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ETpro's avatar

Does the US Government have any responsibility for the soldier that snapped and killed 16 innocent Afghan villagers?

Asked by ETpro (34145 points ) March 16th, 2012

I’m speaking about the US Soldier who. on March 11, 2012, went house to house in an Afghan village murdering 9 children and 7 adults, and setting fire to their homes.

It would be politically and militarily convenient to just assign all the responsibility to the soldier. He was a weak link, and when the pressure got too great, he broke. But how much responsibility do you think we all share for setting up a condition where a small, all volunteer force deploys over and over again into such a politically confused situation over a period of 10 years and counting?

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21 Answers

marinelife's avatar

Yes, because they kept sending him back into combat zones and he snapped.

Qingu's avatar

Yes. They either repeatedly exposed him to trauma that made him go insane, or they failed to vet an insane person.

JLeslie's avatar

Probably. I blame the military partly also for the shooting at Fort Hood in TX. The Psychiatrist who committed the mursers had said he was not handeling things well, and voiced more than once he needed to be reassigned. In the case in Afghanastan, I don’t know if the soldier was asking to go back to the front, many do. I don’t know if there were red flags in his behavior leading up until this point? Certainly America has to visibly show how horrified we are by the soldiers actions.

tedd's avatar

I do not hold them responsible morally, but I believe legally they are responsible. I fully expect that our government will be paying hefty reparations to the families of those involved. (as I’m pretty sure is standard procedure for “accidental” deaths of innocent civilians)

Qingu's avatar

I don’t think it’s fair to compare this to the Fort Hood shooter. Hasan was a traitor who sided with the enemy (Islamic terrorists) and used his position to attack what he saw as enemy soldiers (American troops). Sucks that he turned traitor, but he attacked military targets who were going to war.

We don’t know what was going through the seargant’s mind in Afghanistan, but the fact of the matter is that he gunned down 16 innocent civilians—9 of them children. That puts his action in a completely different realm than a traitor attacking soldiers, in my view.

Nullo's avatar

AFAIK the soldier is an agent of his government, unless he, as a mentally-competent individual, consciously decides to break the terms of the original contract. Since it seems that this particular fellow did not have his wits entirely about him (a problem that his employer was supposed to address), he did not break his end of the deal, and the responsibility falls on the other party.

janbb's avatar

We cannot pick out the “few bad apples” when the system enables so much perversity. We have to look at the psychology of military training and the effect of war on young men and perhaps rethink our missions. Philip Zimbardo, a behavioral psychologist, has done great work on systemic evil and what creates perpetrators, victims and bystanders. You might want to look up his TED talks on Abu Ghraib and the Stanford prison experiments @ETpro; it is fascinating work.

flutherother's avatar

The US government sent him there. He wore a uniform and carried a US army issue gun which the army had trained him to use. He was not in Afghanistan as a private individual but as a representative of the US military and his actions, good or bad reflect on the army and on the United States. I can’t believe there were no warning signs before this incident happened.

ETpro's avatar

@marinelife That was what hit me as I was reading about the tragedy. We the People did this.

@Qingu I worry that, unless we openly opposed what was going on, we cannot say “they” but must broaden it to “we”.

@JLeslie I agree. The exceptions noted by @Qingu seem valid. Still, there is guilt in each case well beyond the perpetrator.

@tedd Legal responsibility is what I was referring to. I am sure that nobody in the Military of the civilian Government plotted to have this done. My concern is that we as a people pushed the policies whereby it happened.

@Nullo Exactly. Thanks.

@janbb That was the point I wanted addressed. Thanks.

@flutherother I am sure there were warning signs. Unfortunately, in such a situation, there may be many soldiers who give “warning signs”. Not all snap. This one did. The situation is probably the thing to address, more that developing an army brass that can see the warning signs and discern when they matter and when they do not.

janbb's avatar

@ETpro Here’s the link to the Philip Zimbardo talk. I have shown it at meetings; I think it is a profound contribution to the analysis of what makes good and evil actors.

Qingu's avatar

@ETpro, fair enough. That implicates me, since I supported Obama’s Afghan “surge” policy, and I accept that.

ETpro's avatar

@janbb Thanks for finding the link. Fascinating talk. There is much for all of us to learn in that.

@Qingu Me too, brother.

janbb's avatar

@ETpro Yes – it had a profound effect on my thinking.

mattbrowne's avatar

Yes. I’m reading Zimbardo’s book right now.

janbb's avatar

Oh good @mattbrowne . What he says has much to do with the Holocaust and so many other attrocities that other countries, including the United States, have perpetuated.

mattbrowne's avatar

It’s a great book, but I don’t like the tiny font of his book. Yes, but he also covers Rwanda and other more recent cases of genocide. And of course all the details about the Standford Prison Experiment.

Qingu's avatar

I just read a book called “Zeitoun,” which has nothing to do with Afghanistan but got me thinking about it a lot.

It’s a true story about Hurricane Katrina, about a Syrian guy who stays in the city, paddles around in his canoe after the flood, rescuing people and feeding dogs that were left behind… and then he is arrested in his own home by police and national guards as a “looter” and kept for several weeks in a series of incredibly inhumane makeshift prisons, possibly under suspicion of terrorism, and denied any means of contacting his wife and kids (who eventually presume he is dead).

It reminded me of Zimbardo and Afghanistan and I think all of this stuff has made me veer more towards outright anarchy. I don’t think authority structures work. People in authority seem like they tend to be either psychopaths to start with or that they become psychopaths in their position of authority.

The bottom line is I no longer think that humans have the moral capability to occupy other countries and act in a position of authority without committing an unacceptable level of atrocities.

flutherother's avatar

@Qingu Have you seen the film Taxi to the Dark Side? It’s about an Afghan taxi driver who suffered a similar fate to the Syrian guy you mention. It is extremely uncomfortable to watch.

ETpro's avatar

@Qingu I feel your pain. But try living under complete anarchy for even a little spell, and you will likely change your tune—that is if you survive.

Qingu's avatar

That’s the rub, @ETpro. Would Afghans rather live under a brutal and unfair military occupation, or the civil war that might result in the political vacuum if we left? I honestly don’t know, which is why I supported the Afghan “surge” in the first place. But I think we’re probably doing more harm than good at this point.

ETpro's avatar

@Qingu Nor do I, my friend. I ache for each family that loses a loved one over there, whether NATO or Afghan. And I am so relieved my son survived his deployment there and is back. I have to wonder how many grieving parents ask, “For what?”

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