Saturday, 17 March 2012

US Government Helps Robert Bales Escape

Most of us are aware that last Sunday a US soldier walked off his military base in the Panjwai district of Kandahar Province, Afghanistan and began to cold-bloodedly shoot innocent Afghan civilians. When he eventually stopped, he had wounded 5 Afghans and killed 9 children, 3 women and 4 men.

Yet, killing and wounding his victims was not enough for him. He then piled up the bodies of 11 of the Afghans he had killed and set them alight.[i] Only then did he casually return to his military base, where he was welcomed him with open arms and given protection against the Afghanistan government.

The cold-blooded murderer has now been identified as Robert Bales.[ii] (I see no reason to mention his military rank because, as I will explain later, he did not act as a soldier but as a murderous civilian.)

The US government has shown that it lacks any respect for the rights of any person who is not a US citizen! The US dismissed the call that this murderer should stand trial in Afghanistan, where he committed the crime. Instead, the US has actually helped a cold-blooded murderer to escape from Afghanistan and avoid justice, by flying him out of Afghanistan to Kansas City in the US.

Can you imagine the US being satisfied with a foreigner, who commits murder on US soil, being removed from the US? Can you imagine the US accepting that the person should stand trial in his home country, instead of in the US where he committed the crime? Absolutely no ways! In fact, there are many recent examples of non-US citizens being extradited to the US for far less serious crimes, in order to stand trial in the US: Anton Ivanov[iii] of Estonia; Richard O'Dwyer[iv] of Britain; Eric Bedard[v] of Canada; Christopher Tappin[vi] of Britain.

It really infuriates me that the US believes that it has the right to ride rough shod over the rest of the world. While it preaches to the world about what is needed to create a just society, it behaves in a way that communicates to the world that US citizens are not subject to the same standards as the rest of the world.

Bales did not act in his capacity as a soldier when he chose freely to walk off the base and commit the murderous acts that he committed. He therefore gave up his rights to be protected by the US military. He must be returned to Afghanistan to face the justice of the country whose innocent citizens he murdered in cold blood. Anything less is not justice! Alternatively, he should be tried as a war criminal in an independent court of law. If not, the US sends a message to the world that the US condones and protects the lawless behavior of its soldiers.

A further source of anger and frustration for me is the way that the bulk of the media has made so little of the 16 innocent Afghans who were murdered. On Tuesday 28 people were killed in a tragic bus accident in the Swiss Alps. The news networks have since carried repeated news reports about this event, focusing on the victims and their families, and rightly so. It is extremely sad and tragic and deserves coverage.

Now consider the extent of coverage the 16 murdered Afghans have received. Consider how the news of these murdered Afghans has failed to focus nearly as much on the victims and their devastated families. Instead, international news reports on big networks like Sky News and CNN have focused far more on: the accused soldier instead of the victim; the safety of the family of the accused, instead of the victims families; the state of the relationship between the US and Afghanistan.

This is disgraceful. Are these 16 Afghans just ‘collateral’ damage, to be discarded and forgotten? I cannot help but feel enraged at the fact that the international media, and the US, has treated the death of these Afghans in much the same way as the old regime in South Africa used to treat the death of black people in the apartheid days. The focus is on everything but the real victims - the 16 Afghans. It is shameful!

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