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American Soldier Kills At Least 15 Afghan Civilians

In an inexplicable incident that is sure to increase tensions between NATO forces and the Afghan public, and American solider is being held this morning after an incident in which he apparently went off-base near Kandahar, walked into an Afghan village and opened fire killing at least 15 civilians:

PANJWAY, Afghanistan — A United States service member walked out of a military base in a rural district of southern Afghanistan on Sunday and opened fire on three nearby houses, killing at least 15 civilians, local villagers and provincial officials said.

The shooting risks further inciting anti-American sentiment in Afghanistan and troubling a relationship that had already been brought to a new low by the burning of Korans at an American military base last month. The American embassy in Afghanistan quickly issued a statement on Sunday urging calm.

The NATO-led coalition said in a statement on Sunday that a United States service member had been detained after an incident in Kandahar Province, in the south of the country, and that there had been a number of civilian casualties.

Villagers in Belandi in the Panjway district of Kandahar, where the shooting took place, said the service member had attacked three houses, killing 11 people in one house and four in a second home. Five other villagers were wounded, they said.

Panjway, a rural suburb of Kandahar, was traditionally a Taliban stronghold. It was a focus of the United States surge in 2010 and was the scene of heavy fighting.

The governor of Kandahar Province, Tooryalai Wesa, condemned the shooting, although he could not immediately confirm the number of people killed. A coalition spokesman in Kabul, Capt. Justin Brockhoff, said that it was not clear what had led to the incident. He said the civilians wounded in the shooting were taken to a coalition hospital where they were being treated.

One of the houses attacked in the village belonged to a tribal elder, according to a person from the village. “We don’t know why he killed people,” said the villager, Aminullah, who like many Afghans goes by a single name. Aminullah said the soldier was alone. “There was no fighting or attacks.”

Al-Jazeera has further details:

Al Jazeera’s Bernard Smith, reporting from Herat, said the soldier entered three houses near the base and opened fire on civilians.

“We are now being told by the police sources that the US soldier left his base at three o clock this morning. It would have been pitch-black wherever he walked,” he said.

“The soldier went through three separate houses, shooting at people as they slept in their beds. After the soldier shot these people, he turned himself in.”

Civilian casualties have been a major source of friction between President Hamid Karzai’s government and the NATO forces in Afghanistan.

Anti-American sentiment had already been running high before news of the latest civilian casualties.

“It is frankly disastrous. It is not just a disaster for the people who were murdered and killed in their houses, it is disaster for the country I suspect,” our correspondent said.

The ISAF has already released a statement:

KABUL, Afghanistan (Mar. 11) – A United States service member was detained today in connection to an incident that resulted in Afghan casualties in Kandahar province.

This is a deeply regrettable incident and we extend our thoughts and concerns to the families involved.

U.S. Forces-Afghanistan (USFOR-A), in cooperation with Afghan authorities, will investigate this incident and release additional information as appropriate.

Requests for information regarding Afghan casualties should be referred to the Ministry of Interior

As has the U.S. Embassy in Kabul:

The United States extends its deepest condolences to the families of the victims of today’s tragic shooting incident in Kandahar province.  We are saddened by this violent act against our Afghan friends.  Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and their entire community.   U.S. Forces are providing the highest level of care for those injured.  We are still attempting to ascertain the facts.  The incident is under investigation and a United States service member has been detained.

We are committed to an enduring partnership with Afghanistan to obtain greater peace and security in the region, which is our common interest.  We deplore any attack by a member of the U.S. Armed Forces against innocent civilians, and denounce all violence against civilians.  We assure the people of Afghanistan that the individual or individuals responsible for this act will be identified and brought to justice.

There really isn’t much more to say is there?

Whether the result of some kind of psychotic break or whatever it might be, this was a horrible crime that must and will be punished. The major concern at this point, of course, is how the Afghan public reacts to this. It was only a few weeks ago that the inadvertent burning of several copies of the Koran led to nationwide protests that resulted in the deaths of several American soldiers, and even more Afghan civilians. An incident like this has the potential to pour gasoline on what is already a tense situation. So far, things appear to be quiet but we’re in the early hours of this incident and it’s likely that word of what happened in Kandahar hasn’t spread yet. When it does, one would think we’ll be seeing some pretty big protests.

The biggest problem that incidents like this create, of course, is that it makes any effort to maintain stability in Afghanistan all the more difficult, and it plays right into the rhetoric of the militants who have been saying for a decade or longer that the United States is in the Middle East for the purpose of killing Muslims. We all know that this one Staff Sergeant, whether motivated by blind hatred or mental illness, is not representative of the tens of thousands of Americans serving in Afghanistan, but I’ve really got to wonder if the Afghan people are going to believe that anymore. Just look at how they reacted to the Koran burning. The fact that it was clearly accidental, that it occurred in the context of the recovery of communications between militants at a military prison, and that the President of the United States apologized for the incident didn’t seem to matter to them at all. How are they going to react to what is clearly an act of cold blooded murder that resulted in the deaths of innocent women and children? Something tells me it’s not going to be good at all, and that our effort in Afghanistan has taken yet another serious blow. How many more it can take before we realize that the entire nation-building mission is a joke remains to be seem.

