American Sergeant murders Afghan civilians, including children

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http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia...

http://www.cnn.com/2012/03/12/world/...

Now this isn't just a story of civilians mistakenly shot or killed in the crossfire, this is, by all accounts, a systematic slaughter of unarmed people by a single (??) rogue US Army soldier. And more than half of his victims were children.

BBC wrote:

In the pre-dawn hours of Sunday, a US soldier stationed at a base in Afghanistan's Kandahar province allegedly launched a single-handed gun attack on nearby Afghan villagers.

He is said to have broken into homes in two villages, Alkozai and Najeeban, both located about 500m (yds) from the base in Panjwai district.

By the end of the attack, 16 people, nine of them children, were dead and five wounded. Some of the bodies had been set on fire.

Some Afghan authorities are obviously asking to handle the soldier's trial themselves. And there are questions about whether or not the soldier truly acted alone.

So what should the US do here? What are the long-term implications?

As this article states:

The Afghan Parliament said it condemned “this inhumane and uncivilized act.”

“We urge the United States government to punish the culprits and put them on trial in an open court so that the rest of those who want to shed our innocent people’s blood take a lesson from it,” it said in a statement.

One member of Parliament from Kandahar, Mohammed Naim Lalai Hamidzai, lashed out at the Afghan leader over the killings, suggesting that “if President Karzai cannot fix the situation, we urge him and his vice presidents to resign.”

In a measure of the mounting mistrust between Afghans and the coalition, however, many Afghans, including lawmakers and other officials, said they believed the attacks had been planned, and were incredulous that one American soldier could have carried out such attacks without help.

...

Long seething public outrage has been growing explosive here, spurred by the apparently inadvertent Koran burning by American personnel last month and an earlier video showing American Marines urinating on dead militants. Adding to the problem, the massacre occurred two days after an episode in Kapisa Province, in eastern Afghanistan, in which NATO helicopters apparently hunting Taliban insurgents instead fired on civilians, killing four and wounding three others, Afghan officials said. About 1,200 demonstrators marched in protest in Kapisa on Saturday.

Officials described growing concern over the cascade of missteps and offenses that has cast doubt on the ability of NATO personnel to carry out their mission, left troops and trainers increasingly vulnerable to violence by Afghans seeking revenge, and complicated tense negotiations on the terms of the long-term American presence in the country.

Honestly, I don't see any way for the US/NATO to regain the trust of the people. Because of that I feel like they HAVE to speed troop withdrawls from the country though I'm sure that won't happen. The US seems to bee too infatuated with war and having bases positioned around Iran.

I remember early on when the war first began and the politicians were saying that if a rightfully elected government ever told us to get out we would. Well guess what? They're telling us to get out and we're telling them it's all just a big misunderstanding and that we really shouldn't leave because the place isn't secure and that they don't really know what's best for them. I think in the last few years I've gone past war fatigue and straight over into war outrage. I don't like being a citizen of the world's biggest warmonger.

The situation is pretty incomprehensible. On the one hand: I would like to see this man's reaction when he is confronted with exactly what damage he has done to the interests of the nation he was ostensibly serving, and hear his "justification" of his actions. On the other, he's clearly insane, and it could be that giving him a platform to say what he wants to say will only do more damage. On the one hand: His sentence should be severe and thorough. On the other, if he's insane, does he deserve such a sentence? And on the gripping hand, will the Afghan public believe the sentence is carried out properly.

In the end, I can't really imagine any course of action other than making his court-martial public in the hope that it demonstrates to the people of Afghanistan that we do uphold even-handed justice. And, in the hope that the obvious repugnance that the members of the court have for this man (and I can imagine no other opinion) might demonstrate that as a nation, we really don't stand for this kind of thing.

But I don't know how much good anything is likely to do at this point.

