Robert Bales – Lone Nut or Scapegoat?

by , March 23, 2012

The murder of 17 Afghan civilians – most of them children – by staff sergeant Robert Bales may be far worse than we think at present. The semi-official story, as related by our compliant news media, is that a formerly model soldier went bananas under the pressure of war-related injuries, financial problems at home, and the all-purpose PTSD explanation for military misbehavior, whereupon he decided – at 3 am in the morning, after drinking with his army buddies – to walk the couple of miles to an Afghan village, shoot 16 people sleeping in their beds, pile the bodies atop a funeral pyre and set the whole thing alight.

How did he get out of the base at 3 am unchallenged and without anyone’s knowledge? How did he manage to do so much damage alone? These questions automatically register in the minimally critical mind – unless, of course, you’re an American reporter, who is quite used to accepting what our government tells us without question. On the other hand, without clear evidence of another – darker – scenario, all one can do is engage in problematic speculation. That problem has been solved, however, because evidence of an alternative explanation is now coming to light which throws the whole “lone nut” theory into question.

A few days before Bales went postal, there was a bomb attack on a US convoy in which a friend of Bales’s lost a leg: Bales’s lawyer has been detailing his client’s anger at this incident, implying it precipitated the murder spree. There are indications, however, that this is not the whole story. One local resident relates how the Americans paid a visit to the village where the killings took place and threatened residents with retaliation:

“Ghulam Rasool, a tribal elder from Panjwai district, gave an account of the bombing at a March 16 meeting in Kabul with Mr Karzai in the wake of the shootings. ‘After the incident, they took the wreckage of their destroyed tank and their wounded people from the area,” Mr Rasool said. ‘After that, they came back to the village nearby the explosion site. The soldiers called all the people to come out of their houses and from the mosque,’ he said. ‘The Americans told the villagers ‘A bomb exploded on our vehicle. … We will get revenge for this incident by killing at least 20 of your people,’ Mr Rasool said.”

The Afghan parliament is investigating, and they aren’t buying the Americans’ story of a “lone nut.”

The infamous “night raids” carried out by US troops have been a source of contention between Karzai and the Americans. As one commentator described them:

“The method employed is simple: Identify those who provide financial support or protection to the militants. And those who even have sympathies with them. Constitute teams which would go to the houses so identified, knock at the door and as soon as the wanted man appears, shoot him dead. At times a substitute is killed who may be a guest in the house but was unlucky to greet the intruders at the door. On an average about 50 night raids take place daily. And every night about 25 people are killed in cold blood in different parts of the country.”

The latest massacre has put the administration in a precarious position, not only with our Afghan allies but also with the American public. Story after story of nasty atrocities isn’t helping the battle for hearts and minds on the home front: polls show most Americans want out sooner rather than later. A deluge of sympathetic stories about the accused killer isn’t going to change this. What remains to be seen, however, is how this crime is going to be investigated – or not investigated – by the US military. If the testimony of the villagers contradicting the “lone nut” theory continues to be ignored by the Americans, we’ll know a cover up is in progress.

Full story at http://original.antiwar.com/justin/2012/03/22/robert-bales-lone-nut-or-scapegoat/

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