Wednesday, March 14, 2012

U.S. Soldier Murders 16 Civilians In Afganistan.

The text below is from an article over at CNN.  The journalist who wrote it plays around a bit too much with prose for my taste (as it is a news article), but it saves me from having to recap.  Please read it.  I'll see you in just a bit.


Long before the sun even hinted at lighting the sky Sunday, an American soldier left the remote combat outpost of Camp Belambay, allegedly headed for two villages in the Panjwai district of Afghanistan's Kandahar Province... An Afghan soldier at Belambay spotted a soldier going out around 3 a.m., past the blast barriers, and notified U.S. commanders.

The commanders immediately ordered a head count, as the military always does. They confirmed a soldier was missing and assembled a search party right away, according to Gen. John Allen, the U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan.

"It was as that search party was forming that we began to have indications of the outcome of his departure," Allen said.
In the villages, witnesses said, an American soldier began going house to house, seeking out Afghan men, women and even children. Inside the mud walls, they were caught off guard by the intruder.  Then came the unimaginable.

The American pointed his gun at them and fired.

He pulled a boy from his sleep and shot him in the doorway, according to one witness. Then he came back inside the room and put a gun in the mouth of one child and stomped on another.  Streams of dark crimson smeared the drab surroundings and dampened the parched earth. Shell casings littered the ground.  When he was finished, 16 people, including nine children, were dead -- 11 belonged to one family.  Several others were wounded.  The soldier dragged some of the bodies out and set them afire.

With carnage behind him, the soldier left.

The search party formed to find the missing soldier came across the suspect, who turned himself in, the military said. He is at the Kandahar detention facility, about 15 miles away, as the United States decides whether to send him back home.

The suspect, a staff sergeant in his 30s, is based at Joint Base Lewis-McChord near Tacoma, Washington. He belongs to the 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, according to a congressional source not authorized to speak publicly.

He was trained as a sniper and learned to kill from 800 meters away. The Army has not yet identified him.

He was on his first tour of Afghanistan but had deployed to Iraq three times. In 2010, he'd suffered a traumatic brain injury in a vehicle accident. But few details have surfaced about motive or why an infantryman would turn his gun on civilians.

The Afghans in the mostly farming communities were in a state of utter shock. One man's actions had turned their simple villages into a grisly scene.

The next day, investigators arrived to pick through the horror. A dead toddler with a bloodied face lay in the back of a pickup truck between the bodies of two men. In another were people with charred legs and feet.  Villagers could not conceal their tears.

I'll spare you what you've already heard - that this incident is partially the fault of politicians, that no punishment will bring back the innocent lives that this man took, that this is proof of why we should be withdrawing our troops from Afganistan.  It's all true.

I look at this and see two different scenarios play out:  1) He's mentally damaged as a result of being on his fourth tour and, thus, is not entirely to blame or 2) He's not mentally damaged and his actions are 100% his responsibility.  

Either way, let's get something straight right now.  Do not try to vindicate this man's actions.  I've heard countless people, both online and off, say dumb shit like, "Oh, well, they have done worse to us," and (I kid you not on this one), "More payback for 9/11 - never forget."

Nothing - nothing - justifies what this man has done.  Killing children?  Every culture on the planet views that as a disgusting, horrifying crime, no matter what flag the killer and his/her victims hail from.  I'm begging everyone to put aside your patriotism and your love for our soldiers on this issue.  Let it go.  The only defense this man could possibly have stems from mental trauma, so let's leave it at that.  What he did was wrong.  The American flag on his right shoulder does not exonerate him from his actions, nor should it.  

My heart goes out to the families hurt by this atrocity, and that includes the family of this wayward soldier.  I can't imagine the pain that any of you are going through right now. 

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