He's pretty clearly insane (with a VERY small margin of error for some kind of black op gone terribly wrong). This doesn't end well for anybody. Best case scenario is that it's very obvious to the Afghan people that he's insane, and a massive outreach program to prove that most soldiers are NOT insane is even marginally successful. I don't predict that scenario to be very likely.

Hypatian wrote:

On the one hand: His sentence should be severe and thorough. On the other, if he's insane, does he deserve such a sentence? And on the gripping hand, will the Afghan public believe the sentence is carried out properly.

From the little I know of Afghan culture I would say this is a clear case where they would feel the death penalty was the only option. From what I known of American culture I imagine the guy will be court martialled and institutionalized after having determined he suffered a psychotic break due to his multiple tours in Iraq and this tour in Afghanistan which will then spark debates about whether or not we're asking too much of our civilian soldiers. I doubt that's going to satisfy the Afghans.

Hypatian wrote:

And, in the hope that the obvious repugnance that the members of the court have for this man (and I can imagine no other opinion) might demonstrate that as a nation, we really don't stand for this kind of thing.

If the deaths had happened while his unit was out on operations, it's difficult to see a conviction happening in a U.S. court. (see also, Blackwater). But sneaking out of a base and shooting people on his own puts this in a whole new unique category of battlefield incident. Then again, the defense hasn't had its chance in court. Who knows what will happen at trial?

Kehama wrote:

From what I known of American culture I imagine the guy will be court martialled and institutionalized after having determined he suffered a psychotic break due to his multiple tours in Iraq and this tour in Afghanistan which will then spark debates about whether or not we're asking too much of our civilian soldiers.

We shouldn't have civilian soldiers if we plan to keep adventuring abroad. A much smaller force of long-service regulars should be the goal. Professional soldiers who enter service knowing that they won't be home a lot.

Apparently he was a multi-tour vet who was serving with a Special Ops unit (could be anything from Delta to Rangers). To add fuel to the fire, how do we handle things like this when the mental break (if there was one) comes from unending warfare.

Nevin73 wrote:

To add fuel to the fire, how do we handle things like this when the mental break (if there was one) comes from unending warfare.

If an Afghan soldier suffered a mental break and killed 16 American soldiers, wouldn't we treat him as a murderer? The messed up thing about that place is that it's an entire country chock full of people traumatized by decades of warfare. Just crazy.

I'm leaning toward just turning him over to the Afghan authorities.

Note that he broke into two specific houses and pretty much slaughtered everyone in them, and then returned to base and turned himself in.

That doesn't sound like a madman on a rampage. That sounds like a targeted set of killings. I don't know why he targeted them, but I don't think he was insane. Some initial hypotheses: people he knew were Taliban sympathisers lived there, or those houses had sheltered militants, or perhaps his unit had come under fire from those structures. Or maybe they'd lied to American soldiers, who got themselves hurt or killed as a consequence. (a fairly common occurrence; trust levels are low for a reason.)

A psychotic break is possible, but his actions sound deliberate and intelligent. It just seems like he had a reason for what he did, even if we may never know what that reason was.

The answer here is that there is no answer. There is no way to win the hearts an minds of the Afghan people. There's no way to quell the hatred that fuels groups like the Taliban. Every civilian death turns out to be a force multiplier for the opposition. It won't matter what we do, it's a political ping pong ball.

Pull our people out, have our people stay, it's a lose lose.

Quintin_Stone wrote:

I'm leaning toward just turning him over to the Afghan authorities.

I was thinking the same, though that may be a suicidal direction to take in the US (and not just politically). I don't think there's a good course of action to take here. It's all a choice between bad ones.

Can't think of many better ways for one person to sabotage our mission over there.

Bear wrote:

Pull our people out, have our people stay, it's a lose lose.

Like in Wargames, the only winning move is not to play.

Let's just hope that lesson's finally learned before Iran.

Malor wrote:

Note that he broke into two specific houses and pretty much slaughtered everyone in them, and then returned to base and turned himself in.

