We’ve heard all about staff sergeant Robert Bales, who murdered 16 Afghan civilians – most of them children – and is now being held by the US military, although he has yet to be formally charged. We’ve heard about his alleged PTSD, his marital problems, his “good deeds,” the shock and surprise of his friends and neighbors who thought he was a wonderful guy. But what about the victims? Who are they? What about their families? Why haven’t we heard much of anything about them?
The answer to this last question is fairly obvious: with the American media, it’s all about … the Americans! Never mind the Afghans: they’re just “collateral damage.” The real “human interest” story here is about Bales, for whom the excuse-making has already begun. He’s hired himself an expensive lawyer – the same one who defended the “Barefoot Bandit” – and Fox News is already playing him up as some kind of hero, or, at least, a sympathetic figure to be pitied rather than punished.
As for the victims, they are nameless, faceless stick figures, at least in nearly all US news accounts: their fate is no more a concern than the fate of the hundreds of thousands who died in Iraq, Afghanistan, or anywhere else the US boot alights. This carnage is simply the price of empire, which our news media takes into account with barely a nod as it “reports” on our various wars of conquest. As Madeleine Albright put it when asked about the deaths of tens of thousands of Iraqi children and elderly due to US sanctions: “We think the price is worth it.” Madame Albright wasn’t just speaking for the US government when she uttered those words, but giving expression to a widely held – albeit implicit – belief: that the victims of US foreign policy are worth less than the supposed beneficiaries (i.e. us).
In searching for some reporting on the victims of the Bales massacre, I came across a single story, published on the website of National Public Radio, which starts out with this gut-wrenching lede:
“Afghans say they're so inured to civilians killed in wars that they bury their dead and move on. That's not so easy for Muhammad Wazir. He lost his mother, his wife, a sister-in-law, a brother, a nephew, his four daughters and two of his sons in last week's mass shooting in two villages.
“’My little boy, Habib Shah, is the only one left alive, and I love him very much,’ says Wazir.
“The boy cried next to his father as Wazir spoke by cellphone. The 4-year-old is his favorite, Wazir says, and that's why he took the boy as he traveled to the eastern side of Kandahar province last week. While they were away, tragedy struck their tiny mud brick village in Panjwai district, southwest of Kandahar City.”
Imagine coming home from a business trip to discover 11 family members had been murdered – by the very people who are supposedly “protecting” them! I imagine little Habib is going to join the Taliban when he grows up, or perhaps even before then. We have earned such enemies many times over, in many different places all over the world. And when they exact vengeance, we whine and cry and squeal about “terrorism.” Has a more narcissistic, callous, willfully blind people ever existed anywhere on earth? The Romans, for all their brutality, never expected mercy from their enemies, and the British, for all their arrogance, at least tried to mollify the natives. We, on the other hand, don’t care to even know about the suffering of our foreign subjects: we blank out their cries of despair. Only NPR is reporting that father’s lament: “All my dreams are buried.”
Yes, I know it’s a lot easier to comb through records in America: the US military no doubt has the entire district in which the atrocity occurred on lockdown, and reporting from Afghanistan isn’t easy. Yet NPR managed to get a reporter in there: where is the rest of the “mainstream” media?
Well, they’re busy combing through public records here in America, interviewing Bales’s friends and family: in short, they’re taking the easy path. This has revealed some interesting facts about the accused killer, which deviates from the “he-was-a-lover-of-puppy-dogs-and-a-patriot” narrative we’ve been getting so far.
Yes, it’s true he signed up for the military right after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and by all accounts was a fervent believer in the American cause in Iraq. He is quoted in a “news” article published on the US Army’s web site in 2009 saying that, during the battle of Najaf,
“’I've never been more proud to be a part of this unit than that day,’ Bales said now a member of 2-3 Inf. headquarters, ‘for the simple fact that we discriminated between the bad guys and the noncombatants and then afterward we ended up helping the people that three or four hours before were trying to kill us. I think that's the real difference between being an American as opposed to being a bad guy, someone who puts his family in harm's way like that.”
between being an American as opposed to being a bad guy: I wonder
how many Afghans make that increasingly elusive distinction? How
many Iraqis? To a great
deal of the rest of the world, the Americans are the
bad guys. As the US presses on with its endless wars of
March 24, 2012
Justin Raimondo [send him mail] is editorial director of Antiwar.com and is the author of An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard and Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement.
Copyright © 2012 Antiwar.com