The American soldier accused of massacring 17 people in a solo rampage on a remote southern
village faces multiple charges of murder and attempted murder. Whisked out of the country by
, he is now being held at Fort Leavenworth, Kan.
With the Afghan government clamoring for justice, nothing less seems appropriate, pending the thorough Army investigation into the horrible episode in which nine of the fatalities are said to have been children and others women. At least six other villagers were wounded.
The defendant, 38-year-old Staff Sgt.
According to his lawyer, John Henry Browne, Mr. Bales says he doesn't remember some of the things that occurred in the attack. He has said he suffered a concussion earlier in
That observation, and the lawyer's subsequent comment that "there's definitely brain injury," suggests a possible line of exculpation other than a defense of innocence in the case. Meanwhile, Afghan President
U.S. Marine Gen. John R. Allen, commander of all allied forces in Afghanistan, told Congress the other day an investigation will be held into Sergeant Bales' military unit and the headquarters supervising it. At the same time, court and personal records on Mr. Bales in Washington State, where his home military base is located near Tacoma, have surfaced indicating incidents of past scuffles with police.
None of this, however, goes to a more pertinent question that cannot acquit the accused soldier of personal responsibility but that needs better answers from the U.S. government: Why was this soldier, or any member of the American armed forces for that matter, sent into a fourth deployment in a hot combat zone, with the general recognition of the psychological as well as physical pressures involved?
One obvious answer is that individuals who join the all-volunteer military have to expect they will be assigned as military circumstances dictate. Another is that with the
The latter point reinforces the reality that the burden of two wars, one of them a war of choice in Iraq, continues to fall on a very narrow segment of the American population -- the men and women in uniform and their families left back home. Many of them have had to endure multiple separations, with multiple personal, financial and psychological complications, over a longer time than ever before in American history.
The Civil War lasted nearly four years, and actual U.S. combat in
The obvious if not easily achieved solution is to get out of the war in Iraq -- a pledge
Meantime, the unintended consequences of continued American foreign-policy involvement not only impede that objective but also exact a heavier price on those in uniform and their kin who are obliged to pursue it.
At a minimum,