Many Willing to Cut Afghan Shooting Suspect Slack
He is accused of the kind of crime that makes people shiver, the killing of families in their own homes under cover of night, the butchery of defenseless children. Under normal circumstances, Americans would dismiss such an act as worthy of only one response: swift and merciless punishment.
Not so in the case of Robert Bales — at least, not for some Americans.
So far, many seem willing to believe that a 10-year U.S. military veteran, worn down by four tours of combat and perhaps suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, simply snapped. That somehow, somewhere, there must be, if not an excuse, at least an explanation.
Exactly what set off the Army sergeant accused of massacring 16 civilians in Afghanistan’s Kandahar Province is far from clear. But already, organizations and individuals with differing agendas have portrayed Bales as the personification of something that is profoundly broken, and have seized on his case to question the war itself or to argue that the American government is asking too much of its warriors.
On the website of Iraq Veterans Against the War, organizer Aaron Hughes declared that Afghan war veterans “believe that this incident is not a case of one ‘bad apple’ but the effect of a continued U.S. military policy of drone strikes, night raids, and helicopter attacks where Afghan civilians pay the price.” Those veterans, he wrote, “hope that the Kandahar massacre will be a turning point” in the war.
“Send a letter to the editor of your local paper condemning the massacre and calling for an end to our occupation in Afghanistan,” Hughes wrote.