Another civilian massacre and the savagery of our soldiers

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The bodies of Afghan civilians loaded into the back of a truck in Alkozai village of Panjwayi district of Kandahar (Photo: AFP)

Nearly eight years ago, on April 1, 2004, former speech writer and Special Assistant to Ronald Reagan, Peggy Noonan wrote an article for the Wall Street Journal, where she was a contributing editor. It began like this (emphasis in original):

The world is used to bad news and always has been, but now and then there occurs something so brutal, so outside the normal limits of what used to be called man’s inhumanity to man, that you have to look away. Then you force yourself to look and see and only one thought is possible: This must stop now. You wonder, how can we do it? And your mind says, immediately: Whatever it takes.

The brutal, inhuman event she was referring to was the killing in the Iraqi city of Fallujah of four American civilian contractors, whose SUV was ambushed by rocket-propelled grenades the day before.  The four men, all employees of the infamous mercenary outfit Blackwater, were shot, their bodies burned, mutilated, and dragged through the streets in celebration.  The charred corpses of two of those killed that day were strung up on a bridge over the Euphrates River.  The news, and accompanying photographs, sent shockwaves of horror and disgust through the United States and prompted endless editorialsfrom coast to coast.

Noonan described “the brutalization of their corpses” as “savage, primitive, unacceptable” and decried that the “terrible glee of the young men in the crowds, and the sadism they evinced, reminds us of the special power of the ignorant to impede the good.” She wrote that the Iraqis responsible for such gruesome actions “take pleasure in evil, and they were not shy to show it. They are arrogant. They think barbarity is their right.”

White House spokesman Scott McClellan condemned the killings as “despicable, horrific attacks” and “cowardly, hateful acts,” saying, “it was inexcusable the way those individuals were treated.” He called those responsible for the deaths “terrorists” and “a collection of killers” and vowed that “America will never be intimidated by thugs and assassins.”

A few days later in the San Diego Union-Tribune, editor Robert J. Caldwell wrote of the “grisly horror,” the “shocking slaughter,” the “barbarism” and “butchery,” the “homicidal hatred,” and insisted that “if we permit atrocities like the one in Fallujah to drive the U.S.-led coalition into retreat and premature withdrawal” and “[i]f we falter in Iraq, we let the mob in Fallujah win.”  Similarly, Noonan suggested,

It would be good not only for elemental justice but for Iraq and its future if a large force of coalition troops led by U.S. Marines would go into Fallujah, find the young men, arrest them or kill them, and, to make sure the point isn’t lost on them, blow up the bridge.

Whatever the long-term impact of the charred bodies the short term response must be a message to Fallujah and to all the young men of Iraq: the violent and unlawful will be broken. Savagery is yesterday; it left with Saddam.

In fact, in retaliation, savagery returned with a vengeance as United States Marines immediately bombarded Fallujah, killing over 600 Iraqis, most of them women, children, and the elderly in the very first week of the assault in early April 2004, eleven months after George W. Bush declared “Mission Accomplished.”  By the end of the year, after two massive assaults on the city by the U.S. military, over 2,000 Iraqis, including hundreds of women and children, had been killed by American soldiers, thousands more injured and at least 300,000 displaced.

Such is the American capacity for blood-thirsty revenge.

Nowhere has this vengeance been more tragically demonstrated than Afghanistan and upon an innocent and terrorized civilian population that bares absolutely no responsibility for the events that led the United States to invade and occupy the country over a decade ago.

According to the official U.S. government story, the attacks of September 11, 2001 were carried out by 19 hijackers, none of whom were from Afghanistan. Fifteen were from Saudi Arabia, two from the United Arab Emirates, one from Egypt and another from Lebanon. None of them lived in Afghanistan. They lived in Hamburg, Germany. They didn’t train in Afghanistan, but rather in Sarasota, Florida. They didn’t attend flight school in Afghanistan; their school was in Minnesota. The attacks were reportedly planned in many places, including Falls Church, Virginia and Paris, France, but not in Afghanistan.

Soon after the 9/11 attacks, the Taliban leadership in Afghanistan offered repeatedly ”to hand bin Laden over to a neutral Islamic country for trial, if there is proof of his crimes.” In response, George W. Bush replied, “We know he’s guilty. Turn him over.”

On October 1, 2001, the Taliban repeated their offer, telling reporters in Pakistan, “We are ready for negotiations. It is up to the other side to agree or not. Only negotiation will solve our problems.” The next day, when Bush was asked about this offer at a press conference, he replied: “There’s no negotiations. There’s no calendar. We’ll act on our time.” Refusing to provide any evidence of bin Laden’s guilt, U.S. officials stated that the Taliban offer was “inadequate” and instead “dispatched war planes and ships towards Afghanistan,” beginning its illegal bombing campaign on October 7, 2001.

By early December 2001, over 6,500 tons of munitions had been dropped on Afghanistan by US-led NATO forces, including approximately 12,000 bombs and missiles. By the end of March 2002, over 21,000 bombs and missiles had been dropped,murdering well over 3,000 Afghan civilians in air strikes. In the first two months alone, Afghan civilians were killed at an average rate of 45 per day.

The killing has continued unabated for over ten years and is routinely ignored by the mainstream media, which choose instead to praise American soldiers for their duty, their heroism, and their sacrifice. 

Just last month, on February 8, 2012, a NATO air strike killed several children in the eastern Kapinsa province of Afghanistan, with “young Afghans of varying ages” identified among the casualties.  Similar strikes were responsible for the murders of nearly 200 civilians last year alone.  Furthermore, in less than ten months from 2010 to early 2011, well over 1,500 Afghan civilians were killed by U.S. and NATO forces in night raids, a brutal occupation tactic that has been embraced - along with drone attacks- by Barack Obama.  According to a September 2011 study by the Open Society Foundation, “An estimated 12 to 20 night raids now occur per night, resulting in thousands of detentions per year, many of whom are non-combatants.” These raids produce heavy civilian casualties and often target the wrong people.

And earlier today, Sunday March 11, 2012, Reuters reported,

Western forces shot dead 16 civilians including nine children in southern Kandahar province on Sunday, Afghan officials said, in a rampage that witnesses said was carried out by American soldiers who were laughing and appeared drunk.

