Smearing Our Troops

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Sergeant Robert Bales stands accused of murdering 16 Afghans, including 9 children. Many top American military officials, including Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, have intimated that even the death penalty “could be a consideration” should Bales be found guilty of the crime. On cue, the Left has used this tragic incident as an opportunity to impugn the entire military and the nation, claiming the killing is on par with My Lai and is representative of our servicemen and women generally.

CNN blogger Stephen Prothero exemplified this dementia perfectly in a recent piece titled “My Take: It takes a nation to make a massacre” in which he spells out who is really at fault. “It takes a country to make a man do these things, and we were his country,” writes Prothero. “We U.S. citizens voted for the presidents who sent him into combat and for the Congress that appropriated the money for our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.” If Bales is found guilty? Prothero suggests that “each of the rest of us should spend a day sitting in front of our local jail. There we should confess to our respective gods ‘our sins, known and unknown, things done and left undone’ (as the Book of Common Prayer puts it). Then we should write a letter to the wife and children of Sgt. Bales asking for their forgiveness too.”

Prothero then reflexively descends into one of the prevailing themes that inevitably emerges when an American soldier is accused war crimes: comparisons to Lieutenant William Calley and the massacre at My Lai that occurred during the Vietnam War. Calley’s crimes were indeed horrific, but Counterpunch writer Jeff Sparrow uses them, along with Neil Shea writing for Democracy Now, not merely to condemn Bales, but soldiers in general, who need “a protective layer of hatred to perform what [is] asked of them.” He then takes on America itself, which has ostensibly normalized “torture against (mostly Muslim) detainees; the construction of secret prisons to detain Muslim prisoners indefinitely without charges or trial; the routinisation of assassinations and other extrajudicial killings of Muslims in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen; and, most of all, deaths of (by the most conservative reckoning) hundreds of thousands of people, most of them Muslim, in Iraq and Afghanistan and elsewhere.”

His conclusion is that the war against Islamic terror has “created a new audience who wants to never leave the gun, an audience no longer shocked by atrocity but increasingly prepared to celebrate it.” Completely missing from Sparrow’s article, however, is a single word on the far greater — and continuing — atrocities committed by the Taliban and other jihadists across the world, which our military has sacrificed enormously to prevent.

Shea himself continues with another trope made popular during the Vietnam war: American soldiers straddle the border between sanity and psychosis. “I met up with a group of soldiers who were the first I had ever come across who made me feel pretty nervous about what I was going to see while I was with them,” he writes. “And I spent a few days with them and came to just really understand that they had gotten to the edge of violence, as we understand it, in Afghanistan, and they seemed ready and capable of doing some pretty bad things. I didn’t actually witness them do anything too terrible, but the way that they talked and the way that they acted toward Afghan civilians and animals and property in the country was sort of stunning to me…Many of these guys seemed like they had reached the end of their rope in terms of stability and controlling their aggression.” That’s a rather remarkable conclusion for a man who “didn’t actually witness” our troops doing anything wrong.

At least Shea was somewhat restrained. Benjamin Busch’s Daily Beast article on the issue warns that the murders allegedly committed by Bales allow “for the possibility that any one of us could go insane at any time, and that every veteran poisoned by their combat experience could be on edge for life.” He too takes Americans as a whole to task, noting that our “national disinterest” in “distant events” is unsurprising because “we are a people known more and more for our selfish distractions than for our awareness.”

In the New York Times, psychiatrist and retired brigadier general Dr. Stephen Xenakis employs both themes, and asserts that Sgt. Bales is “emblematic” of bigger problems within the military. “This is equivalent to what My Lai did to reveal all the problems with the conduct of the Vietnam War,” contends Xenakis. “The Army will want to say that soldiers who commit crimes are rogues, that they are individual, isolated cases. But they are not.” The Tucson Sentinel’s Charles M. Sennott echoes those thoughts. “Overnight, Bales has for many around the world become the face of what is wrong with America’s war in Afghanistan,” he contends. “Just as 44 years ago in the ides of March of 1968, the My Lai massacre and Lt. William Calley became synonymous with all that was wrong with the war in Vietnam.”

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  • alphakilosingh

    It should not be taken as an attempt to justify what Sergeant Bales has done, but if economic slowdown and the resulting failure of someone to pay off his home-loan can be a justification for trying to blow off Times Square, so can be the frustration of having to fight a war with an arm tied to his back against an enemy who has no rules, for venting out his frustration on the civilians.

  • Ken

    Typical uber-Leftist, Progressive mantra. Hating the military and it's brave members!! Unless their ass is on the line!!

  • PDK

    A week or two before Bale, American GIs correctly burn Korans being used to pass secret messages. Islam goes on a rampage murdering dozens. POTUS Obama apologizes to Islam for the soldiers having correctly done their duty by burning Korans. Islam then murders six American GIs. The liberal MSM glosses over this. Undoutedly tormented by this phenomenon Bale loses controll and goes on a rampage himself. The liberal MSM suddenly finds its passion and has a field day besmirching all GIs and America as well.
    John Kerry and Jane Fonda are dispicable Americans and human beings. I never met a Veitnam vet who did not hate both of them with vehemence.
    Not only did Wlliam Calley eventually apologize for his part in Mai La, there were extenuating circumstances from the battle field that created an atmosphere that ignited that horrible tradigy. Liberals fail to acknowledge this but otherwise have no problem exercising their American right to free speech protected by these very same GIs.
    Liberals are immature. Immaturity denies reality and subplants reality with a prefered illusion. Liberals besmirching our military are simply, though inadvertently, displaying their cowardice. Thank you.

