12 March 2012

Excellent Perspective on Afghan Killing Incident

Following the shooting of 16 Afghan civilians by a US soldier, there is no end of analyses. This one, from The New Yorker, is one of the best.

A man with a gun walked into a house and killed eleven people, according to officials who spoke to the press. Four of the victims were little girls, younger than six years old. The man walked into two more houses, and in the end sixteen people were dead, nine of them children of various ages. He had tried to burn their bodies, allegedly; and he had walked a mile in order to kill them.
Does it matter that the victims were Afghans and the alleged killer was an American soldier, a sergeant, deployed there? In a way, no; those four little girls are as much a loss as if they were in Brooklyn or Birmingham or anywhere, and the same is true of all of the victims. And from the allegations that have been made public so far, this wasn’t some blundering misdirected drone strike—though that is quite bad enough—but a grown-up man who set out to kill children, along with their parents and other relatives.
In another way, though, it makes an enormous difference. This man was wearing our uniform, with our country’s name on it, and whatever awfulness in his heart found a shape in a war that we, in recent years, have only half-regarded, with a fitful unease. In wars awful things happen; that is why one must be so wary of even the most necessary of them. What exactly happened and why we don’t know; an investigation is under way. (There are conflicting witness reports, with some villagers saying that more than multiple soldiers were involved, perhaps drunk. The military says just one, and that he's in custody.) We’ll have more at News Desk soon.

The official statement from Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta on the shooting.

“Today I spoke to President Karzai to offer my deepest condolences and profound regret for the tragic incident in Kandahar province that resulted in the loss of life and injuries to innocent Afghan civilians, including women and children.

"A full investigation is already underway. A suspect is in custody, and I gave President Karzai my assurances that we will bring those responsible to justice. We will spare no effort in getting the facts as quickly as possible, and we will hold any perpetrator who is responsible for this violence fully accountable under the law.

“I condemn such violence and am shocked and saddened that a U.S. service member is alleged to be involved, clearly acting outside his chain of command. I told President Karzai that the American people share the outrage felt by President Karzai and his fellow citizens. This tragic incident does not reflect the commitment of the U.S. military to protect the Afghan people and help build a strong and stable Afghanistan.

“As we mourn today with the Afghan people, we are steadfast in our resolve to work hand in hand with our Afghan partners to accomplish the missions and goals on which we have been working together for so long. This terrible incident does not reflect our shared values or the progress we have made together. As I told President Karzai, I am fully committed to ensuring that our cooperation continues. It is essential to forging a more peaceful future for the citizens of both our nations.”

By: Brant

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