A Note on a Democratic Massacre of Families & Children, A Coverup, and Public Indifference

by Andrew Loewen on April 4, 20124 comments

Good Cop, Bad Cop.

Call it a hunch but I suspect that if a Republican President were occupying the White House and this Kandahar Massacre of March 11 2012 (including 9 children murdered in their homes) and its coverup were taking place, more liberals would take an interest. Much evidence points to the fact a small platoon, 10 – 20 US soldiers, carried out this horrific operation, and top brass and the White House have decided to cover it up.

But the mass media, always an auxiliary to power and status quo ideology, hasn’t kicked up a stink telling people to care, and so by and large — inexplicably — people seem not to care.

Massacres are an inevitability in any military occupation, all the more so as it drags on. Invading a foreign country and occupying it for over a decade doesn’t come on the cheap. Children will be shot in the head in their beds, dragged into piles and lit on fire. And liberals by and large will avert their eyes, as with this case. Indeed, what is truly sick is how the majority of Democrats have fully supported the Afghanistan war and occupation, yet on initial exposure to this story I detected a lack of gaiety among Democrats and liberal complacenistas. It seems that if their guy is Commander-in-Chief and it’s the “right war,” bad news is best bracketed and downplayed. There’s always a new Wilco or Springsteen album or a Pitchfork review to check out. We have our dignity.

Oliver Belcher, an academic specializing in the geography of modern war, highlights the contrast between counterinsurgency and occupation on the ground and how it’s sold to dutifully gullible patriots at home.

The “culture-friendly” counterinsurgency strategy that has been implemented in Afghanistan since 2009 has been a disaster for Afghans. Throughout the country, but especially in the south and east, Afghans have been subject to village razings, territorial pissings on dead bodies, trophy killing death squads, starvation in refugee camps, several forced migrations, mass imprisonment, systematic night raids on homes, ubiquitous biometric identification at every turn, irregular and deadly drone strikes on civilians (including eight children two weeks ago), walled off cities, and the comprehensive management of movement.

As military advisors and planners well know, the popular counterinsurgency mantra of “winning hearts and minds” is for domestic audiences, and has little bearing as a tactical approach in an area of operations.

Fall-Guy, Robert Bales

Not uninterestingly, Robert Bales himself has a record as crooked stock trader,  aside from his most recent trade as the fall-guy for liberal imperial slaughter of innocents. Our Sergeant Bales has said he has no memory of the actions for which he remains the only person officially implicated: exiting a secure military base at night on foot, heavily armed, killing 17 people in their homes in two adjacent villages, piling up 11 of their bodies and lighting them on fire, and all in less than an hour.

In some sense Bales is an ironically apt fall-guy for 21st-century America, the embodiment of all that seems most wrong in 2012:  thieving financial activity, imperial mass murder, and historical amnesia.

But then, Bernie Madoff carried out the largest financial fraud in American history acting single-handedly (so the story goes): bootstrap individualism!

When does an empire catch up with itself? My Lai? Kent State? Kandahar? Columbine?

One of few US print sources to buck the typically credulous “one gunman” story on the Bales massacre was Salon editor Jefferson Morley’s widely ignored piece from March 27.

Did Sgt. Bales have help?
The rush to proclaim him “a lone nut” stumbles on official secrecy and conflicting evidence

It’s a familiar argument in the annals of American violence: is some specific heinous deed the work of a disturbed individual acting alone? Or is it the work of unidentified conspirators? That’s the question hanging over the case of Sgt. Robert Bales, accused of killing 16 Afghan civilians last weekend. With U.S. officials releasing no information on how many soldiers are under investigation, it is premature to rule out the possibility that Bales had no accomplices.

A group of Afghan parliamentary investigators has concluded that Bales was part of a group of 15-20 soldiers. As Outlook Afghanistan reported Monday, “The team spent two days in the province, interviewing the bereaved families, tribal elders, survivors and collecting evidences at the site in Panjwai district.” One of the parliamentarians told Pajhwok Afghan News that investigators believed 15 to 20 American soldiers carried out the killings.

“I have encountered almost no Afghan who believes it could have been one person acting alone, whether they think it was a group or people back at the base somehow organizing or facilitating it,” Kate Clark of the Afghanistan Analysts Network told the Guardian. (The AAN is funded by four Scandanavian governments, all of which have troops in Afghanistan).

But the dedication to rationality, empiricism, and the “reality-based community” somehow always stops short of where liberal ideology (faith in capitalism and the “liberal” State) falters.

Myself, I remain wedded both to empirical reality and to the possibility of a future that isn’t circumscribed to exponential inequality, climate apartheid, and amplified imperial horror. Which is to say, I consider myself more wide-eyed and rational than the average American liberal. (Side note: if there’s any self-identified conservatives reading this: I think of you as soft fascists, explicit advocates of bigotry and oppression.)

Just how does the cold-blooded slaughter of 9 children, covered up by the American State with a winsome black liberal as Democratic President, testify to Western superiority again?

Oh, right.

(H/t Andrew O.)

4 comments

David Reddall on April 5, 2012 at 12:44 am. #

Well done, Andrew. It ought also to be noted that the permanent demolition of Bales’ wits–and any meaningful ability on his part to gainsay the “lone nut” theory–or what passed for them in his erstwhile, estimable occupation, is not above the current regime, either:

David Reddall on April 5, 2012 at 12:52 am. #

N.B. “Beneath” might have been more suited to context above than “above,” though that would imply that the figures in question have further depths to sink to.

Matthew on April 5, 2012 at 6:17 am. #

Very well done, Andrew. And the complicity of the chattering classes here (including liberals) is stunning given that the public opinion itself long turned again the war and the bottom dropped out last month. You are absolutely right about COIN and massacres–the practice of “night raids” makes murder inevitable and there have been explicit cases of targeting civilians (Nangar Khel, Shinwar, Azizabad), leaving out the drones and other air attacks. We have many witnesses on the ground that this was an explicit operation and given the fact that the Pentagon simply lies (Jesssica Lynch, Pat Tilman), we should be listening to them. BTW, typical argument for “humanitarian intervention”–the Taliban will oppress women (which, of course, Karzai’s government is doing) where as we will only shoot them and their children in the head.

Matthew on April 5, 2012 at 6:19 am. #

I should mention, the US started the invasion/occupation (oh, I’m sorry “liberation”) with complicity in a horrific massacre at Dasht-i-Leili. That set the tone–as well as allying with the most horrific of the old warlords. Hearts and minds, my ass.