What do you call sixteen dead Afghanis?
This morning an article entitled “Multiple combat tours linked to mental strain, disease” written by somebody named Liz Goodwin appeared on The Lookout.
The article begins with this paragraph:
“The Army sergeant accused of murdering 16 Afghan men, women and children on Sunday was reportedly on his fourth combat tour and suffered a traumatic brain injury when his vehicle rolled over in 2010. He served three deployments in Iraq and was currently on his fourth tour of duty, this time in Afghanistan.”
Then Goodwin says:
“There is no way of knowing if the sergeant’s brain injury, multiple deployments, and brutal crime are related. But…”
But, why don’t we just go right ahead and assume that they are anyway?
Goodwin continues with this non-sequitur:
“But, the incident highlights the enormous strain the country's beleaguered all-volunteer military force is under.”
How exactly does the incident in Afghanistan highlight that again?
Ah, hell, you know, never mind.
Personally, at this point, I’m having a hard time totaling up the number of logical fallacies Goodwin manages in less than two paragraphs, starting with how a crumbling US military manages to remain both “all-volunteer” and “beleaguered” and ending up with how the, as yet, unknown motivations of a man who is alleged to have committed an act that has barely begun to be investigated serves to highlight the supposed strain on anything other than himself.
Last I checked, the US military continues to meet its recruiting and retention goals without significant effort – certainly nothing like the recruiting effort required in previous conflicts, and certainly without resorting to conscription (typically the first sign of actual beleaguerment). The vast majority of troops, including myself, have so far managed multiple deployments without resorting to mass murder – or murder singular for that matter. For the last ten years, the United States’ military has managed to achieve every single objective set before it, no matter how difficult, and continues to do so. Morale is certainly battered, but it remains high – otherwise we wouldn’t be meeting those recruiting and retention goals and we’d being seeing desertions, fragging, and a mass exodus of military-aged men to the northern countries.
Certainly there are problems, but incidents like this one and others such as the horrible tragedy at Fort Hood last year remain few and far between, notable for their rarity and not for their regularity – unlike in a certain previous conflict.
Having started with a heap of logical fallacies, Goodwin doesn’t bother to mention the murder of Afghan civilians or the alleged shooter again. Instead she doubles down on this week’s common thread, i.e. after multiple combat tours and ten years of war, us military folks are going murderously nuts.
Goodwin quotes a few vague statistics about how multiple deployments make soldiers more susceptible to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (Really? Multiple tours in the meat grinder make you more likely to end up with PTSD? Who’d a thunk it?). But she doesn’t bother to break that statement down into deployment types, mission types, unit types, locations, casualty and injury counts, ranks, ages, education, personal experiences, or any of the dozen or so things that have a direct and measurable impact on the incidents of PTSD. Instead she dredges up a somebody named Alejandro Villatoro, an army reservist and a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War, who offers an anecdotal opinion that soldiers who volunteer for multiple deployments do so for financial reasons. Villatoro also opines that the military routinely brushes incidents of PTSD under the rug in order to “keep a clean record.”
The obvious conclusion to be drawn here is that we military folks are too damned stupid and downtrodden to get real jobs in the real world so we must volunteer to kill people in a foreign land so that we can feed our families. As result, we go all John Rambo. Because that hoary old Vietnam-era stereotype hasn’t been jolly well entrenched into the public mind enough, right?
Folks, let me clear something up for you once and for all – some of us may not be the sharpest knives in the drawer, but believe me when I say that even the butt-dumbest knuckle-dragging grunt could find many other ways to feed his kids without signing up for the Army. Flipping burgers pays better, so does scrubbing toilets. Hell so does welfare – and people rarely shoot at you, and you’re generally home at night. Sure, maybe a certain percentage of folks join the ranks for a paycheck, once. But the alleged shooter in this incident is supposedly 38 years old. He’s a sergeant. He’s been in for more than a decade. He’s done four deployments. If you’re re-upping and volunteering for multiple combat tours over ten years it’s because you like what you do, it’s because you believe in what you do, it’s because that’s who you are. It sure isn’t because you don’t have a choice.
I can see some ignorant twit of a reporter not getting this, but a veteran should damned well know better.
Now, that said, certainly the military could do a much better job of diagnosing and supporting those with PTSD.
And don’t get me wrong here, it is most certainly a fact that the military has routinely under-diagnosed PTSD and other combat stress related mental health problems, including traumatic brain injuries.
But, it’s also important to understand that they’ve done a reasonably decent job given the entire situation.
In most cases, the failure of the military to care for and repair those with mental illnesses is not due to malice aforethought on the part of the Brass.
Soldiers, Marines, Sailors, Airmen, Guardsmen, i.e. people, these are the military. And to be coldly blunt about it, people are the most expensive and difficult part of the military, the hardest to replace, the hardest to train, to field, to equip, to motivate, to fix, to keep healthy. People are the most expensive investment the military makes, believe me when I say that we want to keep them working in top form.
