COMMENTARY | After U.S. Staff Sgt. Robert Bales allegedly killed 16 Afghan civilians which included nine children, the American public feels that he is not completely to blame, Associated Press reports. Many feel that the 10-year military veteran with four tours of combat under his belt was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and simply snapped.
Although the Army sergeant's exact motives are still unclear, many organizations and individuals with their own agendas have seized this incident to question the war and its effect on the troops' mental health. Even if their points may have validity, Bales should not be pitied and touted as the poster child for their cause.
The Western media with its portrayal of Bales as a wounded man who was experiencing financial stress, had marital problems, had a traumatic brain injury, had been passed up for a promotion, and had witnessed a comrade's horrific injury seem to echo the public's desperate need to justify a violent act. It is difficult for the public to comprehend that sometimes an American in this situation can commit acts of pure hatred without a convenient backstory.
There is no denying that there is a tremendous strain that war veterans experience after prolonged combat. Many of them have been deployed three or four times, witnessed the death of close comrades, and even have debilitating injuries, but none of them snapped and massacred 16 people. Bales claims to have no recollection of the shooting incident, yet he has the ability to acquire legal counsel immediately after his arrest.
If this incident occurred in a small town in Middle America, would the public be as forgiving? Would the public pity the perpetrator more than the victims? Perhaps, it is far too easy to distance one's self when the incident occurs in a remote foreign land. Mass murder is still mass murder whether it happens in a military-occupied region or not.
The noise that the media creates should not distract us from determining who the real victims are in this case. Hopefully with new evidence of Bales's extensive criminal record and past fraudulent dealings, we are now able to discern more clearly.