That doesn't sound like a madman on a rampage. That sounds like a targeted set of killings. I don't know why he targeted them, but I don't think he was insane. Some initial hypotheses: people he knew were Taliban sympathisers lived there, or those houses had sheltered militants, or perhaps his unit had come under fire from those structures. Or maybe they'd lied to American soldiers, who got themselves hurt or killed as a consequence. (a fairly common occurrence; trust levels are low for a reason.)

A psychotic break is possible, but his actions sound deliberate and intelligent. It just seems like he had a reason for what he did, even if we may never know what that reason was.

Just because he had a reason doesn't make him sane. The man was repeatedly shooting infants through the head. Yes he 'snuck out' of the base and returned to turn himself in, implying he knew what he was doing was wrong, but I have a hard time believing he could repeatedly murder children in cold blood and be considered any part of sane.

Jolly Bill wrote:

Just because he had a reason doesn't make him sane. The man was repeatedly shooting infants through the head. Yes he 'snuck out' of the base and returned to turn himself in, implying he knew what he was doing was wrong, but I have a hard time believing he could repeatedly murder children in cold blood and be considered any part of sane.

Yes. The idea that "insanity" causes utterly random behavior with no First Mover, completely disconnected from the semblance of rationality, is a grossly out of date way of thinking. He both planned this, and was insane.

Quintin_Stone wrote:

I'm leaning toward just turning him over to the Afghan authorities.

Yup, give the c*ck sucker over to them and give them a free pass on any UN ramifications that they choose to do to a child killer.

WiredAsylum wrote:
Quintin_Stone wrote:

I'm leaning toward just turning him over to the Afghan authorities.

Yup, give the c*ck sucker over to them and give them a free pass on any UN ramifications that they choose to do to a child killer.

I'm interested in hearing your opinion. You've been to that sh*t hole and you're probably more qualified to speak from the troops side. I don't necessarily disagree with your position but how do you think that action would be received by his fellow soldiers? I'm sure many of them want justice but I'm guessing they want it from their side. Watching one of their own being dragged through the streets is something I don't think anyone wants repeated even if he is a murdering bastard.

Why are we still there?

MilkmanDanimal wrote:

TEN AND A HALF YEARS. That's seven years longer than the U.S.' involvement in WWII.

Point of fact: Ten and a half years is not very different from the number of years from when the U.S. entered WWII to when the occupation of Japan ended (in April 1952).

So now they're saying the guy was a SEAL. Not exactly a grunt out there running around with a rifle firing randomly.

Hypatian wrote:

Point of fact: Ten and a half years is not very different from the number of years from when the U.S. entered WWII to when the occupation of Japan ended (in April 1952).

Yes, but the Japanese government surrendered in September 1945. The Taliban never gave up, and combat operations never ended in Afghanistan as they did in the Pacific theater of war.

Funkenpants wrote:
Hypatian wrote:

Point of fact: Ten and a half years is not very different from the number of years from when the U.S. entered WWII to when the occupation of Japan ended (in April 1952).

Yes, but the Japanese government surrendered in September 1945. The Taliban never gave up, and combat operations never ended in Afghanistan as they did in the Pacific theater of war.

The Taliban have never given up, nor does it seem reasonable to assume they ever will. The choices at this point appear to be:

A) Keep getting shot at for an indefinite period of time.
B) Hope they give up.
C) Kill everybody you think even might be Taliban or a radical of some sort.
d) Get the hell out.

I suspect the military will try him and put him up against a wall. And he should be. What would worry me would be his motivation.

I think this is utterly reprehensible, but not shocking. You've got troops sitting in a country without clear, achievable objectives for victory, whose jobs essentially come down to "walk around and, if you get shot at, kill the guys who shot at you". This guy has probably spent several years walking those streets, knowing that somebody inside some house somewhere knows exactly who is responsible for taking shots at him and his buddies or planting IEDs or whatever. How long could you walk down that street staring in people's eyes, knowing that one of them could have given you the information you needed two days ago that would have stopped your friend from dying yesterday? I'm not justifying the guy's behavior; he's a monster, and there is no possible justification for mass murder like this. That being said, the odds of something like this happening is 100%. Somebody is eventually going to snap.

