I am sure you have been following the stories coming out of Afghanistan involving the killing of at least 16 Afghanistan citizens. I was waiting to get more information before I posted this article, but after hearing that the soldier who allegedly murdered these people had been transported out of the area and returned to the US, I know this situation will not be resolved anytime soon.
Let’s go over what we know at this point. A US soldier allegedly left his camp in the dead of night, went into a village and indiscriminately killed 16 unarmed people, mostly children, and burned their bodies. He then allegedly walked back to his camp and turned himself in. This has now turned into a major international incident with finger pointing and threats of retaliation from the Afghanistan people and the Taliban against our troops and against our country.
Now what happens? Now you will hear different accounts of what occurred from both sides and we will be left to make our own assessments of what actually happened. Will we ever know the whole truth?
So, why am I writing an article about this incident at this time? Because I am very concerned about what is happening to our brave men and women who are putting their lives on the line, day after day, night after night, fighting to help these countries survive. Some of these soldiers have been deployed three, four and even five times to either Iraq or Afghanistan. Then, when they return home to their families, they are preparing and training to go back and kill more people. At least some cold be ticking time bombs who are not getting the proper help to deal with war.
No wonder people and doctors are talking about PTSD, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and identifying it in our military troops returning from a war. How many of our troops have this disorder and are being sent back into military conflict?? If we don’t have a proper mechanism to determine if a soldier is under this type of stress condition, will we have another wave of mass murder of unarmed people and children, and soldiers killing their comrades? What about the impact on their families when they try to assimilate into regular day to day living between deployments?
I think the mental stress and strain put on our troops should be extensively examined and the physiological impact accessed. What would make a soldier, who also allegedly had some brain damage from a previous incident, walk into a village and murder those people in cold blood? Did he feel they were the enemy and they all looked alike? Or did his constant redeployments cloud his judgment to the extent that they were merely casualties of war? Maybe he’s angry at the loss of a fellow soldier and just wanted to get even! I’m not sure we will ever know, because now the wheels of CYA have begun. Why was he cleared for redeployment after brain injury?
If an athlete has a concussion after or during an athletic match in this country, the doctors tell the coach to sit him down and not let him play. I don’t know how long it was after this soldier’s brain injury; but, was one soldier needed so badly that some officer or doctor couldn’t make a command decision to sit him down and take him out of the game? Who is really at fault when something like this occurs?
This Afghanistan incident is not the only incidence of PTSD. I’m not going to attempt to discuss every such incident that has taken place in the past, but I will remind you of the stressed out soldier who killed five of his own comrades in Baghdad in 2009, and the soldiers in 2010 who testified about their sergeant, who ordered them to kill unarmed Afghanistan civilians. And, we can’t forget the Army major who killed 11 and wounded 31 people in Foot Hood, Texas in 2009!
Is there evidence that suggests war produces a mentality in some that suggests incidences like these are a by-product of war? Most of my career has been in law enforcement; I have witnessed police officers, under stress situations, who overreact in trying to deal with a violent confrontation. More force than necessary is often utilized because of the stressful nature of the incident. Also there is an acute development of a very hostile attitude toward the perceived enemy; in law enforcement, it’s against the criminal. In the military, it’s against the enemy combatant, and in Afghanistan and Iraq, often against anyone who looks like the enemy. In this article I won’t comment on the marine who recently referred to the president as being the enemy, under the alleged umbrella of free speech! What does that tell you about his military discipline?
I don’t want to be overly critical now, but I still remember instances from our past history when war trumped common sense and civility. I don’t know how many of you are old enough to remember the massacre at My Lai during the Viet Nam conflict. My Lai has been called “murder in the name of war.” In it, 347 to 504 unarmed citizens were murdered under the guise of either war or the military attrition strategy, an emphasis on body count and kill ratios.
I mention the My Lai incident to illustrate the coverup that occurred in the CYA scenario to protect those involved. The mass cover up lasted for 18 months and some big named people were involved. As I stated in my blog, when the institution is too big to fail, all bets are off!
Some of these wars are not only costing the lives of our soldiers, but also the prestige of our country. We are being put in a position of fighting for a country that hates us and is looking at our troops not as saviors, but as cold-blooded murderers. If constant redeployments are the issue, and are causing the mental stress that can’t be pre-identified, maybe we should set a limit on redeployment to no more than two occasions. If we then determine we don’t have enough troops, reassess our ability to complete the mission and pull out! We now have had to deal with some of the Afghanistan soldiers turning on our troops and killing them. During a recent trip to Afghanistan, the Secretary of Defense had a touchy security situation which forced all troops, including US forces, to be disarmed during his visit.
It would be nice to continue to be the world’s policeman, but at what cost? In our political system, we have our war hawks who believe this country should fight tyranny wherever it exists in this world. How many lives of our troops should we sacrifice to satisfy the hawks? What happened at My Lai, when the American public found out what was done, was one of the primary factors that forced an end to the Viet Nam war. The American people protested so vehemently that our troops were eventually pulled out.
I am reminded of the comment in Wikipedia, made by Colin Powell about the My Lai incident, …” in war, these sorts of things happen every now and then”…. and the comment of the Vietnamese general in describing Lt. Calley, the only soldier convicted of the massacre, ” Calley tried to get revenge for the deaths of his troops, in war this is natural”.
Upon hearing these remarks, one wonders, are these statements the type of justification we can expect to support the eventual atrocities which seem to occur in every war in which the US is involved? What are the words of that song again? “War, what is it good for…”
I hope this recent incident opens our eyes, the eyes of our military and the eyes of our government to carefully and judiciously examine this situation for the sake of our soldiers and our country’s well being.