Afghanistan: Of Victims and Heroes


As the bodies of six UK soldiers are repatriated to Britain, Richard Lutz takes a look at a murderous tragedy where the Afghani dead are forgotten and the alleged killer cast as victim

No sooner do they arrest the US soldier who slaughtered 16 Afghanis then the media propaganda war begins. And it isn’t subtle. Or pretty.

Sgt Robert Bales is now profiled as a victim; he has been wounded; he never has had a mental illness; he has seen comrades seriously wounded or killed; he signed up right after 9/11; he has 4 tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan; he was promised he wouldn’t have to enter a theatre of wear after seeing his pal’s legs shot off; and, now he has memory loss.

If this man was alleged to have carried out this bloody rampage in Cincinnati or Sheffield, he would be perceived – even before a trial – as a cold hearted demented beast, a deranged gunman, a steel-eyed professional assassin. The hell with prejudicing a trial.

But with the weight of the US (and therefore the UK) media and with the help of his slick defence lawyer, he is a victim – to be pitied, to be worried about, and, I would guess, ultimately to be dealt with the softest of legal hands.

Forgotten tragedies

Not too much then about the villagers slaughtered in their beds, 9 of them children murdered in their sleep, other shot cowering in corners of their homes.

Just screeds of copy about a war victim with a gun. The US media gobbles it up- it’s a story about the real victims, the US soldiers defending a vague theory of  freedom, or, at least, caught up in a stupid meaningless conflict that doesn’t even have the allure to be called a war.

Of course, when the US media gets a chill down its spine, the UK media gets a cold. It gobbled up the lawyer’s supreme guff too with down-the- line tv interviews from Seattle and loads and loads of unilateral facts about this damaged sergeant. This poor guy. This victim.

The story of the villagers quickly fades. There is a meeting with President Kharzai and he huffs and puffs knowing it will all end in tears anyway a year or two down the road when NATO forces slink out of their bastions and head for home. Then he’ll have to deal with the Taliban and their vulpine philosophies.

So, for now, keep the brainwashing going- the alleged mass murderer is a victim. He supposedly killed 16 people halfway around the world and there seems to be a lot of latitude and deceit when it comes to the bullcrap being spun as the defence case begins.