Update: The White House has released a Statement from The President:

THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 11, 2012

Statement by the President on Civilian Deaths in Afghanistan

I am deeply saddened by the reported killing and wounding of Afghan civilians. I offer my condolences to the families and loved ones of those who lost their lives, and to the people of Afghanistan, who have endured too much violence and suffering. This incident is tragic and shocking, and does not represent the exceptional character of our military and the respect that the United States has for the people of Afghanistan. I fully support Secretary Panetta’s and General Allen’s commitment to get the facts as quickly as possible and to hold accountable anyone responsible.

Sounds about right.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Hey Norm says:

    Tragic all the way around.
    Can’t wait to hear, from the Clown Car Posse, why it’s Obama’s fault.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 5

  2. Kolohe says:

    Because he should have gotten us out of there at least a year ago, if not more?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 2

  3. OzarkHillbilly says:

    There really isn’t much more to say is there?

    Said Doug, just before he then proceeded to say quite a bit. Irony, thy name is Doug ;-)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 3

  4. @OzarkHillbilly:

    I meant in response to the crime, Ozark. The act itself raises a hosts of questions, and I fear, a host of problems.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  5. Ben Wolf says:

    Going by how murder was punished in Iraq we can probably expect this guy to get a suspended sentence of three months.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 3

  6. michael reynolds says:

    Any minute now we’ll hear from Newt Gingrich that if he were president it would have been thirty dead.

    This is really bad, at a really bad time fresh off the Koran incident.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 4

  7. Herb says:

    The sad thing is that it will mean nothing to the Afghan people that this was a lone psycho rather than a military operation.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  8. Ron Beasley says:

    @Ben Wolf: Goes back further than that:
    William Calley:

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  9. WR says:

    “Whether the result of some kind of psychotic break or whatever it might be, this was a horrible crime that must and will be punished.”

    Sure he will. Just like the Haditha marines were punished. I think they got a whopping three months, suspended, for murdering Iraqi civillians. In a trial and a verdicted that were repeatedly applauded by the authors of this blog as triiumphs of the American justice system.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

  10. Ron Beasley says:

    @Herb:The problem is this is just the latest “psycho” and wars like this create many of them. I was in the military during Vietnam. The soldiers in the field assumed that all of the Vietnamese were their enemies for good reason, once you got out of the major cities most of them were. The kids who accepted candy from you during the day would try to stab you in the back at night. Like the Vietnamese the Afghans see us as occupiers supporting a corrupt government . You live with this 24/7 and it shouldn’t be too surprising that some are driven over the edge.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  11. I`m so sorry for this tragedy, and I hope this does not turn into another battle It`s time to leave with deep apologies, but nothing will make these families ever forgive Americans as a whole.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  12. Hey Norm says:

    I think this complicates our departure, doesn’t it?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  13. @WR:

    In a trial and a verdicted that were repeatedly applauded by the authors of this blog as triiumphs of the American justice system.

    I don’t think they called it a triumph, just that it was legally the right result. The unfortunate reality is that the only witnesses where people who had changed their testimony multiple times and eventually only became prosecution witnesses once they’d been offered immunity. As long as the basis for conviction is beyond a reasonable doubt, I don’t see how a jury can treat their testimony as credible.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  14. Ben says:

    The statements that our government released are full of weasel words that are not going to do us any favors among the locals. A “regrettable incident”? How about “horrendous, despicable crime”. Calling something an incident makes it sound like it was an accident or was mitigated somehow. Why can’t we just sack up and call it what it is, to maybe save a shred of face at this point?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  15. anjin-san says:

    William Calley

    I had the same thought. We have not learned much, have we?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  16. Robert C says:

    @Herb:

    “Psycho”…..maybe he is just a murderer, competent of mind. Why is he already being given an excuse for his horrific behavior.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  17. WR says:

    @Stormy Dragon: Except that this was a military court, run by the military with the needs of the military placed first and foremost. How many of these military trials have we seen out of Iraq and Afghanistan? How many times have we seen guilty verdicts and serious punishment? The military puts itself on trial time after time, and time after time it finds that it’s innocent. What a surprise.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  18. @WR:

    Except that this was a military court, run by the military with the needs of the military placed first and foremost.

    So you’re suggesting military courts should convict innocent people if there’s a political gain to be had from making an example of someone? I’m sorry, but bullshit, the fact they’re a military court does not stop them from being bound by due process. The suggestion we should deliberately set up kangaroo courts to punish people, whether demonstrably guilty or not, simply to satisfy public outrage is far more damaging to our country than the possibility a specific criminal might have gotten away with it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 2

  19. Ron Beasley says:

    @Stormy Dragon: For most things I think the military justice system is fair but when you have high profile cases on the front page of the paper not so much. Innocents are convicted and the guilty are set free. Has anyone been prosecuted for the murder of Tillman?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  20. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    I meant in response to the crime, Ozark. The act itself raises a hosts of questions, and I fear, a host of problems.