One Afghan father who said his children were killed in the shooting spree accused soldiers of later burning the bodies.

Witnesses told Reuters they saw a group of U.S. soldiers arrive at their village in Kandahar’s Panjwayi district at around 2 am, enter homes and open fire.

The New York Times reported that “a United States Army sergeant methodically killed at least 16 civilians, 9 of them children,” after “[s]talking from home to home.”

Residents of three villages in the Panjwai district of Kandahar Province described a terrifying string of attacks in which the soldier, who had walked more than a mile from his base, tried door after door, eventually breaking in to kill within three separate houses. At the first, the man gathered 11 bodies, including those of four girls younger than 6, and set fire to them, villagers said.

The Guardian added, “Among the dead was a young girl in a green and red dress who had been shot in the forehead. The bodies of other victims appeared partially burned. A villager claimed they had been wrapped in blankets and set on fire by the killer.”
The mainstream media was quick to follow the lead of “U.S. military officials” who “stressed that the shooting was carried out by a lone, rogue soldier, differentiating it from past instances in which civilians were killed accidentally during military operations.”

While Reuters noted that, while “ U.S. officials” asserted “that a lone soldier was responsible,” this conflicted with “witnesses’ accounts that several U.S. soldiers were present.”   

“I saw that all 11 of my relatives were killed, including my children and grandchildren,” said a weeping Haji Samad, who said he had left his home a day earlier.

The walls of the house were blood-splattered.

“They (Americans) poured chemicals over their dead bodies and burned them,” Samad told Reuters at the scene.

Neighbors said they had awoken to crackling gunfire from American soldiers, who they described as laughing and drunk.

“They were all drunk and shooting all over the place,” said neighbor Agha Lala, who visited one of the homes where killings took place.

“Their (the victims’) bodies were riddled with bullets.”

A senior U.S. defense official in Washington rejected witness accounts that several apparently drunk soldiers were involved. “Based on the preliminary information we have this account is flatly wrong,” the official said. “We believe one U.S. service member acted alone, not a group of U.S. soldiers.”

“Some villagers reported that more than one US soldier was involved,” wrote  Emma Graham-Harrison, The Guardian’s Kabul-based correspondent, “but Afghan officials and the NATO-led coalition said they believed the killer worked alone.”

The Washington Post quoted Fazal Mohammad Esaqzai, deputy chief of the Kandahar provincial council, as saying, “They entered the room where the women and children were sleeping, and they were all shot in the head. They were all shot in the head.”  Esaqzai was “doubtful of the U.S. account suggesting that the killings were the work of a lone gunman…About an hour later, residents in a nearby village heard gunshots, and they later discovered the corpses of five men inside two houses located near each other, Esaqzai said.” 

reporter for The New York Times ”inspected bodies that had been taken to the nearby American military base counted 16 dead, and saw burns on some of the children’s legs and heads. ‘All the family members were killed, the dead put in a room, and blankets were put over the corpses and they were burned,’ said Anar Gula, an elderly neighbor who rushed to the house after the soldier had left. ‘We put out the fire.’” 

One of the survivors from the attack, Abdul Hadi, 40, said he was at home when a soldier broke down the door. 
“My father went out to find out what was happening, and he was killed,” he said. “I was trying to go out and find out about the shooting, but someone told me not to move, and I was covered by the women in my family in my room, so that is why I survived.”

 U.S. officials were also quick to express their “deep sadness” as they described the “individual act” as an “isolated episode.”  Lt. Gen. Adrian J. Bradshaw, deputy commander of the international coalition in Afghanistan, called the murders “callous.” Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta told Afghan president Hamid Karzai, ”I condemn such violence and am shocked and saddened that a U.S. service member is alleged to be involved.”  U.S. President Barack Obama declared, “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…does not represent the exceptional character of our military and the respect that the United States has for the people of Afghanistan.”

These isolated incidents and that kind of respect have been obliterating the lives of Afghan civilians for over a decade.  Such exceptional character was responsible for the premeditated murders of at least three Afghan civilians in Kandanhar in the first half of 2010. Between January and May 2010, members of a U.S. Army Stryker brigade, who called themselves the “Kill Team,” executed three Afghans, staged combat situations to cover-up the killings, took commemorative and celebratory photographswith the murdered corpses, and took fingers and teeth as trophies.  To date, eleven soldiers have been convicted in connection to the murders.  Last year, one of the soldiers, Specialist Jeremy Morlock of Wasilla, Alaska was sentenced to 24 years in prison for his role in the killings.  One of the leaked Kill Team photos shows “Morlock smiling as he holds a dead man up by the hair on his head.” At the beginning of his court-martial, Morlock bluntly told the judge, “The plan was to kill people, sir.”  Nevertheless, he may be eligible for parole in less than seven years.

Last month, a video posted online showed four giddy U.S. Marines urinating on the bodies of three slain Afghan men while saying things like “Have a good day, buddy” and “Golden like a shower.”  One of the soldiers was the platoon’s commanding officer.  Just a few weeks later, American troops at Bagram Air Base  deliberately  incinerated numerous copies of the Qur’an and other religious texts, sparking mass riots across Afghanistan and leading to a rash of killings of U.S. and NATO soldiers by Afghans armed and trained by NATO.  Just two days ago, in the eastern Afghan province of Kapisa, “NATO helicopters apparently hunting Taliban insurgents instead fired on civilians, killing four and wounding three others.” 

2011 military report determined – shockingly – that the treatment of Afghans by the occupying armies was one reason why members of the Afghan National Security Force sometimes kill their NATO comrades. The report credited such actions to “a crisis of trust and cultural incompatibility.”  One would hope that night raids, drone strikes, the willful execution of men, women, and children, mutilating, desecrating and pissing on corpses would be “incompatible” with any “culture.”

In the wake of the Qur’an burnings, White House spokesman Jay Carney told  reporters, “We can’t forget what the mission is – the need to disrupt, dismantle and defeat al-Qaeda remains,” and stressed that “the overall importance of defeating al-Qaeda remains.”

