Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Staff Sergeant Robert Bales

There seems little doubt that Staff Sergeant Robert Bales will be proved guilty on 17 charges of murder in Afghanistan. The real question is – what guilt do we share?

Sergeant Bales didn’t want to go to Afghanistan. He’d had enough - three tours in Iraq, a piece of his foot missing, concussed in a bombing, obviously suffering from some form of Post Traumatic Stress.

What makes a man like that crack? War! Not to be mistaken with the sanitized “surgical strike” trotted out by Pentagon apologists, or the edited photo ops we witness on television where we’re warned beforehand if a drop of blood will be shown.

And it’s far from the trumpets, the drums and the self-righteous trash-talk of politicians as they dispatch fellow Americans to fulfill their think-tank theories and power-point strategies.

No war is always brutal, undiluted violence that solves little but ruins much. And when the curtain comes down on Sergeant Bales he’ll have been isolated and discarded – portrayed as nothing less than a bad apple who let the team down.

But was he a rogue soldier or a damaged person who broke under the unrelenting pressure of four tours of duty? By the time the lawyers and the media have done with him we’ll likely never know.

What he did was heinous, almost beyond belief, yet perhaps it will finally awaken us to the fact that we should have been out of Afghanistan a long time ago. Sergeant Hales’ murderous rampage may yet prove to be a tipping point as Lieutenant Calley’s gruesome My Lai incident was for the folly of Vietnam.

Unlike Iraq the vast majority of Americans did favor going after Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. Very few, however, envisioned still being there ten years later. We could rehash the reasons we’re mired in this modern day Vietnam until the cows come home but let’s deal with the here and now.

We’re supporting a breathtakingly corrupt regime yet our presence is so toxic its leader, Hamid Karzai, has little choice but to rant against us even though he risks lynching on our departure. But by then he’ll likely be living it up with his cronies in Dubai where most of them have stashed their siphoned-off American Aid dollars.

Will women’s rights be trampled on as soon as we leave? Of course, but we should have thought of that back in the 1980’s rather than supporting Osama Bin Laden and the Mujahideen in their holy war against the Soviet supported secular government. Chickens inevitably come home to roost.

Don’t any of these Washington warriors ever read history? Afghanistan has always been the graveyard of empires – Alexander The Great even took the long way home to Greece rather than set foot there again.

It would be nice to think that we have at least planted the seeds of democracy but most Afghanis view us as invading infidels. Burning their Korans and destroying their villages by drone attack hasn’t helped.

True, Afghanis care little for the religious zealots and drug dealers we dignify with the name Taliban, let alone foreigners like Al Qaeda. But they do share the same faith and culture and in a deeply religious country those certitudes will always trump mom, CNN and apple pie.

And now we’ve whisked Sergeant Bales away to be tried in a court and country that many Afghanis can’t even imagine. That won’t be the final nail in the coffin of our occupation but its days are numbered.

And when we’ve gone and Afghanis resume their fratricidal fighting Al Qaeda will have little to do with it. Why should they expose themselves to the Finger of God as they call our relentless drones? No, they’re far safer ensconced in the urban sprawls of Asia and Africa.

It’s ten years now since the shock attacks of 9/11. Yet we continue to fight useless wars based on outmoded strategies devised in the wake of that tragedy.

Just as we continue to send troubled men like Sergeant Bales to Afghanistan when we should be doing everything in our power to heal the damage they suffered in our service.

It’s truly time to go!

1 comment:

  1. Hey Larry,
    Your thoughts on Sgt. Bales is spot on. Our men and women are being asked(ordered) to do multiple deployments to war zones. This is a bad thing. I did only one tour in Vietnam and now, 43 yrs. later, I'm still reminded every day.
    I'm sorry to say it looks like we ALL are headed for perpetual war. I mean, many are making the all mighty dollar from it without remorse or sacrafice.


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