a Facebook exchange with a childhood friend, Steven Berling,  Bales called the deployment “boring” and “pretty dumb,” then lamented the lack of fighting. “Giving money to Hagji instead of bullets just don’t seem right,” he wrote, apparently misspelling Hajji, a term used by soldiers, often pejoratively, in referring to Arab people.

Bales does not strike one as a peaceful non-violent man or as someone suffering from PTSD. He appears to be harboring a history of violent tendencies and disdain for the citizens of the countries he is deployed to.

Shame on America and everyone who attempts to make excuses for murderers and executioners, such as Staff Sgt. Robert Bales: former high school teenager with hobbies, loving husband and father (except for that time he assaulted a woman),  patriot to his country, always eager for the next deployment; loser first class on all other accounts, murderer and executioner of children, women and other innocent civilians.

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