Monday, March 12, 2012


What is there to write about when a U.S. soldier kills 16 civilians, and mostly children? We can blame the tour-based system, inquire as to how he was allowed to leave the base alone at 3am, and we can blame the war for pushing him to the breaking point. But when it comes down to it, we should be ashamed. And we should show it.

Read the story here.

I do have some thoughts on the fallout and what should be done.

  • I am certain that this sergeant will get a much quicker trial than Private Manning. That makes me uncomfortable.
  • The sergeant should be tried in Afghanistan. No, he should not be tried by an Afghan court under Afghan laws. He should be tried by an American military court, but it should be held in Afghanistan. It seems only appropriate. And the trial should be transparent. If he is secreted away to an undisclosed location and never heard of again, it would be a grave injustice and an insult to the families of those killed.
  • An insanity plea would be insane. The man killed children. He cannot be acquitted based on a plea.
  • The U.S. should consult Afghan elders as to the next appropriate actions. If the Quran burning incident has taught us anything, I hope it is that the U.S. military should be sensitive to the cultural setting in which they are operating. If "blood money" is appropriate (I don't know Afghan custom), then that's how it should be handled.
Expanding on that last thought a little further: I remember a scene in the documentary "Restrepo" where the American captain is negotiating with Afghan tribal elders. In the scene, he repeatedly uses words like "fuck" and commands his translator to "fucking tell them" etc. It was painfully obvious that this guy is a soldier -- not a diplomat. That's not a judgment against him. I don't think he should have to be in that position, acting as a kind of military governor. He's a soldier and that's what he should concentrate on.

Keeping that in mind, I think that there should be "field diplomats" to fulfill this role instead. They would be tied to the military, but acting in a non-combat role. Versed in local history and customs (and hopefully some linguistics), field diplomats would be the ones to negotiate with locals, liaison with the "host" government, and tend to the general administration of, eh, "liberated" areas.

Just a thought.

Concerning the sergeant, I cannot say what his fate should be. He has to have a trial. Leon Panetta says that the death penalty "could be a consideration". Whatever. All I know is that this whole process must be public, appropriate, and genuine.

No comments: