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Yeah, Bales Was Such A Rogue...
From the Agonist:
Now flick over to Danger Room where you can read the story of the former Army lieutenant and the serving Army sergeant who thought they were going to work as assassination contractors for the Mexican Zetas gang, but were the subjects part of a DEA sting op. Then there's the ones who say they go to Afghanistan to do fucked up things they can't do at home. Yeah, Bales was utterly unique...
This morning I was talking with Marcy Wheeler on Twitter about the Bales case. She, like me, thinks the received version doesn't quite pass the smell test. I reminded her of the murders of three pregnant women during a 2010 night raid. The US military had at first claimed that the women were stabbed to death by the Taliban but after some great investigative reporting by Jerome Starkey admitted that special forces soldiers had been responsible. Further investigation by Afghan authorities found that a cover-up that had been mounted - that the soldiers involved had dug bullets out of the bodies of the women to hide the true nature of their deaths. No-one was ever prosecuted and despite the military's amazing about-face, follow-up American media reporting was anemic to say the least.
Marcy thinks something similiar happened in Panjwai - but that because such an atrocity would put a serious spanner in the works of the status of forces agreement with Karzai the Obama administration hopes to conclude in the next month, a really serious cover-up is being mounted.
I suspect the night of the murders started with a night raid launched in retaliation for the IED strike earlier in the week, during which at least two men considered to be legitimate targets were killed. But that along with those “legitimate” deaths–perhaps because the male head of family targets were not home during the raid (both Mohammed Wazir and Syed Jaan were out of the village during the attack)–a bunch of women and kids got killed as well.
Such an explanation would explain many of the seeming discrepancies in the story. It would account for the claims that at least 12 men were involved in the raid, used walkie talkies, and had helicopters. It would account for the stories that in a few cases, just one male was killed and women and children were left, as would happen in a night raid “properly” conducted. It would also explain why Bales made two trips off the base–perhaps the first time as part of the raid, and the second time to try to cover up, by burning, the illegal victims that resulted.
And it would explain both why Afghans made assertive requests about SOFA and why DOD is being so touchy right now. The US can’t really stay in Afghanistan if it can’t conduct night raids; otherwise, the local knowledge of Afghans would more than negate the advantage of our superior technology.Yet, this incident happened just after Karzai had already accelerated the prison transfer and was pushing back on night raids.
It is bad enough that an American solider is alleged to have gone a rampage killing 17 civilians. But if he did so as part of a night raid, it will give Afghans precisely the justification they need to prohibit any more night raids.
Marcy's theory fits better with Afghan reports of multiple attackers and with oddities in the US account - like the two miles and apparently a trip back to base between the killings in the two villages, like no-one on the base hearing the gunfire and screaming at 3am from the second village which was only 200 yards away - than the preferred US military account.
In 2011 Iraq told the US that it could not sign a SOFA agreement that allowed US troops immunity under local law, that it was a severe imposition on Iraqi sovereignty that the people would never accept after so many years of atrocities. The Obama administration had to do an about face on its plans for staying in Iraq and the US took a massive hit to its perceived invulnerability to accountability worldwide. Now, Afghans are hesitatant to sign such an agreement over the exact same thing.
Have another invaded nations tell the U.S. to sling it's hook, that those it liberated would prefer civil war to continued U.S. occupation? In an election year? On Obama's watch?
Update Gaius Publius at AmericaBlog has a useful roundup of the state of the mainstream media on Bales and the massacre, as well as noting some new "green on blue" attacks that seem to be as a result of it.