Carney said this despite the fact that, in late June 2010, then-CIA Director Leon Panetta judged that the number of al-Qaeda militants in Afghanistan was “at most…maybe 50 to 100, maybe less.”  In April 2011, General David Petraeus told  reporters in Kabul that al-Qaeda’s total strength in Afghanistan is “generally assessed at less than 100 or so” combatants, of whom only “a handful” were seen to pose a threat to Western countries.  Months later, in November 2011,  The  Washington Post quoted a “senior U.S. counterterrorism official” as saying, “We have rendered the organization that brought us 9/11 operationally ineffective.” The official also stated that al-Qaeda’s entire leadership consisted only of two top positions and described the group as having none of “the world-class terrorists they once had.”

As such, the U.S. military and its coalition partners have been waging a war against a civilian population, allegedly in pursuit of what remains of a leaderless and powerless band of potential terrorists affiliated with the group accused (but never charged, tried or convicted) of planning and executing the 9/11 attacks.

To make matters even more appalling, hardly any Afghans even know the “reason” why foreign armies have invaded and occupied their land and have been killing their family and friends for years.  A survey released by the International Council on Security and Development in November 2010 revealed that, “in Kandahar and Helmand provinces, the two provinces currently suffering the most violence” and where Obama had recently sent thousands of American soldiers, “92% of respondents in the south are unaware of the events of 9/11 or that they triggered the current international presence in Afghanistan,” after being read a three-paragraph description of the attacks. Furthermore, of those interviewed (one thousand Afghan men ages fifteen to thirty),40% ”believe the international forces are there to destroy Islam, or to occupy or destroy Afghanistan.”  Chances are, incinerating their holy scripture and bombing their villages don’t help challenge this perception

Consequently, when American missiles and bullets tear through villages, rooftops, windshields, and the living, breathing bodies of Afghan men, women, boys and girls, the carnage is devoid of “context” – not that a deadly attack on U.S. soil over a decade ago can possibly, in any conceivable, legal, or human way, justify the atrocities, trauma, terror, dehumanization and devastation that have befallen the Afghan people at the orders and hands of American soldiers, officers, and commanders-in chief.

Such criminal brutality is obviously not limited to Afghanistan.  Sunday’s massacre of 16 human beings in Kandahar recalls themassacre in Haditha, Iraq on November 19, 2005.  Following the death of one soldier (and wounding of two others) by a roadside bomb, a squad of Marines killed 24 unarmed Iraqi civilians, including women, an elderly man, children, some of them toddlers.

Led by Staff Sergeant Frank Wuterich (who told his men to “shoot first and ask questions later”), Marines ordered a taxi driver and four students at the Technical Institute in Saqlawiyah out of their car and shot them dead in the street, the Marines raided three nearby homes, slaughtering everyone they came in contact with. 

Along with his 66-year-old wife Khamisa Tuma Ali, three grown sons, a 32-year-old woman and a four-year-old child, 76-year-old, wheelchair-bound Abdul Hamid Hassan Ali was killed in his own home after having his chest and abdomen riddled with bullets.  Nine-year-old Eman Walid witnessed the slaughter of her family. “First, they went into my father’s room, where he was reading the Koran and we heard shots,” she said. “I couldn’t see their faces very well—only their guns sticking into the doorway. I watched them shoot my grandfather, first in the chest and then in the head. Then they killed my granny.”

Younis Salim Khafif, 43, his wife Aida Yasin Ahmed, 41, their 8-year-old son Muhammad, 14-year-old daughter Noor, 10-year-old daughter Sabaa, 5-year-old daughter Zainab, 3-year-old daughter Aisha and a one-year-old baby girl who was staying at their home were all attacked with hand grenades and shot to death at close range.  In the third house, four adult brothers, Jamal, Marwan, Qahtan and Chasib Ahmed were all killed by the Marines.  Another brother, Yousif, who survived the attack, recalled, “The Americans gathered my four brothers and took them inside my father’s bedroom, to a closet. They killed them inside the closet.”  The soldiers then took photos of the dead and desecrated their bodies by urinating on them.

Despite overwhelming evidence, only a single solider, Wuterich, stood trial for these murders. All charges against the other Marines who committed these atrocities were dropped or dismissed.  Wuterich, whose own charges of assault and manslaughter were also dropped, was convicted on January 24, 2012 of only negligent dereliction of duty. He got a demotion and a pay cut.  His sentence did not include any jail time

This kind of American impunity is hardly surprising.

Over the past decade, the United States military has invaded and occupied two foreign countries (illegally bombing and drone striking at least four others), and has overseen the kidnapping, indefinite detention without charge or trial, and the physical and psychological torture of thousands of people, including at places like GuantanamoBagram, and Abu Ghraib, where detainees were raped by their American captors.  Prisoners held by the United States in  Afghanistan  and  Guantanamo, in addition to being “chained to the ceiling, shackled so tightly that the blood flow stops, kept naked and hooded and kicked to keep them awake for days on end,” have also been beaten to death by their American interrogators. Of the fifteen soldiers charged with detainee abuse ranging from “dereliction of duty to maiming and involuntary manslaughter,” all but three have been acquitted. Those three received written reprimands and served, at most, 75 days in prison for their war crimes and crimes against humanity.

In response to the lethal rampage in Kandahar today, the Taliban condemned the “sick minded American savages” and vowed to “take revenge from the invaders and the savage murderers for every single martyr.” The official Taliban statement continued,

A large number from amongst the victims are innocent children, women and the elderly, martyred by the American barbarians who mercilessly robbed them of their precious lives and drenched their hands with their innocent blood.

The American terrorists want to come up with an excuse for the perpetrator of this inhumane crime by claiming that this immoral culprit was mentally ill.

If the perpetrators of this massacre were in fact mentally ill then this testifies to yet another moral transgression by the American military because they are arming lunatics in Afghanistan who turn their weapons against the defenceless Afghans without giving a second thought.

The words could be Peggy Noonan’s. One would assume, as the victims of this latest massacre were not trained, uniformed combat troops, heavily-armed and armored, serving in a military occupation of an invaded and destroyed foreign country, but rather innocent civilians, many of them children, that the Noonans of the world would similarly cry out for justice, for vengeance, for retribution.

But don’t hold your breath.

Their silence – or worse, equivocation – will be thunderous.

About Nima Shirazi

Nima Shirazi is co-editor of the Iran, Iraq and Turkey pages for the online magazine Muftah. His political analysis can be found on his blog,, where this post first appeared. Follow him on Twitter @WideAsleepNima.

