Best Piece on Afghanistan In Ages, Maybe Ever

Every American of every political persuasion should must Ralph Peters’ “Soldiers Murder Afghans, General Murders Soldiers,” at Real Clear Politics.

Here are some excerpts, but please read the whole thing and pass it on:

“It [the murder of 16 Afghan civilians] was the brutal act of a veteran who cracked.  The deed cannot be excused.  But I believe it can be explained.

“We shouldn’t be surprised that this happened.  We should be surprised that it hasn’t happened sooner and more often:  The shock of this incident after a decade of hopeless, meandering efforts that have thrown away the lives and limbs of our troops while ambitious generals lie about progress, seek promotion, and engage in military masturbation is actually a tribute to our men and women in uniform….

“If there’s a ‘battle cry’ in Afghanistan, it’s ‘Blame the troops!’  Generals out of touch with the ugly, brute reality on the ground down in the Taliban-sympathizing villages respond to every seeming crisis in Afghan-American relations by telling our troops to ‘respect Afghan culture.’

But generals don’t have a clue about Afghan ‘culture.’  They interact with well-educated, privileged, English-speaking Afghans who know exactly which American buttons to press to keep the tens of billions of dollars in annual aid flowing.  The troops, on the other hand, daily encounter villagers who will not warn them about Taliban-planted booby traps or roadside bombs, who obviously want them to leave, who relish the abject squalor in which they live and who appear to value the lives of their animals above those of their women.  When our Soldiers and Marines hear, yet again, that they need to ‘respect Afghan culture,’ they must want to puke up their rations.

“The problem in Afghanistan isn’t that we haven’t tried, but that the Afghans are not interested in fighting for the exuberantly corrupt Karzai regime. … Meanwhile, despite repeated claims that the Taliban is on its last legs, the religious fanatics remain the home team backed by Afghanistan’s Pashtun majority.  (If the people didn’t back them, the Taliban would, indeed, have been long gone — we need to face reality.

In war, soldiers die.  But they shouldn’t die for bullshit.”  Emphasis added.

This is the truth —  unwelcome and unvarnished.  Maybe the tragedy of the Bales’ massacre will get us to face it, at the Pentagon, in the White House, on the Hill, and in the GOP presidential campaigns.

Soldiered Who Murdered Afghan Civilians Suffered TBI in Iraq

The Army sergeant accused of massacring 16 Afghan civilians suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI) in Iraq in 2010 when his vehicle rolled over.  It is believed that TBIs might increase the risk of subsequent violent behavior because of damage to the prefrontal cortex.

Also, troops are at higher risk of mental illnesses like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) on subsequent deployments than on their first deployment.  This soldier was on his fourth deployment, after three in Iraq.


The Mess That Is Afghanistan

“In a measure of the mounting mistrust between Afghans and the coalition, however, many Afghans, including lawmakers and other officials, said they believed the attacks had been planned, and were incredulous that one American soldier could have carried out such attacks without help.

“Officials described growing concern over the cascade of missteps and offenses that has cast doubt on the ability of NATO personnel to carry out their mission, left troops and trainers increasingly vulnerable to violence by Afghans seeking revenge, and complicated tense negotiations on the terms of the long-term American presence in the country.”

“Attack Widely Condemned by Afghans as U. S. Investigates,” by Taimoor Shah and Graham Bowley, NYT

Attack on Civilians in Afghanistan

The Army sergeant who murdered at least 16 Afghan civilians had served three tours in Iraq.  He arrived in Afghanistan in December.

I wonder how much we check our troops’ mental health in between these tough deployments to make sure they can handle another one.  I’m not excusing what he did, which was horrific, but he wouldn’t have done such a thing unless he snapped.

It sounds as if he had reached his limit serving in Iraq and shouldn’t have been sent to Afghanistan.  Did our military know that?  Did they want to know?

His crimes are going to have a far-reaching effect on the overall mission.  We need to do more to ensure that no one soldier can create such a crisis.