America’s Convenient Military Scapegoats

No one really knows what possessed Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales to go out into that cold Afghanistan night and — as he is accused of allegedly doing — kill 17 innocent Afghan civilians, more than half of them children. However, we do know that the military acted swiftly and within days had detained, transported, and charged the staff sergeant with 17 counts of murder. Bales is currently being held in a maximum security detention facility in Fort Leavenworth, awaiting trial and a possible death sentence for the murders.

There are many unanswered questions about what happened that night. For example, did Bales acted alone? Justin Raimondo asks, “How did he manage to do so much damage alone?” Not only did Bales allegedly killed 17 people, he also had the time to toss their corpses in a burning pile. And there are reports from witnesses which contradict the “lone gunman” claim of the military. So what is going on here?

I will say this, it is a good thing that the military acted as swiftly as they did in the arrest of Bales. He will stand court-martial and will most likely be found guilty, and that will be the end of him. However, no punishment — yes, not even Bales’ death — will make right what happened that night. And how could it? His death would just be another number in the increasing death toll in the tragedy that is the Afghanistan War.

When you train men to hate the enemy, you train men to kill the enemy, is it really that surprising that the men we train to hate and kill will act out that hatred?

When news of the Afghan massacre broke, President Barack Obama was quoted as saying that the incident was “tragic and shocking.” Shocking? The only thing that is shocking is that Americans continue to elect leaders who suffer periodic and incurable amnesia. We have witnessed in the past 10 years, both in Iraq and Afghanistan, a number of atrocities and war crimes perpetuated by soldiers: from the tortures in Bagram and Abu-Ghraib, to the massacres in Haditha and the notorious Afghan “kill team.”

These atrocities — the ones we know about — might be rare, but they are inevitable. When you train men to hate the enemy, when you train men to kill the enemy, is it really that surprising that the men we train to hate and kill will act out that hatred? Paraphrasing Dahlia Wasfi, the murders of those Afghan civilians by our soldiers are not exceptional; they are the nature of modern warfare. We are deluding ourselves to think otherwise.

Which brings me to a point, which I raised in the video above:  If we were to replace Bales with a missile from a Predator drone, will we be talking about it? The number of people Bales allegedly to have killed pales in comparison to the thousands that have died since the wars started. Bales, just like Lynddie England, Calvin Gibbs, and Frank Wuterich before him, is just another convenient military scapegoat the establishment is trotting out to distract Americans from the true criminals who should be held responsible. Instead of Bales, it is the Bushes, the Cheneys, and the Obamas who deserved to be whisked away to Fort Leavenworth to face justice for the supreme crimes against humanity they have committed. The real criminals here are our civilian leaders who started and continue to perpetuate these wars.

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