    Doug, you really need to start reading yourself. The above is just mealy-mouth for “I am redundant, therefor beside the point.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  21. And yet, you apparently read.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  22. Herb says:

    @Ron Beasley:

    You live with this 24/7 and it shouldn’t be too surprising that some are driven over the edge.

    I don’t know if it’s surprising, but I do think it’s noteworthy that 99.9% of the men and women who have served in Afghanistan are NOT responsible for a massacre of this nature. Maybe he did snap from the unceasing horror. The question then becomes why did he snap in this way? Surely he’s not the first soldier to buckle under the stresses of a deployment.

    @Robert C:

    “Why is he already being given an excuse for his horrific behavior. “

    If anything, psychosis provides an explanation, not an excuse. I don’t know if this guy is legally crazy. But you do something like this –burst into people’s homes and open fire on their beds– you might get called a psycho. It’s a label. Not a diagnosis.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  23. 77Machine says:

    Dude lost his mind. Went over the edge. Wife probably left him for someone else. Army deploys soldiers for 13 months. That is why they have the highest suicide rate in our armed forces.

    This was bound do happen eventually so no one should be surprised. We have invaded too many countries in the name of globalism and because of a terrorist attack back in 2001 that was clearly an inside job. We have been there too long and should have never been there in the first place.

    The evidence is overwhelming:
    Obama is a puppet for the global elites and 9/11 was an inside job. Ron Paul was right, we have clearly lost our way in this world and I think we have let Socialists infiltrate our political, juducial, and educational system for far too long.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 8

  24. Brummagem Joe says:

    @77Machine:

    Ron Paul was right, we have clearly lost our way in this world and I think we have let Socialists infiltrate our political, juducial, and educational system for far too long.

    Wow I never knew Dubya was a socialist….actually he became one at the end of his term when reality trumped ideology. It tends to happen.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  25. al-Ameda says:

    Time to declare victory and come home.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  26. Brummagem Joe says:

    We’re occupying a country that is known as the graveyard of empires. We’ve essentially failed to achieve any of the goals we had when we invaded the place 10 years ago and have only recently managed to achieve a military stalemate in a totally corrupt and unstable society. These sort of incidents (like the others that have occurred recently) are going to happen in this sort of environment. This is just the latest to make the situation worse and I’m sure there will be others. The sooner we get out of there the better but it needs to be done in an orderly fashion that doesn’t create chaos and a total collapse of the established order (such as it is). It will probably collapse anyway but by then it won’t be our responsibility. This is just another of those Bush/Republican messes that has to be cleaned up in a way that doesn’t leave us looking as if we have egg all over our face.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  27. Jenos Idanian says:

    @WR: Sorry the Haditha Marines were acquitted, especially after such worthies as you and John Murtha used your positions of knowledge and expertise to pronounce them guilty. DAMN that judicial system that thought it had the right to make its own decisions!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 3

  28. Ben Wolf says:

    @Ron Beasley:

    The problem is this is just the latest “psycho” and wars like this create many of them.

    Give that man a cigar. Wars aren’t so terrible because they destroy humans, they are terrible because they turn humans into destroyers. A lesson the warmongers never seem to learn.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

  29. Ben Wolf says:

    @Stormy Dragon: The Haditha Marines got off because they killed Hajis no real murkin cares about. Don’t think for a moment any form of justice was served.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 3

  30. Jenos Idanian says:

    My own hunch is that this was, in the soldier’s mind, a form of “payback” for all the US troops killed by “rogue” Afghan Army and Security forces, especially in the past few weeks. He got tired of our taking casualties, and decided to inflict a few of his own.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 4

  31. Jenos Idanian says:

    @Ben Wolf: So, second-guessing the Rodney King cop verdict, the OJ verdict, and the Clinton impeachment is wrong, but pronouncing the Haditha verdict wrong from almost halfway around the world is common sense?

    Pretty much every legal expert (especially experts on military law) says that the original charges were way over the top, and the verdicts were appropriate for the evidence presented. Of course, since that doesn’t fit the leftist narrative (most US troops are borderline psychotics, driven mad by the evil Republican wars of choice we were lied into, and it’s more politically expedient to just convict them and to hell with actual justice — they’re just grunts, and volunteered to be cannon fodder, even politically), so naturally the court got it wrong.

    Bullcrap. Show me your legal credentials and detailed evidence as to why the court got it wrong, or shut the hell up.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 7

  32. Ron Beasley says:

    @Ben Wolf: You are right Ben, the real guilty parties are those who placed these men in this hopeless hell hole for politics and profit. It would be curious to see how many tours of duty this fellow had had in Iraq and Afghanistan – he was an E5 so had been in the military for several years in all probability. Unlike WWI, WWII and Korea these are 24/7 wars, it’s always a battle – not a few days or weeks on followed by a few days or weeks off to unwind. This 24/7 warfare started with Vietnam.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  33. Just look at how they reacted to the Koran burning. The fact that it was clearly accidental, that it occurred in the context of the recovery of communications between militants at a military prison, and that the President of the United States apologized for the incident didn’t seem to matter to them at all.

