The U.S. Military and Massacres
Only China has killed more people than the United States of America
By TIM KELLY | THE FUTURE OF FREEDOM FOUNDATION | APRIL 8, 2012
The murderous rampage of U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales in Afghanistan has received much deserved media attention. Sgt. Bales’s shooting spree, killing 17 Afghan civilians, was quickly condemned by the Obama administration as a horrible incident and an aberration that was in no way representative of the “exceptional character” of the U.S. military.
It is a matter of state doctrine that such “incidents,” no matter how frequent, are treated as singular events from which no broader conclusions can be drawn. This is convenient for U.S. policy makers and politicians, for it absolves them of any responsibility for the actions of the soldiers they deploy overseas to kill people and break things.
But how isolated was this latest massacre?
Anyone following the news is aware that U.S forces are frequently responsible for the deaths of innocent civilians. These deaths may not be the result of a soldier or group of “rogue” soldiers “losing it,” but that is a meaningless distinction. After all, it was Gen. Stanley McChrystal who said of the U.S. war in Afghanistan, “We have shot an amazing number of people, but to my knowledge, none has ever proven to be a threat.”
The past ten years have borne witness to one atrocity after another committed by U.S. soldiers. There was the Abu Ghraib prison-abuse scandal and the “Collateral Murder” video showing a U.S. gunship crew cheerfully mowing down Iraqi civilians. There was the Haditha massacre and the team of U.S. soldiers that were killing Afghan civilians for sport. There was the more recent “incident” of U.S. soldiers urinating on corpses. And during their occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, U.S. troops have carried out night raids into villages that have killed and injured countless civilians. How many such “incidents” have gone unreported?
Are atrocities inevitable when soldiers are being deployed multiple times to foreign countries where they are surrounded by hostile populations? Of course they are.
This is why the ultimate responsibility for the crimes of U.S. soldiers lies with those in power, for they’re the ones who make the war plans and give the orders to invade. When Donald Rumsfeld spoke obtusely of “shock and awe” in the run up to the Iraq War, he knew that it meant the suffering and death of many innocent civilians. But the carnage visited upon Iraqi society by the U.S. military was considered “worth it” by the geopolitical strategists and imperial schemers in Washington. As H.L. Mencken said, “wars are not made by common folk, scratching for livings in the heat of the day; they are made by demagogues infesting palaces.”
Perhaps U.S. troops overseas would be on better behavior if those further up the chain of command were expected to abide by the law. After all, both George W. Bush and Dick Cheney have boasted of authorizing the torture of prisoners. But these admissions to what are clearly violations of federal and international law have not led to any indictments.