Nine children, some just babies, were slaughtered by an American soldier. The 38-year-old father of two put on his night vision goggles, walked a mile to a nearby village, and gunned down 16 Afghan civilians.
But why? What would drive an American soldier to commit such a heinous crime? We may never completely understand what happened or why, but there are several clues we cannot ignore.
According to reporting by ABC’s Nightline, the soldier enlisted in the Army just two months after 9/11.
He was on active duty for close to a decade.
He was deployed not once, not twice, but four times with three deployments to Iraq and one to Afghanistan.
In 2010 he suffered a traumatic brain injury but was treated and cleared for combat.
The medical facility that cleared him for duty is the same facility that was convicted of overturning a couple hundred PTSD cases in order to save money.
All of those “clues” offer a good reason why this soldier snapped, but what’s even scarier is that they are an example of a larger, systemic problem within the armed forces.
This country has been at war for more than ten years. Our soldiers are doing something they’ve never been asked to do before… to serve multiple deployments over the course of many years. How long can we continue to ask these men and women to fight before they can no longer do anything other than fight? Before they can no longer differentiate between the good guys and the bad guys?
The Army alone has diagnosed more than 76,000 cases of PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) in returning soldiers. That’s greater than the entire population of Bismarck, North Dakota, and that’s only one branch of our military.
But does that stop the call for war? No. Instead we hear individuals like Senator John McCain insisting we must have a military intervention in Syria. And we have presidential candidates like Mitt Romney promising he won’t allow Iran to get a nuclear weapon and will go to war to stop it. Even President Obama recently said containment isn’t an option in Iran.
All this talk of war may sound presidential to some, but I find it incredibly irresponsible. Do these men realize what they’re asking from our soldiers? If we go to war in Iran, we will decimate these soldiers’ families. We will stretch our forces until they break. We will continue to accumulate the debt of never ending conflicts.
Perhaps if we instituted the draft, this talk of war would end. Perhaps when every family is asked to sacrifice their own or their son’s or their daughter’s or their grandchild’s or their neighbor’s life, Americans will rise up and say enough. We do not need another war.
It’s time to bring our soldiers home, and let them begin the healing process before there’s nothing left to heal.