In the early morning hours of March 11, a US soldier assigned to “special ops” in Afghanistan, stationed near Kandahar, went into a local village and gunned down 16 people – including nine women and three children. At least three others were wounded. He went from house to house, in the predawn darkness, systematically murdering people while they slept in their beds: he then doused them with a flammable liquid and set them ablaze.
What is it about American troops stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan? From Abu Ghraib [.pdf] to the Mahmudiyah killings to the Hamdania murder of a crippled old man to the horrors of the Haditha massacre, it’s been one atrocity after another (see here, here, and here). More recently it was the “rogue” team of killers that murdered Afghan civilians in the Maywand district for sport. Then it was US troops urinating on corpses, followed shortly afterward by the Koran-burning incident, the second such example of American contempt for the people they are supposed to be “liberating.” Now we have this, which – we’re told – is the result of a US soldier having a “breakdown.”
Was it a breakdown, or merely the logical extension of the soldier’s training and inclination, that caused him to go on a murderous rampage? That hardly a month goes by without some kind of atrocity being committed should tell us something.
What it tells me is that America is a depraved nation, a country where the very worst-of-the-worst flock to join the military, free to kill and maim and rape to their heart’s content.
And Rachel Maddow wants to give these guys a “welcome home” “victory” parade?
Of course she does: even the “liberals” in our country are corrupted by the ugliness that pervades the national consciousness and poisons everything we do. “Honor the troops” is a given on the left as well as the right, because the above-mentioned atrocities are just “isolated incidents,” examples of soldiers who had “breakdowns” and went “rogue.” Their actions have nothing to do with our mission [.pdf], our mentality, or our decadent culture, which glorifies violence and disdains foreigners – especially if they’re Muslims. Oh no: these are all anomalies, there’s nothing to see here so please move along …
I’m not buying it. There is something wrong – very wrong – here: a trend, a significant uptick in the savagery that is part and parcel of every war. During World War II, American atrocities were relatively few and far between, although no less reprehensible. As the American presence abroad grew more substantial, however, and the cold war heated up, such incidents increased in number, and took on a more horrific – and systematic – character.
In Korea, American troops massacred hundreds of Korean civilians at No Gun Ri, and stood aside while their South Korean allies did the same at Kwangju. During the Vietnam war, vast areas under Viet Cong control were deemed a “freefire zone,” and entire villages were wiped out by US troops. The My Lai massacre revealed how American policy had ended in an orgy of brutality, and support for the war plummeted to new lows.
Embarked once again on an international crusade to save the world, our demons are unleashed – and they are more bloodthirsty and sadistic than ever. Why is that?
To begin with, American culture is more violent and sadistic than ever. When it comes to mass entertainment and the level of acceptable violence, there appears to be no limit: how else could a movie like Kill Bill or Natural Born Killers even get made, let alone generate millions in profits? In a healthy society, such films would be marginal: in America, they are hailed as great “art” and go on to become box office hits. Rome had its gladiatorial contests; we have Hollywood to excite our bloodlust.
Secondly, the state of perpetual war in which we find ourselves, a decade after 9/11, has led to increased multiple deployments for our professional soldiers: from Iraq to Afghanistan to wherever our crazy foreign policy takes them, US military personnel are shipped from one trouble spot to another with dizzying speed and little regard for their mental equilibrium. This has resulted in a record number of suicides and dismissals from the armed services on mental health grounds. In addition, criminal activities in the ranks are on the upswing, with gang members actively seeking to be deployed to combat areas: they consider it on the job training.
It makes sense that, as publicity about US atrocities abroad is circulated, the most brutal and sadistic members of society will be attracted to the military: you know, like child molesters are drawn to the Boy Scouts or necrophiliacs consider working in a morgue a dream job. So you want to kill people and collect their bones as “trophies”? Well, then, son, the US Army is the place for you!
Thirdly, the craziness spreading through the ranks is a function of the policy, which – consciously or not – encourages and even rewards brutality. In spite of all the BS about “winning hearts and minds” which is part of the “new” counterinsurgency doctrine of the US military, the reality is that American troops are occupiers surrounded by a hostile populace which hates them and wants to see them gone. Soldiers returning from the front tell us how they feel surrounded by enemies on every side, and that’s because it’s true: they are surrounded on every side by people who hate them and want to see them dead. No wonder some go crazy and start killing people randomly.
This will go on as long as our crazed foreign policy continues to target nation after nation for “liberation,” occupation, and “democratization.” By the time we get around to attacking Iran, our homicidal maniacs in uniform will be so hopped up that we’ll be getting atrocity reports shortly after the first American soldier sets foot on Persian soil.
A major factor in the increasing level of criminality in our armed forces has got to be the apparent immunity of our political elites from the rule of law. In spite of the boasting of former Vice President Dick Cheney that he personally approved and authorized torture, the Obama administration has refused to indict him – even though he has violated US law. Others who participated – the lawyers who justified it, the officers who covered it up – have been granted similar immunity. In short, these guys are getting away with it – so why shouldn’t the grunts? When the rule of law is relaxed so that the elites can literally get away with murder, why should anyone expect their underlings to be on their best behavior? A fish rots from the head down.
I have the sinking feeling we’ll be seeing a lot more of this American horror show, while – under the pretext of “fighting terrorism” – we act out our sadistic fantasies all over the world. As these outrages against human decency and morality provoke worldwide revulsion at the perpetrators, perhaps one day we’ll go looking for “terrorists” in the vicinity of a mirror – and see ourselves for what we’ve become.
NOTES IN THE MARGIN
I hope my readers will forgive me for this late “thank you” to all of you who contributed to our recent fundraising drive. I have to say this was, by far, the most harrowing fundraising experience we’ve ever had. I’m still in a state of shock, even though it’s over: I never want to have to go through that again, but I fear I will. They say the economy is improving, but let me tell you: the nonprofits are the first to see their economic health go south in a downturn, and if the recession is over – or about to end – it sure doesn’t look like it from my perspective.
In any case, one way to avoid these quarterly appeals is for Antiwar.com to build up a sizable group of monthly contributors, who stretch out their donations over a twelve-month period and give us a regular and reliable source of income for the year. This option is available online, and all you have to do is go here to exercise it.