Afghanistan Panjwai Killing of 16: Two Stories Wildly at Variance

by Michael S. Rozeff, LRC Blog
Mar. 17, 2012

The official U.S. story alleges that a single gunman-soldier lost his mind temporarily, left the base, massacred 16 innocent people, burned some of them, and then returned to base and turned himself in.

A new report could not be more different: "A parliamentary probe team on Thursday said up to 20 American troops were involved in Sunday's killing of 16 civilians in southern Kandahar province." Another report says that the soldiers sexually assaulted women.

In another report that was in The New Yorker, a survivor of the massacre refers to "Americans". Others spoke of "a man."

Michael Yon, a former Green Beret who was embedded as a journalist in Afghanistan for years, saw such a massacre coming. His recent predictions were based on poor morale: "Even our most disciplined troops -- not the few problem troops -- have lost all idealism. They have not lost heart for the fight. Mostly, they just don't care. They fight because they are ordered to fight, but they have eyes wide open. The halfhearted surge and sudden drawdown leave little room for success.

"We face a discipline collapse. The bulk of our force is solid -- then there's a small fraction, probably a sliver of a percent, who might be crushed by the pressure."

He also points out that those killed are Pashtun. Unless these killings are cleared up, the Pashtun may declare Americans as occupiers and turn against them. A similar warning was made by a member of the parliamentary probe team, Hamizai Lali: "If the international community does not play its role in punishing the perpetrators, the Wolesi Jirga would declare foreign troops as occupying forces, like the Russians."

The alleged murderer is Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales. His lawyer denies that he had been drinking: "Bales' lawyer, Seattle attorney John Henry Browne, disputed reports that a combination of alcohol, stress, and domestic issues caused the suspect to snap. He said the family said they were unaware of any drinking problem. He said that a day before the rampage, Bales -- who was on his fourth tour after three tours in Iraq -- saw a comrade's leg blown off."

The Panjwai massacre will have very serious repercussions on the presence of U.S. forces in Afghanistan. More Americans may turn against this war.

The situation will not be resolved by apologies. Blood money may not suffice. Yon writes "Afghans will seek revenge and they will have it. This will lead to yet greater possibilities of another mass murder from our side. We are considering holding the trial in Afghanistan. Pashtuns don't care about our justice system. They don't even care about the Afghan government; they want blood for blood. We are being drawn into a feud."

What actually happened? An investigation of the crime scene by experienced investigators was clearly called for the moment that the army learned of the killings. How were the victims killed? With what bullets? With what weapons? How were they burned? Was there sexual assault? We have no reports at this time of professional investigation of the crime scene.

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