    • WilliamJamesWard

      I note that liberals are also on the side of our enemies and complicit in the propaganda against
      America, for a liberal America is always wrong and at fault but never a word of all the good our
      Nation does or has done. The Middle East will go back to the seventh century when our troops
      are gone and the murder and mayhem will continue as business as usual…………..William

  • pierce

    I could not have said it better PDK. All points are well taken, including the one regarding John Kerry and Jane Fonda.
    Oh, and wake up Mass., don't send Kerry back back to the US Senate, he is a Progressive mistake.

  • tagalog

    At the first opportunity, the antiwar types immediately revert to type, characterizing our military efforts as "baby burning" and our troops as some sort of fascist supermen instead of human beings. All that talk they engage in about how they support our troops is revealed for the lie that it is and always was, camouflage for them so they can attack our system with less flak to take.

    In this incident, we appear to have a guy who was an exemplary soldier who snapped. There are many possible reasons, but we don't know what ones came together in this incident. What we do know is that he acted outside of military policy and is facing massive punishment from our own system. What would Afghanistan's leadership do to an Afghan soldier who killed American civilians? Let's see, was that bridge that they hung the blackened corpses of burnt American civilians from (and were partying under) in Iraq or in Afghanistan?

  • kongMing

    Insincere people use apparent self-defacement as the quickest method to gain credibility. Notice though they do not attack their own dear values, like appeasement or complacency, but instead warp it into another political attack aimed at their opposition. Superficially they can be seen as holding their country accountable, but they really advance their own leftist agenda of supporting all cultures except free market democracy.

    It’s petty shallow advocacy and can bee seen from a mile away

  • BLJ

    Screw the Left. I am not condoning what Bales did, but 99.99 per cent of our soldiers are conducting themselves properly. This despite the idiotic handling of the war by stupid, self-centered politicos.

    Karzai can blow it out his ear hole as well. He is as two faced as they come. And yet we still are making him a very rich man.

  • flyingtiger

    I have my doubts that Bales committed this crime. The facts as we know then do not add up right. Then again, you should always consider someone innocent until proven guilty.
    I never understood why John Kerry stood around while others torture killed raped civilians. He had the authority as an officer to stop this. This proves his lack of leadership and that he is a coward. No wonder the people did not vote for him as president.
    A few of you might say that Kerry lied. A politician never lies!

  • hajid

    Incompetent Chief of Arms -> incompetent generals -> incompetent officers -> suffering soldiers who actually do the work. When incident happened, those incompetent leaders are quick to point fingers at the people they lead.

    Is this insane or what?

    At leasst the leaders should be charged with conspiracy of crime if the solder is indeed guilty.

  • Stephen_Brady

    In 1969, my best friend was blown in half by a 152mm artillery shell, fired by NVA, in the Ashau Valley of South Vietnam. I was standing right alongside him, and received some minor burns, and had my eardrums blown in. Throughout the firefight that ensued, I literally stood guard over his legs (his torso was blown into the jungle). After the whole thing was over, I was sent out-of-country almost immediately, because command was worried about my psychological condition, and concerned … therefore … about what reprisals I might take.

    I understand that Sgt. Bales had lost some people, recently. People who have never been in combat cannot grasp the bonds that develop between men, in the field. This is especially so in a "war" that no one intends to win. I cannot condone what he did (if he did it), but I certainly understand it.

    • BLJ


      Not to get off course, but was that the valley where Hamburger Hill was fought?

      Oh, and thank you for your service in the military.

      • Stephen_Brady

        Yes, it was. This was during the leadup to the operation against the NVA.

        Also, thank you, sir. Your words, today, make all the hell of Vietnam worth being there.

      • WilliamJamesWard


    • SKIP

      I condone what he did, we should wipe the muslims from the face of the planet to include women, men and children, burn and raze any muslim structure to the ground and salt the soil. They plan to do the same to all non muslims and you cannot negotiate or appease people who are willing to blow themselves up and I think the only Americans that can yet get their heads around that concept are those that fought the Japanese in WWII and those of us that are over here in the muslim wars and have seen in in person.

  • Mister Right

    Depraved lefties have a long history of using random tragedies for their own political advantage. Remember the 9/11 widows?

    This is simply another rendition of a very old tune. The same thing is happening with the Trayvon Martin case right now. The left is already blathering about "tougher gun laws." Good God. Lefties need to grow a conscience.

  • Ghostwriter

    One lunatic solder goes on a rampage and every American solder should be blamed for it?! That's dumb! When will the Muslim world apologize for all the acts of terror they've inflicted on Americans? I doubt that will ever happen. There are few if any pro-American Muslims. The rest of them hate this country and everything it stands for.

