Sunday, March 18, 2012

Monsters & victims: the legacy of war

The propaganda offensive is on to defend Robert Bales--the US soldier (& according to villagers, not the only one) who ran amok in Afghanistan massacring 16 men, women, & children--against the Afghan victim's demands for justice. Many articles & news profiles portray him as a prince among men, a helping neighbor, good to the vulnerable, & a puppy lover. The media & his legal line of defense is that he snapped under the stress of multiple deployments--which, by the way, are elected, not conscripted. During the Vietnam War, Seymour Hersh, reporting for the NYTimes on the My Lai massacre of an entire village by US soldiers, toured college campuses laying the blame entirely on Lt. Calley, the officer in charge at the massacre. Antiwar activists challenged Seymour to instead place the blame squarely where it belonged: on the US government which indoctrinates young people with racism, trains them to kill, & sends them into conflict. The families & fellows of Bale’s victims demand justice; they have a right to demand the perpetrator(s) of this crime face them & be prosecuted in their courts, & their demand should be fully supported. But the US will not allow this since what will be put on trial along with Bale & others is the entire US-NATO occupation of their country. Legally, the snapped from multiple deployments defense will work because, in truth, a US court is unlikely to give Bale anything more than a tsk tsk. But politically, this defense hands a weapon to the antiwar movement, particularly the antiwar veterans who are such a vital part of it. The antiwar movement has never taken an adversarial attitude toward soldiers & veterans, regarding them as our brothers & sisters & trying to reach out to them with our antiwar message because their testimony against war has unparalleled & powerful moral authority. In war after war, we have seen returning veterans by the thousands commit suicide, suffer PTSD & other mental health issues, traumatic brain injuries, addiction & violence problems, & represent a disproportionate number of homeless & incarcerated as a result of what they did in war. Under the stress of war, they have seen themselves commit unspeakable acts--war crimes--and they are unable to rebuild trust in themselves shattered by that knowledge. This attempt to defend Bale only backfires on the warmakers & confirms the judgement of antiwar veterans & activists; it condemns US-NATO war policy. War does indeed create monsters; that's why we oppose it. And that’s why it’s time to bring the troops home now. Demand the immediate, unconditional withdrawal of all US-NATO troops. (The soldier on the left is Robert Bales)

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