Afghan Shootings

Posted: March 14, 2012 in Current Events, politics

In order to avoid any misunderstanding or misrepresentation of this post, let me begin by stating that the shooting of civilians in Afghanistan by a US soldier is tragic and monstrous.  This mass murder, despite its context, is in the same category as the killings in Norway last summer or any other similar act, of which there have been too many in the past few decades.  Examining the context does not excuse the action.  And yet there is a lot to be learned by examining the context.

In many ways, though, this was an event waiting to happen, and as such should have been anticipated and prevented by the US military.  You have a bunch of shell shocked, anxious, young soldiers (who are not super-human), with easy access to weapons, dealing with a hostile and very irrational situation.  Fellow soldiers had been murdered over an incident that defies reason.  While violent response to the burning of a Koran is understandable, not only was it an accident, but the Koran in question (if I’m reading the news correctly) had been defiled and graffitied by Muslims when in use in the prison.  The pages had been marked up with revolutionary messages.  The soldiers who disposed of it did not read Arabic and so did not probably even know that it was a Koran, thinking it was just some book being used by prisoners to leave messages for each other.

And yet the level of hostility from the people of Afghanistan was extreme, without mercy or forgiveness, and was probably viewed as highly irrational and inappropriate by the soldiers.  It would be very hard for them to comprehend the violence being directed at them.  I have trouble comprehending it.  Messages from the command staff clearly understood this as it told their soldiers to be patient and remember the mission.  One soldier, teetering on the brink of insanity, either having come that way to the military, or having been driven to it by his experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan, snapped, collected a weapon, walked out of camp and committed an atrocity.  How hard could it have been to anticipate this possibility and take steps to prevent it?  I must admit that the possibility of something like this happening crossed my mind in the days before the event.  Surely it must have crossed the minds of the commanders.

The fact that the Taliban is protesting so loudly and vowing retribution is an exercise in hypocrisy.  The Taliban regularly bomb schools and kill civilians that don’t march to the drum of their ideology.  They are no stranger to indiscriminate killing of their own civilians.  For them to squawk about injustice is ridiculous and purely opportunistic.  The Taliban are responsible for so many civilian killings that their protest would be laughable were the tragedy itself not so serious.

Interestingly, what I seem to see in this situation is that the violent response to the Koran burning seems to have been far more immediate and extreme than to the murder of the civilians.  These civilian lives, snuffed out by an unfortunate madman, were not worth as much as one disfigured book.  I suppose it is the nature of war that life becomes cheaper than ideas.

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