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38 Responses

  1. seafoid
    March 13, 2012, 12:35 pm

    Some sad facts

    - The US is an immensely powerful and immensely violent society
    - Brown Muslim people don’t count
    - Neither do the soldiers. The mental distress of the grunts who do the killing for the corporations will endure long after the US withdraws in humiliation from Afghanistan, following in the path of the Soviets a generation ago. Many of their marriages will collapse. Many will kill themselves.

    • Chaos4700
      March 18, 2012, 10:53 am

      It’s getting so bad over here, seafoid, and most people just sweep it under the rug and pretend this is business as usual. I wish I could see the end of this cycle of violence, but I can’t. And soon it will come home, and then Americans will not be able to ignore it.

      And as bad as it is here, it’s nothing like the hell we inflict upon others in the Middle East.

  2. seafoid
    March 13, 2012, 12:51 pm

    Super article by the Rev. Giles Fraser

    link to

    “Following this latest massacre in Kandahar there will be much talk of a lone gunman going off the rails. But the truth is more disturbing. One cannot set in place the conditions for easy killing, removing the inbuilt human safety catch, and then simply blame an individual soldier who flips out. And there is no way to ensure that such things do not happen again. This is what happens when soldiers are subject to a systematic process of dehumanisation. The modern idea of a clean and humane war is a total myth. Which is precisely why we ought to think a great deal harder before we start them.”

  3. Kathleen
    March 13, 2012, 12:54 pm

    Words of humanity out of Peggy Noonan. Whoa. She supported the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq. Supports aggression towards Iran.

    This morning on the Diane Rehm show they focused on this horrific massacre. But did not call it a massacre
    Aftermath of Deadly Attack on Afghan Villagers

    I asked
    How often do you see or hear any of our returned Vets on MSNBC, CNN, Fox, the Diane Rehm show and the rest of NPR’s programs? The MSM barely even covered the Winter Hearing testimonies of Iraq and Afghanistan some years back. They were aired on Cspan. But barely a whisper anywhere else. These Vets described horrific atrocities that some of them were involved in. The MSM and the majority of Americans seem not to want to know what has and is really going on in Iraq and Afghanistan.
    link to
    Winter Soldier

    Winter Soldier: Iraq and Afghanistan featured testimony from U.S. veterans who served in those occupations, giving an accurate account of what is really happening day in and day out, on the ground.

    This four-day event brought together veterans from across the country to testify about their experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan – and present video and photographic evidence. In addition, panels of scholars, veterans, journalists, and other specialists gave context to the testimony. These panels covered everything from the history of the GI resistance movement to the fight for veterans’ health benefits and support
    I know the US military does not count the dead in Iraq and Afghanistan accurately. But how many people in Afghanistan are generally believed to have been killed by American soldiers without reason and by US drones. What do you think the family members of the Afghani families will be paid by the US military for the lives of these innocent people? A few American bucks and a few goats?

    Facebook comments and questions to the show
    link to

  4. rensanceman
    March 13, 2012, 12:56 pm

    Operation Cast Lead set the bar high for sheer barbarity but Fallujah and Hadifa have not yet provoked equivalent moral outrage. Yet both followed a similar script of criminal over-reaction believed necessary to terrorize and subdue the perpetrators without regard to innocent civilians. We view IDF brutality in the Occupied Territories
    with revulsion yet our military in Iraq and Afganistan have behaved even more shamefully.
    Just as the moral fiber of Israel has been soiled by its Occupation of Palestine, so have our wars of choice, including Viet Nam. made our claim to be a light unto all nations a laughable proposition. Eisenhower was prescient with his warning about the military-industrial complex as it needs conflict and wars to perpetuate its influence.

  5. Kathleen
    March 13, 2012, 1:14 pm

    Oh yeah did not get it that Noonans words were focused on US contractors

    • seafoid
      March 14, 2012, 3:19 am

      US Contractors = Mercenaries

      • Chaos4700
        March 18, 2012, 10:57 am

        Even that’s too nice. They’re assassins torturers and butchers. There’s a reason why the US military has avoided using soldiers like this for most of our history. Mercenaries were used against us in our revolution. But the memory hole doesn’t apparently have to run all that deep for facts to be lost in it.

  6. Kathleen
    March 13, 2012, 1:29 pm

    Nima read the whole piece. Have not gone to all of the links. This is the most comprehensive piece on this most recent massacre by an American soldier or soldiers and links to so many of the other massacres. Thank you for this incredible piece. This morning on NPR I heard I believe it was Renne Montagne call this massacre “awful” about as far as she would go. Steve Inskeep did not go much further describing the massacre. You bring up such an important point about the description of killings of US contractors, soldiers etc by the US MSM and the downplaying of their descriptions when US soldiers or drones kill innocents in both Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere. Criminal really. Complicity really
    link to

    Will be linking this piece everywhere I can. Thank you for this honesty

  7. LanceThruster
    March 13, 2012, 6:22 pm

    My friend’s son was with Marines 1/5 for the fall of Baghdad. When I asked him what his experience over there was, the first words out of his mouth were, “We killed people for no reason.” He went on to relate how their checkpoints would regularly open up on approaching vehicles that often were full of nothing but women and children because maybe they didn’t slow down enough or heed hand signals properly. He also had to render aid to these same occupants with wounded children screaming in anquish and terror next to their dead or dying mothers, aunts, and/or sisters. He told of a six year old girl with the back of her skull blown off by a rifle round stumbling about unaware of anything but her dead mother on the ground.

    He said he learned first hand just how much we were all lied to about Iraq. His attitude was, “Support the troops, but not the mission” (this sentiment gets regularly mocked on right wing sites). Several of his friends I met at his homecoming never came back from their next tour of duty.

    [update from when I first started posting this account years ago] This former Marine is now suffering from PTSD. I asked if the VA covered his treatment. He said he gets ZERO help/treatment from the VA because they arbitrarily designate a % of level of affliction and his % (60%?) is below the threshhold for treatment. I bring this up because the official narrative being spun on this ‘lone’ killer is that he suffered from brain injury in Iraq (which in itself is often treated as if those complaining of impairment are whiners and malingerers). Have your bell rung by an EID and unless your brain actually oozes out your ears, you’re still seen as fit for combat duty regardless of in what other ways your injury manifests itself.

