Massacre As Metaphor

The massacre of 16 Afghan civilians by a still-to-be-identified American soldier limns the course of American foreign policy in the post-9/11 era. Think of it: he went out in the dead of night, at three in the morning, armed to the teeth, and snuck into a village where sleeping children were cradled in their beds. Taking careful aim, he knelt and started firing: one after another these young girls and boys had their heads blown off. One news account described a bullet hole right between the eyes of one young victim. That’s some pretty good shooting there, soldier: all that training, financed by the US taxpayers, paid off! His work there finished, our serial killer went to another house, where he repeated his grisly work. After it was over, he gathered the bodies together and set them ablaze, in a display of "shock and awe" and cleansing fire, as if to simultaneously wipe out the evidence of his crimes and appease his Wagnerian sense of the dramatic.

If only the television crews had been there to witness this American Götterdämmerung: it would have made an award-winning shockumentary, the story of a square-jawed over-deployed American soldier and straight-as-an-arrow patriot who just wanted to serve his country and wound up becoming a mass murderer.

The Western media is already running this clichéd narrative up the flagpole, and there are no doubt plenty of Americans ready to salute. After all, we’re being told, he had a "breakdown" – a rite of passage for every normal American these days, whether the precipitating incident is a divorce, impending bankruptcy, or the sudden discovery that their tattooed –and-pierced daughter is having a sex change operation right after she aborts her out-of-wedlock baby. Having a breakdown is now a sacred and legally-protected "right," right up there with the "right" to healthcare, cheap gas, and a federally-insured home mortgage, a "Get out of jail free" card every American gets to play at least  once in their lives. So, you had a "breakdown" and massacred 16 civilians, most of whom were young children? Don’t worry, my friend – the "safety net" will catch you.

As a good citizen of America’s "therapeutic state," this soldier embodies the idea that every trauma, or major discomfort, gives us permission to commit acts that would normally be frowned upon. If we apply this operating principle to the realm of foreign policy, what we come up with is the exact course of American foreign policy during the last decade.

It’s fair to say America experienced a collective "breakdown" in the days and weeks after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Normally rational people became bloodthirsty lunatics, and the War Party cashed in bigtime: as Seymour Hersh pointed out, the neocons pulled off a coup d’etat at the very heights of the US government and took the country on a rampage from Afghanistan to Iraq and beyond. After more than a decade, the wilding continues unabated under President Obama. The recent Afghan massacre is just a microcosm of the mass murder of innocents carried out by our drone campaign, and in the blood-drenched sands of Iraq – carried out with the same well-trained precision our American serial killer employed in slaughtering his young victims.

The Unknown Soldier used to be a symbol of all our noble, self-less, American heroes-in-uniform, who put their lives on the line to protect the nation: now that we have entered the age of imperialism, he has become the Unknown Serial Killer, whose identity is kept secret as he’s rushed out of the country to escape the wrath of his victims’ families.

The Afghans are demanding that we leave their villages, and speed up the supposedly planned "withdrawal" that will still leave thousands of American troops occupying the country. Politicians of both parties are urging us to "stay the course," with such "tea party" darlings as Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown joining hands with Democrat John Kerry and the Obama administration in support of the war.

The Unknown Serial Killer isn’t the only one around here having a breakdown: our entire political and economic system is currently experiencing a massive breakdown, one that threatens to upend the country and plunge us into a dark age from which we may not soon emerge. His actions reflect the larger crisis of political and moral coherence gnawing at the very foundations of American civilization and threatening the peace of the world. How else could our politicians be clamoring for more war when the American public wants nothing to do with it? How else could I be hearing a Fox News "legal analyst" named Kimberly make excuses for a child-killing maniac on national television?

Defense chieftain Leon Panetta made a special trip to Afghanistan hoping to tamp down the furor, telling reporters the killer could receive the death penalty – but I wouldn’t hold my breath if I were him. That may be the verdict that bests serves justice, as well as the national interest, but the self-justifying pop-psychology that rules the national consciousness will win out in the end, of that you can be sure. The last thing the Obama administration wants is to make a hero out of this murderous maniac, which is precisely what would happen if prosecutors sought the death penalty. The Republicans would make him into a political icon, the fitting symbol of their bloodlust and their whole approach to the world – and that’s terrain the President won’t tread.

They’ve already leaked that the killer had some kind of a brain trauma during his service in Iraq:  don’t tell me they aren’t gearing up to declare his brain injury made him do it, and warehouse him in a military hospital – far away from the media.

There’s no doubt this President would like to get out of Afghanistan with dispatch, and for the same reason he’s skeedaddled from Iraq – to clear the decks for an all-out assault on Iran. We’ll need those troops, after all, in order to fight Netanyahu’s war, the regional conflict the Israelis and their American lobby are shoving down the throats of American policymakers. America must be the first empire in world history to be effectively dominated by one of its "client" states. In this case, however, it looks like the client has taken over the business.

Our post-9/11 "breakdown" is far from over: indeed, America’s unleashed wrath is hardly spent. With the entire Middle East in our sights, as well as the former Soviet Union, our leaders are on a decades-long rampage that will only be stopped if ordinary Americans rise up and put a stop to it.

Author: Justin Raimondo

Justin Raimondo passed away on June 27, 2019. He was the co-founder and editorial director of, and was a senior fellow at the Randolph Bourne Institute. He was a contributing editor at The American Conservative, and wrote a monthly column for Chronicles. He was the author of Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement [Center for Libertarian Studies, 1993; Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 2000], and An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard [Prometheus Books, 2000].