I recently finished Philip Caputo's A Rumor of War, which is Caputo's story of how he went to Vietnam as an idealistic kid and within a year he and his troops were running through a village setting huts on fire, laughing maniacally as civilians sobbed and begged them to stop. It's a very unnerving and disturbing read; he talks about how he kept looking at these civilians and knowing they knew who had set the booby traps or that the sniper who'd just killed one of his men was probably one of their sons, and how it eventually unhinged him to the point where he began hating those people. It's the first thing I thought of when I saw the story about Afghanistan. It's a phenomenal book.

Get the hell out. Now. Years ago. We've been in Afghanistan for ten and a half years. TEN AND A HALF YEARS. That's seven years longer than the U.S.' involvement in WWII. It's a good 2-3 years longer than our active combat operations in Vietnam. And nothing has really changed. Our victory condition appears to be allowing soldiers to get shot for a really long time and then wait for the Afghans to realize they should want to be like us, and that's not an "objective". That's pure unbridled hope, and it doesn't work.

Leave. We haven't given the military forces a situation they are capable of winning.

Peeing on the bodies of dead combatants is a time-honored tradition in war (as, I understand, is murdering innocent civilians). Horror, destruction and scenes of gross inhumanity have always been the consequences of war; this is why you're generally supposed to have a good reason before you start one.

4xis.black wrote:

Peeing on the bodies of dead combatants is a time-honored tradition in war (as, I understand, is murdering innocent civilians). Horror, destruction and scenes of gross inhumanity have always been the consequences of war; this is why you're generally supposed to have a good reason before you start one.

We're supposedly more civilized now. Case in point, we don't carpet bomb cities into slag anymore.

Yeah, I'm trying to think of a time when 'having a good reason' was a precursor to ANY war. I mean, sure that's the philosophy, but in practice it's really not that true.

I'm saying you should have a good reason if you wish to avoid events such as this; it's fallacious to think that you can have your cake and eat it too by somehow creating all the terrible conditions of war without also creating terrible atrocities. Does anybody here actually believe this is close to the worst thing that has happened over there, or that it's some kind of isolated incident? The punishment for this is virtually irrelevant in the grand scheme of things; ending the engagement is the only effective action you can take.

Jolly Bill wrote:

Yeah, I'm trying to think of a time when 'having a good reason' was a precursor to ANY war. I mean, sure that's the philosophy, but in practice it's really not that true.

May I suggest Arendt's On Revolution, specifically the first chapter dealing with the sometimes shared aspect of violence (between wars and revolutions)

[the advent of total war] meant no more than the reversion of warfare to the days when the Romans wiped Carthage off the face of the earth

Or Thucydides who states that outside of the formalized political structure of the polis

the strong did what they could, and the weak suffered what they must

Or the narrator from Fallout 3

War...war never changes

I would compare this to Vietnam by saying this is the "War on Terror's Mai Lai Moment" but the reality is that those moments have been happening continuously for years. Abu Ghraib, the white phosphorous killings, the initial Afghan invasion when people were loaded into trucks and shot while inside the vehicles, Guantanamo Bay and on and on. What will it take for us to wind this down?

DSGamer wrote:

I would compare this to Vietnam by saying this is the "War on Terror's Mai Lai Moment" but the reality is that those moments have been happening continuously for years. Abu Ghraib, the white phosphorous killings, the initial Afghan invasion when people were loaded into trucks and shot while inside the vehicles, Guantanamo Bay and on and on. What will it take for us to wind this down?

A "Fall of Saigon" moment.

Honestly, when the Qurans were burned, I thought we were gonna have it.

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