March 18, 2012: Afghanistan Killings

Three weeks ago, we talked about the outrage and violence spreading across Afghanistan after workers at a U.S. military base accidentally burned several Qurans with their garbage. A number of American soldiers were killed in the riots that followed, and President Obama formally apologized for the burning.

If relations with Afghanistan were mending after the chaos — and that’s very much a question — Sgt. Robert Bales may have made matters much, much worse. Last Sunday, 16 Afghan villagers, nine of whom were children, were massacred in a “predawn shooting and stabbing rampage.” Bales, who stands accused of these gruesome murders, has been recalled to the military’s highest-security prison in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, as Afghanistan erupts in waves of “Death to America” protests. Investigators are currently poring over his service records as they draw up charges against him, records which once proudly portrayed Bales as the epitome of a good soldier, dedicated to his comrades, his country, his family, and the mission of helping the Afghani people. After a 2007 battle in Najaf, in which 250 enemy fighters died, Bales said that

I’ve never been more proud to be a part of this unit than that day. We discriminated between the bad guys and the non-combatants and then afterward we ended up helping the people that three or four hours before were trying to kill us. I think that’s the real difference between being an American as opposed to being a bad guy, someone who puts his family in harm’s way like that.

If the accusations against Bales are indeed true, this is the same man who would ruthlessly kill 16 defenseless Afghani civilians just five years later. Some have speculated that the trauma of repeated deployments eroded the psyche of this mild-mannered family man, while others claim that he may have been destabilized from the minor brain damage he suffered in 2010, when the vehicle in which he was travelling toward the end of his third deployment rolled over. Whatever the case, however, this incident will likely reverberate through the region for a very long time.

Let’s transition to a bit of lighter news now: namely, the NCAA tournament! 10-seed Purdue University survived its first-round scrap with 7-seed St. Mary’s, withstanding a second-half rally to move into a Sunday showdown with the second-seeded Kansas Jayhawks. Duke and Missouri were not as lucky as Kansas, as the South and West region’s 2-seeds both fell on Friday, marking a day loaded with big-name upsets. Even top-seeded Syracuse survived a scare on Thursday — although some would argue that the referees saved them from an early exit against the North Carolina-Asheville Bulldogs. As the tournament chaos mounts today, we’ll soon learn who will complete the Sweet 16, and who will be taking the next plane home.

I’m keeping things brief this week, so let’s go ahead and wrap up with a few more fun news items. According to researchers at the University of California-San Francisco, scorned male fruit flies turn to liquor to ease their pain. On average, male flies whose advances had just been rejected drank four times more alcohol than those who had just mated. It’s good to know that our own coping mechanisms are on par with insects, isn’t it? Meanwhile, Pope Benedict XVI is reveling in a very different sort of liquid. Italian boutique perfume maker Silvana Casoli created a custom fragrance for the Pope, making him one of a few public figures to receive a custom fragrance from an international brand. The leader of the Catholic Church is finally on par with Madonna… well done.

Back in the U.S., a Virginia couple sold a seahorse-shaped Cheeto for $100; they plan to give the profits to charity. A man was arrested in a Pennsylvania gas station on Tuesday when he tried to pay with a stolen credit card, and the cashier recognized him from school. Perhaps more damningly, the cashier also recognized the credit card itself, since it belonged to her mother. And rather than summarize the most recent post on the TSA blog, I’ll just let you check out the array of confiscated contraband yourself.

Finally, in Washington, a woman was perusing Facebook when “People You May Know” suggested an interesting contact: her husband’s other wife. While identities have not yet been revealed, the husband moved out of “Wife 1’s” apartment in 2009, but instead of getting a divorce, he thought it would be simpler to just change his name before marrying “Wife 2.” Naturally, “Wife 1” confronted the husband, at which point he begged to have a little time to “correct the situation.” Wife 1 called the police instead, and the husband now faces bigamy charges and a potential one-year prison term. Maybe he’ll use the time to change his relationship status to “It’s Complicated.”

Other articles of interest:
Twin suicide bombers hit government buildings in Syrian capital, killing 27
All Odds Aside, G.O.P. Girding for Floor Fight
Neutrino retest shows Einstein was correct: Scientists
IHS iSuppli Breaks Down Cost of Parts in the New iPad
Disease outbreaks from imported food increasing: CDC
The Chinese boy who has lived his whole life in a cage

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2 responses to “March 18, 2012: Afghanistan Killings”

  1. klingermajoshua says :

    I think it’s disgusting that Sgt Bales murdered those 16 Afghani civilians! He is a disgrace to the men and women in uniform, to our country, and to the whole cause. It comes to show that not everyone is meant to be in the military. It’s not a “free kill” opportunity. We’re liberators and defenders, not conquerors and murderers! As a military member, I am appalled by his actions and can’t believe that he would do that! Sgt Bales made our country look bad and misrepresented our military. It’s terrible enough that the Afghanis don’t want us there in the first place but now it’s even worse. I’m completely shocked! I hope that our country and president make a mends with the Afghani civilians and bring justice!

  2. brianbritt says :

    Certainly, this was a terrible incident. I find it hard to instantly attack Bales as a failure of a human being, if only because war can really mess with your head — just think about all the brave men and women who served in the armed forces and basically returned as different people due to illnesses like post-traumatic stress disorder.

    Now, I’m not saying that there’s nothing wrong with Bales, nor that he shouldn’t be punished for his actions. I want to be very clear about that. He killed 16 innocent people. Those crimes must not go unpunished. Additionally, I’m a little skeptical of all the claims that “he would never do something like this, something must have happened,” etc., etc., if only because after any mass murder, we always hear about how some people thought the murderer was a great person beforehand.

    At the same time, though, I can still see reasons why Bales genuinely might have changed quite a bit as a result of his time spent in the line of fire. Military service can be a valuable experience for some, but it can be horrific for others — and Bales was repeatedly called back to serve once again, every time it looked like he would get a respite from the trials of his duty.

    That doesn’t make his actions forgivable, and it doesn’t lessen the impact of 16 extinguished lives. It’s just something we should consider before we get enraged and start clamoring for Bales’ execution.

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