Tuesday morning as I was driving in my car, I heard an interview with a reporter that had spoken with a man in Afghanistan who was related to some of the victims of the 16 people murdered, or as many view it, massacred there.
Imagine this: You're a farmer, and you have a large family. Money is beyond tight, times are tough, and you live in a very violent, Taliban-oppressed area of your country. Your children can't go to school because the Taliban closed the schools. So you go to the big city, Kandahar, to sell the little crop you have, and you take one of your brood with you, your 4-year-old son.
Then, you get a phone call. You are instructed to go back to your village immediately as something terrible has happened. Of course, with the past history of your village, that region, you assume the Taliban is up to something.
When you arrive, you are told what has happened. In that one moment, that man lost his wife, mother, brother, sister-in-law, two sons, four daughters, and nephew. Eleven of his family members wiped out in one night.
Now the fact this man has not taken his own life or has not gone on a random shooting spree is amazing to me; I honestly am too weak to withstand any such horror and I'm not proud to say that, but it's true.
The pain went deeper however, when this man found out that the alleged murderer was an American soldier--one of the people the Afghans have slowly come to know and trust, one of the people they credit with saving them from the Taliban, one of the people they felt were there to protect them.
This murder, this violence, this terrorist-like act is expected from the Taliban, not from a member of the best military machine in the world, from a society that claims to be "civilized."
Now we have already heard some remarks from the defense: The soldier was sent on numerous tours of duty to Afghanistan, perhaps suffered from a brain injury, from post-traumatic stress disorder, etc.
We are innocent until proven guilty in this country. And I am not antipatriotic or anti-American, nor do I support our marvelous troops any less for the alleged actions of this one man, this one soldier.
But...for those angry with the people of Afghanistan or government or military for being so angry with this man, our country, or our leaders, then put the shoe on the other foot.
What if an Afghan soldier living in America, in uniform, walked into an American home with an extended family living inside and wiped out 16 people, many of whom were children? Please--we might bomb a country over that.
There are many things that bother me about this situation: I am bothered by war, the cost of human life both military and civilian, both Afghan and American. I am bothered by the number of tours of duty and the short turn around time we have put upon our troops. I am bothered by the number of cases (over 30 percent that are reported) of men and women returning from active duty overseas with post-traumatic stress disorder, and I am bothered by untreated physical problems such as brain injuries, by the increasing difficulty in getting these medical issues taken care of at our veterans' hospitals.
But lastly, I want to be very, very clear. The men and women who suffer from brain injuries or other medical conditions, the numerous soldiers who suffer from or are being treated for post-traumatic stress disorder, or have been on many tours to Afghanistan or Iraq, or who requested, sometimes begged, not to go back—none of those soldiers walked into a village and murdered, in cold blood, 16 people—16 human beings, children. I cannot wrap my head around that.
We put stickers that say "Support Our Troops" on our bumpers, but we need to support our troops by providing better medical care; by supporting them when they come home and transition into real civilian life here, which differs vastly from life abroad in places such as Afghanistan.
And as Americans, we need to accept responsibility for our actions and for our shortcomings. Recently President Obama came under fire from some for apologizing to the people and the leadership of Afghanistan for burning Korans. This action, if it is found to be as alleged, cannot be swept under the rug with an apology; nor should it.
We have a responsibility, and our military has a responsibility when they put that uniform on; they represent America, you, and me. Our citizens, whether military or not, should not resort to the level of violence of our enemy: the Taliban and al Qaeda; for then the people of Afghanistan won't know the good guys from the bad guys. The people of Afghanistan should be able to trust, and not fear our military; we are there to protect, not to occupy and not to cause harm.
We can do better than this America. We are better than this America. And we must ensure that nothing like this ever ever ever happens again. Americans are counting on it, as is the world who watches our actions and judges us accordingly.