    Do you find that unreasonable, given how long the U.S. has been in Afghanistan, and the totality of incidents similar to or worse than the Koran burning?

    Also, what makes you believe that the Koran burning was “clearly accidental”? I’m not saying it wasn’t, but it certainly doesn’t appear that way to Afghans, and I’m curious to know what incontrovertible facts exist to make that perception irrational.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  34. WR says:

    @Stormy Dragon: “So you’re suggesting military courts should convict innocent people if there’s a political gain to be had from making an example of someone?”

    “Innocent people.” Right. And how do we know they’re innocent? Oh, because the military tribunal says they’re innocent.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  35. WR says:

    @Jenos Idanian: Good going on that reading comprehension, JWest. Now explain why slaveholders were the ones who were really trying to help black people. That’s always good for a giggle, and I’ve missed it since you’ve been gone!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  36. WR says:

    @Jenos Idanian: ” Show me your legal credentials and detailed evidence as to why the court got it wrong, or shut the hell up. ”

    One might suggest that you should show your legal credentials and detailed evidence as to why the court got it right or shut the hell up.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  37. @Herb:

    The sad thing is that it will mean nothing to the Afghan people that this was a lone psycho rather than a military operation.

    Herb, why on earth should it mean anything to the Afghan people? What reason do they have to view it as you do when they have been in the midst of hell on earth for the last 11 years, largely because of the U.S. presence there? I truly don’t understand why it’s so surprising or shocking to people like you that Afghans don’t ‘understand’ that it’s ‘one psycho’ or why they should even think about it that way. Would YOU, if what’s been going on in Afghanistan for over a decade had been going on here?

    Why should Afghans understand events like this the way Americans do? Why?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  38. Jenos Idanian says:

    @WR: The actual trial evidence is available, and not only experts, but average people with a hint of a clue agree that it was the right verdict.

    Kindly explain the “ranting hyperpartisan idiot” perspective, and why it should trump that of the people who actually investigated the events and tried the case. I could use a good laugh.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 5

  39. @Robert C:

    “Psycho”…..maybe he is just a murderer, competent of mind. Why is he already being given an excuse for his horrific behavior.

    Well, for one thing, because he had already had an emotional/psychological breakdown. That’s being reported in all the news articles about this. His superiors obviously ignored it or didn’t take it seriously enough.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  40. Kathy,

    In circumstances such as this, I would say that terms like “psycho” are meant more to describe the incomprehensible nature of the crime rather than to excuse the act.

    All we know about this unnamed perpetrator is what he did and reports suggesting a “breakdown.” I would suggest we await further evidence before either excusing him from culpability or assigning blame to others.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  41. @Herb:
    I don’t know if it’s surprising, but I do think it’s noteworthy that 99.9% of the men and women who have served in Afghanistan are NOT responsible for a massacre of this nature.

    You’re right — many of them turn the anger and trauma on themselves by committing suicide. Or they come home and the anger and trauma come out in other ways, like domestic violence, divorce, going into rages in public, etc.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  42. Brummagem Joe says:

    @Kathy Kattenburg:

    Well, for one thing, because he had already had an emotional/psychological breakdown. That’s

    Ohh… he had a emotional breakdown…..that’s alright then.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  43. Jenos Idanian says:

    Perhaps he heard the people he shot had dishonored a Koran…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 5

  44. @Doug Mataconis:

    In circumstances such as this, I would say that terms like “psycho” are meant more to describe the incomprehensible nature of the crime rather than to excuse the act.

    I don’t understand why you directed this comment to me. It doesn’t connect to anything I said here.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  45. @Brummagem Joe:

    Who said “it’s alright then”? I mean, huh? What are you talking about?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  46. Herb says:

    @Kathy Kattenburg:

    “I truly don’t understand why it’s so surprising or shocking to people like you that Afghans don’t ‘understand’ that it’s ‘one psycho’ or why they should even think about it that way.”

    Despite being from Afghanistan, I think that these people are capable of reason. I have no doubt many of them believe we’re in Afghanistan to commit massacres of this sort. That this kind of behavior is sanctioned by the high command. That we don’t have a professional military deployed to accomplish certain strategic objectives*. That we’re all just foreign killers. None of that is true, and there’s no reason why we should indulge in such lies.

    With that said, we need to get out of Afghanistan. We needed to do that LAST YEAR, and the year before.

    * For the record, I don’t think they can be accomplished….but I’m not “the decider.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  47. Herb says:

    @Kathy Kattenburg:

    “You’re right — many of them turn the anger and trauma on themselves by committing suicide. Or they come home and the anger and trauma come out in other ways, like domestic violence, divorce, going into rages in public, etc. “

    And the vast majority continue on with their lives. Some start families or businesses, others write books, paint paintings, write songs. The things you describe are deviations from the norm. Not the norm.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  48. @WR:

    “Innocent people.” Right. And how do we know they’re innocent? Oh, because the military tribunal says they’re innocent.

    The purpose of the trial is determine if there’s evidence to show beyond a reasonable doubt that a specific person commited an act of which they’re accused.

