Wednesday, March 21, 2012

More on Robert Bales, Kandahar massacre suspect

Matthew Schofield reports on some of the practical problems facing the prosecution in the Kandahar massacre case, Murder case against U.S. soldier poses challenges for prosecutors McClatchy Newspapers 03/20/2012. He points out that in the military justice system, it could be years before the case actually comes to trial. In this case, delay probably serves both the legitimate concerns of the defense and the PR concerns of the Pentagon.

Charles Sennott provides some useful information related to the Kandahar massacre case in The lessons of Sgt. Robert Bales Global Post 03/17/2012

Thick 19th century concrete walls, barbed wire and gun turrets protect not only the sprawling, historic military base and the prison where Bales sits in solitary confinement, but also the very center where the American military has defined its counter-insurgency strategy in the post-9/11 era. [my emphasis]
Why is he in solitary confinement? Is the Bradley Manning treatment becoming standard now for servicing military arrested on suspicion of a crime that our generals find embarrassing? I want to see the suspect treatment like a regular suspect, as long as that means his rights are respected. If the Pentagon plans on giving him the Manning torture treatment of prolonged isolation and sleep deprivation, I'm wondering what they are trying to hide. Because it could impair his value as a witness against other participants in the crime, aside from being illegal in itself.

Sennott seems to frame the larger issues well in the context of this case, without making them into some kind of excuse for the shooter's actions:

Just as 44 years ago in the ides of March of 1968, the My Lai massacre and Lt. William Calley became synonymous with all that was wrong with the war in Vietnam.

And it is not just the allegations of brutality and wanton violence for which there are few who would disagree Bales should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. It is the way Bales has come to embody the burden, often too heavy, that we have placed on the men and women of the U.S. military.

Bales’ odyssey began just over 10 years ago when he joined the military in the immediate aftermath of the September 11th attacks. It continued through three brutal tours in Iraq where he was wounded in combat to the symptoms he is said to have suffered of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and the indignity of being asked to return to combat despite them.

To put it simply, Bales’ story tells us that we are asking too much of too few to fight a conflict that has gone on too long.

Less than 1 percent of the American population serves in the American military, making it a volunteer force where the tensions and fallout of more than a decade of fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq can remain invisible to most Americans who never see or hear about the toll of war. It raises a persistent question as to whether America should institute a military draft so that the sufferings of war are a more shared burden and there are many proponents of a need for a greater national service that asks all of America’s youth to share in service, not just military service but in education and public works as well.

Afghanistan is already the longest war in the history of America, longer than the Civil War and longer than World War II. Servicemen and women routinely serve multiple combat tours, swelling the ranks of already crowded Veterans Administration hospitals with wounds both physical and mental.

And many are suffering economically as their lives have been torn apart by the stresses of multiple tours.
Sennott also provides a summary of the William Calley case, in which President Nixon's actions validated the impulses of warmongers and authoritarians who regarded his deliberated massacre of civilians in Vietnam as something to be admired:

In the Center for Lessons Learned military commanders still study the My Lai massacre and the role Lt. Calley played in it. He was originally sentenced to life imprisonment and hard labor at Leavenworth for the 1968 war crime of killing more than 100 Vietnamese civilians in the village. President Richard Nixon ordered the sentence to be reduced to house arrest pending appeal. Calley was ultimately treated with leniency and Nixon eventually provided him a limited pardon and he served less than four years under house arrest. For many critics of the war, the reduction of the sentence was a kind of coda to the overall injustice of the war.
Qais Azimy provides the names of the dead and wounded in the massacre in No one asked their names by Aljazeera English 03/19/2012. One of the dead was named Khudaydad son of Mohamed Juma.

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