Sunday, April 1, 2012

The Bad Apples

The story won't quite go away that the US Army staff sergeant charged with the massacre two weeks ago of 17 Afghan civilians in two villages, Robert Bales, was not acting alone, that probably 20 of his soldier comrades participated. The Globe and Mail has talked to people from the villages and repeats the contention, and now Reuters reports that Bales' lawyer says the army is impeding his investigation of the incident, and that the surviving Afghan victims of the shooting who were being cared for at US expense were suddenly all released from the hospital and have dispersed.

Robert Bales-Enterprise News and Pictures photo
When I heard the story about the massacre on BBC radio that first night, the BBC interviewed people in Afghanistan who said there was a group of soldiers, not just one. That storyline was gone the next night, as NATO command took control of the narrative. From then on, there was one soldier involved.

A contingent of Afghan lawmakers who visited the area days afterward reached the same conclusion, that multiple soldiers were involved, that the massacre took place over many hours.

As anyone who follows the news closely can attest to, the initial story we are told about something like this never turns out to be true. Never. In better days, pre Reaganomics days, when news agencies had bureaus, and had people on the ground and not just someone regurgitating press releases "from London," reporters would have been scouring the two towns were the massaces took place. It takes longer now, often too long, but the truth eventually emerges.

It's in the military's interest -- i.e., the Obama Administration's interest -- for there to be a "bad apple," a lone gunman, to heap the blame on. That's how they finessed things at Abu Garib in Iraq. A few bad apples. Not under Donald Rumsfeld's orders. The idea of a barracks wide massacre party in Afghanistan that night would be much harder to deal with from public relations and strategic standpoints, and the idea that it's something systemic, in the way the military is operated, potentially would be much worse. Talk like that must not be allowed to surface.

But say, for argument's sake, that Sgt. Bales acted alone. Say he was not on his fourth deployment to a war zone. Say he had not been sent to Afghanistan knowing he had received a brain injury in an accident, say he wasn't suffering from long term depression, and let's not say that political pressures, being stretched thin, is causing the administration and the military to try to fight four, now, wars on the cheap.

Say for the sake of argument that Sgt Bales was caught red handed, on video, blowing away 17 Afghans.

But who started the war? Who continued it? Who ran for president on a platform that included escalating the war?

Who has voted to pay for the war each time they were asked to?

Sgt. Bales didn't start the war and continue it. Sgt. Bales didn't fund it. The blame for the massacre Sgt. Bales is taking the fall for belongs to two presidents, two administrations, and to the senators and representatives who have supported both presidents in word and deed, with their approval, with their silence, with their votes.

And because they are our elected officials, and because it's our government, our military, all who have acted with our approval and acquiescence, we are to blame. We have allowed our government to do what it has done to Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen, Libya, and now Africa, too. We, me and you, have not stood up every time a Muslim or an Arab is demonized and discriminated against. We have not marched on every Fox News outlet and burned it to the ground. We have not corned Rupert Murdock and hung him by the neck from the nearest communications tower. We have not voted our warmongering president and congress from office. We are to blame for the massacre Sgt. Bales is being blamed for. We, the American people, are the bad apples. Me and you.


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