    It’s clear a massacre took place in Haditha. It’s not clear which of the soldiers in the area that night are specifically responsible for it, and given that most everyone involved has now made multiple conflicting accounts of what happened, there’s not really a good way to figure it out now. So we’re left with punishing people for things likedereliction of duty, lying to investigators, perjury, filing false reports, etc. which unfortunately tend to result in sentences that seem rather inadequate in face of the situation.

    This is unfortunate, but the solution is not to start looking for scapegoats to railroad just because public outrage demands that SOMEONE be punished. That’s the same line of logic that has ended up with the US running black prisons that people disappear into without charge or trial because some beuracrat is convinced they must be guilty of something even if no one can prove it. It’s wrong in that situation and it’s wrong here as well.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  49. Jenos Idanian says:

    @Stormy Dragon: You gotta understand the WR mentality here. I don’t think I can turn off enough brain cells to properly simulate his way of thinking, but I suspect that his idea of “justice” for the Haditha incident would be executing George W. Bush. And Cheney, most likely. Anything less would be a “miscarriage of justice.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 7

  50. @Herb:

    And the vast majority continue on with their lives. Some start families or businesses, others write books, paint paintings, write songs. The things you describe are deviations from the norm. Not the norm.

    It’s difficult to know how you meant this, but I’m just going to go with the meanings it suggests to me. And when I think about those implied meanings (whether you intended them so, or not), there are so many problems that it’s hard to decide where to begin, or which is more important.

    I guess what it all boils down to is that what you’ve said here is in a certain sense totally meaningless. What is the norm? How do you define the norm? Is there one norm for all things that are human? There’s a value judgment implied in your statement — that “the norm” is not just what’s statistically most common but also what’s most valuable, or most “good” in some way. That’s obviously not true if you give more than a split second’s thought to it.

    When you think about it (IF you think about it), almost everything deviates from “the norm.” Yes, soldiers who have psychotic breakdowns deviate from the norm. Ordinary civilians who have psychotic breakdowns deviate from the norm. Blue eyes deviate from the norm. Homosexuality deviates from the norm. In our time and in our society, a 22-year-old who’s never had sex deviates from the norm. People who paint paintings and write books and songs also deviate from the norm. And if they’re significantly talented and successful, they *definitely* deviate from the norm.

    Carole King deviates from the norm. Vincent Van Gogh deviated from the norm. So did Pablo Picasso. Henry James deviated from the norm. Amy Tan and Stephen King deviate from the norm. Every single President of the United States, past and present, deviated or deviates from the norm. Mental illness deviates from the norm. Gorgeous slender women deviate from the norm. Judy Garland deviated from the norm. Thomas Gibson, who plays Aaron Hotchner on “Criminal Minds” is unbelievably, incredibly handsome, and in that way HE deviates from the norm. Happy, stable, emotionally healthy families probably deviate from the norm. Psychosis deviates from the norm, heroism deviates from the norm, and exquisite beauty and talent differ from the norm.

    So I guess what I want to ask you, about your statement is, And… so what’s your point?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  51. Hey Norm says:

    The elephant in the room?
    The same folks who took their eyes off the ball in Afghanistan and attacked an occupied Iraq for no apparent reason now want to attack Iran…based on no proof of anything.
    Anyone who even talks about starting a war with Iran should be committed. They sure the f’ shouldn’t be elected to the position of Commander-in-Chief.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

  52. Dazedandconfused says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    The thing was a masterpiece of defense work. Delayed it until the accounts were so old all sorts of ambiguities cropped up.

    Does it bother me? Not as much as it might. The kid was not capable of leading those men, because they had been there so very much longer than he had. They all knew that it was impossible for the IED’s to have been placed without being noticed. They require extensive digging, and they took matter into their own hands, as young men under pressure are all but sure to do.

    The nuances of the civilian’s situation frequently escape them. For those villagers, ratting out the insurgents was a death sentence as well. Civilians always seem to get caught in a sort of no-win middle in these deals, but it’s hard to explain that to someone whose friends guts are all over the road.

    Since we put them there, and they are quite likely not a danger to society, letting them go doesn’t bother me all that much. I hope that the deluded people that told us that this nation-building stuff is easy will find the flock a bit harder to lead down the path next time. It strikes me that putting the young SSgt in a cage might cause them think such things are fixable.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  53. G.A. says:

    Dude lost his mind. Went over the edge. Wife probably left him for someone else. Army deploys soldiers for 13 months.

    Or maybe some crazy muslim murdered one of his friends…who knows nowadays, people snap.

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  54. Carson says:

    @Hey Norm: We should have got out of there after we got Bin Laden. As far as Syria goes, “Release the Kraken!”

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  55. Herb says:

    @Kathy Kattenburg: “And… so what’s your point? ”

    In a nutshell? Very few people respond to the stresses of combat by breaking into people’s houses, killing people sleeping in their beds, then setting fire to the bodies. This wasn’t an inevitable product of our presence in Afghanistan, nor is it the inevitable result of combat stress.

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  56. Franklin says:

    @G.A.: Actually that was my first thought. (Although it wouldn’t necessarily have to be a ‘crazy’ muslim, just one who doesn’t appreciate our presence in his country.)

