Afghan Massacre: Will Justice Be Found and Done?

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No one has yet been charged for the recent night time murder of 16 Afghan villagers. A suspect, Staff Sgt. Robert Bales,  is in custody in the U.S., after having been removed from Afghanistan. The news coverage of this event has been extremely sketchy. The authorities are not releasing much information yet. We do not know who gave the orders to remove Bales or how that came about. We do not know how he is to be tried, that is, who the prosecution will be and what the trial rules will be. We do not know what discovery procedures will occur. We do not know who is collecting what evidence.

Bales has a prominent lawyer named John Henry Browne. Browne made some interesting statements that coincide with earlier remarks of mine about the need for forensic evidence and crime scene investigation of a professional nature, without which justice cannot easily be done. He said

“There’s no forensic evidence.”

“There’s no medical examiner’s evidence. There’s no evidence about how many alleged victims or where those remains are.”

“So it’s fascinating from a defence lawyer’s perspective. Prove it.”

“Asked if there was evidence of a crime, Mr. Browne replied: ‘I really don’t know. Certainly from what I’ve read, there’s very little.’”

Since there are no charges and no discovery process yet, there is no way that Browne could have access to any of the evidence of which he speaks, if such evidence has been collected and exists. Who is taking statements from witnesses in Afghanistan? Who has taken photographs of the crime scene? We have pitifully little information about any of this. Has reporting gone out of style? Or do the authorities now routinely create information blackouts?

Can justice be done thousands of miles away from the crime scene? Will witnesses be flown in from Afghanistan?

Why are civilian deaths by drone attack treated differently than the deaths that occurred in this case? In drone attacks, a chain of command exists from which orders emanate and death dealt out. But does the mere existence of an organization created and approved by the U.S. legitimize the deaths that it inflicts in Afghanistan? Mere official organization is a flimsy basis for killing people, and it is a basis that is shrouded in darkness, secrecy and a lack of accountability.

The Panjwai massacre is being treated differently because it is said to have occurred outside the chain of command. Unjustifiable killings of innocent civilians are not allowed. Responsibility is traced back to those who do them, if possible. This is well and good, but the moral question arises: Why are killings done by “official” U.S. organizations, as with drones, any less in the category of unjustifiable killings? What justifies the U.S. presence in Afghanistan? It is not al-Qaeda.

There is no justification. The U.S. is fighting an undeclared war in Afghanistan. It is fighting against a resurgent Taliban, after having removed them from government and having created a new government. It is killing Taliban and innocent people. The U.S. cannot justify these killings as done in the defense of America. The Taliban did not attack America. Afghanistan has a civil war, brought about by the U.S.

The U.S. can’t justify making war because it doesn’t like the Taliban’s form of government or because the Taliban’s government was or will be oppressive. There is no warrant in the U.S. Constitution for conducting wars and crusades overseas in order to establish justice in foreign lands. This is not in the government’s mission statement.

You wouldn’t know it, the way that the U.S. government behaves.

7:33 am on March 21, 2012
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