And then reality came crashing back down with a terrible vengeance. After a day away from all the horrid insanity there comes word that a U.S. soldier in Afghanistan went completely off his nut. By the time he was done he is alleged to have murdered 16 Afghan civilians, a number that includes 3 women and 9 children.
Conflicting versions of what happened are rampant. Some say he just walked off the base, did it, then returned to confess. Another version is that he walked away from duty at a remote outpost. An Afghan soldier then reported this to the American base which mounted a search mission just as news of a killing spree started to filter in. According to this report a search party found him laying prone in an open field. When asked about the incident he is alleged to have said, "I did it." Then moments after he was dis-armed and taken into custody he demanded a lawyer and refused to speak further. Obviously the media doesn't know for sure, but the second account sounds far more plausible.
The army has refused to release his name until charges are brought, but the word is he is a staff sergeant serving with The Stryker Brigade out of Washington. He is, according to reports, 38 years old, married and the father of 2. While this was his first deployment to Afghanistan he'd had spent 3 previous tours in Iraq. His wife and children have been relocated and are currently under federal protection.
No one knows why it happened. At least not yet. There will be many theories and few facts. Rumors are all ready swirling. He suffered brain trauma in Iraq during a vehicle roll over that, depending on what you read, was either serious, or minor. He and his wife were having severe problems and he'd received disturbing emails and or snail mails from her. He just cracked after four pressure packed combat deployments. It never is as cut and dried as we'd like to make it, so there is no telling at this point. Apparently there were no signs of medical or behavioral problems leading up to the tragedy, or at least none that anyone is admitting to. Before it is all over odds are there will be people saying there were all sorts of signs there, but they were ignored for a myriad of reasons.
Massive batteries of psychological tests will be performed on this guy before he is brought to trial. However an insanity plea of any sort is going to be utterly unacceptable to the prosecutor assigned to this case. The Afghans are all ready demanding that he be tried by a local court. That won't happen, but what also won't happen is that he gets some sort of leniency based on his emotional and or psychological state. With tens of thousands of troops now at heightened risk because of this and other incidents not as deadly, but quite honestly incredibly stupid, look for the U.S. to seek the maximum.
Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has all ready said the death penalty is an option. Barak Obama, commander in chief, the man who will have to sign the death warrant in case of a conviction, has publicly said the U.S. takes the killing of Afghans as seriously as the killing of Americans. At this point there is nothing else either of them can say. There are currently six U.S. service members on the military death row. None of them killed as many as 16 people. The last soldier of the U.S. Army who was executed was hanged in 1961. He was charged with rape and the attempted murder of a 11 year old Austrian girl.
Given the stakes and the the vulnerability of American forces in country there really is no choice other than seek the death penalty. If this man did it he WILL get the hot shot and probably sooner than later.
The war in Afghanistan, unlike the one in Iraq, was completely warranted and justifiable. We had been attacked on our own soil and the mastermind of the attack was being sheltered and protected by the Taliban regime. There isn't one civilized person, outside of a few goofs on the ultra left, who didn't believe that. However, once we whacked Bin Laden it was time to come home. Obama promised to wind things down and to an extent he has, but events have proven that a slow wind down has just created an extremely ugly ending to what began as a just conflict.
No, it is time to leave Afghanistan.
It is time to leave now.