I can understand the Pentagon’s decision to bring Staff Sergeant Robert Bales, the alleged killer of sixteen Afghans, back to the US in order to sort out the current crisis in Afghanistan. The last thing they would want is for their failures to come to light; particularly in Presidential Election year.
But there are other issues at play here. S/Sgt Bales has become a pawn of another kind…
Let me re-state for the record that, until a court of law has found S/Sgt Bales guilty of a crime, he is the alleged perpetrator (see: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-17403836). I know that makes it sound like I’m some sort of apologist or wishy-washy on this rather thorny international issue, but I do not wish to be accused of pre-judgement in this case… not that what I say here will have any bearing on procedures.
This blog post isn’t actually about S/Sgt Robert Bales. While I have little time for those who commit wilful murder, I do sometimes empathise with the circumstance that drive people over the line of reasoned action. In this case there should be a level of understanding. Service personnel in that environment are under tremendous strain. Having said that I do believe the murderer of the 16 civilians (in their own homes… allegedly) should face justice in the place the crime occurred; I.e. In Afghanistan. The US authorities may argue the alleged killer would not get a fair trail: considering what US service personnel did with copies of the Quran the other week, they might possibly have a point. Hearts and minds, guys; hearts and minds!
The US and international rule-of-law: this is fast becoming an oxymoron. Here a US serviceman is alleged to have killed 16 civilians (and one presumes by the use of the term civilians they were unarmed and going about their lawful business and life) in another country but is taken to the States to face justice there. A ‘number’ of volunteer fighters captured in Afghanistan during the over-throw of the Taliban were deemed to be working against US interests and taken back to the States to face justice there… (a number are still there even though they have no charges or case to answer: see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shaker_Aamer at the very least).
A little bit of a contradiction… or is that just me?
Whatever the outcome, and whtever the politics, I fear the list of victims in this case will only lengthen…