    Anyway, I suppose Obama is weak for apologizing again.

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  57. @Herb:

    If I roll dice, it’s unlikely to come up snake eyes, so I can’t say snake eyes is an inevitable product of rolling dice. However, if I’m running a craps table, it’s hard to say snake eyes aren’t an inevitable part of the operation.

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  58. Herb says:

    @Stormy Dragon: Nice try. It may not be inevitable while you’re at the craps table….but if I sat you down and had you just roll two dice, it’s inevitable that you will eventually hit on snake eyes.

    We’re not talking about dice and 36 possible combinations. We’re talking about individual people. Of the thousands of people who have rotated through Afghanistan, you’re going to get thousands of different reactions. The guy that reacts to combat stress by going on a killing spree? That’s rare. How can that be the common experience when it’s not even common?

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  59. Sirkowski says:

    It is past time to leave.

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  60. @Herb:

    Very few people respond to the stresses of combat by breaking into people’s houses, killing people sleeping in their beds, then setting fire to the bodies. This wasn’t an inevitable product of our presence in Afghanistan, nor is it the inevitable result of combat stress.

    Actually, it happens all the time in war, although most incidents may not present as clear-cut evidence as this one to rule out the justification of “military necessity.”

    Haditha is another very similar example, except in that case the soldiers went crazy in the course of a military operation, so that was used to justify what they did.

    And also in Iraq, there was at least one incident totally like this one, in that there was no possible military justification. A soldier, aided by others in his unit, raped a 14-year-old girl, then killed her as well as the rest of her family there at the time, and burned their bodies.

    I’m sure similar incidents never get reported in the U.S. media, or are covered very perfunctorily. I’m sure there are more killings that cross or skirt the line of military necessity, especially in a war of this length — longer than any war the U.S. has ever been involved in our entire history, including Vietnam.

    Also, just because combat stress does not always result in actual massacres does not mean that combat stress is not a serious problem. The very term “combat stress” is a weak, generic phrase for the kind of psychological trauma soldiers go through, especially with multiple tours of duty as in Iraq and Afghanistan. There’s a long list of very serious problems covered under “combat stress”: clinical depression, suicidality, unpredictable bouts of anger and rage that can and sometimes do result in physical acts of violence even after soldiers get home. Many veterans with PTSD keep everything inside and are not getting the help they need, and even when murder or suicide does not result, that kind and level of anger, terror, depression, hopelessness, etc., continuing on a long-term basis, can destroy or seriously harm a person’s health, destroy marriages, create all kinds of negative social impact.

    Your dismissive attitude is not just callous, it’s dangerous.

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  61. WR says:

    @Stormy Dragon: Yes, holding US troops and their commanders liable for the murders they commit is exactly the same as kidnapping and torturing civillians. In fact, if William Calley had received a just sentence for his atrocities, that would have been exactly the same as Treblinka.

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  62. @WR:

    Yes, holding US troops and their commanders liable for the murders they commit

    Don’t you realize how you sound exactly like one of the “we only detain terrorists types” on the right? William Calley received a just sentence for his atrocities because there were reliable witness who could testify to his responsibility. In the Haditha massacre there are no such witnesses. You can’t just draw a circle around Haditha and say “everyone who was inside this circle that night is guilty”. You have to have evidence tying specific soldiers to specific crimes, not some generalized group liability because you’re so SURE they must be guilty.

    We should hold US troops and their commanders liable for the murders they commit. But not the murder other US troupps and their commanders commited.

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  63. Herb says:

    @Kathy Kattenburg:

    “Also, just because combat stress does not always result in actual massacres does not mean that combat stress is not a serious problem.”

    I agree. And if anything I said was taken to suggest that combat stress is not a serious problem, it was taken the wrong way. My own brother had to put his life back together after a deployment to Iraq. He even spent time in a VA mental ward. I’m intimately aware of the ravages of PTSD.

    However…….I do not think the perpetrator of this crime did it because he was suffering combat stress. I think that’s actually a huge assumption not really supported by the facts. You mention Haditha. Haditha was cold-blooded revenge, not an unfortunate manifestation of PTSD.

    Look at the facts of this case. The killer’s been in the military for 11 years, has already done 3 years in Iraq. He’s married with two kids. He’s 38 years old. Then one day he deliberately sneaks off base in the middle of the night, finds some random targets, executes them, burns their bodies, then walks back to base.

    This was a thrill kill. Might not even be his first one.

    Is the war responsible for this behavior? No. It just gave him the opportunity. And as we see with the random horrors that take place all over the world, that opportunity exists everywhere. I don’t think that makes me callous.

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  64. Jenos Idanian says:

    @Herb: Look at the facts of this case. The killer’s been in the military for 11 years, has already done 3 years in Iraq. He’s married with two kids. He’s 38 years old. Then one day he deliberately sneaks off base in the middle of the night, finds some random targets, executes them, burns their bodies, then walks back to base.

    This was a thrill kill. Might not even be his first one.

    I’m sure you didn’t intend to crap all over the rights of the accused, pronouncing this guy guilty and even going into detail as to his motive before he’s been tried, let alone convicted.