However, oh hell yes we could most certainly do a far better job of it.
But it costs money.
A lot of money.
And the military doesn’t get to decide what it spends money on. Spending money on shiny brand new F-35 Joint Strike Fighters is sexy and keeps a lot of people employed – and those people vote for the folks who allocate the money. Fixing broken soldiers isn’t sexy and doesn’t employ very many people or get you very many votes, one way or the other – especially when you can pass the blame for free on to “the military” or “the president” or “the government” or who the hell ever. Both sides of the political spectrum are equally guilty of passing the buck on this. We can all lament the fact that the military and the VA haven’t done more for broken soldiers, that’s easy. But the real blame lies with those who pay for those fixes, or won’t pay for them rather, and those people are a ways up the hill from the Pentagon.
And it is important to remember that TBI is a relatively new issue for the military, especially in this volume.
Just as the helicopter radically changed the survival rate for combat wounded troops on the battlefields of Vietnam by getting the injured into the operating room far faster and in far greater numbers than ever before, modern body armor and medical techniques have drastically increased the number of soldiers who survive what would have been fatal injuries just ten years ago – including TBI. We’re just now learning how to deal with that. Could we do better? Better as a military? Better as a government? Better as a nation? Better as a people? Of course, and you’ll certainly get no argument from me there. But you have to look at it in perspective.
However, and here’s the thing so pay attention, none of that has anything whatsoever to do with the incident in question.
That’s right, none of it.
Goodwin, like far, far, far too many today has managed to make a connection without a single shred of evidence, with little or no information, without experience, and without having a damned clue as to what the hell she’s talking about. Like other pundits, she’s managed to string together a bunch of non-sequiturs and logical fallacies in order to reach some unsupported nonsense position, i.e. the US military is full of broken people on the verge of their own homicidal rampage.
The simple truth of the matter is that we don’t actually know anything.
We don’t know what motivated this man to commit murder – if in fact that’s what actually happened. Note that I am not attempting to claim, as others have, that this guy is a patsy for some greater conspiracy. It’s quite likely that he did exactly what has been alleged, i.e. he walked out the gate of his base in the middle of the night and murdered sixteen people, most of them woman and children, all of them non-combatants, in cold blood. I am simply saying that at this point not one of us actually knows what happened. And we may never know. The soldier may have been in the grip of uncontrolled rage brought on by the loss of comrades or war or impulse, he could have suffered a psychotic break and been operating under the influence of drugs, Zombie Jesus, or space aliens, or maybe he was just a an asshole, a sociopath. I don’t know, my military experience gives me no special insight into his motivation.
What do I think should happen to this man?
Again, I don’t know. I guess it depends on why he did what he did. Ultimately, that will be up to his chain of command. There are those in the popular press already speculating about the death sentence and pleas of insanity. Those people are just as silly as the article quoted above, you don’t know enough to call for any outcome yet.
What matters at this point is not what motivated this soldier or what his ultimate fate will be.
What matters are the consequences.
Not to the shooter personally, but to the rest of us, to our nation, and most especially to all the US and allied soldiers who must continue their mission in a country far more hostile and deadly today than it was last week. Many of those soldiers will die as a result of the actions of this one man. It has already begun.
Once again, the murderous actions of a single man may very well change the course of history, change the course of nations, change the course of the world.
Afghanistan has been at war with itself for longer than most of us have been alive. The consequences of this are global, as the events of September 11th, 2001 so brutally demonstrated. Now, right now, today, for the first time in decades, centuries, there is a chance to change that.
But, it requires the establishment of a functioning government in Afghanistan.
It requires the imposition of more than just order, it requires civilization.
It requires an orderly withdrawal of foreign forces.
And it requires a sustained and dedicated effort by the rest of the world.
All of which is now imperiled.
This situation is so precarious, so fragile, so tenuous, that it can be jeopardized by the incomprehensible actions of one man. Likely that man is insane in one fashion or another, for one reason or another. But it’s not his insanity we should be concerned about at the moment. This man is no longer able to influence events. What we should be concerned about right now is the raging madness that walks among us and purports to be reasonable:
The only good muslim is a dead muslim [sic]
How many times have you heard this or something similar in the last two days? Look in the comment forums under Yahoo, FoxNews, RedState, or other similar forum.
“What do you call sixteen dead Afghan kids?”
That’s what somebody I work with asked today in the hallway outside my office.
You know the punch line, don’t you?
Sure you do, it’s a good old racist joke dusted off and updated for today.
What do you call sixteen dead Afghanis?
A good start.
Yuk yuk. Funny.
I happen to know the guy who coined this little bit of hatred is a rabid right to lifer, a staunch conservative dead set against abortion and birth control, and a passionate defender of the unborn who wears evangelical Christianity like a thorny crown upon his fevered brow. As I passed him in the hall, I asked what he thought Jesus would say about the murder of sixteen innocents.