    As it stands, the brain injury allegations, while a grossly overlooked aspect of war wounds, stills seem to be a bit of a diversion as the first hand accounts questioning just how a single killer can cover so much ground and control so many so completely in his supposed ‘solo’ rampage shows the official version still seems to strain credulity.

    • Kathleen
      March 14, 2012, 9:57 am

      Lance the story you share is very similar to stories I have heard from returning and Vets who were between deployments over the last 9 years. I interviewed one for a local radio station. Will find the link.
      One of my dear friends Peggy Gish link to who is with the Christian Peace Makers team was in Iraq before and after the invasion. Mostly in Baghdad until the US kicked the group out. She has been in Iraq for an accumulated time of about 6 years. CPT was one of the first groups to start documenting reports about torture in Abu Gharib starting in the spring of 2003. Seymour Hersh used some of their documentation in his New Yorker report about Abu to
      Peggy and Art Gish on Democracy Now (Art spent around 10 years going and living with Palestinian shepherds, walking Palestinian kids to school)
      Five Years After Helping to Expose Abu Ghraib Scandal, Christian Peacemaker Teams Continue Human Rights Work
      link to

      Peggy has shared on many occasions that many Iraqi people believe that the goal of the US invasion was to totally destabilize Iraq. That dismissing Garner (who wanted to keep the standing Iraqi army intact) and replacing him with Bremer who broke down the Iraqi army essentially putting all of those men out on the streets. Along with too few troops, protecting oil refineries while allowing Iraq’s treasures to be looted, etc etc. They share many examples of how the US purposely seemed to fuck up.

      She has also shared stories like yours of soldiers that she talked to early on who were ripped up about what they were doing. And then talking with some of these same soldiers later and how desensitized they had become.

      While I agree that we should look at those who lied mostly young men into this war. I do think that the support the troops things has gone overboard. To some degree this lets them off the hook for examining their own reasons for joining, not examining history of old men using young men to start and implement unnecessary wars. The support the troops mantra lets them off the hook way to much. They need to accept some responsibility for their choice and not digging deeper into the reasons for that invasion before they joined. And for what has taken place as a consequence.

      Listen to the stories from the brave Vets who have stepped forward to tell some of the horrific things that have taken place as a result of these young people being sent into these countries based on lies. MSM outlets did not cover these hearings. Cspan did. In the evenings CNN, MSNBC, Fox, NPR did not even whisper about these hearings. Well NPR whispered
      link to

      I stood right next to a young African American young man Steve at the Obama inauguration. Thousands of us were packed in like a beehive on that extremely cold clear blue sky day so lots of conversations. Steve and I talked for a long time. Of course the what do you do conversation was woven through that conversation. Steve had joined the army as a direct result of what he heard the Bush administration say about 9/11 being directly connected to Iraq. He bought it. As we talked he revealed that one of his jobs in Iraq was helping prepare dead US soldiers bodies before being shipped back to the US. Body bags etc. We both teared up. I asked him what he had learned? Steve said “I will do everything in my power to make sure that other young men and women never get sent to another war based on lies” We cried some more.

      Not one person in the Bush administration has been held accountable for that horrific invasion based on lies and the brutal consequences. Not one! The dead in Afghanistan are barely discussed in our MSM. I was one of the individuals who disagreed with that invasion as well based on what I knew about the Bush administrations non negotiations with the Taliban and the Afghani government when the government was demanding hard evidence that OBL’s fingerprints were on 9/11. Hundreds of thousands dead. Tens of thousands injured. Absolutely criminal!

      • seafoid
        March 14, 2012, 10:25 am

        “Not one person in the Bush administration has been held accountable for that horrific invasion based on lies and the brutal consequences. Not one! ”

        Obama could have acted differently. He decided not to.

      • Kathleen
        March 14, 2012, 10:32 am

        And Pelosi took “impeachment off the table” And they wonder why only 9-11% of the American people have any faith in them. Makes me sick to my stomach when I hear Holder, Obama, Leahy, Pelosi any of them say “no one is above the law” Total bullshit and the American people and the whole world knows this. Kaddafi’s son being taken to the International Criminal Court. he needs to get in line behind dozens of Bush administration officials. Take a number and get in line war criminals. If only this were the case

      • LanceThruster
        March 14, 2012, 5:44 pm

        I remember getting ill seeing Pelosi hawk her book “Know Your Power” on C-SPAN going on about how she was raised to “do the right thing” regardless of the obstacles.


      • LanceThruster
        March 15, 2012, 6:43 pm

        While I agree that we should look at those who lied mostly young men into this war. I do think that the support the troops things has gone overboard. To some degree this lets them off the hook for examining their own reasons for joining, not examining history of old men using young men to start and implement unnecessary wars. The support the troops mantra lets them off the hook way to much. They need to accept some responsibility for their choice and not digging deeper into the reasons for that invasion before they joined. And for what has taken place as a consequence.

        In Gwyn Dyer’s book/PBS special, “War”, he has a chapter/segment titled “Anyone’s Son Will Do.” He goes on to show how the process of “psychological stripping” in boot camp is meant replace an individual’s identity with a group identity. He also remarks how the bravado of the young is particularly conducive to the needs of the military and is regularly exploited (there are indeed older adults who lack this habit of purposeful introspection).

        I believe my friend’s son enlisted before 9/11 (if I recall correctly), but did so with a true desire to serve for the greater good. I would compare it to the seemingly dual obligations police officers sometimes face. They’re heroes when dealing with criminals out to rob, rape, and murder…but how about those instances (such as the days of the civil rights struggle) when they’re essentially no better than a paid goon squad?

        Also, there are those instances where inductees are striving for opportunities unavailable to them where they come from. True, this does not excuse them carte blanche, but is a mitigating factor. I would be fairly satisfied if the part that was drilled into them above all else was their oath to the Constitution (whereby they swear to defend it against ALL enemies, foreign *and* _domestic_) as well as their obligation to reject unlawful orders. If those promises were actually kept, they might have swept into the Capitol to apprehend Bush, Cheney, and a host of other Congressional *War Criminals*.

