From the GPS on CNN website, March 12, 2012
U.S. sergeant allegedly kills Afghan civilians
Editor's Note: The following is reprinted with the permission of the Council on Foreign Relations.
A U.S. Army Sergeant allegedly killed at least sixteen Afghan civilians (NYT) deliberately in the Panjwai district of southern Kandahar Province on Sunday, prompting threats of retaliation by the Taliban. U.S. forces reportedly took the perpetrator into custody. The incident is likely to compound already strained U.S.-Afghan relations, which were pushed to new lows after it was revealed that NATO soldiers had burned Qurans at a U.S.-run air base north of Kabul. Both the U.S. and Afghan governments condemned yesterday's attack, while Western personnel in Afghanistan braced for a potentially violent backlash.
There is really no explanation, or apology for such a wanton act of violence. And there is no mercy for an act that killed 9 children among the adults that were shot and then burned. And there is a huge tipping point in the event that might, just might, speed the removal of U.S. fighting forces from Afghanistan.
Putting this act in a context of the fatique of multiple enlistments in too many war theatres, or of revenge for too many killings of American personnel, or of any combination of motives will never bring those children back to their families.
And no explanation, no matter how conscientious and just, will even repair the tear in the potential relations with those who choose animosity and hatred with the "foreign occupiers". There are some reports from Kabul that tell of Afghans who continue to support the mission, especially among women who fear that upon the departure of the "western" forces, the Taliban will once again take power and relegate women back to the dark ages, without opportunities for education, and without opportunities to serve their country.
However, just as My Lai was a tipping point in the VietNam war so many years ago, another massacre by American forces of innocents, perhaps this will turn the tide against a continuation of this conflict, bringing it both to an end and a negotiated peace, perhaps with some longer-term support for Afghan security forces.
None of us can begin to enter the mind of the individual who committed this atrocity and most likely even his investigating psychiatric team will come to only tentative conclusions. However, it is not hard to envision a Court Martial, with a severe sentence, and the U.S. trying hard once again to make sense of the senseless.
One reads of the "rage factor" among certain breeds of dog, when one searches for a family pet. Some dogs apparently, for no reason, can and will turn into an instant rage without provocation. Perhaps humans are possessed of a similar capacity, each of us with our own tipping point, when we turn into monsters if pushed beyond whatever experience, genes and training can withstand.
Just another reason to turn away from military solutions in all global, or civil conflicts, learn the lessons and strategies of negotiation, compromise and listening, skills that are developing a cadre of both graduates and advocates, while violence continues on so many fronts.
This is one incident that, like My Lai, and the torture of prisons at Abu Ghraib, that will blacken the eye of the U.S. in the view of the world, an eye that needs no additional blackening, after eight years of George W. Bush.
We at the acorncentreblog.com argued for withdrawal several months ago. We can only continue to urge the U.S. president and pentagon to accelerate the withdrawal of U.S. combat troops from Afghanistan, in the hope that some calming of Afghan fears, apprehensions and profound anger and resentment might abate, and something approaching normal relations between the two countries might be the result.