Afghan shooting rampage: When the solution became the problem

Could Robert Bales, a soldier who murdered innocent Afghans, not differentiate between a threat and a non-threat?

Manal Shakir April 11, 2012
When it comes to international relations, it is usually wise to step forward with the right foot. If you have someone representing you in another country, you want to ensure that that person represents you in the best possible way and shows your culture, values, and traditions in the most positive light. This is how people come to learn, appreciate, and admire the ones who hail from other countries.

So when it comes to the armed forces, are the criteria different? Must a soldier have a history of aggression to become a better soldier? Does a soldier have to be brainwashed into believing an enemy is an enemy in order for them to be able to kill people? Does war allow our governments to send people with behavioural issues into other countries to fight?

Imagine if Robert Bales, whose name was not revealed until a week after he shot and killed 17 innocent people in Afghanistan, had walked into homes in a neighbourhood in New York or Chicago and killed 17 people, how would we feel then?

Robert Bales, a 38-year-old soldier who has served four terms in Iraq, shot and killed 17 people, and injured six, in Kandahar, Afghanistan on March 11, 2012 in the middle of the night as they slept; nine of his 17 victims were children. 


Eyewitnesses in neighbouring homes watched as Bales, and some say Bales and other soldiers, senselessly went from house to house and killed innocent people as they slept.

Robert Bales, a father of two himself, and a member of the armed forces for 11 years, could not differentiate at that moment between a threat and a non-threat; or were his intentions to kill innocent people?

It is no surprise that this incident has already become the catalyst for a string of debates about whether or not it was “right” to go into Afghanistan or how to proceed, etc. The focus of the debates should not be about the past that we cannot change, but about the future and how we can move forward.

However, that does not mean that we can't ask questions regarding decisions that pertain to soldiers like Bales who, even after displaying a history of aggression, was allowed to serve his country.

This is not a stab at soldiers or the American armed forces, but what I fail to understand is that how someone who had a record of physical and alcohol abuse was allowed to serve in other countries? And after committing the crimes was immediately flown out of Afghanistan to be held in a maximum security prison in Kansas.

Just like Raymond Davis, Bales was flown out of the country and will at least face 17 counts of murder, six accounts of attempted murder, and six accounts of aggravated assault.


In the case of Raymond Davis, however, when he shot and killed two Pakistanis in Lahore who he suspected of following him, he was held under diplomatic immunity and then sent to the United States after the victim’s families were paid off.

Not facing any charges for his action in the United States, Davis then emerged onto the scene a few months later when he was charged with assault in the second degree for beating up a man in a Colorado parking lot after he had an argument about a particular parking space.

Unlike Raymond Davis, Bales already had a history of aggressive nature, in at least two accounts resorting to violence when intoxicated. However, punching someone and going to anger management is very different than consciously entering people’s homes and shooting 17 people to death and wounding six others.

The situation that presents itself is tragic, especially when the “solution” to Afghanistan starts becoming the problem.

And when you step back and look at the situation in a general light, I guess the problem wouldn’t be as much armed forces than it is the aspect of war.

This post originally appeared here.

Read more by Manal here, or follow her on Twitter @ManalShakir1.

Manal Shakir A freelance journalist in Chicago, IL who tweets @ManalShakir1
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.


Tony C. | 12 years ago | Reply @Analyzer: Dear Analyzer, You are quite right, and this is why the U.S. are not carrying out any ballistic/forensic tests, because this would prove more than one weapon was used, and the women were raped by more than one man.
Tony C. | 12 years ago | Reply @vickram: Dear vickram. How may reasons would you like? Just off the top of my head I could think of twenty, and when/if the U.S. find Bales guilty they should hang him. But then, perhaps I am suffering from Root Cause Theory.
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