No matter the discipline, no matter the training, no matter the tempering that comes from years of experience under the harshest conditions, every man has a breaking point: that crucial juncture of time and space where the burden that weighs heavily on his soul reaches critical mass and he becomes untethered from reality. In wartime, such breakdowns are often the precursor to horrific violence, sometimes directed at one’s self but mostly directed at others, including fellow service members or even civilians.
When these things happen, the very first – and most obvious – question is WHY? What circumstances could possibly impel a disciplined and otherwise rational soldier to slaughter innocent civilians?
Stalking from home to home, a United States Army sergeant methodically killed at least 16 civilians, 9 of them children, in a rural stretch of southern Afghanistan early on Sunday, igniting fears of a new wave of anti-American hostility, Afghan and American officials said.
Residents of three villages in the Panjwai district of Kandahar Province described a terrifying string of attacks in which the soldier, who had walked more than a mile from his base, tried door after door, eventually breaking in to kill within three separate houses. The man gathered 11 bodies, including those of 4 girls younger than 6, and set fire to them, villagers said.
Coming after a period of deepening public outrage, spurred by the Koran burning by American personnel last month and an earlier video showing American Marines urinating on dead militants, the possibility of a violent reaction to the killings added to a feeling of siege here among Western personnel. Officials described growing concern over a cascade of missteps and offenses that has cast doubt on the ability of NATO personnel to carry out their mission and has left troops and trainers increasingly vulnerable to violence by Afghans seeking revenge.
Consider that last sentence: “Officials described growing concern over a cascade of missteps and offenses that has cast doubt on the ability of NATO personnel to carry out their mission and has left troops and trainers increasingly vulnerable to violence by Afghans seeking revenge.”
Mission? What mission? We invaded Afghanistan in 2001 ostensibly to eradicate the Taliban, al-Qaida and Osama Bin Laden, but what began as a purely military operation soon devolved into the sort of warm-hearted, touchy-feely nation-building that ultimately blurs and eventually erases the unmistakable line dividing the U.S. military and the Peace Corps.
The trend began during the Bush administration but accelerated considerably after Barack Obama assumed office and is reflected in the tally of combat casualties since 2001:
From 2001 through today, a total of 1,910 service members perished in Afghanistan. During the seven years following the invasion, 630 of our brightest and best were killed. From 2009 through today – a period of three years and three months – we lost 1,280 men and women, TWICE the number sustained for the previous seven years.
What’s happening now is an eery replay of what happened in Vietnam and the real tragedy isn’t so much the casualties we have sustained or the innocent civilians who have perished but the fact that we never learned the lesson written on the blackboard forty years ago in our own blood: when you commit your armed forces to battle, your only objective must be nothing short of total victory.
In a properly executed war in the real world, the objective is the utter defeat of the enemy, followed by his unconditional surrender. Because Islamic terrorism does not comport itself with the traditional rules of engagement or the Geneva Conventions, it follows that if we were serious about winning we would have adopted unconventional – and admittedly brutal – tactics:
- Acknowledge that this is not a “war against terror” but a war against militant Islam;
- If necessary, extend the war to encompass erstwhile “allies” (Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, et. al.) who aid and abet jihadists;
- Kill as many jihadist combatants as possible and execute those who surrender;
- Employ any and every effective interrogation tactic to obtain information from captured jihadists who are believed to possess valuable intelligence and then execute them afterward;
- If necessary, destroy entire villages and cities to eliminate jihadist strongholds and be willing to tolerate massive civilian casualties and collateral damage.
If you are going to defeat the enemy, then DEFEAT the enemy. I was once asked if it would be necessary to exterminate the entire Muslim world. The answer, of course, is certainly not: we need only kill a sufficient number of them to coerce the remainder to behave themselves like civilized human beings.
None of that ever transpired. Anyone remember the disaster known as the Battle of Fallujah? A decade has passed in a “war” that cost us the lives of several thousand members of our armed forces (not to mention tens of thousands of maimed casualties) and the world is no closer to respite from jihadism than it was on September 11, 2001.
If anything, with Barack Obama in the White House, things have gotten an order of magnitude worse.
For the past three years our armed forces in Afghanistan were ordered to operate with a metaphorical arm tied behind their backs: in the fashion made de riguer by their feckless Commander-in-Chief, they were obliged to bow and scrape like Peace Corps do-gooders, busying themselves constructing roads and schools and hospitals in an effort to win the hearts and minds of what is essentially a nation of 8th century barbarians who despise them. Worse yet, they were ordered to follow rules of engagement that appear to come straight out of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland.
“Victory or Death” has been supplanted by a new directive: “Better Screwed Than Rude.” No wonder the staff sergeant lost his mind and went on a killing spree. No wonder dozens of our brightest and best are falling on their swords. No wonder morale in the ranks of our warriors is the lowest it has ever been.
If you really want to know why he did it, look no further than the Oval Office and the Appeasing Dhimmi who has sullied it since January 20, 2009.