Monday, March 19, 2012

Glenn Greenwald: Discussing the Motives of the Afghan Shooter

March 19, 2012.

Here’s a summary of the Western media discussion of what motivated U.S. Staff Sgt. Robert Bales to allegedly kill 16 Afghans, including 9 children: he was drunk, he was experiencing financial stress, he was passed over for a promotion, he had a traumatic brain injury, he had marital problems, he suffered from the stresses of four tours of duty, he “saw his buddy’s leg blown off the day before the massacre,” etc.

Here’s a summary of the Western media discussion of what motivates Muslims to kill Americans: they are primitive, fanatically religious, hateful Terrorists.

Even when Muslims who engage in such acts toward Americans clearly and repeatedly explain that they did it in response to American acts of domination, aggression, violence and civilian-killing in their countries, and even when the violence is confined to soldiers who are part of a foreign army that has invaded and occupied their country, the only cognizable motive is one of primitive, hateful evil. It is an act of Evil Terrorism, and that is all there is to say about it.

Note, too, that in the case of Sgt. Bales (or any other cases of American violence against Muslims), people have little difficulty understanding the distinction between (a) discussing and trying to understand the underlying motives of the act (causation) and (b) defending the act (justification). But that same distinction completely evaporates when it comes to Muslim violence against Americans. Those who attempt to understand or explain the act — they’re responding to American violence in their country; they are traumatized and angry at the continuous deaths of Muslim children and innocent adults; they’ve calculated that striking at Americans is the ony way to deter further American aggression in their part of the world — are immediately accused of mitigating, justifying or even defending Terrorism.

There is, quite obviously, a desperate need to believe that when an American engages in acts of violence of this type (meaning: as a deviation from formal American policy), there must be some underlying mental or emotional cause that makes it sensible, something other than an act of pure hatred or Evil. When a Muslim engages in acts of violence against Americans, there is an equally desperate need to believe the opposite: that this is yet another manifestation of inscrutable hatred and Evil, and any discussion of any other causes must be prohibited and ignored.

Comment: Yesterday I watched a CNN report on Robert Bales and it was nothing short of an attempt to rationalize his behavior by pointing to an assumed personal implosion.

A big part of the report was based on interviews with people who knew him before he joined the military.  An older neighbor pointed out that Bales was close to his son who was handicapped.

The friendship was used to show Bales as a caring and loving man incapable of the acts now attributed to him.

The report ended with the reporter saying their was a need to get Bales help.

Nowhere in the piece was there any discussion of the 16 victims.  We know nothing about them and there has been no attempt to bring details to light.

Instead, the CNN report was struggling to humanize Bales while making his victims invisible - even incidental to his persona as a man who joined the military after 9/11 to serve God and country.

What utter bullsh*t.  Robert Bales is a despicable piece of sh*t who deserves to face justice in Afghanistan and not in the faraway complicit courts of his handlers who have not stopped killing since the massacre.

It matters little to me whether Bales was a good or bad person before he killed 16 innocents (and I find it hard to believe he acted alone).

What he did is an act of racism.  He devalued the life of innocent civilians because in the American scheme of things they matter nothing in life and even less in death.

I keep watching news reports and reading widely to find out more about the victims.  Who were they - where were they buried - who are the ones left behind - what will happen to those left behind?

One family lost 11 members.  Their bodies were thrown together and set alight!

Is this man Robert Bales even worthy of the questions that seek to contextualize his actions in the total absence of knowing his victims.

That is, however, not the point.  There is a larger agenda at play.

To understand the racism of Bales we must see how he indicts the larger systemic racism of those who need to explain him so as not be seen as being part of him.

He must be seen as a victim of his personal circumstances so that the system that allows the US to kill as they wish is not found wholly guilty.

And yet it is - and those who maintain the system and support it are all guilty of killing those 16 innocents and the rest.

Deal with it.



Bill said...

There's another dimension to this, which is that when a state goes to war, they are signing up for atrocities like this one. It's a package deal.

The specifics of how the atrocities play out likely take on cultural dimensions--in this case, they follow the contours of US racism, etc. I say this not to discuss Bales but his reception at home, because part of the atrocity is its rationalization by its perpetrators.

Ridwan said...

Bill thank you for your comment.

I think you are right about these kinds atrocities in all wars - Chris Hedges also makes this argument in an article today:

Of course much of what is being produced for national consumption is happening in the mainstream media and does not reflect alternative presses who are making alternative noises though for the most part we know next to nothing about the victims.

Still, the American nation seems not too perturbed about the victims now or in the case of others across American wars through the massacre of 600 innocent Muslims in Moro Crater in 1906.

Where is the ethical and moral leadership to change the course of this now seemingly ingrained behavior?

Should nations not learn - even become more humane?