    At this point, I can put forth three competing theories that are based just as solidly in reality:

    1) Revenge for the killings of Americans by random Afghans.

    2) Muslim US soldier out to “punish” those who’d been insufficiently hostile to the US.

    3) Muslim US soldier who heard the people he killed had either desecrated a Koran or drawn a cartoon of Mohammed.

    Is there any proof to back up your theory? And that discredits mine? And do you get any other exercise beyond jumping to conclusions?

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  65. G.A. says:

    .

    (Although it wouldn’t necessarily have to be a ‘crazy’ muslim, just one who doesn’t appreciate our presence in his country.)

    When I snap I write in stars:) crazy people like this dude and a crap load of muslims go on random or pseudo random cold blooded murder escapades… I don’t want a lot of people in “my” country occupying it, or in my state for that matter. Yet I don’t go and shoot them in the head while they sit working at their desk or kick in their doors and slaughter them and their whole families.

    Oh well the world is fallen and sucks more every day and this is all very sad.

    .

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  66. An Interested Party says:

    …or in my state for that matter.

    And who, exactly, is occupying your state? You wouldn’t be equating federal bureaucrats to occupying foreign troops…

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  67. @G.A.:

    Oh well the world is fallen and sucks more every day

    Careful, keep dancing around one the border of heresy like that and next thing you know you’ll fall into gnosticism.

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  68. WR says:

    @Stormy Dragon: Calley served three years and got a presidential pardon. Maybe that’s what you call justice for the rape and murder of hundreds of civillians, just like the slap on the wrist given to the Haditha marines.

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  69. Jenos Idanian says:

    @WR: How remarkable: Simple-minded idiot simplifies the truth again.

    Due to the overwhelming pre-trial publicity — mainly anti-war people pronouncing him guilty beyond a shadow of a doubt before the trial — Calley’s trial was declared a mistrial.

    Which should not in any way be considered similar to the Haditha incident, where lots of anti-war people pronounced the Marines guilty beyond a shadow of a doubt before the trial.

    And now, quite possibly before all the bodies have been buried, the anti-war people are pronouncing this Sergeant guilty beyond a shadow of a doubt.

    I’d accuse folks of being incredibly stupid for pulling this same stunt over and over again, but then it occurs to me that the results — the thwarted justice — actually serves the anti-war side’s propaganda purposes better than actual justice. WR is still harping on Calley decades later, and the Haditha marines too. If both were locked up, he’d have to find new talking points.

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  70. Herb says:

    @Jenos Idanian:

    “Is there any proof to back up your theory?”

    Who needs proof when you have instinct?

    And that discredits mine?

    As far as I can tell, your theories have maybe an inch of thought to them. A Muslim soldier gets mad at the burning of Korans, so he sneaks off base and kills him some Muslims? I guess it could happen….

    I’m sure you didn’t intend to crap all over the rights of the accused, pronouncing this guy guilty and even going into detail as to his motive before he’s been tried, let alone convicted.

    Yes, please tell me who I convicted without trial. I’ll wait. Oh, and the accused? Yeah, they have rights. “The Right to Not Be Accused” is not among them. How about this? I’ll leave it to his attorney to worry about his rights, and I’ll leave it to the military prosecutors to make the case against him. Considering this rampage is undermining the mission as a whole, I don’t expect leniency.

    As to your theories, #1 is the most compelling…but again, it’s the most obvious, considering Haditha and the various other revenge killings over the years.

    But 2 & 3? You want to jump my case speculating about his motive, but here you are speculating about not only his motive, but his religion and political ideology too? Do you get any exercise besides pulling things from your ass?

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  71. Jenos Idanian says:

    @Herb: Here’s the difference, Herb: I freely admit that my second and third theories are complete BS. But they’re just as grounded in evidence as my first one — and yours.

    Like I said just a few minutes ago, talk like this never does any good — except to advance the anti-war propaganda side. But it does real harm to the justice system, and faith in the justice system.

    If one’s goal is to see justice done, then the logical thing to do is to simply watch carefully and not meddle — give the system a chance to get it right. If they fail, then go after the system.

    On the other hand, if actual justice is secondary to advancing a political agenda, then please, feel free to continue to exercise your rights to speak out. Just don’t bother trying to say how you’re actually interested in justice, ‘cuz that won’t wash.

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  72. Herb says:

    @Jenos Idanian: I’m not sure who you’re arguing with here, but I’m pretty certain it’s not me.

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  73. Jenos Idanian says:

    @Herb: You, sir, need to get on the very next plane to Afghanistan and enlighten the authorities on all the details of this case immediately, before they do something rash and foolish like investigate and prosecute it without your valuable information. You can save a lot of time and money, as well as quell the agitation over the whole matter.

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  74. Herb says:

    You, sir, need to get on the very next plane to Afghanistan and enlighten the authorities on all the details of this case immediately

    Okay. While I’m there, we’ll look into your “maybe it was a Muslim” theory. You want me to give the accused your mailing address? Maybe he’ll want to send you a thank you card or something. “Thanks for sticking up for me when that random internet dude with the funny picture convicted me in that comment section.”

