creators.com opinion web
Liberal Opinion Conservative Opinion
diane dimond
Diane Dimond
1 Nov 2014
Voters Deserve Truth in Political Ads

Are you absolutely sick to death of all the snarky campaign ads on television? Yeah, me, too. Nov. 5 cannot … Read More.

25 Oct 2014
What Glorifying the Game of Football Says About Us

This question is going to sound like blasphemy to some, but here goes: Why do we glorify the game of football … Read More.

18 Oct 2014
A Modern-Day Pandora's Box -- Ebola

We have got to get smarter about controlling the ever-widening Ebola epidemic — and quickly. Ebola is … Read More.

In Defense of the US Military

Comment

The drumbeat has already started, and I want it to stop.

The moment the horrific news that a U.S. soldier had gone on a rogue killing spree in the far-away province of Kandahar, Afghanistan — murdering 16 Afghan civilians, mostly women and children, and then burning some of the bodies — America has been struggling to make sense of it. What could have caused Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, the married father of two, to commit such a heinous act of multiple murder?

In the days since we first heard the news, I've lost track of how many times I've read or heard the sentiment that somehow the culture or conditions within our U.S. military made him do it. Or that the military "taught him to kill."

Nonsense.

Look, war is hell, and since America has now endured more than a decade of nonstop wars, maybe it should come as no surprise that this has been the knee-jerk reaction — blame the military. But that's a specious conclusion as we look for reasons why Bales did the indefensible. The military doesn't create monsters. It welcomes and trains patriots willing to put their lives on the line in defense of our country and devises plans to carry out dangerous missions most of us can't even imagine.

More than half a million soldiers have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, and unlike past conflicts, they volunteered to be there. More than 50,000 of these loyal warriors have endured four or more deployments just like Bales. But not one of those other soldiers went out in the dead of night and committed mass murder.

The military does not decide when our country goes into battle. It doesn't pick our enemies, and it no longer drafts unwilling soldiers into its ranks. All the big decisions about war lie with the president and the United States Congress. The military simply follows the orders it gets from above. Is it a perfect institution? No. (I've been especially appalled at the way female soldiers have been treated.) But I'm at a loss to point out any government institution that is perfect.

I don't know what made this 38-year-old veteran soldier do what he did, and so far no one else does, either. In fact, Bales' defense attorney has said his client has no memory of the slaughter, so we may never know what made this soldier act with such unconscionable viciousness.

I've read that before he enlisted, Bales had several run-ins with the law, including a DWI arrest, involvement in a hit-and-run accident and a misdemeanor assault charge. The most shocking behavior, to my mind, was the finding of an Ohio arbitration board that concluded Bales had bilked an elderly couple out of their entire life savings while working for a brokerage firm. The 70-something victims have said they have never received a penny of the $1.4 million dollar settlement Bales was ordered to pay them.

Maybe joining the military shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks was Bales' way of putting distance between himself and that obligation.

More recently, Bales and his family had more money troubles. Their house in Tacoma, Wash., went into foreclosure, and he was upset, according to his wife, that he had been denied a promotion that would have brought in a few extra hundred dollars each month. Bales sustained a couple of combat injuries — to his foot and a suspected traumatic brain injury — but he was cleared for duty by military doctors.

I recite these facts to illustrate that despite all the kind things his relatives, friends and teachers are saying about him now, one fact is clear: The troubles in Robert Bales' life were self-inflicted and not created by the U.S. military.

There seems to be no question that Bales committed multiple cold-blooded murders and that he suffered or is still suffering from some massive mental break with reality. Whatever defense his attorney presents for him will be all about sparing a sick man's life and not getting him acquitted of the charges.

As we watch the case against Bales proceed, consider this: His actions not only snuffed out the lives of 16 people, they tainted the entire United States military, as well. Bales left every other active duty U.S. soldier in that region with the extra daily burden of proving they are not vicious killers themselves. In that area of Afghanistan, where anti-American sentiment has palpably increased since the murders, Bales has literally helped paint a target on the back of his former comrades in arms.

This isn't the fault of the military. This was a horrible crime of one man — albeit a loving husband and father — who had a history of making bad judgments. Whatever happened inside his head does not define the United States of America.

Visit Diane Dimond's official website at www.dianedimond.com for investigative reporting, polls and more. To find out more about Diane Dimond and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

COPYRIGHT 2012 CREATORS.COM



Comments

0 Comments | Post Comment
Already have an account? Log in.
New Account  
Your Name:
Your E-mail:
Your Password:
Confirm Your Password:

Please allow a few minutes for your comment to be posted.

Enter the numbers to the right:  
Creators.com comments policy
More
Diane Dimond
Nov. `14
Su Mo Tu We Th Fr Sa
26 27 28 29 30 31 1
2 3 4 5 6 7 8
9 10 11 12 13 14 15
16 17 18 19 20 21 22
23 24 25 26 27 28 29
30 1 2 3 4 5 6
About the author About the author
Write the author Write the author
Printer friendly format Printer friendly format
Email to friend Email to friend
View by Month
Marc Dion
Marc DionUpdated 3 Nov 2014
Lawrence Kudlow
Lawrence KudlowUpdated 1 Nov 2014
diane dimond
Diane DimondUpdated 1 Nov 2014

24 Dec 2011 Layaway Angels

26 Sep 2009 The Terrorist Threat Still Exists

17 Dec 2011 The Cult of the Disgraced and Misplaced