        For a little personal history, I offer this one last detail -

        Though I became draft age in ’75 and actually toyed with the idea of enlisting (feeling if military service could ever be considered “safe”, that would not be too bad a time to serve), but knew I would have to take the oath and commitment seriously and did not trust the government to refrain from ordering me to kill people that did not deserve killing.

        The picture of the young Vietnamese girl running naked through the street after being covered in napalm was a searing reminder just how violent and cruel waging war can be and I took it to heart. Not everyone is conditioned to ponder these starker aspects of reality when thinking about their role in a war machine.

  8. RoHa
    March 13, 2012, 10:31 pm

    Remember, Americans, they hate you for your freedom.

  9. American
    March 14, 2012, 12:50 am

    This American says they hate us for what we do.
    I hate us too.
    Can I be at the head of the mob whenever we get around to it?

  10. RoHa
    March 14, 2012, 3:28 am

    You’ll need a torch and a pitchfork.

    • Shmuel
      March 14, 2012, 4:07 am

      You’ll need a torch and a pitchfork.

      I’m sure there’s a Mobs ‘R Us outlet in American’s area. If not, I recommend the excellent French website http://www.ahç It’s a little pricey, but worth every centime.

  11. yourstruly
    March 14, 2012, 7:31 am

    so what else is new?

    sixteen afghan innocents martyred last sunday by a “crazed” american soldier
    sick-minded savages, says the taliban
    too bad but shit happens in war, says the msm
    along with why don’t they appreciate what we’re doing for them?
    freedom and democracy?
    there are costs
    we pay a price, they pay a price
    best get over it, towel-heads
    after all, the injuns did, the phillipinos did, the vc did
    so will you
    so come on, afghans
    you’re ok, we’re ok
    everyone’s ok
    no hard feelings

  12. Kathleen
    March 14, 2012, 10:35 am

    I hope folks are sharing Nima’s piece. I have linked at several other websites. One of the best pieces I have read on this most recent horrific execution of these adults and children in Afghanistan. As well as so many links and examples of how this is not new criminal behavior

  13. Hostage
    March 14, 2012, 6:04 pm

    Then you force yourself to look and see and only one thought is possible: This must stop now. You wonder, how can we do it? And your mind says, immediately: Whatever it takes.

    It’s pretty simple. Rather than run around shreying about war crimes, try to remember that war is a crime.

    That means that planning, preparation, initiation or waging of a war of aggression, or a war in violation of international treaties, agreements or assurances, or participation in a common plan or conspiracy for the accomplishment of any of the foregoing has been a criminal offense under customary international law since the principles in the Nuremberg Charter were adopted.

    There is no statute of limitations for the crime of aggression. It can lead to arrest and prosecution in any national court that has been given the authority to exercise universal jurisdiction.

    For example, the judgment in Regina v Jones (2006) noted:

    It was suggested, on behalf of the Crown, that the crime of aggression lacked the certainty of definition required of any criminal offence, particularly a crime of this gravity. This submission was based on the requirement in article 5(2) of the Rome statute that the crime of aggression be the subject of definition before the international court exercised jurisdiction to try persons accused of that offence. This was an argument which found some favour with the Court of Appeal (in para 43 of its judgment). I would not for my part accept it. It is true that some states parties to the Rome statute have sought an extended and more specific definition of aggression. It is also true that there has been protracted discussion of whether a finding of aggression against a state by the Security Council should be a necessary pre-condition of the court’s exercise of jurisdiction to try a national of that state accused of committing the crime. I do not, however, think that either of these points undermines the appellants’ essential proposition that the core elements of the crime of aggression have been understood, at least since 1945, with sufficient clarity to permit the lawful trial (and, on conviction, punishment) of those accused of this most serious crime. It is unhistorical to suppose that the elements of the crime were clear in 1945 but have since become in any way obscure.

    link to

    So it’s only a matter of mobilizing the public to finally hold the individuals criminally responsible for starting all of these costly and destructive wars.

  14. Denis
    March 16, 2012, 8:15 pm

    Nima, this is the most incredible online piece I have ever read. Your effort in assembling all of those links and quotes is greatly appreciated and admired.

    We now have news from the MSM that this sicko is Robert Bales, 38, SSgt. He has been whisked out of harm’s way — meaning away from any possibility of a local trial — and brought to safety in the US. His civilian lawyer is already working the MSM, spinning this kiddie-killer into the victim.

    It is amazing to me the way Americans go off like a 3000 mile long pipe bomb when a child is snatched off the sidewalk in Fla. or Calif, raped, and killed. And they should go off like a bomb. But kiddie killers in American uniforms plying their depravity in distant places . . . well, as Panetta said in Afghanistan this week: tsk, tsk, war is hell, let’s move on.

    Now the Army will spin this sick bastard into the victim. It was his third tour. His buddy was injured. His CO should have seen this coming. And, or course, the catch-all reason to pity him: PTSD

    OK, he’s sick. So turn him over to the Afghanis. Let him sit in an Afghani asylum for the rest of his life. This is not a military matter. It’s a civilian matter. If a mass-murderer had killed someone while stationed at Fort Lewis, he’d go on trial in a state court, not a military one. But that won’t happen. He’ll eventually get a rank-reduction for dereliction of duty.

    As sickening as the Taliban are with their stonings, brutal misogyny, Sharia-fueled violence against the Afghanis, it is even more sickening to realize that to these same people, US soldiers are worse. Talk about being between a hard place and a rock.

  15. Hostage
    March 16, 2012, 9:14 pm

    He has been whisked out of harm’s way — meaning away from any possibility of a local trial — and brought to safety in the US.

    If Afghanistan is genuinely unable to carry out the investigation or prosecution, it is a member state of the International Criminal Court. These are certainly crimes which are subject to its jurisdiction that were committed inside the territory of Afghanistan.

    FYI, proceedings that are undertaken for the purpose of shielding the person concerned from criminal responsibility for crimes within the jurisdiction of the Court would actually trigger action by the Prosecutor under the terms of Article 17 of the Rome Statute. link to

    • Denis
      March 17, 2012, 1:07 am


      Both the US and Israel have “unsigned” the Rome Statute. They are no longer parties, and no longer bound by it. Can’t imagine why . . . . the freakin’ perps.

