[Marxism] Robert Fisk: Madness is not the reason for this massacre

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Sat Mar 17 06:01:10 MDT 2012


Robert Fisk: Madness is not the reason for this massacre

Robert Fisk
Saturday, 17 March 2012

I'm getting a bit tired of the "deranged" soldier story. It was 
predictable, of course. The 38-year-old staff sergeant who massacred 16 
Afghan civilians, including nine children, near Kandahar this week had 
no sooner returned to base than the defence experts and the think-tank 
boys and girls announced that he was "deranged". Not an evil, wicked, 
mindless terrorist – which he would be, of course, if he had been an 
Afghan, especially a Taliban – but merely a guy who went crazy.

This was the same nonsense used to describe the murderous US soldiers 
who ran amok in the Iraqi town of Haditha. It was the same word used 
about Israeli soldier Baruch Goldstein who massacred 25 Palestinians in 
Hebron – something I pointed out in this paper only hours before the 
staff sergeant became suddenly "deranged" in Kandahar province.

"Apparently deranged", "probably deranged", journalists announced, a 
soldier who "might have suffered some kind of breakdown" (The Guardian), 
a "rogue US soldier" (Financial Times) whose "rampage" (The New York 
Times) was "doubtless [sic] perpetrated in an act of madness" (Le 
Figaro). Really? Are we supposed to believe this stuff? Surely, if he 
was entirely deranged, our staff sergeant would have killed 16 of his 
fellow Americans. He would have slaughtered his mates and then set fire 
to their bodies. But, no, he didn't kill Americans. He chose to kill 
Afghans. There was a choice involved. So why did he kill Afghans? We 
learned yesterday that the soldier had recently seen one of his mates 
with his legs blown off. But so what?

The Afghan narrative has been curiously lobotomised – censored, even – 
by those who have been trying to explain this appalling massacre in 
Kandahar. They remembered the Koran burnings – when American troops in 
Bagram chucked Korans on a bonfire – and the deaths of six Nato 
soldiers, two of them Americans, which followed. But blow me down if 
they didn't forget – and this applies to every single report on the 
latest killings – a remarkable and highly significant statement from the 
US army's top commander in Afghanistan, General John Allen, exactly 22 
days ago. Indeed, it was so unusual a statement that I clipped the 
report of Allen's words from my morning paper and placed it inside my 
briefcase for future reference.

Allen told his men that "now is not the time for revenge for the deaths 
of two US soldiers killed in Thursday's riots". They should, he said, 
"resist whatever urge they might have to strike back" after an Afghan 
soldier killed the two Americans. "There will be moments like this when 
you're searching for the meaning of this loss," Allen continued. "There 
will be moments like this, when your emotions are governed by anger and 
a desire to strike back. Now is not the time for revenge, now is the 
time to look deep inside your souls, remember your mission, remember 
your discipline, remember who you are."

Now this was an extraordinary plea to come from the US commander in 
Afghanistan. The top general had to tell his supposedly 
well-disciplined, elite, professional army not to "take vengeance" on 
the Afghans they are supposed to be 
helping/protecting/nurturing/training, etc. He had to tell his soldiers 
not to commit murder. I know that generals would say this kind of thing 
in Vietnam. But Afghanistan? Has it come to this? I rather fear it has. 
Because – however much I dislike generals – I've met quite a number of 
them and, by and large, they have a pretty good idea of what's going on 
in the ranks. And I suspect that Allen had already been warned by his 
junior officers that his soldiers had been enraged by the killings that 
followed the Koran burnings – and might decide to go on a revenge spree. 
Hence he tried desperately – in a statement that was as shocking as it 
was revealing – to pre-empt exactly the massacre which took place last 

Yet it was totally wiped from the memory box by the "experts" when they 
had to tell us about these killings. No suggestion that General Allen 
had said these words was allowed into their stories, not a single 
reference – because, of course, this would have taken our staff sergeant 
out of the "deranged" bracket and given him a possible motive for his 
killings. As usual, the journos had got into bed with the military to 
create a madman rather than a murderous soldier. Poor chap. Off his 
head. Didn't know what he was doing. No wonder he was whisked out of 
Afghanistan at such speed.

We've all had our little massacres. There was My Lai, and our very own 
little My Lai, at a Malayan village called Batang Kali where the Scots 
Guards – involved in a conflict against ruthless communist insurgents – 
murdered 24 unarmed rubber workers in 1948. Of course, one can say that 
the French in Algeria were worse than the Americans in Afghanistan – one 
French artillery unit is said to have "disappeared" 2,000 Algerians in 
six months – but that is like saying that we are better than Saddam 
Hussein. True, but what a baseline for morality. And that's what it's 
about. Discipline. Morality. Courage. The courage not to kill in 
revenge. But when you are losing a war that you are pretending to win – 
I am, of course, talking about Afghanistan – I guess that's too much to 
hope. General Allen seems to have been wasting his time.

More information about the Marxism mailing list