by Catherine Shakdam, source
Just as US President Barack Obama is looking to sell out yet another war in the Middle East to Congress on account that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has “allegedly” unleashed lethal toxins onto local civilian populations, invoking moral grounds for a military action, a US military jury has allowed a man accused of killing 16 Afghan civilians to by-pass the death penalty and instead be sentenced to a life in prison without parole, underscoring America’s pandemic double standard policy and its neo-colonial attitude towards what it perceived as “lesser” powers, in this case the Afghan people.
While such an outcome was somewhat to be expected given the US’ poor track records in addressing its own military’s wrong doings throughout its Middle Eastern outposts – we all remember the leniency with which accusations of tortures and war crimes in the Iraqi prison of Abu Ghraib were met by the US military.
Over a year of despicable ill treatments in between 2003 and 2004 — rape, sodomy, torture, violence, psychological abuse — led to dishonorable discharges and a few years in military prison – in between 10 and 3 years for the 11 soldiers convicted -, a pathetic slap on the wrist given the gravity of such acts and a far-cry from justice – the sheer magnitude of Staff Sgt. Robert Bales’ crimes called for much more than just a prison sentence.
On March 11, 2012, just as dawn was about to break, Staff Sgt. Robert Bales went on a murderous rampage in a village in the Panjwayi District of the Kandahar province. Bales murdered 16 civilians – included 9 children – 11 of which were from the family.
The brutality and bestial violence of Bales’ atrocious crime stunned not only Afghanistan but the world as many saw in the crime of this one soldier the reflection of America’s evil, the little value human life carries in its eyes.
Bales who pleaded guilty to all charges brought against him in a bid to avoid the death penalty had the audacity to take to the stand and offer the world an apology for his “act of cowardice.”
Choking back tears the father of two attempted to justify the unjustifiable, the unforgivable. “What I did was an act of cowardice, behind a mask of fear, bullshit and bravado. I am sorry, truly, truly sorry, for what I did to those people. I murdered their families. If I could bring their family members back, I would in a heartbeat,” His line of defense – the fear of being perceived as weak by his fellow military, the trauma of being an active soldier on foreign ground.
Beyond the horror of such senseless loss of lives and the deep repercussions this massacre will carry for villagers and more importantly the victims’ families, it is the method behind the crime which is truly blood-chilling and stomach-churning … And somewhat for Bates to assume that an apology on his part would even begin to cut it, only better underscores what value one Muslim’s life hold in America’s eyes.
Far from being the problem, Bates is merely the symptom of a system which has demonized an entire people based on their religion and culture. America has learned in its decade of war in the Middle East that one “Arab’s life,” one Muslim’s life is worth no more than the bullet it takes to end it.
One has only to look back at Lynndie England posing smiling before a pyramid of naked Iraqi prisoners, or see how willing she was to humiliate and dehumanize Iraqi men by holding them naked on a leash to please her superior officers, to understand the magnitude of the pandemic.
The world has grown accustomed to seeing US soldiers desecrate copies of the Holy Quran or urinate over the dead bodies of their enemies. While former US President George W. Bush keenly stressed that America’s war was not against Islam but against terror back in 2003, Muslims would beg to differ, and as far as they’re concerned it is America which is the terror.
One cannot help but wonder what sentence a Muslim man would have received should the role had been reverse. What would have happened if an Afghan soldier had massacred 16 American civilians in their sleep and slayed its way through an entire family of unsuspecting, innocent and unarmed US citizens? Would an apology have suffice then? Maybe not …
It would be interesting to see what sentencing, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev – also known as the Boston bomber – will be subjected to once the American justice system is done with him.
The Boston bombing killed 3 people and injured over 264. While it is impossible to measure pain and horror, Bales’s murder spree can hold up before the evil logic of terror, thus giving both events some symmetry in their monstrosity.
After a year of anguish and sorrow, the people of Panjwayi were offered … Nothing! The families of the victims were not even present when Bales delivered his apology. His words, however small and insignificant were not even offered as tokens of contrition to ease their unbearable grief. As far as Afghanistan stands, justice was not served; actually its people feel betrayed by the United States of America.
Back in 2012 as the US military was negotiating with a very angry and antagonistic Afghan government, US officials promised that should Bales be allowed to be repatriated back to the US and tried on American soil, the prosecution would seek the death penalty in payment for his crimes.
Haji Mahmoud, head of the local shura in Panjwai was there when a joint Afghan-US delegation arrived to investigate the killings in Alkozai and Najiban villages.
“The Americans emphasized that he would be tried in the US, but they also said that he would be given the death penalty,” he told reporters earlier this month.
Ghulam Rassoul, a Panjwai tribal elder, who was among the delegation that traveled to Kabul four days after the massacre told the press that he too had been assured that Bales would face the death penalty when tried on US soil.
“The Afghan government and the US investigative team gave us promises that the criminal will be given the death penalty,” he recalled.
As many questions remain unanswered — How did Bales manage to return to Camp Belambay at 1:30am to reload ammunition after killing four people in Alkozai village? Who authorized his coming and going? How Bales could leave the base with a 9mm pistol, an M4 rifle and a grenade launcher? – tribal elder Haji Obaidullah said to see clearly now.
“It is evident that the foreigners have not come to rebuild Afghanistan, but to kill Afghans and destroy the nation. Bales’ violation of military code by drinking alcohol with two other soldiers the night of the killings; telling a fellow soldier upon his initial return to the joint Afghan-US base that he had killed people; and later uttering a three-word confession, “I did it” – means Bales was not the only culprit.”
“The entire American battalion based in the area is involved. They have committed this killing jointly,” he said.
Betrayed and angry the people of Kandahar have warned that their justice will be as swift as America’s injustice.