      Here is FN 3 to UN list of signatories. @ link to

      “In a communication received on 28 August 2002, the Government of Israel informed the Secretary-General of the following:
      … connection with the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court adopted on 17 July 1998, [...] Israel does not intend to become a party to the treaty. Accordingly, Israel has no legal obligations arising from its signature on 31 December 2000. Israel requests that its intention not to become a party, as expressed in this letter, be reflected in the depositary’s status lists relating to this treaty.”

      Here is FN 10.

      “In a communication received on 6 May 2002, the Government of the United States of America informed the Secretary-General of the following:
      This is to inform you, in connection with the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court adopted on July 17, 1998, that the United States does not intend to become a party to the treaty. Accordingly, the United States has no legal obligations arising from its signature on December 31, 2000. The United States requests that its intention not to become a party, as expressed in this letter, be reflected in the depositary’s status lists relating to this treaty.”

      The Palestinian National Authority has accepted jurisdiction of the Int’l Criminal Court, although it cannot be a signatory because it is not a country. Canada is a full signatory, which is just another reason why I left the US for Canada. I prefer to live in a place I don’t have to be perpetually ashamed of.

      • Hostage
        March 17, 2012, 12:43 pm

        Hostage . . . Both the US and Israel have “unsigned” the Rome Statute. They are no longer parties, and no longer bound by it. Can’t imagine why . . . . the freakin’ perps.

        Denis, it doesn’t necessarily matter that neither the US nor Israel are parties to the Rome Statute. The Court can still exercise its jurisdiction if members of the US or Israeli armed forces commit crimes on the territory of one of the many states, like Afghanistan, that are parties to the Statute. FYI, crimes committed on US or Israeli territory by nationals of a state party could also be subject to the Court’s jurisdiction.

        The Palestinian National Authority has accepted jurisdiction of the Int’l Criminal Court, although it cannot be a signatory because it is not a country.

        Correction: The Registrar of the Court informed the Palestinian Authority, that pending a decision from the Pre-Trial Chamber, its Article 12(3) declaration accepting the Court’s jurisdiction had triggered the application of the provisions of Part 9 of the Statute on International Cooperation and Judicial Assistance and any rules thereunder, concerning State parties. link to

        One of the exhibits supplied to the Court by the members of the Arab League contained an annex which listed the international agreements they have with the third party state of Palestine on the subjects of diplomatic immunity and extradition. The Court is required to respect those agreements under the terms of Part 9, Article 98 of the Statute. See Documents on the status of Palestine, at the ICC website. It is axiomatic that Palestine cannot be treated as a state for the purposes of Article 98 and a non-state actor for the purposes of Articles 12 and 125.

        Under the terms of Article 125, the Rome Statute is open for signature by “all states” and the UN Secretary General is designated to act as the depositary. The Secretary General is obliged to accept instruments of accession or ratification from any full member state of the UN or one of its specialized agencies, including UNESCO under the “all states” or more strict “Vienna” formula. See The “Vienna formula”; the “all States formula”; the practice of the General Assembly in “Summary Of Practice Of The Secretary-General As Depositary Of Multilateral Treaties”. link to

        Palestine can become a member of the ICC, but that isn’t necessary for the Court to exercise its jurisdiction under the terms of Palestine’s Article 12(3) declaration. Those provisions of the Statute allow non-member states to refer situations on their territory to the Court and Palestine has already made the necessary declaration.

      • Denis
        March 18, 2012, 11:04 am

        @ Hostage: The Court can still exercise its jurisdiction if members of the US or Israeli armed forces commit crimes on the territory of one of the many states, like Afghanistan, that are parties to the Statute. FYI, crimes committed on US or Israeli territory by nationals of a state party could also be subject to the Court’s jurisdiction.

        FYI, I believe you’ve got this wrong, Hostage. I note you don’t support it with any authority.

        Last I heard the US and Israel are sovereign states. The whole point of sovereignty is being beyond any other power or jurisdiction. That sovereignty extends to the state’s representatives abroad, including military, acting in the state’s behalf. Unless the US has relinquished its sovereignty in these matters by means of a written statement — which it has but has retracted — then the ICC has no power over it.

        Could some foreign country, acting on an ICC warrant, arrest Bush or Obama while they are abroad and take them before the ICC . . . ah, yeah, sure . . .dream on. Think WWIII. Today, nuke stockpiles, essentially, is the bottom line of sovereignty.

        That is not to say that Bales could not have been charged with the murders and tried by the Afghanistan govt. under Afghan law. Soldiers do not have diplomatic immunity and, barring that, sovereignty does not provide immunity for criminal acts in foreign countries.

        But who in the Afghan police force or army was going to wade into the middle of the 3rd Stryker Brigade to execute the arrest warrant?

      • Hostage
        March 18, 2012, 4:13 pm

        FYI, I believe you’ve got this wrong, Hostage. I note you don’t support it with any authority. . . . Last I heard the US and Israel are sovereign states. The whole point of sovereignty is being beyond any other power or jurisdiction.

        The participants at the San Francisco Conference on UN Organization agreed that sovereignty had been a poorly defined and abstract concept in international law during the colonial era and that its only tangible manifestation is jurisdiction. Israel has always claimed that it isn’t responsible for application of human rights covenants in the Palestinian territories because they are not part of its sovereign territory or jurisdiction. See CCPR/C/ISR/2001/2, para 8 or E/1990/6/Add.32, para 6-7

        The jurisdiction of the international criminal tribunals has been limited to natural persons. See Article 25 of the Rome Statute at the UN Treaty Organization link supplied below. It is a recognized principle of international criminal law that individuals cannot invoke state sovereignty as a defense, e.g. Israel v. Eichmann, United States v. Noriega, and Prosecutor v. Tadic:

        “The right to plead violation of the sovereignty of a State is the exclusive right of that State. Only a sovereign State may raise the plea or waive it, and the accused has no right to take over the rights of that State.” (36 International Law Reports 5, 62 (1961), affirmed by Supreme Court of Israel, 36 International Law Reports 277 (1962).)

