April 8, 2012
The murderous rampage of U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales in Afghanistan has received much deserved media attention. Sgt. Bales’s shooting spree, killing 17 Afghan civilians, was quickly condemned by the Obama administration as a horrible incident and an aberration that was in no way representative of the “exceptional character” of the U.S. military.
It is a matter of state doctrine that such “incidents,” no matter how frequent, are treated as singular events from which no broader conclusions can be drawn. This is convenient for U.S. policy makers and politicians, for it absolves them of any responsibility for the actions of the soldiers they deploy overseas to kill people and break things.
But how isolated was this latest massacre?
Anyone following the news is aware that U.S forces are frequently responsible for the deaths of innocent civilians. These deaths may not be the result of a soldier or group of “rogue” soldiers “losing it,” but that is a meaningless distinction. After all, it was Gen. Stanley McChrystal who said of the U.S. war in Afghanistan, “We have shot an amazing number of people, but to my knowledge, none has ever proven to be a threat.”