By Vladimir Gladkov
Recently, US Defense Minister Leon Panetta announced that the US sergeant, who had killed 16 civilians in the Afghan province of Kandahar, might be executed.
The US is calling this tragedy “an isolated accident which won’t change the US’s resolute decision to defend the Afghan people”. However, the Afghan people seem to have another opinion. All over Afghanistan, people are holding anti-US rallies and burning US flags and effigies of Obama. Many people, both Americans and Afghans, might have been trying hard to bring peace to Afghanistan – but their efforts were annulled in a flash by a crime committed by one sergeant.
True, it would be wrong to say that before this incident, the relations between Afghans and the international military contingent in their country were ideal. One may remember the besiegement of the US embassy in Kabul after a US pastor had publically burnt several copies of the Koran, or rather frequent cases when servicemen of the newly-formed Afghan army killed their US instructors.
However, the Kandahar tragedy took place on a background of passions heated as never before. Several days before it, a group of Afghans incidentally witnessed how certain US servicemen burned several dozens of copies of the Koran. In response, the whole of Afghanistan was gripped by protests, and there have even been cases of violence.
And now, a new incident. While the US top politicians were racking their brains on how to stop the Afghans’ wreath, a 38-year-old US sergeant shot dead 7 Afghan adult civilians and 9 children who, at the moment, were peacefully sleeping in their houses. After that, it has become much harder to believe Barack Obama’s and David Cameron’s assurances that the NATO contingent will leave Afghanistan in 2013.
However, despite what Mr. Panetta is saying, there are grounds to doubt that the murderer sergeant will be executed. Judging by the results of similar cases that happened during the numerous military conflicts in which the US was involved, even the fact that the criminal is trialed by a military tribunal is not a guarantee that he will be executed.
But even if the US makes this sergeant, whose name is still kept unrevealed, a scapegoat, this would hardly solve all problems.
According to the Reuters’ report, the criminal had a serious brain injury when he served in Iraq in 2010. Later, he underwent medical treatment at the Lewis-McChord military base in the US for some time. Finally, doctors announced him fit for further military service, and he was sent to Afghanistan.
In 2010, the Stars and Stripes newspaper, which is edited by the US Defense Ministry, called the Lewis-McChord base in Afghanistan the most scandalous US military base. The reason was that in 2010, four US soldiers, who had been sent to Afghanistan from this base, killed several Afghan civilians and kept parts of their bodies as if they were souvenirs.
One year later, another scandal broke out at the same base. Doctors who worked there were found incompetent of diagnosing brain injuries and mental problems.
According to a report by the ABC news agency, the sergeant who killed the civilians in Kandahar had been serving in the army for 11 years. Before being sent to Afghanistan, he was sent to Iraq 3 times. Despite his multiple complaints that he was not getting on well with his comrades-in-arms, his doctors found him sane enough to serve in such hotspots as Iraq and Afghanistan.
Another sergeant who has served in Iraq for a long time and is now stationed at the Lewis-McChord base, called Gonzales, says that his commanders do not pay any attention to mental problems that the soldiers might have.
It should also be mentioned that when US Private Bradley Manning was trialed for passing some secret information over to the WikiLeaks website, his commanders also said that they had noticed from the very beginning that he was most likely mentally unstable. Still, despite that, Manning continued to serve as an intelligence officer.
However, even if the Kandahar murderer is really abnormal, the tragedy cannot be called altogether incidental. Letting an abnormal person serve in a place pregnant with conflicts is just more evidence of the incompetence of the US military commanders.
In a country pregnant with conflicts, any small mistake of the US commandment may have irremediable consequences. The more mistakes the Americans make in Afghanistan, the stronger the anti-US sentiments in that country become – and this is only playing into the hands of the Taliban. Thus, it is probably too early for the international military contingent to leave Afghanistan right now. Who knows what chaos may start there if the Taliban is not restrained by anyone.