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  75. WR says:

    @Jenos Idanian: Sorry, JWest, are you now defending William Calley, along with slaveholders? Calley never denied ordering the rape and murder of hundreds of civillians; his defense was that he was following orders. But murder and rape and slavery are okay with Jwest as long as they’re committed by white Americans.

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  76. WR says:

    @Jenos Idanian: “If one’s goal is to see justice done, then the logical thing to do is to simply watch carefully and not meddle — give the system a chance to get it right. If they fail, then go after the system. ”

    Here’s military justice according to JWest: First, you stand back and “not meddle,” so that the military can cover their ass through the trial. Then, when the murderers are let off, you can go after the system — at which point JWest says you’re stupid because you’re going after innocent soldiers. And he knows they’re innocent because they were acquitted. See? The system works!

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  77. @Herb:
    I do not think the perpetrator of this crime did it because he was suffering combat stress. I think that’s actually a huge assumption not really supported by the facts.

    Really. This soldier was on his third tour of duty (you see, you can interpret “he’s been there for 3 years” to argue that he would never have done something like this, or to argue that combat stress builds up over multiple tours of duty, and that something like this was highly likely to happen given the length of time this individual had been in Afghanistan). In addition, the unit this guy is in is one of the most stressful in Afghanistan. CBS News reported this tonight. That one unit saw 26 suicides in the past year. And the soldier who committed this massacre had been diagnosed with PTSD, but was judged fit to return for duty. Maybe he wasn’t so fit to return to duty. My opinion is that assuming that severe combat stress was NOT s significant factor here is the huge unwarranted assumption, not the reverse.

    He’s married with two kids. He’s 38 years old. Then one day he deliberately sneaks off base in the middle of the night, finds some random targets, executes them, burns their bodies, then walks back to base.
    I don’t know what being married with two kids has to do with this. Perhaps you can explain that one. And your “Then one day he deliberately sneaks off base in the middle of the night,…” implying that he was just fine up to that point and then did something crazy just for the thrill of it is certainly one interpretation, but I don’t see it as any more likely than that this was a soldier whose stress had built up to levels where snapping was highly likely to happen.

    This was a thrill kill. Might not even be his first one.

    Wow. Talk about huge assumptions. There is no basis for that theory at all. I mean, obviously it’s possible — anything is possible — but there is nothing in the facts of this case as we know them now that supports such an argument.

    Is the war responsible for this behavior? No. It just gave him the opportunity.

    So he’s a psychopath, is what you’re saying. Someone who lacks any ability to feel remorse, conscience, or empathy. Well, if that were the case, then one has to ask how someone like that got into the military. Psychopaths do not just start doing mass murders at the age of 38 with no previous warning signs at all.

    But I’m sure you can’t really believe this is the explanation. How could this man be a cold-blooded psychopath who kills for the thrill of it? I mean, the man is married and has 2 children. He’s 38 years old. He’s served without similar incidents for three years.

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  78. Herb says:

    @Kathy Kattenburg: I think we’ll have to continue this discussion when more information comes out. I have my reasons for thinking this is a psycho going on a thrill kill and you have your reasons for thinking he’s a victim of medical/psychological trauma.

    We may actually find out that the truth is a little bit of both. We’ll see.

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  79. Jenos Idanian says:

    @WR: Find me a single word where I defended Calley, you clot. I simply pointed out that your own link attested that Calley was set free because a bunch of people much like you made such a huge stink about how guilty he was that his trial was irreparably tainted.

    And the Haditha trial was similarly impaired, especially with a powerful member of Congress (the late, unlamented and astonishingly corrupt Jack Murtha) pronouncing the Marines’ guilt long before trial. A lot of Marines were thoroughly disgusted with retired Marine Murtha over that, among so many other things.

    And now your side is doing it again.

    And I can’t begin to figure out how stupid someone has to be to take a statement like “watch carefully” and interpret it as “place blind faith in the system.”

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  80. @Herb:

    Sounds reasonable to me. :-)

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  81. Franklin says:

    @G.A.: Oh, cheer up! Control what you can control. Help the people around you and you’ll feel fine.

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  82. WR says:

    @Jenos Idanian: Wow. Does it hurt to be this stupid, JWest?

    First of all, it wasn’t my link. You were the one who linked to the Wikipedia article. And even then you apparently only read one sentence of it. Yes, a federal judge granted Calley a habeas cert due to many factors, among which was pre-trial publicity and the refusal of various federal entities to release information that Calley requested for his defense. Of course, if your lips didn’t get so tired after reading one sentence in your own link, you would have discovered that Calley’s conviction was reinstated, but he was freed because Nixon granted him a presidential pardon.

    But I’m sure if “people like me” had simply kept their mouths shut about My Lai, the army would have come forward with all the relevant information and made sure justice was done. I mean, all those months of silence between the massacre and the revelation in the press were clearly spent by the Pentagon in making their case against Calley.

    So, you’re two for two, JWest, boldly coming out in favor of rapist/murderers and slaveholders. But then the victims of both weren’t white, so I guess you’re okay with that.

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