    • christianisms

      "All the acts of terror"? Just one, mate. Time to get over it and stop hating Muslims

      • Ghostwriter

        What do you call the hijacking of the "Achille Lauro?" What do you call the first attack on the World Trade Center? I can tell you scores of attacks Muslims have done against this country but it would take too long to do.

  • guest

    The muzzies attack women and children, civilian targets, behead our soldiers, then have the mighty O apologize for America not being all muslim yet, and us standing up to islam. Wind him up and watch him ass-lift to terrorists.

    Too bad.

  • RonCarnine

    I too suffer from PTSD, I too lost a leg following an injury while making an arrest. This happened here in the states. Now I don't know if the Sgt. is a "lunatic" but if he has PTSD he is mentally incompetent to stand trial. I had insomnia, and suffered from hallucinations. I saw a woman in my home who was not there. It was so real that I threw a bowl of popcorn at her. Then I chased her outside and when I got there I looked around but she was gone. I was paranoid and could not stand to be trapped in a room (by having someone stand between me and the door). I was angry but I really didn't know who at. I had nightmares, they were very real and horrifying. One I had over and over again. I would be trapped in a culvert and the more I crawled the less room I had as the sand in the bottom got deeper and deeper. I would do things that seemed weird to everyone else but made perfect sense to me. I heard voices and they were as real as someone talking to you in the same room, but though I would get out of bed to find them there would be no one there. Frankly, I was dangerous to myself and others. Thankfully, my family got me help. A counselor got me on medication which helped a lot. It took me about 2 yrs. to get back to normal. I would have thought that this could never happen to me, I'm too rational. But it happened. Before condemning this man he needs to be evaluated first. PTSD is a real disorder and can have devastating consequences. This is the first time I have ever shared this with anyone other than my counselor and my family. I hope this throw some light on what this man did and why.

    • christianisms

      I've read that PTSD has been linked to Lariam, an anti-malarial prescribed to many people around the world including troops in Iraq. Do you mind me asking if you have you ever taken it?

  • DogsHateRomney

    Not all countries are protected by a bill of rights or the constitutional provision pertaining to Freedom of the Press.

    A jihadist war is being waged against America by the elitist Press, who flaunt their protected rights.

    The media has become a flatulant fourth branch of government.

    The media are themselves in need of ethical guidelines & re-evaluation to ensure that America's freedom –

    .and our Military troops are not abused.

    • SKIP

      Think we have freedom of the press in America???? Try saying the truth about islam which of course would be saying bad things. If the U.N. (which is of course the OIC) has it's way, it will become a punishable crime to say anything bad (i.e. the truth) about islam.

  • Ann

    We don't know what happened —I say there is something wrong with this — it does not add up—I have seen recycled pictures from 2 years ago show up —but not witness and reports of others doing shooting—something is wrong with this picture — they are going after this guy and not THE FORT HOOD SHOOTER—HIS MURDERS WERE A WORK PLACE INCIDENT — WELL SO WOULD THIS BE IF WE ARE GOING BY THE SAME LOGIC—SOMETHING IS WRONG!!!

  • WilliamJamesWard

    The entire situation does not make sense but that is the nature of psychotic outbursts and there is
    no answer to why until Sgt. Bales explains himself. The left and the Islamists will try to define our
    entire military involvement by this action, our political involvement and the character of Americans
    by using Bales as a judgemental prisim. I would suggest as the propaganda flies high and wide
    that we look at how many Afghanistanis are being killed daily by their own murderous savage
    citizens, something that is quite normal and accepted by them. I might add that what Bales did is
    in keeping with their normalcy and life as usual……not our normalcy, not even in LA………..
    this has happened in every war and historically moreso…………………….William

  • SKIP

    If this man is convicted and the military doesn't mutiny, we are lost. If this were republican Rome, we would already have a new emperor. War is not nice, it is not clean, it is not safe and it is NOT civil…War is KILLING! plaing and simple, KILLING and DESTROYING THINGS! get used to it because it is coming to the streets of America all to soon and if the Obamuslim is re-elected, even sooner.

    • Stephen_Brady

      I'm not commenting on whether you're right or wrong, on your position, Skip. My position has always been to kill the enemy in the field, and not make stereotypical assumptions about the whole, based upon the actions of some. It's basic logic, and it applies.

      Consider that both Japan and Germany had formal suicide units. Given that men were willing to die, in order to kill Americans, in World War II, should the entire population of Germany and Japan have been destroyed? Consider also that Japan's government motto, at the end of the war, was "One Hundred Million Die Together". Note that this was the official motto … not the people's motto.

      I'm very concerned about the possibility of civil war, in America, also. All I can say is, "Don't wish for it." Although I'm ready for such a conflict, millions of people would die in it, and it would touch every family in our country. I prefer to keep my combat readiness as a threat against tyranny, rather than head for the hills.

  • Schlomotion

    I think it would be wise to disregard what the so-called rightists and the so-called leftists have to say about the military and just prosecute Robert Bales for war crimes. This war between members of the media and the sub-sub-media is another matter entirely, consisting largely of posturing and self-advancement in the guise of defense of the realm.