Yesterday a horrific news broke out that an U.S. Army sergeant “had walked more than a mile from his base, tried door after door, eventually breaking in to kill within three separate houses.” He killed at least 16 civilians, 9 of them children and 4 of these children were girls younger than 6. First Qu’ran burning, then killing children, what’s next for the U.S. Army?
U.S. soldiers in foreign lands are like U.S. ambassadors. They are the people who are on the front line confronting the most local issues. They are the first impressions of the U.S. for the people living in the war zone. People study for years to become diplomatic ambassadors, and yet any 18-year-old kid can become a soldier-ambassador. This is not to say that more learned person are more prone to psychosis. In fact, knowledge is a poison to happiness and ignorance is very much bliss–well, most of the time. I could imagine how most of these soldiers, who neither speak the locals’ language nor understand their history or culture, would go crazy if their jobs had been killing and helping at the same time these foreigners whose culture they probably do not care or appreciate. The only outlet one could possibly have in this kind of situation is when the soldiers know that the grand scheme of his work is righteous and appreciated, and yet we know that it’s clearly not the case in Afghanistan, as one NYT commenter Michael S. Wappingers neatly summarizes:
“General Sherman said it best, “War is hell”. War is violent and does violence to both the warriors and innocents who get in they way. War drives people crazy.If you go to war against an enemy state the scourge of war is justified. If you go to war to liberate friends, the liberated will forgive the innocent victims. If you go to war for political purposes don’t expect the unwilling victims of your “benevolence” to welcome you.”
It is then, not a surprise that our soldiers, deprived of both an internal understanding and appreciation for the culture that they are entering into and an external support from the locals and the international community, would go crazy in such atrocious manner. Perhaps it is not fair for me to use “soldiers” when everyone, including President Obama, is busy emphasizing that the killing was only the act of an individual. But if we do not move away from the status quo, there will definitely be more of such individuals. We have to be very cautious with the idea that this is an aberrant act committed by an individual who does not “represent the exceptional character of our military,” as President Obama puts it. The aberrant act of the murderer is, in fact, a product of his environment. I trust that the murderer had entered the military as a normal, if not exceptional, human being, just like most of his colleagues. But wars turn sane people crazy, and I think it’s hard to argue against that.
War is the root of this atrocity, and it is what we must focus on. But our focus on the war as opposed to the mourning of loss of life is not the same as what one NYT commenter Rob DL had written:
“It may be a source of disappointment for some, but this act does not reflect the character of the US military, nor does it indicate some deeper plot by America to kill civilians. Pathetic that that needs to be even mentioned. If a New Yorker commits a crime, should that implicate all New Yorkers? Of course not…what is also not surprising is that many in the West will exploit — that’s right EXPLOIT — this horrible situation to forward their own political narrative, and draw their own misguided conclusion, that the US military is as much a problem in the world as the lunatic fanatical members of the Taliban…The biggest example of hypocrisy is displayed by those whose motives aren’t first and foremost to mourn the tragic loss of those killed. Nope. Nor is it necessarily a call for justice. Not that either. Instead, many peoples’ main motivation is to score political points about not only American involvement in that region — a region I think we should leave, by the way — but also to condemn the US military as a whole. That is pathetic, and intellectually dishonest.”
I think this is a very well-written but logically deceptive and “intellectually dishonest” post regarding this issue. Instead of reflecting on the root cause of the problem, the commenter pushes all responsibility onto that one killer and accuses of people, like me, of being self-interested and indifferent to the “tragic loss of those killed.” This is just like how the KONY 2012 video places all blame on one individual and the instant KONY 2012 fanatics would accuse people, who might hold more skeptical views about whether the movement does justice to the complexity of the problem in Uganda, of not placing the tens of thousands of abducted children as their “first and foremost” concern. There is no point for me to prove to others how much I love humanity and value the sanctity of life, but, sure, I could sit in my comfortable chair and mourn all day long of every individual in the world who suffered injustice, but this will do nothing for justice. It is exactly for justice that we must look beyond these events–let it be the recent killing or Kony’s child army–as just isolated phenomena but as symptoms of wider, corrupting diseases that must be cured, now.