Saturday, March 17, 2012

US Sargeant Kills 16 Afghan Civilians

We can't seem to catch a break in Afghanistan. A few weeks ago, the US was apologizing all over itself over the accidental burning of some Koran copies left behind at a base in transaction (which resulted in several dead and tens of thousands of dollars in damage to property). Now, a 38 year old US Army Staff Sergeant named Robert Bales (with helmet)

snapped and murdered approximately 16 innocent Afghan men; women, and children while they peacefully sat or slept in their homes. Afghan President Hamid Karzai has asked that US and NATO troops be restricted to base and added that his troops were capable of picking up the slack. He also asked the timeline for US troops withdrawal be moved one year (frankly, who can blame him?). The Taliban has withdrawn from "peace talks" (yeah, I didn't put much stock in it either) and now they are threatening to killing more US and NATO troops (as if they needed another excuse).

Now, before anyone goes off thinking this was "par for course" ; just another US serviceman going nuts and just starts killing everyone in sight, let's look at what we at least know (or think we know) at this point. The first thing to consider is that was his third tour of duty. No one likes to be away from home. No one. But here we have a soldier, who volunteered just two weeks after 9/11. He was willing to put life on hold for America, yet he's expected to turn off everything he was taught; forget everything he's seen and step back into society as if he'd simply gone to the local 7/11. Also, this same soldier had suffered a mild concussion last year at Ft. Bliss, and later was twice injured in Iraq, including the lost part of foot (yet another, very personal reminder of what he's been through). And in case you have any further other doubts about this man, let's remember that his job was providing protection to Special Operation Forces, in dealing with the often mercurial militias and he had no history of Islamophobia or disrespect for the Afghan People. By all accounts, he was another outstanding example of an American Soldier.

Servicemen and women have been struggling with this aspect of war since we started murdering each other in an organized fashion. War requires a specific mindset. One of the things you're taught in the service, beginning in boot camp is that you are not indestructible.; no one is. You can and may likely die. The individual counts for little. It's the team and unit that matters. Once you've come to accept that dirty little fact, everything else falls into place. But, with repeated deployments, you're asking the service member to turn their training off and on again like a light. Well, sooner or later, a light will stop functioning properly and so does the human mind, and when it does, you have heartbreaks like My Lai.

In the past, repeated tours of duty weren't that common (a few actually volunteered) but that went the way of the draft. Few ever did more than two tours. Unfortunately , our military has dropped the ball when it comes to reintegrating military personnel back into society now that we have a smaller military, which means more frequent rotation and longer deployment into and out of combat situations. You just can't go from be a cold blooded killer living and breathing in a highly stressful and intensive combat zone for a year at a time and then suddenly you're home and expected to be an average "soccer dad". As an aside, Congress has proposed to reduce our military even more, which will call for longer and more frequent tours of duty in the future.

Secondly, here was a soldier who had just witnessed a friend's leg blown off the day before. How would you respond, especially when you're in the "wind down" phase of turning the country over and getting out? Your first thought has to be "why"? Things like that aren't supposed to happen; not now. Supposedly our Afghan trained "allies" have everything under control, at least according to Karzai. Oh, and the Taliban? Well, as I mentioned, they were supposedly wanting to talk peace with US and the Afghan government. Doesn't sound too "peaceful" to me. How about to you?

We shouldn't forget that there have been several instances over the last year of Afghan soldiers shooting and either killing or wounded US or NATO troops. There has been at least 7 such killings over the past few weeks. How come we're not protesting ? Needless to say, this get little prime time coverage since it doesn't fit into the bigger picture and public image. Check out this article

Afghan's President Karzai has "requested" that US and NATO troops be confined to base and avoid any direct contact with the country's population after telling US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta that we've "reached the end of rope". Really? I didn't realized American troops were ever on anyone's "rope". But, I suppose that's playing with semantics. The fact is, we didn't need a sustained presence in Afghanistan and most certainly not Iraq. Our role was to find and remove Bin Laden and anyone directly involved with 9/11. In that we were successful. However, I think we should stay out of the nation building business.

No Honor Here

There was an article I read recently which, frankly, horrified me (and I don't winch much folks). In this article, a young Moroccan girl of 16 by the name of Amina Filali

had been brutally raped. Under Islamic law (Article 475), she was required to marry her rapists. No, that's not a typo or mistake. The law, which essentially blames the woman, or girl in this case, for the rape and is a "dishonor" to family. No consideration is given to the individual in this case. To restore their familial honor, the girl must agree to marry her assailant. In exchange, the rapist avoids any form of punishment. No crime --- no punishment. Seriously. In her last courageous act, Amina swallowed rat poison. That's no way for a 16 year girl to die. If you'd like to read more, check out the article here

Change and Hope

I case you're wondering, yes, the design of AO has been changed. The goal was to make the design and color a little more easy on the eye. We've also changed out URL and email addresses. I've also expand the name of the blog from simply "Another Opinion" to "Another Opinion with Paul Hosse". Our new URL will be and if you would like to write, our new email address is Hope you like the change!

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