The longer this misguided occupation continues, the greater the human toll – on all sides – accrues.
Thursday 15 March 2012 15.14 GMT
US Army Specialist Jared Richardson gets his hair cut near Joint Base
Lewis-McChord, as Brigadier General Carsten Jacobson, Isaf spokesman,
gives a TV press conference about Sunday's shootings of 16 civilians in
Kandahar, Afghanistan. Photograph: Ted S Warren/AP
We may never know what drove a US Army staff sergeant to head out
into the Afghan night and allegedly murder at least 16 civilians in
their homes, among them nine children and three women. The massacre near
Belambai, in Kandahar, Afghanistan, has shocked the world and intensified the calls for an end to the longest war in US history.
The attack has been called tragic, which it surely is. But when Afghans
attack US forces, they are called "terrorists". That is, perhaps, the
inconsistency at the core of US policy – that democracy can be delivered
through the barrel of a gun; that terrorism can be fought by
terrorizing a nation."I did it," the alleged mass murderer said,
as he returned to the forward operating base outside Kandahar, that
southern city called the "heartland of the Taliban".
He is reported to have left the base at 3am and walked to three nearby
homes, methodically killing those inside. One farmer, Abdul Samad, was
away at the time. His wife, four sons and four daughters were killed.
Some of the victims had been stabbed, some set on fire. Samad told the New York Times:"Our government told us to come back to the village, and then they let the Americans kill us."
The massacre follows massive protests against the US military's burning of copies of the Qur'an, which followed the video showing US Marines urinating on the corpses of Afghans.
Two years earlier, the notorious "kill team" of US soldiers that
murdered Afghan civilians for sport, posing for gruesome photos with the
corpses and cutting off fingers and other body parts as trophies, also
was based near Kandahar. In response, Defense Secretary Leon
Panetta rolled out a string of cliches, reminding us that "war is hell".
Panetta visited Camp Leatherneck in Helmand province, near Kandahar,
this week on a previously scheduled trip, which, coincidentally,
occurred days after the massacre. The 200 marines invited to hear him
speak were forced to leave their weapons outside the tent. NBC News
reported that such instructions were "highly unusual", as marines are
said to always have weapons on hand in a war zone. Earlier, upon his
arrival, a stolen truck raced across the landing strip toward his plane,
and the driver leapt out of the cab, on fire, in an apparent attack.The violence doesn't happen just in the war zone. Back in the US, the wounds of war are manifesting in increasingly cruel ways.
The 38-year-old staff sergeant who allegedly committed the massacre was
from Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM), a sprawling military facility near
Tacoma, Washington, which has been [url=http://www.stripes.com/joint-base-lewis-mcchord-rocked-by-scandal-1.130065]described by Stars and Stripes newspaper as "the most troubled base in the military"[/url]
and, more recently, as "on the brink". 2011 marked a record for soldier
suicides there. The base also was the home for the "kill team".The Seattle Times reported earlier this month that 285 patients at JBLM's Madigan Army Medical Center had their post-traumatic stress disorder
(PTSD) diagnoses inexplicably reversed by a forensic psychiatric
screening team. The reversals are now under investigation due to
concerns they were partly motivated by a desire to avoid paying those
who qualify for medical benefits.Kevin Baker was also a staff
sergeant in the US Army, stationed at Fort Lewis. After two deployments
to Iraq, he refused a third after being denied a PTSD diagnosis. He
began organizing to bring the troops home. He told me: "If
a soldier is wounded on a battlefield in combat, and they're bleeding
to death, and an officer orders that person to not receive medical
attention, costing that service member their life, that officer would be
found guilty of dereliction of duty and possibly murder. But when that
happens in the US, when that happens for soldiers that are going to seek
help, and officers are ordering not a clear diagnosis for PTSD and
essentially denying them that metaphoric tourniquet, real psychological
help, and the soldier ends up suffering internally to the point of
taking their own life or somebody else's life, then these officers and
this military and the Pentagon has to be held responsible for these
atrocities."While too late to save Abdul Samad's family, Baker's group, March Forward!
– along with Iraq Veterans Against the War's "Operation Recovery",
which seeks to ban the deployment of troops already suffering from PTSD –
may well help end the disastrous, terrorizing occupation of
Afghanistan.• Denis Moynihan contributed research to this column
© 2012 Amy Goodman; distributed by King Features Syndica
|Liveleak on Facebook|