        24. The doctrines of “political questions” and “non-justiciable disputes” are remnants of the reservations of “sovereignty”, “national honour”, etc. in very old arbitration treaties. They have receded from the horizon of contemporary international law, except for the occasional invocation of the “political question” argument before the International Court of Justice in advisory proceedings and, very rarely, in contentious proceedings as well.

        The Court has consistently rejected this argument as a bar to examining a case.

        link to

        Neither the US nor Israel exercise “sovereignty” over the territory of member states of the International Criminal Court or territories that they happen to occupy militarily under the terms of the Geneva Conventions. When the Rome Statute entered into effect in 2002, the future Israeli Supreme Court Justice Elyakim Rubinstein was serving as the Attorney General. He warned that the decision not to ratify the Statute would not eliminate the danger of prosecutions. Deputy Attorney General Rachel Sukar explained that non-ratification does not provide immunity from prosecution by the court and that the court also does not recognize diplomatic immunity, so even a sitting prime minister could be indicted. See A-G: New Hague court may indict settlers for war crimes.

        That’s why the US government scurried around negotiating so-called “Article 98″ agreements with individual states. See Article 98 of the Rome Statute at the link supplied below and the section “Countries that have Signed Article 98 Agreements with the U.S.” here link to

        FYI, the validity of those agreements has been called into question because they may have been obtained through coercion in violation of customary and conventional international law. See for example the restrictions on special agreements contained in Article 8 of the Geneva Convention; the prohibition against coercion in Article 52 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties; and the authorization for the use of force against Iraq, Afghanistan, and the International Criminal Court contained in the American Service-Members’ Protection Act and other key US legislation.

        The ICC member states have given the Court the necessary authority to exercise complimentary jurisdiction over any crime committed on their own territory. See Articles 1, 13(c), and 15 of the Statute at the link provided below.

        Under the terms of Article 12 of the Statute, the only requirement for the Court to exercise jurisdiction elsewhere is:
        *that the accused be a national of one of the member states (See the Prosecutors remarks on a South African national serving in GOC Command during Operation Cast Lead link to ); or
        *A declaration from a non-member state, with territorial jurisdiction, which accepts the jurisdiction of the Court (See Article 12 of the Statute link to ); or
        *The UN Security Council refers a situation in a member or non-member state for investigation and prosecution ( See Article 13 of the Statute).

        The ICC Prosecutor and President of the Assembly of States Parties have both indicated that, if Palestine obtained observer state status or other recognition of its status as state from the UN organization, the ICC would react accordingly and that crimes committed on its territory since July 2002 would be investigated.
        *link to
        *link to

      • Hostage
        March 18, 2012, 4:31 pm

        Could some foreign country, acting on an ICC warrant, arrest Bush or Obama while they are abroad and take them before the ICC . . . ah, yeah, sure . . .dream on.

        Former President Bush obviously does not agree. He would be subject to arrest and surrender to the ICC. The US and EU have arrested or prosecuted other former heads of state, including Pinochet and Noriega.

        *Bush cancels Europe trip amid calls for his arrest
        link to
        *Protest Threats Derail Bush Speech in Switzerland
        link to

      • Denis
        March 18, 2012, 10:56 pm

        FYI . . . that was a beautiful reply. Where did you come up with that?


        I’ll have to have a look at what you’re saying and check back.

  16. RudyM
    March 17, 2012, 12:47 am

    Captain Kirby said the transfer did not necessarily mean the trial would be held outside Afghanistan, but Pentagon sources said it was unlikely he would be returned there.

    The decision to remove the soldier from the country may complicate the prosecution, said Michael Waddington, an American military defense lawyer who represented a ringleader of the 2010 thrill killings of three Afghan civilians by soldiers from the same Washington state base as the accused staff sergeant.

    The prosecutors won’t be able to use statements from Afghan witnesses unless the defense is able to cross-examine them, he said.

    How inconvenient for the Pentagon.

    • Annie Robbins
      March 17, 2012, 1:00 am

      The prosecutors won’t be able to use statements from Afghan witnesses unless the defense is able to cross-examine them, he said.

      lots of witnesses

    • Hostage
      March 17, 2012, 12:52 pm

      How inconvenient for the Pentagon.

      The function of the American Service-Members’ Protection Act (aka The Hague Invasion Act) and various Status of Forces Agreements is to obstruct international criminal justice by prohibiting the use of funds appropriated by Congress to extradite service members for prosecution elsewhere and to authorize necessary force to free prisoners awaiting trial in the International Criminal Court. link to

    • lysias
      March 20, 2012, 11:04 am

      Is it possible to cross-examine witnesses overseas via some kind of data link?

  17. RudyM
    March 17, 2012, 12:47 am

    Sorry, I thought this link was going to show up with that somehow:

    link to

  18. Kathleen
    March 20, 2012, 9:59 am

    Noticing on all and I generally do not say ALL MSM outlets this week when they are talking about the massacre of 16 individuals 9 of them children in Afghanistan they are always focused on the soldier who allegedly committed the massacre. They start by saying “there are no excuses” for the massacre..and then they spend the next 5 minutes bringing attention to numerous deployments, his character before he was in the service, dissapointments in his life etc etc. They all seem to be helping this man build an insanity plea. NEVER EVER AND I MEAN NEVER EVER HAS ONE MSM HOST OR GUEST FOCUSED ON WHO THE PEOPLE AND THE CHILDREN ARE THAT THIS MAN ALLEGEDLY MASSACRED. NOT ONCE HAVE I HEARD A HOST OR GUEST FOCUS ON THE PEOPLE IN AFGHANISTAN WHO WERE KILLED. No pictures of the children massacred. Nothing TELLING. Not MSNBC’s Al Sharpton, not Ed Schultz, not Mika of Joe Scarborough, not Diane Rehm etc. NO one. Talk about dehumanization in our military….dehumanization in the US media

    • lysias
      March 20, 2012, 11:01 am

      People who try to minimize the sergeant’s guilt ought to realize that, to the extent that they reduce his guilt, to that same extent they should assign guilt to the people responsible for his having been sent to Afghanistan.

      I don’t think they do that.

    • lysias
      March 20, 2012, 11:03 am

      Actually, I did hear an interview with the surviving father of the family of a lot of the victims on the radio overnight. I think it was on NPR, although it might have been on the BBC (I have both of them on overnight.)

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