The Consequence of a Soldier Gone Nuts
Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.
The human tragedy in Afghanistan allegedly perpetrated by a single American sergeant gone berserk is horrific. It deserves all the condemnations and apologies that have been extended to the Government of Afghanistan and to the Afghani people. The investigation promised by the American military and the Obama Administration need to be handled expeditiously, openly (where security permits), and efficiently. Unfortunately, collateral damage and civilian casualties occur in war and also some soldiers “snap”. It is unacceptable and clearly violates every soldier’s proper conduct code, but it happens.
What is upsetting, however, is the revenge and the reprisals being sought not only by the families and the communities, but by some of the authorities as well in Afghanistan. After almost 10 years of U.S. efforts to try to help Afghanistan fight against the Taliban and the radical Islamists seeking to destroy the regime; and with NATO forces now on a program to leave Afghanistan; the response of some of the Afghani leadership confirms what many in the U.S. have begun to argue, that an accelerated departure should be instituted.
Not that the destroying of the Koran by NATO troops last month is comparable to the taking of human lives, but the reaction to the inadvertent destruction of the Koran was also disproportionate. In many ways it was similar to the response to the Danish newspaper’s cartoon display of Muhammad in 2005, when Danish embassies and consulates around the world were attacked. Perhaps, the question that is truly troubling is the lack of perspective or rationality. It is the continuing failure to draw proper moral equivalencies between various outrageous on the world stage.
The U.S. killed Osama bin-Laden and the Pakistanis and their security service were more bent out of shape that we had violated their territorial sovereignty and called them on their having been providing bin-Laden obvious safe haven, than the fact that we had captured and killed the leader of Al Qaeda; living next to a Pakistani military school.
The Syrian Government continues to commit some of the most awful atrocities seen in years against their own innocent population, but the Arab world as well as the United Nations is unable even to agree and accept a program of sanctions. To consider that a return to the status quo ante would be acceptable to most countries–as it was after Hafez al-Assad quashed the “rebellion” in Hama in 1982—exhibits a wholesale disdain and disregard for the value of human life.
Zimbabwe, Rwanda, and the Sudan have and are experiencing tragic losses of human life and most of the African states are doing close to nothing to address these issues. Human life is expendable and replaceable.
When it comes to Israel and its offenses and violations, there is an entirely different standard applied. It continues to be remarkable the extent to which the world holds Israel to a separate standard when it comes to protecting itself. Israeli life—read Jewish life—remains expendable. If the current Gaza confrontation were to necessitate an Israeli retaliation which would produce casualties, the outpouring of sympathy for civilian victims would greatly exceed any understanding and consideration for Israel’s right to protect its citizens within its internationally recognized borders.