Saturday, March 17, 2012


A look at the world of politics, statecraft, diplomacy and books

Staff Sgt Robert Bales of the 3rd Stryker Brigade on his 4th tour of duty left his military base, loaded his kit and set off for the village of Panjawi in Kandhahar province of Afghanistan and went on a killing spree that will cost the US quite a lot of political goodwill and credibility. On several past occasions I have drawn attention to the systematic rampage of US military personnel in Iraq and even when the killers were identified as was the case in the Mahoumadiya incident, the culprits were acquitted after a perfunctory trial in which the pretence of "human rights" and the US military's commitment to civilised values is paraded before the whole world. Of course the order to kill does not come from the top political or military leadership, but the lack of systemic checks and controls make it easy for such rampages to take place. It now transpires that Staff Sgt Robert Bales was involved in a firefight in Iraq in which 250 Iraqi civilians were killed without the loss of a single US soldier. He received a military decoration for his heroism. No wonder.

Afghanistan is largely out of US control/ President Karzai commands neither loyalty nor respect among the people. He surrounds himself with hired American Security Guards and the burning of the Koran, the desecration of Afghan bodies by US soldiers and now this killing spree by Staff Sgt Bales, a decorated war hero, only add to his cup of woes. Barack Obama's policy of counter insurgency has become unstuck and is unlikely to lead to any great US success. Pakistan is on the boil and there is also growing resentment against the US drone attacks on Pakistani targets. The NATO attack on Pakistani military base in which 29 Pakistani soldiers were killed is still simmering. All in all the US is getting deeper and deeper in a mess from which retreat may be well neigh impossible.

Already there is an attempt to shield the soldier who was responsible for the massacre. He suffered a head injury and therefore had diminished competence. If this is so why was he not discharged on the grounds of psychological impairment. The foreclosure of his house upset him, according to one report. Millions of Americans have suffered due to the absolute depravity of the Wall Street thugs and they do not go on a killing spree. Another pointed out that this soldier actually enjoyed killing civilians as he was very proud of his "heroism" in which 250 Iraqis were killed during the course of just one hour of fighting. When soldiers are dehumanized in this manner you can expect consequences.US diplomats go round the world preaching "human rights" and issue threats to heads of state who are involved in deadly conflicts with known terrorist groups. Is not the US military responsible for the actions of this man. By what law should this Staff Sgt Robert Bales be prececuted: as a war crime he should face the Hague. The US has created a kangaroo court whenre Black and Slavic "war criminals" are araigned. Staff Sgt Rober Bales was secretly removed from Afghanistan and he is now in Fort Leavenworth. The US like the old Anglo-Saxon countries is asserting the right of extra territoriality and unfortunately the rest of the world seems to acquiesce in this. It is time for people of the world to say that even in normal rules of engagement during conflict, civilian life must be protected. Robert Bales may not be acting on the explicit instructions from his superiors and that may well be a defence, but that fact has to be established in a credible non partisan manner. US military cannot protect its own by sitting in judgement and then announce to the whole world that the US is a champion of human rights. The conduct of US military in Iraq and Afghanistan has already made such assertion laughable and sonner Barack Obama realises it the better for the world.

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