Fuck ‘em, an eye for an eye, he replied.
Yes, of course. Christianity, the religion of peace and love. How foolish of me.
I found the following comments under Yahoo and FoxNews forums, I didn’t have to look very hard or very far:
Obama put gen Petraous in charge over there and he attends communist bilderberg group meetings,makes you wonder how American military personel feels abotu that! But then we have to remember who Obama is and what he represents about tearing this nation down also!!! [sic]
Bilderbergs. Birthers. Truthers. Oh my.
What was that line from The Matrix? Boy oh boy, I sure wish I’d taken the blue pill.
Instead, we get to find out just how deep the rabbit hole goes.
Turn the #@$!hole into a glass astray. We wont b safe until all muzzies our dead! READ THE BIBLE!! [sic]
We should nuke the place clean!!!!!! [sic]
We should nuke it (get the little kids out first) and then clean it up and help the ones that we know are not crap start over... [sic]
Sure. Why don’t we just nuke ‘em? Right? Sixteen dead isn’t enough, let’s murder millions – well, minus the kids, I guess. I’m not quite sure how that selective nuking thing works, maybe we round up all the children first and put them somewhere for safekeeping and Jesusification while we burn their parents to glowing ash. Then what? We put the orphaned kids back to start over in the middle of a radioactive wasteland I guess.
Boy, that ought to earn us their undying gratitude and a special place in the history books.
The magic of raw naked force, kill ‘em all and let God sort it out. Hitler Jesus would be so proud, I’m sure.
The Taliban is the ones who did the shooting of . And Burned Body's ???? [sic]
How do you know it was not terrorist dressed in US uniform. we need facts before making jugdement [sic]
The Taliban did it. Yes, of course they did. Probably under command of the CIA with Predator drones and black helicopters piloted by Bigfoot.
What the hell do we call this batch of conspiracy nuts? Shooters?
Very sad...but I hate how our media is so anxious to make our boys look bad. [sic ]
What the hell is wrong with you media!! how many times will tell this story??? And raise more hate!!!! how many times did you run the story on our americans that were shot in the back of the head!! Excuted by those we trained!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! [sic]
Right. Obviously this isn’t news. It’s the media trying to make the military look bad. It wasn’t the guy who killed sixteen civilians in cold blood. No not that guy. He’s a red-blooded true-blue flag-waving Jesus-loving patriot. It was the damned liberal media elite. Damn them for making the military look bad. The media is going to railroad this poor soldier – just like they railroaded poor old Lieutenant Bill Calley, right?
just my opinion, but maybe these 16, were families of the people who shot those American soldiers in the head, in protest.. thats what ill write it off as.. [sic ]
They killed our solders! Which part of that don’t you understand! [sic]
Give him a metal! [sic]
Well, then I guess that makes murder OK.
Because that’s what we want in our military. That’s the military of American Exceptionalism. Sure. Mavericks, right? Rogue warriors. Coup counters. Death squads. Rambos. Maybe we should reward troops for each kill. Five bucks a scalp sounds fair. Two dollars per ear, maybe. Ten bucks for a scrotum. Maybe we should ride into villages like the old days and smash their babies’ heads against a tree. They killed our boys, so we’ll kill their kids. That’s right, we’ll kill ‘em all.Damned right, Horah! It’s war, man! Women, kids, old men, dogs, goats, kill ‘em. Kill ‘em all. Burn it to the ground. You know what we need? Camps. Sure camps and gas chambers. Exterminate the bastards. Give this guy a medal and a full belt of ammo and send him back out. Hearts and minds? Fuck ‘em, let’s splatter their hearts and brains all over the walls, because, yeah, we’re the good guys, the favored of God. USA! USA!
What do you call sixteen dead Afghanis?
The papers and the forums are full to bursting with ignorant bile.
One American committed murder and many of us rightly call that crazy.
But tens of thousands think he did the right thing.
Tens of thousands of supposedly civilized Americans think the senseless slaughter of sixteen men, women, and children was a good start.
Their comments fill the halls of America and litter the airwaves and the internet and they don’t even have the common decency to be ashamed. The murderous clamor of the ignorant and foolish and the brutally stupid fouls our national discourse and stains our national soul.
I’ll say in complete honesty that I truly hope that their God does indeed exist and that one day these fuckers will stand before His righteous wrath and be judged.
Ten years of war have taken a toll on those of us who fight, we are battered and sore used and hardfought, and yet – and yet – in large part we remain unbowed and unbroken.
But ten years of war have driven a significant fraction of our countrymen mad.
One man committed an act of barbarity, but these sons of bitches are the true savages.
What do you call sixteen dead Afghanis?
I’ll tell you.
You call it murder.
You call it an atrocity.
You call it a national disgrace.
And you hang your head in shame.
Then you stop making excuses for it.
Then you take responsibility for it.
And then you do whatever it takes to make it right.