So far, at least, the US army hasn’t released the name or many details about the staff sergeant who slaughtered sixteen Afghans, including nine children, in Panjwai on Sunday. But here’s my own theory: first, he came from a troubled military base where officials had improperly downgraded soldiers who’d been designated as suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and sent 300 of them back to war; and second, the soldier in question, 38 years old, joined the army eleven years ago at age twenty-seven.
Pure speculation: was Sergeant Massacre one of those PTSD-sufferers sent back to fight after three tours in Iraq? (Reportedly, he suffered a traumatic brain injury in Iraq, but continued on active duty.) And, did Sergeant Massacre join the armed forces after 9/11, eleven years ago, seeking revenge?
We’ll find out. But let me add one comment on PTSD. Why is it that when an American soldier slaughters people, he’s considered possibly mentally ill and suffering from PTSD, but when an Afghan villager who suffered through three decades of unimaginable violence, perhaps losing family members and friends, commits an act of horrific violence he’s considered a terrorist? Anyone who can answer that question in the comments section below will be awarded a gold start by The Dreyfuss Report.
The Washington Post, apparently, despite its zeal to comment on everything, couldn’t find the right words in this morning’s edition to respond editorially to the Afghan massacre. Perhaps the Post’s editors couldn’t bring themselves to write another “stay the course,” Romneyesque editorial even as the blood still seeps into the ground in Panjwai. But the New York Times found its voice, in an editorial called “Horror in Kandahar,” in which it managed to say:
The United States said Monday that an investigation is under way. It must be fast, transparent and conclusive so that Afghans can see that America is committed to justice and responsive to their outrage. The punishment must be swift.
To be sure. The Times also reports on an internal debate inside the Obama administration in which the generals are said to want to keep troops in Afghanistan as long as possible; Tom Donilon, the hawkish national security adviser, is willing to urge Obama to pull 10,000 more troops out by December and another 10,000 by next summer; and Vice President Biden wants to get the bulk of all troops out by mid-2013. Reports the Times:
At least three options are now under consideration, according to officials at the White House, the Pentagon and the State Department. One plan, backed by Thomas E. Donilon, the national security adviser, would be to announce that at least 10,000 more troops would come home by the end of December, and then 10,000 to 20,000 more by June 2013. Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. has been pushing for a bigger withdrawal that would reduce the bulk of the troops around the same time the mission shifts to a support role, leaving behind Special Operations teams to conduct targeted raids.
And, good grief, listen to Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum.
“We need to understand that our being in the middle of countries like Afghanistan is probably counterproductive. We’re not prepared to be ruthless enough to force them to change. And yet we are clearly an alien presence.”
Leave aside that some people might consider Gingrich to be an “alien presence” on earth. Meanwhile, Santorum:
“We have to either make the decision to make a full commitment, which this president has not done, or we have to decide to get out, and probably get out sooner.”
Santorum? Get out sooner? Are pigs flying?
Well, not all pigs are flying. Mitt Romney is still arguing for staying the course, and those who write editorials for the Wall Street Journal still want to—in the memorable words of Arlo Guthrie—“kill, kill, kill.” In an editorial entitled “The Perils of Retreat,” the Journal oinked:
One GI’s killing spree should not be able to undermine a war effort for which Americans have sacrificed so much. But that’s what can happen when everyone concludes that a President’s timetable is geared more to an election than to military success.
The Post, which couldn’t manage an editorial, instead carried a news article on page one that, like Romney and the Wall Street Journal, suggested that the Obama administration too wants to continue on its steady path:
The Obama administration’s hope for a smooth and successful ending to what it has always considered the “good war” in Afghanistan has become a determined, nose-to-the-grindstone effort to forge ahead toward the exit. As challenges mount, the administration has concluded that the only viable course is to continue trying to implement the strategy it has already set in motion, with a date certain for combat withdrawal by the end of 2014.
In this case, slow and steady doesn’t win the race. It just gets more Afghans killed, and for no good reason.