By Jennifer Andrew

Sergeant Bales is under custody in the Fort Leavenworth military prison in the US. This is where the perpetrator of the My Lai (VietNam) massacre was lodged after he had lined up innocent villagers and had them shot in cold blood. The perpetrators of the Haditha Massacre in Iraq walked free. Not much happened to those who tortured abused and humiliated Iraqis in Abu Gharaib prison. The US Marines who urinated on corpses of Afghan Taliban have yet to be punished as are the British soldiers who abused children and those who hunted Afghans for sport as a ‘kill team’ and also those who mutilated Afghan corpses to take away parts as trophies. The Koran burning in Baghram is still under investigation. So there was much to inspire Bales and even before the reality of the Kandahar atrocity sank in there were moves afoot to bail out the criminal Bales.

In a hard hitting article Robert Fisk has effectively trashed the ‘deranged’ soldier defense of Bales. The word being put out was that he was under stress from four tours—three in Iraq before the one in Afghanistan—and that the strain unhinged him. It is also being said that he was an ‘even tempered soldier’, a family man and not the stereo type of a killer. What about the others who have committed atrocities? Were they all deranged by stress? What about the chain of command—is it so malfunctional that it cannot detect deranged characters and prevent them from leaving fully armed securely guarded facilities without detection? General Karimi the Afghan Army Chief has debunked the lone madman theory and has clearly stated that this was a deliberate planned killing and many soldiers were involved. This was also Pakistan’s conclusion when its border post was attacked and 24 soldiers killed. Is there a ‘rogue’ segment in the US military in Afghanistan or are criminals and killers being recruited to do the killing because it is a volunteer force and serving in it would appeal to those who have nowhere else to go. This could explain the muted response to US deaths in wars that should never have been.

Investigations by journalists are turning up facts about Sergeant Bales that do not make a pretty picture. He has had problems with the law. He was hauled up for drunk driving and for a ‘misdemeanor’. He was a stocks trader and enlisted after he was accused of fraud—he defrauded an elderly couple of their entire savings. There is no record of his having done anything in the military as a result of the stress that he was under till he ‘cracked up’ and went berserk. It is also being said that he was under financial strain and was about to lose his home. None of this explains or excuses his behavior. What does explain it is hatred drilled into him for the enemy because of their religion and ethnicity and because they want their country for themselves and are fighting for it –just as the Red Indians did and just as the black slaves did for their rights? The Kandahar atrocity will never ever go away—you just have to read the heart rending transcript of Karzais talk with those who lost their women and children. What do you say to them? When Karzai demands that night raids be stopped he is voicing the anger and pain of those whose doors are kicked in by soldiers who have no business being in their land.

The Afghans do not forget—they can be patient, very patient but they never forget humiliation.


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